TMS Independent pattern month – dresses

June is Independent Pattern Month over at the Monthly Stitch, with each week bringing a new challenge. For the 1st – 7th June the theme is dresses.


I really wanted to make a BHL Flora for this challenge; I have had the pattern since it came out and I thought that this would give me the necessary incentive to make it up. Sadly when I made my first muslin (and thankfully I did), it presented me with some fitting challenges I just did not have the headspace or patience to deal with. I think part of the problem is that BHL patterns have so far been a reasonable fit on me without any alterations, so I was ready for that to be the case here, and when it wasn’t I couldn’t manage my expectations quickly enough. Another part of the problem is my current low body confidence – I know that this will pass (especially if I step away from the pizza and move towards the salad bar for a couple of months) and when it does I might be more in the market for fitting a sexy sundress (or a couple of months off the pizza might mean my original muslin fits a bit better without too many alterations!)

Anyway, enough of what I didn’t make… After that I really needed a quick win and for that I wanted an easy make with minimal fitting. Enter the Staple Dress from April Rhodes.

AprilRhodes_Staple_Dress_WaxPrint_a7 This pattern had been on my radar for a while, but I had always thought it looked a bit simple for the $15 price tag. I mean it is a really lovely dress – I have seen many lovely versions, but it is basically a front and a back stitched together with a shirred waist, so though I had often looked at it there was always a voice in my head telling me I could probably more or less work it out on my own. However, when it was included in the new Perfect Pattern Parcel, I snapped it up and now I’m glad that I have this lovely pattern to work from.

AprilRhodes_Staple_dress_WaxPrint_b2 I made it in a size XL. I think the L is closer to my current size, but with that low body confidence and all I wanted it super loose. I used an African Wax Cotton print I bought on eBay – it was a 6 yard piece and I probably used about half of it in order to get my patterns matched (plus I wasted an inordinate amount making the belt). AprilRhodes_Staple_Dress_WaxPrint_a8The instructions are really clearly written and fully illustrated, so this is an ideal pattern for a beginner, or a quick and satisfying make if you have a bit more experience and a few hours to spare.

The pattern calls for bias strips of the self fabric to bind the neck and armholes, but I decided that this print worked better just left plain, so I used a contrast ready made bias to turn under and then topstitch.

StapeDress_sleeve Rather than shirring the waist I used this stuff:



I don’t mind shirring in the traditional way, but I have never tried it on my current machine and after following SewBusyLizzy’s trials on Twitter I decided to just dig this out of my stash as it is really easy to use and gives a good wide elasticated finish. If you’ve not come across it, it is a kind of elasticated mesh tape, which you just stitch to the wrong side of your fabric (holding it taut as you sew), and you don’t need to play with the tension of elastic on your bobbin!

The only other alterations I made to the pattern were the addition of belt loops and a self fabric belt, which I made super long so that it can tie in  a big bow (front or back) or it can wrap around three times.

StapleDress_belts So, here goes with the new-to-me-but-a-tradition-of-sewing-blogs-stats:

Pattern: April Rhodes Staple Dress (as part of the perfect pattern parcel) – difficult to say the cost, as I got a total of 6 patterns, one of which I had and not all of which I will use, so let’s call it £5.00

Fabric: African Wax Print Cotton approx £7.00

Notions: Gutermann thread and Gold-Zack shirring elastic tape £2.00

Total cost: About £14.00, but I intend using the pattern again.

Time to make; including pattern printing, taping etc, with addition of belt loops and belt, 4-5 hours (I think).

Will I make it again? Almost certainly.

Conclusion. I really like this dress. It is a very easy make, but I love the casual shape and it is perfect for summer days and pizza bellies.

And what would a sunny photo shoot be without a cat photobombing me?

StapleDress_PhotobombAnd finally, how do you like my shoes? They are Lotta From Stockholm clogs and were a birthday present from JB – he has such excellent taste (with only a bit of guidance).




