Pass the Pattern

1 issy pattern envelope

1 issy badMaking StyleArc Issy a couple of months ago turned out to be my biggest flop in a while.  This top swamped me.  But the fault was mine, not the pattern’s.  I’d made the cardinal mistake of not checking the sizing and picked the most lugubrious fabric!  Feeling Issy deserved more, I offered the pattern to whoever felt up to the challenge of making a better job of it.

Lesley in Australia said yes!

I can’t wait to see what she’s made of it!  She’s hinted that it’s good.  The big reveal, on Lesley’s blog Sew Nip Tuck, is imminent!

pASS THE ISSYLesley suggested we keep Issy in circulation – an admirable idea – and she’s going to pick the next recipient from those who leave a comment on her post, so do go down under and sign up!  Issy is not a particularly difficult make and the instructions (for StyleArc anyway) are sufficient.  Also, this company’s pattern paper is the proper white stuff, not tissue, so it’s likely to survive going round the blogosphere a few times.

 Lesley and Kate, at Kate's

October 2015: Lesley and Kate, at Kate’s

Another feature of Pass the Pattern challenge is that whoever wins Issy will post a reciprocal ‘mystery’ pattern to the person who sent it: something from your stash you guess might suit them.  This was also Lesley’s suggestion so when she told me something was on the way, I had a sense of anticipation.  After all, her blog and comments on my posts always reveal good judgement.  Besides,  the two of us have met in real life.  It’s like she knows me!!

When the parcel arrived, the stamps on it were so pretty the Blogstalker sat down on it with determined, possessive fury….

1 Blogstalker and the furry Antipodean cousin

Eventually I tore out this:

Vogue 1285

1 vogue 1285 pattern envelope

1 v1285 cover pattern envelope

1 Lea Wrap Dress by Stylearc PatternsImmediate thought: this looks like my Style Arc Lea (a favourite of 2015).  The ghost of my concerned grandmother began to whisper: “But Marijana, do you really need another dress?!”   Vogue 1285 by Tracy Reese, has a kind of Studio-54-Bianca-Jagger vibe and may be familiar to you as the pattern with the “inverted darts”.  They’re kind of controversial, flapping about and in the shape of fish lips.  In fact, most sewists who’ve reviewed this pattern have tended not to make them.1 fishie

1 Hobbs NW3 Denim DressAnd yet, look at this Hobbs dress in the shops a few years ago, where similar waist darts had been topstitched down on the outside.  It looks great with the rough-hewn denim look: it’s certainly an idea worth copying.  Also, a notched collar similar to the one on the V1285 recently caught my eye on this beautiful velvet coat (alas, it’s  £199!).  I cut this out from some catalogue meaning to copy that too!

1 inspiration with notched collar

So do I need another dress?  Well yeah, like, OBVIOUSLY!

Thank you Lesley!  🙂

And good luck to those playing Pass the Pattern.

Men’s Shirt Refashion

1 refashion


Sleeve and bodice toiles
Sleeve and Bodice Toiles

I’d been experimenting with drafting a particular kind of sleeve and also working on a close-fitting bodice when Lesley alerted me to the Refashioners 2015, the Men’s Shirt Challenge.  This is a mass participation event with so many prizes that I haven’t yet been able to read the list to the end – I  keep getting terrifying premonitions of the winner being me then having to incorporate this treasure-like haul into my over-cluttered home   🙂

1 Marianna and the Giant ShirtI’ve long been a fan of  making stuff out of men’s shirts.  I cut up my husband’s work shirts whenever I get mad at him the cuffs get frayed and make something for my daughter: it’s by using such scraps that I first taught myself to sew!  But this challenge seemed a good opportunity to make my bodice and sleeves out of something attractively stripy so I turned to the local charity shops to buy a shirt in as large a size as I could get.  Would you believe that charity shops charge £5 or more for second-hand men’s shirts?  😯  Luckily this M&S behemoth (size 17in/43cm, easy fit) was just £3 as the cuffs and the collar were in a bit of a state (I really don’t see how they hope to sell such shirts, unless it’s for refashioning or fancy dress!).  The cotton is firm and fresh-smelling, with nicely defined grey pinstripes and variation in the weave of the thick white stripes (not sure what this is called).  There were two side pleats coming from the yoke at the back so extra fabric too!1 back view

