Company of Wolves

1 claylike replacementNl 6459: Rip her to shredsMy friend’s dog jumped up to greet me, his paws on my belly, his claws stuck into the eyelets of my favourite dress.  As I heard a tearing sound, I quickly took his paws thinking, ‘maybe I can fix this,‘ but he slipped, catching himself on a lower rung (so to speak).  Cue more ripping sounds.

I crumpled with laughter.  I love being part of comedy :-)  My friend though was mortified!  She wanted to take me into the nearest shop and buy me something to wear so I wouldn’t have to go around looking like I’d been savaged by wolves.

Buy me something?!  What, and deprive me of an excuse to make a new dress!?!

1 new look 6459 back viewI love a halter neck dress; all that uninterrupted sunshine on one’s back!  This brown replacement was made in an emergency and it shows.  Maybe I was getting bored of the pattern – New Look 6459, my most  ever made, in all its variations – and sewed in auto-pilot as I realise looking at these pictures that I’ve made it too small.  It’s hard to get this one right: the bodice has to be tight otherwise the strapless back sags.   But I didn’t have to make it tight around the waist and bum!

The fabric is Indian block print cotton, light as lawn and from Simply Fabrics.  It was an impulse buy which I soon regretted.  The colours are earthy and dull.  I worry I look like a mound of clay so I’ve tried to lift it by adding a bit of sparkle in the form of bronze-coloured ricrac.  Shame it sinks into the underarm flesh so you can hardly tell.1 close up w strange beads

But at least I get to wear my strange beads with it.  These two necklaces mysteriously appeared in my house some years ago.  I’d assumed my mum had brought them for my daughter to play with.  I took a liking to them and kept finding outfits that match though the string is prone to breaking and each time I lose a bit of the length.  Once whilst I was wearing them, a woman gave them, and me, a long, curious look, like she wanted to talk to me which struck me as odd, but later a friend saw them and looked similarly surprised.  Guess what she said they’re made of?

Clue: you’d have to have been around in the 70s!

Here Comes the Rain Again

1 na piaci

1 Rain again silk from Simply FabricsI didn’t think this print of figures under umbrellas in heavy rain was going to be of much interest to anyone but myself and maybe a few who sew.  But there I was, in Split, Croatia, feeling pretty cool in this light silk (from Simply Fabrics at £8 a1 selfie metre) during a month-long spell of high temperatures that threatened to break 100-year records, and both the long-suffering locals and exhausted-looking tourists would occasionally give it wistful or WTF glances.

It’s very Londony!  In fact, when I got back to London I was treated to two entire days of dingy skies and the exact same rain as in the print, including a total drenching a long way from home during blackberry-picking!

I shouldn’t have had any issues with sewing Dahlia.  It’s my third.  I knew how much to trim off the neckline so the bra straps are in line with the dress straps (Summer Dahlia  sorted that).  I knew to lower the armholes and interface the waist yoke but to omit the yoke lining which adds too much bulk for the zip to glide.  And the silk, which behaved perfectly between needle and plate, promised to give the drape with which to achieve the sultriness promised on the envelope art.  So, in expectation of perfect results, I started with the skirt, patiently sewing French seams at all the vertical joins.  1t blind hem stitchingI used scraps to practice the blind hem on my machine (Notice my stitches look rather like the lashings of rain…)  But having sewed the skirt, just as I was a mouse-click away from buying a nice cashmere cardigan to match – oh sweet hubris! – I got round to the bodice and found the waist yokes simply didn’t match the bodice in width.  ‘Hang on‘, thought I as I tried to cobble new pieces together from scraps, ‘didn’t this happen before?’  When making my Winter Dahlia, I assumed the same kind of shortfall was my fault because I didn’t cut the lining yoke on the bias, or something.  So I did some belated research.

‘My yoke isn’t wide enough for bodice back!’ said a similarly-challenged seamstress commenting on the Dahlia Sew Along, Part 6.

‘Maybe you’ve forgotten to sew the back darts on the bodice,’ the Sewalong replied.

(You know, I think I’d notice that!)

Maybe I’ve cut them upside down‘.

