Loopy Dress

1 loopy loops1 Measurements BackMy newest client, who got in touch via this blog, lives on the other side of the world so I’ll never even see her 😥 She asked for a copy of a dress I made for myself that I blogged a while back.  We exchanged a few emails to get an idea of how this would work, discussing fabrics, a deadline, payment and measurements – but mostly measurements.  I sent a couple of pictures like this one.

Then off I went.

The main worry was making the dress too small.  The black fabric I picked has the tiniest amount of stretch and I used the Winifred Aldrich close-fitting dress block (which, as you may know, isn’t all that close-fitting) to design a sloper on which to base the dress pattern.

Making the inside of the garment nicely finished is very important to me, even more so when sewing for a client who might only have RTW garments to compare to, but on this occasion I abandoned my usual French seams.  The dress will probably have to be adjusted by the client and while contour darts can quickly be narrowed or widened, letting out a French seam can be a bit of a nightmare.  Not only are there two stitching lines to unpick, but the inner seam is likely to be closely trimmed.

1 inside outInstead, I left the seam allowances untrimmed (in case there are places where the garment needs to be made bigger) and bound them Hong Kong style.  The white binding is consistent with the colour scheme of the dress: can you guess what it is yet?!

1 scrap practice


The dress has a ‘loop and button’ closure but not of the delicate, bridal variety (this is meant to be a utalitarian garment).  I’ve only done loops once before so thought I might do some desk research to enable me to do it as professionally as possible.  The buttons on the left side are placed exactly at the centre front, as for a shirt with buttonholes, but the loop side edge therefore has to move back and it’s really the loops that are placed at the centre front of the right side.  But which part of the loop is the exact middle?  The  outer edge?  The hole?   And as for the rouleau strips: how long to make them in relation to the button size?

Well, maybe there’s a magic formula somewhere but I realised I’d have to make some samples and take measurements from those that worked!

I did pick up one helpful tip (from here, as usual) for sewing loops.  Use sticky tape when aligning the strips with the raw edge of the garment as there’s less movement than if using pins or tacks.

1 raw edges together

Place loop strips at tailor tacks, raw edges aligned, stitching facing up, and affix with narrow strips of tape

Trim away SAs and remove tailor tacks

Oh, and place the stitched side of the strips up so when the sewing is done and flipped over, the stitching doesn’t show.

No need to peel off all those bits of tape: this whole section will get cut away.

It was hard to ‘let go’ and put the dress in the post.  I guess I feel it’s not quite ready as I haven’t seen it on the client.  And I no longer have control, if that makes sense.  But we posed for a photo together, the dress and I, with the ever-present Blogstalker looking on.

1t blogstalker is so silly

Sleeve Drama

1 Sleeve

1 Sleeve pattern

click for pdf link

The sleeves of my Refashioned Men’s Shirt attracted some comment, both here and on the Pinterest Refashioners board, so here’s the sleeve pattern in PDF and instructions for making it below.

The pattern has been created to fit me, and I have an arm girth of 25cm (10″). This is roughly a size 8 (not that my ass is size 8 :-( ). When folded, gathered, stitched at the underarm seam and ready to attach to the bodice, the sleeve armscye has a stitching line of 47.5cm. This, coincidentally, makes it fit the bodice of Colette Aster size 4. But you can fit it to any other bodice if you know its armscye measurement simply by using the reduce/enlarge function of your photocopier and some mathematics.

The Formula

My PDF measurement x Y% = Your required measurement

So for example if your bodice armscye is 51cm, you need to enlarge by a percentage Y

47.5cm x Y = 51cm

51 / 47.5 = 1.073

1.073 (x100) = 107%

So print out the pattern at a 107% enlargement. Be brave; it’s easy.


Making this is also very easy. The protruding fold covering the sleeve head can hide a multitude of sins so if setting in of sleeves isn’t your forté, your luck is in! If you lack the confidence to cut into fabric, play around with a paper version first, using pins instead of stitching (to round the sleeve head, make 2-3 little pintucks; it doesn’t have to be perfect). Or cut up some rags.

1 Sleeve pattern

Step 1 – Begin by sewing 2-3 rows of gathering stitches, into and around the 1cm seam allowance

Step 2 - with right sides together, sew the short ends of the wings...

Step 2 – with right sides together, sew the short ends of the wings…

Step 3 - and press open

Step 3 – and press open

Step 4 - fold sewn section wrong sides together and align notches with the centre sleeve head notch

Step 4 – fold sewn section wrong sides together

Step 5 - align seam with centre of the sleeve head (notches together).  Sew the underarm seam.

