Category Archives: Dress

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.

Mono Ansa dress

I sometimes have a strange ‘gotta-have-it’ urge for a pattern that at first glance doesn’t really seem to be my usual thing. That was definitely the case with Named’s new Ansa dress, and I’m happy to report that my inkling was true and I lurrrrve this dress.

I bought the pattern at the same time as the Ronja dungarees, and sewed them one after the other. Named patterns are just such sewing joy, and I need those sorts of projects when sewing time is scarce. I really agonised about whether to sew to the top or dress first, but haven’t sewn a fun dress in a while and I have an event next weekend that it may get cracked out for.


Based on the finished measurements I cut a size 40/12. The waist has a couple of inches of ease and the bust and hips are even looser, so I figured I could fit as I sewed. I found the waistline tucks a tiny bit lower than my natural waist, so took a cheeky dart out of the shoulder line to hike the whole thing up a bit. I also took two inches off the length and sewed the side seams at a slightly larger seam allowance, and the fit’s pretty perfect!

Sewing it up was quick and fun, even all the tucks and darts (eight in all) which I used to avoid like the plague. If a pattern has a lot of dart/tuck markings on multiple pieces, personally I find it much more manageable to deal with preparing each piece in turn, i.e. I cut the back, marked the darts and immediately sewed those before moving on to cutting out the front. Unfortunately most of the design details get totally buried in this print, but the silhouette and the drama from the butterfly sleeves (easy-to-set raglans) make up for it.

The fabric is a lovely viscose challis from Minerva. It’s now sold out; I bought the last of the reverse colourway, probably to make the top version of this pattern! Challis has a natural springy stretch which makes it very comfy to wear, but you just have to be extra careful about not distorting it at the cutting stage. I lay the folded fabric out on my cutting mat then give it a quick press with a warm iron to get it flat and on-grain.


Nothing too fancy going on in the construction or finishing: I overlocked most of the seams, French seamed the side seams, and the neckline is finished with bias facing which I handstitched down.

I feel like this dress is made for dancing, so hopefully she’ll get a spin soon!

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.