BHL Orsola dress in mustard linen

I’m excited to finally get to share my Orsola dress. It’s By Hand London‘s latest pattern release.

The Orsola dress is a true wrap dress. I sewed mine up in a beautiful linen from The Fabric Store.

I made a few small modification to my Orsola dress. I graded between sizes, sewing one size larger through the bust and blending to a smaller size through the waist and hips. I lengthened the bodice by 1/2 inch and the hem by 4 inches.

The bodice in the dress pattern has bust darts and waist darts. I’m an A-cup bust on a good day so I removed the bust darts, just keeping the waist darts for shape. It worked perfectly.

After toiling the skirt, I also removed the front darts. My body is angular rather than curvy and I didn’t need the extra fullness through the hips that the front darts provided. I also skimmed a few mm off the upper hip curve, just to reflect my shape better.

The result is a super comfortable and elegant dress that I’ve been wearing a great deal. It fills the ‘smart casual’ gap in my wardrobe perfectly. If I had more linen in my stash, I’d be inclined to sew up another!

 

BHL Poppy dress

The much anticipated release of the Poppy dress by By Hand London was today. I’m so glad I can finally share it because it’s become a big favourite in my wardrobe. I actually found #memademay a little difficult this year because I was reaching for my Poppy dress every second day, and yet I couldn’t really share it!

I made my first version in a truly lovely, Liberty of London cotton jersey from The Fabric Store. I wasn’t sure about the floral to begin with (I don’t really wear Liberty!). But now I love it SO much. The fabric is glorious to wear. It launders beautifully and has been wearing well.

The design is a simple, raglan knit dress with a twist. The shoulder pleats are the winning detail for me. They probably aren’t as pronounced in my make, but they give that little bit of extra room through the shoulders which makes this dress so good for me. I’d definitely recommend it for the #sewstrong #sewingstrong ladies out there.

It’s a very quick dress to make. I didn’t hem my dress because jersey doesn’t fray. After several wears, the hem and sleeves now have a really pretty rolled look to them and look about 1/2 inch shorter than in these photos (see today’s Instastory).

I loved my Liberty version of the Poppy dress so much that I made another last week, in a beautiful neutral viscose from Tessuti Fabrics. I love viscose jersey so much but a light coloured solid is probably not the most forgiving fabric to sew. At least you can see the great style lines of this dress better.

Refashioned into a LBD

A few years ago, I was playing around with a top design that had slightly dropped shoulders and statement sleeves. One of my early versions of this top was more of a tunic, and I had a little fun with it by adding a front cut out and big bow. This top was eventually refined into a more (daily) wearable Branson Top.

I always intendeded to make a short sleeved, dress version of the top but never got around to it. I guess this refashion is the next best thing!

All the ruffles

It all started with a Sachin & Babi dress that I fell instantly in love with. At that point, I wasn’t truly intending on making a dress, but I couldn’t stop thinking about how I would do it, if I ever decided to go ahead with it. I actually had the most perfect fabric in my stash already, which is rare, because I keep my stash pretty small. Every now and again, I purchase something on whim. It was how I ended up with several yards of the most beautiful sheer silk in shades of green. It will be a special occasion when I finally use it, and hopefully for my eldest daughter, as it was her hair and skin colouring that inspired me to buy it in the first place!

So, using my special fabric was out of the question. But I still couldn’t stop thinking about it. I started toying with the idea of refashioning another Archer in my wardrobe (my other ruffle refashion was an absolute winner!). But then I realised that I had enough of the vintage sheeting to simply start a dress from scratch.

I’d love to say that I had a pattern for this dress, but I made up a lotof it as I went along. It wouldn’t be hard to replicate though. All you need to know is how to make a flounce. You could use any princess seamed sundress pattern.

I started with a self-drafted, princess seamed dress bodice that I often use as a sloper. However, I’ve been doing a lot of swimming over the past year and I’m finding that a lot of my old memades aren’t fitting me so well anymore. My bust measurement has grown by a whole inch, unfortunately not my actual bust, but rather through my side back (the old latissimus dorsi). I ended up letting out the side seams under the arms but keeping the waist measurement the same. It worked perfectly. I also raised the neckline a little and brought the shoulder seams in towards the neck.

