Keeping it simple

Wednesday 27 October 2021

I have had this piece of multi-coloured plaid cotton sateen out on my cutting table for several days trying to decide what to make from it. It was an on-line purchase, so I didn't really see that it had an unbalanced plaid until I received the fabric and spread it out - had I realised this I would have bought more fabric because it would have made things far easier! I tried so many combinations of different dresses, shirts and skirts to get that dominant blue line equally balanced on both sides, and then I tried a simple shape but on the bias which also didn't work due to lack of fabric.

So in the end I decided to keep the pattern simple, and just make another dress with a plain bodice with a gathered skirt - less need for pattern matching that way. This is Burda 07/2015 #115, which I made just a few weeks ago from another cotton sateen. It's a simple pattern and easy to wear, so is a winner in my books.

I was really disappointed in the quality of this fabric. This cotton sateen from Nerida Hansen is quite thin and more like cotton lawn or poplin to me, which actually is quite perfect for this style of dress. I've since discovered that  the term 'sateen' refers to the weave and shine, and not the fabric weight, it's just that cotton sateen I've purchased from other stores are quite thick and stretchy that can be used for tailored pants and jackets etc which this fabric definitely could not. 

However what I most disappointed about was that this fabric was printed quite off grain which made it even more difficult to pattern match. At first I thought it might just be that the tight weave at the selvage might be causing the stripes to skew, because it was mainly at the edges that the stripes didn't line up. So I clipped the seams and tried to stream and stretch it straight which didn't really help.

In the end I cut the fabrics out single layer and ignored the grain lines, instead preferring to have the stripes lined up. A massive sewing crime I know, but the skirt and bodice seems to sit well enough and getting those stripes horizontal was more important to me.

Luckily this pattern doesn't have a centre back seam, so no pattern matching was required there, and for the skirt I used the full 150cm width so there's only one side seam which again reduces the need for pattern matching.

I probably should have cut out the fabric a bit more carefully so that the dark blue stripe is at my waistline and the dark green vertical stripe at the centre front continued through the skirt but now I'm probably overthinking it all. If this was a RTW dress I probably wouldn't be this picky at all! 

Anyway, after all that whinging I actually like this dress. It's light and simple to wear since it literally just slips on over my head with no zippers, buttons etc and the gathered skirt means it's not too tight or restrictive which is important after all these months of wearing stretchy sweat pants! And while the fabric quality is annoying, especially since this isn't the cheapest of fabrics, it is going to help me reduce my fabric purchases in future because I don't think I'll purchase any more fabric from this seller. So there is a silver lining in almost everything!

Dressing like my home decor

Monday 18 October 2021

Earlier this year I bought some vibrant home dec fabric by Kirsten Katz from Spotlight with the intention of making some new cushion covers for my lounge. But the longer the fabric sat on my cutting table the more I wanted to make something wearable from it instead. Which is what I did!

The fabric is a thick, non-stretch cotton so I couldn't make anything that needed any drape or stretch. My favourite pleated a-line skirt is the perfect shape for this fabric.

woman posing in a bright floral skirt

The pattern is from a 2014 Burda Easy magazine that I picked up at a Sydney Spoolettes fabric swap day and I've now made several times. It is really easy to make, it has pockets, it is pleated to give space for movement but isn't too full so there's no danger of flashing anyone on a windy day - all in all, a great pattern.

The back view is cut on the fold which means there's no pesky pattern matching required which was handy for a bold print like this.

The front has a long row of buttons which frankly is the most time consuming part of making this skirt! All those buttons and buttonholes are a bit fiddly and get a bit lost in a busy print like this, but in a plain fabric it would be a nice look.

And the best part is I did have some fabric left over to make some cushion covers, because I made the backs of the cushions from plain black cotton. These are just simple square and rectangle shapes, and I used zippers from the stash so another equally quick and simple project.

There's nothing better than matching your home decor is there? ­čśé


McCalls 8030: Liberty shirt dress

Sunday 3 October 2021

A shirt dress is fast becoming my favourite style of dress in these weird 'stay at home business casual' kind of times. I made Simplicity 8014 four times last year (see the round up here) but this time I thought I'd try a new pattern just to mix things up. And why not use beautiful and expensive Liberty on an untested fabric right!? Sometimes my cavalier attitude appals me, but hey it's only fabric.....

This dress is McCalls 8030, one of the new trendy instagram age patterns that has its own name - 'Josie'.  It's a loosefitting dress, hence it comes in the s-m-l-xl range instead of actual sizes.

I've seen some really great dresses made from this pattern, with some clever sewers doing interesting things with stripes and colour blocking. But I had some Liberty cotton bought earlier this year (not during their recent 40% off sale unfortunately) that I was keen to use for a casual summer dress, so I elected just to line up the pattern instead which frankly made the yoke pointless. Afterwards I realised I should have put some navy piping along that seam line to make it stand out, but as a consolation I did match up the pattern fairly well.

Liberty cotton can be very crisp when it's new, but over time it will soften up and that will probably help this dress wear a little better than it does now. Right now though I'm not loving it. Without the belt  it's really shapeless and unflattering, but when worn with the belt it needs constant tugging down every time I lift my arms.

