A panoply of (sometimes) lovingly handmade crud.

Tag Archives: dressmaking

Overall, I’m very happy with how my plain version of the Colette Macaron dress turned out.

It felt good to be able to use my skills to make the changes I wanted to this dress. I did look for some guidance on line, but when I couldn’t find anything about altering the pattern, I decided to go my own way. I was aware that my sewing improved a lot over the past couple of years, but I don’t consider myself an especially advanced sewist. I had a lot of help with my most complex projects, including the only thing I have ever lined properly (my coat). However, I definitely have picked up tips and tricks from Julie that helped me.

That being said, the guts of the dress turned out to be a bit of a mess. Even though it felt good to follow my own instincts when it came to the lining, this remains something I am not experienced at doing. Next time I want to line a garment, I will follow a proper tutorial.

I kind of went halfway in between lining and underlining the dress, when I probably should have just stuck with one method. Another problem was the fiasco with the skirt (described in my last post, which has a lot more details about what I did). I had already used a French seam (definitely incorrect in this situation) on the side with the zip. I decided to slightly fudge the redo of the seam, which doesn’t affect the outside but looks like a dog’s dinner inside.

On the plus side, I have been reminded that a lining (however inexpertly installed) makes a garment feel so much more luxurious. This dress feels much more ‘proper’ than any of the ones I have made before.

I haven’t covered up the waistband seams yet. At some point I plan to slip-stitch some ribbon over the whole waistband area. But I decided to leave it for now. If the lining overall had been more successful, I would care more about how the inside looks. Life just feels too short at the moment. I’m not one of those people (yet) who needs the wrong side of their makes to be as beautiful as the right side.

While I was making this dress, it occurred to me that sewing is a form of 3D puzzle. I am generally a bit bemused by adults doing things like Lego, but dressmaking really does use a similar skillset- lots of spatial problem-solving. Spatial awareness is definitely a weakness of mine, though it’s improved in leaps and bounds during my adulthood. It feels pretty good to exercise those muscles.

Coming in at under £35, this dress is one of my cheaper makes. The viscose was quite inexpensive even though it seems like nice quality to me. I suppose it is quite thin. I don’t understand fabric costings at all! I feel like this is the kind of dress that would sell for £60-70 in Oliver Bonas.

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I’m in two minds about continuing with my WiP Wednesday posts, but I do find them to be a useful space to keep notes about different projects. After a lot of research, I bought the Southport dress pattern. We had a very warm couple of weeks, and I realised that I’m lacking in summer clothing. I want to finally use one of my pieces of Liberty fabric for this dress, so I decided to make a toile of the bodice.

It seemed a bit of a shame to use this lovely mustard fabric just for a toile, but I had a very small remnant and it’s cotton, so I couldn’t really picture a good use for it.

I omitted the button band from the bodice- in similar RTW dresses, the buttons gape. Also, I am making this version in a print.  I think the buttons would either get lost, or distract from how nice the fabric itself is.

My neckline wasn’t very flat on my toile. Fortunately I decided to read a tutorial about bias binding necklines, and realised that I had misunderstood the directions when making my toile. This misreading meant that I skipped under-stitching the binding. I’m hoping that this step, plus following some of the other tips in the tutorial, will make my final neckline beautifully flat.

Notes for the next iteration:

  • Size 8 fit is ok
  • Remove length from the back bodice (I will do this by cutting it straight rather than on a curve)
  • Move bust darts down by 1cm and out by 1cm (position of size 18 dart)
  • I also took a teeny wedge out of the neckline
  • 1m is plenty for my size in the shorter length

I get why pattern companies do it, but I must say that the massive overestimation of fabric requirements in almost every pattern I’ve used is a real bugbear of mine. Every time I plan a project, I have to scour blogs to get a sense of the true fabric requirement. Stated yardage often isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.

Aside from the cost of fabric (Liberty tana lawn is over £20/m, though I got this for half price) I absolutely hate wasting things. I also don’t like having fabric lying around, either in half-metres that are hard to use, or in prints where I would not really want two matching garments. This is why I always state how much fabric I use, as my placement is generally much more efficient than the guides given in the pattern.

My second attempt at the neckline still stands up slightly. I wonder if this is because the binding I used is a heavier cotton than the main fabric. I might try making my own bias strip if I try this pattern again. I decided to use French seams on the bodice. It suddenly occurred to me that not only does it look better, it uses much less thread and is probably comparable time-wise to using my overcasting foot.

