Category Archives: Dress

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.

Tropical NL 6493

Summer wedding season has opened, and this is a New Look 6493 jumpsuit I made for the first occasion. I really like this final garment, but I did have some difficulties getting there with the pattern!

I didn’t toile or make any prior adjustments because I thought the pattern’s princess seams would give a chance to fine-tune fit as I went. I cut a smaller size in the bodice than the trousers after checking out the finished garment measurements, but the bodice still turned out way too large and flashed an alarming amount of skin! Upon re-checking the line art on the back of the pattern envelope you can see the back is intentionally drafted very low, but it was also baggy under the arms and on the wrap front too. The ease and wrap is necessary to let you pull on the jumpsuit without fastenings, but personally I think it would have been very difficult to wear as drafted, so it seems a poor design decision. (Also what’s with the random knit crop-top pattern included? Are you supposed to wear that underneath?!)

I ended up fixing it by overlapping both the front and back a couple of inches more than patterned, hiking up the straps a considerable amount and taking in the side seams, then lightly gathering the trouser waistband in the newly-smaller bodice so they still lined up. I put a little safety pin through the front neckline to keep it in place and could also do the same in the back, however for the wedding I just left it loose and cowl-like (and went braless!).

At least the fabric was well-behaved, a lovely lightweight poly crepe from Minerva, and the print hides where I had to fudge around with the fit on the bodice, hah.

This was really nice to wear to a warm evening wedding: the elastic waist meant it was super comfortable and even braless I felt very secure in the top after all the tweaks. I’m not sure I’ll make this pattern up again as I don’t think the bodice design is worth tinkering with to fix and the very low back means it’d be difficult to wear in the daytime (I might try layering a tee under it though). However I do really like the fit in the trousers – especially the single-piece pockets which were deep enough to hold my phone and cards so no bag required, hurrah – so I might splice on a simpler cami bodice for more summery jumpsuit fun.

Ogden camis, and a different construction method

It’s been deliciously warm in London this last week, with more nice weather forecast. A good chance to dig out the True Bias Ogden cami pattern and make use of some remnants I’ve bought lately.

I first made this dress version in some great stretch cotton-viscose that I bought from the Cloth House Camden warehouse shop just this last week. I got the last metre on the roll which was just enough to lengthen the Ogden into a mini dress. To do that I just extended the side seams down by about 9″ (the total length armsyce to hem is 24″) maintaining the flared angle. I’ve been after a basic black slip for ages and I think it’ll work well with a tee underneath when the weather inevitably dips again.

I made another one pretty quickly in this adorable cat-print polyester remnant that I got in Tokyo. I refined the fit a little bit around the top; basically darting out a bit of gaping on both the front and back. I also came up with a revised construction method which I think is a little faster and easier than the the instructions, so I took some photos and wrote up how I did it below. It’s quite similar to my facing tutorial in that the front and back are constructed before sewing them into the ’round’. Here we go – sorry the photos aren’t very good but shout if you have a question.

Complete steps 1-3 to staystitch and create/baste the straps. (…Except I don’t staystitch or baste, because I am a REBEL.) Now instead of sewing the side seams next, pin and sew the front facing to the front bodice across the top edge, securing the straps in the process.

Trim, clip and understitch per the instructions.

Now, lay out and layer up the pieces as follows: back facing right side facing UP; the loose strap ends (attached to the front bodice) right sides facing UP; back bodice, right side DOWN. Again you could baste the straps to the back only here first but I just deal with all three layers at once.

Pin, sew, and trim/clip/understitch the top edge just like the front. Turn right side out and give it all a good press – you’ll have a funny side-seam-less cami joined by the straps as above. Now is a good time to finish the lower facing edges – I just pinked mine – and to add a label to the back facing, as otherwise it’s hard to tell which way round to wear it!

Now to finish the side seams: open up the facing again so the right sides touch. Pin and sew the bodice and facing as one long side seam.

Finish the seam as desired, snip a notch where the facing and bodice meet to reduce bulk, and press seams open.

Turn out, press and ditch-stitch the facing down to the side seam to keep it in place. Alternatively, you could also treat the facing and bodice as one and do a French seam, catching both layers and meaning the facing gets anchored into the side seam. Hem the bottom and you’re good to go!

Akinori Kimono in Japanese florals

I have three weddings to attend in the space of a month starting mid-July, so I’m getting ahead on making some pretty dresses to wear to them! This one is the Wardrobe By Me Akinori kimono dress, and in pleasing synergy I bought the fabric on my recent trip to Tokyo, Japan.

Danish indie pattern company Wardrobe By Me were a new find to me. I can’t even remember where I first saw this pattern but the PDF got snapped up as soon as I clocked the line drawing. I love the wrapover front with soft pleats, cut-on sleeves and integrated tie belt.

Sewing it up was crazy fun, and very fast. It’s not nearly as complicated as it looks, with just four main pattern pieces plus the ties and facings. The pattern has some clever construction details, like a cut-on facing for the front neckline which simply gets folded inwards and connected to a separate back neck facing to make an elegant topstitch-free finish. It was also fun to sew up the semicircular waist detail at the front, cleverly constructed in a such a way that all raw edges are concealed inside.

The PDF is a manageable 23 pages, with instructions to self-draft the ties rather than needlessly print a large piece, a detail I always appreciate. The instructions are great too; I would say geared towards non-complete beginners as only the trickier aspects include illustrations. The only thing I thought was missing was a direction to finish the raw facing edge, which I did early on before basting to the semicircle panel.


