Saturday, 2 June 2018

McCalls 7194 - cowl neck cosiness

One of the quick and simple projects I sewed whilst away on my sewing retreat was a cowl necked knit top from McCalls 7194. It's only been in the last few years since I bought a cover stitch machine that I've started sewing more with knit fabric and I can see the appeal - so quick to sew and pretty easy to fit!

It looks like this pattern is now out of print which surprises me because it seems very popular. Lots of people have made all the views and they all look really great. I made view A but used the long sleeves of the other views:

I've made this from a knit fabric I bought from Darn Cheap Fabrics on a trip to Melbourne more than 2 years ago (a relative newbie in my stash!) that has little gold polka dots. I'm pretty sure it's 100% polyester and is quite thin without much stretch to it but it's a good layering piece.

I particularly like the big old neckline. Honestly, some days I wish I could walk around like this:

Because my fabric is quite thin the neckline is a bit floppy and falls in on itself instead of rolling over nicely but I still like it. It's pretty cold here in Sydney today so I'm wearing this over another long sleeved tshirt which is causing that bunching around my shoulders but otherwise the fit is fine.

The back is pretty simple view - a bit of gathering around my swayback but more importantly it is long enough to cover up the waistband of my pants and keep my back warm when I was freezing on the sidelines of a soccer match early this morning.

I can highly recommend this pattern. Other cowl neck patterns I've made tend to be quite low in the front and show off too much chest area which can get cold and it's awkward to wear a scarf with it. But this one has a nice high rounded neckline that you can either show by pulling the cowl down like I have in these photos, or hide by pushing the neckline towards the back so it's more turtleneck like. Gotta love options!

And here is a photo from the actual sewing retreat, there were about 35 ladies there each with multiple machines. The room certainly was humming when all those machines were sewing and everyone chatting!

Sunday, 27 May 2018

New Look 6000: revisiting an old favourite

My family finally moved into the new house we have just finished building about four weeks ago which I'm so happy about but boy do we have a lot of stuff! I keep opening boxes that have been in storage for the last 18 months and wonder why we kept this stuff, so I'm also having a major clean out and declutter at the same time. It's so tiring and draining moving and unpacking though - I've done hardly any sewing and definitely no blogging in that time which is so unlike me.

Unpacking some clothes that had been in storage to hang in my new walk in wardrobe (I love this the most I think) I came across this dress I made in eggplant purple ponti knit from New Look 6000 that I made way back in 2011 and realised I still love this style enough to not only keep it in my wardrobe but to also make another one. So here I present version 2 of New Look 6000:

black and white plaid dress

image via
This version is made from a black and white plaid ponte knit that I bought online from It is a lot thinner and more plastic feeling than I expected from a fabric described as a ponte, but I guess that's the chance you take when buying online. I had to line this with a thin black knit fabric to make sure it wasn't transparent and give it enough body to stop it clinging.

I put quite a bit of effort in lining up those horizontal stripes across the side seams and the back zipper when cutting it out, and used a million pins and the walking foot on my sewing machine to sew them up. And they all lined up on the first attempt which was a huge relief because unpicking black thread on a black knit fabric would not be fun. 

Unfortunately I placed the widest black stripe across the widest part of my butt, and with the swayback adjustment and darts on the front view the vertical stripes are all over the place but overall I'm pretty happy with how it has turned out.

black and white plaid dress

black and white plaid dress

back of black and white dress

I sewed this dress last weekend at a three day sewing retreat I went on with my friends from the Australian Sewing Guild. I managed to finish six garments there which was great because I haven't set up my sewing room yet and have done hardly any sewing in the last month. But because I didn't have all my sewing equipment with me on the retreat I didn't have any interfacing to use in the collar and as a result the collar is a bit floppy and folds over on its self. I may fix this one day. Or I may not (I probably won't!).

I also left off the cuff on the sleeves and just extended the pattern slightly to make it a three quarter sleeve. I love the look of that cuff, but it's nearly impossible to get a jacket or cardigan over it and it's way too cold in my office not to wear another layer over the top.

And how cute is this sewing tape brooch? Another gem that I found recently when unpacking boxes - it was a gift from a friend many many years ago.

Overall I love this dress, and hopefully it won't be another 7 years before I make another version!

And now I'm off to unpack some more boxes. I'm looking forward to the day when all the cardboard boxes are out of the house, the landscaping outside is done and curtains have magically sewn themselves and appeared on my windows!

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Swaying palms: Vogue 9021 dress and a bonus Style Arc Skye top

Here we are mid April and Sydney is still having very hot days in the mid 30s. The upside of this very prolonged summer is that I got another wear out of this dress very tropical palm print dress that I made over a month ago. It has been extremely windy the past few days though, hence the inside shots for this blog post.

palm print dress

This is Vogue 9021, a very easy Vogue pattern that is still for sale even though it was released a few years ago now. And true to its label it is indeed a very easy dress to sew since it has very simple lines and there's not much to it really except for those sleeves! I bought this on sale at one of Spotlight's fantastic $5 Vogue pattern sales late last year.
If you google this pattern you'll see that many ladies have made a version of this but I was particularly inspired to make this pattern by this very elegant navy version over at He Cooks She Sews! and this very pretty floral version by Gabrielle at Up Sew Late. I had been searching for some navy blue crepe to make this dress, but I ended up using a very colourful palm print cotton sateen I purchased from Gardams Fabrics in Brisbane at the beginning of this year so in a way I was very influenced by both versions.

