Category Archives: Dress

Seren for summer

In my ongoing quest for the perfect sundress (and jumping my project>blogging queue again) I sewed up Tilly’s newest offering, the Seren dress, at the weekend in a pretty printed viscose from my stash that I bought locally last year.

Tilly and co kindly sent me the pattern for free to try out. Their new packaging is so pretty and I found it as user-friendly as ever to work with. The pattern includes a view with a neckline flounce and a sweet tie-front option, but it’s already at the upper limits of my ‘girliness’ taste-o-meter so I kept it plain.

I made a toile as this style is usually difficult to fit on me. Starting from the size 4 I made the following changes:
– graded into a size 2 at the top edge, blending out towards the waist; a typical adjustment for me as I have a narrow upper chest.
– split the bust dart into a two – pivoting half of it down into a waistline dart – as it’s quite a big dart and I was getting some bubbling at the tip. I also had to drop the bust point a little lower.
– omitted the waistband from the pattern: not a fan of it visually and I didn’t want to chop my print up too much. I cut a size smaller in the skirt to match with the lower bodice edge directly, since the waistband is contoured hence wider along the bottom edge.
– moved the front straps towards the centre by an inch. Bra strap coverage for the win!



The good thing is this style is pretty easy to adjust as you sew as well since the main fitting points to get right are the upper edge and waistline, so you can fine-tune via the side seams. I think it’s also the type where fabric choice might influence the fit: this viscose version fits a bit looser than my muslin and I have 2-3″ of comfy ease at the waist. I was worried the shape wouldn’t be so flattering on me but it actually skims the lower half really nicely. I typically default to a gathered skirt but will definitely experiment more with A-line or quarter circle types now.



I didn’t massively follow the instructions as it was quite intuitive to construct. I especially liked the all-in-one facing unit which finishes the top edge and gracefully curves into the button band facing; a technique I haven’t really seen before but will be saving to my bank for future use. I did do a couple of things I did my own way for preference:

– topstitched the entire facing down, which as well as keeping it in place created quite a pretty detail around the centre front of the neckline
– created a jump style hem to get a nice finish at the front corners. To achieve this the facing is cut an inch shorter and sewn horizontally to the skirt’s lower edge RST; the resulting length difference ‘jumps’ the hem allowance up, and when it’s turned RS out you get a nice crisp corner.

It feels so cool and comfortable to wear! This viscose was cheap as I recall but it’s nice quality and perfect for this style. I’ll definitely be making a second one in a solid colour (pink or olive green linen, mmm). I also have Closet Case Patterns’ new Fiona dress cut for a wearable toile; it’s a not too-different-style so it will be interesting to see which I end up preferring.

Silk Statues, and swing cami dress tutorial

This dress skipped both the sewing and blogging queue. The sewing part was pure necessity because London has gone full heatwave (or summer is actually just starting for really-reals), and the blogging part just took advantage of this sweet golden morning light.

I’ve really got quite behind on blogging, because I bought this fabric on a recent trip to Hong Kong and I really expected to write up the fabric shopping situation there before sewing any of my purchases up! Anyway this is an absolutely gorgeous silk crepe de chine that I bought for about £7.50 metre in a treasure trove just off Ki Lung Street in Kowloon. The shop had a rainbow of plain silks and loads of my weakness, fun ‘conversational’ prints. It was unfortunately cash-only and one of the last places I stopped, so that hampered my buying a touch, but I’m very pleased with what I came away with, especially this one with its weird lady statuette print.


I decided to sew the fabric up rather impulsively, as I didn’t want to be too scared to use it and have it sitting around for ages, and silk crepe is perfect for aforementioned sticky heat season. I really wanted a chuck-on dress and have seen lots of this pretty square neckline around. The problem is this style is all but impossible to fit on me out of the packet. I look at people wearing things like the Tessuti Claudia dress in wonder: HOW is it not gaping at the top or straining at the bust?! HOW did your hips fit into that elegant column shape?! Pear-shape-hollow-chest problems. I knew to get the fit right I would need to go a self-draft/extreme hack route.

Here’s how I drafted the pattern. I used the Salme Double-Layer Cami pattern as a basis, which I had knocking round in PDF from ages ago (it looks like Salme have disappeared off the internet so no link, sorry); the True Bias Ogden would also work although it lacks darts.

