The Patient Party Dress

This dress waited a long time to be made, re-made, and finally celebrated here: so voila, the most patient party dress.

The dress started off as one of my mother-in-law’s old skirts, passed on to me after a wardrobe clear-out – it’s a linen blend gored below-the-knee skirt (seems Diana was having a short day in the picture below, it’s not really maxi).  Not my style, but great colour and print, so I queued it straight up in the restyle pile.

linen skirt before

Of course, the design of the skirt isn’t ideal for a restyle – although it looks like a lot of fabric, it’s all split up into those itty bitty gored panels, with seams all over the place.  So there weren’t many other options but to turn once again to my Favourite Pattern of All Time:

Simplicity 2588

Yes my friends, a princess-seamed bodice with raglan sleeves is the answer to this sort of fabric conundrum.  Many of the pattern pieces are so small, you can squeeze em out of a hankerchief.  I also varied up this version by omitting the collar and turning it into a V-neck, thus using even less fabric.  Simplicity 2588 rocks, and yes I probably will be forever making some version of it as long as I can sew.

But linen flower fabric alone does not a party dress make.  Until I rediscovered this blue shiny stuff, I think it’s taffeta:

party dress 3

It’s so shiny!  (Unfortunately, in this picture, so is my face. Huh.)  And just the word taffeta takes me back to all the Ballet Shoes type childrens’ books I read when I was little, in which party dresses always seemed to be made of it (Or velvet. Or organza.  Always wanted an organza dress).

So far, so good.  I wore the dress to a friend’s wedding back in August 2012.  But throughout the day, something didn’t seem right with my full circle skirt.  It just didn’t swish right, or fall right.  Finally, in the ladies’ loo at the evening reception, I figured it out.  Can you see it…?

wonky circle skirt

To get the most out of the fabric, I didn’t cut the pieces with the grain down the middle.  Instead each quarter circle is positioned so that, if the piece was divided into thirds, the grain runs down one of those third divides.  Messing around with the grain on a circle skirt gives you some interesting drape options, and you can see two of those in the picture above… because I forgot all about my asymmetric grain when I came to sew the pieces together.  On the right hand side as you look at the picture, a few smaller folds are more bunched up around the centre front.  Whereas on the left hand side, there’s one big fold at the front, with more bunching towards the side seam.

All I need to do was unpick one of the pieces, flip it over (fabric is the same both sides, that was my undoing) and sew it up again. Easy peasy. So why did it take me 18 months to do?

party dress

Back in December 2013, we had our first night out together since our daughter was born – Mr B’s work party.  And while there wasn’t enough time to sew a whole new outfit, she napped just long enough for me to make the changes on the skirt.  Now it swishes beautifully.

party dress2

…and it’s just waiting patiently again in my wardrobe for the next party.

Post-bump me-mades

Whenever I sewed maternity clothes, it was always with one eye on the long-term.  I wanted things that would fit my shape now, but also in the future.  I wanted to have the cake, and eat it.

So this maternity summer dress

Duvet daisy dress 5

…becomes this first-night-out-without-baby winter dress:

daisy dress2

Granted, I left out one big factor: breastfeeding, which is completely impossible with this bodice and neckline.  So this dress is very occasional wear post-bump, but holds on to a firm place in my wardrobe post-boob.  Onwards and upwards!

On my (dusty) sewing table

At the start of the year, I signed up to Karen’s 2013 Jar Of Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is with this pledge:  “I plan to create The Ultimate Bag (or maybe two?), with sections, pockets, and fastenings fully customised for what I need to lug around day-to-day.”

At the time, I was thinking of a stylish work bag: compartments for all my files, stationery, flashcards, bubbles, stickers (NB: I work with children).  Of course, I didn’t know just yet that this just was about to happen:

Maternity maxi skirt 1

So, as my day-to-day needs have radically changed, The Ultimate Work Bag has been superseded by The Ultimate Nappy Bag.  And, as spare time has been slashed to zero for the last couple of months, this is as far as I’ve got:

nappy bag piece1

That’s one whole outer piece cut out.