Not having separate sleeves to set in makes this a really quick sew, but those cut on sleeves are the culprit for the poor fit: they are open to quite low on the body (just above my waist). And in this crisp cotton fabric they really stand out from my arms.

So if you're contemplating this pattern I'd recommend a drapey fabric or a stripey fabric to make the most of the pattern lines. It is a really quick and simple project to make, so perfect for beginners or those short of time. I'll still wear this lots over the upcoming Australian summer since I'll be spending the rest of the year working from home and the roominess of this makes it almost like wearing a nightdress but business appropriate! But I think I'll go back to my beloved Simplicity 8014 for any future shirt dresses.


In a jiffy: Simplicity 8682 dress

Saturday 18 September 2021

I'm very sceptical when it comes to pattern envelopes that just have an illustration and not an actual photograph of a model. Vintage patterns are notorious for the illustration looking completely different to how the project turns out because no-one these days has those teeny tiny waists and pointy busts.


a white lady posing in a pink and white polka dot dress next to plants in white pots

This dress however lives up to its promise - it did only take a jiffy to make and it turned out pretty much exactly like the pattern cover. This is Simplicity 8682 from 1970:

A photograph of a vintage sewing pattern on pink polka dot fabric

I've made this before back in 2018 which I still wear so I knew this would fit with just minimal fitting adjustments - I only had to add a few centimetres to the side seams below the waist dart. I did lower scoop the neckline at the front by a few more centimetres because the jewel neckline on this dress is really high. Even with dropping the seam line by another 2.5cm is still looks very high like the design but no longer feels like it is choking me.

a photograph of the inside neckline of a dress

Those long French darts on the front view give a really nice shape to the dress without making it too fitted or tight. 

a photograph of a white woman posing in a pink polka dress beside some plants in white pots

The back view just has vertical darts which normally isn't enough to stop the fabric pooling in my lower back. I usually prefer a dress with a waist seam for better fitting results, but this dress actually fits me quite well in the back. There are darts in the shoulder seam which give it that rounded shape. I really need to improve my posture looking at this photo - no wonder the neckline at the front of the dress felt like it was choking me!

a woman posing in a pink polka dot dress with her back towards the camera

The fabric I've used is a cotton duck from Spotlight in pink and white polka dots - I bought this back in 2019 so I was quite glad to finally get around to sewing with it. The fabric was quite stiff at first, but softened up a lot after a wash and a line dry, but isn't clingy or drapey so the dress retains its a-line shape.

a woman posing in a pink polka dot dress

So there you have it - a dress that lives up to its simple promise of being made in a jiffy. It's a good dress to recommend to a beginner sewer or someone just getting into sewing vintage patterns - there are quite a few copies available for sale on Etsy and by other vintage pattern sellers.

Suns out, dresses are on: Burda 07/2015 #115

Saturday 11 September 2021

It's only the beginning of spring here in Sydney, yet we hit 30 degrees (84F) here today - that doesn't bode well for when summer actually rolls around. Despite my love for sewing summer dresses I do not like the heat at all, but clearly I'm living in the wrong country!

After the last failure of a dress I decided to make a super simple dress that I've made before and I knew would fit with minimal effort. The real star in this project is the fabric - a bold graphic print cotton sateen from Nerida Hansen Fabrics. I'm not too impressed with the fabric though - it's rather thin and more like a cotton poplin or lawn than a sateen and it lost the sheen after the very first wash and the navy blue parts of the fabric look a bit worn out already. It works fine for this casual dress, but previous fabric I've bought from Nerida Hansen have been better quality than this, so it's a bit disappointing and I hope it's just this batch.

A picture of a lady posing next to a pool in a dress with a bold graphic print

The pattern is Burda 07/2015 #115, which I made back in 2015 when I was doing my Burda of the month challenge. I still wear that dress, so I knew this one would work out fine.

a sewing pattern cover of a dress

There's not much to say about this dress - it has a boat neckline with a facing, cap sleeves, a gathered skirt with elastic waist and a simple bodice with a bust dart. I picked this pattern not only because it is simple, but because I didn't want too many seam lines to avoid breaking up that large scale print. I deliberately placed the waistline at the dark stripe to avoid the stitching being too obvious.

a white lady posing beside a pool in a graphic blue and orange print dress

The back is similar to the front, just without the bust dart.
a photo showing the back of a woman standing next to a pool in a blue and orange print dress

And it has the all important pockets in the side seams. I'm not a fan of pockets in fitted dress because it adds bulk and they usually gape open, but in gathered skirts like this they are just right.

a white lady posing next to a pool in a blue and orange print dress

So all in all a great project - perfect match of fabric and pattern. I can see this dress getting a lot of wear this coming summer.

For the love of velvet

Thursday 9 September 2021

Earlier in this never ending lockdown I needed to buy some buttons, and I discovered that Spotlight has a flat rate shipping fee of $13 no matter how much you spend. So instead of spending more on shipping than the actual buttons, I decided to fill up my order with some patterns and fabrics which handily were on sale. I ended up spending way more than the cost of the buttons and shipping, but that's sewing logic for you! 