Step 5 – align seam with centre of the sleeve head (notches together). Sew the underarm seam.

Step - pull on the gathering stitches and fold all the raw edges to they're lined up

Step 6 – pull the gathering stitches and fold all the raw edges so they’re lined up

Step 7 - with all three layers of fabric lined up and pinned or basted, you can attach the sleeve to the garment by the usual method

Step 7 – with all three layers of fabric lined up and pinned or basted, you can attach the sleeve to the garment by the usual method


1 sdThe original white shirt sleeve was hemmed with bias binding but the blue version has a cuff. The cuff has a 2.5cm finished height, is cut on the bias and interfaced.

Other ideas

  • When making the white shirt, I didn’t have enough fabric to cut the sleeve from a single piece so I had to split the pattern into 3 sections (the head and two wings). This has created interesting change of direction in the stripes which you may want to try.
  • Consider using the stripes of your fabric horizontally.
  • If you’re a drama queen (or would like to make a pressie for one), you can make these sleeves out of a soft voile then attach to a matching t-shirt, with more voile for a breast pocket and bias binding for the neckline.
  • For another dramatic sleeve variation, try my Status sleeves tutorial.



pinterest sourceThe original idea for the design came from this Pin (before any of you get ideas about me being clever; I’m just the copycat). I printed out the pattern, then enlarged it with the photocopier until I made a version that fit me, having made three toiles. I never did achieve the lavishly folded sleeve in the original picture but I’m pleased with the result nevertheless. Let me know if you uncover any more information about the source or if you have alternative ideas how to effect the lower fold.

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?


Nipples Dress

1 nipples1 kate's mugI know what you’re thinking.  “These lurid post titles of hers are clickbait-desperate!”  But what else to call it?  When I found this plastic-coated, bumpy material at a stall in Bromley market, I immediately recalled my friend Kate’s ceramic and celebrated  nipples mug which I love to wrap my hands around whenever we drink coffee.  I inspected it, wondering what I could do with it and noticing it had stretch.  “Where does this come from?” I asked the stall-holder.  He smiled (finally!  Thank you :-) ) saying it’s from Ann Summers.

1 inverted1 kennethI got home shouting “look at this nipple fabric, whereupon my doubting Thomas of a husband said the appearance was more like bubble-wrap.  But then he pressed in one of the raised bumps and it.. well, inverted!

My kids are impressed by the fabric’s futuristic credentials.  This would work grandly for costumes in Dr Who.  And I love how from certain angles it looks like a carapace or armour.  Have you seen anything like it, either in fabric sales or on RTW?  I’ve tried to find out more with a combination of search terms on Google but to no avail. I know that dark blue and green had also been available.

1 Nipples dress1 back zip

It was cheap – possibly reject – as it has quite a few flaws: creases and areas where the plastication is absent, which you can spot at the centre back zip.  I didn’t have enough to be picky about placement and in any case, as you can probably guess, this isn’t a dress to be worn too seriously!1 bye

1 sampleThe horizontal stretch is slight; too much pulling apart and the fabric deforms beyond recovery gaining the strange appearance of laddered tights 😯 .   Although it was only slightly temperamental to sew (I had to look out for skipped stitches), the hardest part to making this dress was not being able to press seams nor shape them as under the iron, the material darkens and the bumps flatten.

I used the Renfrew T-shirt pattern, size 8, elongated with the aid of my skirt block where I left the darts unsewn.  After the first fitting, I added bust darts (which sadly took off 3cm from the final length) plus contour darts at the back. And though I love making corded piping, it doesn’t really work here as there isn’t that sharp, flat edge that I would have achieved had I been able to use an iron.

You might think but where’s a girl to wear a dress like this to?!”  Well, I’m wearing it to the screening of the Rocky Horror Show tonight!

1 magenta space girl

Magenta, Domestic Goddess and Style Icon, plus her embarrassing brother

Shirt Pocket with Flap

1 shirt pocket with flapI wanted to do a nice job on the patch pockets of the Mara shirt dress  I’m making for my mum, but Stylearc is sadistically terse with their instructions.  1 mara shirt dressSo I dipped into my  tome of power –  Readers Digest Complete Guide to Sewing  wherein lie the instructions for achieving the clean finish on the pocket flap attachment (below). 1 topstitch seam allowanceI’ve done a demo of this in Tutorial One.  In Tutorial Two I show my way of making the patch pocket using two pieces of fabric instead of one.  These are then bagged out.  Probably to many of you this won’t be a revelation.  Again, this produces a clean finish so there’s no risk of peering inside the finished pocket to the sight of raggedy or fraying seam allowances.