Sadly, in describing a myriad other problems with the pattern, many bloggers blamed themselves, as I did too, initially.  But I’m getting the big picture.  It’s not us.  It’s Dahlia. Do you have a pattern that’s just toxic? One that keeps tempting you back like a glamorous friend that turns up asking to sleep on your sofa and you think ‘Great!’ forgetting how last time she invited all her dodgy mates back for a party and trashed the place while you were at work…

But it’s not all gloom!  Despite the crude upper half (both the back and front bodice just seem to sag), I enjoy wearing this dress.  It’s soft yet cool against the skin (and not at all sheer).  With an old cardie from the collection, it’s warm enough for the cold summer days that inevitably await. And I discovered upon returning from the holiday that the dress is perfect for my almost-forgotten Lapis Lazuli necklace.  1 Laurel with Lapis Lazuli

Link: an almost-forgotten, brooding, perfect rain song by the Eurythmics

Vincent VG


1 FabricI got this amazing jersey from Jeff and rushed to show it to a friend of mine, an art lover I see a few times a year who I can count on to enthuse unreservedly about my more offbeat finds.  Not this time.  She looked doubtful.  ‘I think,‘ she said slowly, ‘that might work in small amounts.’

What the…?!     😡  

Does this happen to you?  Do you sometimes grow out of friends you assumed were for life?!

Oh, I jest  :-)

Mccalls 6559

The pattern, McCall’s 6559, I had in the stash as I’d once made it into a vest dress for a friend in Croatia (review here).  It’s quick and easy (if oversized) but I like some ambition in my projects to help me learn and improve so I decided to add a couple of elements to the simple design.  What I really wanted was to make this unusual – I was determined to celebrate my find!

The first deviation from View C was the 13cm splits to the side seams.  So far, so good.  1 split

Less successful were the ruffles I painstakingly cut and folded from bias strips of silky georgette.  After I attached them to the armholes, they simply didn’t sit subtly and softly enough so had to be cut off.

1t armhole frill

Instead I bound the neckline and armscyes with loops of 4cm cut longways, their total length some 5cm shorter than the length of garment and stretched lightly to fit.  I don’t like how the instructions ask for the neckline and armholes to be folded under twice to a total of 1.5cm and stitched.  This would make the neckline really low.  On the other hand, the armholes do need to be cut away if you’re going to use binding.  I removed 1cm and it’s not quite enough.

1 binding

To complete the look I call ‘Urge Overkitsch’, I borrowed my daughter’s nail varnish (hmm, too pearly) and decorated a pair of flip flops by knotting them with 100 water balloons (£2 a packet from Tiger).  It’s a project that works best with the plainest of plastic flip flops which I didn’t have so these are my son’s Hawaianas.  He’s really mad about it; tells me to get my own flip flops to tie balloons to.  But he wears them around the garden, I notice.

Jeff always chats to me about my purchases.  He couldn’t tell me much this time except that this thick, cotton-like jersey is produced in Germany and some kind of royalty fee is involved in the reproduction which is why at £12 it’s more expensive than most of his fabrics.  Do you like it?  I have a metre left, enough for a T-shirt,  so any suggestions for what might work are most welcome.  And if you can, please let me know if you recognize any of the paintings in the collage.  Here’s another close-up:1 VVG Fabric

1 Running

Colette Aster

1 Colette Aster side view1 Front ViewBack in May when Colette introduced their latest pattern, a few critics commented that Aster was unambitious and sadly lacking those vintage-inspired details that once differentiated Colette from the ‘Big 4′.  I needed a blank canvas on which to experiment with collar design so I bought the downloadable version ($12) and tested it by sewing Version 1 using some dyed calico that had been festering in my stash.  No frugality was spared in the making!  The large buttons were ripped off an old Boden shirt.  I think they contribute to a very ‘Eastern totalitarian regime’ look that I can’t help returning to from time to time.  Even the blue is the exact shade of the envelopes used during my 10 years of growing up in Yugoslavia (there was never much variety in the stationery available – that is a capitalist affectation!)

Ignore the too-tiny collar which would have been more in proportion had it been 5.5cm instead of 4cm deep but I ran out of fabric.  Next time I make Aster, I promise the collar will steal the show!

1 Colette Aster YokeI don’t consider myself a beginner so I was quietly entertained during the sewing process when Aster showed me a couple of new tricks!  Firstly, the all-clean method of sewing the yoke so that it looks the same on the inside as on the outside.  colette aster yokeThis is unofficially called the Burrito method and is nowhere near as complicated as this diagram suggests.  If you want to give it a go but without Aster, Grainline Studio does a Burrito tutorial here.

