Siena Sundress by Sew Over It Summer Dreaming

Having restored my confidence a little by sewing the latest Montana dress, now it was the time to try out the Siena Dress from the Summer Dreaming e-book by Sew Over It.

Siena Dress, top or skirt
from Summer Dreaming e-book

“The Siena Dress is the ultimate button-up sundress, with a fitted bodice with sweetheart neckline, shoulder straps, and a floaty gathered skirt. The bodice is shaped with princess seams at the front, and a fun shirred panel at the back – making fitting that little bit easier. Your choice of skinny rouleaux or wider straps can be adjusted to fit with sliders, meaning no slipping off your shoulders. The full skirt features roomy patch pockets, perfect for your sunnies. Siena also comes with the option to make it as a top and a skirt, perfect for pairing with your other Summer Dreaming makes!”

The main feature of the dress is the shirred back panel of the bodice and since I have not used this method since my teens, now would be a good time to revisit the technique.

I cut out the pattern from a length of White cotton printed with Lily of the Valley motifs. I have owned this fabric for at least nine years as it was part of a stash left to me by a dear friend who passed away in 2010. There were originally at least ten metres of this very wide fabric so there was no doubt that I had sufficient for at least two new dresses!

Lily of the Valley printed cotton

To begin, I made a test piece of shirring on a scrap piece but this did not gather at all. Back to the drawing board. I visited several youtube videos including one given by The Stitch Sisters which proved very helpful in learning how to shirr by machine before trying again on my scrap fabric. After a couple of trials I had it sussed and then shirred the entire panel ready for inclusion to the bodice.

Shirred Panel of Lily of the Valley printed cotton

I made the narrow straps and used the brassiere findings of fine clear plastic rings and sliders so that the straps will be adjustable. Once I had a fitting I decided that I needed much wider straps (circa 2 inches) to provide coverage of my bra straps that are wider than usual with lace trimming.

I cut a size 20 at the top of the bodice panels and graded out for my waist. I pieced together the various panels for the bodice and basted together with a long stitch. The first fitting was rather amusing as the shaping over the bust was rather extreme (think early days of Madonna and conical shaping!) but with the 6 seams of the bodice it was relatively simple to adjust the fit.

Having refined the fit I copied those adjustments onto new pattern pieces for the centre front panels and side front panels before cutting a second bodice to use as lining. I made the wide straps and tacked them into place before attaching the bodice lining as per the pattern instructions.

The pattern instructions suggest that you prepare the skirt panels before making up the bodice but as I was not making a toile, I wanted to check out the bodice first rather than prepare a skirt that was not used.

Having completed the bodice I now made up the skirt. I cut all the skirt panels to a size 26 as I had plenty of fabric and wanted to ensure a full skirt. I joined the skirt panels with French seams and made the two patch pockets. They were placed as indicated by the markings on the pattern. Once completed I felt that the pockets could do with being raised by 1 – 1.5 inches so have marked the pattern accordingly.

There is a 2 inch wide piece of interfacing on each leading edge of the front skirt panels to support the buttonholes and buttons. Gathering stitches are run the entire length of the waistline. Matching up the notches was straightforward and I particularly liked the suggestion to use a narrow zig-zag stitch when attaching the back skirt panel to the shirred section. Prior to reading the instructions I had wondered how this part of the waistline seam would be achieved.

I finished the waistline seam and skirt hem with overlocking. The facings are turned back and stitched in place over the waistline seam. The 2 cms hem was turned up and machine top stitched in place.

For the buttons and buttonholes I decided to ignore the pattern markings for only 4 buttons. Instead I placed 6 buttons on the bodice (to avoid any gaping) with 6 on the skirt. The bodice buttons are placed 1 and 7/8ths inches apart whilst those on the skirt are 2 inches apart. I had only many of this particular button in my stash and will be using some more on the next project.

Siena dress in Lily of the Valley printed cotton

Although not suggested in the instructions, I top stitched 1/8th inch from the edge around the entire bodice edges and along the front edges of the skirt panels. As I had used a stable cotton fabric this dress was an easy though not quick sew. Now that I have refined the fit, the next iterations should not take quite so long. I plan to make another but next time in a dark background print or possibly a plain cotton, I will see what I have in my stash!