N.B. The pocket here is a sample sewn from an old bedsheet.  Unfortunately, the weave in the cotton is causing something of a photographic moiré effect, especially if I post the pictures in a large size.  Click on any photo to enlarge it.  If you get moiré, just pretend it’s watered silk! :-)

Tutorial One: The Pocket Flap

The pocket flap should be attached after the pocket has been sewn onto the shirt.


1 cut flaps

1 – Cut 2 flap pieces for each pocket with the seam allowance of 1.5cm for the seam where the pocket is attached to the shirt body. Stylearc Mara has a 1cm SA for this seam so I’ve extended it by 0.5cm as shown.


Step 2 - Interface one piece.  Trim the second piece by 1mm around the three non-straight sides

2 – Interface/fuse one piece. Trim the second piece by 1mm around the three non-straight sides.


Step 3 - Stitch around the three sides up to the 1.5cm Seam Allowance.  Press to embed stitches and trim the wide seam giving the shorter seams a scant trim

3 – Stitch around the three sides up to the 1.5cm seam allowance, leaving the tops opened (this is very important). Press to embed stitches and trim the wide seam then give the shorter seams a small trim. Turn out, press flap, pressing the seam allowances to the inside. Now is a good time to place flap over the pocket to double-check the flap is wider than the pocket.


Step 4 - With raw edge aligned with the top of the attached pocket, stich pocket flap along the 1.5 Seam Allowance.  IMPORTANT: the interfaced piece should be against the shirt body and the non-interfaced piece should be closer to you.

4 – Align raw edge of flap with the top of the attached pocket, and stitch pocket flap along the 1.5 seam allowance. IMPORTANT: place flap so the interfaced part lies against the shirt body and the non-interfaced piece is uppermost.


Step 5 - trim the interfaced seam allowance by half.  If it helps, press the top seam allowance out of the way.

5 – Trim the interfaced seam allowance by half. If it helps, press the top seam allowance out of the way.


Press the top Seam Allowance over the bottom one, using the iron tip to fold away bulging corners.

6 – Tuck the top Seam Allowance over the bottom one, using the iron tip to fold away bulging corners. Press.


7 - Topstitch the seam allowance securely and press.

7 – Topstitch the seam allowance securely and press.

8 - Press flap closed.  If you're paranoid about it flapping upwards, you can topstitch the top edge down or secure the tops of the sides to the shirt with a few stitches.

8 – Press flap closed. If you’re paranoid about it flapping upwards, you can topstitch the top edge down or secure the tops of the sides to the shirt with a few stitches.


Tutorial Two: The Patch Pocket

The first step is to create the pocket piece with a box pleat.  Stylearc’s Mara instructions ask for the pocket to then be shaped at the rounded corners by pressing the seam allowances under.  My method requires less skill, I think.  Cut the second piece to same size as the pocket after the box pleat is made.  If your shirt fabric is thick, consider using a thinner fabric in matching colour such as a lining fabric.


1 - Fold pocket piece in half, wrong sides together, and stitch top to bottom to form box pleat.  Press.

1 – Fold pocket piece in half, wrong sides together, and stitch top to bottom. Press stitching but avoid the folded edge. Open the sides, press fingers down on folded edge to make a box pleat.


2 - Cut a 'double', the same size as patch pocket then trim 1-2mm from the seam allowances.  This should prevent the pocket lining from rolling outward on the finished pocket.

2 – Cut a ‘double’, the same size as patch pocket then trim 1-2mm from the seam allowances. This should prevent the pocket lining from rolling outward on the finished pocket.


3 - with right sides together, stitch two pocket pieces together along the top seam, using a basting stitch for approx. 4cm of the length.

3 – with right sides together, stitch two pocket pieces together along the top seam, using a basting stitch for approx. 4cm of the length.


4 - Press seam allowances open

4 – Press seam allowances open


5 - Fold so the right sides are together again, and stitch the remaining seams.  Press and trim.  Cut open the basting stitches along the top seam.

5 – Fold so the right sides are together again, and stitch the remaining seams. Press the sides and bottom seam and trim all around but don’t trim the top seam to more than 0.75cm. Cut open the basting stitches along the top seam.


