#2017makenine

I’ve been a bit out of it with sewing lately, but I really want to kick it up again in 2017. The first thing to do is take my machines to get serviced and repaired as soon as possible. My normal machine has two really annoying issues – the thread-cutter blade broke off and the foot won’t stay raised on its own – which I need to get fixed as they drive me nuts whenever I start a project. I’ve also started a fresh Instgram account just for sewing to give me another boost – it’s, predictably, at @whatkatiesews. And I’ve been buying a few pretty fabrics in the sales to kickstart some ideas – my stash is pretty low!

2017 Make Nine

Of course another fun motivator is to make plans. With a few more months’ of sad winter ahead, I tried to pick nine projects which would be wearable in the cold weather and beyond into spring and summer. Here’s my inspo-board:

1. I never blogged it, but I made a black button-down mini skirt at the start of the year, self-drafted using my skirt block: here’s an Instagram pic. It was an unassuming little wardrobe hit which always garnered compliments, because it makes my waist look tiny! So I’d like another one, either in dark denim or full-on 90s-revival velvet like this one.
2. A black midi kimono dress. I’ve had the Sew House Seven Tea House dress cut and ready to make for ages, but it takes 3m of fabric and I always buy in 2m lots so I’m waiting for the right stuff to come along and buy the correct quantity.
3. More waist-wrappy dresses – I love them! Either a Style Arc Serena, Vogue 1395, Style Arc Celine, or Named Kielo.
4. Bibbed wide-leg culotte-overalls. I’ll probably self-draft from the True Bias Emersons, which I also made this year and never blogged, but were a total hit on my recent holiday.
5. Swingy printed dresses. Just a year-round wardrobe essential! i’ll probably use my Roberts hack pattern.
6. A jersey midi column skirt, perhaps in a pre-pleated type of fabric if I can find some and figure out how to sew it!
7. Mmmm, sack dresses. Vogue 1482 or 1496 will do the trick here.
8. Cropped straight-leg pants, maybe in stretch needlecord, to be worn with tees tucked in or sweaters.
9. T-shirts! Another thing that never gets blogged but regularly sewn. I like this ringer-type twist and the longer-than-short sleeves.

Capsule sewing

My nine projects were picked based on this idea of a trans-seasonal capsule wardrobe, which can be mixed and matched to make it easy to get dressed and ensure high rotation across garments that all work together. Here’s how I see it all fitting together:


The obvious great thing about dresses (and their legged cousin, the jumpsuit) is you can throw one on and be instantly dressed. I wear dresses more than 50% of the time, and they are also funsies to sew, so it’s a win win. Plus you can use all the fun prints since they don’t need to match anything! In addition to the ones in my #makenine list, I also want another Helmi and probably some more Sudleys too.


I hope this trend for wide, slightly cropped pants doesn’t go away – I really like them, though I haven’t quite cracked the chilly-ankles issue now it’s getting close to freezing. I think they’re best with a slimmer top to balance them out, like a ribbed tee or turtleneck.

A variation on the above that I can throw tights under and a cardi on top of for winter. It gives me a chance to rock my main RTW indulgence too, silly slogan t-shirts and band shirts, a habit I can’t quite kick.

It worked, I’m excited to get sewing now! Happy Christmas and new year, everyone.

p.s. all image sources on Pinterest

2016 (and 2015) Top Five

I might not have time to squeeze in any more sewing this year – I’m all done with work and off on a little holiday before Christmas – so it’s a good time to reflect back on another year of sewing by doing my Gillian’s top five. Here they are!

1. My Named Yona coat was one of this year’s first projects back in January. It’s on its second winter now and holding up quite well, although I wish I had used a better quality interfacing as it has sagged and stretched a little bit through the raglan shoulder seams. I also think I need a slightly warmer or fasten-able coat if it gets any colder. But style-wise I still adore this coat!
2. This rib-knit Celine dress feels like me in dress form. I love it and feel great whenever I wear it, and it always gets comments! I gotta make another one, it’s just such a pain to cut out that I’ve been resisting it, ha ha.
3. While this black midi V1501 is not a wardrobe regular, it still makes my favourites list because I am so pleased with the fabric, construction and minor pattern hacks I put in to make quite a unique dress.
4. It’s been a Named-heavy year! Mt first Inari dress set the scene for making a few others. This fabric’s held up really well and I think it’s still my favourite of them all.
5. This starry silk Named Helmi dress is another one that I always feel awesome in and really represents the sort of style I try to shoot for. (I just wore it on Friday to celebrate my last working day of the year, hurrah!) Again I was really pleased with the construction I achieved and must make another one soon.

Looking at my list, I think there’s definitely a correlation between sewing enjoyment factor, quality of the result, and frequency of wear/wardrobe success. I don’t always get it right and there have certainly been garments this year that haven’t made the grade. But I do think it’s been a good year of solidifying my skills and making better choices about fabrics and silhouettes to make garments I’ll love to wear.

I also thought it would be good to look back a further year, and see which garments from 2015 are still going strong. As sewists it’s often our goal to make long-lasting and non-disposable garments, and I could definitely do better at this. But here are some older makes that are still in regular rotation.

My black cotton Roberts dungarees are still my go-to on ‘nothing to wear’ days. I love them! Likewise this Shibori swing dress is trans-seasonal and so easy to wear. Of all the jeans I’ve made, not that many have stayed the course; these Blue Gingers have done because the fabric has such great recovery and hasn’t bagged out (and I still love that shirt too!). My black Waver jacket got a second season of wear in the autumn before it got too cold, and my lovely Alder dress gets rocked out every summer – and is safely packed for my upcoming holiday to Mexico!

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.