Category Archives: Sewing with knits

A Seamwork upcycle: Mesa dress to Alice top

Hello, sewing friends! I’m sharing quite a simple project today, as I’m working away behind the scenes sewing my Day and Night dress challenge dresses and developing our 2018 patterns! This little top is part of my sewing resolution to make more of what I already have: in this case, a garment that was past its best, and a long-standing Seamwork subscription. So here is the story of my first upcycle of 2018, but be warned: it’s more “gritty realism” than love story!

Seamwork upcycle

I expect most of the sewing world is familiar with Seamwork by now: it’s the monthly sewing magazine from Colette Patterns, and has now been going for a little over three years. Each month subscribers get two credits (though now for new subscribers it’s one credit for a standard subscription and two for a premium subscription), which can be exchanged for PDF patterns. A couple of years ago a new feature was introduced whereby instead of just getting the two patterns with that month’s issue, subscribers could choose to “spend” their credits on patterns from the back catalogue, or from the Colette catalogue. But because I’ve had a subscription since the beginning, this didn’t really offer me much more variety. I bought a few Colette patterns, but I have still ended up with a load of unused credits, and a whole library of patterns I haven’t downloaded. So, in the interests of making use of what I have, I thought I’d give a few of the patterns a try, and printed off the Alice t-shirt, the Sadie sweatshirt, the Jill coatigan and the Shelly leggings.

I have mixed feelings about the Seamwork patterns. I’ve tried quite a few now, and the fit/ block isn’t quite right for me. My favourite is the Winona dress, which I’ve made without the bottom panel and which only needed my standard modifications (grade from XS-S, remove 5/8” from bodice) to be just right, but most of the others, while they look great on other people, are at best a bit “meh” on me (I’m looking at you, Astoria, Aurora, Neenah and Oslo!)

I did, however, like the look of the Alice t-shirt from the September 2017 issue. It looked comfy, and a nice short-ish length – and let’s face it, I can’t only wear Ballerina tops forever, can I? Plus the neckline on Alice is higher than on the Ballerina, so I thought it would be a good cool weather layer.

Seamwork Alice (image taken from www.seamwork.com)

A few years ago when the Mesa dress (a knit shift dress) was released, I made quite a number of them (grading from XS at the bust to S at the waist and M at the hips – it’s quite close-fitting otherwise – and using the length of L), and one of them in particular has started pilling quite a bit. But the fabric it’s made from has quite a deep colour saturation, so you can see it on the reverse side too.

The right side is the wrong side and the wrong side is the right side…

I have made loads of things with this fabric over the years (most recently I used it for my Be Bashful Bikini), and often when I get undressed and turn my garments inside out to wash, I think that the inside looks really pretty. AND, the inside doesn’t pill! So you can guess what’s coming: transformation of the Mesa dress into an Alice t-shirt, using the wrong side of the fabric.

A thread dilemma

I had my burgundy thread in my coverstitch machine for the hemming, but because the inside of the fabric was the darker side, I wanted a burgundy in the overlocker too. I didn’t really want to switch my threads every time I switched machines, so I used a slightly lighter thread in the overlocker, BUT I only had three matching ones, so for the right needle I used a brighter red.

Burgundy/ maroon/ wine/ bordeaux…

Was this too lazy? I do like the insides of my clothes to look beautiful, so I feel maybe I should have kept unthreading and re-threading… because my inside seams aren’t quite a perfect colour match. All the more annoying as when I tidied up my thread box only a day after making this, I found another of the slightly lighter threads, so I could have had all four in the overlocker… [grinds teeth in frustration]

You can also see the pilling on this pic

What’s your thinking here? Acceptable, or just plain lazy?

So, onto the pattern tetris. You’d think that making a top from a dress wouldn’t be too challenging, but my bodice pattern pieces only just fit on! (Mesa is VERY short, which is why I’d always extended the length to a size L).

Alice just squeezed onto Mesa!

But that makes for less waste, so we’ll call it a win. I had lengthened the sleeves of this Mesa dress (it’s supposed to be short sleeved), so I was almost able to squeeze the Alice sleeves onto them. The Alice sleeves are narrower (alarm bell! You know I’m coming back to this!), but were a little longer. I could have done a ¾ sleeve, but by now you know my love of cuffs well enough to know what’s coming next: I used the remaining fabric from the top of the bodice to draft little cuffs to finish the sleeve.

Cuff love is my theme for 2018!

The only piece that I couldn’t squeeze out of my original Mesa was the neckband, so I delved into my scrap bag and found some offcuts of the fabric to make the neckband.

This is all that was left of the original dress after I’d cut out the pieces!

I did measure the neckband first, as in the past I have found Seamwork neckbands to be a little on the baggy side: it was 90% of the neck circumference. My ideal is 85%, but I thought I’d just go for the 90% to get a proper idea of how the pattern is meant to be. Argh, I should have just gone with my instincts. It’s OK, but I know it would sit a little flatter if it was just a smidge tighter, so I’m annoyed with myself for not shortening it.

The construction was straightforward and held no surprises. The only challenge was to keep remembering that I was using the wrong side of the fabric: when I had to pin right sides together, my brain just melted and I kept pinning the ACTUAL right sides rather than the “wrong-side-turned-right-side”.

OK, so, back to those sleeves… I had found when I made Astoria a few years ago that the sleeves were very tight on me, and the same is true of Alice. I don’t understand it as I don’t have proportionally wide arms, and yet no-one else whose Astorias I’ve seen seems to have this problem… Anyway, it does mean I feel a little like I’m wearing bandages on my forearms. When I went back to the original picture to put it in this blog post, I noticed the sleeves look tight on the model too – if I’d noticed that sooner, maybe I’d have let them out a bit… oh hindsight, how clear and cruel you are!

You can see here that there’s little or no ease in my sleeves.

Overall, this t-shirt turned out fine, but compared to my beloved Ballerina top it’s not as comfy or as flattering. I definitely couldn’t wear it after a big meal, as it’s quite clingy round the tummy. It seems a little longer on me than on the promotional photos, which is probably just down to me being short-waisted, but it also pulls quite a bit over the bust, as it’s a very snug fit under the arm. If you look closely you can see these issues in the photo above, but here are some close-up pictures that leave no doubt:

I can’t quite believe I’m inviting you to scrutinise wrinkles on my belly and bust, but I did say it was going to be gritty realism!

On the plus side, the slim fit means I can easily throw a cardigan on over it. And I do love the cuffs! But to really give this fabric a new lease of life, perhaps I should have made a Ballerina top? What’s your thinking here, would you favour making a TNT on repeat or trying new things?

In all these photos I’m wearing it with my denim-look Eléonore jeggings, which seem to go with everything:

Eléonore forever!

Since I’ve printed out another three Seamwork patterns I may try them, but I think after three years I’m finally realising they’re not quite right for me.