1 sleeveAnd yet …  Just as in the previous ‘challenge’, in which I cut up a man’s jacket to make a skirt, I found my plans thwarted by a lack of materials.  Have you ever been in the situation when you’re constantly glancing around your cutting area and the floor, in case there’s one more piece of fabric you’d forgotten about that will save you!?  The result is that the sleeves aren’t as attractive as I’d intended and the top isn’t as  practical since the buttons had to go round the back which makes putting this garment on somewhat time-consuming.  But I do like it.  I’ve added a grosgrain tie and belt loops to break it up a bit, though I may revert to the plainer look: this is certainly something that will get a bit of wear in the next month or two before the woollens come out.  Look, I’ve even replaced the original yellowing buttons with smoky iridescent ones, which I think look great with the grey stripes.

1 new and old buttons

1 hip1 the refashioners 2015

But my favourite part is the little slits just over the hips.  Can you tell which part of the shirt they come from?


The Reveal: Vivienne Westwood Challenge

Button1My apologies for posting the results of the Challenge weeks after I said I would!  Especially to Kate and Ruth who submitted their entries promptly. I was hoping that a few more entries might feed through by now.  If anyone is still working on their VW project, please do email me when you finish and I can update this post with your entry.

Kate embraced the challenge very bravely by making a version of a Vivienne Westwood jacket that she has from a self-drafted pattern.  The original is characterized by soft ‘waterfall’ lapels.  Kate’s own version is a gorgeous splash of blue (is it azure or cyan?!) which shows off the design better, I think, than had she used a busy check.  Kate’s design and construction details are in this post (including a picture Kate wearing the very lovely original jacket).  The finished jacket and pictures of are in this post.  Kate, you’re a mistress of skill and style!  Thanks for taking part.

1 Kate

And here’s the always-amazing Ruth.  Ruth chose to make a dress that incorporated favourite elements of different Vivienne Westwood dresses.  She too drafted her own pattern and used the challenge as an opportunity to learn from Draping: the Complete Course (this book has such good reviews – I reckon I know where my challenge is coming from!)   As if this wasn’t enough, she has made a very versatile dress that can be worn in different ways, including off- shoulder.  Clever and gorgeous, you bet!

1 Ruth

1 Ruth, back

Ruth has written several posts about her project: make sure you read the comments too and you’ll get to find out where to get some dangerously cute shoes 🙂

2 RuthThe back story and design experimentation blogged here.

Pictures of the different ways the dress can be worn: here.

Construction details and close-ups: here.

Thanks so much for taking part, Ruth.  You always embrace a challenge with such enthusiasm.

Now, for a little diversion: I found this thesis written by a designer who has worked as an intern for Vivienne Westwood – he describes his experiences in chapter 2.  It’s an enlightening read which might make you feel better if you’ve struggled with your own pattern drafting.  My conclusion is that talent or experience gets you so far but a team of experts, a living model at your disposal and the opportunity to create multiple drafts also play their part in the designers studios.

For my part in the challenge, I slightly changed a Burda Magazine Crossover Blazer pattern (06/2012/#121), aiming for an early 80s Pirate Collection look.  I struggled to find a tartan in the right colour as I cannot bear wearing red (nor orange nor yellow for some reason), whereas blue or green tartan looks great but it also looks like the local girl school kilt… so I ended up with a check, almost identical to Ruth’s, from Unique Fabrics (28 Goldhawk Road).  The inside is of  superfine pincord from Rashid.