As I said, those sleeves are the stand out feature of this pattern and the extreme batwing / fluttery shape really caught my eye.

batwing palm print dress

I usually treat patterns that only have illustrations on the envelope and not photos of the actual garment with extreme suspicion and this one proves my cynicism correct - those sleeves may look lovely but as loads of people have pointed out they pretty much give a direct view to your entire torso if you lift your arms even slighlty:

This is pretty obvious though when you look at the technical drawing of the pattern - those sleeves are open to just a few centimetres above the waistline:

I tried to think of a clever solution, such as making a gusset from the dress fabric that would be sewn from the front darts around the side to the back darts, or perhaps a camisole style top to be an under layer and also attached to the waistline. But it's been too hot to think in these parts and certainly too hot to wear more layers of fabric than necessary so I just did what everyone else had done and sewed up the side seam a little higher until it was decent.

Sewing the side seams up higher does change the look and the way the sleeves fall though. In the photo below, you can see how the sleeve on my left side where I've pinned the side seam up to my bra strap looks more like a traditional sleeve than my right shoulder where it seems the fabric is just draped around my shoulders.

But it was a change I had to live with if I didn't want every one to see not just my bra but my blindingly white midriff as well, and really the change is probably subtle anyway.

batwing dress

Once the sleeves were resolved, the rest of the pattern is very simple and easy to sew. The back skirt has a split along the centre back seam which isn't my favoured treatment because it has the tendency to tear open but when I was cutting out the pattern I forgot to add extra width there to make a vent so I was stuck with it. The dress is not too tight though, so it should be ok.

palm print batwing dress

palm print batwing dress

Even though this dress used a lot of fabric because of those extremely wide sleeves, I had some leftover fabric that I managed to eke out a Style Arc Skye top. This is my go to pattern for a simple top because it doesn't use much fabric and is very quick to sew. I think this might be my fourth or fifth version.

palm print top

palm print top

Whilst it's still very striking in this fabric, it's a bit more versatile than the dress because it looks great when worn with pants or jeans.

palm print top

I'm pretty happy that I finally found the right fabric to make this dress, and that I made the most of the beautiful fabric. Gotta love it when things just work out just the way you want them to!

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

New Look 6013: dress for our never ending summer

So here we are at Easter at the beginning of April and it's still sweltering hot here in Sydney. For all of you in the northern hemisphere where it's still snowing I'm sure we share the same sentiments - enough of this extended weather patterns, it's time for a change in season!

But it has given me an opportunity to finish and wear another summer dress that I cut out at the beginning of the year but hadn't yet finished. I tend to cut out a lot of projects in batches to make the most of my sewing time, but the danger in that approach is that sometimes I don't get around to finishing them and they become UFOs.

Not this time though! This is New Look 6013, one of those wardrobe patterns with a few different garments in one. I bought this pattern from one of those marvellous Spotlight bargain sales mainly for the jacket because I love a shawl collar.

I hadn't really planned on making the dress because I have two other similar patterns (Burda 3/2009 #107 and Vogue 8319) which I made the Vogue dress way back in 2010 in this post. I loved that dress and only stopped wearing it because after many washes the fabric was very faded. I can't believe I made that dress eight years ago now - time does fly by!

I bought some cotton linen in a blue polka dot print from Spotlight during their January sale earlier this year and figured it was perfect for this pattern so I made it up anyway. It has turned out great, but it took quite a bit of fiddling around with the fit to get it right though. The neckline sat way lower than it looks in the photo pattern, the top of those vertical darts on the front sat closer to my waistline than my bust and the underarm seam was so low that my bra strap was visible. Not a good look.....

So I did a quick and a bit dodgy fix which worked out fine. While I was wearing the dress I lifted it up by the shoulder seams until the dress felt like it was in the right position but not too tight under the arms and basically pinned out a new shoulder seam. I sewed a new seam line almost 4cm lower than the original shoulder seam, so you can see how much excess space there is in that area.

I checked the pattern pieces to make sure I didn't cut out a larger size (it's a multi sized pattern) but I cut the right bits out so I can't explain it. Lifting it up at the shoulder seam also brought the hem up to the right spot for me so this fix sorted out a few problems. It still sits a bit low at the front and back neckline but it's not inappropriate so I can live with it.

Apart from that fitting issue it's a pretty straight forward pattern. The princess seams make it easy to get a nice fit through my sway back, and it has a vent to make it easy to walk in.