Is there a pattern from Seamwork that you recommend before my subscription expires? Or do you have a favourite t-shirt pattern that could rival my love for the Ballerina top?!

“Join in January”: seasonal sewing and the cult of the cuff

A couple of weeks ago I set out my annual plans for the MAGAM (Make a Garment a Month) sewalong: The organiser, Sarah Liz, had asked participants to think ahead to the whole year, and plan accordingly. While I don’t always plan my sewing too far in advance (what seems like a great idea in January might have been relegated to “what was I thinking?” status by June), I liked the opportunity for organising my thoughts and really thinking about what my wardrobe needs. My plans were divided into four categories: patterns I want to draft, fabrics I want to use, specific garments I want to make, and wildcards. I started off with one from the “patterns I want to draft” category, as it was seasonally appropriate and a gap in my wardrobe: I wanted a fitted sweater, finished with bands on the neck, wrists and waist. I was dreaming of using up the leftovers of the beautiful sweater knit I used for my Designin’ December project, and I had a very specific vision of how I wanted it to be. Basically, in my usual “spoiler” way of showing you the finished product at the start, this is how I imagined it:

And so here is how it came to be…

Right back when we were starting to use the pattern drafting software, before I had a blog and before Valentine & Stitch even existed, we spent a very long time designing my “perfect” long-sleeved t-shirt. It was to be fitted through the bust, slightly more forgiving over the tummy (because I’m never going to do stomach crunches) but still fitted over the hips, loose under the arms (I can’t stand anything that restricts me there), and full-length sleeves. It’s not a design we ever released, as although it’s fully gradable between the sizes, there are so many t-shirt patterns out there from more established designers that I doubted there’d be a market for ours. But it was there, waiting patiently to become something more exciting when the time came. And now is its moment to shine!

Shining like the winter sun!

Because the underlying shape was already there, all we had to do was alter certain details to turn it into the sweater I had in mind. I tried everything out on paper first: I raised the neckline and brought the shoulders in and then drafted a turtleneck band. Next I shortened the sleeves and drafted a cuff, and then shortened the length and… didn’t draft a waistband. I had it in my head that it would be super-flattering to just use the flared bottom of the sweater, turn the hem into a straight line, and flip the new pattern piece horizontally to make it into a band. So I tried this out with some horrid polyester jersey (yes this part is important!) from deep in my stash, and it looked half-decent.

First draft. If I look ill at ease, it’s because that fabric is ITCHY!

There were things that needed altering: the sleeves were too short, I wanted a little more length in the body, and there was some excess fabric over the high bust and upper arm, but overall the shape was looking good, and the bottom band seemed to hold itself nicely. The cuffs were perfect because, you know, they’re CUFFS, and the turtleneck was also just right (basically we can just call it a neck cuff). So we transferred all of my calculations to the computer, and made the alterations mentioned above. Excitedly, I printed out my new pattern, cut into my beautiful sweater knit, and sewed it up full of anticipation.

Then I tried it on.

The horrid polyester jersey had been much more rigid than my cotton sweater knit. In my “proper” fabric, the band didn’t have enough weight to give a nice shape – it just sort of pointed out at the bottom and made a “v” at the side.

Forgive my unbrushed hair. This is my “didn’t realise I was going to take blog photos today” natural state!!

I could have worn it. It was okay. But I don’t want an “okay” sweater, especially not when I’ve used such special fabric for it!

So I unpicked the hem band.

The whole thing.

The whole overlocked thing.

It was not fun.

Rich drafted me a “traditional” waistband of the same depth instead, and I cut that out of my last stretch of fabric, assembled it, and attached it to my bodice.

Sometimes it pays to do the boring tasks… I love this sweater SO MUCH!!

It’s just the right amount of fitted for me – you can see from the side views that it doesn’t cling to my tummy, but the waistband cinches in nicely at the hips (which makes me think: is it still a waistband if it sits on the hips? Is there such a thing as a “hip band”? Or is that something you’d use in an intensive physiotherapy session?)

Much better without the weird “side v” thing. Also upholding my fundamental belief that sweaters are just better with cuffs.

I’m wearing my sweater here with a new pair of Eléonore jeggings: I made these ones from a cotton velour, with the idea that they’d be posh sweatpants, but actually they look too nice to be sweatpants!

I also took a few photos with my hair tied up so you can see the fit across the shoulders, chest and back properly. If I look moody, it’s because I don’t photograph well with my hair back 😉

AND there was even a moment of sewing serendipity: remember that unpicked waistband? I was trying to decide if I could use it somehow. I laid my hand on it, and it jumped out at me. Fingerless mitts!

Now, here’s the part where I am in awe of Rich’s technical talent. I can draft on paper, and so I can design a mitt based on my palm circumference. He, however, can take my calculations and turn them into formulae that grade the pieces between sizes according to standard glove sizes. Don’t ask me how – I sit there beside him and try to grasp it but, you know, it’s MATHS. There’s a special switch in my brain that always defaults to “off”.

Anyway, there are three happy upshots of all this. Number one: I have mitts to match my sweater. Number two: I didn’t waste any of my gorgeous fabric. Number three: we’re turning the mitts into a little pattern that we’ll add to our free patterns collection once it’s ready! So save your scraps of sweater knit, French terry etc. – they can become mitts!

You won’t be surprised to know I’m dithering about a name for them…

But they make me smile!

Have a great week, and thanks as always for reading.

 

SCRAPBUSTERS: A trio of Ballerinas and a duo of nameless panties

Here’s a random fact about me: I hate waste. I have a horror of landfill, and although I am nowhere near eco-warrior status, I am all too aware of the dangers of the “disposable” trend that seems to be the norm these days. I think that one of the great things about sewing is that we are more likely to make garments we love and will use, but what about all the leftover bits of fabric that end up languishing in a storage box, or the garments that hang in the wardrobe, unloved and unworn? If you read my post about my sewing resolutions for 2018, you might remember that I said I wanted to make use of things I already have rather than buying more. Well, when I made a recent version of Jenny Hellström’s Ballerina top, I remembered how narrow the pattern pieces are (because it’s such a slim fit top), making it perfect for using up remnants. My love for this pattern knows no bounds, so today I want to show you three scrapbusting modifications I made to it to use up my remnants, including one epic rescue mission.

Three, you say? But what about that “slow sewing” resolution from only a week ago? Fear not, the makes in this post were sewn bit by bit over the last two months, but all blogged together as they’re quite similar!

My standard “no good at building up suspense” opening pic

The first pieces of leftover fabric were this Girl Charlee floral, which I had left over from my GBSB Dune dress. Because the maxi dress pattern pieces are so much wider at the bottom than at the top, there are decent-sized chunks of fabric left over beside the bodice part after cutting out; they’re wide enough to cut sleeves from, and they’re also just big enough to accommodate the bodice pieces of a Ballerina top! I’d already used some of the remnants of this fabric to make a top for my daughter, so I was quite limited in what I had left. I had just enough for a front and back, but then not enough single pieces for the sleeves. So I decided to do a small modification to the pattern, and shorten the sleeves.

