Monthly Archives: October 2016

Back to Basics 2 – Using the Toile for a New Shift Dress

prima shift

On 4th October I posted a blog headed “Back to Basics” where I discussed making a new toile shift dress. Unfortunately the fashion fabric dress was delayed but I did manage to finish it a couple of weeks ago.

I used a linen-look Chocolate Brown and Cream spot fabric bought a couple of years ago from Fabricland. I had intended to make a different pattern and hence had more than enough fabric for this incarnation. Infact, you may recognise the fabric as I used some of the surplus as the contrast when making the Maggie Bag.

Having already made a toile I was confident in cutting and stitching the dress with the minimum of fittings and alterations. I had already laundered the fabric to minimise the risk of shrinkage so if the dress does get smaller on me it will be due to personal expansion not fabric shrinkage!

front view linen look shift   rear view linen look shift

The dress took approximately 4 hours to stitch. I set the lapped zip with 4 rows of machining rather than spending time making a hand-picked insertion. I was also fortunate that the pattern match is pretty fair considering that I was not paying too much attention to the location of the spots.

The sleeves are lined with calico. The neckline and sleeve hems are top-stitched with a twin needle. There is a back hem vent and the hem itself has been hand stitched.

I am especially pleased with this dress as due to the “qualities” of this fabric it has come out a little larger than the original toile and is therefore very comfortable to wear. The fabric, although it looks like Linen, does not crease and even after a day of standing and sitting is devoid of creases across the front.

All Tucked Up! – Fabric Manipulation

christmas basket 3

Tucked panel on the front of the basket

On Monday’s P&Q class at Franklins, Salisbury we attempted some fabric manipulation. Emma demonstrated a technique of a panel of ¼ inch tucks that are stitched down in opposite directions which results in a very tactile piece of work. As we always like to have a project in which to incorporate new techniques, Emma showed us a storage basket. The project does not take a great deal of fabric and is ideal for using up remnants from fabric stash.

Requirements for the storage basket that we made are as follows:- 2 x fat eights, one of which will be “tucked” plus a fat quarter for the lining. Also required is some foam wadding.

By the end of the class we had all completed the length of tucked fabric and I finished the construction of the basket at home. I am especially pleased with the result and plan to make more baskets in different sizes- maybe a set of 3 that when empty will sit inside one another. Yet another idea for Christmas presents?

christmas basket reverse

Christmas printed reverse panel of thebasket

Maxi “Maggie” Tote Bag

front bag

I was born in the year of the Rabbit and this fabric featuring various Hares on a Linen-look cotton hopped into my shopping basket! I purchased a metre of the print from eBay and was delighted when it arrived to see that it co-ordinated well with the remnant of spotted linen look cotton left over from a dressmaking project(more of that later!).

I wanted to make a large tote bag to use for attending patchwork and quilting classes that would also be robust enough when out and about shopping.

I thought about the dimensions and based the main panels on the size of the “Martha” market bag which is a free pattern from the Craftsy website. From that starting point I went on my own unique path making external pockets on the bag, fussy-cutting the pocket panels and adding the contrast fabric to accent various features of the bag. I particularly like the way that a Hare is peeping over the top of the zipped pocket on the reverse of the bag.

reverse bag 2

There is a slip pocket behind both the external and the internal zipped pockets plus an internal pocket that is divided into sections to take a mobile phone, pens and pencils. I also added a loop and parrot clasp to one of the internal seams so that keys are always close to hand and don’t get lost at the bottom of the bag.

The contrasting flap has a twist lock and the entire bag is padded with Bosal ® foam interfacing. As the Bosal ® makes the bag somewhat cumbersome to handle, I applied a contrast binding around the top so that I could avoid the trauma of turning through a gap in the calico lining.

The final dimensions of the bag are 17” wide x 16” high x 4” deep. The handles extend by 22” and are therefore long enough to go over the shoulder.

I am delighted with this bag and intend to publish the pattern and instructions – maybe for a class or workshop. I have some more “Hare” fabric, featuring a smaller creature and plan to make a similar bag on a smaller scale – the “Midi Maggie”, followed eventually by the smallest, “Mini Maggie”. I can foresee many more “Maggie” bag incarnations in the future.

Dressmaking Workshop II

Although there were two ladies booked into the Dressmaking Part 2 workshop on Saturday, only 1 turned up so Hilary was fortunate to have one-to-one tuition.

As there were a few “tweaks” required to perfect the fit of Hilary’s toile we busied ourselves with that for a couple of hours. We re-drafted the pattern and whilst Hilary ate lunch I sewed a new toile bodice so that we could double-check the fit after those tweaks had been made. Finally we had a really good-fitting toile bodice to use when making up the New Look dress pattern.


Hilary had chosen some pretty Turquoise cotton fabric which had a non-directional print and this made pattern placement easy. The dress was cut out and darts etc., marked with a Frixion ® pen.


By this time having experienced a “full-on” day of tuition Hilary decided to quit whilst ahead.

