Je suis Cassiopée

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I’ve found a cure for low winter sewjo: buy a shiny new instant-gratification frock pattern, pick your prettiest stash fabric, and bash out a cute and comfy dress!

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This is the I Am Patterns Cassiopée dress. They’re a fairly new French pattern company and I’ve been admiring their catalogue of girlish babydoll silhouettes with unique detailing (and really nice styling for the sample photos!). Yes, it’s quite a simple shape, but I don’t have a woven raglan bodice so thought it was worth a purchase.

It’s a neat 25-page PDF, very easy to assemble, with 3/8″ seam allowances included. Instructions, supplied in French and English, are brief but concise. I didn’t use them on such a simple pattern. I would have liked a few more notches included on the raglan sleeve pieces to help me join them to the bodice, but they’re easy enough to add myself.

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I cut a size 40, a bit below my measurements as I figured there’d be plenty of ease and I didn’t want the neckline falling off my shoulders. The only fit alterations I made were to take a little wedge out of the centre back (a typical small-shoulder/narrow-back adjustment for me) and 3″ off the skirt length – oh, and the skirt is less full because I ran out of fabric!

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I love how deep the kimono raglan sleeves fall – almost down to the waistline, batwing-style – however I was expecting them to be 3/4 length like the pattern sample but they are practically full length. Next time I’ll take a few inches off these too as I’m wearing them rolled up anyway.

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The fabric is a woven viscose I scooped a while ago from the UK Stof and Stil website. I’m not usually the florals type but fell for this unusually sparse graphic take on them, and the jewel colours are super pretty. It creases like all viscoses do, but it’s really lovely quality and was great to work with. I’ll be buying more from them! (nb, Stof and Stil also have some really nice-looking and cheap sewing patterns…)

I have visions of a snuggly sweatshirt knit version of the Cassiopée dress next – maybe one of Stof and Stil‘s again!

Minimalafore + winter mood

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Urgh! I’m really struggling with sewing motivation at the moment. It’s not for lack of inspiration: I’ve been pinning and sketching like crazy and have a list as long as my arm for things to make: a tie-waisted sweatshirt dress, another Helmi shirtdress, a minimal jumpsuit for layering, a party dress, a midi skirt, some wide-leg cord or velvet trousers…

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I’ve even got the fabrics in my stash for most of these makes, but something always seems to block me from making a decision and getting something started.

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I made this at the weekend just to console myself that I could still sew, and it turned out okay but I still feel pretty ‘meh’ about it.

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It’s a moderate hack of the Marilla Walker Roberts pinafore dress. I used the base pattern but merged the front into one piece, cut away a little extra around the top sides, curved in the A-line shape into more of a cocoon/egg shape towards the hem, and sewed the straps straight onto the bodice with no fastenings for a more minimal look.

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I also cut both the front and back with a centre seam (adding seam allowance) which let me leave a centre-front split. The fabric is a washed-black Cone Mills stretch denim. It went a bit crinkly and tie-dyed in the wash, but I’m sort of OK with it.

Anyone else in the top hemisphere feeling the seasonal downturn and struggling to find sew-motivation? I’m looking at the the Aussie bloggers wishing we were heading back into summer! Though I am off to Mexico for some sun in a few weeks, so I’m going to focus on that for now.

Velvet Martha

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I made this dress with the thought of festive parties coming up: who wouldn’t love a party dress that’s super comfy and snuggly? It’s a Tilly & The Buttons Martha dress in rather lovely Chinoiserie-style stretch velvet.

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Martha is a swinging 70s-inspired frock with a high mandarin collar, princess-seamed bodice, fluted sleeves and a twirly panelled skirt. I think Tilly gave me the pattern as a thanks for pattern testing and I knew I wanted to make it up in velvet for winter. I don’t think the sample garments actually do this pattern much justice, though it looks like I was inspired by the large floral print of the knee-length view. I sewed the mini length and bell sleeve options of the powder blue view.

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The fabric is this cotton-mix stretch velvet from Minerva. It’s my first time sewing a fabric with any sort of pile, but it was a very gentle introduction and I was generally able to treat it like any other knit. I just made super sure to cut all the pieces in the same direction in case the pile showed up differently after it was sewn. (The skirt pieces are meant to be cut on the bias if you’re using a woven, but I cut them on grain.)

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There are a lot of seams but it’s still a pretty fast sew, especially as I used the overlocker for all the construction – and as you can see, I made no effort to pattern-match this large scale print. I pressed with a warm heat on the reverse, avoiding pressing the right side of the velvet. I took the time to handsew the hem and slipstitch the inner neckband down because I thought it’d look prettier than topstitching. The hand-stitches sink right into the pile, appearing satisfyingly invisible.

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There are some neck facing pieces in the pattern that I couldn’t really see a use for, since the collar fully encloses the raw neckline, so I left them off. Despite using a stretch, I still inserted a short invisible zip into the back because it’d be tricky to get the funnel neck over my head without distorting it.

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Fit-wise, I cut a straight 4 but took in the side seams at the waist quite a bit as I sewed it up, probably because the stretch makes it more forgiving. I sewed clear elastic into the waist seam to prevent it growing out over time. I also tweaked the sleeve cap to remove the excess ease because I wasn’t keen on the puffed-up look. Next time I’ll cut a size smaller in the shoulders as they are a bit too wide. (n.b. the rippling in the upper back in the pic above is because I didn’t realise the zip tape was stuck up in my bra band…)

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After finishing this I wondered if I could repurpose it for daytime too: it’s definitely the type of dress I’d want to wear to work as it’s so cosy and comfy. I might try it out in ponte, ribbing or French terry sometime for a more casual version.

