A change of style

Recently, I have been thinking about making dresses in styles that are outside my usual comfort zone. I have looked through some cuttings and patterns that I have saved over the years and have the following thoughts.

For dresses and blouses in woven fabrics – currently I use a TNT bodice pattern combined with different collar, sleeve and skirt options. There is a seam at the waistline to which I attach a variety of skirts. The basic bodice has bust and waist darts at the front and waist darts at the back. On one occasion I moved the darts into princess seams starting at the armscye on the front of the bodice which I really liked. I recently drafted a new bodice with a yoke by transferring the bust dart fullness into gathers at the shoulder/yoke.

I have made the style with and without sleeves, with plain revere style collars (no collar stand), shawl collars, pussy bow tie collars and scoop or v-neckline with no collar. The latter style has also been made as a pinafore dress. Sleeves have been short, capped, lined or unlined. With or without a gathered sleeve head, long or short gathered or pleated into a cuff. These bodice styles have been also made as blouses, some with the addition of epaulettes.

Skirts added to these bodices have been gathered or box pleated with or without buttons down the front or flat fronted. I have used the circle skirt patterns from the Betty dress by Sew Over It, Vogue 8577 and several other ‘big 4’ patterns. Most of my dresses have side seam pockets.

Although I have made several faux wrap dresses in knit fabrics, to date I have made only one using woven fabric and unfortunately that was an unmitigated disaster.

Over the next month or so I will be experimenting with new styles. To begin with I am trying dresses with a raised waistline – an ’empire’ line. I hooked out several patterns from my stash:- Butterick 4332, Butterick 6678, McCalls 7116, Serendipity Studio 119 ‘Madeleine’, Simplicity 8875 and Simplicity 8910.

Butterick 4332 – from 1996 and now Out of Print
Butterick 6678 – a recent purchase
McCalls 7116 – a free pattern with a magazine
A new designer from my pattern stash
Simplicity 8910 combines empire line with unpressed pleats

Before I could get starting on any of these patterns I was inspired by the ‘Montana’ dress by Style Arc, demonstrated by Alex Judge.

Montana Maxi Dress by Style Arc

I purchased the pattern and having made a toile to check the fit have made this, my bicycle dress. I am very pleased with this dress and will post a separate description of ‘the journey’ into the making of the project.

Montana in Bicycle print cotton

I will continue with trying some of my stash patterns with ’empire line’ bodices and will then be trying a drop waist style (vintage pattern Style #1996).

Vintage pattern #Style 1996

I would like to try woven wrap bodice styles – Butterick 6051,

Butterick 6051 – a recent purchase

Hannah dress by By Hand London, Eve dress by Sew Over It. ‘Utility’ styles – Simple Sew Zoe dress and Merchant & Mills ‘Factory’ dress.

Simple Sew – Zoe dress & top
Ideal candidate for a hack

Raglan sleeved dresses Vogue 8970

Vogue 8970 – has been in my pattern stash for a long time

Dresses with inset waistband – The Amelia dress by Simply Sewing.

Amelia Dress came free with a magazine

Finally the Buckle Jumper dress by Paisley Pincushion. This last pattern is one that I purchased in the USA and has long been in my stash. Hopefully this year I will get it made up!

Purchased a long time ago when visiting the USA

So many different patterns – and that is just the patterns for woven fabrics. It is a good thing that I have such a large stash of material acquired over the last 20+ years that will keep me busy during our extended lockdown!

NHS Scrubs Set

Well that is something that I never thought I would sew! A call has gone out and ladies (and gents) throughout the land are putting their sewing skills to good use and making Scrubs for our stars in the NHS.

I was fortunate to receive an e-mail from Franklins with an offer for the pattern and a kit of suitable Polyester/cotton fabric, interfacing and twill tape for just £20. I chose the Dark Navy colour and within a couple of days the parcel arrived.

It took a few more days (well in truth – a week) for me to put together the pattern and finish the current project (yet another TNT ‘Kitty’ dress) before I could re-thread the sewing machine and overlocker in preparation of making the Scrubs.

In the end I chose to make the set using the PDF pattern supplied by Sewmesomething.

Sew me Something FREE Scrubs pattern

Sew me something state: After speaking with friends who are NHS workers we have included several features they specifically requested. The Scrubs Top has grown on sleeves to make it easier to wear and quicker to sew, the facing is stitched down so it’s not uncomfortable and there are side vents again for ease and comfort. The trousers have side pockets and a drawstring waist so you don’t have to worry about elastic sizes, and they are easier to get on and off. The patch pocket can be used on both the Top and the Trousers so again, quicker to sew and it means there are lots of handy places to tuck stuff. Polycotton is apparently better than 100% cotton, so we have some in stock to use for this pattern.

Sewing was straightforward and when in doubt I could easily tune to the Youtube tutorial prepared by Jules of SMS.