1 Tuck bias binding into placket

Secondly, I picked up this smart method  of finishing the neckline with bias binding, the ends of which are tucked into the placket on the inside of the garment.  It’s not difficult to do neatly but ensure you tailor-tack the clipping point accurately.


  • A good fit.  I achieved this by cheating somewhat: I went down from 6 to 4 (I’m cup B and Colette patterns are sized for a cup C) which saved me from the shame! hassle of having to do a small bust adjustment.
  • It’s so quick to make, thanks to the bias-bound neckline.
  • The variations offered by the three versions mean that you can create quite a few wardrobe staples, none of which need to be as bland as my muslin.

1 colette aster technical drawing


  • This is the umpteenth time it’s happened but there just isn’t enough length in those gathering stitches that round the sleeve cap.  If you look closely, see how much excess is at the sleeve back?  That’s because I couldn’t line up the apex with the shoulder seam.   I suggest you extend the gathering stitch area by an inch on both sides and you’ll have more control when attaching the sleeve.
  • Hemming instructions are oddly taciturn.  Don’t hem at the end as instructed.  Use my method as it’s easy and looks better.  Important: you need to go through these steps before sewing the vertical seams of the placket!
1 Fold under seam allonwanc

Fold and press placket as in the instructions but don’t stitch. Fold and press the 1.5cm (5/8″) Hem allowance

Fold half the hem allowance under and press. Pin up to the placket. Clip corner. Make a small nick in the bottom of the placket fold to reduce bulk when it is folded in the next step.

Fold placket along pressed edges and pin. Stitch entire hem including the placket. Finally, stitch the vertical seams of the placket.



I’m impressed by this unassuming number.  It’s well-fitting, easy and versatile.  And I learnt something.

I leave you with my Worker’s Elbows pic!

1t Colette Aster Back View

A Wrap at Last

1 Lea Wrap Dress by Stylearc Patterns The wrap dress appeared on my radar some ten years ago when Boden started making them in their beautifully-coloured print jerseys.  I’d have bought one but they were expensive.  Besides, I was wary of the style clinging to my mummy tummy – in fact, friends wore such dresses over pull-all-in jeans for the same reason.  I instead picked a sewing pattern for a faux-wrap that most closely resembled the style but was rather underwhelmed by the results.

As the years went by, my mummy tummy went while many not-quite-it sewing patterns for wrap dresses became available as something of a revival ensued.  I discovered that the designer who’d popularized the dress in the 1970s, Diane Von Furstenberg, had once produced a sewing pattern for her iconic creation in collaboration with Vogue. Lea Stylearc Pattern envelopeThese are much sought-after and crop up on Ebay from time to time: once again, out of my price range.  Then Stylearc Lea came along: so slinky, simple, sexy.  And so affordable!  £8, plus £6 for the 2 metres of fabric.  And so quick to make, and that’s including the time for the pattern to be flown over from Australia!!  Finally!

Stylearc Lea Side and Back

Fabric: Goth-friendly, tye-dye lightweight jersey from Simply Fabrics with a 30% stretch, meaning a 10cm square will stretch to 13cm.  But it doesn’t give easily.  My guess is it’s all cotton.

1 InstructionsLikes: a very easy make, cut from a few pattern pieces.  Two of the strip-like pieces you see on the right are meant for paper only, not fabric: they’re a sizing guide for the neckline so that you can check if it’s stretched out of shape in handling.  But my biggest like is the 70s vibe of this, with the big collar and hip-skimming silhouette.1 Collar

Size: If you’re unfamiliar with Stylearc patterns, they come in one size only, the size you order.  Which means you can’t make this for your mama, your papa and your sister too (and they will all want one).  I bought a 10.  The fit is just right; with none of that ease I’ve come to expect from other patterns.

1 cutting cuffsModifications: I added cuffs  Their finished height is 7cm but I now see that 5-6cm would be more in proportion.  If you need a turnback cuff tutorial, I’ve written one here for a woven fabric which should give you an idea of how to attach; for a jersey cuff, use 4cm binding strips folded to 2cm instead of facing.  Also, I shortened one of the ties to 75cm (from 100cm).

