Category Archives: Dress

Rust Trapeze Dress

Idle Pinterest scrolling led me down a rabbit warren of ponte roma dresses to keep me warm but well dressed this winter. I explored different shapes, lengths, colours and styling. Finally settling on rusty reds and berry purples with a trapeze silhouette, plain but absolutely primed to pair with a hand-knitted shawl/cowl or a statement necklace.

Trapeze Dress

I took my previous hacked dress pattern (it’s based on the best bits of Renfrew, AudreyStaple and Briar) and used this tutorial to trapeze it. It was a speedy hack, used just 2m of fabric and was a quick sew too. The end effect is completely shapeless from the bust down but I love the abundance of fabric.

As I wasn’t sure how my hack of a hack of a hack pattern would work out… or even if I’d like or suit the new-to-me silhouette, I didn’t worry too much about the fabric. In fact I used it as an opportunity to try a colour outside of my usual palette. If you’re reading this thinking new silhouette, new colour, new year, new you… you’re wrong. I actually dreamt and sewed this up in December!

So I’m interested to hear… what do you think of the shape and colour? What new things are you trying?

Misty Trees Dress

It was summer 2015 in Walthamstow market when I felt that the roll end of this misty trees printed scuba needed to come home with me. I’ve been pondering a suitable pattern ever since. The longer I pondered, the more I failed to see why I’d been attracted to the fabric in the first place. Scuba… so not me.


I was happy to sacrifice it to test out GBSB The Drapey Knit dress that I’d pinned to my ‘See it Sew It‘ Pinterest board. It’s a free pattern download with some quirky details. The pattern has front pockets created by the side front pattern pieces, these also overlap at the neckline to create a simple origami effect. Sew Different has some construction instructions that really helped me, particularly in ensuring the the trees were growing in the right direction.


I cut the smallest size but took in the side seams from bust to hip a lot… I just kept narrowing until I was happier that the volume worked for my proportions. The hem and sleeves were finished with a twin needle stitch and I hand tacked the neckline facing at the internal seams to prevent it from flipping out.


I used the blog photos to test out the possibility of wearing it to a wedding and decided it was worth a try. Guess who got the first dance?


Simplcity 1609: Royal Blue Fit and Finish

Simplicity 1609 a

This royal blue gaberdine and matching lining were the founding members of my ‘stash’ and were purchased because royal blue is my favourite colour ever in the world. I think the fabric survived my year long stash diet because I couldn’t decide what to use it for. The gabardine is quite heavy and stiff. At one point I did consider sailor trousers but decided that the only bright colour you can/should make wide legged trousers in is red.

It seems odd that after hoarding the fabric for nearly three years, I had no hesitations about sewing up a new pattern (Simplicity 1609) without a toile first. Consequently, I have a lot to say about this make which can be broadly divided into ‘finish’ and ‘fit’:


For a long time I’ve admired Marrie’s beautifully finished dresss. I particularly like how she has fashion fabric facings and lining at the same time  – here’s a fine example.

Simplicity 1609 e

I think, but I don’t know for sure (because I was too miserly to pay to download the ebook that Marrie kindly linked me to when I asked how to do such a neat finish) that I have figured out how to do it. But I didn’t stop there… no, I wanted it all! A fully machined, lined dress with the lining attached to the zip and arms holes without any hand sewing until I got to the hem. At which point I used a neat trick to get evenly spaced stitches and had that as my first instagram (gotta try to catch up with the times!).

Simplicity 1609 g

Wanting it all turned a seemingly easy pattern into somewhat of a logistical sewing challenge. Sewing a few seams here and there then pausing to consider my next move broke a complex puzzle down into easier to solve pieces. Slowly I built an order of construction that didn’t at any stage end up in an unsolvable pickle that can only be undone with an unpicker! So this dress has been a couple of months in the making while I ruminated over what part to attach to where and in what order.

