Holly (not-a-)jumpsuit

Holly Dress

Forgive the slight repetition – I’ve got a thing for button-down(up?) dresses at the moment. Two makes in a row, and two more to come! I think it comes down to a combo of my distaste for zips (yes, sewing fifteen buttons and buttonholes is somehow preferable) and a love of the shirtwaist look but actually disliking the whole collar part on myself. If it helps, this isn’t another Darling Ranges at least – it’s a wee hack of the new By Hand London Holly Jumpsuit.

Holly Dress

I’m by no means anti-playsuit (I love View 1 of the pattern as it is), but decided to hack the Holly onto a simple skirt for a much more everyday-wearable garment. The skirt is just a wide gathered rectangle with the button placket continued right down the front. Easiest hack ever.

Holly Dress

I had to make a couple of minor fit adjustments to the bodice itself, similar to those I made for the BHL Anna: taking a wedge out of the back neck, raising the waistline a bit and a swayback adjustment. I did these on the fly because I was sewing this dress up chez Tilly but I’ve now transferred them to my paper pattern for next time. I also sized up to a 14 because I like more ease than is built in (props to any pattern company that, like BHL, gives finished garment measurements so you can work this out ahead of time!). The four front darts and two back darts all hit the right places and give good shaping – it’s a slightly more tailored look than the casual babydoll of Darling Ranges. Good to have button-down dress options, right?

Holly Dress

I actually pinched an idea from Darling Ranges and used narrow bias binding to finish the neckline instead of the included facings – if I can avoid a facing, I will. The neckline is such a pretty shape: the perfect collarbone-showing off scoop. The sleeves have a sweet turn-back effect cuff using a separate pattern piece – a lovely detail that gets kind of lost in this print. It would be cute to do them in a complementary fabric like the envelope model.

Holly Dress

This fabric was an eBay scoop, just a cheap poly but it’s got nice drape and a pretty rad distressed triangle print with flashes of colour. I had some small coral buttons in my stash that matched one of the colours quite well so on they went. I tend to add more buttons than recommended because I’m scared of malfunctions… also I secretly quite like sewing buttonholes with my one-step foot. I also just got a button-sewing foot which makes the whole process dead speedy.

Holly Dress

This dress was a really fun sew and I’ve already worn it twice – it’s a nice one to pair with coloured tights as I’ve got lots of accent colours to pick from! Holly is such a lovely pattern and, seemingly like all BHL patterns, ripe for a bit of hacking fun. BHL are just about to kick off the official Holly sewalong – and watch this space if you want a bit more guidance on how to make this dress hack as I’ll be sharing a full tutorial (and my second take on this pattern!) next week. Anyone else take a button over a zip any day?

Patchwork quilt dress

Patchwork dress

I’m sure I’ve said this before, but this is my new favourite thing I’ve made. It feels like a well-loved quilt in dress form. I’ve worn it for two days in a row. I’ve hung it on the wall to admire. I’d sleep in it if that wasn’t a bit weird. I even went and did a nice photoshoot for you at the beautiful Victoria and Albert Museum to show it off (well, I was there anyway with my sister to check out some Design Week goings-on and got her to snap these).

Patchwork dress

This dress feels ever so London-appropriate. I like the feeling of blending into the grey pavements and buildings, or in this case the V&A’s stunning marble staircase.

Patchwork dress
Patchwork dress

Blogger cliche red phonebox klaxon! At least I ignored my sister’s art direction request to pretend to speak into the receiver. London is having one final lovely warm snap, hence the bare legs.

Patchwork dress

So the idea to patchwork a dress basically came out of necessity. On my trip to Merchant and Mills I was kind of plagued by indecision and foolishly bought all these short lengths of narrow linen and cotton, none actually enough for a garment. I kept petting them and placing them together and realised they’d probably blend nicely into a single garment. I was pretty inspired by this Rachel Comey dress and the clothing line Ace & Jig to take the plunge and go for it.

Patchwork dress

The pattern I used is the Megan Nielsen Darling Ranges with a round neckline adjustment. This isn’t my first go at the DR, but I’ll chat more about it in another post coming up soon. Spoiler: I really like it and it fitted basically perfectly right off the pattern.

Patchwork dress

I didn’t overthink the stripe/block placement too much, just tried to be a bit organic about it. I made panels roughly the same size as each bodice pattern piece, French seaming the pieces together before cutting out the pattern piece from it – easier than chopping up the pattern and adding seam allowances.

Patchwork dress

I love the neckline binding on the DR, it’s done in a really nice way to get a clean finish around the placket. I decided on a whim to use one of the decorative stitches on my machine for the topstitching around the neck, down the button plackets and for the hem. The sleeves are cuffed on the outside, slipstitched invisibly down by hand.

Patchwork dress

I think I like the back piecing better than the front – it’s a bit more random. The grey and white stripe linen is probably the nicest fabric I’ve ever worked with: it feels like silk, I want a whole dress in it. I grabbed the very last 90cm that M&M had – it you spot it somewhere else pleeeease let me know.