Dislikes: to admit to any dislikes would just be ungrateful, wouldn’t it?  Let’s just call them…. reservations:

Well, firstly, buy a bit more fabric than advised on the envelope if you have pattern-matching, just to be on the safe side.

1 Tie attachmentThe ties are a good inch higher than my natural waist which makes the dress feel small.  But to lower position of the ties would also lower the line of the v and be more exposing.  Wrap dresses are notorious for being revealing which is why in all of these big pictures, I’m wearing a pin.  Except this one: Lea, Without pin

I guess this style just isn’t for shrinking violets.

Finally, the small seam allowances.  0.6cm doesn’t give you any leeway if the dress is too small in places and it meant I couldn’t use my Elna overlock stitch as the fabric disappeared into the throat plate.  Instead I used a straight stitch with zigzag to finish/reinforce and it worked just fine.

I have yet to wear this out but my loved ones harshest critics have given it a thumbs up so provided this skimpy number manages to contain me, it might even make it into my all-time top 10!

Lea Stylearc in Tye Dye Jersey

Summer Dahlia

Colette Dahlia Version 21 Colette D1 Colette Dahlia Pattern EnvelopeI was worried that Version 2 of the Dahlia would be too inappropriately revealing for my advancing years but the black dress on the Colette website must have been made of something slinky for it to drape so attractively.  My cotton lawn recreation had bit after bit trimmed off the bodice and still it looks kind of … frumpy.

1 Uh Oh, back of Dahlia V2 in the mirrorThe first sign of this not being the quick project I’d imagined came after the neckline bias was partially applied when I checked the back view in the mirror.  1 Trim 7cm off the neckline backThe bra straps and the dress straps were so far from each other!  Ugh, racer back!  In a previous project – my much worn Frida dress – I saved the situation with bra keepers but that was clearly not going to work here where the fabric and the straps were thin.  Instead, I measured the disparity and trimmed the neckline down by 7cm which seemed to do just the trick. Colette Dahlia Back ViewFront neckline trimThe front presented a similar problem so I cut 3.5cm from each side (grading to the middle of which I only lost 1cm) to bring the dress straps in line with those of the bra.  This gave me the chance to fix something else I noticed looked wrong with the bodice front: the instructions specify gathering fabric only at the centre of the neckline but this just makes the boobies look too far apart from each other 😯  I re-sewed the gathering stitches and distributed the fullness across the entire front neckline.  Much better.

1 Armscye acheFinally, the armscye was too high and really cut in.  I trimmed it down by 1cm and the dress was no more comfortable so I did it again, this time cutting another 2cm.  That’s some change!  If you ever have to do this alteration, don’t begrudge the time this takes as it’s quick and makes all the difference between the outfit getting worn or sitting in your wardrobe.

Oh yeah, and the zipper…  Because the waistband has a facing, there’s rather a lot of fabric going on in the seams at either side of the zip and I struggle to get it pulled up and down in the waistband region – a problem I also have with my winter Dahlia.  I thoroughly suggest you avoid this by handstitching the waistband facing to the zip fabric, which would also enable you to interface it for more structure.

1 MitraljezAfter Nicky recommended a trip to Shoreham-by-Sea to see the houseboats, I pushed the kids into the car for a mini adventure mid-half term and that’s where these photos were taken.  My son soon spotted his dream home!1 Ideal home exhibition

The day was warm and sunny with a gentle breeze that, alas, seemed to fill up my skirt from below and make it rise around me like a lifebelt!  Not that I want to put you off Dahlia, but be prepared to make some adjustments if this is going to be something better than a casual summer dress you can buy in a shop for a song.  I’m so making this again out of some slinky black fabric so I can swing my way through summer 😉

1 mumm

Shoreham Houseboat Grand Entrance

1 cat botherer1 summer dahlia plus cardie

McCalls 5766

1.1 Marianna in M57661 Sleeve improvisation McCalls 5766The sun came out today, if rather shyly, which made it ideal weather for giving my McCall’s 5766 its virgin outing. When I finished it some 10 days ago, it was very cold and as I tried the coat on indoors, I could feel a breeze around my legs! Though it’s woollen, this isn’t a warm garment. It even feels light when I pick it up.