Simplicity 1609 f

This isn’t an original idea, more an amalgamation of many online tutorials and believing that that puzzle was indeed solvable. The tricky bit was taking just the right amount of information from each tutorial and blending them together in a sensible order. Which went something like this (with links to useful resources):

  1. Cut facings out of fashion fabric turn raw edge under and top stitch to right side of lining (I also basted to the other parts of the facings to the lining inside the seam allowances for good measure).
  2. Sew all darts and shoulder seams on the dress fabric and lining.
  3. Attach zip to dress.
  4. Attach lining to zip and to dress at the neckline.
  5. Burrito roll and pull through to sew lining to dress at arm holes.
  6. Sew the side seams of the dress and lining as two very long seams (Sixth and seventh steps only from this tutorial).

Critically, I worked out early on that I shouldn’t get sucked into the method of pulling the dress through the shoulder seams. While it’s a nice enough technique, the zip would have to be inserted last which as far as I can fathom means hand sewing the lining to the zip.

Simplicity 1609 c

My final flourish was to go off piste for the bow too. I just didn’t like the dangilies and since I’d rejected all the other pattern instructions I was confident in this rebellion too.


Typically my bust is a size larger than my waist and my hips two sizes larger than my waist. With the French darts and looser fit at the hips I figured a size 12 all over would be a good enough starting point from the finished garment measurements.

Fitting Simplicity 1609 Alteration Bust Dart

As soon as I could try it on, I did. I could see that the darts weren’t pointing towards the apex of my bust. I marked the place the darts should be pointing towards with chalk to help me make the necessary alteration (explaining where and why darts should point there made for an interesting talking point at a dinner party with non-sewers on the dress’ first outing!). Understandably I had a lot of excess fabric below my bust because of the errant darts. First I unpicked the side seams a little, then unpicked the bust darts completely. I kept the dart leg position at the side seam the same but angled them towards my bust point ending about 2 cm from the chalk dot.

Fitting Simplicity 1609 Alteration French Dart and Side Seam

I like to try on garments between each fit tweak so that I can see what’s going on. Sometimes one change influences subsequent fitting steps more than you imagine it would. When I tried the dress on again, the excess fabric was still a problem but the next course of action was obvious; extending the French darts upwards to end somewhere on the magic circle of 2-3cm radius of the bust point.

For a final fit I took in the side seam about 1.5cm from the under arm, down past the bust line then started to blend back to the original seam allowance finishing about 5 cm above the waistline. Then pressed as best I could to remove the former dart creases.

Simplicity 1609 d

Another change was to chop a mighty 3 inches from the bottom and then turn up a whopping 1 3/4 inch hem. I felt safe to just chop off 3 1/2 inches from the pattern pieces in readiness for my next make – that’s a lot of fabric to be saved.

In addition to transferring the new bust dart, French dart and grading the side seams at bust level to what equates to a size 8, I also got rid of the centre front seam. Sure the original pattern piece has some really subtle shaping (plus 1/8 inch at the bust, minus 1/8 inch at the waist – I can afford to ditch both from a fit point of view) but the lure of fabric with fancy prints is so strong, I don’t want to be pattern matching a centre front seam.

Simplicity 1609 View B

I still need to fix some gaping at the back neckline. It doesn’t bother me too much for this make – probably with the neckline well trimmed and clipped to the seam, I’d make more of a mess unpicking to get access to attempt this alteration retrospectively. I haven’t decided how to make this alteration yet. Possibilities I am considering are:

  • Adding an extra neck/shoulder dart (the original has one and I quite like this detail).
  • The ‘fold and smoosh’ method on the paper pattern piece – fold a dart shape the same as the pinched gape then hand flatten the tissue paper to return it’s 2D qualities.
  • Try to absorb the gape at the centre back by trimming off some excess where the zip is inserted.
  • Try to absorb some gape into the shoulder seam by angling the back pattern piece shoulder.

Or perhaps there’s another option I haven’t thought of yet – leave  me a comment if you have an idea or can recommend/discourage me from one of the options listed above.

Final Thoughts

I think this dress fills gaps in both my wardrobe and sewing pattern stash. I really like the shape on me and can see plenty of scope in the neckline options and using different fabrics. Plus, after so much work on the fit and on working out a fully lined construction process, this pattern is well on the way to becoming a TnT.

Simplicity 1609 b

Ticking all the boxes

Occasionally everything aligns to fulfill all sewing and blogging commitments in one fell swoop. Ticking boxes for The Monthly Stitch’s Indie Pattern Month ‘New-to-me’ competition, my findings for Me Made May and Stash Diet… not to mention a winning fabric and pattern match, I present to you my Sewaholic Lonsdale Dress.

