Monthly Archives: September 2016

Christmas Dress Hack – Simplicity 1452


This dress is the second of the samples to promote the workshop planned for November at New Threads Quilt Shop.

santa christmas ark

Nearly 14 years ago I gained a great deal of experience in making dresses for little girls as I made several for the daughter of a friend, from the time that Lucy was born until she was aged around 8 or 9 years old. This Christmas dress hack is very similar to those I made back in the early 2000’s.

Using the smallest size pattern firstly I re-shaped the neckline to a gentle scoop and then added sufficient to the centre back to allow for a buttons and buttonholes (or velcro) fastening. To avoid any raw edges of the seam allowances on the bodice I decided to line with a plain calico cotton.

dress front

n.b. Centred design on bodice front

To make the dress with a fully lined bodice is a very simple procedure.

Order of Construction:-

  1. Stitch the shoulder seams of the bodice front to the 2 bodice backs. Repeat for the bodice lining.
  2. Place lining right sides together with bodice, matching notches.
  3. Pin and then machine stitch around the armholes. Pin and machine from the waistline edge, up the back, around the neckline, and down the other side of the back.
  4. Press well and then pull the back bodice pieces through the shoulders to turn right side out.
  5. Understitch as far as possible around all the edges.
  6. Stitch the side seams of the skirt panels and gather the top edge.
  7. Pin and stitch the top of the skirt to the bottom of the bodice, ensure that you keep the bodice lining free.
  8. Fold up the bodice lining to the inside, matching the fold to the stitching line of the skirt.
  9. Hand stitch the bodice lining to the previous row of stitching so that now all the raw edges of the bodice are covered.
  10. Work buttonholes and attach buttons at the back bodice BEFORE stitching the centre back seam of the skirt, leaving approximately 3-4 inches below the waistline unstitched.


    back dress

    I used a French seam when joining the skirt panels together and machined a narrow double-folded hem.

    back bodice showing buttons 1

    Christmas-themed buttons

    For the back fastening I made 5 buttonholes and used 5 different Christmas-themed buttons to complete.

Party Princess – Simplicity 1452


As promised here is the first (I plan to make another pinafore-dress- style) of the samples to promote the workshop planned for November at New Threads Quilt Shop.

The dress will eventually be sent to my great grand daughter, hence I have made a 3, the smallest size included in the envelope. My version is based on view B. I used a pretty pink spot cotton from New Threads and trimmed with a floral embroidered braid that I had in my stash. I think I bought that trim when on holiday in the Canary Islands, several years ago!

party princess 1

party princess 3a

The dress has a square neckline with facing.

party princess 2

The sleeves have a gathered cap, they are trimmed with the same trim that has been used on the bodice and around the skirt of the dress. The main seams were sewn using a French seam to avoid raw edges on the inside of the dress. However, the gathering of the skirt into the waistline is finished with a narrow zig-zag overcasting.

party princess 3b

I used my TNT lapped zip insertion with a hand picked finish.

I am delighted with the finished garment and cannot wait to get stitching the next version for which I will be using a Santa’s Christmas Ark printed cotton from my stash.

santa christmas ark

Autumn Daisy Print Bettina Mark VI

After the toile-making class on Saturday I purchased a couple of lengths of fabric (by way of a change!).

The first was 4 metres of a cotton poplin printed with daisy-like flowers in various autumnal shades.

autumn daisy print close up

The second was 1.5 metres of Pink spotted cotton to be used to make a sample dress of the Party Princess workshop being held in November using Simplicity pattern 1452.

The cotton poplin had its raw ends overlocked and the length was popped into the washing machine first thing on Sunday morning.

Since then over a period of 3 mini-sessions of sewing the latest incarnation of Bettina has now been completed.

autumn daisy print front  autumn daisy print back

                                                   Dress front                                              Dress back

There is really not much to say about the construction, you know that by the 5th time of making I have pretty much got the pattern sussed. I did not bother with pattern matching this time and I don’t think the dress suffers for this. The lapped zip is, as usual, hand picked and the hem has a single row of top-stitching. On checking the knit shrugs in my wardrobe I was pleased to find one in a sort of lime-green colour which co-ordinates well with the print of the dress, so that’s what I shall wear with it tomorrow.

That’s all folks for now. I am off to the cinema this afternoon to see the latest “Bridget Jones” movie and from Friday afternoon I will be working on the Party Princess sample dress. Watch this space…..



Spotted – a new dress for the Autumn

spots front view

By now you will be bored with looking at pictures of my TNT bodice with various skirt incarnations. Nevertheless, here is the latest. I used a 100% cotton spot print from Fabricland, bought from the Basingstoke store when my sister and I visited back in July.

The fabric has been washed and pressed but set aside whilst I concentrated on more urgent work. Now that the evenings are drawing in and there is a definite “nip” in the air it is definitely time to make some Autumn-colour-themed dresses which will be worn with knit shrugs or cardigans.

As I had only 3 metres of this khaki green spot fabric I was not able to make my preferred circular skirt. Instead I had to “make do” with a gathered dirndl using two widths of the fabric x 30 inches length.

At first fit of the bodice I thought it a little dull and remembering that I had some “interesting” trim bought from the Mandy Shore stand at the Malvern Show, I auditioned that plus some other trims to see which would be best suited to go around the neckline and the sleeves. The centre of the chosen trim has a red thread running through so that made it easy to machine stitch using a red thread in the needle with khaki thread in the bobbin.