Patchwork dress

This dress was really, really enjoyable to make. It was a pretty slow sew in my terms: I took my time doing a little bit here and there almost like an actual quilt project. It’s all French seamed where possible and the remaining raw edges are overlocked. The fabrics feel quite delicate but I’m hoping it holds up to washing and wearing OK. Because I want to wear it all the time.

Patchwork dress

I’m so pleased with how this dress turned out; it’s all the more special because it’s unrepeatable and it actually looks hand-made – but in a good way, I think/hope! An interesting thing I’m finding lately in my sewing is that I’m becoming less interested in emulating ready to wear garments and more into making things that you can’t find in rtw – hand-dyed textiles, fabric piecing, self-drafting, luxury fabrics that would otherwise be out of budget. Perhaps that’s a natural evolution?

I’m also chucking it into this month’s Sewcialists theme, Scraptember, led by Morgan. I’d definitely have a go at piecing a garment from scraps again – such a good way to use up those sub-1m bits you can’t bear to chuck away.

80s Style Arc Elizabeth

Style Arc Elizabeth top

Just a quick one, a fun Friday afternoon sew to wear this weekend! This is my second version of the Style Arc Elizabeth top (here’s the first).

Style Arc Elizabeth top

I don’t have much else to say about the pattern – it’s a great fit on me and the crossover front makes it just a bit more interesting to sew and wear than a regular woven tee. This time I shortened the body by about an inch all round and scooped out the neck even more, just for a slightly different look.

Style Arc Elizabeth top

This rad fabric came via eBay for just £2! – it’s a poly crepe de chine and the pattern reminds me of an 80s duvet cover pattern. It was definitely earmarked for a top as I think it’d be a bit much for an all-over dress print.

Style Arc Elizabeth top

The neckline is finished with bias, and you can see here I’ve tacked down the top layer using a parallel line of stitching, to just below the bust. The sleeve cuffs are pressed to the front and hand-slipstitched down, and it’s all French seamed. Yummy. I finished it in one session today and now we’re off to the cinema together. Happy weekend all!

September Blue Centaurée

Centauree dress

I snuck in another super-sunshiney Centaurée while we’re having a last hurrah of summer here in London! This version uses quilting cotton from the September Blue range by Dashwood Studio, available at M is For Make. David of Dashwood (who incidentally is a client of mine in the day job – I designed the Dashwood logo and website) kindly sent me the fabric to introduce this new range, which excitingly for dressmakers also includes two designs in lighter dress-weight cotton lawn. I like to think this was partly my doing as I’ve been nudging him to go into dress fabrics! I used the regular quilting weight for this dress as I knew Centaurée worked in a heavier fabric and I fancied this mustard yellow ditsy print.

Centauree dress

This time I decided to try piping the upper bodice seams. I only had rather thick cording to hand so it looks a bit too chunky and I didn’t quite get the middle lined up perfectly, but I like the effect anyway. I used the same grey bias for the edging and straps, which I think makes the bright yellow a bit more graphic and wearable.

Centauree dress

Weirdly I have a some diagonal wrinkling across the lower torso on this version, almost like it’s too baggy round the ribs. It could be that I didn’t line up the bodice and lining quite perfectly so it’s tugging a bit. I fully lined the bodice in the regular way this time, by making a copy of the exterior in a lightweight cotton and basting them RS together. I gathered the skirt like I usually do, with thin elastic which then stays in the dress and acts as a kind of waist stay.

Centauree dress

Finally, the instructions have you sew the binding right over the top of the zip, connecting the front and back at the top, but for this version I stopped and restarted the binding as I find it a bit tricky to get in and out of my other Centaurée!

I guess this will get tucked away for the cold weather soon, but I’ve just booked a holiday to Mexico next month so it may well see an outing then. I’m dead keen to try drafting a Centaurée-style panelled bodice but with sleeves too… watch this space.

Fabric for this make supplied by Dashwood Studio.

Self-draft triangley denim dress

Denim dress

Here’s another little self-draft experiment that didn’t quite work out 100% perfect but I thought it’d be good to share anyway. I’ve been pinning approximations of my dream denim dress for quite a while now and decided to use it as another chance to try out designing with my blocks.

denimdress

I was especially drawn to the Marimekko dress at top left here, and started mulling over how the pockets under that triangle-shaped empire waistline might work. (I’m loving the top-middle frock too, that’s next on the list…)

The changes I made to my block to draft this dress were as follows:

denimdressmake

· Front bodice: rotated the shoulder dart to a French dart; left waist dart open to add more swing/ease
· Back bodice: left waist dart open to add more swing/ease, cut a v-neckline
· Skirt: Rotated waist dart out to create fullness. Used the same piece for front and back.
· Taped the skirt and bodice together and cut the new diagonal/triangular ‘waistline’, parallel to the French dart
· Drafted a pocket piece to sit inside the sloping edges of the bodice and skirt.
· Cut a short set-in sleeve

Denim dress

I’m beginning to find that drafting the pattern is one half of the self-design challenge, and the other equally significant half is actually sewing up your creation in a sensible order with no instructions to fall back on! I struggled a bit trying to figure out the best way to attach the pockets and to get a nice point on the triangular panel’s top corner.