6 - Turn right side out through opening and sew the pocket closed using the ladder stitch.  You can use the holes of the basting stitches as your guide for even stitches.  Press patch pocket, rolling the lining to the inside, then sew the patch onto the shirt.

6 – Turn right side out through opening, pushing corners outward, and sew the pocket closed using the ladder stitch. (I’m slightly in love with the ladder stitch tbh). If they’re visible, you can use the holes of the basting stitches as your guide for even sewing! Press patch pocket, rolling the lining to the inside, then sew the patch onto the shirt.


7 - Attach patch to garment then attach pocket flap as outlined in Tutorial One.

7 – Attach patch to garment then attack pocket flap as outlined in Tutorial One.


I’d love to hear if you’ve come by another own method of achieving good results as I can be a genius for missing the obvious.

Stylearc ItaliaAdvice also needed on this: I’m making the Mara dress for myself and would like to add to it the elements of another Stylearc design, the Italia shirt dress, for which I didn’t buy the pattern.  I’m after the sleeve tabs (which seem simple) but also would like to add the hem gusset. Any idea how to produce the hem gusset neatly?!  I was hoping to find a RTW garment with one of these and analyse how it’s been done but nothing so far in my search.

Le Sac Cami

1 le sac cami1 robe a la francaisI based the design of this top on the pleated ‘Le Sac’ or ‘Watteau gown’ popularised by the artist who painted the well-dressed ladies of 18th century France.  I discovered Le Sac at the Danson House Vivienne Westwood exhibition but the feature of large pleats hanging from the back neckline lives on in wedding dress design as the beginning of a gown’s long train.

As you may notice, my top has pleats at the front.  The back is plain.  Sorry it’s so sombre!  I made it to go with a particular very cheerful A-line skirt, only of course it doesn’t: it goes with tight skirts and jeans.   The fabric is silk: some kind of robust yet drapey weave with horizontal lines just visible.  I cut the fabric on the crossgrain, using the weaved lines to help form the pleats.

1 back of le sac

The Back of Le Sac

1 le sac rolled hemSewing Le Sac top was not without a lesson or two.  I think I did a decent job of the hem, mostly by foregoing my rolled hem foot.  And I believe I’m now able to make rouleau strips without losing my temper.  I recommend a combination of the Material Lady’s method coupled with (if you don’t have a loop turner) the trick of sewing in a cord as described here by ByHandLondon. The Back of Le Sac 

1 le sacThe biggest challenge in terms of making it look professional came during the joining of  bodice, straps and facing, where it’s key to make the straps emerge precisely at the apex of the neckline on both the front and back.  On the front, it shouldn’t be too difficult if you line up the rouleau strip with the box pleat edge before sewing yet it still took more than a go or two to get right.

I’ll be making this again soon and showing the drafting.  Next time it’ll be for a friend who is petite and I hope this will flatter her.  It’s not an ideal top if you’re busty: there’s a danger that the pleats will open like the wings of a ladybird!

At the end of every summer as it turns increasingly cold and damp and the heating is put on in the evening sometimes, I engage in a manic flurry of activity during which I make summery dresses and skimpy tops.  Do you do this too?  This phenomenon is called Denial.

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

My Girl

1 my girl1 fit and flare bodice and circle

Fitted dresses are not very suitable for small children as they tend to have rather large stomachs“.  I’m  always amused when I read this sentence from Winifred Aldrich’s instructions on constructing ‘the Classic Dress Block’.  To my imagination (fed on too much fiction), it suggests children to be a separate species: alien, greedy, inconvenient….

My daughter, who just turned eleven, is at the upper end of the height range for Aldrich’s girls block and I think this ‘fit and flare’ style really works.  The first bodice was far too short and wide and took two more muslins to get right but they were simple to make and very little shaping was required: the side seams took care of the fit with the only darts being the 1.5cm wide nips from the back neckline to each shoulder blade.  After making the bodice, I cut the skirt based on the measurement of the garment waist, working out the radius and cutting this out as a circle from the remaining fabric first folded into 4.  (By Hand London has a really clever Circle Skirt App that does this more easily but I don’t think theirs is the most efficient use of fabric if you haven’t got much.)

1 flareWould you believe that this short skirt has more than 3m of circumference at its lower edge?!  I bought some bargain bias binding and hemmed with that: it’s a much quicker way to hem a circle than all that folding and pinning.