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TMS Sew Stretchy take 3

When I was in my early twenties (so over half my lifetime ago!) I had this dress I loved. It was loose and long, with a high waist and low hem, turquoise jersey with buttons down the back. It should’ve looked like a sack, but somehow it was every kind of flattering. Easy to wear, to dress up or down. I wore that dress until it fell apart. I’ve often thought about recreating it.

This is the only picture I can find of me wearing the dress (with my friend Paula, attending a wedding circa 1992)

This is the only picture I can find of me wearing the dress (with my friend Paula, attending a wedding circa 1992)

So for my third Sew Stretchy make I decided it was time to give it a go.

As I had acquired the lady skater pattern as part of the first perfect pattern parcel, I used the bodice as a starting point, but from there on it was a pattern hack with emphasis on the hack. I added abouth 4 inches to the width of the bodice, scooped out the neckline a bit, chopped a few inches off the bodice length and then made a skirt from gathered rectangles.

As I have not much experience of working with knit fabrics I am still learning how they behave. It turns out this one stretches rather more than I expected:

not the empire line I was going for

not the empire line I was going for

Neckline and waistline both ended up several inches lower than I anticipated. The bodice which was empire line length when I cut it fell to my natural waist with that gathered skirt attached. And though it wasn’t (IMO) hideous it did have the potential to be somewhat revealing:

plenty of wardrobe malfunction potential

plenty of wardrobe malfunction potential

So, what to do?

I’d serged that thing together, so those seams were solid. And as I had done waist seams before side seams I could not just unpick the waist and take it up a couple more inches. Anyway that would still leave the indecent neckline.

I considered pulling it up at the shoulders, adding a pleat and calling it a feature, but it just looked a bit too Laura Ashley circa 1987.

So I sat down with my seam ripper, the Wicked Stepdaughter and some girl telly and I unpicked. Every seam except the shoulders and sleeves. Which took about two and a half hours. I then hacked randomly, which took about two and a half minutes and sewed it back together, which didn’t take long at all.

please ignore the not-yet-pressed hem

please ignore the not-yet-pressed hem

What of the low neck? I hear you cry. I just flipped it (like a burger) and added a scoop back to the design.

The neckline on the original was probably about this deep - but with a button back

The neckline on the original was probably about this deep – but with a button back

I used clear elastic at the shoulder and waist seams. At the shoulders it is purely for stabilising, but at the waist I used it to gather the fabric, too.

And can we just talk about the fabric a minute? I got it in the great 99p per metre birthday fabric haul of 2012. I didn’t like it that much on the roll, but I was finding inexpensive “practice” jersey difficult to come by, so I added some to my pile. Now it is made up I really like it! Somehow less of the white background shows than when it is flat and I think it has a bit of a Liberty feel to it.

mind out for the glare off my ankles

mind out for the glare off my ankles

The astute among you will have spotted that this dress does not have a button back. I might give one a go one day, but for the time being I felt that buttonholes and packets in thin knit fabric with no instructions was just asking for trouble.

So the dress is not perfect; all the chopping and not much measuring has left some of my seams a bit wonky, and I went a bit off grain with the skirt, but overall I really like it and am going to make another in a solid colour.


Slightly stretched out neckband shot

Final construction notes for those who are interested. I cut the neckband 10% shorter than the neckline, but with a fabric this floppy I think I should have cut it about 12.5% shorter instead. I used a twin needle on all hems and to finish the neckline.

So, I’m glad that Sew Stretchy month has pushed me into sewing with knits. I’ve had all of my last three makes on my list since, like, forever and am now a total knit convert.

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TMS sew stretchy take 2

As my Hemlock tee was such a simple make, I thought I would try my hand at a second knit top this month.

I’ve had a couple of the Drape Drape books for a while now, so I decided to give the popular pattern no 4 from Drape Drape 2 a go. There are so many great versions of this top out there and mine was also successful… up to a point.

The thing is, I am not built to Japanese pattern proportions and I knew that even the largest size be pushing it. However, the shape of the pattern was so different to anything I was familiar with that I did not feel confident about trying to grade it up.

I will spare you all pictures of it on me, as it definitely looks much better on my dressform than stretched over my wobbly bits like a silver-grey sausage skin.

I added a hem band for extra length. I hope it will fit me one day...

