Seren for summer

In my ongoing quest for the perfect sundress (and jumping my project>blogging queue again) I sewed up Tilly’s newest offering, the Seren dress, at the weekend in a pretty printed viscose from my stash that I bought locally last year.

Tilly and co kindly sent me the pattern for free to try out. Their new packaging is so pretty and I found it as user-friendly as ever to work with. The pattern includes a view with a neckline flounce and a sweet tie-front option, but it’s already at the upper limits of my ‘girliness’ taste-o-meter so I kept it plain.

I made a toile as this style is usually difficult to fit on me. Starting from the size 4 I made the following changes:
– graded into a size 2 at the top edge, blending out towards the waist; a typical adjustment for me as I have a narrow upper chest.
– split the bust dart into a two – pivoting half of it down into a waistline dart – as it’s quite a big dart and I was getting some bubbling at the tip. I also had to drop the bust point a little lower.
– omitted the waistband from the pattern: not a fan of it visually and I didn’t want to chop my print up too much. I cut a size smaller in the skirt to match with the lower bodice edge directly, since the waistband is contoured hence wider along the bottom edge.
– moved the front straps towards the centre by an inch. Bra strap coverage for the win!



The good thing is this style is pretty easy to adjust as you sew as well since the main fitting points to get right are the upper edge and waistline, so you can fine-tune via the side seams. I think it’s also the type where fabric choice might influence the fit: this viscose version fits a bit looser than my muslin and I have 2-3″ of comfy ease at the waist. I was worried the shape wouldn’t be so flattering on me but it actually skims the lower half really nicely. I typically default to a gathered skirt but will definitely experiment more with A-line or quarter circle types now.



I didn’t massively follow the instructions as it was quite intuitive to construct. I especially liked the all-in-one facing unit which finishes the top edge and gracefully curves into the button band facing; a technique I haven’t really seen before but will be saving to my bank for future use. I did do a couple of things I did my own way for preference:

– topstitched the entire facing down, which as well as keeping it in place created quite a pretty detail around the centre front of the neckline
– created a jump style hem to get a nice finish at the front corners. To achieve this the facing is cut an inch shorter and sewn horizontally to the skirt’s lower edge RST; the resulting length difference ‘jumps’ the hem allowance up, and when it’s turned RS out you get a nice crisp corner.

It feels so cool and comfortable to wear! This viscose was cheap as I recall but it’s nice quality and perfect for this style. I’ll definitely be making a second one in a solid colour (pink or olive green linen, mmm). I also have Closet Case Patterns’ new Fiona dress cut for a wearable toile; it’s a not too-different-style so it will be interesting to see which I end up preferring.

Silk Statues, and swing cami dress tutorial

This dress skipped both the sewing and blogging queue. The sewing part was pure necessity because London has gone full heatwave (or summer is actually just starting for really-reals), and the blogging part just took advantage of this sweet golden morning light.

I’ve really got quite behind on blogging, because I bought this fabric on a recent trip to Hong Kong and I really expected to write up the fabric shopping situation there before sewing any of my purchases up! Anyway this is an absolutely gorgeous silk crepe de chine that I bought for about £7.50 metre in a treasure trove just off Ki Lung Street in Kowloon. The shop had a rainbow of plain silks and loads of my weakness, fun ‘conversational’ prints. It was unfortunately cash-only and one of the last places I stopped, so that hampered my buying a touch, but I’m very pleased with what I came away with, especially this one with its weird lady statuette print.


I decided to sew the fabric up rather impulsively, as I didn’t want to be too scared to use it and have it sitting around for ages, and silk crepe is perfect for aforementioned sticky heat season. I really wanted a chuck-on dress and have seen lots of this pretty square neckline around. The problem is this style is all but impossible to fit on me out of the packet. I look at people wearing things like the Tessuti Claudia dress in wonder: HOW is it not gaping at the top or straining at the bust?! HOW did your hips fit into that elegant column shape?! Pear-shape-hollow-chest problems. I knew to get the fit right I would need to go a self-draft/extreme hack route.

Here’s how I drafted the pattern. I used the Salme Double-Layer Cami pattern as a basis, which I had knocking round in PDF from ages ago (it looks like Salme have disappeared off the internet so no link, sorry); the True Bias Ogden would also work although it lacks darts.