Burda Crossover Blazer 06 2012 121 buttoned up 2

Burda Crossover Blazer 06 2012 121  4

This is my first ever jacket, buttonholes n’ all,  which I haven’t been able to wear as result of the freakishly warm weather we’ve been having for weeks 🙂  (Honestly, I’ve seen so much sun already this year that almost all the cellulite off my ass has melted away!)  So, you’re the first people to see this, if you don’t count the various kids that pass through the living room space I daren’t call “my studio”.  What do you think?  Personally I think it’s fine, but the collar is … lazy.  I shall post a dedicated pattern review soon though.Burda Crossover Blazer 06 2012 121  Sleeve buttonhole detailThanks so much for reading, for your helpful suggestions and for taking part.  As Ruth said, it was a difficult challenge, but I hope it’s pushed our skills up a notch and inspired us to try more!

Create Chunky Neckline Pleats

1 Chunky pleatsSo, The Vivienne Westwood Challenge!  I’ve had to postpone the deadline to a more manageable Saturday, 7th June (email  your submissions any time; I stay up late!).  If you’re trying to plump up the courage to make something, you may like this easy drafting project.  The approach is more butchery than couture but it seems to work.  You’ll end up with an asymmetric, sleeveless top (though you can add sleeves, as I will do).  It’s particularly cute if you turn your fabric on the bias.

You will need:

  • A bodice block, copied, darts moved to waist (as in this tutorial)
  • 1.5 – 2 metres, depending on your size (and whether or not you’d like sleeves) of lightweight check or plaid fabric.  Mine is a linen/cotton blend at £6 per metre from Rolls and Rems
  • Plenty of paper.  I often draft on packing paper that arrives stuffed into boxes of online shopping which I press with a hot, dry iron.


3 trace bodice

1. Move bodice front darts to waist and trace

4 Draw neckline

2. Lower neckline by e.g. 10cm. Narrow shoulder seam to e.g. 6cm

6 Cut on double

3. Draw a more shapely side seam to desired length. Pin onto another paper layer and cut

Bodice Front ready to start

4. Join left and right (I know this looks wonky, but it’s the tilt of the camera, I think!)

1 Bodice front slash and spread

5. Draw a grainline (Centre Front). Draw where you want the pleats to appear. Extend to the seam and slash. Note how my pleats extend to the two side seams and the hem. Label pieces.

1 Straight grain to sg

6. Draw grainline on target paper. Pin grainlines together

1 Spread on target paper

7. Pin the remaining pieces in order, making sure that they’re anchored together at seams. I have deliberately made the three gaps in the neckline different measurements. e.g. 8c.m, 10cm and 9cm

1 define

8. Trace all around then remove top layer

1 Fold pleats and pin

9. Pin pleats closed (try to be accurate and press with a dry iron if necessary!)

1 add seam allowances and cut

10. Draw a seam allowance/hem allowance and cut out. Before unpinning pattern, use it to make a pattern for the facing (5cm depth plus seam allowances)

Back Bodice 

You will need to make a pattern for the back too but this is relatively simple.  You will need to:
1. Trace the Bodice Back Block/Sloper
2. Draw an elegant neckline: Firstly, lower the back of the neck by 5cm approx.  Make the shoulder seam the same width as the front of the bodice, e.g. 6cm and join to the centre with a smooth curve.
3. Place the front pattern over the back and trace the side seam and hem so they’re the same at front and back.
4.  If you have a shoulder dart in your back block, it’ll be quite reduced by the time you’ve lowered the neckline.  You can sew gathering stitches here and ease this area instead of sewing a dart in the neckline.
5. Draw seam allowances and make a pattern for the back facing.

Cutting: Remember to place the grainline on bias for a looser, more draped effect.

Ask if you have any questions about sewing the top and good luck.

1t Check linen cotton mix

The F Word (Frumpy…)

When I think of Vivienne Westwood – the person – the first incarnation that comes to mind isn’t the veteran punk-queen designer nor the politicized eco-warrior with campaigns close to my own heart.  Instead, I think of the famed exit she made from the premiere of the film Sex and the City.  Although citations are proving hard to find, the general consensus is that she couldn’t watch more than 10 minutes and found the clothes frumpy and boring.  I can just hear her soft Derbyshire tones uttering this, with clicks of contempt.