Sideways glance. I’d like to say I was contemplating my sleeves, but really I was just hoping to get the photos done before the rain came.

Since the sleeve is so close-fitting, I didn’t need to alter the line at all, just mark where I’d have to cut it off. I had just enough to make elbow-length sleeves: this isn’t a length I used to like, but since we offered it as an option on the Cassandra pattern, I’ve been getting more into it, so I decided to go for that rather than “short short” sleeves.

I usually find that designers choose specific features for a reason, and I think the ¾ length sleeves of the original pattern work best with the cut, but this is definitely a cute and very wearable t-shirt of the kind that will be in heavy rotation!

and now I’m looking downwards. There are only so many ways you can photograph a sleeve…

AND, bonus make: there were just enough scraps of offcuts left to try out the latest draft of the panties pattern we’re working on!

pretty panties!

I’m in love with the combination of this floral fabric and the pale coral lace. Plus from three metres of fabric I got a maxi dress, a peplum top for my daughter, a t-shirt, and a pair of knickers. That’s pretty hard-working fabric!

My next scraps were rescued from an early version of the Cassandra dress. When we were drafting we initially put too much swing in it, and it felt sack-like (we felt we’d crossed the line from “eat, drink, be merry, and your tummy still won’t show” to “is she eating for two?”, so went back to the drafting stage!) I’d made it in one of my favourite fabrics, so was gutted when I realised that we needed to make further adjustments. I put it in my wardrobe and thought I’d get some wear out of it anyway… but it just sat there, ignored and unloved. Time to reach for the scissors…

So much better as a Ballerina top!

Now, I don’t know about you, but I always find it hard to cut pattern pieces out of existing garments, because the ones you’re cutting from are often narrower in the wrong place than you need them to be. So I carefully cut all the seams to maximise fabric usage, and managed to get the bodice front and back from the skirt part of the dress. The sleeves could be cut down for the Ballerina sleeves, as the Cassandra ones are slightly wider, and then there was a bit left at the bodice top that wasn’t going to be big enough to save.

Can you spot the difference in this version? Look at the dress version of the Ballerina top on the pattern packet: it has cuffs. Cuffs that would just squeeze into my last little bit of fabric! So I decided to go for it, and make some cuffs for the top.

Behold! Cuffs on the dress version!

Now I do like a cuff. I won’t lie to you: a big part of this is dispensing with the need to hem sleeves. I don’t know why I dislike hemming sleeves, it’s not that it’s hard or anything, but it’s as if in my head it’s harder than it is in reality. So bring on the cuffs.

Cuff love

It’s a nice new twist on a TNT pattern, especially since the pattern itself doesn’t offer a variety of options. I wonder whether it might have been better in a more casual or even contrast fabric, but I do like how it adds some length to the sleeve. Because the fabric print is quite busy, the photos don’t show it brilliantly, but I promise they’re there!

AND there was just enough fabric left from the scraps of the original dress to make… another pair of our new knickers!

Ta-daaa! Scrapbusting like a boss. Plus more pretty lace.

We’re still undecided about a name for these, hence the “nameless panties” of the title. I have a name that I’m 90% certain about, but watch this space…

Anyway, on to the final make… This was less of a desire to use up scraps and more of a rescue mission. I had this idea in my head that it would be great to hack the Dune maxi into a skirt. But you know how I’ve ignored the voice of reason before? I did it again. I cut it off at the high waist instead of the low waist, but attached a waistband that fit my low waist. So it was either too long if I wore the waistband at the right place, or too baggy if I hoiked it up. Also, you know what I said earlier about designers making choices for a reason? Dune is a great dress, because of its skimming lines. You lose the whole skim factor if you make it into a waistbanded skirt. So yes, when I started out on this one my voice of reason might as well have been screaming at me from another room while I sang my heart out wearing headphones and doing the vacuuming, because I just didn’t hear it…

Sit tight, there’s a story behind this top…

Anyway, I was left with two large pieces of navy fabric in a skirt shape. By a wing and a prayer I managed to squeeze the bodice of the Cassandra top and an elbow-length sleeve out of each piece (I’m talking to within a couple of millimetres). While I was attaching the sleeves, I noticed I was struggling to set the sleeves nicely. I thought it was strange, but I put it down to being tired and a bit fed up of my rescue project.

Well, when I came to try on the top, I could barely squeeze my arms into the sleeves.

No, I hadn’t been eating lots of spinach (OK, if you never saw Popeye, that joke just went down like a lead balloon).

Instead of the Cassandra elbow length sleeves, I’d grabbed the pattern piece for a pattern I’d been making for my 4-year-old daughter.

No, don’t ask how I could be so stupid.

My remaining pieces of fabric were even smaller now. No way even my trusty Ballerina top could fit onto those. BUT… part of it could. From about the armscye down, in fact. And I had some remnants of black cotton jersey of roughly the same weight left over from my Rise turtleneck. I managed to get the upper parts of the bodice front and back, plus a neckband, with a tiny bit left over – just big enough for short sleeves – from the black jersey. So I was going to make this a short-sleeved top, until I realised that in my offcuts from the original navy maxi skirt I had a couple of pieces big enough to make the rest of the sleeve piece. Hurray!

I’m going to pretend that this is what these fabrics were destined for all along.

The only drawback is that it’s a bit, well, Vulcan…

Live long and prosper, friends…

Till next time, have a great week!

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When Zadig met Apollon: Designin’ December and the MAGAM sewalong

When Sarah Liz announced that the theme for December’s MAGAM (Make a Garment a Month) sewalong was going to be a joint challenge with Linda’s Designin’ December, I felt torn. I really wanted to take part for so many reasons: the idea is fantastic, both hosts are lovely, and I love how these challenges push me to think creatively about gaps in my wardrobe, BUT… it’s December. You know, the month I spend running around in manner of over-achieving headless chicken, baking, buying gifts, writing cards, sewing nativity costumes, wrapping gifts… not to mention preparing for my son’s birthday, which is 2 days before Christmas and always needs extra thought to make sure his celebration isn’t eclipsed by Christmas. Not much time for selfish sewing.

Oh but come on!!! Designin’ December?! You know where this is going, don’t you? I made something. A great thing. This thing:

So, the idea of Designin’ December is that you find a look from the catwalks and recreate it. If there’s one thing I learnt from my Sewing the Scene coat (apart from the importance of not losing pattern pieces at a rate of knots) it was that I need the make to be something I’ll actually wear (I STILL haven’t worn my Deneuve coat, despite the weather being perfect for it!) so I wasn’t sure I would find something. For a brief moment I flirted with the idea of combining this challenge with my red velvet dress for the Little Red Dress Project, since velvet has been big this season and I was sure to find something on the catwalks that I’d like, but it kind of felt like a cop out to basically lump three challenges together (whether or not I finish my red dress in time for the pre-Christmas reveal is anyone’s guess, by the way). So I looked at too many images of the Autumn/Winter collections, and got no real ideas. Focus, Helen. What do you like to wear?