Sewaholic Lonsdale Front 4

I used stashed Fabric Freedom lawn which I purchased from Dalston Mill last summer. I have to give a special thank you to the lady who, when asked “Red or purple?” Very decisively answered “Red”.  Better to ask a stranger their opinion than blow my cash on both or walk away with neither, right?

IMG_0610 (640x480)

I want mention to Purple Stitches too. I purchased the pattern from this store (it is available as a PDF but I don’t have a working printer at the moment). I was impressed with Purple Stitches’ good value delivery price and excellent customer service. I’m not being compensated for this comment, I just like to give praise where it’s due!

Sewaholic Lonsdale Back 2

The fit of the toile wasn’t too bad but I wanted to absolutely nail the fit of the bodice so I made a number of tweaks. Taking wedges from the side seams and the centre back (zip) seam, I tapered from the bust to the original size 6 waist. I shaved off some of the curve of the centre front seam too – a cheat small bust adjustment I think but it worked for me.

Wedges to fit bust with very little ease.

Wedges to fit bust with very little ease.

Shallowed off curve at centre front seam

Shallowed off curve at centre front seam

The largest alteration I made was a sway back adjustment which for my shape landed right on the waist seam.

Sway back adjustment centered on the waist seam

Sway back adjustment centered on the waist seam

As for the skirt length, I removed 3 inches from View A (shorter) skirt so that, once hemmed, it just touched my knee. Although after a sway back adjustment to the bodice, I was forced to load up my hemline marker with chalk to make sure it was level.

Sewaholic Lonsdale Chalk hem line

On the inside I lined the skirt, pinked seams that were enclosed in the self-lined bodice and overlocked all other seams.

Sewaholic Lonsdale Inside 1 Sewaholic Lonsdale Inside 2

The pattern is beautifully drafted (I swooned over how easily the pockets came together with a professional finish) and deceptively easy to sew.

Sewaholic Lonsdale Pocket

I followed both the online sewalong and the printed pattern instructions which made for a really easy construction process with lots of extra guidance, tips, photographs and options. I like that the sewalong comes in bite-size posts… just perfect for evening sewing. In fact I was inserting the zip with a fantastic hail, rain, thunder and lightening display going on outside… also questioning why I was sewing a summer dress at all!

Sewaholic Lonsdale Back

As I mentioned, I’ve entered this dress into The Monthly Stitch ‘New-to-Me’ competition for Indie Pattern Month… so of course once the voting opens on Sunday I’d be grateful for your support!

Sewaholic Lonsdale Front 3

Damson Gin Dress

When I posted my brown NL6000 dress I asked for help with an ‘n’ shaped ripple of fabric under my bust.

Brown 6000 Fitting IssueI had a few suggestions and speculations but no one seemed confident. Returning to the dress in the New Year I wanted to be able to see the fitting problem in a new light. I took a long hard look in a full length mirror, I pinched, I prodded, I fidgeted… I even tried on un-padded and really, really padded bras (self-SBA and self-FBA without surgery if you will). And then…

Brown 6000 Fitting Issue b

If I imagined the lines of the bust darts and the waist darts extended… *gasp* they didn’t cross at the apex of my bust! The waist darts needed to be moved towards the centre by 1 inch.

Dart position

With no fabric purchases allowed I shopped my stash. At first I went for some mystery black suiting that I had no plans for but when I had the pattern pieces laid out, it dawned on me that it’d be hard to see or photograph fitting issues and the whole point of this make was to get rid of that ‘n’ shaped issue! A quick re-think and I sacrificed this purple suiting that was meant to become a pencil skirt.

Damson Gin Dress 6000
This make made me realise that although we have the same measurement, my bust is different to my dressmakers dummy. The darts look ridiculously close on her. So, has moving the darts solved the mysterious fitting issue on me?

Damson Gin Dress FrontLooks okay from this angle… and more ease in the hips helps smooth things out in that region too.

Damson Gin Dress SideStill no bust ripple from this angle either.

Thank you sewing gods for reminding me of dart positioning.

Thank you sewing gods for reminding me of dart positioning.