Completed Scrubs Top

As I had plenty of fabric, I elected to make the largest size XXL which comes out as a 57 inch chest on the tunic and 54 inch hip for the trousers, leg width 12 inches. A couple of sessions of sewing and the set was completed.

Although I had an address for the hospital in Southampton I also joined a facebook group based on Salisbury which is a great deal closer to my home. After some messaging I was able to arrange for the set to be collected for onward transmission to the Salisbury hospitals and health centres. I hope that whoever gets to wear them enjoys them whilst staying healthy providing the essential care and support that the NHS provides to us all.

Now that I have the pattern, if I have sufficient yardage in my stash I hope to make some smaller-sized sets in cheerful printed fabrics.

Modelling the XXL Scrubs – too big!!

When these extraordinary times are behind us, I may well make up the tunic and trousers in my husband’s and my size to wear as pyjamas!

A bouquet of Roses

I have long been a lover of Roses in all their shapes and forms. We have many different roses in our garden, from miniature patio roses, hybrid teas, floribunda, climbers and ramblers. Each year the first to flower is ‘Canary Bird’ a charming harbinger of Summer in our ‘Courtyard’ garden.

‘Canary Bird’ rose

It will therefore come as no surprise that I love a rose print fabric. These are 100% cotton by Hill-Berg and were bought several years ago from Fabricland, Salisbury branch.

Small scale Roses print by Hill-Berg

I was inspired by a shirt worn by Sue Perkins in an episode of QI and bought a coordinating print of similar roses but in a larger scale.

Original project ‘Sue Perkins’ shirt

The main bodice of the shirt was made using the large scale print with the sleeves, collar, cuffs and pockets made in the smaller scale. I took a lot of time and care to make this shirt which has plenty of double top-stitching. Although the shirt is now quite old, it washes and wears really well and best of all, still fits!

2nd project – Gertie dress

The second project using yet more of the smaller scale print was a ‘wearable’ toile of a Gertie pattern. Unfortunately this dress was only ever worn once. Although I thought that I would like the neckline and tulip sleeves – they just did not work for me and the dress has since sat at the back of the wardrobe. Finally, as there was a lot of fabric in the skirt and I had located the remaining remnant, I decided to unpick the dress and use the fabric for another project.

The fabrics were laundered and laid out on the cutting board. I had 3 widths from the skirt, cut at 30 inches long, plus the bodice pieces unpicked and 2 other remnant pieces of approximately 2 yards total.

I decided to make another ‘Kitty’ dress with a shawl collar, similar to the Caribbean Madras check that I made in November 2018.

Bajan Madras Check ‘Kitty’ dress

I thought that as the print is so busy, the shape of the collar needed to be highlighted in some way. I found some pretty Pink and Silver ric-rac trim in my stash and thought it would ‘do nicely’. I was unable to make the dress button through to the skirt as I could not find sufficient matching buttons in my stash.

Ric-rac trim on the collar

Once cut out, the construction did not take long although because we are enjoying lovely weather the ‘Spring clean’ of the garden took priority. The dress was sewn in several sessions over the week and has therefore taken about 10 days to complete. To bind the armholes, I cut bias fabric 1¾ inches wide and folded in half wrong sides together. I stitched to the right side taking a ¼ inch seam before turning the binding to the inside and top stitching in place.

Roses ‘Kitty’ Dress

Conclusion: Project 29 of 2020. I love the print of this dress and the style is very comfortable. Being sleeveless I will be able to wear when the weather is warmer but also with a cropped cardigan in the cooler evenings. I have found that the collar sits quite high at the back and will therefore make an adjustment ready for the next time that I make the pattern. Although I still have some of this print fabric left, I will now change over threads to make a Navy NHS scrubs set and give the roses a rest!

Completed: 27th April 2020

Coral Pink Shirtwaist Dress

Back again to my original TNT bodice pattern for a sleeveless shirtwaist dress. I have had this pretty Lisa Comfort Cotton Lawn – Elderflower Press in Coral colourway in my stash for a long time.

Lisa Comfort Cotton Lawn – Elderflower Press Coral

The fabric was washed on receipt and since then been stored awaiting inspiration. As I am currently sewing ‘pink’ projects now was the time to retrieve the fabric and get it made up.

The fabric is particularly fine and needs an underlining/lining for the bodice to avoid transparency to my undergarments! I checked how I had achieved this on the Anaconda Antithesis dress made in November 2018 and decided to repeat the technique.

Sage background Anaconda Antithesis Shirt dress from November 2018

I cut a bodice lining in plain White polyester cotton but will not be lining the skirt. The fabric is very wide and with the amount of gathers combined with a waist slip there should be no problem.

Having a lining in the bodice fulfils two functions – it makes the fabric opaque and also enables me to have clean finish armholes, no bias binding to make!

