Bamboo Sahara

I’m a bit late for the Sewcialists’ Tribute Month, but this garment was very much inspired by Shauni of The Magnificent Thread! It’s a Ralph Pink Sahara shirt; Shauni has made two beautiful versions and slowly coached me into buying the PDF.

This was my first time sewing a Ralph Pink pattern, and it was a largely positive experience. The PDF layout is a little different to usual but once I figured out which markings to match it went together easily. The instructions are well illustrated but a little brief in places so a beginner may struggle, but this pattern is fairly standard shirt dress construction so I found it fine. 


The Sahara is obviously very oversized so I cut a size small without toiling and I’m pretty pleased with the fit. The only adjustment I did make was to take an inch off the hem length and slightly level off the dipped hem in the back. I did notice that my side seams are buckling a bit; I’m not sure if I got something a bit off-grain or the slightly bulky seams under the arms are causing it to drag a bit.

Collar open… I think I prefer it fully done up.

Having not sewn for a while I went to town with the finishing and used a mix of French and flat-felled seams throughout: no overlocking in sight. I also topstitched along the main seamlines to bring out the cool curved yokes on the front and back. Even so, I got the whole dress finished in a day of fairly leisurely sewing, buttonholes and all (I’m that weird sewist who actually enjoys sewing buttonholes…)

I especially adore the fabric I used which was a perfect match for the pattern: it’s an organic woven bamboo from Ray Stitch. I’ve never seen woven bamboo fabric before but it has the same silky smooth hand and soft drape of bamboo knits and was a dream to work with, taking a press beautifully and easy to manipulate around the curved hem yet still pretty stable so easy to handle. It has an almost sanded/peached finish and doesn’t seem to crease too badly. I used a size 60 microtex needle to make sure it didn’t snag. I might buy up some more of this fabric in white and try dyeing it as it’s basically dream dress fabric.

I feel rather like a fashionable bat wearing this, and I’m pretty into it! Needless to say, it’s insanely comfortable and being basic black it’s going to get a ton of wear. Much as it pains me to consider autumn weather, I feel like this’ll work great with tights and boots as the temperature dips. I feel like it’d work well worn open as an overshirt too. I’ve just got a new job after a summer contracting and having some delicious time off, so it’ll be great for work too.

More Saharas: Self-Assembly Required, Paprika Patterns, Frock and Sew, and of course thanks again to Shauni for the main inspiration!

P.S. If you’re reading in a reader, I gave my blog a bit of a fresh look – click on over to have a look!
P.P.S. If you’re not on Instagram, you may have missed that I was a guest on Helen and Caroline’s excellent new podcast, Love to Sew, talking about my sewing and blogging journey. You can find my episode here or on all podcast apps.

A wedding New Look

I made this a little while ago, wore it to a wedding, and completely neglected to get photos – but I dug it back out to photograph with no occasion whatsoever, as I think it turned out so nice it needs sharing!

I used New Look 6499 with a few of my usual little tweaks. I think it’s one of those dresses that looks rather fancy but was actually delightfully simple and fun to make, however I did put a bit of effort into preparing the pattern before cutting my fabric. I pre-empted some neckline gaping by rotating out a dart, which I converted into making the whole dress more flared/full than the gentle A-line as patterned. Here’s a quick video that I made of this process which I posted on my Instagram stories:


(Click through if you’re reading in a reader and can’t see the video above.)


I also added some side slits, and made a simple waist tie to draw in the fullness. All the tweaking was worthwhile as the fit turned out great and it was super comfortable.

I did find the instructions given to add the little sleeve flounces disappointing. Firstly you are instructed to hem the highly curved edges using a 3/8″ hem allowance: LOL NO, not going to happen. I overlocked the edge and used that as a guide to turn in once and make a baby hem which only just worked out ok with a judicious use of steam. For a nicer finish I think it’d be a good idea to self-line the flounces, especially if the fabric has an obvious wrong side like this one does. Also the flounces are just tacked on by hand at the end of the sewing process; I think it’d be neater if the corners were extended a little and they were caught in the seam that joins the strap to the bodice. I’ll do that next time. However this does mean I could unpick the flounces if I get bored of them!