I made a straight size 8 with no adjustments and the fit is perfect. Just a note that the given final hip measurement in the pattern booklet is wrong; as written it appears as if it has negative ease but actually there is about 10″ ease in the hips. 2.7m of fabric is recommended but I squeezed it into 2m with a few liberties taken where grainlines were concerned. (If you look closely, my inset waist panel has flowers growing sideways – whoops…)

The fabric is a polyester that’s doing a pretty damn good job of imitating sandwashed silk. At least I don’t think it’s real silk by the price I paid for it in the Okadaya fabric store in Shinjuku; it wasn’t more than £6 a metre. Not all polys are created equal; this one is slinky and drapey yet was remarkably well-behaved to work with. The sandwash effect gave some grippiness and it pressed well with no melting or plastic smells.

The ties can also be omitted, which gives a really nice loose but still shapely fit, and are long enough to wrap around to the front to tie there too.

I’m thrilled with this dress; it was such a nice sew and perfect for a summer wedding. I’m plotting a daytime version of the Akinori now, perhaps in an ikat cotton or chambray without the ties.

Lovely Reeta (in Spoonflower)

My current Named pattern streak continues: this is my first take on the Reeta midi shirt dress pattern from their latest spring-summer collection. It features a lined back yoke, camp style collar, a drawstring waist, pleated patch pockets and side splits.

Before I talk about the pattern, the excellent fabric: it’s Spoonflower‘s poly crepe de chine, which they sent me for free to review. Spoonflower describes this substrate as “a sheer, lightweight 100% polyester crepe fabric ideal for projects that require a soft drape and a delicate weight. This exciting fabric features bright colors that hold up very well to multiple washings”. My own impressions are that the colours are indeed how I expected and the print is sharp – it didn’t fade in my prewash and I wouldn’t expect it to in future washes. It’s opaque enough for a dress and drapes very well, yet isn’t overly shifty and difficult to handle. You will want to use a fine needle and silk pins as it does show stitching marks/holes quite clearly.

It feels just a a little plastic-y (I’d be interested to try their silk CdC sometime), but it took a steamy medium-heat press very well and doesn’t feel too sticky to wear, especially in this breezy style. The major benefit of Spoonflower of course is that you have access to a huge user-generated library of prints to pick from: I went for this Mudcloth-inspired print by domesticate. They ship directly from Berlin now too, so it’s much cheaper to order and get delivery to the UK (and no customs charges, for now at least, hurrah). Thanks to Spoonflower for sending me the fabric; I’ll definitely be ordering more sometime soon.

Onto the pattern itself: as you might have noticed, my version actually eschews a lot of these lovely features that attracted me to the design in the first place. I made the silly mistake of starting this project on Saturday morning hoping to have it ready to wear for a friend’s birthday drinks in the evening. Cutting it took an age due to all the pieces and the grudging desire to match this print I chose, so I was generally trying to rush and ended up getting quite frustrated and slapdash.

For some reason my collar piece ended up a good inch too short to fit between the notches on the neckline – I need to check if that was user or pattern error (likely me in the aforementioned rush). But the pattern luckily works just fine with no collar and just the folded-back lapels. I made up the pleated pockets and pinned them on, but decided they were too much fuss for this print. I ended up shortening the skirt about eight inches which made the splits look a bit silly, so I sewed the entire side seams closed. It was close to maxi length on me before I chopped it, which actually looked rather nice, albeit a bit much in this print.

In terms of fit, I made a straight 40 and it’s spot on. I especially like the sleeve drafting, they’re very comfortable and eased-in very nicely. The waist and hips are blousy and open so overall as long as the shoulder and upper back is good this should be an easy one to fit.
Fit aside, this is actually rather an involved sew and has some tricky steps, hence why even speedy sewer me did not get it finished in a day. The instructions are good but I did end up deviating a bit to finish the enclosed yoke and sleeve cuffs my own way. I sewed real buttons and buttonholes but feel obligated to point out that it does slip on over the head, so you could definitely be lazy and sew the buttons straight through both layers. It’s not my neatest work overall but the design and fabric are quite forgiving luckily!

High street hack: Tied Inari in merino knit

Just a quick one today. I saw this dress in All Saints yesterday for £98, came home and made myself one for precisely zero in a couple of hours. And people ask why we sew?! :)

As soon as I saw the dress in the store, I thought ‘Inari with ties!’, so that’s the base pattern I used. All I changed was to scoop out the neckline a bit and add the ties.

To do that I basically completed the entire dress, made my ties (2″ strips sewn into a tube) and pinned them in place while wearing the dress. I found I preferred them set into the front of the dress rather than the side seams, so I sewed them on using a small zigzag, directly over the raw edge of the tie. The zigzagging gets concealed when the ties are done up so it looks quite neat.

I used a gorgeous merino jersey knit which The Fabric Store kindly sent me to try out. It’s the 200gsm merino in charcoal specifically. This knit is just amazing to work with – it’s stable, loves both the overlocker and sewing machine, and takes very well to a steamy press. It gives a beautiful luxurious sheen and drape to the final garment as well. You would not find knit of this quality in a £100 high street dress, put it that way!

The ties lend themselves to being arranged a few other ways too…

I’m reaching more for trousers than dresses lately in these awkward in-between days where I want to ditch the black tights but it’s not quite bare-leg temperatures yet, but I can’t wait to wear this with sandals when spring properly kicks off.