Project #44 completed 21st July 2020

Ah! Lady in Red Montana Dress #4

I think that the Montana Dress by Style Arc must be counted as one of my favourite TNT patterns. After the disaster that was the un-birthday dress I wanted to make a dress where I was sure of a positive outcome and this certainly fit the bill.

Montana by Style Arc

The sewing machine was still threaded with a Deep Cerise Pink thread and I really wanted a new Red Dress so I chose this beautiful Red Paisley printed viscose that I bought recently from The Fabric Room. I purchased 3 metres at a base price of £10.80 before the addition of Post, packaging and VAT.

SPUN VISCOSE RED PAISLEY PRINT

I decided to repeat the previous iteration of the skirt with a deep frill at the hem. This time I also added a self-tie belt at the side seams so that I could draw in the dress and ‘improve’ the silhouette.

I used my standard gathering technique for attaching the main skirt panels to the raised waistline seam of the bodice. However, for the deep frill at the hem, I used the Brother Ruffler (pleating) foot. This foot looks complicated as there are many parts to the ‘contraption’.

Brother Ruffler 7mm Foot

The foot will make a small pleat every single, six or twelve stitches and secure them. You can also feed a separate layer of fabric through the foot at the same time and thus attach a pleated trim to a flat fabric in one pass through the foot. For my frill I used the six stitch spacing and it was a dream to have all those little pleats accurately made – and so quick!

‘Turn it All’ tube turner

For the ties I cut two lengths of fabric 4 inches wide. I made a narrow seam with right sides together and stitched closed at one end. I used the ‘Turn it All’ tube turner to turn the ties right side out – in a flash! I love this piece of sewing kit. I set the ties into the fashion fabric side seams and stay stitched the ends inside to the front seam allowance to ensure that they automatically turned to the back of the dress.

Back ties

I used my self-drafted pocket pattern to make concealed side seam pockets that are tacked to the waist seam to prevent them flapping about inside the skirt. To ensure that I did not repeat the error of having the pockets facing the wrong way and showing a contrast fabric, this time I cut all pocket pieces from the fashion fabric.

Once again the bodice was lined with plain ivory viscose voile (also purchased from The Fabric Room). I added a skirt lining that was attached to the bodice lining. The lining was only stitched to the fashion fabric at the neckline and armholes. The hem of the skirt lining was finished with some pretty lace from my stash and a row of wavy line decorative stitching.

Lace trim and decorative stitching to the hem of the lining

I am really pleased with the outcome of this dress. It fits well with the addition of the self ties and is so comfortable – secret pyjamas – whilst looking very stylish. This is most definitely a hit and counts as my ‘birthday dress’

Lady in Red Montana #4

Project #43 completed 11th July 2020

Unbirthday Dress- Vogue 8577 hack

Yet another year and so now it is time to make a new dress. I would use the Vogue 8577 that I have made in the past, both in its original form and also ‘hacked’

Vogue 8577

As the last time I made the dress was “pre-lockdown weight gain” I re-drafted the bodice and added some extra to the side seams for ‘ease’.

Having made up a toile in calico I reduced the amount of gathers into the front yoke and relocated the fullness into the waist dart. I had previously raised the centre front neckline and I kept this on the new bodice pattern as I feel more comfortable with that neckline. The bodice would be self-lined with the printed viscose and I planned to add pockets in the skirt. I decided to copy the design of pockets from Simplicity 8910. I would make a decision regarding a lining for the skirt as the construction progressed.

This year’s dress would be made in a bold abstract floral print viscose bought from The Textile Centre. I bought 4 metres at £5.99/metre so total cost of £26.76 excluding p&p.

Bold Abstract Viscose from The Textile Centre

The Textile Centre described the fabric as – “It has a stunning floral print in a fire inspired colourway. This 100% spun viscose is a lightweight spun viscose dress fabric which is heavier and more opaque than our usual spun viscose. Viscose/Rayon is a semi man made fibre, so is prone to shrinkage, wash before cutting on a cool 30° temp. “

So with my plans all set, I began by cutting out the two sets of bodice pieces, front bodices, yokes and back bodices. I found that I could not use the skirt lining pattern pieces from Vogue 8577 so instead reverted to my TNT of the Penny by Sew Over It skirt pattern, cut into 4 panels which would also help in setting side seam pockets.