I went back to the winter collection of one of my favourite fashion houses, Zadig & Voltaire, and noticed they released a lot of sweater dresses this year. I was particularly drawn to the shape of this one:

Photo credit: www.vogue.com

And when I realised it looked very much like the dress version of my trusty Apollon sweatshirt… well that was that.

Yellow isn’t my thing, nor are geometric lines, and nor is ostentatious wearing of a brand name (though I did wonder what would happen if I followed Zadig & Voltaire’s lead and emblazoned the first word of our logo across the front – can you imagine the awkward situations if I’d strutted around with “VALENTINE” written across my chest?!), but the whole point of this challenge is that you adapt it to suit your style. And when I found this glorious grey marl sweater knit on the Califabrics website, practically begging me to be made into a sweater dress, I decided to just go for it.

Let me take a moment to wax lyrical about this fabric. It’s cotton, which is a BIG WIN in my book – I hate synthetic fabrics, I just end up sweating and feeling unpleasant (plus I found out recently that polyester contributes to the pollution in our oceans, as the fibres can get down drains and into the open waters! Eek!) and when it arrived I actually did a little “yippee” noise! It’s so soft and snuggly, and I confess to having instantly gone back on their website to order it in the other colourway

The construction held no surprises. It’s the first time I’ve made Apollon in anything other than sweatshirt fabric, but it came together really well. At first I thought I might widen the neckline a little to be more like the Zadig & Voltaire one, but I love the neckline as it is and so I reined myself in. Again, learn from the Deneuve coat! I also debated about sizing up, to get the “oversized” look of the Z&V version, so I tried on one of my older Apollon sweatshirt dresses and actually it’s pretty oversized already. Add that to the fact that the sweater knit is less chunky than sweatshirting, and the oversizing pretty much did itself. So, note to self: if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it. I also decided against lengthening the arms à la Zadig & Voltaire, as I’d have gone crazy pushing those sleeves up every time I wanted to wash my hands or pick something up or just, you know, do anything. So basically, all this to say I sewed up my Apollon without any modifications, and as a result…

Even bare legs in winter can’t stop me smiling at this one

I have a garment I will WEAR TO DEATH.

Seriously, I love it.

The only thing I would normally do but didn’t is to topstitch down the seam allowances on the neckband, cuffs and waistband. I mentioned here that I like to do this so that they don’t ping back up after washing, but with the delicate sweater knit I thought it would be a shame to add in any visible stitching (since all the raw edges are finished with a band, there is otherwise no stitching visible on the right side of the garment).

You can see that the inside seam isn’t stitched down, but it looks so pretty from the outside!

If I have to press my seam allowances after washing, it will be worth it (I’m not sure if it’s clear how significant a statement that is; I rarely press clothes apart from while I’m making them!!)

One thing I didn’t mention in my last post about Apollon is that the waistband is one long piece with a centre back seam, rather than two pieces joined together at the sides.

Thumbs up for the waistband

I quite like this as a construction method: no effort needed to match up the side seams! Though speaking of matching up the side seams, can we just take a moment to admire the cuffs?!

Pause for cuff love

I’ve styled the dress with chunky boots here to emulate as far as possible the styling of the Z&V image, but this is waaay too short for me to wear with bare legs! Not to mention how cold I’d get. But just for fun, I did a tiny homage and put on a beanie hat like the catwalk pics anyway. I even did a little “catwalk strut”, but clearly I need to work on my “effortlessly cool” face.

Yep, if I have to wear a hat, it’s going to be pink!

It’s safe to say I felt a little daft wearing a hat and boots and bare legs outdoors in December, but in real life I’m going to be wearing this with leggings, as styled here:

I absolutely LOVE this sweater dress. It may not be the most haute couture garment from the catwalks this season, but it’s one that suits my style, my wardrobe, and my life. Plus I’d never really thought of sewing a sweatshirt patterns with a sweater knit fabric, so once again the MAGAM sewalong has made me think outside my usual box.

Thanks to both Sarah Liz and Linda for this fun challenge! It was worth getting cold legs for 😉

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New pattern: Cassandra, a dress for all occasions AND Cassandra extension pack!

Break out the champagne, our newest pattern is here just in time for Christmas!

Cassandra is a dress that will take you anywhere, with two neckline options, two hemline options and two sleeve lengths. Depending on your fabric choices, you can make Cassandra a casual dress, a work wardrobe staple, or a stunning party dress. AND we’re also releasing an extension pack that gives you the additional pattern pieces to turn it into a top or a cardigan! I’m going to talk you through all the options here, and then give you our launch week discount code! Shall we start with the party dress?

Bring on the cocktails!

Cassandra has an elegant and easy-to-wear shape that lets your fabric do the talking. It’s fitted through the bust, and then flares gently at the waist and hips before swirling out into a swing skirt. You can choose between a fashionable high-low hem (shown in the picture on the left) or a classic just-above-the-knee normal hem (shown in the picture on the right). There are two neckline options: a round neck or a dramatic plunge neck, and two sleeve lengths (long or elbow length). As you can see in these photos, if you make Cassandra in occasionwear fabric, she’s the perfect little party dress: the fabric on the left is a deep navy metallic jersey with lurex (so it’s sparkly in real life, though the sparkles don’t show up well on the photo!) and on the right is a silver pleated velvet jersey.

But Cassandra can take you anywhere. Look at these “day dress” versions (yeah I know, I’ve still got my “party” hair in the photos. Should’ve combed it out for the “daytime” look, but I don’t get to have bouncy curls very often so I was milking them!):

The dress on the left combines the plunge neck, long sleeves and high-low hem, and is made in a viscose slub jersey. It looks good with heels, flats or boots for cool season style. The dress on the right is the round neck, short sleeves, normal hem combination and is perfect for workwear or for layering with a cardigan.

Did somebody say cardigan?