The collar is always a feature that requires precision and is not to be rushed. As usual I took my time and tried to be as accurate as possible but I was not happy with the way that the left hand side of the collar was sitting. I unpicked and tried again but still no joy, this side is not as even as the right hand side. With a good press I found that it was just about OK but I will never be happy with this aspect of the collar.

Only when I came to take photographs did I realise that although I had managed to place a motif on the facing on one side, the other side did not match! I note for the future – check motif placement.

Motif placement on collar and facing

Moving on to the skirt. I cut two widths of the fabric x 30 inches length and joined to make a centre back seam. Allowing for 3 inches of facing for the button placket I then placed markers for where the side seams of the bodice should align. I set in my standard ‘side seam’ pockets using the White polyester cotton for the pocket piece that sits next to the front of the skirt to avoid any ‘show through’ of the print. This worked well. The finished length of the skirt is 28 inches and falls below my knees. It appears that as I age, I am also shrinking as 29 inches used to be just below my knees!

I was fortunate that when I checked my button stash I found 12 buttons in exactly the right size and shade. The buttonholes stitched beautifully on my Brother 4000D machine. Finally I hand stitched the bodice lining to the waist seam and also hand stitched the hem which is 2½ inches deep.

Lisa Comfort Coral Pink Lawn Shirt dress

Conclusion Project 28 of 2020: As the collar was so problematical and motif placement is not perfect this dress gets only 8/10. I have to say that I am a little disappointed with the quality of the fabric. When it arrived it had a beautiful soft smooth finish but after the initial wash that finish has disappeared. The fabric is also very, very fine therefore not suited to an unlined dress and will always have to be worn with a slip.

Completed 14th April 2020

Audrey by Sew Over It

I bought the Audrey pattern by Sew Over It not long after it was released and have been wanting to make it up for some time.

Audrey line drawings

The Audrey Top is a vintage-inspired knit top straight out of Midge Maisel’s wardrobe! A t-shirt with a difference, Audrey’s ready to give any outfit a touch of elegance. The flattering wide neckline shows off its deep neckband, which comes complete with three options. Choose from a standard flat neckband, add a cute little tie, or go big with a showstopping bow. Audrey has raglan sleeves, making sewing sleeves a dream – in fact the whole thing comes together in just a few hours! Depending on the season, choose from short, 3/4 or full length sleeves.

Designed to be sewn in light to medium weight knits, Audrey looks beautiful in cable knits and Ponte Romas for cooler weather, but sews up equally well in cotton jerseys for when the sun comes out.

The Audrey Top is an advanced beginner level sewing pattern, ideal for those who have sewn a few garments before. It’s a great pattern for those new to sewing knits.

For the Audrey Top we recommend using light to medium weight knit fabrics with some structure, such as cotton jersey, interlock knits, Ponte Roma, cable knits and stretch velvet.

I had Pink thread on the overlocker and scouted around for some Pink jersey fabric. I found 1½ metres of this pretty floral print loop back modal that I had bought from Stitchy Bee.

Loop back Modal from Stitchy Bee

Ignoring the fabric recommendations, which turned out to be a little bit of a mistake. From my 1½ metres I cut out view 1 with the bow tie and ¾ length sleeves in a size 22. This was pretty good as the instructions state that between 2.4 and 2.5 metres is required.

Construction was straightforward but due to additional stretch in the fabric I had to down-size to an 18/20 and the finished garment is not perfect. The instructions were very good and I now feel able to adapt the neckline and tie to use on other jersey tops. The changes that I made to this version were to add 3 inch double cuffs to the ¾ length sleeves and turn up 1½ inches for the hem.

Audrey in Pink Floral print Modal jersey

Conclusion: Next time use a more stable fabric such as a ponte or the cable knit jersey as shown in Lisa’s photograph. Cut a straight size 20. Reduce bodice length by 1 inch and slim down the sleeves.

Audrey in Cable Knit Ponte

This top is really comfortable to wear due to the softness and stretch of the fabric. I will definitely be making this top again.

completed Friday 3rd April 2020

Long-sleeved Pussy Bow Blouse

With the overlocker still threaded with Pink I had a quick ‘rummage’ in my fabrics to find some more fabric that would need the same colour stitching. I uncovered this Micro Satin that I bought a couple of months ago from C&H fabrics in Winchester. This fabric print fits right into my colour theme and 1.5 metres for £8.25 represents a real bargain.

Micro Satin Polyester

As the fabric is so wonderfully soft (and slippery!) I thought it would be great made up as a Pussy Bow Blouse with long full sleeves into a cuff. I retrieved my personal drafted pattern and combined it with the long sleeves used on a recent shirtwaister dress.

Fortunately there was sufficient fabric to cut out the blouse in the desired length with shaped hemline and also to have the full sleeves with gathered sleeve heads and gathered into a button cuff.