This is the jacket I’ll be attempting to make, in plaid, for my part in the Vivienne Westwood Challenge.1t Burda Crossover Blazer 06 2012  no121

For ages now, I’ve admired its diagonal lines, the turn back cuffs and the potential in the matching of two contrasting inner and outer fabrics.  That balance of tailoring-meets-rock n’ roll is pretty rare in sewing patterns, I think.Technical drawing burda 6 2012 #121 But, having got hold of the technical drawing, I find the design simple and boxy and it’s hard to believe it’s the same jacket.    Not so much the soldier-turned-highwayman look of Adam Ant that I’d set my sights on.  More over-starched waiter in a dull restaurant.

I’m wondering what my chances are of turning this pattern into something that looks more like this:1t Tartan jacket

When I look closely at this Vivienne Westwood design, three key features that make it different from the Burda pattern stand out:

1 There are waist darts all the way to bust point.  Ok, so this jacket is designed for a woman.  I get it.

2.  There’s a waist seam that drops down diagonally towards the side seams (another dart control?).  This seam sits a good inch higher than where most of us assume our waist to be (an inch above the belly button).  As before, this flatters the female shape to the max.

3. Finally, the asymmetrical collar, notched on one side and extended on the other.  Why did it have to be this way?  It reminds me of one of those naturally asymmetrical, sexy hairstyles that have a lot of movement.  It’s a good trick that brings the design to life.

What do you think are my chances of upgrading a $6 Burda pattern into clever couture?  I’ve got enough frumpy already.  Can you help out with links to interesting plaid/tartan suppliers that can lift this out of the ordinary?

I’ll leave you with a couple of links to blog posts where some clever analysing and copying of Vivienne Westwood design has taken place.  Here’s a clear tutorial from Orchids in May on making one of those asymmetrical and gloriously voluminous draped skirts.  I wish I had a half-scale model to practise this on, with the pinstripe leftovers in the stash.

The other post is from blogger Catherine Daze: the striped jersey dress.  Although not as dramatic as the VW original, the end result, like the skirt by Orchids in May, is accomplished, unordinary and wearable.

Encouraging signs.

The GB Sewing Bee Challenge Reveal

Feeling inspired by the projects of the second series and in need of an adrenaline rush, I challenged you to join me in some Bee-style sewing to see what we could produce in a week.  So how bad did I feel at putting you through it?  A bit.

megan3Especially on seeing Megan displaying her (ahem, sleeveless!) wrap dress, made in just 3 hours with pins holding the waist seam together.  Do read Meggipeg’s hilarious post as to how her part in this experiment went: it’s haunted by the ghosts of Patrick and May’s passing stark judgement!

Luckily, a few extra hours and the project developed into this.  Megan, it looks fantastic. You both do!

Megan 1 and 2EConnolly coatOur second submission came from an interesting case…  Elizabeth took up sewing only a year ago after being inspired by the first series of the Sewing Bee.  Her first project was  pyjamas made with fabric from  Guthrie and Ghani (Lauren Guthrie was a contestant in Series 1) and she has made 80 garments since. Having got fed up with badly suited RTW, Elizabeth has been seeking an evermore perfect fit in her makes.  This coat, inspired by the vintage projects  in Episode 6, is proof of how much can be achieved if you push at it and focus.  EConnolly coat liningI’m no Patrick or May but I’m sure they’d tell Elizabeth that the fit is excellent and the plaid perfectly matched.  Bonus points too for the pink elephants lining.

Apparently, it took 2 bobbins to feed all those quilting stitches.  Elizabeth also points out this would’ve been impossible with the GBSB time restrictions.  If you want to make a similar coat but feel daunted by a lack of experience, Elizabeth recommends this book.

Can we have Elizabeth in the next series please!

1 Penny Before ShirtOne of my favourite tasks of Series 2 was deconstructing two men’s shirts to make something new (you can see it in Episode 2, starting at 25 minutes).  I tried a similar project two years ago, cutting up my husband’s work shirts to make my daughter some pyjamas (he was pretty upset the following Monday morning when looking for something to wear to work!) and found that even a small person’s garment uses more fabric than you’d think, which in turn limits creativity.