This fabric was very slippery and was a real pain to try and control whilst cutting out. In the end what I had to do was to spray starch each cut out piece then replace the pattern and re-cut to size.

I stated to sew the bodice together and at fitting discovered that the top was miles too big. I need not have enlarged the pattern at all. I enlarged the darts and took in both bodice and lining at the side seams. Now it was a little better but nowhere near what I had planned.

Onto the skirt which bearing in mind the bias seams, I should have constructed first to allow time for the bias to drop. Whatever – onwards! I added the pockets as per the ones used in the previous Simplicity 8910, forgetting that these are drafted to be set into a dress that has a raised empire line seam – thus the pockets sat far too low. At this time I discovered that I had French seamed the centre front of the skirt so that the dress could no longer be button through from bodice to skirt.

Having allowed a couple of days for the bias to drop I found that the side seams had dropped a good 2 inches. As the hemline itself was beautifully level I overlocked and turned up a narrow hem having decided to adjust the level at the waistline. I machine basted a new waistline and trimmed away the excess. This had the added advantage of raising those set-too-low-down pockets!

I attached the amended skirt to the waistline only to discover that the waistline of the bodice had also dropped and was now a good 1 inch below my natural waist. I re-stitched the skirt to the bodice by taking a wider seam allowance and then overlocked the seam to neaten. . The skirt was now a relatively short length of just 26 inches – well above my desired length.

Viscose hack of Vogue 8577

By now we are well past my birthday and you may have guessed that I am thoroughly disenchanted with the dress. Even as I write this post, the bias of the skirt is continuing to drop. It fits only where it touches and will probably be donated very soon to a charity shop. Meantime, as a last resort I plan to make an obi-style commerbund/belt which will, I hope, cover up the waistline and turn a ‘disaster’ into a feature!

Project #42 completed 5thJuly 2020

Montana #3 with frill and full lining

Montana by Style Arc

I really enjoy this dress from Style Arc patterns. Recently I have been discovering the beautiful prints available on Viscose (rayon) substrate and so for this iteration I have used a 100% viscose fabric ‘Summer Floral’ bought from an ebay seller, ‘ohsewcrafty’.

100% viscose ‘Summer Floral’

I purchased 3 metres for the grand total of £14.24 – a very competitive price! Once it arrived the fabric was laundered and on close inspection I decided that it was possibly a little more transparent than I would like and therefore would require a full lining.

I watched a youtube video by Suzanne of Sew Custom where she mentioned that she had lined a viscose dress with viscose voile purchased from the Fabric Room. This fabric was a mere £2 per metre (before vat & postage) available in 3metre lengths and so I ordered a total of 6 metres as I knew it would come in very handy for lining bodices etc., of my future viscose makes.

The floral print viscose was very wide and there was ample to enable me to cut the Montana with the addition of a deep frill on the skirt.

The viscose voile was cut at the same time but I omitted the hem frill and cut to the full length. I heard from someone, somewhere, that it is a good idea to use spray starch if the fabric is misbehaving and I have found this ‘trick’ to be a godsend in subduing the viscose’s tendency to shift and slide about!

First step was to prepare the skirt panels and frill. I used a 3-thread overlock stitch for the first pass in making French seams to join the pieces together followed by a 1cm seam on the sewing machine to put right sides together. In my enthusiasm, I forgot to include the pocket bags in the main skirt side seams so on this very rare occasion there will be no pockets on this dress :-(.

I stitched the darts in the bodice and lining before joining at the shoulder seams. With right sides together I stitched the necklines together using a 5/8ths seam allowance as I wanted the neckline to be a shade wider and deeper than the pattern (usually a ¼ inch seam allowance for this seam) dictates.

I under stitched all the seam allowances before trimming, turning right side out and giving a good press. I am very pleased with the neckline. Next was to Burrito the cap sleeve hems. I love, love, this method. It is quick and simple providing a very good finish.

Now that I had the neckline and sleeves sewn, I stitched the side seams of both the outer and lining in one pass. I overlocked these seams as they would be wrong sides together.

