Category Archives: Dress

Starry silky Helmi

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This project skipped to the top of my queue, and I’m so happy with how it turned out! It’s the Helmi dress from Named’s latest collection, in some star-printed silk crepe that I bought at Mood Fabrics in New York City last week while there on holiday. I had to make this dress happen pretty soon after I got home because I thought it’d be a fun sew and real autumn wardrobe winner.

helmi

After the big win that was the Inari, I was willing to pay £15 for another Named pattern, and I immediately fell in love with Helmi when their AW16 collection launched. I bought it in printed format from Backstitch. It’s got a gorgeous blouse variation with trench flap detailing that I am definitely going to make sometime soon as well.

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I cut a size above my measurements (42/UK 14) and the fit is just how I’d like it. The collar, installed with The Andrea Method, slotted together perfectly and I like how it looks both fully buttoned and at half-mast. I even maintained the set-in sleeves for once because they fit so comfortably and I love the elbow-grazing length (rolled up in these pics).

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Being me, there is a small list of other deviations from the pattern: a normal button band instead of concealed placket; used the full collar from View A instead of the Mandarin one; extended the button band all the way down the skirt instead of just the bodice; and took 2″ off the skirt length. Fun fact: the pattern’s name Helmi means Pearl in Finnish, so it seemed fitting to use little pearly buttons.

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This fabric is sooo delicious. I always like to stock up on silk prints at Mood because they have much better range than I’ve found anywhere in the UK. Sadly the GBP > USD exchange rate is pretty dire right now so I only bought three pieces of fabric on this trip, but I’d been looking for a cool star print for ages so was very happy to bring this home for $16/yd. I can’t see it on Mood’s site to link to I’m afraid.

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Guts! Despite being entirely French-seamed inside and made in slippery silk, this was still quite a fast sew; a part-time weekend sort of jobby. It’s deeply pleasing to be developing a sort of muscle-memory precision when it comes to things like collars, curved hems and challenging fabrics. Things that used to give me hell are now meditatively satisfying to work through.

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I get the sense that this dress will become a firm favourite. It’s casual enough for work and weekends but the silk means it could work for an evening event too. The looseness makes it really comfy and it looks good both with tights and without so will be a year-round wear. I think I might make one in the lightweight denim I picked up from Purl in NYC next.

Kniti Midi Inari

Inari hack1

Sewing time is short right now and I need guaranteed results, so I’ve been doing quite a few repeat makes of TNT patterns lately. This dress merges the best bits of two of my wardrobe essentials to get another dreamily simple easy-to-wear everyday dress. Guess the two references from my recent makes…?

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Answer: the base pattern is the Named Inari dress, and the fabric choice and mods were inspired by my Style Arc Celine. I wear one or the other of those weekly (and have made a second stripy Inari already) and now this one’s gone straight into rotation too.

Inari dress hack

The pattern ‘hack’ was really easy:
– Freehand convert the round neckline to a V. Tip: cut the V shape in a slightly concave (curving outwards) line rather than straight diagonal: it sits nicer on the upper chest.
– Cut the front as a pair rather on the fold, adding seam allowance, as it’s easier to make a nice V-neck if you sew the shoulder seams, then sew the neckband on, then seam the CF
– Add six inches to the length
– The tie is a separate skinny piece, sewn RS together as a tube then turned RS out, the ends tucked in and sewn closed.

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The fabric’s the same as my Celine, cheapo poly-blend rib knit from MyFabrics, but in navy instead of green. The fabric’s held up really well on my Celine, no bobbling/pilling yet despite many washes. I’m going to buy yet more for future variations on this theme.

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The Inari is designed for either woven or knits, so I didn’t alter the sizing. I think the pattern even includes instructions and a pattern piece to do a neckband for knits instead of the facings. I added about 1.5″ onto the sleeve length and left off the bands.

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One final detail was to leave a small slit at the centre front – easy because of the new CF seam. I was going to level off the hem but decided I quite liked the small extra detail of the stepped hem. I forgot to take a photo without the belt, but it looks pleasingly sack-like and cocoon-y, so it’s really two looks in one. All in all, it’s cycle-friendly, comfy and took like an hour to sew. I need more makes like this in my life right now!

Olivia

Style Arc Olivia1

Another recent-ish addition to my summer wardrobe, this is a Style Arc Olivia dress I made a month or so ago. It’s about the simplest project you could imagine with its kimono sleeves, elastic waist and gently flared skirt. I always feel a bit lazy buying patterns like this, but the unfussiness means they actually get used more often than more unique or complex designs, so it’s definitely an economical purchase. It’s also a great canvas for pretty fabrics and ripe for a few design hacks.

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The proportions overall are really nice: I like how the slightly longer bodice blouses over the elastic waist, and the skirt’s the perfect fullness and flare – it’s another cycle-friendly gal. As Meg noted when she made her Olivia, the neckline as drafted is really quite wide and scoopy. I’ve actually got the facings safety-pinned to my bra straps to anchor it in place! Next time I’ll alter the flat pattern to make it a little snugger.

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A little design alteration I made was to do a deep baseball-style scoop at the hemline. I still haven’t actually hemmed the skirt – it’s just overlocked – because I’m a bit stuck on how to do it neatly with a fabric that likes to ripple and won’t take a nice press. I have a rolled hem foot which would be ideal but I’ve never got the hang of it; ditto a serged rolled hem. I’ll deal with it sometime. Or just wear it unhemmed forever…

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It was the perfect pattern to use my treasured self-designed French crepe fabric, printed by Contrado. Like all springy poly crepes it didn’t like to take a press very well, but it was mercifully non-shifty for cutting and sewing and feels great to wear. I wouldn’t hesitate to get more of their crepes printed with other designs.