Yeah, I think the ripple has been banished. I’m also happier with a bit more ease round the hips.


So why is it called the Damson Gin dress? Ah well the damson purple is on the outside and the gin part is on the inside…

Damson Gin Dress Hem

Over 3 meters of this gorgeous silvery white lining was languishing in my stash. It reminds me of the silvery blue sheen that gin has. I was feeling quite chuffed with my stash shopping and even used the bias binding I’d made from the leftover scraps of my blouse to bind the raw edge before hemming. Bother, that blouse would have gone great with a purple pencil skirt! Nevermind, I’m still on track with my Stash Diet.

Damson Gin Dress CuffI’m considering switching the buttons for fabric covered. Undecided yet.

Want to see more details? I took loads of photos, I think the number of photos in my posts correlates to how pleased I am with my make!

Damson Gin Dress

I fully lined the dress including the sleeves. It’s pretty easy due to the sleeve cuffs but does require some extra understitching to stop the lining rolling to the outside. I found myself swapping the different coloured threads on my sewing machine constantly. Perhaps I’ll stick with matching lining to make things easier in future!

Damson Gin Dress Zip

Another cool lining detail was attaching it by machine to the zip… I thought it’d be difficult but it’s actually pretty easy (following Tasia’s instructions).

Damson Gin Dress Vent

I shoe horned in my favourite skilllining a vent.

It's not easy demonstrating a lined vent while wearing the dress!

It’s not easy demonstrating a lined vent while wearing the dress!

Like this? I’m going to be telling you all about how you can get involved with lined vents tomorrow!

Damson Gin Dress Lined Vent

The six thousandth six thousand dress

Like the whack-a-mole game you just never know when another New Look 6000 will pop up.

NL6000 (4)

Let’s talk about fit. The small ripple across my hips almost disappears when I stand up straight…

NL6000 (2)

See? But for my next make of this pattern I’ll add a little more ease around my hips to get rid of it completely. What doesn’t disappear no matter how much smoothing of standing tall I do is the ‘n’ shaped ripple under my bust. What adjustment do I need to do for this fitting issue please?

NL6000 (5)

The fit in the back is pretty good though. I took out some back neck gape before attaching the zip.

I went all out stash busting for this make: The thread is left over from a Roman blind make a few years ago, the brown wool-mix scratchy stuff and the Chinese brocade I used for lining were in my acquired stash. Scratchy but free fabric meant that I was annoyed but not too cross with myself when this happened…


Overlocker incident No. 1. I’m surprised to have owned the machine for 5 months before the first incident occurred and luckily it only caught the lining not the shell fabric.


Despite my frivolity for the final photograph, I’m not completely happy with this dress yet… and so not done with the pattern either!

“There’s more to sex appeal than just measurements.”

A famous quote from Audrey Hepburn and totally appropriate for my first make of the Audrey Dress. Maria Denmark’s B cup or C cup sized pattern.

Maria Denmark Audrey Dress1

This is my ‘wearable toile’. That phrase makes me cringe so lets just call it “a practice make using fabric I wouldn’t cry over that turned out perfectly acceptable to wear in public”. It was the teal that attracted me (you know by now that I’m not a flowery girl) but I have to say florals are growing on me… *get it? see what I did there?*

Maria Denmark Audrey Dress2

I have a confession. I’m a naughty home sewer. I didn’t add a seam allowance. Oh go on, snitch on me to the head (seam)mistress – I can take detention as a consequence of my actions, or maybe a punishment befitting of my unacceptable behavior.

Staple Dress for Autumn

staple dress e

During August we took a camping/walking trip in Cornwall… not too far from Truro. ‘Hmmm…. Truro’ I thought, I’ve heard of that before with the word ‘Fabrics’ afterwards. And so a fabric shopping expedition to Truro Fabrics was scheduled into our journey home (despite it not being exactly on the way home… the complete opposite direction in fact!).

staple dress c

Fabric: This lovely drapey viscose caught my attention because it is matt, no sheen or shine at all. The colours were ideal for beginning autumn/winter sewing. I immediately paired this fabric with the April Rhodes Staple Dress in my mind.

staple dress fabric

The dipped-hem version requires fabric with plenty of flow and movement while the style could be just as good with bare legs and flat shoes as with tights, boots and a chunky cardigan. Also it’s difficult to tell the right side of the fabric even close up – a good thing for dipped hems where some of the wrong side will be on show.