I remember once reading how Swedes, or maybe Scandinavians, tend to own four coats: one for the winter, one for autumn, a spring one and – poor souls – a summer one.  Well, this is my April, May and October coat. I apologise for how awfully I’ve styled it (black doesn’t go at all) but I was in a rush to get to Down House with the kids (visiting Charles Darwin’s home has become an Easter tradition as they do a great Egg Hunt).  A dress and high heeled boots or my blue dancing shoes would do this better justice. Also, I’m having a rather enjoyable search for some ballet flats that would go with.

mccalls 5766 times 3

Are you familiar with the concept of “treats” from the book Couture Sewing Techniques? A treat is a finishing touch that makes the handmade garment a pleasure to put on and take off, like a private reminder that your piece is unique.  Well, let me introduce you to the opposite concept in couture: the clanger. This is the shaming mistake, or act of omission, you’d be wise to cover up as anyone in the know will otherwise mark you out as a hopeless amateur.  I’d rather not list all of my clangers as  I’ve rather come round to thinking they don’t matter. The marathon-effort that was McCalls 5766, begun with Shrek in January, is  wearable. I have passed.  Thanks for sticking with me, for your brilliant comments and insights!

1 Coat and Blogstalker

But there are the two main areas in which I’d do things differently the next time:

1. I’d borrow a trick from speed tailoring and back the entire fabric with fusible weft interfacing (discovered herebefore cutting. Not only would it save time finishing the seams, it’ll make the coat warmer too.  And unless I was making a summer coat, I’d probably go for a thicker lining such as satin.

Do you know of any professional place that applies the fusible weft for you in London or thereabouts?  The service is I believe called block fusing but that may be a non-UK term.

2.  I’d do a proper job of tailoring the collar, using collar canvas, pad stitching and lots of steam power.  I just stuck to interfacing as per instructions which was lazy but I was nervous that I’d make a hash job of the notch, having never done that to satisfaction before.  In the end, careful marking and slow sewing ensured the notch worked out fine, but the collar is a bit of a pancake to be honest.

Here’s Gertie’s tutorial on making a proper collar.

Also on the subject of collars, let me share this interesting tip I found in the Morplan’s Tailoring book.  It’s to help ensure that collar doesn’t roll in:

1 Step 1 pin and markBefore you join the garment to the lining and facing, pin them wrong sides together. Pin at the neckhole seam and at the shoulder seams.  Put the coat on your dummy.  If the collar and undercollar are exactly the same size, fine.  If however the undercollar protrudes, mark the edge of the collar with a line of pins.  Now, pin your garment and lining right sides together but match the raw edge of the collar with the line of pins before you sew.1 Bloggie speaks


Blue Velvet

1 Silk velvet and applique lace collar

A few weeks ago I ran in a race where the ground was a variety of mud hitherto unknown to me.  Greased it seemed, this particular stretch of North Kent coastline.  Running felt like passing across rugs being swiped sideways from under me.  I made it to the finish but by then my mind had dismissed the whole experience as a bad dream.

Next year I’m gonna give this particular race another go, with spikes in my shoes!  And once the winter party season is here again, I’ll also give silk velvet the proper attention it deserves because, like with the run, getting to the end of this dress was achievable but at compromise to quality. Stitching lines drunkenly meandered left and right. Bust darts bore no resemblance to their name. And as for that uneven hem?  Not only shoddily sewn, I failed at cutting too: the hem truncates my legs exactly at that thickened point where the quad muscle and thigh fat gloopily combine.  Lovely.

The trouble is I had to rush.  Two parties loomed on the same weekend with two days of sewing available and I hadn’t a stitch appropriate to wear.  In the realm of the Great British Sewing Bee – a TV programme which should be rated 18+ for scenes of sustained peril –  two days might seem aplenty.  But when you feel the necessity for French seams and put in a lining, then have to clear your entire fluff-ridden work space to serve meals to a horde of ingrates….   Oh dear

1 Front collarPattern: the block, bodice and skirt. Waist darts changed to ease, shoulder dart moved to bust.

Neckline shaped to fit the lace collar (from Etsy.)