I added a wide hem band for extra length, as even if it were not too tight it would still be too short 

I do love this top. I just don’t love this version of this top on my body.

It did turn out to be another really quick and easy make, and now that I have seen how it all goes together I don’t think that grading would be at all difficult. For some reason, though, looking at the flat pattern piece beforehand I just could not quite see how it was all going to work.

Unfortunately this was the only suitable piece of jersey I had in my stash, so I have been compelled to order some more fabric to see if I can successfully grade up… and as I was ordering I had to make the order large enough for free postage…

(So, yeah… about that stash diet pledge I made earlier in the year… nothing was legally binding was it??)

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TMS Sew Stretchy – a super slouchy hemlock tee

It seems I only get around to making /posting makes for the Monthly Stitch at the moment – and this month the challenge was to sew with knits.


I started by making a super slouchy version of the (free!) Hemlock Tee by Grainline patterns.

Slouchy Hemlock 1f

I really must get around to doing the garden

The pattern is designed to be a slouchy, loose fit tee anyway, but it only comes in one size and as I wanted to ensure a good amount of wearing ease I added 4cm to both the front and back pieces and 3cm to the length.

This really is a super simple make. I serged all the seams and hemmed bottom and cuffs with a twin needle and it probably took me about 3 hours in total. 1 hour of which was printing, sticking together and tracing the PDF and one hour working out why my serger was not working.

Slouchy Hemlock 2a

I think I must have been channeling Marcel Marceau

The fabric is a thin, super stretchy, super drapey jersey that I think I bought off that ebay. It was left over from the breton top I made last year.

Although collar bands should generally be cut on the crosswise grain I had to cut this on the lengthwise grain, as I had used up pretty much all of my fabric and this was the only long enough bit I had left. The fabric has enough lengthwise stretch for that not to matter but I would have preferred not to have that vertical (ish) stripe framing my face.

Slouchy Hemlock 2c

I am the stripe matching Champion!

So, now I have the pattern cut out AND a functional overlocker I should be able to knock these out in about an hour – and I probably will as you know it’s going to get more wear than any of the pretty frocks I make!

Slouchy Hemlock 1b

Bad Hair Day, Bad Face Day, Bad Weather Day… I really must put aside some time for better blog photos!

As this is such an easy make I have attempted a couple more knit fabric projects this month, but in the interest of (semi) brevity I will save them for another day.

Ooh – while you’re still here, though, do you remember I said that the Wicked Stepdaughter wanted an Obi Wan costume for the last day of school? Turns out it was more a “general Jedi” top she needed, as Obi (that’s Mr Kenobi to you) wears cream and it had to go with her black jeans (honestly – that girl loves a bit of cosplay, but she does like to keep her skinnies as a base).

Last Thursday I set to, and this is what I managed to come up with:

Can't get the girl to model it, as being a slim, beautiful 18 year old she is terribly camera shy(!?)

Can’t get the girl to model it, as being a slim, beautiful 18 year old she is terribly camera shy(!?)

(Ignore the scythe in the corner – that is left over from the Halloween before last)

The only suitable fabric I had was a slightly stretchy bouclé knit that I think I got from Minerva Crafts last year sometime. The pattern was the work of my fevered brain and the sleeve heads are a thing of beauty. So there you go – that is sewn from knit fabric, too. (and will double as a dressing gown!)



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Double duty sewing double

2014_04_badge1The April challenge for the Monthly Stitch was Sewing Double. The idea was to revisit a pattern you’d already made – maybe change it up a bit – or make 2 versions of the same pattern. I did a bit of both.

Sewing Double 1 The bodice of this dress is the perennially popular Elisalex from By Hand London, which I have made twice before here and here.

Another challenge running in April was Sew Dolly Clackett. I am sure you all know what that was about (and if you don’t just click on the link!). Roisin is rightly famous in our small corner of the world for mixing up her patterns and she does love to add a full skirt to her BHL bodices. In true Dolly Clackett spirit I dug out New Look 6223 and used the pleated skirt for these 2 frocks.