staple dress b

Pattern: The Staple Dress pattern is great for beginners and April really holds your hand through the pattern instructions if you need it. Personally I read them through once before beginning then only consulted the instructions again when I needed to add shirring to the waistline – this was a new technique for me.

staple dress a

Alterations: A very quick toile helped me to confidently remove an inch at each side seam and an inch from the hem of the pattern pieces before cutting into my fashion fabric. I made a fabric belt (above photo) but I prefer my tan leather belt (all other photos)

And I’ll leave you with this photograph of me finding it hilarious that it was such a bright day I couldn’t keep my eyes open!

staple dress hilarious

McCalls 2401 – Round Two to Clipped Curves

In round one I was defeated by McCalls 2401… but I wasn’t going to let the pattern go. I was ready for round two in the sewing ring with this featherweight of a basic shift dress. Yeah that’s fighting talk!

M2401 b

I weaved and blocked a whole new set of punches this time in the ring: A near-fatal cut to the neckline while attaching Vilene edge tape, two cones of run-out overlocker thread (first time re-threading my overlocker!), a broken overlocker needle (a re-threading error I think) and being sold a 22″ zip that only measured 16″.

Ok, enough of the boxing ring metaphors….

M2401 a

I lowered the neckline to erase my cutting blunder and retraced the new line onto my facing. The facing was now a little narrow so I stitched in the ditch at the shoulder seams to stop it flipping out. When I casually mentioned stitching in the ditch in an earlier post, Caroline requested a close up photograph of my skills. So here, just for Caroline, is an in-progress close up. The left side of this shoulder strap is attached to the facing and the right side raw edge will be attached to a sleeve.

Facing attached to shoulder seam by stitching in the ditch - left side is attached to facing, right side raw edge will be attached to sleeve.

Stitching in the ditch… nothing to see here.

I used my first traced pattern piece – size 6 at the bust and graded to a size 8 at the waist and hips. I basted first to fit on the fly. This allowed me to remove 2 inches either side at the waist and an inch either side over the hips and I could still breathe deeply and sit down! But I am wary of transferring these alterations to my pattern pieces or just using size 6 all-over because I’m still smarting from the first make this fabric has some horizontal stretch. A non-stretch woven may not be so forgiving.

M2401 d

Since making this dress, I have seen a lady in a jacket of the same fabric which left me wondering; is the fabric a bolt end from a ready to wear clothing line or was this another home-sewer I passed in the street?

M2401 c

Although the flowers are abstract… this floral number is really pushing the boundaries of what I’d normally wear. I changed out of the dress after the photographs were taken and haven’t worn it since. I love the fit but I don’t know if I can bring myself to wear floral!

Quantitative Ease

Disclaimer: Prepare yourself for another hideous toile fabric. I call this the silver stretch velvet monstrosity.

Here’s the toile for McCalls M6559 overlaid with a shop bought maxi dress that fits great in the bust and hips but a little loose in the waist. How much ease and with stretch fabric too?! But that excess ease is coupled with the smallest arm hole. The sizing results of Katie’s Big 4 Experiment were remarkably similar to the issues I experience. Experience… that word that if you have it, you feel confident enough to make a few adjustments to the pattern and perhaps wing it without a toile if you’re not too sentimental/bankrupt over your fashion fabric.

M6559 Sizing

I slimmed the originally cut size 12 right down to a size 6 in the hips/bust and off the pattern sizing scale at the waist. Then there’s the construction instructions with this pattern…

The pattern notes recommended folding the neckline over to finish it which resulted in stretched out rubbishness. My final toile followed the armhole line of my shop bought maxi dress… heck I should have just drafted a pattern from that dress instead of purchasing a commercial pattern!


As Katie discusses in her Big 4 Experiment post, it’s down to the experience of the sewer. I lack the confidence to ignore commercial pattern instructions at the toile stage. However, recently I’ve noticed that I’m staring to recognise when I know an alternative technique that will work better for my fashion fabric.

With my ‘ease’ issues out of the way I ploughed on to make a maxi dress that I’ve worn lots this summer and will be revealed in my next post.