Long full sleeve gathered into button cuff

I used French Seams throughout (so did not need to use the pink threaded overlocker after all!) and machined 5 buttonholes down the front. The buttons on the cuffs are slightly different to those at the front but I think it is OK. The pussy bow tie is maybe a little narrower than I would have liked but it still makes a statement. Making the continuous lap placket in the sleeves was ‘fun’ due to the slippery nature of the fabric but I am delighted with the finished result.

Long sleeved Pussy Bow Blouse in Micro Satin Polyester

The blouse will coordinate very well with my several pairs of trousers and I am now inspired to make a plain Teal skirt as well. First though I have some Pink floral modal jersey cut out to make an Audrey top (Sew Over It) and I am really looking forward to making that.

completed 2nd April 2020

‘Mona’ stashbuster tee

Hot on the heels of the Pink Jenna cardigan and whilst the overlocker was still threaded up with Pink, I scouted around looking for more fabrics that could be sewn with pink. This very short length of floral Ponte Roma (remnant from a Sewaholic Fraser top) was displayed on my mannequin at the neckline of the Jenna cardigan. I whipped it off the mannequin and placed on the cutting board. Hmm there was not quite enough to make a top. Wait, I have a solid Pink tee shirt that I bought from Sainsburys’ and never wore as it didn’t fit very well – I used that to cut the sleeves of my ‘Mona’ tee which is a hack from the Moneta dress.

As I stitched up the tee I discovered that the back bodice was a little shorter than the front but no matter, a simple band of the plain pink jersey and problem solved. It may look a little strange but it is behind me so I don’t care!

Back view of ‘Mona’ tee showing contrast hem band

I hemmed the short sleeves by folding up one inch and overlocking so that it looks like a hem band. The hem on the body of the tee is stitched with jersey twin needles.

‘Mona’ stashbuster tee in Ponte Roma with cotton jersey sleeves

Once cut out this top takes just one hour to sew, mostly on the overlocker and is a great addition to my Spring/Summer wardrobe.

Now what other fabrics do I have that can be stitched in Pink?

completed 29th March 2020

Jenna cropped cardigan #3

I have been very pleased with the two Jenna cardigans that I have made so far and when I found this short length (1.2M) of Pink Ponte Roma in my stash I knew exactly what I wanted to make. This colour will go perfectly with my latest Polly dress #3 that I made whilst on the Sewcial Retreat in March.

Due to minimal amount of fabric available, I had to make the sleeves slightly shorter but apart from that no alterations were made to my now-refined pattern (shortened centre back slightly for sway back).

Jenna cardigan in Bold Pink Ponte Roma #3

The cardigan is a delight to wear as the fabric is so soft, I only wish I knew from where I purchased it!

completed 28th March 2020

Quilt as you Go panel

Quilt as you go panel
A new technique

On the final day of the Sewcial Retreat we had a demonstration by Susan from Canada who talked about QAYGO – Quilt as you Go. Whilst I have made quilts using QAYGO in the past I was interested in learning about Susan’s technique.

Basically you use a random Log Cabin method and quilt each piece as it is laid down on the wadding. As I had completed all my projects and had a large bag of scraps available I spent a very happy time making this panel using Blue-themed cotton prints. The piece is large enough to make a cushion front or tote bag panel. As soon as I have a ‘gap’ in my dressmaking I will make up the panel into something as a memory of a lovely weekend.

partially completed 15th March 2020

‘Polly’ dress #3

It is now over two weeks since I returned from the fabulous Sewcial Retreat organised by Viv of Purple Stitches and held in an Oxford hotel. Now that the restrictions of self-isolation are keeping me at home it is about time that I updated my blog with details of the other projects sewn.

Most of the Saturday at the Retreat was spent making this pretty Shirtwaister dress using my TNT pattern and fabric from my stash. This was a pretty pink floral on Grey background 100% cotton that I had bought sometime last year from Fabricland, Salisbury branch.

In preparation of the Sewcial I had already cut out the fabric pattern pieces and applied a woven fusible interfacing where required to the collar and front facings. Once at the Retreat and having already stitched two cropped cardigans I re-threaded the sewing machine (the overlocker was being serviced) with Grey thread and set to with my favourite dress pattern.

There were no complications with the construction – mostly sewn using French seams, including the concealed side seam pockets. The top collar was cut on the bias and I was particularly pleased with the motif placement of posies of roses. I made a double folded very narrow hem on the 4-panel skirt and hand stitched the double bias binding on the wrong side of the armholes.

Polly dress #3 in Floral print cotton from Fabriccland.
Back view of Polly #3

This dress is one of my favourites in this style and is now complemented by the Pink Jenna cropped cardigan that was made last week.

Dress completed 14th March 2020