1. Cut a line up the bodice front, stopping at the bust point. Also cut along the middle of the bust dart, stopping just before the first line so you have a little hinge point. (If your camisole isn’t darted, run this line all the way almost to the top of the front.)
2. Swing out the lower piece around this point until the gap at the bottom is opened up by around 2 inches. (Your final ‘swing’ will be 4x this measurement as it will be doubled on the front and back.) You might close the bust dart completely in the process, or just make it smaller.
3. Fill in the gap with paper, tape down and true up the side seam at the dart.
4. Add length, following the angle of the side seam and the curve of the hem. Mine is 32″ from underarm to hem. I would’ve gone a bit longer but this was all my fabric would allow.
5. Repeat these steps on the back, but take the vertical cutting line nearly all the way to the top and swing out from there.
6. Square off the neckline from the strap points to centre front. Fill in with paper.
7. Draft facings off the new front and back pieces. Come down about two inches from the underarm and curve up to the centre.
8. Make a toile! This is quite important to check the level of flare is good and that the front and back necklines are not gaping. I used my alternative construction method when it came to adding the straps and facings.


Annoyingly I found that even after a toile and making further adjustments, the front and back STILL gaped, just enough to be noticeable and annoying. My upper chest is very narrow and rather concave, so I can see why it’s difficult to encourage fabric to hug it nicely. I approached the solution differently on the front and back. On the back I nudged the straps inward by 1/2″ and shaved a bit off the side curve, which isn’t ideal as it doesn’t follow the line of my bra straps any more. On the front I sewed a strip of flat elastic into the facing seam, pulling it taut slightly. The result is a slightly puckered front neckline but it does finally lay flat. I’m not sure how I’ll fix this for next time. A narrow band across the top which is tightly eased-in to the bodice edge perhaps.

Outtake for ya to finish! Despite the minor neckline issues I’m thrilled with this dress and it definitely beat the heat today. Josh took these photos as my self timer has broken and I really like how they turned out. Much nicer to be smiling at my boyfriend than a screen… he’ll be delighted to have got the job I’m sure.

Spring Landers

I… I think we can finally call spring being here? I’ve packed away my coat and jumpers at least, and I’ve made a spring-y version of my favourite trousers.

Making a second pair of True Bias Lander pants has been on my to-do list for ages. I wear my first pair all the time, but they’re made of quite a thick denim and it’s getting a little too warm for them (hurrah!). My heart got set on an ivory/cream pair, and to that end first off I bought some needlecord which unfortunately proved too this and rather see through. I tried dyeing them but they just turned out patchy and weird. Into the scraps bin they went.

After sulking a bit I ordered some Robert Kaufman Ventana twill from fabric.com, since it’s the fabric Kelli used in all the pattern samples. Ordering from this US-based site from the UK is easy enough by the way and shipping isn’t too costly. I did have to pay £10 in customs and deal with the ungodly nightmare that is UPS delivery; it’s really cheap and has a great range though, so it kinda evens out!


The cotton Ventana twill is indeed a good match for the pattern; I would actually call it light-medium weight rather than fabric.com’s medium/heavy description, which I think is why it creases a bit readily. There is still a bit of pocket and seam-allowance show through but not enough to bother me this time. I decided to convert the patch pockets to inside pockets, which Kelli has a tutorial for, though now I’ve seen them I think I prefer the original pockets to break up my expense of hip, hah.

I’m hoping these will be just as wearable as my denim ones for spring and summer, though being of the clumsy/messy variety we’ll see how long they stay white! I have lots of other sewing plans for the warmer months – most definitely including Kelli’s newest pattern, the Yari jumpsuit.

Wiggle Reeta

This is my second Named Reeta dress. My first one, made coincidentally almost exactly a year ago, still gets worn regularly (and for those curious, the Spoonflower poly crepe has held up to washing and wearing very well) so I wanted another one to throw into dress rotation this spring.


I used exactly the same size as before with no extra modifications beyond the length I took off last time. This time I did add the collar and found that while it required careful easing-in the pattern piece does fit fine, so I dunno what I did wrong last time!

I followed the given directions this time which make for a really nice clean interior finish. I managed to get the inner yoke inside out (at least I assume the fabric’s right side should actually face outwards) and sewed a strange Möbius loop at some point which necessitated a bit of unpicking, but it all turned out okay. I’m going to blame those things on sewing in the weekday evenings when my brain’s a bit fried from work.


I made a self-fabric waist tie – just a skinny tube with the ends knotted shut – and the drawstring casing reuses the fabric’s charming rainbow-striped selvedge.

I’ve been hoarding this beautiful fabric for quite a while, maybe three years? It’s a beautifully fluid and drapey viscose from the French website Bennytex. It doesn’t seem top quality unfortunately; I had some fibres pull and snag as I was sewing, particularly around the buttonholes despite interfacing them. But so pretty and twirly!

A dress I made from some other Bennytex fabric (the origami cats one here) sadly didn’t fare well in the wash either, so I’m intending to launder this as little and as gently as possible. The print is so fun and it feels beautifully soft and comfy to wear, so I hope it lasts a long time and get plenty of wear this spring and beyond.