Initially I thought that I would stitch the waistline of the two bodices together before attaching the skirt panels for both outer and lining. After some consideration I decided to attach the individual skirts to each corresponding bodice. All seams would be inside but each bodice would bear the weight of its own skirt separately.

I made the gathering using two rows of long machine stitches before attaching with French seams. Again the first pass was made with the 3-thread overlocker before a final pass using the machine at a 1 cm straight stitch. Before attaching the lining skirt to its bodice, I turned up a double fold 2 inch hem and top stitched in place with a double row of stitching.

Montana #3 Floral Print Viscose – fully lined in Viscose Voile

A final press and here was the finished Montana #3. I love this dress in this Viscose fabric. It is so comfortable, light and breezy even with the full lining. With the added fullness of a deep frill on the hem it is ideal for ‘swishing’ and ‘twirling’!

Completed project #41 27th June 2020

Simplicity 8910 #2

I liked the first version of this dress so much that I made another version, this time using this fabulous Orchids print on duck egg blue viscose. The fabric is called ‘Hockley F’ and was purchased from ebay seller fabricmarket. I bought 3 metres for a total of £23.97.

Hockley F viscose from ebay seller Fabricmarket

The fabric was laundered and as soon as I had finished 8910 #1, #2 was prepared. There were some minor alterations made to the front bodice pattern as I was unhappy with the way that the small under bust darts were very ‘pointy’. This is not a problem that I had ever encountered before. I reduced the under bust dart and transferred the fullness to a long side bust dart and this seems to have solved the problem.

Lowered neckline x 1 inch

The neckline was lowered by 1 inch (very daring!) and once again I lined the bodice to avoid having to make a bias binding for the edge. This method also helps to stabilise the neckline which could otherwise stretch out a great deal.

The sleeves were lengthened by an inch and set in using French Seams. The skirt panels were also French seamed. The sleeve hems were narrow double folded and machined in place but the 3 inch skirt hem was hand sewn.

It was more by luck than judgement that I have managed to line up the large orchid motif on the bodice front with the centre line of the skirt. A lucky accident!

Simplicity 8910 version 2

Once again I am delighted with the end result. The dress is very comfortable, stylish and does a great job in disguising my ‘lockdown tummy’.

I will make this pattern again but for now I am returning to ‘Montana’ by Style Arc to make version 3 of that pattern.

Project #39 Completed 23rd June 2020

A new style – Simplicity 8910

I am back on my search for alternatives to my TNT shirt dresses. This one is Simplicity 8910 which I have seen on instagram and at the Pattern Review website. I like the idea of a raised ’empire’ line bodice and the pleats of this pattern which will, hopefully, camouflage my apple-shaped tummy.

I knew that I would need to make a toile of the bodice so out came my stash of lightweight calico. I copied off the bodice front and back, made a forward shoulder adjustment, a full bust adjustment, reduced the bust dart width and took the difference out at the side seam, increased the front bodice length by 1 inch and quickly made toile #1.

It took 4 toiles to perfect the bodice and then a couple more days to decide which fabric to use! By this time I was beginning to go off the whole idea of the dress. However, I finally cut out the dress from some pretty cotton by Lady McElroy bought from a seller on eBay.

Vintage Rose Cotton by Lady McElroy

Although the fabric was listed as cotton poplin, it is very fine and lightweight. I would say that it is nearer to a cotton lawn. I bought 4 metres at a cost of £23.86 which is very competitive pricing for this make of fabric. Cutting out View B with the short sleeves took around 3 metres meaning that I have sufficient left over to make a sleeveless blouse.

I used my final toile as a bodice lining as I disliked the idea of bias binding for the neckline. The darling little sleeves are sewn with French seams as are the pockets and side seams of the skirt panels. I increased the width of the skirt panels by 4 inches and this gave me sufficient to add extra pleating to the back skirt and a plain panel centre front. The bodice lining is hand stitched to the raised waistline seam allowances. The hem on the sleeves is a narrow machined one but the hem on the skirt is hand sewn.

Simplicity 8910 in Lady McElroy Vintage Roses printed cotton

With the raised ’empire line’ bodice and long length of the finished dress there is a look of ‘Jane Austen’ about it.