As to the ruffles, they are simply flounces that were measured and inserted into the princess seams. It was a little fiddly but perserverence paid off. I love the black insets on the front and back of the bodice, but I have to confess that these design features were the direct result of freestyling my sewing (forgetting a seam allowance) and having to fix the problems. The same happened with the skirt. I ended up recutting several panels more than once. First, I cut the skirt as one, but it didn’t look right without any flounces.  So, I seamed it down the front and back but followed the grainline for those seams. As soon as I inserted the first flounce I could see that it wasn’t going to work. I recut the skirt pieces with the seams parallel to the side seams. This makes the flounces fall in a nice bell shape with is prettier than straight lines down the front and back.

This dress is very ruffly! It has a lot of volume through the front bodice and the skirt. I’m fully aware that this is a style that wouldn’t work for everybody. It works well for me. I’m small busted, so the front ruffles add interest and size to the top. My body is somewhat triangular in shape, moreso as I get fitter and stronger. I don’t like emphasizing this shape, so having a bit of added body through the skirt creates the illusion of a more hourglass figure. Sewing is great because you can really play around with design to flatter and create illlusions!

And before I sign off on this dress, I just want to mention a couple of hashtags that I’ve started to use on instagram: #sewingstrong #sewstrong

All body types out there have their own sewing challenges. I can immediately think of patterns that are drafted for bigger busts, for pear shapes, and for petites. I’m not saying one is more challenging than the other, but simply that I have a harder time thinking of patterns that are drafted for tall ladies, small busted ladies, or very athletic shaped ladies. If you know of any, let me know! I would particularly love to know what patterns are working for ladies with broader backs, or strong shoulders. I know that I’ve occasionally turned to men’s shirt patterns, and Thread Theory’s Henley is an awesome fit on me. I’ve also been paying more attention to what Sallie sews lately, because I know if a shirt pattern fits her, it will probably work for me too. I’m hoping that this hashtag will be an easy way to pull up ideas for sewing patterns and flattering designs that work well on a strong female body. If you’re someone who struggles with fitting tops and dresses to a broader than average back, or strong shoulders, jump in and tag along.

 

BHL Alix dress revisited

At the end of last year, I was a pattern tester for the Alix dress. You might remember my long sleeved version of this dress.

The original version of this Alix dress had beautiful long sleeves. A silk dress with long sleeves is dreamy, but ocassions to wear it are few and far between. It’s not warm enough for Spring, and yet, by Summer, I really don’t want to wear long sleeves of any description. The natural solution was to chop off those sleeves.

The Alix dress works beautifully as a sleeveless dress. There is just one thing you need to know about doing it. The armscye in the original pattern is designed to be close fitting, because it’s a pattern for a woven, sleeved dress. It needs to higher in a sleeved dress to achieve a fitted look and allow for good arm movement in a woven fabric. However, a high armscye is unnecessary and uncomfortable in a sleeveless dress. Some of the lower armscye needs to be scooped out (lowered) in order to suit a sleeveless design. I shaved about 1/2 inch off the bottom of my armsye. I could have probably taken off a little more.

I simply bound the armscye in two parts. I dealt with the lower armscye first and then re-stitched that to the yoke. Finally, I applied bias binding to the part of the yoke that was left raw. It all folds under and is nicely hidden. I should also mention that as this was a test version of the Alix dress, the bust darts are a little pointy but if gathered (as per the updated pattern), the bust area would look smoother and awesome.

I’ve been dreaming of this version of the Alix dress since I first sewed my tester version. I’m glad I have it in my closet now. I can definitely see myself making more.

 

 

A Summer dress

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Apparently you guys like pretty dresses, well those of you who follow me on IG do. My top posts of 2016 are pretty much all the dresses. I hadn’t even blogged about this one and it still made the cut.