If you read my post about the MAGAM sewalong “original October” theme, you’ll already know the origin story of our first extension pack! Enter Cassandra as a top or a cardigan:

The Cassandra extension pack allows you to use the Cassandra dress pattern to build a wardrobe of wearable garments. It gives you the additional pieces you need to make both a top and a cardigan with two neckline options, two hemline options and two sleeve lengths for each. The top and cardigan are fitted at the bust and then gently flared to skim over the tummy and hit at the mid-hip for the high-low hem (the picture on the left) and low hip for the normal hem (the picture on the right). You can make it as a t-shirt, a lightweight sweater, or a cardigan. As with the dress, you can mix and match your pattern pieces to create a different Cassandra each time – in fact with the dress and extension pack together, there are 24 possible variations! Both of these samples are made in cotton jacquard, and they make lovely lightweight layering pieces. Because we’re entering a cooler season here, I’ve made both of these in warm fabric with long sleeves and round necks, but here are a few more styling possibilities:

I’ve made it as (left to right) a long-sleeved t-shirt in cotton jersey, a high-low hem cardigan in cotton jacquard, and a short-sleeved plunge-neck top in sweater knit (that’s the only one of my Cassandras I don’t like! The fabric is quite scratchy, so I’ll be re-making this style in a better fabric – in fact I’ve already cut it out of this flamingo cotton jersey, so you can expect to see that soon!) Both of the cardigans photographed here are made with the round neck as it suits my personal taste better, but you can see how it looks with the plunge neckline as shown in this post. I think with the plunge neckline it would look really cute over a button-down shirt.

And the final bit of exciting news is that we’ve added a new size to our range: Cassandra is available in sizes XXS-XXL (see our updated sizing chart for further information).

Did I say that was the final exciting thing? Where’s my head?! Here’s the discount code!

Cassandra is part of our normal pattern range, and is £6 full price. The extension pack is £4 as a separate purchase if you decide to just buy the dress but come back for the extension pack at a later date, OR you can buy both in a bundle at a reduced price of £9. And for this first launch week, we are offering 20% off ANY Cassandra purchase! Use the code CASSANDRA20 this week for 20% off at checkout.

We hope you’ll love Cassandra and make her over and over again. For now I’ll leave you with some different angle shots so that you can get a sense of the side, back, and swing of the different variations. Happy sewing!

 

The Ballerina top by Jenny Hellström (aka my favourite t-shirt)

I’m just going to come right out and say it: this pattern is pretty close to t-shirt perfection. With practically every t-shirt pattern I’ve tried before, there’s always been something that I end up wanting to alter. The perfect t-shirt is something of a holy grail, and since I like different kinds of t-shirts for different outfits and occasions, I need more than one perfect pattern. Today I want to talk about the close-fitting kind with negative ease. You may recall that I’m not entirely comfortable with close-fitting clothes – I talked about it with my Simplicity summer challenge make and in my post on “The Power of Sewing” – so to feel good, really REALLY good, in a close-fitting top is no mean feat.

Enter the Ballerina top by Jenny Hellström. If you don’t already know of this Swedish designer, I highly recommend you visit her site: I love her designs, and although they are on the pricey side, they are a thing of beauty and also make perfect gifts (I was gifted this pattern and the Doctor’s Orders cardigan last Christmas). I love the cardigan too and perhaps I’ll get to talk about that another day, but today I want to focus on this top.

Photo from http://www.jennyhellstrom.se/

If you like multiple options in your patterns, then perhaps this isn’t the one for you – there is one design for the top, though there is a bodycon dress option too (I did try a toile of that but I refer you to my earlier statement about not feeling comfortable in very form-fitting clothes!) However, if you are a confident sewist, you could easily use this as a basis to alter sleeve length, neckline etc (though I think that neckline is pretty perfect as it is!)

I mean… let’s face it, the chances of me ever feeling like a ballerina are fairly slim. But this neckline is about as close as I get.

Neckline perfection

The construction of the top is exactly as you would expect: sew the shoulder seams, sew the neckband, attach the neckband, sew the sleeves, sew the side seams, hem. The instructions are written only, no illustrations, so absolute beginners may be put off but if you’ve ever made a t-shirt then you wouldn’t really need illustrations as there are no surprises. The only thing I added was to topstitch the neckband in place with my coverstitch machine, so that the seam didn’t flip upwards after washing.

As you might expect since I design patterns myself, I have a critical eye when it comes to the drafting of others. I prefer not to say when I find something to be badly drafted, but I will shout it from the rooftops if something is beautifully drafted. Get me a ladder and a megaphone, because THIS IS. I know how hard it is to get a simple design exactly right, and it irritates me when simple isn’t done well. You can’t say that of Jenny Hellström – this pattern is perfect. It clings without ruching up anywhere, the neckline is sublime, and the contours and shaping are spot-on. Plus the hem has a gentle curve – am I alone in disliking a straight line for a hem? – so the shaping is very flattering.

OK OK, it ruches up a tiny bit if you do twisty poses.

I love this top with jeans (in all these photos I’m wearing my denim jersey Eleonore jeans); I think it would also look lovely with a navy skirt or even a grey one, and am thinking of making a navy ponte Margarita to dress it up a little.

The only thing that might put you off Jenny’s patterns is the Burda magazine-style pattern sheet. Pattern pieces overlap and so you have to be careful when tracing, and seam allowances aren’t included so you have to add those. I won’t pretend that either of these things are desirable activities for me, but this top is SO worth it.

Running out of ways to photograph this. So let’s find a different spot to stand in while attempting to look natural.

Shall we talk about the fabric? This is one of the “Club Knits” from Utah-based retailer Raspberry Creek Fabrics, and is 95% cotton and 5% spandex. It’s from a collection they released a year ago so they don’t have this design any more, but it seems to be kind of a signature style of the company so there are variations on it still available. I haven’t been able to purchase frequently from this store as it’s in the US and so I can only order small amounts because of customs and taxes, but I’ve been really happy with the ones I have received. The jersey is lovely and stable – it may not have the buttery softness of, say, the Art Gallery Fabrics cotton jersey, but it has a weightier feel to it and it is a dream to sew as its slightly heavier composition means that it doesn’t curl at all at the edges. It’s a perfect fabric to use if you’re new to knits, or if you need to cleanse your palate after working with tricky fabrics for a few projects! There is a French terry option too, and I have also used that, but I prefer the cotton jersey (this is just personal taste).

To conclude: well, when you’ve exhausted words, say it in Emoji. This garment is 100% “heart eyes heart eyes love hearts smiley face” 😉

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Winter wardrobe staples: Papercut Patterns Rise turtleneck and Jalie Patterns Eléonore jeggings

I love sewing pretty things, show-stopping things, “wow” things… but I hardly ever wear them. I’ll let you into a secret… I still haven’t worn my Deneuve coat. It might be beautiful, but it’s not my style, and this was an expensive and labour-intensive realisation. Most days I wear a t-shirt and jeans: they’re the things I reach for and wear to tatters, so they’re the things I need to spend time on. These thoughts were prompted by the theme for the November MAGAM (Make a Garment a Month), sewalong, which was “November Needs”: look in your closet and see what you need, then pledge to make it. I don’t know how Sarah Liz thinks of these brilliant themes each month, but I’m so glad she does, because I took a long hard look at my clothes and it was pretty obvious what my wardrobe is missing… SOLIDS. So here’s the outfit I made, and the story behind it:

I feel I have a split personality with clothes: the few RTW things I still have left over from the days before I was on a mission to have a 100% handmade wardrobe are pretty much all solids, whereas the fabrics I choose to sew with are predominantly patterns. And not mix’n’match patterns, not stripes or polka dots or geometrics… no… flowers. Colours. The deepest expression of some wild and free side of myself I must have been repressing in my RTW years. I don’t know why it is that I’m always drawn to fabric that’s the opposite of what I’d buy as a garment, but there we are. Let’s not start analysing it, or I’ll never get to tell you about these two makes…

Of all the handmade things in my winter wardrobe, the only things in solid colours were my Edie cardigans, my jeans, two dresses and two barely-worn pencil skirts. So I wanted to make a top and a bottom that could be mixed and matched with lots of different things.