Denim dress

The neckline is also not as planned. I bound it with a bias strip first off, but didn’t like it and cut it off, and instead turned and hemmed it with a twin needle. Unfortunately cutting off the original neckline made it all far too wide – it barely stays on my shoulders now.

Denim dress

This is especially apparent from the back, where I had this idea to make the a deep V to mirror the seamline. I interfaced the diagonal edges with strips before hemming but it still wasn’t enough to keep it in place. Next time I’ll tighten it all up and consider another finishing technique.

Denim dress

The fabric is an extremely soft and supple denim which I bought from our jolly up to Minerva Craftshere it is on the website. This stuff would be great when you want a denim-y look but with added softness and comfort – and unlike most chambrays it has a superb drape and doesn’t stick to tights. Actually for this dress a slightly stiffer fabric would probably have been more suitable and easier to work with given all the funny angles and clipping required. But it’s a dream so wear – sooo comfortable.

So all in all, I’m calling this a semi-success. The idea and drafting were solid , and with a few tweaks to the construction I reckon I can get something cute out of this. I’m thinking an autumnal plaid wool with leggings and boots…

I’m really enjoying my forays into self-drafting. It’s a ton more work, but I like that it’s forcing me to slow down and really consider what I want from a garment. I don’t actually need that many clothes at the moment, so am happy to spend longer on each garment, building its design from the ground up rather than dive into speedy sewing. Plus since it’s from your blocks at least your garment will always fit! It’s not for everyone, but I hope you find my adventures in self-drafting interesting to read about.

Little black not-a-dress

Black broderie two-piece

Is it a dress?

Black broderie two-piece

No, it’s a two-piece-set-acular! Instagram convinced me to give this route a go for a change from frocks, along with the ever-inspiring Sophie whose two-piece makes have been especially stunning. This is also my second White Tree Fabrics make, and I used their cotton broderie lawn (check out Sam’s frilled blazer made with the same stuff) and power mesh. Both of these fabrics are tip-top quality and brilliant to work with, so it was a real joy to put together this little ensemble which had been buzzing round in my head for a while.

Black broderie two-piece
Black broderie two-piece

The top is a Grainline Scout tee, the only tweak being the hem shortened and straightened off so I could lay it along the fabric’s scalloped selvedge. Due to the pattern’s cut, it still gets that pleasing dipped-hem effect because the top tilts to the back a little. This is a new length for me – I tend to go longish with tops – but I actually love it. It sits just on the waistband of most of my jeans and happily tucks into higher waisted things, making it nice and versatile. The lawn weight cotton teamed with the slightly oversize shape is really light and comfy to wear.

Black broderie two-piece

The eyelets in the broderie are pretty small so there isn’t much peekaboo-factor: I opted to just underline around the bust with the power mesh for a bit of extra coverage in that area. (This is very similar to the stuff I lined my Anna and Centauree in, and White Tree has it in a load of colours.) It’s French seamed throughout and the neckline is finished with narrow bias binding, very tidily if I say so myself. I’ve been reaching for this top over and over since I finished it; black is so easy to wear.

Black broderie two-piece
Black broderie two-piece

Here’s the skirt on its own, as I wore it for a family lunch at the weekend (with a RTW Topshop top that I couldn’t resist). I’ve been hankering after trying this sheer hem strip thing ever since seeing Fiona’s organza addition to her Anna-lotte.

Black broderie two-piece

To retain the scalloped edge I cut the edge off in a 3″ wide strip and and sandwiched it back together with a strip of power mesh, using the overlocker so as to neatly finish the seam in one swoop.

Black broderie two-piece

It’s self-drafted, by which I mean it’s literally just a wide tapered rectangle gathered into an elastic waistband. I used this fab plush-backed wide elastic for the waistband. New favourite thing alert! It’s so comfy to wear and easy to install – I just cut a length to my waist measurement and topstitched it to the overlocked skirt edge, pulling the elastic taut to gather it as I did so. I’m keen to try the same stuff on a pair of slouchy pants soon. The skirt’s also fully lined with another layer of power mesh for coverage.

Black broderie two-piece

To be honest I’m not sure I’ll ever wear them together like this as I find all-over black a bit draining on me, but they do work! I generally find it much easier to plan and sew dresses, since I’m usually more inspired by dress silhouettes than skirts and tops. I feel a bit like I tricked myself into sewing separates here by thinking of them as a single project and considering how they’d work both together and separately. The upshot is I have two brilliant new wardrobe basics that are still a bit special.

Fabrics for this make supplied by White Tree Fabrics