1. Cut a line up the bodice front, stopping at the bust point. Also cut along the middle of the bust dart, stopping just before the first line so you have a little hinge point. (If your camisole isn’t darted, run this line all the way almost to the top of the front.)
2. Swing out the lower piece around this point until the gap at the bottom is opened up by around 2 inches. (Your final ‘swing’ will be 4x this measurement as it will be doubled on the front and back.) You might close the bust dart completely in the process, or just make it smaller.
3. Fill in the gap with paper, tape down and true up the side seam at the dart.
4. Add length, following the angle of the side seam and the curve of the hem. Mine is 32″ from underarm to hem. I would’ve gone a bit longer but this was all my fabric would allow.
5. Repeat these steps on the back, but take the vertical cutting line nearly all the way to the top and swing out from there.
6. Square off the neckline from the strap points to centre front. Fill in with paper.
7. Draft facings off the new front and back pieces. Come down about two inches from the underarm and curve up to the centre.
8. Make a toile! This is quite important to check the level of flare is good and that the front and back necklines are not gaping. I used my alternative construction method when it came to adding the straps and facings.


Annoyingly I found that even after a toile and making further adjustments, the front and back STILL gaped, just enough to be noticeable and annoying. My upper chest is very narrow and rather concave, so I can see why it’s difficult to encourage fabric to hug it nicely. I approached the solution differently on the front and back. On the back I nudged the straps inward by 1/2″ and shaved a bit off the side curve, which isn’t ideal as it doesn’t follow the line of my bra straps any more. On the front I sewed a strip of flat elastic into the facing seam, pulling it taut slightly. The result is a slightly puckered front neckline but it does finally lay flat. I’m not sure how I’ll fix this for next time. A narrow band across the top which is tightly eased-in to the bodice edge perhaps.

Outtake for ya to finish! Despite the minor neckline issues I’m thrilled with this dress and it definitely beat the heat today. Josh took these photos as my self timer has broken and I really like how they turned out. Much nicer to be smiling at my boyfriend than a screen… he’ll be delighted to have got the job I’m sure.

Wiggle Reeta

This is my second Named Reeta dress. My first one, made coincidentally almost exactly a year ago, still gets worn regularly (and for those curious, the Spoonflower poly crepe has held up to washing and wearing very well) so I wanted another one to throw into dress rotation this spring.


I used exactly the same size as before with no extra modifications beyond the length I took off last time. This time I did add the collar and found that while it required careful easing-in the pattern piece does fit fine, so I dunno what I did wrong last time!

I followed the given directions this time which make for a really nice clean interior finish. I managed to get the inner yoke inside out (at least I assume the fabric’s right side should actually face outwards) and sewed a strange Möbius loop at some point which necessitated a bit of unpicking, but it all turned out okay. I’m going to blame those things on sewing in the weekday evenings when my brain’s a bit fried from work.


I made a self-fabric waist tie – just a skinny tube with the ends knotted shut – and the drawstring casing reuses the fabric’s charming rainbow-striped selvedge.

I’ve been hoarding this beautiful fabric for quite a while, maybe three years? It’s a beautifully fluid and drapey viscose from the French website Bennytex. It doesn’t seem top quality unfortunately; I had some fibres pull and snag as I was sewing, particularly around the buttonholes despite interfacing them. But so pretty and twirly!

A dress I made from some other Bennytex fabric (the origami cats one here) sadly didn’t fare well in the wash either, so I’m intending to launder this as little and as gently as possible. The print is so fun and it feels beautifully soft and comfy to wear, so I hope it lasts a long time and get plenty of wear this spring and beyond.

Midi Inari

After the Coat project saga, I really wanted a nice palate cleanser, and this dress fitted the bill perfectly!

I’ve been Pinning lots of midi dresses lately as they seem like just the thing to wear on these in-betweeny not-quite-spring-yet sort of days. It’s a super simple hack of Named’s Inari dress. I added 30cm of length at the hem (in fact I just taped a piece of portrait-wise A4 paper to the bottom, heh) and ended up taking a deep hem, so it’s around 20cm longer than the Inari as patterned.


I fine-tune the fit of the Inari each time I make it and for this knit fabric I ended up taking one-inch seam allowances to bring it in a bit. It’s still loose through the middle and tighter at the hip and hem. I made the side split proportionally longer too.

The awesommmeeee fabric is from Maud’s Fabric Finds, one of my favourite places to shop because most of the fabrics are organic and the customer service is so great. (Maud found out this fabric was narrower than expected after my order, so she added another 70cm for free.) This print seems to be sold out but here are some similar ones. It’s between an interlock and sweatshirting weight so quite thick with lots of stretch and recovery. And pyjama-comfortable, needless to say. I think this’ll be on regular rotation until Autumn.