For the top, I chose a pattern I know and love: the Papercut Patterns Rise turtleneck. I’ve made this a couple of times and I really like it. It’s a closely fitted top or sweater (there is also an option called Fall in the same pattern, which is a more relaxed fit with dropped shoulders; I haven’t tried that one yet).

For the bottom, I took a gamble. I had made the Jalie Patterns Eléonore jeans back in the summer. They call for woven stretch denim, but the denim has to have at least 20% stretch (i.e. more than most woven denims available to me actually have). Back when I blogged about that pair, Sue commented that she had never thought to make them in a woven, and had always used ponte for her versions. I thought this sounded like a super plan, as I found them to be more jegging-y than jeans-y, and I liked the idea of a ponte-esque jegging, but wanted something with natural fibres. So I ordered this denim-look heavyweight cotton blend jersey from Lillestoff, and set to work.

The top went together really easily: I did my standard grading of an XS at the bust to a S at the waist, and it’s a lovely fit. I chose a plain black cotton jersey from Girl Charlee for this, it’s 95% cotton and 5% spandex, and I love sewing with it. The whole top went together really easily (one of those where you don’t really have to look at the instructions: shoulders, neck, sleeves, sides, hem). I really like it in plain black, it feels timeless and elegant.

Hard to go wrong with a black turtleneck!

But it wasn’t much of a risk, was it? TNT pattern in a solid colour, and a fabric I’ve already used in several colourways. So let’s talk about the jeans…

I cut out the same size I had used in the woven stretch denim: size R. I didn’t want to try sizing down to compensate for using a knit fabric as I’d found the woven ones a bit too skintight and so I liked the idea of these having a bit more give in them. I did consider omitting the more “jeans-like” details such as the pockets and the faux fly front, but I’m an “in for a penny, in for a pound” kind of girl and I thought why not go the whole hog, then if I don’t like them I won’t torment myself wondering if the pockets would have made all the difference! So I followed the instructions to the letter, including the topstitching. I did my topstitching in standard navy thread though, as I wasn’t convinced that a contrast topstitching thread would work on the jersey.

The jeggings came together much faster than I anticipated – I can’t decide whether this is because of using a knit fabric, or because I’d already sewn the pattern once before. Let’s call it a happy combination of the two! But did it work?

Oh yes. Oh yes. OH YES!!!!!! I *LOVE* this pattern made up in a jersey fabric. So comfortable, but still stylish. And because of the denim-look jersey, they look like jeans but took a fraction of the time to make and have a stretchy waistband! I seriously cannot wait to make a few more of these.

There were no problems with either of these makes, and I’d highly recommend both. As for what they have brought to my wardrobe, well firstly I love how they look together. But they also both go with loads of other handmade garments, so my choices are multiple! The turtleneck looks great paired with my floral Margarita skirt and my ponte skater dress:

And the jeggings go with EVERYTHING! Seriously, everything (though I’ll spare you photos of me parading my entire wardrobe to prove the point)! Plus the whole look can be made more wintry with boots and a maxi cardigan:

So this month’s MAGAM theme was a massive success for me. I’m not stopping there: I have a few more solid fabrics now, and plans for them all! Watch this space…

Me “watching this space” 😉

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All sweatshirts are not created equal: I AM Apollon by I AM Patterns

Firstly, thank you so much for your touching reactions to my last blog post, both here and over on Instagram. I have felt overwhelmed (in a good way!) by every message.

I’m back today with a very different kind of post: I’m here to sing the praises of the humble sweatshirt! A wardrobe staple, and I’ve been on a quest to find the perfect pattern. The favourite of those I’ve tried so far is the Apollon from I AM Patterns (yes I know, my skills at building suspense are not getting any better!)

Apollon in all its glory (though please ignore the less than glorious creases from having been stuffed in a drawer since last winter).

But this is a tale of a quest, so back to the beginning we go…

At first glance, sweatshirts seem pretty simple: front, back, sleeves, cuffs, a neck band and a hem band. How do you go wrong? Well, pretty easily, as it turns out. Don’t we all have our own idea of what makes a perfect sweatshirt? For me it is: neckline reasonably high, but not too high. Probably crew neck. Length hitting at low hip so it doesn’t expose my tummy when I stretch or move. Slouchy fit but not shapeless. Definitely not too tight, especially on the sleeves and under the arms.

Quite a tall order, I know.

But I AM Patterns did it.

I almost didn’t buy this pattern, as I already had several sweatshirt patterns. But I wasn’t entirely blown away by any of them, and so I thought it was worth investing in another!

So why do I like it so much? Well, maybe I should start by telling you a bit about the ones I liked less. First up, and I know this will be controversial because it seems to be the undisputed favourite of the sewing community: the Linden by Grainline Studio. I did hesitate for the longest time over whether to buy this, and I must have talked about it so much that in the end Rich bought it for me a couple of years ago, along with the Scout tee pattern! The Linden is certainly a great pattern and well designed, but the reason for my tergiversating (I think I just won blog bingo FOREVER with that word) was the reason I was underwhelmed: the boxy style that Grainline is known for just doesn’t suit me. Aesthetically, I love it. But I don’t feel it does anything for me:

Linden sweatshirt… I wish I loved it more

I just look kind of shapeless underneath it! In fact the Scout tee I got at the same time is the ONLY pattern I have never even bothered finishing – it looked so awful on me that I never hemmed it, just recycled the fabric. It’s such a shame as I love the look of Grainline patterns, especially the Driftless cardigan and the Morris blazer, but my body shape is just all wrong for them. The one way I do think the Linden has worked better for me is to combine the long cuffed sleeves with the shorter bodice: the length and the very subtle high-low hem is more flattering to my body shape, so I can make it out of regular jersey, like this lovely lilac floral, as a twist on a raglan t-shirt:

Feeling the Linden love more styled this way!

And speaking of raglan t-shirts, next up is the Lane raglan by Hey June Handmade. This is advertised as a t-shirt, but the designer suggests that if you size up it can be made as a sweatshirt. As a t-shirt it wasn’t quite the shape I was looking for, though it looked better when I removed 2 inches from the bodice (my standard adjustment is to remove 5/8”). So I sized up for the sweatshirt version, took out my 2 inches, and it was all pretty straightforward.