Sewing Double 2

Roisin’s signature style also relies heavily on whimsical prints; however I did not think I would ever wear a Cowgirl dress, and using an Eiffel Tower print would just feel too much like a complete copycat, so I looked for something a little more subtle, but still in the same arena of whimsy.

Beach huts Elisalex mashupThis cute little house print I found on ebay seemed to fit the bill, so I ordered me some yardage and got to sewing. From a distance the houses look like little beach huts, but close up they have lights and curtains and clocks on the wall, so let’s go with cottages.

Beach_huts_Elisalex_mashup11Not much to say about the construction. I love the Elisalex bodice and it always goes together easily. The bottom half is a no brainer pleated skirt, to which I added side seam pockets.

For my second make I chose this striped fabric from the same ebay vendor.

If_Dolly_Did_Stripes1Roisin doesn’t really use stripes so much, but if she did I’d like to think that she might chose something like this – so this is my “If Dolly did Stripes” dress.

I matched my stripes like a boss on the centre back seam (though nowhere else).

If Dolly Did Stripes2

Sadly I neither under stitched my lining nor topstitched my bodice, so my lining seems to be making an appearance in these pics…

I missed the deadline for both the Monthly Stitch and Sew Dolly Clackett. Annoyingly, I actually had both of the frocks sewn up in time, but I just haven’t got around to photographing and posting until today. As I said in my last post – sometimes there are bigger things in life than keeping your blog up to date!

Sewing Double 3

However, as today is the day Roisin marries Nic – the event for which Sew Dolly Clackett was conceived – it seems mine is a strangely timely tardiness. (I think I am right about the date – it’s certainly around now).

Anyway – that’s me done for now. Thanks to the wicked stepdaughter for the hurried pre-school photoshoot (that’s “before she goes to school” rather than “pre-school”). I think she’s hoping to be paid in kind with an Obi Wan Kenobi costume by next Friday. Where did I put that old bedspread?


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Hello and an award

I know that I am not the only one who feels an overwhelming urge to apologise for not having posted for a while, but why do we have that urge? This is not my job – nobody is relying on or expecting a post from me and nothing untoward has happened as a result of me not sharing my ramblings for a few weeks. Sometimes life gets in the way of sewing and blogging and I don’t think anyone should feel the need to apologise or make excuses for that. HOWEVER, I do feel the need to apologise for having been a bit rude recently…
Unless this is the only sewing blog you ever read* you will probably have seen the Liebster Awards doing the rounds the last month or two.


*Obviously this is not the only sewing blog you ever read – that is a ridiculous idea – unless you happen to be one of my oldest friends with no interest in sewing beyond what I am up to (and the odd episode of TGBSB), in which case you might not be familiar with the Liebsters. I have seen so many variations on the rules, but in a nutshell:

  • awarded to bloggers by other bloggers
  • awarded to bloggers with fewer than 100 (or 200, or 500) followers
  • nominees answer the 10 (or 11, or 12) questions put to them
  • nominees nominate 10 (or 5, or 3, or 11) other blogs with fewer than 100 (or 500) followers
  • nominees ask their own 10 (or 11, or 12) questions of the bloggers they have nominated
  • nominees give 10 (or 11, or 6) facts about themselves

It’s a great way of spreading the word about blogs you like, but it has been around for a while, so there is some variance in the ‘rules’ (I think 11 is actually the official number for all of the lists above, but I’m not sure) – and when it does do the rounds a lot of the same blogs seem to come up on a lot of lists. It also has a bit of a reputation as the chain mail of awards, but I don’t think anyone has ever actually been threatened with a curse if they don’t continue the chain.

That said, I am honoured and a bit chuffed to have been awarded multiple Liebsters in the last couple of months. I think my first nomination was from Kathy at The Nerdy Seamstress. I love Kathy’s blog, as she churns out beautiful dresses and her posts are upbeat and fun You can see her Emery collection here). This was followed by nominations from Jennifer at My Sewing Suite, who always looks enviably put together with her (often) vintage inspired makes; Beth at Nishiink, who is just adorable and makes such cute garments (Whales, deer, SPACEMEN!) and Nicole at the Somnolent Dachshund – a bit of a fashion butterfly with a great mix of vintage and modern makes (I love her Koi mini Moss).