The fabric is my buy of the year so far: it was from a random little shack-shop (with a kitty!) on Ridley Road market in Dalston and was a ridiculous £2 a metre. I bought six metres in excitement and passed some on to Amy. It’s a heavy polyester crepe and I’m in love with the swishiness and print (which is not dissimilar to my Atelier Brunette Cassiopee!). Wedding season seems to be over for us now, but I’ll definitely dig this back out for future occasions.

Cassiopée in Atelier Brunette

This is a double-French dress: both the pattern and fabric come from companies français! It’s also a little out of my normal style zone, but I think I love it.

It’s my second I AM Patterns Cassiopée dress – I made a winter version in a dark floral with long sleeves last December which I wear a lot, so another version was always in order. When I saw that I AM released a free short sleeve extension pack it was time to give it another go.

The sewing is really fast and easy: four raglan seams, bit of gathering and hemming and you’re done. The new short sleeve has a very deep self-cuff which you can either turn back or wear as-is, which comes to roughly elbow length on me. I like it both ways!

A few people have asked me and yes, the Cassiopée has a LOT of ease built in: this is actually the size below my measurements. A fluid, drapey fabric is essential so it doesn’t stick out like a circus tent. I don’t actually use the pattern pieces for the skirt as it’s just a big rectangle. I basically used up the rest of my fabric this time and made it really quite voluminous: the hem measures about 90 inches around. (I swear the hem isn’t puckered like it looks in the photos: I’m going to go back and press it again!)

The wonderful fabric that’s making me feel like a baby marshmallow is Moonstone pink viscose by Atelier Brunette, which I got from Maud’s Fabric Finds. As well as being a beautiful colour and print, this fabric is the perfect weight for dressmaking projects: floaty and light but with a little bit of body to make it more stable than some and pretty much opaque. I don’t think I can resist buying the blue colourway, as well as some of the other beautiful prints in this collection.

I French-seamed the entire thing and it’s one of those garments that I think is quite lovely as an object as well as clothing. It’s been hanging up in my sewing room for a while pretty much as decoration, though now it’s photographed it’s definitely going to make its way into my wardrobe.

Midi Fumeterre

Deer and Doe sent me the Fumeterre skirt pattern as a thanks for testing the Safran jeans last year, and I finally got around to sewing it up in some nice plain black viscose.

To be honest, I was majorly put off for so long by the thought of cutting all those biiiig pattern pieces in my smaaaall sewing room. But actually it wasn’t that painful at all: the front and back use the same pieces and each is in two panels, so there aren’t a lot of paper pieces to deal with. I used the button-down front of view A and added the nice slanted pockets from view B (which has a fly front).


As you’ll notice my skirt is shorter than the swishy maxi as designed. I cut it at the maxi length originally and while I was really into how it looked, I didn’t think it would be a very practical wardrobe addition, both when dragging through London’s frequently-rainy streets and on my cycle commute. I took about 12 inches off, and yes it was a nightmare evening up the slightly-circular hem and I don’t think I got it perfectly balanced. I think it’s swingy enough that the unevenness doesn’t show too badly.

Otherwise the sewing was straightforward and pretty fast. I cut a size 40 and it’s just a little snug across the stomach, but I hope that’s because I’ve been ill and basically sedentary for two weeks. I added an extra button so it doesn’t gape (and um, ran out of black bobbin thread by that point so lazily switched to blue…). Like my recent 7017s, it’s got a back-elasticated waistband so it will stay nice and fitted.

I just realised this is a 100% Deer and Doe outfit: the tee is a Plantain! I think I’ll get loads of wear out of this as an alternative to the crop culotte-type trousers I’ve been making a lot of and living in lately (1,2,3,4,5). I might make another one in a dark floral per some of this inspiration I’ve saved:

Burda 7017 in cupro silk

I’ve had this lovely fabric earmarked for trousers for ages, and I dug out an old pattern to make ’em happen. They are Burda 7017, which are amongst some of the earliest trouser projects I ever tackled a few years ago, and now unfortunately seems to be out of print. I wouldn’t exactly say it’s embarrassing to look back at those earlier garments, but it was nice to revisit this pattern with all I’ve learned about fit, technique and fabric choices since then and see the improvements.