1 Back view

But while sewing for girls isn’t as tricky as fitting a woman’s bodice, there can be, er,  complications.  Some children are very ticklish.  Not to mention absolutely terrified of you coming at them with a tray of pins!

Oh the dramatics we had, and the cajoling…

This was made for the Year 6 Leavers’ Production of Peter Pan (Year 6 is when UK children leave Primary School).  My daughter practiced hard and read for several parts in the auditions with the hope of being Tinker Bell – she of the emerald bodice, iridescent skirt and a doughnut in her hair!  Instead she was chosen for the part of Narrator.  There are some wonderful costume opportunities in Peter Pan, for girls and boys.  I remember a sticker book of Disney characters I had as a child.  How I loved Tiger Lily with her smooth black hair.  I‘d have loved to dress in moccasins and fringed suede.  But for the Narrator’s role, all that was required was an “occasion dress”.  I kept it simple.  Zip, velvet ribbon, bias binding and Japanese cotton fabric (from Stitch) cost under £15, so no great loss if she never wear this again – though she bloody well should!

I’m very proud of my daughter.  She has tried hard to make her mark in a large primary school with 120 pupils in her age group.  Over the years, she has produced work of super quality, played her ukulele in school concerts with confidence and calm and bounced back from setbacks with admirable resilience.  She insists that I don’t teach her to sew so imagine my delight when from time to time she astounds us by producing  gifts of soft toys she made by following internet tutes  :-)

1 Crunchy, Lemmy Substitute and Kiwi

Left to right: Crunchy, Lemmy Substitute and Kiwi

A Pleasant Alteration

Phase Eight Ninette after straps adjustmentMy client, a first-year student, was shopping for an outfit to wear at a wedding and spotted this beautiful, expensive dress in Phase Eight.  She waited until it was in the sales then bought it for a fraction of the original price.

That’s the kind of thing I like to do.

Except that when I play chicken with the shops, my coveted item sells out, thereby becoming ‘the one that got away’ I spend years afterwards searching for on Ebay and in charity shops, just in case….  :roll:

I suspect the reason why Phase Eight didn’t sell out of this number is that the straps are too long.  This size 8 had an excess of 5cm (2inches) that I took out.

Normally I baulk at alterations (there are some horrid ‘prom dresses’ in suburbia), but I loved this dress at first sight.  The colours remind of me of staining you get picking and eating cherries!  The skirt conceals a tulle underskirt between two layers of white lining: the outer lining stops the netting catching on the dress fabric and the inner lining makes the underskirt more comfortable against the skin.  The fabric is polyester: stiff but not organza.  The bodice is interfaced with a soft backing which prevent it from being too sheer and it is also lined.

This is the wrong side of the strap, before the alteration.  Observe how ‘helpfully’ the white bodice lining is a few mm narrower than the bodice.1 Before

I felt I knew what to do – though that did not stop my hands trembling when I unpicked the stitches!

1 Opened up

Step 1 – opening up. It’s important not to be afraid of removing enough stitches to make room for sewing of the shoulder seams. P.S. Notice the white interfacing on the fashion fabric.

1 right sides together, stitch straps

Step 2 – press right sides together, pin and stitch bodice 2.5cm away from original stitching line. Trim and press open.

1 Right sides together, stitch lining straps

Step 3 – the fiddly bit. RIght sides together, sew the lining straps 2.7cm in from original stitching. (Ok, so I did sew 2.5cm the first time, but as it lies in the inner curve, the lining ended up longer than the bodice and had to be redone).

1 slipstitch lining to fashion fabric

Step 4 – press opened seam allowances to the inside, pin and slipstitch together.

1 After

Inside of adjusted strap

1 after, right side

The right side

Does my method look right?  Would you have improvements to suggest?  I charged £15 for about 90 minutes work (opinion welcome…)  It’s one of those tasks that would take a third of the time once you’ve done it so often that you’re more confident.

I really enjoyed this job.  It came at the end of a week which began nastily on Monday.  On Monday, I spent hours sewing double layers of crinkly chiffon for a client who wanted them turned into two gift shop scarves.  It worked out a fraction of the minimum wage.  I might write about that some day :roll:  :-)

But whilst on the subject of lovely RTW dresses and summer, here are a couple of links:

Almost Famous, one of my favourite shops (though I tend to look rather than buy) is also having a sale.

Fancy picking cherries and blackberries?  It’s time to make Summer Pudding!1 summer pud