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I made this one using a large remnant of vintage linen, thrifted from an estate sale. The textured windowpane fabric was from a small length purchased on whim from Tessuti Fabrics some time ago. I think the blue pairs perfectly with it.

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The pattern is modification on a self-drafted princess bodice that fits me perfectly. You’ve seen me use different versions of this bodice all Summer (here, here, here, and here). The skirt is just gathered (with pockets of course!). I was after a cool, easy-to-wear, Summer dress.

I was worried about the straps being too stiff, but I’m glad for their sturdiness now. And they don’t feel too stiff when I wear the dress. They actually feel comfortable and secure. I hate flimsy straps that feel like they may stretch out or tear. Instead of creating tubes and pressing flat (as I’d normally do for a strap of this width), I used wider lengths of linen, folded the raw edges in and then in on themselves again, and then topstitched both edges. It means that there are four layers of linen in each strap, perfectly suited to holding up the weight of a midi-length, gathered skirt.

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I’m a big fan of the midi length dress. It’s an easy length for tall ladies to wear. I know I’m going to get a lot of wear out of this, maybe even sooner rather than later!

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IKEA shift dress and flared sleeve tutorial

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I’m not sure if it is a parenting flaw on my behalf, but my three girls consider a trip to Ikea worth bargaining for. They love visiting Smaland, even though it’s always a small miracle if there are ever enough spaces to take them all in. But even if they don’t get in, they’re at an age now that it is really quite enjoyable walking around and finding things together – things that we never knew we needed.

This is not the first time I’ve been fabric shopping at IKEA. A few years ago I made made curtains, bento bags, and a couple of small dresses with IKEA fabric. This time around, I purchased two yards of stiff cotton with the intention of making a midi skirt or a shift dress. It seems that the shift dress won out in the end.

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The pattern I used is based on this floral dress from last year. It’s a very basic, self-drafted shift dress, with flared extensions added to the sleeves.

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There are plenty of patterns you could use to acheive this simple design.

  • Vintage shift dress patterns are a dime a dozen. Ebay and Etsy both have heaps. I’ve just looked!
  • Papercut Patterns Sea-Bell dress is a more fitted style, but quite an expensive option for such a simple dress.
  • Megan Nielsen Dove top is another to consider. It would be easy to extend into a dress, and the sleeves are already done for you.
  • The Tessuti Fabrics Maggie Tunic would work well with the addition of flared sleeves.

The above sewing patterns are options, but if you already have a TNT, darted T-shirt, shift dress, or even a nice sheath, it isn’t difficult to add flared sleeves. All you need to do is measure the circumference of the sleeve you are adding to and decide on the length of flare you want.

First, decide which dress/top pattern you want to use:

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Now it’s time to create the sleeve extension:

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And there you have it. Flared sleeves couldn’t be easier!

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BHL Alix dress – pattern tested

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I recently did a bit of pattern testing for By Hand London. You might have seen a few sneak peeks of their new design on Instagram. I’m happy to say that it is finally available.

The Alix dress is a very flattering, easy-to-wear, slipover dress, with the perfect smidgen of 70’s vibe. I made mine up in a very cool striped and spotted silk crepe de chine.

The particular version you see here was made up according to the test instructions, so there has been at least one small modification to the final version. My dress has under bust pleats which can be a bit pointy. I think the final version gives the option of gathers which will produce a much smoother result.

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I should also list the other small fit modifications I made. Like many people, I’m not a standard size, so I graded from a US 8 (bust) to a US 6 (waist and hips). I lengthened the sleeves by 1 inch (long arms). I also found the underarms a bit tight initially, so I let out the underarm seams out by about 1/2 inch in total post construction. This is not a reflection on the design, just simply a post-construction fit for my broad shoulders. I would normally slash and spread either the CB or shoulder seams (design dependent) by about 5/8 inch in total to adjust for my broad back/shoulders. A US 8 (35 inch bust) is the perfect bust/chest fit for me but my shoulders expand above my bust so I need to accomodate for this increase in back width without adding volume to the chest area.