Jane Austen style

I find the dress flattering and it is so very comfortable to wear that I plan to make another. Having used a ‘ditsy’ print cotton this time, next time I plan on a larger floral print using a recent purchase of some viscose fabric.

project #39 completed 17th June 2020

Friends in the Garden Sun Dress

I previously made a short sleeved shirt dress in this pretty Lewis & Irene printed cotton.

Black background ‘Our friends in the Garden’
by Lewis & Irene

I liked the print so much that when there was a sale at New Threads Quilt Shop I purchased some more in a different colourway.


Lewis And Irene – Our Friends In the Garden – Mini Beast Garden in Summer Grass

After laundering I had just 2.25 metres of 108 cms wide fabric. I thought that this would be sufficient to make a sun dress. Having toiled a couple of bodices that had panel seams that would break up the print, I decided to adapt my TNT bodice block that has bust and body darts for the shaping. I used the bodice from my applique pinafore dress as the base and worked on that until I had an acceptable pattern.

Concept line drawing

Having checked my button stash I found that I had some co-ordinating spot buttons to make the dress ‘button-thru’ the bodice and skirt. These buttons were bought in bulk from ebay and have proved a godsend when looking to match up with my dressmaking.

100 buttons for £4.50 – a bargain!

The shoulder width was just wide enough to cover my bra straps and to make life easier I decided to line the entire bodice rather than made ‘fiddly’ facings and bias bound armholes. I used the bodice lining to double check the fit and it seemed fine. So on with the fashion fabric.

I interfaced the neckline front and back plus the bodice fronts and also stitched my ‘Carousel’ label to the back bodice lining. When I came to stitch the bodice to the lining I found that more ‘finessing’ was required for the front armscye. I got that sorted and have updated the pattern together with a note that in future I will always needs to make a forward shoulder adjustment – a new alteration for me after 50+ years of dressmaking!

I had cut out pocket bags to make side seam pockets but found I also had sufficient to make patch pockets – oh decisions, decisions! Eventually I decided that it would best not to interrupt the print design with the patch pockets, so concealed in-seam pockets have been made. I used my TNT pocket bag pattern and the top of the bag is stitched into the waistline seam to prevent it from flapping about.

I was unsure whether to gather or pleat the skirt into the waistband and after a couple of ‘auditions’ decided on gathers. After attaching the skirt to the bodice, I then slip stitched the bodice lining over the (trimmed) waist seam, marked out buttonholes and pinned up the hem. There are 12 buttons and buttonholes, the finished skirt length is just 27 inches with a narrow machine-stitched hem.

Completed Sun Dress

I am pleased with the way that the dress has turned out, especially the fit of the bodice. However, I am not in love with the gathered skirt, especially at this shorter length as it adds unnecessary bulk and makes me look even more dumpy than I am!

I think I will make another sun dress using this bodice but will add a circular skirt – probably the skirt from the Sew Over It ‘Penny’ dress. Meantime, the weather is changeable and we have had rain for several days – so a different style of dress with more coverage is being ‘toiled’.

Project #38 completed 10th June 2020

Lemons Ten-a-Penny!

See what I did there? I made a Penny dress by Sew Over It using a Lemons printed fabric!

Penny Dress by Sew Over It

After a couple of abortive attempts making toiles of new bodices I decided to take a break and make up a TNT pattern using this pretty lemons-printed cotton.

Rose & Hubble Spring Lemons on Dark Navy background

I bought 3 metres of fabric from an eBay seller for a total cost of £17.22 back in April this year. It was an impulse buy – probably due to internet cruising whilst in lockdown! The fabric is lovely quality and on arrival was immediately washed and dried in the sunshine.

I have made the Penny dress several times before and have amended the pattern to my specific requirements: I lengthened the bodice before adding an additional inch to the front bodice tapered off to 0 inches at the side seam. I made a sway back adjustment to the back bodice. I cut two sets of the yoke pattern so that the seams are enclosed. I omit the back neck facing and simply turn in the loose edge of the collar and top stitch in place. I use a self binding for the armholes. The skirt is cut in 4 panels as the fabric does not have sufficient width to cut in one piece on the fold. I add side seam pockets and all seams are made with French seams – including the pockets.