Lane raglan made as a sweatshirt

I LOVE the neckline of this top and find it very flattering, but it doesn’t work quite as well on a sweatshirt because it’s lower than I would like and so leaves me a little chilly on a cold day. I do wear this top a lot though, and I think that the addition of the sweatshirt hem creates a lovely shape.

But back to the Apollon, because in addition to the standard sweatshirt length shown at the top of this post, you can also make it as a dress! Well, they call it a dress, I am obviously either taller than the women they design for or way more prudish, because I’d call it a tunic. Though when I was 20 I’d have called it practically knee-length, so I am prepared to accept that I’m the one with the issue, not the pattern nomenclature! (Look at that, I got “tergiversate” and “nomenclature” in the same blog post. I am on a ROLL).

Dress? Tunic? Either way, I love it! (Excuse the year-old creases again!!)

Anyway, I do love the Apollon at this length, it’s perfect to wear with leggings (though in my pics I’m wearing it with skinny jeans, as I took all these photos on the same day and it was enough to run indoors and change my sweatshirt five times without adding leggings into the mix too!!) I also used the same blue sweatshirting I’d used for the shorter length, as I bought loads of it. But at least it’s plain and easy to wear, don’t even ask me how much of the purple roses fabric I have left even after making countless garments in it…

With both lengths of Apollon I graded between size 36 at the bust and 38 at the waist. The sizing is European, so I chose based on the table of measurements. The sizing was generous, but generous is good in a sweatshirt, I’d say. The grading also gave it a bit of shaping so it wasn’t straight up and straight down, and I like the result.

I also think the neckline is perfect – not too high, not too low, but just right, and the hem band is just the right proportion too so that it’s not cinching in too much and pulling in the bodice but it’s not hanging loosely either. Not too loose, not too tight. Just right. Let’s just call this my “Goldilocks” sweatshirt! I AM Patterns describe it as a “feminine version of the classic sweatshirt”, and it’s as good as it sounds.

I’m going to leave you with a montage so you can see all four together and judge for yourself whether or not you agree with me about the one that suits me best! I’ve tried to do the same pose for all four shots so that you can get an accurate comparison. And also because that is basically my “camera pose”.

Which is best? Are you with me on Apollon, or do you see something I don’t with the others?

Tell me what you think! Have you tried Apollon? Do you have particular requirements in a sweatshirt too?

The pattern that kept on morphing and other stories: Make A Garment A Month (MAGAM) sewalong

This is the story of a dress that became a bolero that became a sweater that became a cardigan. I’m no good at building suspense, so I’m going to jump right in with the finished result, and then give you its “origin story”!!

I don’t know which I love more: the cardigan, or the autumn colours in the garden!

Not long after I opened my Instagram account back in the Springtime, I noticed a challenge called MAGAM (Make A Garment A Month), hosted by Sarah Liz. The idea behind MAGAM is to provide a monthly theme that participants take as inspiration: it seemed a lovely supportive way to foster slow sewing by focusing on one garment every month, so I finally took the plunge and joined in for September.

Happily for me, the September theme was Shirty Skirty” (make a shirt or a skirt). This is non-UK use of “shirt”, i.e. any kind of top (I don’t often wear what I would call a shirt, which elsewhere would be called a button-down, so the language slippage suited me well). So I eased myself into MAGAM with the McCalls M7542 pattern from Sew Now magazine, using a rayon jersey and following my own tutorial for adapting it to a knit fabric. Well, I say “following my own tutorial”, but I didn’t really – I thought I could remember it so I went ahead and kept only the original instructions in front of me, which meant I attached the sleeves as if it were a woven! A bout of unpicking later, I returned to my tutorial with my head hanging in shame, and the rest went swimmingly.

My first MAGAM entry

The theme for October was more challenging: “Original October”. I mulled this one over for a good while. It did coincide with the development of our next pattern, which is obviously an original design, but it seemed too simple just to say “well I’ll make up one of our new dresses”.

First sneak peek of the forthcoming dress pattern!

However, the #cosycardichallenge was in full swing and for a while now I’ve wanted a lightweight fitted cardigan to wear over sleeveless dresses and extend their wearable life into autumn, and so I decided to adapt the dress pattern to become a cropped/ bolero cardigan. I did this without too much difficulty, just cutting off the pattern pieces of the scoop-neck version under the bust and drawing in a curve, but when I came to try it on I realised it would only really go with empire line dresses (it’s pictured here with my refashioned silk skirt) – with anything else it just sort of looked like I’d run out of fabric.

One of only two dresses I can wear this with!

Back to the drafting software (with my trusty sidekick aka technical department aka Rich beside me) and we went for a hip-length slightly flared look, with a high-low hem and a higher neckline. I started off by trying out the design as a sweater to test the shape before drafting the front placket, and I loved it (fully aided by the fact that I sewed it up in the softest jacquard ever, given to me as a birthday gift).

That’s more like it!

So I was ready to try it out as a cardigan, but not *quite* ready to cut into the beautiful jacquard from Lillestoff that I had earmarked for the project. My interim make was from a lovely floral French terry from Raspberry Creek Fabrics that I’ve been hoarding for a year now, and I liked the shape of the result BUT… ugh, well, it was just the wrong combination of fabric and style. I went for a scoop neck and standard hem, and the finished result reminds me of a housecoat or something.

You’ve got to love taking photos on a windy day!

I love the fabric, but this wasn’t the right project for it. I’ll see if I wear it, and if not I’ll scale it down into something for my daughter. And another reason to be glad I made this first version before cutting into my jacquard: I had ordered some interfacing online and the quality was just terrible. It didn’t move with the fabric at all, and if you look closely it has caused a couple of ripples in the front placket. Not the end of the world, but I would have been sad if that had been my precious jacquard.

So for the final version I decided to combine the higher neckline and the high-low hem, bought some more interfacing (never again will I stray from the goodness that is Vilene) and off I went…

The finished cardigan, origin story complete

I love this cardigan so much. Re-drafting was a good idea, as instead of just “chopping off” the dress pattern, we created an new line for this length, and it works much better. In particular, I really enjoyed thinking about the construction process, and how to make all the finishings look professional. I do love a garment that looks as pretty on the inside as it does on the outside!

Close-ups of the details: front placket, high-low hem, hem meeting facing, and inside the placket.

I used KAM snaps for the closures – I had always previously used the kind of snaps that you have to hammer on, but I was convinced by Sarah’s evangelising about the joy of attaching snaps with pliers and now I want to put KAM snaps on EVERYTHING!!!

In the end I think this particular version works better with jeans as the small pattern on the fabric means it doesn’t really go with a lot of my patterned dresses. But that could just be me falling back into my comfort zone, as jeans are basically my uniform! But it still goes well with these two sleeveless dresses:

Action shots (by which I mean “walking slowly towards the camera”). I like to photograph the movement of a garment so I can see how it looks when I’m not just standing facing a mirror!