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My only other change was to shorten the maxi length version by 4-6 inches, shaping the hem in a slight hi-low fashion. I basically just made myself a midi. Cutting lines for all the dress lengths are included on the maxi length version so it is very easy to cut whatever length you desire.

I love my new dress and I’ll be holding on to this pattern for future versions too. It would make a lovely Winter dress in a lightweight wool. But actually, my brain is already working overtime, thinking how I might possibly be able to modify this pattern to make a sleeveless version next Spring.

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A refashion fest

It is still quite warm here in Kansas City. In fact, today the heat was back in full force. But mostly, this time of year is gorgeous, with less humidity, cooler nights, and pleasant days. I’m still not inspired to get on with my coat-making, but I have been thinking about my Fall wardrobe plans.

I’ve been pulling out the sweaters and going through my wardrobe to look for gaps. One thing I also do between seasons is to assess the clothes I own and identify what I don’t like anymore (and what I can possibly refashion). It’s amazing how much you can do with existing clothes to update an entire wardrobe without purchasing/making a thing.

You’ve already seen the culottes that I narrowed to refresh into a boxier shape that is more current for this year. I also shortened this floor-length velvet dress. I LOVED the glamour of the maxi version and I wore it for the holidays last year, but my life doesn’t call for floor length gowns very often. I tried it as shorter dress but I still didn’t feel the love.

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A little more cutting (and hand-stitching that hem for the third time!) and now it’s become a top that I’m really in love with! I’ll get tons of wear out of it in this version and the portions I cut off the dress can be reworked as a garment for one of my girls.

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Slip dresses have had their moment this Summer, but they’ll also be great for going into Fall. Remember this dress? It was my go-to out-to-dinner dress over Summer, but I’m getting bored of the cold shoulder look (at every turn in my wardrobe anyway!). I cut off the sleeves and rebound the armscye, adding small spaghetti straps to drop the neckline a little. Now I have a slip dress that I can wear alone or layered with a turtleneck and boots.

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I’ve also been playing around with layering. I dug out this old playsuit that I made using a vintage pattern years ago. Layering it makes for such a comfy and seasonally appropriate combo.

Even though I already liked this thrifted vintage dress a lot, it was a tricky one to wear in real life. The weight of the fabric meant it was way too hot for Summer, and yet the style doesn’t really suit colder weather. Converting it to a top has made it much more wearable for me, and the fabric is the perfect weight for Fall.

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I’m also a little in love with dramatic sleeves right now (same as always, right!). But instead of sewing myself a brand new top, I cut the cuffs off an existing shirt and drafted my own big, fancy cuffs to re-attach. This totally elevates the basic white shirt and is going to make my Fall layering just a little bit more… me. There’s a post about this refashion here.

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And while I was at it, I trimmed back and re-bound the armscye of this pretty little top. The fabric is divine but I found the original shape a bit boxy/masculine with the wider shoulder seams. I think it will now work better with more separates. I’ll try to get some photos posted soon.

And finally, I’m also a little tired of the torn denim, bare knee jean, so I took an old vintage skirt and used it to patch up my white denim. These jeans are now so fun and I can’t wait to pair them with a snuggly sweater in the coming months. More photos coming soon on this one too.

It’s actually been a lot of fun finding and reviving hidden treasures in my wardrobe. Does anyone else attack their wardrobe with scissors between seasons?

Black trimmed lace dress

I made this dress some time ago and entered it into the Tessuti cut out lace competition. However, I always had bigger plans for it. Here are some updated photos.

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Pretty much all the details are the same as before. I simply unpicked all the extra overlay that I’d handstitched in place over the shoulder straps, and turned the black trim back to the outside. There was a little seam-ripping and re-sewing involved but it was worth it (and easier because I’d made allowances for the changes to begin with).

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Now it’s just a shame that Summer is edging away from us. I’ve probably only got a few weeks of lace left but I will enjoy it while I can.

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