Anyhoo – if I add up everybody’s questions it comes to 38 and I am not going to subject you (or me!) to that, so I will go with Kathy’s questions, seeing as she was my first nominatrix!

1. What interesting fact about yourself that you want people to know? 
Gaagh! I am so dull, I can’t think of anything notable about myself. I’d make something up, but there are people reading who would call me on it, so… I once drove the whole of Route 66 as part of my job.

2. Why did you take up sewing?
I can’t really remember! I just remember that one day I found myself looking for a free dress pattern online and I found Burdastyle and that was the beginning of an obsession. (I might have wanted to re-create something from the Toast catalogue… the first thing I made was a very Toast-esque corduroy tunic)

3. Other than sewing, if time weren’t a concern, how would you spend your day?
Reading and watching cookery programmes and generally being very lazy. Or travelling the world, meeting new people and generally being very active. Depends on my mood, and if money is a concern!

4. What have you learned most from maintaining a blog?
That I don’t half waffle on

5. What other artistic/crafty things do you like to do?
I do like to bake, but I don’t like my kitchen, so don’t do it very much.

6. What’s your favorite outdoor activity?
Easy one – walking! I wish it were gardening, I really do. I’d love to want to garden, but it really is something I get around to when I have run out of excuses!

7. If you had a million dollars, what would you do with it? 
I’d love to say I would do something grand, but truth is I would probably be selfish and prudent with most of it (pay off mortgage and invest for retirement). I would do something fun with my girlfriends first, though – a trip to New York or some such.

8. What’s your favorite childhood memory?
My entire childhood is pretty much one big happy memory. I had the best time growing up with two brothers I mostly got along with and the best parents I could hope for.

9. What’s your make that you’re proud of?
My Robson Trench

10. What have you learned most from sewing?
Shortcuts rarely are shortcuts. Just follow the instructions already!

11. What’s your guilty pleasure?
Bad music from the 70s/80s… and Hollywood musicals… and America’s Next Top Model… and crap food… and good food…

And as if that weren’t enough about me I now need to come up with 11 more facts.

1. I have one leg shorter than the other

2. I used to manage a pub and my capacity for alcohol was legendary

3. My dad is a morris dancer and I am not embarrassed by it!

4. I can play the flute – but not well

5. I have a deep and abiding lust for Tim Roth

6. I once cut my head open as a direct result of my excitement about fish and chips

7. I have clothes in my wardrobe that I have owned for over 26 years (nothing special or vintage, you understand – just t-shirts and casual tops)

8. I sing to myself much of the time and talk myself through things out loud whilst I am working. This is usually not a problem, as I work from home, but I sometimes find myself  working in a more public arena and forget that I shouldn’t be chatting to myself / burping and farting out loud

9. which reminds me – I still find farting really funny

10. I religiously eat my 7 fruit and veg every day – cheese is a vegetable, right?

11. I love to be in water. Swimming, bathing, floating. I can’t see the sea without getting at least my feet wet, no matter how cold it is

Now the 11 nominations. This is quite hard because a) there are lots of blogs I love, but b) most of them have been nominated for this award at some point. And there is the whole fewer than 100 followers thing…

So in no particular order this is a list of some of my favourite, but possibly lesser known blogs, which might or might not already have a Liebster, and might or might not have over 100 followers, (but all have fewer than 200 – I am just going on Bloglovin’s figures for this.) I won’t offer any further insight. They are blogs about sewing – click on the links to see if you like them too:

Norse Otter
rennous oh glennus
Sew Exhausted
Sew Rachel
Sew Smitten
The Dressmaking Diaries
Lady Sewalot
Every Stitch I Make
Cuckoo Channel
Starcross Sewing
Bon Courage

(I know that is 12, but I suddenly remembered one I wanted to add)

Oh – and I need to come up with 11 questions. (If I have nominated you, please don’t feel obliged to respond – especially if you have already had the award and gone through the process!)