Having said that though, I averted a near-disaster on this pair when, after executing a lovely fly front completely from memory, I sewed up the side seams and found that I could barely squeeze myself into them. I don’t think I’ve gained a great deal of weight in the intervening years but perhaps I previously traced the pattern with extra safety seam allowance that never made it back to the paper pattern. Whoops.

After sulking for a bit I unpicked and re-sewed every single seam – inner and outer leg, the centre back and centre front below the fly – with a tiny little seam allowance, basically right next to the overlocked edge. That provided just enough extra room to allow them to fit, albeit a little slimmer than I was shooting for. I still don’t think I’ll feel too confident cycling in them in case it puts too much strain on those tiny seam allowances and they split open, but at least they feel comfortable and I can move in them.

I think the fabric makes this pair quite special and is the main reason why I was so relieved to save the fit: it’s a cupro-silk from the famous stall outside Sainsbury’s in Walthamstow market. I bought it over a year ago on a shopping trip with some other sewers; Marilla made up her Bennett dress pattern in it. I’m not sure if ‘cupro silk’ means that it’s a fibre blend or a cupro designed to look like silk, but it’s the most beautiful terracotta colour with a sort of dimensional shimmer and a slightly slubby texture, feels deliciously cool and floppy to wear, and was a dream to work with. I don’t think I’ll find fabric of this nature easily again unfortunately though I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out.

I tried out a little tweak I wanted to test based on some ready-to-wear trousers that I love of inserting elastic into the back waistband to maintain a snug, flexible fit at the waistline. To do this I eliminated the darts from the pants back and added their takeup to the length of the waistband, then stitched in some 1″ non-roll elastic before sealing up the inner waistband. It worked out great so I’m going to retrospectively add elastic to my old black cotton 7017s that have stretched out and become too baggy at the waist, which will help ping them back to life.

Final guts shots to show the waistband, that lovely fly front, and those tiny seams…

A hacky Named outfit

A new little summery outfit of two simple separates, both of which are hacked from Named patterns that I’ve sewn before.

The trousers are the Ninni culottes, sewn up in a lush indigo crinkle rayon that the Fabric Store kindly sent to me. The only thing I changed from my first pair was to convert the pockets from side seam into front yoked. I just can’t stand the way side seam pockets add bulk and flap around, and these yoked ones are actually much easier to prep and sew so it’s win-win. Here’s a quick tute; you can prepare paper pieces or cut these straight onto your fabric.

1. Cut a rectangle for the pocket bag/facing, approximately 16″ wide by 11″ long. The width will be 2x the width of the final pocket bag and the length will be the final length of the pocket.
2. Lay the rectangle on top of your front trouser piece, right sides together and matching the side seam and waistline to the rectangle edges. Cut a curved or straight line through both pieces at the trouser side seam edge. This will be the pocket opening. Mine starts about 3″ in from the edge at the top and is 7″ long.
3. Sew this pocket opening seam using a small (5mm or so) seam allowance. Clip if necessary to release curves, press seam allowances to the pocket facing piece, and understitch.
4. Fold the pocket bag in half, lining up with the trouser waistline and side seam. Sew and finish the bottom edge of the pocket bag, then baste the top and sides to the front trouser leg. Construct the rest of the pattern as written.

The blouse is a rather more extreme hack of the Reeta shirt dress. I wonder when a pattern stops being a hack and becomes essentially a self-draft?! To make this kimono-sleeved blouse from the dress pattern I:

· Merged the back yoke onto the back body piece
· Altered the shoulder seam so it wasn’t forward-facing (took some off the back piece and added to the front)
· Extended the shoulder line to create grown-on cap sleeves
· Drafted a new back facing piece to finish the back neckline
· Left off the collar piece as I did with my previous dress
· Rotated/closed the front bust dart down into added ease, which I then trimmed away from the side seam
· Cut the body and facings off about 14″ below the underarm

I’m considering this a wearable toile, as this space-print fabric (from The Textile Centre) was an impulse buy that isn’t really in my usual style stratosphere but I just couldn’t resist it. Next time I’ll raise the kimono sleeve line an extra half-inch or so as they’re a little bit snug. Otherwise I think this hack came out rather cute, and it didn’t take very long despite the amount of steps. I was sort of more in the mood for drafting than sewing so it was a nice project to try out some advanced hacking.