Penny Librarian chose a beautifully coloured shirt with small checks to guide the cutting and the stitching but even so found the task hard under the time constraints.  She produced this top in 4 hours.

GBSB Challenge from PennyIt looks great, Penny.  And you were certainly not a wimp to break for lunch!! Thanks for taking part and for all the useful tips you detailed in your blog post.

The next entry came from my friend Jo who I’m often hassling to sew more, on top of her busy enough life.  Jo was inspired by the prom dress task (Episode 4, 38 minutes) to challenge herself into making a dress for a black-tie do.  She did this last Friday – the day of the actual event!  To add to the pressure, she knew her time was going to be up at 3pm when her three children returned from school hyped up on end-of-term excitement.  Luckily, Jo knows her pattern very well having made Anna a few times before.  On this occasion though, she varied the thigh split to knee length as the evening do was at an army barracks!  🙂1 Jo 1

Jo, you look great and thanks so much for the photo.  Hope you had a fab time!

Finally, me.  For ages, I’ve wanted to refashion a tailored garment but rifling through men’s suits in charity shops has always been a slightly stomach-turning process for me.  “I wonder who wore this?  An undertaker?” I always imagine.

1 channelling John Major1 Inside Jacket-horzAfter the Make-Do-And-Mend task in Episode 6 (25 mins into the show) I looked around charity shops again and found a 100% wool  jacket with paisley lining and lots of interesting details inside.  It looked new too – though I later discovered a crushed Quality Street wrapper in one of the many, beautifully tailored inner pockets.

BlessingUgh, but yes, it could have been worse 😯

In the show, Chinelo’s execution of this task was a triumphantly gorgeous dress.  What I wanted though was a pencil skirt with braces: more like Lynda’s creation.  But my jacket didn’t come with trousers and it soon became apparent that all I was going to eke out of the fabric was a low-waist mini!  The length of this actually came from the sleeves with the cuff buttons ending on front hips.1 Skirt

1 Skirt backI think I spent as much time thinking this through and planning as I did sewing and tried to get as many of the original features as possible into the final cut.

My favourite part is the back of the waistband where I covered the zip with a pocket flap.

And I hope that having lining will make this more wearable.

But you ask how long it took?


1 Paisley LiningYeah, that!

TIMES (x) 4!! 

If I have one criticism of the series, it’s that it’s made sewing seem easier than it is in reality.

Now, for the draw of the book.  I wish I had 4 copies to give to all the entrants as not only is it a fab souvenir of an unforgettable series (complete with a surprise ending) but also because  I feel sure that each of you would have made very creative use of the patterns included.

But the one winner has been drawn (by her again) and it is:

1 Draw winnerELIZABETH!

Thanks all for taking part, giving me your time and for letting me use your photos.  For those with blogs, I’ve tried to include links to your work wherever possible.  I hope you found it an interesting experiment and that it made some of the excitement of the show rub off on you!

Mxxx   🙂

The Vivienne Westwood Challenge

Vivienne Westwood Challenge

Today is Vivienne Westwood’s birthday.  Happy birthday, Dame V!

Actually, I don’t think Vivienne Westwood will read this.  So with any luck, she won’t find out that I’m about to blatantly invite you fellow sewists to copy her formidable, subversive style and make the kind of garment that will invite raised eyebrows when you wear it, along with the question, “Is it Vivienne Westwood?”

So that you can reply, “Oh no, just my homage.”

It needn’t be a difficult challenge.  Imagination, a sense of fun and boldness are more important than overwrought patterns and precise stitching.  If in doubt, find the most interestingly coloured tartan you can, use it to make up your favourite T’n’T pattern and voilà!  But if you’re daunted, I’ll try to tempt you over the next five weeks with ideas, tutorials and hopefully a guest post to help you decide on the characteristic Westwood touches that would perfectly suit your project.  On 20th May, I’ll post your submitted creations in a blog fashion show where we can reveal our tweeds, plaid, clinched womanly waists, drapery or big curvy lapels.  Ooh, and some bondage trousers too, I hope!

