Hand-me-down button-downs

One of my favourite dresses is one of my Mum’s old ones. It’s from the British high street shop ‘Wallis’ and was probably bought in the early to mid 1980s. The fabric is that kind of beautifully soft woven fabric which is always so hard to find. The dress is beautifully made and the quality of the fabric is streets ahead of what you tend to find on the high street today.

As I love the dress so much so I decided to have a go at rubbing off the pattern. I don’t have any fabric with the exact same feel or drape so it will be a while until I can make an exact carbon copy but making something inspired by the original dress is good enough for me for now!

The original dress

The busy pattern makes it hard to photograph but hopefully here you can see the style lines.

And the length made it hard to get it all in one picture so here is a photo which shows how long the skirt is.

The pattern
This is the resulting pattern from my attempt to copy the dress. The front and back bodice pieces are gathered to fit into curved yoke pieces. The sleeves are modified raglan sleeves, which are also gathered into the yokes. There is a button placket down the whole length of the centre front.

This picture shows the sleeve pattern piece and the bodice front and back pieces. I’ve not included the placket piece as it is just a long rectangle. For the skirt, on my first attempt I made a simple gathered skirt and on the second attempt I made a half circle skirt.

The original dress has a peter pan collar and the skirt is floor length. On the original dress the sleeves are gathered into an elastic casing at the cuff. On my first version I left the sleeve un-gathered at the cuff so it is flared and on my second version I hand stitched a sort of inverted pleat at the cuff to bring them in a bit.

First go
This was the first attempt and I’m quite happy with it. The two major flaws are that I put a hem facing on it in a heavier fabric which kind of drags down the dress. Also, the fabric itself (which comes from a shop across the road from the Marché Saint Pierre in Paris) while really lovely is not the best quality so it was quite hard to accurately cut out. I love the pattern and the orange colour though so I’m not complaining!

The chortle shot…

…and round two!
For the second one I used a red cotton which hangs really nicely (from Atelier Brunette). I’d been hoarding this fabric for a while so was glad to finally use it.

I ‘interfaced’ the button plackets by underlining them with calico toile fabric but I’m not sure I’ll do that again as now it has been washed a few times the button placket looks a bit crumpled. I suppose I now realise why iron-on interfacing was invented as you can stick it exactly to the fabric and there won’t be any moving around! That said I also underlined/faced the yokes in the same way and they seem ok.

I really love this dress and can’t wait to try and improve it further and make it in another fabric. Next time I’ll bring the neckline down slightly at the front, and maybe add a collar. I’ll also think about putting a false placket in and using a zip in the side seam instead so as not to have so many buttonholes to sew!

And not forgetting some ‘in construction’ snaps!

And to finish, a close up of what I’m calling the ‘sleeve pleat tuck thing’.

1940s meta dress

1940s dress sewing

As the new year begins, I’m going to post some makes from the previous one which have yet to see the light of day on the blog. First up is this dress which I made by rubbing off a pattern from a top made by my Mum years ago, which feels very ‘meta’ – self-referential sewing pattern drafting?

1940s dress sewing

Don’t worry, I’m not hanging about on my roof in jelly shoes on this snowy day in early January – photo taken in the summer!

To make it into a dress I simply traced off the top and lengthened the side seams. I’ve always loved the top because to me it feels quite 1940s – due the slightly puffed shoulder, the impression of shaping round the bust, and the functional feel of the cinched-in tied waist, so I wanted to make a similar style dress.

1940s dress sewing

If I make this again I will pay a bit more attention to the shape of the side seams rather than simply just lengthening them. You can’t really tell on the photos but the way it hangs is just slightly too clingy for my liking. But all in all I was really happy with this make and have got quite a bit of wear out of it.

The fabric is the same fabric I used to make this dress. I’ve still got loads of it so it probably won’t be the last item like this in my wardrobe!

1940s dress sewing

1940s dress sewing

1940s dress sewing

Just make something

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This dress came together one Sunday this summer in a way which I wish happened all the time. I was pottering about thinking I’d like to make something but not really settling on any one idea. Then my eyes fell on a skirt I’d got in Les Petits Riens ages ago with the intention of altering it. Before I knew what was happening I was drafting a bodice – inspired by the original waist tie of the skirt, which became the straps – and pulling out the skirt pattern from my Colette Patterns Truffle dress to go with it.