Pattern: Southport dress by True Bias

Fabric: 1m Liberty tana lawn


My eyes locked on to this fabric from across a crowded room and I knew I had to have her. I really can’t resist a fruit print and these pineapples are so much fun! I instantly pictured myself in a cute skirt, frolicking joyfully during a mini-break. For a while, I thought that we couldn’t be together. The lady in the shop told me that the fabric was all used for online orders. I was heartbroken. But then I checked the website and was able to buy her there. She’s worth the postage.

I decided to take a risk and try to squeeze this skirt out of a metre of fabric. When I measured the last tulip skirt I made, it took 1.1m of fabric. I really hoped those 10cm wouldn’t cause me too many problems…

Nope! Most sizes could easily be cut from 1m of 145cm wide fabric. I didn’t even have to use a different fabric for the waistband facing.

Having seen the gorgeous sample in quilting cotton in the Sew Over It store, I decided to use lining fabric for the pockets. This cotton-linen blend is quite heavy. I used the pocket pieces for the Day Dress because the pockets on my first tulip skirt aren’t quite capacious enough for my liking.

Doing the pleats and darts was a breeze as the linen in this fabric allows it to hold a crisp fold. I’ve never worked with linen before, either as a knitter or a sewist, so it’s been fun to learn about a new fibre. I’ve just realised this skirt will probably crease like billy-o, but I’ll be too fabulous to care.

I wanted to overlock the pattern pieces as both the fashion fabric and lining fray easily. However, I ended up pulling out my trusty overcasting foot and finishing the edges that way. This is the most excited I’ve been about a project since my zebra shorts and I couldn’t wait to get to a sewing cafe.

I couldn’t find a suitably coloured invisible zip at Liberty or John Lewis, so I decided to use an exposed zip. I followed the same tutorial I used before. I’d forgotten how laborious it is to put in one of these suckers! It took forever. I also had to use a 7″ zip (8″ recommended in pattern), which gives me just enough wiggle room to get this thing on and off. Be careful of using a shorter zip for this skirt if you are pear-shaped!


I have to say that my perfectionist tendencies came out big time when installing the zip. I found myself getting very frustrated that the two sides weren’t symmetrical. Fortunately, I decided to give myself a little break from the machine and try the skirt on. I was very relieved that it fit! I decided to use my mother’s old trick of cutting some pattern pieces on the selvedges to save finishing those edges. The problem with doing that on the centre back seam was that I wouldn’t have been able to let the skirt out if it had been too small. I’m not sure I’ll do it again in future.

Even though I realised the zip looked absolutely fine when I tried the skirt on, I also noticed that the placement of the pattern isn’t amazing on the back. There are lots of pineapples cut in half. As usual, this is something that I would probably ignore if I bought this skirt RTW, but it bothered me that I hadn’t foreseen this problem. I just need to take it as a reminder to be more mindful of pattern placement when using such a bold print in future.

Fabric: 1m (145cm wide) cotton-linen mix from Sew Over It

Pattern: Tulip Skirt by Sew Over It (size 10)


I finished sewing my second Bettine dress! I’m so pleased with this project, especially considering that this is my first time working with jersey.


I detailed the changes I made to the pattern here. I’m very happy with the alterations I made from my first go at this dress. I think the Bettine works really well in a knit. I’m really pleased with the fabric, too. The jersey feels heavy and of great quality, but because it’s cotton, it’s also breathable.

When I tried the top and skirt on before constructing the waistband, I realised that the tulip skirt looked a bit silly on me in this heavy jersey, so I reduced the curve.

I love the way the neckband gives the dress a more t-shirty look. I would agree with others that a jersey Bettine is basically secret pyjamas.

Somehow this dress seems a little on the short side. My raindrop Bettine seems around my standard dress length, whereas this one is only just long enough (for my personal taste) to wear to work without tights. I made the hemline exactly as instructed so may lengthen by a centimetre or two if making in jersey again. I am only 5″4, though I do have long legs.


Slightly random note, but this project uses a lot of thread. I bought a new spool of turquoise polyester thread and had to get a second one to topstitch the hem. While I did a fair bit of unpicking, I didn’t finish any of the edges (apparently you don’t need to with jersey) so I was surprised that I got through so much thread.

I’ve always been very apprehensive about working with a knit fabric, so I’m relieved that I was able to do it. I did really take my time with this project, which helped. I’ll see how this dress wears, but I can definitely see more jersey Bettines in my future.

Pattern: Bettine by Tilly and the Buttons

Fabric: 2m cotton jersey from Sew Over It


After the relative success of my raindrop-print Bettine, I was excited to cut another. I picked up this remnant of striped jersey from Sew Over It a few weeks ago. I thought £7.50 was very reasonable for two metres, and when I was looking for more information online, I discovered that it’s still available for £13/m. I love a bargain. I’ve never worked with a knit fabric before, and getting this fabric so cheaply helped me to push myself.