What do you think?  Pretentious?  Well, just slightly.  But I think Dame V would approve.

What now:

  • Tell your friends, copy the button code into the widget area of your blog if you have one.  Ask for fabric or pattern suggestions.
  • Tell me.  I hate doing this alone.  Leave me a comment below if you want to play, or if you have thoughts on Vivienne Westwood or favourite creations.
  • Do some reading (and window shopping) for now and check back in a week for an update.


UPDATE:  Some home-type upheaval has caused me to postpone the deadline to 7th June which I hope will help some of you who are joining later on.


Grab My Button Code Generator

“You Have One Week” The GBSB Challenge

Sewers, you have a week to make a garment inspired by the current series of

The Great British Sewing Bee.”

may pat claWhat, do you think one week is a bit mean?  Well of course it is but how do you think those poor contestants must have felt when told to make a silk nightgown to fit a model in 5 hours?!  I was hiding behind the sofa at that point.

Sew Your Own Wardrobe by Tessa EveleghLuckily, no judges will be allowed to scrutinise and pick apart the efforts of this challenge.  In fact, all who submit a picture of their creation by the final of the GBSB next Tuesday will be entered into a draw to win a copy of the book The Great British Sewing Bee: Sew Your Own Wardrobe by Tessa Evelegh, kindly donated by Quadrille Publishing.  After the deadline, I will prepare a blog post of your entries and publish it on Wednesday 9th April alongside the name of the winner of the draw.

The Rules

1 Make a garment inspired by one of the tasks on the show.

2  Email me a photo of the garment, preferably being worn by either yourself, whoever you made it for, or on a dummy (no hangers).  The deadline is Tuesday 8th April 9pm GMT.  Multiple entries ok, and I’d be particularly be happy to see Before and After pictures if you’re refashioning.

3 Make sure you include any text you would like me to publish with your photo, e.g. why you chose that particular task or who you most want to win the series.  If you have a blog, make sure you include the link.  I’ll email you back to confirm I’ve received your entry.

4 If you have a blog, you may like to display this button to show you’re taking part.  Just copy the text below into your widget area.


That’s it.

If you like, leave a comment below telling us you’re joining in.  Or what tasks during this series have most inspired you to have a go?

Now, much to my delight, the second series of the GB Sewing Bee has been longer than the first, with many more projects.  So your memories of the early shows may be a bit hazy.  I know mine are – or maybe it was hiding behind the sofa that made me miss parts.  Luckily, all the episodes are available to view on iPlayer till April 15th.  So if you need a little reminder of the story so far, here are the links (available to all in the UK):

Episode 1 where we meet the contestants, a boring wool skirt is revamped and a silk nightgown is made.

Episode 2 where the contestants are tested on their ability to match patterns.  Do you pleats match?  Can you cut up two shirts to make a new one?

Episode 3 jersey T-shirt refashion, leggings and a wrap dress (gulp!).

Episode 4 sewing for little people plus a prom dress.  Can you make a fancy dress costume out of a pillowcase, a sweatshirt and jogging bottoms?

Episode 5 anorak and velvet trousers.

Tamara's blouseEpisode 6 Vintage heaven.  The beautiful blouse with collar and smocking that we all plan to make some day.  Well, it’s time 🙂

Episode 7 The Semi Final.  Make a garment copy and the dart-it, pleat-it, tuck it, drape-it dress.

All episodes can apparently be viewed outside the UK via Media Hint – a free download that works with Chrome and Firefox.

Good luck!

And sewers?  Try not to have too many tea breaks.  I find it trebles project time!


You can download sewing patterns for many of the makes in the show from here.

So Zo’s review of Sew Your Own Wardrobe can be found here.

GBSB Judge May Martin’s How To Tutorials which could give you ideas can be found here.

In Series 1, the task that most inspired me to do a copycat was this skirt.

Me-Made-May & Giveaway

“I,  Marianna of Sew2Pro, hereby pledge allegiance to the worthy cause that is Me-Made-May.  Each day in the month of May ’13, I shall wear at least one garment made by myself.  And should the skies curse us with the same cold and ceaseless rain as we bore almost every day of May ’12 (grits teeth), I shall be covered; for I shall finally sew replacement lining for my old RTW coats and one leather jacket.  It’s my most procrastinated project ever!”