Inspired by my success at pattern-matching on the “Teapots” dress I have again matched the pattern on both the bodice back where there is a lapped zip fastener and the skirt.

back zip

There are pockets set into the side seams, using my usual pocket bag design they are also stitched along the waistline seam to prevent them flapping about! The short cap sleeves are lined with plain White polyester cotton. The skirt hem is a double fold and was hand stitched.

So, does the fact that I have had the fabric in my stash for a couple of months count as stash-busting? Can I now use the new fabric that I bought on Saturday or do I need to raid the “old” stash for my next project?

Toile-making Workshop

On Saturday I tutored the first of my toile-making workshops at New Threads Quilt Shop, Weyhill Fairground. There were 4 ladies attending and they each arrived laden with their dressmakers pattern paper, calico or sheeting, pens, paper and the hope that by the end of the day they would have a well-fitting toile of a New Look shift dress.

new look 6261

The time passed very quickly as we measured and compared inches with the patterns, re-drafted pattern pieces and cut into the calico or sheeting.

cutting out the pattern  cutting out the pattern 5

Using long stitches and bold-coloured thread the revised pieces were quickly sewn together and the resultant toile checked for fit. For 2 of the ladies there are some more “tweaks” required and for the other 2 we ended up with well-fitting toiles.

catherine in her toile

Part 2 of the workshop will be held in October when we will be using the refined toiles to draft personalised patterns so that the fashion fabric can be cut and sewn with confidence of a custom-fit shift dress in good time for the party season ahead.

Teapots for a Tea Party – Bettina Mark V

teapots 1

Now that Summer is officially over and as we move into the golden days of Autumn I still have a few lengths of fabric that I want to make up into dresses before we say goodbye to the warm sunshine until next year.

DH and I were invited to attend a 60th birthday celebration – to begin with it was not clear if the invitation was for lunch or afternoon tea. Thinking about tea reminded me that in my stash I had some charming printed cotton fabric with teapots!

I checked the length of the fabric that was originally purchased from Fabricland and was delighted to see that there was in excess of 4 yards but it did have a direction to the print inasmuch that all the teapots were either upright or nearly upright – there were none that were upside down. However, having set my heart on a circular skirt I decided to make it in 4 gores rather than the usual one half-circle panel plus 2 quarter circle panels.

I noticed when I made the Poppy dress using my TNT bodice pattern that there was a small amount of gaping in the neckline. I was determined to resolve this and therefore simply placed the bodice centre front slightly beyond the fold at the neckline and then pivoted back to the correct alignment. I did the same with the front neckline facing. This has worked well and so I have amended the pattern accordingly.

The other adjustment was to the amount of ease in the sleeve cap. On reading various articles I noted that the amount of ease recommended was in the region of 1”. I measured the front and back armscye on the stitching lines, noted the lengths and added 1/2” to each. I then measured the sleeve head along the stitching line and compared. I decreased one part of the sleeve head and increased the other to give a total ease of 1”. I drafted the amended sleeve pattern and cut 2 outer sleeves and 2 lining sleeves using the new pattern. When it came to insertion of the sleeves they went in like a dream with very little “finessing”, no tucks or pleats. Result!

The part of this dress that I am most pleased with is the pattern matching on the back bodice where I inserted a lapped zip. The zip itself is a Black one with an additional ring pull which came from the stash from when my father was an Engineer at Optilon (R)  zips, therefore it is in excess of 24 years old! To begin with I cut the back bodice pieces as they came and then tacked the centre back seam. That did not work as the teapots were dissected and split apart – it looked awful.  I unpicked the tacking and pressed the seamline on the left back bodice then placed it face up onto the fabric. I located and allowed for an extra wide seam allowance, having double-checked the pattern matching, I re-cut the righthand side of the back bodice. I was fortunate that I had sufficient fabric to cut a 2nd bodice piece and it has served as a good reminder to double-check for pattern matching in future when using such dramatic and highly contrasting motifs on my printed cotton fabrics.

pattern matching on back bodice

Pattern-matched back bodice zip insertion

I cut out and stitched the dress in 2 sessions, the second being the morning of the birthday party which turned out to be a lunch. But still all went very well and I am delighted with my latest iteration of Bettina.

A Good Turn – 50’s style skirt

One of our Friday sewing group Ladies will be attending a party on Saturday. The theme is to be 50’s vintage and so Mo wanted a skirt to wear with a fantastic can-can petticoat that she had purchased from eBay.

We checked the pattern and calculated how much fabric was needed and I gave Mo some hints and tips about construction. I then put that out of my mind whilst I concentrated on my own projects.

On Friday Mo arrived at sewing group with the fabric, a  White penny spot on Bright Red background,  cut into 4 panels to make a full circle together with wide elastic and a co-ordinating belt. Mo now asked how she should proceed as she no longer wanted to have a centre back zip, rather she would prefer an elasticated waist. We retired to another room where we had a fitting. There was not sufficient fabric in the skirt as it was to make an elasticated waistband, but there was enough yardage leftover to make another panel. As I knew this would become a little more complicated than perhaps Mo would be able to cope with just now, I offered to finish off the skirt.

The following afternoon, after a couple of hours stitching I had completed the skirt. I inserted an extra panel into the centre back, made a wide waistband into which I inserted the 2″ wide elastic and finished the skirt off with a twin-needle top stitched hem.

00 mos skirt

The skirt looks great and fits Mo a treat.  Hopefully she will be able to wear the skirt on other occasions. Rock On!