The left one is a Deer and Doe sleeveless aubépine, and the right one is a maxi Dune from our own collection. The cardigan definitely helps both of these summer dresses transition into autumn. So either I need more solid dresses, or I need to make more cardigans in solid colours. Or both!!! And you know me by now, I don’t need much of an excuse to make a new garment…

So I’m really happy to be part of MAGAM, and I’m looking forward to the November challenge. As long as it’s not “sew a coat inspired by a classic French film”, because, you know, why do that to myself twice in one year?!!

In other news, encouraged by my lovely friend Diane, I’m trying to get my head round Pinterest at the moment, though it hasn’t synced to our site yet and I have yet to create any boards beyond this one image! But here is (I think?!) a link to my Pinterest page, which hopefully I shall work on soon! So if you have a Pinterest account do come and befriend me as I am LOST over there!

What about you? Have you joined MAGAM or the cosy cardi challenge? Any favourite makes/ stories to share? What about Pinterest? How do you use it efficiently and am I truly the last to join the party?!

Finding my inner re-fashionista

Before and after (I may need to work on my suspense-building skills)

I’m pretty excited about this latest make, because it has breathed new life into an unloved garment! Recently I was sorting through my clothes and was going to give a whole bunch of silk dresses and tops to a charity shop (they’re RTW and a little bit loose, plus they don’t feel like “me” any more), and it just seemed so wasteful. I mean, here I was, a sewist, with armfuls of gorgeous barely-worn silk, about to send these garments away. This coincided with two things: starting to read a book my husband bought me about tailoring and alterations, and noticing more and more “refashions” popping up on Instagram. So I decided to see if at least some of these garments could become something else. My big criteria are: 1. it has to look like something that’s been made from scratch and 2. it has to be something I would actually want to make and wear. So here goes…

First up is the navy blue silk skirt in the photos below, purchased in a panic from Phase Eight in 2013. My daughter was 3 months old, I was breastfeeding (read: my normally nothing-to-write-home-about boobs were ENORMOUS), the rest of my body was not the shape it had been pre-pregnancy, and my husband’s oldest friend was getting married. I splashed out £200 on a dress from a luxury maternity brand online, and when it came it looked like a very expensive sack, so I returned it. Days before the wedding I had nothing to wear, but I had a navy eyelet jacket and a navy breastfeeding camisole, so in a panic I bought this skirt. I spent the whole wedding day feeling uncomfortable and frumpy, because it’s so NOT my style – midi length, voluminous, loose around the midriff… everything I don’t want in a skirt. It’s never been worn since. I mean, even my beloved M7542 top couldn’t save it…

So I looked closely at the construction. There was a wide jersey band at the top, and if I pulled that up over my chest it looked like quite a nice strapless dress (though in danger of falling down because I now have my pre-babies bust back!), so it was an easy step to think that if I just added a jersey bodice, it could work as a knee-length formal dress. I imagine that my process for transforming it could work on many skirts, so I hope it might be useful to see how I did it:

For the bodice I chose the high-necked version of Dune. I’d practically lived in this style all summer, so I knew the shape was good for me. It was easy to measure as Dune flares out from the high waist, so I just drew a straight line across the front and back pieces at that point, to get a piece that when seam allowances were sewn in would be a fitted empire-length bodice. My mistake was to cut a size S rather than XS. I’d really liked the look of the one I made my mum that was slightly looser, and Bridget’s sized-up Dune, and so I thought I’d give that a go (should have tried it with a toile first). So it’s a little looser than it would ideally be, but I’ll come back to that later.

I had small pieces left of some plain navy cotton jersey from Girl Charlee that I’d used to make (you guessed it) a Dune top early in the drafting process, and there was just enough to make a front and back bodice with a bit left over. I wanted to line this bodice for a more formal look rather than do the neck and armband finishes, and there was enough fabric left for a front lining piece, but for the back I had to use remnants of the plum floral fabric I used for my maxi Dune and my Simplicity vintage top. While I was cutting it I thought about trimming the edges of my lining pieces so that they would roll inwards, but for some reason best known to my subconscious, I ignored that thought (second mistake).

Anyway, on to the construction: I did the bodice using the burrito lining method. I totally blanked while I was doing it and was staring at my bodice and lining pieces wondering how on earth I have done it before. I refused to look it up (because I am stubborn and because I was cross with myself for blanking!) and eventually after one brief date with the seamripper I had my lined bodice.

Originally I had just been going to slip the finished bodice over the jersey band of the skirt and sew it on and then cover the seam with some lace (which would be a simple method if you wanted to try something like this on a skirt that didn’t have a convenient waistband!), but the band was just attached to the skirt with a simple overlocked seam, so I thought I’d take a risk and replace it. I pinned the right side of the bodice bottom to the right side of the skirt top, just below the seam so that the original seam would be cut off (otherwise it would have been too bulky with the original seam plus my own new seam all overlocked together) and then took a deep breath and snipped off the waistband.

No going back now…

Then I took the whole thing to my overlocker. I kept the original seam to the right of the blade so it would get cut off as I sewed my new seam – there was no mathematical measurement here, I just kept my forefinger under the original seam underneath and made sure it was always flush to the edge of my overlocker plate so the blade would cut it cleanly at the join.

(Stage right you can just spy my trusty pastry-brush-turned-overlocker-cleaner. I swear by this for getting all the fluff out of my machine. Just don’t ever use it to do an egg wash again!)

Once the seam was done, it was the moment of truth… I turned it all right side out, and aside from looking a little wavy (to be expected when you’re joining two such different fabrics I guess) it seemed to have worked – all the original seam was cut off, and all the raw edges of the bodice had been properly caught in the new seam.

One gentle press later and…

Look at this! I have a new dress, people! It’s floaty and swooshy and so so pretty. It has great movement (which I was more than happy to test with a little twirling session) and both the volume and the length are all at the right place now to be flattering. Below are 3 pics of how it looks from the front, plus one slightly sheepish shot:

The bottom right photo may not be a great shot of the dress but I’m including it for its amusement factor: I had just been taking the twirling shots in the previous montage, and stumbled into the flowerbed… that’s my “that didn’t get caught on camera did it?” face…

There are two things I would do differently if I was starting over again:

  1. Go with my tried and trusted size and do XS across the bust. It currently gapes slightly at the armscyes and at the centre front and back, so it’s just that little bit off perfect and will probably annoy me forever (because I’m obsessive like that).
  2. Trim the neckline and armscyes of the bodice lining, to make sure none of the lining peeks out while I’m wearing it.

The thing I’m cross about is that I considered doing both of these things to start with, and I just ignored that little voice of reason! But other than that, I’m really happy with this refashion. I now have a pretty dress to wear to formal occasions, it took very little time to do, and all of it was made from resources I already had lying around the house. I’m calling this one a win!

Have you ever re-styled something from your closet? Do you have any tips to share??