I’ve had such mixed feelings about volunteering to sew masks during the COVID-19 pandemic – how much value do we (as a society) place on work when it is done for free? (For insightful reading on the politics of mask sewing I recommend these articles.) But my main thought about it all is that I’d much rather be sewing dresses that bring me joy, test my skills, and that I will wear again and again to potter around beautiful Brussels.
Here are two versions of the popular Deer and Doe Myosotis dress pattern which I had been curious to try for a while! I think this is a great pattern for hacking as there are so many ways you can adapt it to get it how you would like.
I omitted the collar pieces in both versions, and on my yellow one I changed the neckline shape to be a straight v-neck. I didn’t have enough fabric for the lower ruffle pieces but that worked out ok as I wanted some dresses for hot days so I quite like the shorter style. I’m not usually a fan of gathered skirts but I love them on this dress – perhaps it is also down to me taking more care over the gathers to make sure they are evenly spaced out, something I’ve definitely rushed in the past. I added waist ties too – I don’t think I’ll ever go back to zips, waist ties are the way to go! And I modified the sleeve into a bell sleeve using the tutorial in Winifred Aldrich’s pattern making book which is super easy.
Both of these dresses will get a lot of wear – especially the yellow one which I love! The fabric is some linen I bought on Goldhawk Road when I was in London in late January (when that kind of expedition was possible!). The paisley-print dress is the last of some fabric I bought metres of circa 2016 – I’ve now made three dresses from it – here are the previous two! And thanks to my previous blog posts I know that the fabric comes from a shop beside the canal in Anderlecht called GoTex – I would definitely not have remembered where I bought it otherwise!
How do like my plants?
I finished off 2019 (and the decade!) with a monster sewing project, the Yates Coat pattern from Grainline Studio. And I’m really happy with it! I’ve been dreaming of a long coat like this for ages and I bought the pattern months ago. Making a coat is definitely an involved project as you need to make time to source the right materials and make adjustments, and of course cut out all the pieces.
Fabric: a tartan brushed wool from Passion Tissus in Saint-Gilles (such a good shop) – 5 euro a metre.
Lining: black satiny-viscose also from Passion Tissus – 5 euro a metre.
Changes I made to the pattern pieces: I lengthened the coat and the lining quite a bit as I knew I wanted a long coat to keep me warm and I redrafted the two-piece sleeve so the armhole is lower and did a bicep enlargement as I knew I wanted to have enough room for a big jumper under the coat. My redrafted sleeve cap is puffier than the original design – this wasn’t my intention but I like how it turned out!
I also just used a sew-on snap button – I do intend to give it proper bound button holes at some point but 1) I’m a bit scared to ruin it, and 2) the snap button is actually fine!
I finished this just before Christmas, it’s really cosy and I have worn it non-stop!
The thing that is really important when it comes to coat making is interfacing and underlining! I did quite a bit of research into this but in the end I just used calico toile to underline parts of the coat – when I mentioned this to the woman that works in the haberdashery near my house she looked horrified though. So for my next coat I need to make sure I use the ‘correct’ interfacing and underlining for the fabric I’m using. But while it might not be the perfect finish in terms of supporting the structure of the wool, I’m still really happy with this coat and how it turned out, and that’s the most important thing.
An in progress shot and a ‘time to bag the lining’ shot – the best part when it all comes together!
My previous adventures in sewing outerwear: in 2016 I had a go at making a raincoat using the free (at the time anyway) Rita pattern from Make my Lemonade, I loved how it turned out but the fabric I used is such poor quality and the armholes are so tight so I very rarely wear it; I previously made a coat in 2015 using a self-drafted pattern – I love that coat as it is very far from done properly but when I look at it I just see all the energy and enthusiasm I had to work out how to do it and it reminds me of that time in my life so I love it; and in 2014 I made the République du Chiffon Gérard coat which I still wear and love too. Now I’m really happy to add this Yates coat to the gang!
This summer my sewing has revolved mostly around the Teahouse dress pattern from Sew House Seven! I made my first version back in May and this summer I made three more versions of the dress which have all been in heavy rotation – and continue to be but with tights now!
Here is my ‘Top of the Pops’ Teahouse pattern hits of the summer countdown!
In at number 3 we have…the everyday version!
I made this dress to wear in lots of different situations. The fabric is not too flimsy so I’m not worried about it getting caught and ripping, and the pattern is also quite forgiving if I spill something on it or get bike chain oil on it! Fabric was bought a few years ago at Gare du Midi market. Here are some photos of it from this summer when I visited Bath.
And at number 2 it is…the dreamy version!
This one I looove – it’s a light floaty viscose from the Fabric Godmother I bought a few months ago – and I’m so happy with how it turned out!
But at number 1 it is…the heatwave version!
I adapted the pattern to make a sleeveless version in July for the various heatwaves we had this year…and it is ticking all the summer dress boxes for me. It’s really comfy and the low back means there is lots of space for air to flow to keep you cool. Fabric is cotton saved from the the bargain bin (2 euro a metre…) at ‘Passion Tissus’ in Saint-Gilles, Bruxelles. I also wore it on my Bath trip – here I am posing in front of the Parade Gardens.
When I bought my overlocker machine a few years ago (from the loveliest people that run the ‘Espace machines à coudre’ sewing machine shop at 154 Chausée d’Ixelles, Brussels) the lady there gave me one of my favourite tips ever: use grey thread! As advice goes it might not sound that life-changing, but it was a great (small) revelation for me. I wasn’t sure how much thread I’d get through on my overlocker (given the spools are bigger than on a sewing machine) so I didn’t want to buy a huge selection of colours – also, no one wants to change the thread on their overlocker machine all the time. So she recommended I go for grey thread as it goes with everything. And, wow, was she right. I pretty much stick to this ‘rule’ now and mostly use grey thread for all sewing – both on the sewing machine and overlocker. I love the way it looks against all colours of fabric, dark and light. And it seems better to have a smaller selection of colours and work with them, rather than having a huge collection of colours to perfectly match all fabric colours. Obviously there will be some instances and on some more transparent fabrics where you really need and want matching thread, but I’m talking about for general stitching when you can’t see your stitches.
And recently the grey thread advice has seeped into my fabric choices too. I’ve made two grey jumpers this year (as yet unblogged) and I made this dress at the beginning of 2019, so thought it was time to post about it. It’s the Martha dress from Tilly and the Buttons. You can’t see them so well in these pictures but the bell sleeves are a really nice shape.
If I make this pattern again I would work a bit on the fit at the back neckline but all in all I’m happy with it. I actually have no recollection of where the fabric comes from (eeek, not good – trying to be way more mindful about buying fabric these days) but it’s been in my stash for a while and is a lovely soft and drapey cotton with a bit of stretch in it. These pictures were taken by my lovely friend Grace last February (!) when we had a worrying heatwave on a lovely Saturday afternoon down by the canal when we went to the Mima museum.
The title of this post is the name of a 2006 song from Scottish band Frightened Rabbit. It’s been over a year since lead singer Scott Hutchison very sadly took his own life, on 10 May 2018. His family have set up ‘Make Tiny Changes‘ a Scottish mental health charity set up in Scott’s memory with a focus on young people and children. And if you don’t know the music of Frightened Rabbit yet, go and listen, you are in for a treat. So whether it is in grey or in another hue, we can all make the world a more colourful place – and “make tiny changes” as Scott sung.