A few years back, the Diane Von Furstenberg-style wrap dress was all the rage.  I desperately coveted one but resisted the high street offerings after hearing horror stories of how merciless this  style is on less-than-flat stomachs.  Which is why this New Look 6429 Faux-Wrap Dress Pattern for Stretch Knits seemed a lucky find.  Two of my all-time favourite garments (a dress and a swimming costume) had similar ruching and, contrary to what you might expect, the extra fabric was flattering, covering up the belly at the same time as the gathers drew the eye to the curve of the waist.  Also the folds felt nice.  

The first time I made View B, a big test was stitching together the three sections in the lower back.  Pulling off this important focal point requires total precision in the marking and the stitching, which wasn’t obvious to my beginner’s mind.  The end result wasn’t all that geometric. 

There’s a lot of flare to this skirt and the instructions call for it to be machine-hemmed.  I didn’t find this “easy”: there was an excess of fabric which couldn’t be pinned away.  Only by doing some reading did I come upon the solution: ease-stitching the extra bulk.  Also, I sewed the hem by hand which I believe looks better.

So, imagine my disappointment when after hours of labour I tried the dress on and thought it looked pants!  Clingy on the belly, gaping at the bust.  And the soft, thick jersey made me feel huge

The dress was quickly slammed onto the Charity Shop Pile.  

The reason why it’s still here is that my husband got wind of my intention and with untypical concern urged me not to trash it, nay, declared it to be the nicest dress I’d ever made…   What could the explanation be?  Well, the clue is in the photo on the envelope.  Notice how the model is sticking out her chest and bottom, and her coltish legginess…?  Yes, the spirit of this design is a brazen “come-hitherness”: it’s feminine, revealing and, ahem, appeals to a certain audience. 

Fast forward a few years: when I found this lightweight jersey (at Geoff Rosenberg’s Fabric Show) with explosions of lovely colours that remind me of fireworks, I thought it time for a NL 6429 remake.  I adapted the pattern by narrowing the sleeves and reducing the flare from the hipline by a total of 10cm around the hem to make it less flouncy (this made it quicker to hem too!).  I’m quite happy with the more up-t0-date silhouette.  But the size 12 feels too big on my size 12 frame, especially around the neck and the bust which is too gaping.  In the photo, I’m wearing it with a “modesty“!

Polar Bear

Three weeks it took to gather the courage to cut into the luxurious expanse of this polar-bear faux fur, one of the most expensive fabrics I’ve ever bought.   The fact that I’d never made a coat before added to the apprehension, but the instructions to this the Burda 9596 pattern were clear and soon as the first few seams of the bodice were stitched, I began to suspect I was onto a design of some style. 

I love the generosity of the  coat’s collar – so nice to nestle the cheek against – and how the skirt flares grandly from the fitted bodice.  The fabric isn’t too posh to wash in the machine and it’s certainly a super-warm coat so whilst both its owner and I like it very much, I have to confess that in the making of it I made two big mistakes  that render the execution of the project far more amateur than pro:

  • Firstly, I pressed the fur without testing.  Yes, what a brute…  It didn’t so much matter when pressing the seams open (I gave that up pretty quickly) as the fur just kind of shrivelled and hardened to a seal.  The greater damage was done when I tried applying fusible interfacing to the skirt openings.  Even hovering the iron gently over the wrong side of the fabric was enough to alter the sheen on the right side.  And these were the largest pieces of the pattern so there wasn’t enough fabric to cut out replacements. 

Luckily, some vigourous brushing with a pet brush re-fluffed things a little bit but to my knowing eye the coat just doesn’t look as perfect as it should.

  • The other mistake was to line the coat with the cheapest acetate.  A slightly more expensive satin would have been less likely to snaggle in the inevitable wear’n’tear.

Tips on sewing faux fur

  • Use a zig zag stitch and, on the right side, comb the fur out of the seams to restore the fluffiness in the joins.  I scratched away with the blunt end of a flat-headed pin but you could also use a wiry pet-hairbrush or poke in a chopstick.
  • For this kind of very plush fur, you might find that once the two pieces of fabric are flattened under the presser foot, the fluff pokes out from the edges of fabric and completely obscures the seam guidelines.  Two ways of getting round this are to ‘trim’  before stitching and you could also mark the seam lines first.

  • Oh, yeah, and have a lint roller…

By the way, the view is B with the added length of A.  I made the coat a size bigger (8) than I needed to because I was in a mummy mode and thinking of all the sweatshirts/jumpers that the coat would have to accomodate, which it does.  



What to sew for an almost-teenage boy? 

My son assures me he wouldn’t get out of his school alive if word got out that his mum makes his clothes!  He’s been appreciative of the gym bags, pencil cases and cushions I’ve made him over the years so I wonder if this sweet, slightly rough-hewn bag for school-break snacks will pass muster and not attract derision from his company of label-savvy mates.   

The internet is full of tutorials on making drawstring bags but I’m including my own step-by-step guide because it explains how to finish the edge openings (the holes for the cord).  This is easily done and will give the bag a durability to put up with daily use and a weekly wash.  With more fabric, you could use these instructions to make a gym bag; with less, a camera case.      

For the Nosebag measuring 21cm x 21cm, I used:

  • Two medium-weight calico pieces measuring 24cm x 27.5cm.  This includes a seam allowance of 1.5cm for the sides and the bottom of the bag, plus a 5cm allowance for the casing to be formed at the top of the bag. 

If the cord you’re using for the drawstring is thicker than the 5mm cord used here, you will need to make the casing allowance longer.

  • An old sleeping-bag cord in a macho army-green!
  • A completed cross-stitch kit from  This was backed with fusible interfacing and sewn onto one of the calico pieces.

To make the bag:

  • With the right sides together, sew the sides and the bottom of the bag up to the 5cm casing allowance.  Finish seam (I used a zigzag stitch).
  • On both sides, sew 3cm of a straight stitch from the top of the casing allowance.

This should leave a gap of 2cm between stitching.

  • Press the finished side seams to one side and the unfinished seams open.   
  • On the right side, topstitch from the top of casing allowance close to the seams and around the hole.  Trim seam allowances.  From the  right side, the opening should now look something like this:

  • From the right side, fold in 1cm of casing allowance into the inside of bag.  Press. 

  • Fold in another 2.5cm, pin and press.  Stitch casing close to the bottom of the folded edge.  
  • Insert the drawstring into the bag, allowing the width of the bag x 2 plus 10-12cm for the length of the cord.  Tie ends.  Repeat from other side.

 The bag is now ready so fill with nosh!