To kick off M-M-M, I’m wearing the latest Laurel (review here) with which I’ve entered the Laurel Contest.  Have you seen how many entries there are!?  They’re an imaginative, creative bunch, these sewists who favour independent patterns.  In other words, I don’t stand a chance of winning!  But I love my new dress.  The fabric, Zen Charmer from Alexander Henry, is from 2008, a stash treasure, and I hope I do it justice even as I currently wear it with flip-flops, horrendously neglected winter feet and leggings 😯 …. 

Are you taking part in Me-Made-May ’13?  Others’ outfits can be seen on this Flickr page.

But you’re here for the Giveaway!  Wow, that one was complicated.  Here are the results:

Laurel: Patty

Lily: Janey

Jasmine: Caroline

Clover: Sophie

Guys, I’m emailing you for your addresses.  Everybody else who commented on my previous post, thanks.  I’ve never had so many compliments. 

Oh, and if anyone has any good tips or links for sewing lining replacements, please pass ’em on!

My Mini Betty

Mad Men first arrived on UK TV at the same time as I was learning to sew.  I had no idea what I was doing so rather than spend money on expensive fabrics, I’d cut up my husband’s worn work shirts and use the big pieces to make dresses for our daughter.  These would be typically toddler in style, with voluminous skirts and puffed sleeves.  We called them her “Betty Draper dresses”.

Five series of the show later and dear daughter hasn’t seen a single episode, yet she knows all about the stylish Mad Men ladies, thanks to Julia Bobbin‘s Mad Men Challenge.  Many times I’ve found her studying last year’s copycat creations, so when she asked if I would make her a sixties-style dress and Julia very wisely initiated a second Mad Men Challenge, it seemed a heavenly match!

This print with its ‘mid-century-modern’ colours struck me immediately as a perfect fabric for the job – it’s actually a quilting cotton from Jeff Rosenberg.  But we struggled to find a dress to copy.  Sally Draper’s wardrobe is rather frumpy compared to her mother’s: collars seemingly inspired by Oliver Cromwell; dull fabrics as favoured by religions that forbid frivolity in dress.  What to do?  My daughter knew what she wanted: a full skirt, none of that Swinging Sixties Psychedelia, and – here she was adamant – “no collars”.  I was insistent that the dress had to be for parties and play, not merely for a photo-shoot.  In the end, I designed a pattern with a tentative link to the series and took most of my inspiration from this blogger lady in her beautiful dress from Shabby Apple.

Everyone loves the results.  I’m mostly proud of the pleated waistband: the colour is a vibrant contrast to the grey and the pleats just beg to be played with.  If you’re wondering how such a waistband is constructed, my trick was a strip of interfacing fused at the back and hidden by the bodice lining.  The sleeves were made quickly and easily with casing and gathering elastic.  It’s a good little girlswear technique I picked up from Akiko Mano’s book.  Tutorial below.


Tutorial for Short Sleeve with Casing for Elastic

1 If your sleeve has a gathered head, begin by sewing two (or three) rows of gathering stitches.  If you’d like a fuller sleeve, you can add height to your pattern and easily gather the extra: just remember that adding a height of 2cm to the pattern will give you only 1cm extra since the top of the sleeve is folded in half, as it were.


2 Stitch the underarm seam.  If you’re using 0.7cm elastic, stop stitching 2cm from the end, leave a gap of 1cm and stitch 1 cm to the end.  Edge-finish and trim.  Press open.


3 Fold under 2cm.  This has now formed an opening on the inside of the sleeve.


4 Fold seam allowance in half and stitch 1mm from edge.  Attach the sleeve to armscye as per your usual method.

5 Thread the elastic
through the casing with a safety pin and sew the edges together.  If you allow an extra centimetre or two of the elastic, you can let out the sleeve later when the child has grown.


6 Slipstitch the opening closed.