I've fully lined this in a thin cotton lawn in white because the polka dot fabric is a bit see through but it doesn't add any bulk to the dress. I haven't made this overly fitted like I usually do - I figured a good bit of ease is necessary for a summer dress and I knew this fabric would probably bag out a little anyway.

Whilst I like how this dress turned out in the end I'm not sure I'll make this pattern again, mainly because I prefer how the Vogue pattern that I made previously fits much better than this one. But with the high temps we're having at the moment it's just what I needed.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Vintage Butterick 4379 - polka dot summer dress

I originally made this swinging sixties dress back in December last year. I wish I could say that it's been work frequently over the summer just past, but in reality the fit wasn't quite right and after just two wears it has been sitting in my "to-fix" pile for the last few months. I love the fabric and the dress so I got over my laziness and made myself fix it.

This is a 1966 pattern that has been in my stash a long time and I've wanted to make it for such a long time. The main feature of this pattern is the tie neckline, but it gave me all sorts of problems trying to get it comfortable. The neckline in the pattern is quite wide, as it has a fold over component:

The neckline is cut on the bias and I didn't quite have enough fabric to cut it out in piece, hence the unsightly seem down the centre front. The first time I sewed this I found it sat too high, just under my chin, so I ended up trimming 3cm off the top of the front of the dress so that it sat lower at front. And then it still felt too tight, so I redid the zipper so that it finished well below the neckband hoping that would fix it. It felt slightly better, but after wearing it twice it did feel too constrictive and it looked like I had no neck. The photos below are the original neckline:

So to fix this, I unpicked the neckline once again and cut off that extension tab. So now the band is narrower and it can be worn standing up, but I prefer to fold it over to retain the essence of the original look and to make it sit lower.

I also spread out the point where the back and front dresses are sewn into the neckline band - there's now a gap instead of them meeting at the neckband. Doing this doesn't seem to affect the fit or show off too much underarm flesh so I'm calling it a final fix. I am wearing a strapless bra here so the straps don't show - this dress may be from the sixties but I'm not about to go with the free love bra less look!

I didn't have enough fabric to pattern match which is why those dots are so very badly place at the centre back. I also used an invisible zipper instead of a lapped zipper because it's quicker and easier to install an invisible zip even if it's not authentic to the era.

The rest of the dress is pretty simple - it's an a-line shape with some gentle shaping darts front and back to give it a bit of shape.

The fabric helps too with the dress not looking too sack like - this is a nicely draping lightweight denim by Art Gallery fabrics that I bought from Selvage Fabrics last year. The polka dots is a nod to one of the dresses on the pattern envelope and I think it suits this style and era of the pattern perfectly.

Fingers crossed we have a  few more weeks of warmish weather so I can wear this again. The few times I wore it previously I got a lot of compliments on it, including from my friend's husband who is real blokey bloke so that was quite amazing!

polka dot dress in blue denim

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Style Arc Olivia: the jungle dress

The oppressive summer heat and humidity is continuing in these parts, so last week I made a quick and simple summer dress. This is the Style Arc Olivia, which I bought during the 50% Valentine's Day sale but have now only got around to using it.

image via Style Arc

The fabric I've used is a Cotton and Steel cotton called "Paradise Garden" that I won from Brave Fabrics in the Australian Sewing Guild Castaway to Couture competition I entered last year with this refashioned dress. This fabric has lovely colours that didn't fade at all after washing which is always a good start, but it might be a bit too thick for this style - versions made by other people in rayon and polyester seem to drape much better than my version.

I've only made separates by Style Arc before, so I wasn't sure how I would go in their dress sizes. I ended up cutting a size 6 for the bodice and a size 12 for the skirt which most closely matched my measurements. However, like some other bloggers who made this dress, I found the neckline to be too wide and too scooped. I have narrow rounded shoulders, and a flat chest so I should have fixed this before cutting out the pattern, but I did not.

It's not really obvious from this photo, but the neckline tended to fall off my shoulders and just had too much fabric across the front. So to do a quick and easy fix I literally lifted up that shoulders until the neckline was at a good point and the armhole wasn't too tight and then just sewed a new shoulder seam about 3.5cm down from the original, as you can see in the photo below.

This fixed the neckline a bit - it sits in a much better place on me but is still a little low for my liking. I don't need my bony and freckly decolletage out on display so I do prefer a little higher neckline.

The width of the bodice is still an issue though - I can easily pinch out a few centimetres at the centre front and if I make this again I will redraft the bodice to make it less wide at the bustline and with a higher neckline.

I also found this dress really long. My hem is about 10cm deep, even with reducing the overall length by increasing the shoulder seam. The waistline now sits at my natural waist because of the shoulder adjustment, which is fine for this style, although it would help if I wore my belt straight around the waist instead of crooked like I have in these photos!

So overall it's a simple sweet dress that I will make again, but with adjustments to the bodice and neckline. If you have a long torso and are blessed with an ample chest this may probably work for you straight out of the packet. Apart from that issue it's a really quick project and easy for the beginner even with the usual sparse Style Arc instructions.