Plus I bought two beautifully soft velvet fabrics - one a teal crinkle velvet and the other an olive green quilted velvet. I've only sewn with velvet once before many years ago so I wasn't sure what to expect, but these were easy to sew and all three projects turned out great.

The crinkle velvet I turned into a super simple three quarter circle skirt cut to a midi length. I did use an old 1980s pattern for this skirt, but there are loads on online circle skirt calculators if you can be bothered doing the maths and marking. 

For the waistband I used a lovely patterned elastic picked up from Pitt Trading - the two go together fabulously and it's a really quick way to do a waistband! I just used my coverstitch machine to topstitch the elastic to the skirt so that it would stretch without popping a seam.

I used the rolled hem function on my overlocker to finish the hem - doing it this way again was far quicker than doing a traditional turned up hem but it also gave a wavy lettuce edge effect which suits the look really well.

From the olive green quilted velvet I managed to make two projects - a bomber jacket and a vest, so that makes it a total bargain. I don't plan on wearing them together, but I have been wearing them individually alot lately - it really elevates my dog walking outfits!!

The jacket pattern is from a 2014 Burda Easy magazine which I've made twice before, and apart from the welt pockets (which are tricky) it is indeed a quick and easy sew. I used some black ponte that was in my stash for the cuffs and collar, and fully lined it with some black silk that was from deep in my stash. I also happened to have a black separating zipper in the stash so all the elements came together for a quick and satisfying sew.

For the vest I used Simplicity 1499 which is a great pattern with a couple of variations. It's only been in recent years that I started wearing vests at all, but I see a few more of these in my future.

 I made a few adjustments by fully lining the vest instead of using binding around the edges because frankly I find sewing on binding neatly and evenly a really fiddly and annoying task. I also used some bronze snaps because I didn't have another separating zip in the stash, and the colour of the bronze looks great against the green.

I had to use some of that black ponte from my stash for the side back panels because I didn't quite have enough velvet fabric, but I think that just adds a bit of a sporty look to it.

And the best part is that it has quite big pockets inset in the princess seam which I used the velvet for both the pocket bag and lining which makes it bulge out as you can see in the photo below, but it sure is nice sliding your hands into a velvet cocoon on a cold day. 

To be honest, I haven't worn the velvet skirt yet - not because I don't like it but because I've had nowhere special enough to wear it. Now the weather is warming up it will need to wait until next year. But the jacket and vest have been worn lots in the last few weeks so it was a good buy even though technically I'm trying to sew down my stash and not buy new fabric....

A sewing miss: Vogue 8685

Sunday 5 September 2021

You can't win 'em all. A wadder every now and then is inevitable, especially if you don't make a fitting toile! This dress definitely falls within the category of a not so great outcome, but hey it's only fabric and a bit of time that's been lost and right now I have lots of both.

a white woman posing in a maroon dress

Actually this dress took quite a lot of time to finish and it's only because of refusal to make any new UFOs that I finished this at all. And looking at these photos of the finished dress I'm probably going to refashion into a skirt when I get over the frustration of this pattern.

So this pattern is Vogue 8685 which is now OOP but has 34 positive reviews over on Pattern Review. Being a pear shaped, my waist is relatively narrow compared to my hips so I liked the focus of this pattern on the midriff.

a picture of a sewing pattern cover

However, the midriff band and the curved yoke was just too much for my figure - it was too tight around the hip and too loose on the top which just looked terrible. Here is the first iteration of the dress made according to the pattern:

a photo of a badly fitting dress

a photo of a badly fitting dress

a photo of a badly fitting dress

So out came the unpicker and I adjusted the pattern pieces by letting out and taking in the seam where needed to make it fit. But then the curved yoke just looked droopy and the seam line finished at my widest part which just emphasised my saddlebag thighs. No photos of this stage because I was really annoyed with it.

In a last ditch effort to prevent this becoming a UFO, I decided to take off the curved yoke and just have the midriff waistband piece. I had to fuss around a bit with the skirt to make it fit by adding some pleats to the front and cutting out some excess from the back and then re-sew the invisible zip matching the seam lines again. So now it's finished.....but it's not great.

a photo of a white woman posing in a maroon dress

a photo of a white woman posing in a maroon dress

The proportions are all off because that waistband sits too high, there is too much fabric under my bust which makes it look floofy and those pleats I added to the skirt just emphasise a round tummy. And those sleeves! Those sleeves are way too big and way too long but I could face more re-sewing on this project, so instead I added elastic to the cuff to make it look a bit like a bell sleeve. But actually they just look too big.

a photo of a woman posing in a maroon dress

This fabric is a really lovely deep plum crepe that I picked up for a bargain from the Sewing Basket, a charity run fabric and craft store selling donated items. I am deeply sad that I used this lovely fabric on this catastrophe, but hopefully I can still give it a life as a skirt eventually.

Given the glowing reviews on Pattern Review, I think this wadder is all about me and not the pattern so if you have this pattern and were thinking of using don't be put off by my awful outcome. But I do recommend making a muslin and possibly using a stretch fabric. And if it doesn't work out, well it's all experience for life's rich tapestry isn't it?