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Considering how fast and simple this was to make, it got INSANE praise when I wore it to work today. I think every girl in the office commented on it, along with gaining boyfriend seal of approval. I’d better get designing more fabric and making it into more Olivias!

Green Celine

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Well, hello there. What’s new? I got a new rug and tidied up my mantelpiece…

I’m sorry for a bit of an unintended extended absence round these parts lately. A lot of things seemed to collide at once in my life the last few weeks, such as:

– Two hellish weeks doing jury service. Honestly, if you get asked, run a mile!
– Work kicking up a gear, culminating in pretty crazy trip to Iceland.
– Lending my camera to my sister because she got a new puppy, and subsequently buying a new one jointly with Josh, which he promptly took on holiday with him.
– The turbulent news from my own country and the rest of the world generally not making me want to leave my bed…

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I have managed to fit in a bit of sewing though, if not blogging, so I have a nice backlog of projects to share. Starting with this, my new favourite dress. It’s green, it’s midi, it feels like I’m wearing a big comforting hug, and I love it.

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The basis for the pattern was the Style Arc Celine, though you’d be mistaken for thinking it’s the more famous Named Kielo, especially given the tweaks I made. I bought Celine over Kielo because I know how well Style Arc patterns fit me and they’re so very easy to work with: one pattern on the sheet, nice paper, easy to cut, seam allowances at the ready. Also it came with optional short sleeves which I wanted, though I think Kielo has a free extension pack for sleeves now too.

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So I basically hacked the Celine to make it look more like Kielo: adding 6 inches to the length and straightening out some of the skirt’s flare; adding extra-long skinny ties onto the wrap sections; and merging the front and back princess-seamed panels into single front and back pieces. (There is some shaping built into the seams, so for a woven I’d use the panels; for a knit I thought it was safe to simply overlap the excess where the princess panels curve outwards.) There’s loads of ways to tie the dress to get different looks, but I think the most flattering on me is a crossover at the front with the ties knotted at the back.

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Knits aren’t amongst the recommended fabrics for Celine, but I didn’t change anything else except switching the neck facing for a band. The fabric is a ribbed knit from MyFabrics. My god this fabric is lovely: yes, it’s polyacrylic, but it’s £3 a metre, snuggly soft, and comes in loads of colours, so I might be snapping up more. It was painfully difficult to cut – my rotary cutter was going NOPE over all the ridges, plus the pattern pieces are huge and awkward so I had to move from my sewing room onto the kitchen floor to have enough space. But once cut it came together quickly and was easy to work with, even the hemming, which I was slightly dreading but came up lovely using a walking foot.

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It’s a dress that attracts a lot of comments and compliments, yet it’s secret pyjama comfortable, which is really my preferred criteria for clothing and why it’s amongst my favourite garments right now. I’ve worn it on a flight, to work, it’s cycle friendly, and I’d feel fine wearing it out in the evening too: not many styles you can say that about.

Back soon with more! How have you been?

Inari

Inari dress

The pattern that really needs no introduction! Yup, I finally fell prey to the charms of Named’s Inari dress, and je ne regret rien.

Inari dress

It was touch and go though, because halfway through making this I was convinced I hated it and it looked awful on me. Somehow releasing the side seams through the hip a little bit and taking 2 inches off the hem sorted it all out though.

Inari dress
Inari dress

I made size 38 graded to 40 at the hip. The fit is pretty good overall given that I didn’t toile first, but next time I’ll fiddle with the shoulder – it pulls to the back a bit when I wear it so I think a forward-shoulder adjustment may be in order. As others have pointed out, the armsyce is quite low which leads to reduced range of motion, but I like how the sleeves look and they aren’t uncomfortable so I think I’ll leave them be.

Inari dress

I used a lovely lightweight wool-mix suiting from one of my favourite local fabric stores Woolcrest in London Fields. It was a perfect match and doesn’t crease at all – these pics were taken on day two of wear! It’s got a nice linen-y look to the weave and I love the colour.

Inari dress

Overall, quite the win for a very quick midweek evening sew. It got both colleague and boyfriend approval (+ thanks to Josh for these pics as I couldn’t find my remote!) and saved my life this week in a very hot and humid office. Once I’ve tweaked the shoulders I’ll probably make a tee version too, so I’m glad I caved and made the purchase.

Sudley

Sudley dress

Megan Nielsen kindly sent me along one of her recent patterns, the Sudley dress, to try out. It was just the thing I needed at a time when my sewing time and motivation has been quite low: easy-peasy, fast, no fitting – from machine to body in a morning.

Sudley dress

It’s essentially a loose smock dress, but there are are a ton of options included in the pattern to make it very versatile. You can make an empire or drop waist dress or a blouse, with an optional peter pan collar and ties on the keyhole opening. Also it’s reversible so you can wear the keyhole in the front or back!

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I think it’s more ‘me’ the other way around, but I’d like to try this way with the collar attached. The bodice is self-lined making a neat finish on the neckline edge. The instructions include a full clean finish inside with the armsyce edges handstitched down, but I got lazy and overlocked them as one piece.

Sudley dress

I cut size small but with the bodice length of the biggest size, as empire line isn’t the best look on me. I ended up tapering in the waist a bit, mainly because I didn’t have enough fabric to do the skirt as patterned so just gathered up my fabric width. The fabric is a viscose from Walthamstow – either the Textile Centre or Man Outside Sainsburys, I can’t remember.

Sudley dress

This is a great little instant gratification project that’s a very useful wardrobe builder. It’s good with tights or without and is the kind of thing that’s so easy to pull on for work and be instantly dressed. Pretty sure I’ll be picking it up to use again – the blouse option will make a great woven tee basic. Thanks Megan for sending along the Sudley pattern!