Armed with the workbook that I had produced to accompany the class, Hilary will now complete her dress in easy stages at home. I look forward to hearing how she gets on and seeing a photograph of the completed garment.

2 Sweet Peas in a Pod

The first and third Thursday of each month is when the Sprat & Winkle Quilters meet at the village hall in Goodworth Clatford. Last week we had a sewing evening when we enjoyed making Sweet Pea pods! No it was nothing to do with gardening – simply making a delightful zipped purse that is shaped (with a little poetic licence!) like a sweet pea pod.

Here is the link for the pattern and instructions which can be purchased from the craftsy website:-

Using some scraps from a recent dressmaking project, a length of continuous zip plus 2 zip pulls, some calico for lining, a 10” square of fusible wadding and a short piece of satin ribbon I was able to produce 2 pods.

Lizzie had prepared an excellent tutorial clearly demonstrating each stage of the construction. These little gems are compulsive – like a chinese meal – no sooner have you finished one than you want to make another!


Back to Basics – a new Toile for me

In anticipation of tutoring yet another dressmaking course I decided to re-visit my basic shift dress pattern. I used a Prima pattern that was originally released with the magazine back in April 1997! Since then I have made the pattern up many, many times. Over the years it has seen a variety of sizes from a 14 to a 22 plus lots of variations in styling.

prima shift

So – back to basics. I measured myself (not a happy experience!) and noted on my chart. As I use my upper bust/chest measurement on which to base the pattern I needed to draft my “personal fit” pattern from a size 20 and then do a full bust adjustment.

First I used the Nancy Zieman method of pin, pivot and slide. I compared the finished result with the TNT bodice that I have been using of late and there was a huge discrepancy.

nancy zieman

I then re-drafted using the Palmer Pletsch method of slashing and spreading  the pattern and after a deal of “finessing” ended up with a bodice that was not too dissimilar to my TNT bodice.

palmer pletsch fba

I cut out the front and back using a firm calico, marked the darts etc with carbon paper and a tracing wheel. I stitched with a long stitch using a contrasting thread. I inserted a zip into the centre back using my favourite lapped zip method.

lapped zip

Now to try on the toile and check the fit. Interesting! Several tweaks required. I needed to pinch out a small dart at the neckline to remove a little “gaposis”. My shoulders are slightly more sloping than the pattern – adjust them by 1/4 inch. They are also narrower, so reduce the width by 1/2 inch. The bust dart needs to be shortened and lowered by ½ inch and the body darts also reduced in height by ½ inch. The front armscye needs to be raised by ½ inch and the side seam taken in by ½ inch. The front waistline was way off. It needs to be lowered by 1 inch at the side seam and 1½ inches at centre front. The back bodice side seams need to be taken in by at least ½ inch and the back armscye cut back by ½ inch. I could put on and remove the dress without opening the back zip so not required. The width of the skirt seems OK. The length of the skirt at 26 inches finished is also fine.

I re-drafted the bodice front and back incorporating the changes. In view of the number of alterations I decided to make another toile of the bodice. Using a lighter weight calico I quickly ran up a new bodice and tried it on – success! I attached the new bodice patterns to their corresponding skirt pieces and set aside ready to make the dress in a fashion fabric.

I will keep the 1st attempts at drafting the bodice patterns plus the original toile so that I can use them as demonstrations for my students. If at first it is not quite right – keep going and you will get there in the end……

Simplicity 2580 – 2 Dresses instead of 1

pattern envelope

A couple of weeks ago I made up a toile from this pattern in a Peach jersey fabric for a friend. Last week I re-visited that friend and she tried on the toile. We were pleased to find that the toile was a good fit with just a very small tweak required over the hips.

We went ahead with making the dress in Pat’s chosen fabric which was a fine jersey print. The dress is to be worn to a ball later this month and would need to be full length i.e. View D from the pattern envelope illustration. Pat tried on the toile again and we measured how much extra fabric would be required to bring the hem to floor level. We added the appropriate amount to the pattern front and back skirt pieces. Pat also decided that she would like to have the sleeves as shown in views A and C.

Taking care to match the bold design at the centre front and back of the bodice and skirt pieces, we cut out the dress. The only other change that we made was to place the back bodice on the fold rather than have a seam. Pat had purchased a jersey needle and so with each of us pressing, pinning, stitching and pressing again the dress went together very quickly. The joy of sewing with jersey fabric! At the next fitting we discovered that the weight of the jersey was stretching the length of the skirt so a further 3 inches was removed and the hem pinned into place. The hems on the sleeves and the skirt of the dress were machined in place and after 4 hours of work we had a completed dress!

Pat was smiling and obviously delighted with her new dress. As we now knew how to perfect the fit of this dress for Pat, I offered to continue with the making of her original toile. I made the alteration to the side seams, added sleeves and machined up a narrow hem with jersey twin needles. Two dresses for the price of One!

front full llength   full length back

Front                                                Back

I have been so impressed with how easily the design has come together and have now purchased my own copy of the pattern.

Watch this space for the next iteration of Simplicity 2580!