Midi Inari

After the Coat project saga, I really wanted a nice palate cleanser, and this dress fitted the bill perfectly!

I’ve been Pinning lots of midi dresses lately as they seem like just the thing to wear on these in-betweeny not-quite-spring-yet sort of days. It’s a super simple hack of Named’s Inari dress. I added 30cm of length at the hem (in fact I just taped a piece of portrait-wise A4 paper to the bottom, heh) and ended up taking a deep hem, so it’s around 20cm longer than the Inari as patterned.


I fine-tune the fit of the Inari each time I make it and for this knit fabric I ended up taking one-inch seam allowances to bring it in a bit. It’s still loose through the middle and tighter at the hip and hem. I made the side split proportionally longer too.

The awesommmeeee fabric is from Maud’s Fabric Finds, one of my favourite places to shop because most of the fabrics are organic and the customer service is so great. (Maud found out this fabric was narrower than expected after my order, so she added another 70cm for free.) This print seems to be sold out but here are some similar ones. It’s between an interlock and sweatshirting weight so quite thick with lots of stretch and recovery. And pyjama-comfortable, needless to say. I think this’ll be on regular rotation until Autumn.

A Coat in Hainsworth wool & Liberty twill

I think this coat combines two of the most luxurious fabrics I’ve ever used. It’s a shame that I’m a little disappointed with the final result :(

First of all, those fabrics, which are absolutely not the source of my ire. The main fabric came from AW Hainsworth, a Yorkshire-based woollen mill based with a Royal Warrant who produce premium cloths used for fashion, costumes, uniforms and military dress. Their apparel and upholstery fabric sub-brand Hainsworth challenged me to make something with one of their fabrics to help raise their profile amongst designers and costumers. (They don’t currently sell direct to consumers online, but will provide prices if you email them via the website.)

I received 2m of the Melton Doe Skin in the shade Fig, a tightly twill-woven 100% merino wool. A description from Hainsworth’s site: “The term ‘doeskin’ originated from the similar appearance and feel of the fabric to the skin of a female deer. Along with the practical purpose for allowing rain to run off the surface in the direction of the nap, the light is captured on the face finish and bounces off the surface to create a lustrous sheen.” So there you go, pretty and practical. As with all wools it was joyful to sew with, cutting easily and moulding willingly with steam and pressing.

I used the Avid Seamstress Coat pattern. I’d been umming and ahhing over making this midi-length partially-lined coat for spring for a while, then a combination of seeing Charlie’s (in a very similar shade to mine) and trying on a sample in Ray Stitch persuaded me to buy it. Manju coincidentally also just used the same pattern for her Hainsworth collaboration project.

Now here’s the issue, which Manju seemed to share: I was disappointed by the pattern and it was not a particularly fun sewing experience. She lists some of the issues I found; namely:

  • too little guidance on finishing seams – on an unlined coat! Not cool.
  • changing seam allowances so you have to constantly pay attention; in the case of the collar it changed over the course of one seam.
  • instructions too chatty/rambling in tone for my taste and photographed steps that are not always that clear to understand
  • confusion around the vent finishing; I ended up doing mine differently as it looked bulky and rubbish with the bound edges
  • to my mind, a poor design decision to have front-facing in-seam pockets that are always going to flap around and look messy. Manju switched to patch pockets, and I wish I had had too. There’s also nothing holding the facing in place inside so it tends to bend outwards.

Regarding the finishing, this wool does not fray in the slightest but I’m not the biggest fan of completely raw seams, so I made the somewhat stupid and self-sacrificial decision to bind them all using my lining fabric, a delicious Liberty silk twill in the ‘Minako’ print sent to me by The Fabric Store. Luckily this silk is incredibly well-behaved but still, that’s a lot of binding to cut and stitch and it felt like a real slog. While it looks quite nice it’s not my neatest work in places as I was losing steam. It would have been much more straightforward and neater to line the whole thing!

Like Manju I decided to line the sleeves in my silk as well, to make them more slippery to get on and off. This was pretty simple: I just used the sleeve pieces less an inch or two for folded-back hem allowance. They’re sewn bagging-style to the cuff and attached to the half-lining around the armsyce. Fit-wise I sewed a straight 10 as that was the size of the one I tried on in Ray Stitch and the fit seemed good. I do question why the armsyce has a pretty pronounced curve at the head when the shoulder is very dropped and non-fitted: it seems to produce a bump and puckers at that seam that I had to coax smooth with a lot of steam.

Time will tell if I end up wearing this coat. I think we need a little time out after the sewing experience, however it’d be a shame to not make the most of all that time and the beautiful fabrics. It’s a useful weight for this time of year as well and quite an easy throw-on sort of style, so I hope we make friends again. Thanks again to Hainsworth and The Fabric Store for supplying fabrics.