1. Where is your favourite place?

2. If you could have a personal chef or a personal stylist (who could also help out in the sewing room), which would you chose?

3. What is the most inappropriate/ridiculous outfit you have ever worn?

4. What is your favourite movie genre?

5. What is the most you have ever spent on a single piece of fabric (and have you used it yet?)

6. Who is your favourite Doctor Who?

7. Is there anything you would love to make, but just can’t pluck up the courage?

8. Dogs or cats?

9. Which parent or family member are you most like?

10. How many hats do you own?

11. If the world as we know it were to end, do you feel more prepared for a) a zombie apocalypse, b) the Rise of the Machines (bow down to your robot masters!)?

So there you go – thank you again to those who nominated me (check out their blogs, too – they would all have been on my list had they not got to me first!).

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TMS Miss Bossy patterns challenge – Dakota

For the Miss Bossy Patterns challenge you, dear readers, chose that I should make the Dakota dress from Finnish pattern company Named Clothing. So I did.

Dakota shawl collar dress

Dakota shawl collar dress

It was a beautiful day for photographs. Sadly my photographer was too distracted by the cats playing in the garden to notice things like skirts hoiking up or the lines of my top showing through, or that he might be taking pictures from an unflattering angle. But my other photographer, who is generally more engaged with the process, was still at school.

distracting cat

distracting cat


distracting lumpage

distracting lumpage

So, the dress. The jury is still out on this one. I kinda like it, but it is not exactly the most flattering thing I have ever worn.

I bought the fabric, a great quality Ponte jersey from Minerva Crafts, before Christmas, when it seemed that half the world’s sewing bloggers had discovered ponte knit (and Rachel from House of Pinheiro had used it for a Dakota) and were all raving about how great it is to work with. Which I can only agree with. It is stable, so it stays on grain and is easy to cut and sew without it shifting and it does not fray, so I did not feel the need to do ANY kind of seam finish (yay for the lazy sewer).

I had both wind and sun battling with my face

I had both wind and sun battling with my face

Talking of lazy, I chose not to add pockets or plackets. The pocket decision was because I did not love the look of a patch pocket in a fairly thick fabric, but the sleeve plackets / cuffs was purely a time saver. I finished the hems with a twin needle and trimmed the fabric close to the stitching – the fabric was too bulky to turn twice and I tried a bias edge, but it did not want to follow the curve of the hem.

I purchased the fabric in this colour because it was on offer rather than it being my first choice of colour. Now that I know what it is like to sew with I am more likely to splurge on some full priced ponte for future projects.

Dakota Squatting

Dakota Squatting

The pattern did go together well. The shawl collar was quite straightforward, the sleeves went in with no drama (probably aided by the stretch in the fabric) and the instructions  were easy to follow (when I bothered to look at them).

I did spend a lot of time seam ripper in hand on this one and ponte is a swine to unpick, as the stitches sink slightly into the fabric. The fault was all my own, though – at one point I sewed the front of the skirt to the back the wrong way round, so half the seams were on the outside. Once I had dealt with that issue and then sewn the skirt to the bodice I realised that I had sewn all of the skirt pieces together in the wrong order. It is an 8 gored skirt and I had the front and back side pieces in the middle and the centre pieces at the sides, making the sides longer than the front (not sure why I had decided that was how it should be – it was only when I looked at the line drawing I realised my mistake). I did nearly leave it that way, as I quite liked the look, but thought better of it.

central bunchage

central bunchage

The only changes I made to the pattern were to lengthen the bodice by about an inch and the skirt by about an inch and a half, which I did using the technical method of eyeballing it as I cut it out.

It is meant to be loose fitting – there are no fastenings, so you need to be able to get that waist seam past something wider to get it on – so I do think it needs a belt, but pulling the waist in with a belt also makes the fabric bunch at the front a bit and then in hangs oddly… or maybe it is my lumps and bumps getting in the way.

Beltless - hangs better, but looks unfinished...

Beltless – hangs better, but looks unfinished…

Overall verdict is that I like the dress enough to wear it, but if I were to make this pattern again I would use a flowier fabric. And read the instructions.

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