Fabric: silk-backed velvet (£12 a metre) from Unique Fabrics, Goldhawk Road.  You’ll find the silk velvets in a small corner of the basement which glows: amethyst, jade, tanzanite.  I went for sapphire this time.  The lining feels lovely and is either from Unique Fabrics or their sister shop two doors along.1 back collar1 Back collar and closure

Fastening: back opening, button and thread loop.  Excellent thread loop tutorial here.  This is my favourite bit and I wish I had a decent photo.  In the top one, I’ve raised one arm to pull up hair.  The light was gloomy for the second.

Clarks Chorus ThrillShoes: Clarks “Chorus”.  Gorgeous, sumptuous, comfy.  But heel height is all wrong for me.  I might send them to the Shoe Collection at Northampton Museum – every donation tells a story!

Links: Debra H has brilliant tips not for just sewing silk velvet but also washing it, pressing, marking, interfacing…. none of which I read before making my dog’s dinner.  Colette patterns published a tip yesterday about fabrics that drift.  Let me know if anything worked for you.  And of course, Prof. Pincushion.

Rescue package: The double hem is hand-sewn so it shouldn’t take long to unpick and redo after claiming some extra length.  As Debra suggests, I’ll use an organza bias strip to sew to the edge, then flip to the inside and catchstitch.  With a bit of luck, it’ll give this floppy, wayward fabric a soft but defined edge.

1 Jacobite GentlemanIs this a keeper, do you think?  If yes, what do you suggest I style it with (is the mad hair a bit much?  I can straighten it, you know!)?


1 Zany McCalls 5766

Muslin McCalls 5766 back and frontI can explain….

1 McCalls 5766 Pattern EnvelopeThis isn’t some garish costume I made for one of the courtiers in “Shrek, the Musical”.  What I’ve done is used old children’s room curtains – originally dyed  to match cheerful IKEA Mammut furniture – to make a muslin for McCall’s 5766.  This is an out of print coat pattern I first  came across when Anelise made it.  Hers is a fantastic version in red fur, no less!  I needed a winter coat and after reading some good reviews on SPR, I bought the pattern second hand (but unused) through Ebay.  Mine is the combination AX5 (sizes 4-12) and I made size 12.  This has a finished size of 38″ (97cm) in the bust, exactly the same as my RTW coat that I wear all the time and which is size 10.

1t zero maria cornejo lab coatThe shape is very different from the coats that have been all the rage the last season or two – which I call the Manta Ray because they bulge out in the middle.  Lovely as they are, Rays do my short arse (pardon my Yorkshire!) no favours.  McCall’s 5766 follows the empire line which I’m not sure is any better, to be honest.  There are several questions I have before I proceed and I’d very much appreciate your thoughts.

I think we can all safely agree that the biggest problem is the sleeves.  1 McCalls 5766 Techncal DrawingView C is the only full length in the pattern.  Shortening them would help (they’re 4cm too long and possibly too wide).  But my initial verdict trying on the balloon shape?  Zany.  It’s a look that can be offset by wearing dainty high heels but I’d like to be able to wear this coat with flat boots without looking, er, medieval.  Though I like Views A and B, coats that need to be worn with long gloves don’t suit my lifestyle much.

Do you think it would be a cop-out to make just plain old straight sleeves?  I’m worried that it would make the coat plain.  Is there any other full length sleeve shape that you suggest?  And those shoulder pads are too big, aren’t they?

1 Instructions McCalls 5766The instructions were easy to follow.  I didn’t use any interfacing but as there was plenty of curtain, I made the whole coat, including attaching the lining, to remind myself of what to do.  Since starting this blog, I’ve done a couple of tailoring courses (one blogged here, the other was here) but I have never utilized the lessons learnt by making an actual tailored garment.  This coat project was picked with the aim of adding tailoring techniques to improve on a basic.  The add-ons will be:

a) A sleeve head (or sleeve roll?).  This is a folded strip of flannel or domette attached to the top of the sleeve seamline to smooth out the outside appearance at the top of the sleeve.

b) A strip of interfacing fused to the hem to sharpen that bottom edge.

1 Pinned Roll Line on Muslin McCalls 5766c) Taping the roll line.  This inside strip is stretched over the roll line with the effect of making the front of the garment subtly concave, thereby following the hollowed shape below the shoulder.  The roll line on this pattern isn’t marked but I’m following the instructions in this Tailoring guide (from Morplan) to determine and mark its position.  Basically, you pin the roll line, press it, then copy its position onto the pattern.