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The whole thing came together really quickly and I was really focused on the task. Not only did I really enjoy the process of making it but I love the result too. For me that is the ultimate sewing feeling. Making something in a flurry of positive energy which you love and will wear.

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My first instinct is to think that it would be great if it was like that all the time. But if it wasn’t for those days when I can’t get focused and I make something that makes me feel less than thrilled then I wouldn’t know how good those other great days feel. And, while we might not realise it at the time, it is those ‘awful’ days that prepare us for the good days.

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A friend recently told me that she was struggling to build confidence to write more, doubting why she was doing it and what she had to say etc. Then a friend said to her that it didn’t matter if what she wrote was ‘good’ or not, or even if she read it back. What mattered was writing everyday as that way she’ll be ready when her ‘good’ ideas come.

So I need to remember to remind myself to just make something, anything. Regardless of whether it invokes feelings of confidence and positivity or self-loathing and despair, it will make me feel alive!

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In praise of the Hong Kong finish

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I made this jacket with the intention of wearing it with the outfit I made for my cousin’s wedding, but they didn’t look quite right together in the end so I didn’t wear it on the day. It was an interesting project though, and I think I’ll get some use out of it.

But, STOP PRESS, the best thing about making this wee jacket was that I discovered my new favourite technique: the Hong Kong finish!

The Hong Kong finish is basically a neat way to finish seams when overlocking or french seams won’t cut the mustard. It involves sewing bias binding onto each side of a seam. As this jacket has a princess seam I think it gives the inside of the jacket a really cool look – in fact the inside of this jacket is way more interesting than the outside.

To learn how to do the Hong Kong finish I used a tutorial in my copy of ‘Sewtionary‘ by Tasia of Sewaholic but you can also find plenty step-by-step guides on this here world wide web.

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To make the jacket pattern I started with the Jackie pattern from La Maison Victor but I made quite a lot of changes to make it fit and I added a pleat at the back.

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I previously made a modified version of this pattern for the Sew It Up competition back in 2014.
This time round I changed the shaping at the front. Unfortunately I think I should have used some stronger interfacing as the fabric requires a bit more support to sit right. I feel it droops slightly.

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To jazz up proceedings I also used some red piping in the shoulder seams.

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Not a life-changing project by any means but always good to learn new techniques and do a bit of pattern engineering to modify patterns!
I particularly enjoyed working out how to do the facing which I mostly sewed by hand.

I’ll definitely be using the Hong Kong finish more in the future to make the insides of garments as nice as their outsides – and maybe even better.

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A Tate and Belladone wedding outfit

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I made this outfit for my cousin Holly’s wedding which took place a few weeks ago in Bonnie Scotland. I’m not very good at knowing what to wear for special occasions so I knew I wanted to make something specifically for the wedding that I really liked. I set myself the challenge of sewing something from fabric I already have rather than buying more. This was also a way of helping me decide what to sew – i.e. I started by choosing the fabric and then deciding what kind of style I wanted to sew, rather than the other way round.

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I bought this fabric a few years ago in a shop in the Montmartre in Paris. I absolutely love it and I’m so glad I finally made something with it! It’s quite sturdy and I think it is perfect for making something look a bit more formal.

After much deliberation I decided to make a two-piece outfit and make the skirt from the Deer & Doe Belladone dress and the Tate Top from Workroom Social.

For the skirt I lined the waistband with some soft denim and added a lining. I’m really pleased with the overall finish and think it might be one if my best ever invisible zips! 🙂 One of the things I love about the Belladone pattern is the slip stitching required for the hem facing. I think a hem facing is such a good way to finish any garment.

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For the Tap top I made quite a lot of changes: I adjusted the length to make sure it stopped just before the skirt. I moved the front neckline darts to the underarm position – and I moved the back darts so that they are in line with the front darts. I decided to use this wonderful video tutorial from Sew Over It and do an all-in-one facing as I think this gives the cleanest finish. I used a hem facing for the outer fabric and I finished the all-in-one facing with some red bias binding.

It wasn’t my intention when I started but the top is actually fully reversible and can be worn both ways! Result!

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Overall I’m really happy as I made two garments I enjoyed wearing for a special occasion but they will also get lots of use in everyday life worn separately!

Thanks to my patient Mum for taking these snaps! 🙂

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