Two simple smocks

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Here are the two full finished dresses from my no-flip facing tutorial post. They’re both very simple loose smock shapes in some fun prints, ideal for autumn and winter with tights and a cardi.

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The first and most recent is another Megan Nielsen Sudley dress made from a lovely new season Liberty tana lawn print called Moon Dust. (I’m going gaga over quite a lot of the AW prints this year – constellations and clouds and tigers, oh my.)

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It’s funny to compare it to my first Sudley and see how the use of a very fluid viscose vs a slightly more crisp lawn affects the silhouette. The skirt stands away from the body more in this one, making it rather more loose and bell-shaped.

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I did the above-elbow sleeve length option this time and also dipped the front neckline lower, omitting the keyhole detail from the back. and of course, instead of self-lining the bodice I did a no-flip facing !

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For this dress I used the bodice from McCall 7080. I was attracted to the cute waistline tuck in the pattern, however it turned out really weird-looking – bulky and unflattering – so I unpicked it and got left with a much more simple silhouette that’s basically the same as the Sudley.

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The fit on the bodice and sleeve is really quite nice though so I may use it as a block again. I cut the skirt midi length originally which was a bit overwhelming in the print, so I hacked some off. I might go a tiny bit shorter still.

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This fabric is particularly special to me because I bought it on my birthday back in January, when I took myself off on a solo daytrip to Brighton. I had an amazing lunch at Silo, trudged the chilly beach from pier to pier, and of course popped into one of my very favourite fabric shops, Ditto, where I bought this stuff. It’s a silk poplin and the print is so beautiful, weird and unique – the very definition of a conversational print. It’s long out of stock but Ditto has another silk poplin in a monochrome globe print which I’m tempted to snap up too as this stuff sews and wears like a dream.

What are you sewing this weekend? I’m feeling quite uninspired at the moment, perhaps because I hate winter and cold-weather dressing, but I might dig out some knits and make a couple of turtleneck sweaters.

Tutorial: non-flipping facings

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I’ve developed my own little way of doing facings that works really well for me, so I thought I’d share it. I haven’t seen it instructed anywhere else or included in a pattern, but for me it removes all the pain points of facings – the flapping out, re-wrangling into place after laundering, awkwardness of sewing them in the round to a neckline – and leaves a nice clean, smooth finish that doesn’t budge.

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It works well for any sort of simple shallow-ish crew/jewel neckline with a CB zip or without; I don’t think it’d work so well for a deep scoop or V neck. It also works better on lighter weight fabrics because it adds a little bulk to the armsyce seam. I’m demoing on a new Sudley dress I’m making this weekend – here we go…

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1. Draft the facing pieces. Basically you’re tracing off the neckline and shoulder area of the front and back bodices. To get the depth, measure down about 2″ from the centre of each neckline. The back piece is cut straight across to the armsyce, and I’ve curved the front one gently up a bit as it reaches the armsyce.

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2. Cut out from the fashion fabric and from lightweight interfacing; fuse on the interfacing. Finish the lower raw edges of each piece, by pinking or overlocking.

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3. The facings are sewn on individually before the shoulder seams are sewn. Pin and sew the front facing to the front neckline and the back to the back, right sides together, using the pattern’s given seam allowance.

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4. Grade, clip/notch and understitch both the front and back as usual.

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5. Now we sew the outer shoulder seam and facing shoulder seam as one. Right sides facing, pin front bodice to back bodice shoulder seam, and continue along the facing shoulder seam, taking care to line up the seam intersection in the centre. Sew at the pattern’s given seam allowance.

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6. Trim (no need to finish the raw edge, I just like trimming with my pinks) and clip a triangle out at the seam intersection to reduce bulk.

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7. Press the seam allowances in opposing directions to help it lie flat. Repeat for other shoulder.

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8. Fold facings to the inside and give a good press. Looking good!

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9. Finally, smooth out and pin the facings to the bodice and baste in place along the armsyce, inside the seam allowance. Now you simply treat the facing and main bodice as one when you sew in the sleeves.

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All done, a nice flat facing that will never flip out of place! I think it looks really smart and pretty inside and out.

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For invisible zips again sew the facings to necklines first (the back being in two pieces in this instance rather than on the fold), then insert the zip, then follow the other steps. What’s your favourite neckline finish? Any questions on this technique, just shout.

Emoji Inari

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To be honest, all I want to wear at the moment is black sacks, so here’s another one to throw into the mix. But it’s got kitties and cactuses and watermelons on it, so it ain’t all gloom.

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It’s my third or fourth Named Inari dress, and the first time I’ve done it in a knit rather than a woven. Naturally that makes it even more comfy! I didn’t alter anything on the sizing, and just finished the neckline with a band instead of a facing. I also topstitched the entire sleeve cuff down so it wouldn’t flip around.

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The fabric is jersey knit I had printed with my own design at the Contrado factory back in May. You can read more about it here! This is their 190gsm jersey substrate which is a fairly sturdy polyester-based knit with about 25% stretch, similar to a double-knit and ideal for a pattern where it’s subbing for a woven. It was very easy to work with: I used the overlocker for the shoulder and armsyce seams, and lightning stitch with a walking foot on my normal machine for topstitching, hemming, and the side seams.

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Funny, looking at the drag lines on this one that aren’t so apparent in my woven Inaris (and not quite so apparent in real life as in these photos) it’s possible I should do an FBA to this pattern, adding a bust dart or rotating the excess down into the skirt portion. When I hike up the front under the underarms the drag lines smooth out. Perhaps it’s the heavier drape of this fabric making it more obvious here.

I’ve been meaning to dedicate some time to doing some new designs to get printed, as it feels extra special wearing a fabric I designed as well as sewing the garment itself and Contrado have so many interesting and apparel-appropriate substrates to print on.