Anything else you’d suggest?

1 Tailoring By Apple Press, 2005 Creating Publishing InternationalAs you can see, the facing of the coat has rolled outwards (See the first picture?   The facing’s yellow).  I notice my RTW coat suffers from this too. It’s something I’ll have to prevent when it comes to doing the real thing in wool.  Do you have any tips for making the outside of the garment roll inwards?

Finally, I’m not happy with the lower half of the armscye.  I think it’s too big and cuts too deeply into the bodice.  Should I extend the bodice into the sleeve and make the underarm higher?

1 Sleeve C and Armscye McCalls 5766

1 Blogstalker fabric-sittingI’m also including a picture of the fabrics I intend to use.  Yup, it’s gonna be a plaid-matching nightmare which is all the more reason why I needed a muslin – to show where the lines would lie.

But do you think there’s enough fur here for such a big collar?

I’m kidding.

Thanks for reading!

Achtung, Dahlia!

1 Colette Dahlia by Sew2pro1 Colette Dahlia Pattern EnvelopeI bought this pattern almost immediately upon its release and tested it with a muslin.  However, just as I was about to finish the real thing, the machine and I got turfed out of my sewing space to make space for a Christmas tree and associated clutter.

The photos on the Colette Patterns website show a Version 1 of the Dahlia in a rich green modelled by a dark-haired beauty bearing a resemblance to Nigella Lawson in her Italianate edition.  One day, if the occasion demands it, I will make a jewel-coloured Dahlia just like that and try to claim some of that La Dolce Vita glamour but it’s winter now and I want warmth – to compensate for a neckline so wide, it’s guaranteed to make the baps freeze!1 La Dolce Vita


1 Inside out Lined DahliaThis mock-wool (ok, polyester) at £8 a metre comes from A Crafty Needle in West Wickham.  The lining is black acetate.  I think lining is essential and makes the dress look more substantial than the rather droopy one on the pattern envelope.  This adds hours of sewing time and renders it more of an intermediate than a beginner project, particularly as I lined the kick-back pleat (using my tutorial).  For the black binding, I used leather (phwoar!) by cutting 4cm strips from a soft black offcut in my Wested Leather bundle.  It has a matt texture that goes perfectly with the grey and black in the fabric.  I wanted to keep as much length as I could so instead of hemming, I used home-made cotton bias tape which, though not visible from the outside, complements the neck and sleeve binding.

Pattern Matching

1 Zip side seamColette has produced a free how-to-match-plaid tutorial which you may find of use but with a more complicated plaid where there is a horizontal and vertical repeat and not necessarily a symmetry along the lines, you must proceed with caution before cutting (or else...!!).  I found it impossible to facilitate a match in the bodice and yoke seam  on the zip side, but I don’t think it shows (what do you think?  See right).  The match is almost spot on in all the more visible seams, i.e. in the skirt seams and the sleeves to bodice.

Yoke Bias

My only major dislike of this dress comes from the decision to cut the yoke on the bias, as suggested by Colette, with the yoke lining (same pattern piece as the yoke) cut on the straight grain.  In theory, on the outside, this adds interest to the layout of the plaid whereas the straight inner layer makes the waist sturdy without the thickness that may have come from interfacing.  In practice, when putting the yoke and the yoke lining together, I found they were no longer the same size!  I had to sew on an extra piece to the yoke lining  or it would have literally fallen short.  If you examine the photo, you may spot that the waist is bit bleurgh – it could be tighter.  If you’re after the interesting diagonals, I recommend applying some light interfacing before the yoke is cut.


Raglan Sleeves1 Another Dahlia

These were 2cm too wide at the neckline, the excess jutting up from the shoulders, but as this was discovered before the neckline binding was applied, the fix was very simple.  Sew 3 rows of gathering stitches onto and within the seam allowance then pull to fit.  This results in a nicely cupped shoulder line with no puckers or gathers visible.  If you’re square of shoulder, gather evenly across the shoulder piece.  If your shoulders are more rounded, concentrate the gathers onto the sleeve front.


Instinct and research told me to sew down a size so I made a 4 (this being the U.S. size).  It fits perfectly so if it helps you to know, I’m 36-28-38.  Add an inch to the last two if it’s Christmas!1 Po Faced Dahlia

 Yeah, I know, I should cheer up!