Dos Alders in Mexico

I’ve just got back from a short holiday to Mexico; it was our third time there as it’s probably my favourite country in the world (vying closely with Japan!). In the week prior I decided I needed a couple of new holiday dresses, so spent some very enjoyable evening and weekend time sewing up some simple frocks ideal for the spring heat. I also did a few crafty things out there and a spot of fabric browsing!

(Yep, I found a sewing sign!)

I dug out an old PDF that I haven’t used for a while, Grainline’s Alder pattern. Thanks to past me I had View B adjusted for fit as I’ve made it twice before – one, two – plus an uncut copy shop version of View A which I decided to try this time. I applied similar fit and style adjustments to View A: converting the collar to a V-neck (Jen’s tutorial here), a small FBA and swinging out from the hip to add more needed pear-shape space. I’ve made so many simplifications to the pattern that it’s now only two pieces!

Both dresses have the same construction: French seams throughout (well, there’s only the shoulder and side seams so hardly a huge effort) and self bias tape to finish the neckline and arm edges. Some hate it but I quite like making self-bias and it always seems to behave better than any bought stuff. I’m that weird sewist who likes doing buttons and buttonholes too so this was quite the dream sew. They both have my little custom labels that I designed and had made by Nominette too.

Onto some in-situ holiday snaps… (sorry these look kinda pixelly? Something weird going on with my exports.)

The first one is in a beautiful lightweight but opaque printed linen from The Fabric Store. I ordered this fabric actually expecting to use it to make some cushions, but once it arrived the drape and smooth handle were so lovely I couldn’t resist a dress instead. (And I have enough left for those cushions, yay!)

I spent a while at the cutting stage trying to get the print lined up across the seams and centre front. Giving myself a B+, it’s pretty darn close!

These pictures were taken in the lovely suburb of Coyoacán, fitted with scented flowers, cobbled streets and colourful walls.

The second one is made from Kokka double gauze that I bought in Tokyo last spring. This abstract print was far less critical to match! I adore the colours in this fabric and it’s butter soft.

Happy to report it was both heat- and cycle-friendly! I can’t wait until the English summer or another holiday to wear these again.

Onto some other crafty stuff I did over there. One day we did short workshop in the lovely San Angel area to learn about alebijres, the richly-decorated little folk animals you find in every Mexican craft market, and to paint our own versions. They have an interesting history that merges pre-hispanic traditions with the work of one of Diego Rivera’s proteges, Pedro Linares. I made a little pink ‘n’ green kitty and Josh painted the crazy lightning lad.

We also took a class on another day to make a small weaving using yarns mainly dyed with natural products such as indigo, cochineal and flowers. This took place in the Chapultepec Forest and was also really fun and relaxing. We booked both of these days (along with some other trips) on Airbnb experiences, and I really recommend those as a way to meet locals, hear their stories and maybe do a little holiday crafting.

The artisan markets are full of wonderful crafts too. I brought home a lovely blackwork Otomi embroidery like in the right-hand photo above, which I’m going to hang on the wall. You can read a bit more about Otomi’s history and how it’s made here.

Finally, I did a spot of fabric shopping in the city of Puebla, a couple of hours east of Mexico city, where we decided to spend a night fairly last-minute. It was a good decision as Puebla is a beautiful place, with an amazing antiques/flea market, stunning old churches, and plenty of fabric shops!

Like most Mexican cities, similar shops tend to clump together along a street or block, so there were several fabric shops conveniently next to each other around Calles 2 Ote and 8 Pte towards the north of the small city centre. Josh handily entertained himself by going to buy tacos árabes, a local speciality (another interesting read), while I poked around a few of the stores.

There were the usual suspects that I encountered on my first trip to Mexico, the large chains called Parisina and Modatelas. These usually contain haberdashery and other crafting / misc household stuff too, and the fabrics are mostly synthetic and very bright! However I did spot some nice rayons, linen blends, ‘crepe ghost’ whatever that may be, and traditional style woven stripes and smocking.

I liked the smaller shops better; these typically have sections for knit/woven dress prints, costume type fabrics like tulle and sequin, and a wall of more premium cashmere and wool suitings. Prices are mostly in the $50-150 MXN (£2-6 GBP) per metre range, thought probably more for the fancier stuff.

I only bought one thing, this irresistibly silly cat print knit which I’ll use for a simple pyjama top. But it’s still always a treat just to browse in fabric shops while traveling! Here’s a list of some of the shops in Puebla in case you are travelling there:

Telas La Moderna, Av 2 Pte 106
Telas Janina de Miguel Velázquez, Av 2 Pte 310,
Modatelas, Av 2 Pte 304
Parisina, Av 2 Pte 111
Telas Boaltex, Av 8 Pte 116
Telas Rafa, Av 8 Pte 307

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.