I was pleased that this time I was able to make vertical buttonholes in the button band and included some pretty Spotted Lemon buttons that match really well with the fabric’s print.

Having previously made all these minor adjustments means that I can now whip up a dress very quickly and hey presto! A new dress and renewed enthusiasm to try new patterns and styles.

Penny Lemons

Project #36 completed 31st May 2020

Raglan Sleeve Cropped Cardigan

A change from sewing – this stitching is knitting! I like to wear a cropped cardigan with my sleeveless dresses as this makes them multi-seasonal. Usually I buy competitively priced jersey shrugs from eBay but on this occasion I decided to knit my own. I used King Cole pattern #4125 purchased from an eBay seller and Double Knitting acrylic yarn bought from ‘The Range’.

King Cole Pattern #4125

I chose a Dark Teal-coloured yarn and decided to knit the plain stocking stitch version rather than the textured as I wanted a very simple, straightforward project. I know that my knitted projects usually take a very long time to complete.

King Cole #4125 knitted in Teal DK yarn

On this occasion, due to the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown I have spent several hours a day knitting and thus the project has been completed in record time! Although I will never wear the cardigan buttoned up, I did make buttonholes and attached buttons which are pretty floral printed ones from my button stash.

I am very pleased with the end result. I have some 400 grms of yarn remaining so will combine with another colour to make up the 500grms required to make another #4125 in the future.

project #35 completed 28th May 2020

Hooray for Hannah #2

I loved the first Hannah so much that I made another!

By Hand London ‘Hannah’ dress

I used this beautiful cotton lawn by Lady McElroy that was on sale on eBay – a bargain 4 metres for a total cost of £20.06 including the post and packing. Thanks to Rachel of ‘Stitched up!’ for letting me know about the offer.

Anais, anais cotton lawn by Lady McElroy

This time I made a couple of changes: Having worn the Blue viscose version for a day I discovered that I need to make a further adjustment to the neckline to prevent some gaping. This is probably due to stretching out the fabric but I don’t think it would hurt to make this change. Instructions for how to achieve the adjustment were on the By Hand London blog.

As the cotton lawn is so fine but easy to cut and sew, I wanted to try a narrow double frill at the neckline. I measured from just below the centre point on the left bodice front, around the neckline and back down to the waistline on the right front. Using this measurement of 65 inches, I cut a frill piece 1 ½ times the length x 3 ½ inches deep. This would provide a completed frill of just over 1 inch after folding and seam allowances.

The other thing that I wanted to try was a different sleeve. I drafted a new sleeve pattern by pinning and pivoting out from the shoulder point so that the sleeve head would be the same smooth line but with a gathered hem into a narrow band.

Sleeve hack #1

Finally, I would use my TNT pocket bag pattern so that the pocket will be attached to the waistline seam to prevent it flapping about!

As this fabric is so fine on a White background, I again decided to line the bodice. As I was making changes to the construction of the dress, to ensure that I did not make any mistakes (i.e. forget to make French seams in the skirt and pockets) I wrote myself an order of construction.

By double checking the order of construction I was able to ensure that I made French seams wherever required. The dress went together fairly quickly bearing in mind the additional work involved for the frilled neckline and the different sleeves. Once again I curved the leading edge of the wrap skirt and this time made a narrow hem, machined in place.

Frilled neckline

I was delighted with the way the frill looked on the neckline, not so sure about the sleeves. After taking a day to think about it, I removed the band and turned up a narrow hem on the sleeves so now they are just ‘floaty’.

Floaty sleeve

Another day to think about the look and I am still not too pleased. Maybe I will eventually cut off the narrow hem and re-make a band. The next time it will be only 16 inches in length and this means that there will be more gathers into the band. That should improve the look.

Completed Hannah version 2

I am not sure if ‘Hannah’ is going to be my TNT woven wrap dress, I may have to try ‘Eve’ by Sew Over It. Meantime I think that I might have a break from new patterns and styles so that I can revert to one of my TNT patterns before tackling a Sun Dress with the ‘new to me’ McCalls 7950.

Completed project #34 28th May 2020