I made a few further changes to the pattern

  • Reduced neckline by 1cm on each side to prevent gaping (tutorial here)
  • Reduced length of bodice by one inch
  • Curved front skirt waistline to match back
  • Removed 4cm (2cm each side) from neckband. In future,  remove 5 or 6cm
  • Stabilised areas with wonder tape before twin needle stitching to reduce tunnelling
  • Finished pocket edgings with the same technique as the neckline. Used 23cm strip of fabric
  • Single layer pockets
  • Reduced curve in the hip by 1.5cm

Tilly provides some very handy tips for making a jersey Bettine, including the dimensions for the neckband.

Cutting the jersey was more difficult than cutting a woven fabric. I’d already invested in a rotary cutter, mat and pattern weights (partly because I find cutting with scissors super annoying). I must add that I made the job more difficult for myself by using stripes, which I tried my utmost to keep horizontal.

For the sewing, I also purchased some ballpoint needles and made use of my walking foot for the first time on my new machine. I just bought a cheap generic one as part of a set of feet.

The first step was constructing the neckline, which was a real baptism of fire. I wasn’t sure I would be able to manage the stretch fabric without pulling the neck out of shape. I carefully pinned the fabric first, using ballpoint pins.

Heartbreakingly, I had to unpick my first attempt as the neckband was too long. I wasn’t surprised as I had adjusted the bodice neckline to reduce gape, but it was still annoying. I also hadn’t really understood the instruction to baste in place first, meaning I used a stretch stitch, which was a pain to remove.

Here is the finished neckline.

I’m really thrilled with it! Loads of firsts here- first stretch, first neckband, first use of a twin needle. I probably could have reduced the neckband by another centimetre or two, but I think this is good enough.

I even used the same technique to finish the pocket edges. I thought it might be cute to carry the design element from the neck. Lots of people seem to think the pockets as written aren’t a great idea in jersey, so I created single layer pockets. I stitched the pocket bags onto the skirt front using my twin needle, again trying to keep the details consistent in this garment. It felt a little strange to go my own way with no instructions to follow, but it seemed to work.

So far I’m cautiously optimistic about this project. I’ve found myself taking a lot of time to get things right- I pulled those pocket edgings out so many times to try and get them to lie flat! However I haven’t begrudged the time. I’m just hoping it’s going to pay off in the form of a lovely dress.

Pattern: Bettine by Tilly and the Buttons

Fabric: 2m (140cm wide) cotton jersey from Sew Over It


I finished sewing my fairytale Cleo dress just in time for my thirtieth birthday, which was yesterday. Hence a finished object being presented on a day other than a Friday. Gasp! Behold my now-haggard form.


My 30th was a mix of immaturity- cake for lunch and going to a ball pit (albeit an adult ball bit)- and age appropriate activity. The evening was spent at the Newport Street gallery.


There’s so much discussion when you’re a woman turning 30, and plenty to think about. When is it time to worry about settling down and having kids? Do I want to settle down and have kids? Am I happy in the life I have created for myself over the past three decades? Am I too old to wear a mini-dress with little mushrooms on it?


I have few comments on the Cleo dress pattern. Overall, I think it’s cute though I’m still not sure whether the style actually suits me. The dress was a quick make- two evenings in total, including plenty of mistakes and unpicking. I think the most time-consuming part was sewing all the patch pockets. I found Tilly’s tips on working with corduroy very helpful.

I made the size 2, but I probably should have just gone for the 3. I let the side seams out a bit as the dress looks nicer on me with a bit more room around the hip area. I made the dress quite short, the hem was over two inches.

I can see no reason not to add in-seam pockets to this dress. I may add afterthought pockets to this mushroom dress if I feel it’s going to get a lot of wear.

Pattern: Cleo by Tilly and the Buttons

Fabric: 2m needlecord in print, plus 0.5m in plain. I had leftovers of both


I’m doing yet another set of sewing workshops at Sew Over It. After this, I need to spend some time consolidating my skills on my shiny new machine. This time, I am dedicating three Tuesday evenings to making their Ultimate Shirt.

shirt2-530

I can only aspire to look as beautiful as Lisa Comfort in mine.

As usual, most of the three-hour class was dedicated to modifying the pattern and cutting out. I used less than 1.5m of fabric to cut a size 14, which will save me money if I want to make more shirts in future (and I really hope I will).


So far, the only sewing has been starting the collar.



I’m using a delicate cotton voile so I’m even more afraid of making mistakes than normal. Unpicking isn’t really an option.