But while I’m not progressing on the sewing front, I am way up there on the shopping front: all these hours of feeding enable some serious web browsing.  So I am getting all the necessary notions in place – there’s even a new sewing machine foot (non-stick, for the oilcloth):


In the meantime, I am using my most spacious pre-baby handbag as an improvised nappy bag, and dreaming of my fully customised handmade one.  Just hope I do get to sew it before she’s potty trained.

And now for something completely different

After our very strong hunch that I was carrying a boy…

It's a girl

…we are inundated by pink.  (I am using pale turquoise in the nursery in defiance.)

In spite of the dramas and palavas of the pregnancy, she is completely well, growing, and changing almost daily – I am feeling hugely blessed, shattered, content, and prone to bursting into tears. I’d love to show you pictures, but Mr B and I have decided to try and keep her personal information off the internet for as long as we can, even Facebook.  That’s no judgement on bloggers who do post pictures of their kids (so cute!) but it just doesn’t feel right for us.  Hey, sometimes I still feel really weird that there’s pictures of me floating around the web…

There’s not been time for sewing lately, but I have quite a few finished items from my last week of pregnancy still to blog about, and hopefully some new projects to slowly chip away at (as mademoiselle prefers to sleep in the afternoons and eat all night long.)  See you soon!

NOT a gender reveal…

I’m frequently asked if I’ve been sewing clothes for the baby yet… Answer: Nope.  We’ve been given plenty of clothes already; I still have hopes for whipping up another pair of Tofinos for myself before Due Date; and I’m not spending hours on something that might only fit for a month or two.

Funnily though, I’m not bothered about the effort of stitching versus transience of wearing with other people’s babies – handmade clothes have become my go-to baby gift.  And it seems lots of sewists feel the same, at least with regards to the Itty Bitty Baby Dress, as so far I’ve admired pretty versions by Tilly, Marie, and Rachel.

Itty bitty baby dress1

This one is for a brand-new mini person called Melody, hence the little treble clef embroidered on the bodice.  All fabrics and thread were floating around in the stash already, so I didn’t have to buy anything new for this project – such a nice feeling when that happens, isn’t it?  I’m going to deliver it in person this week, hopefully in exchange for a cuddle…

Of course, with the baby boom of 2013 in full swing, there’s sewing for the boys too:

Baby boy boots

These are the Jaden baby sneakers (tip: don’t make em in chunky corduroy, far too fiddly) and a matching plushie lion using this tutorial.

I’ve just counted up 9 separate projects on my sewing table (including the aforementioned Tofinos) that I’d like to finish by the end of the week so that they’re out of the way before baby’s arrival… eek, wish me luck!

Serendipitous maxi skirt

Maternity maxi skirt

I’ve blogged previously and effusively about maxi skirts (having sewn them in polka dots, border prints, and semi-sheer) so to recap just briefly, I completely heart them because: 1. They suit all seasons.  2.  They work for tall girls.  3. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t shaved your legs.

This particular maxi skirt has added serendipity – the fabric is from a thrifted pair of curtains (£4.99 from the charity shop), thus already fully lined and hemmed – and the print combines all three of my ultimate summer colours, yellow, coral and blue:

Yellow coral blueThese are the luscious shades I paint my nails in, fill my wardrobe with, and generally gravitate to as soon as the sun comes out.  I usually have at least one or two in each summer outfit, but when all three of them come together… it’s like ice-cream for the eyes.  These colours just make me Seriously Happy.

The skirt is based on the Victory Hazel pattern, again!  I added a total of 8 inches to the front piece, to get 4x 1″ pleats across the centre for adequate bump space, and extended it to the floor.  I cut the outer fabric and lining at the same time (for maximum speed, accepting slightly reduced accuracy) and kept the original hems throughout (more measuring, but less sewing).

Maternity maxi skirt 4The back piece has no extra pleats, and is cut lower than the front.  This is one of the features I do like on Megan Nielsen’s Maternity Skirt – it feels comfortable and sits naturally in the small of the back – so I used that pattern as a guide for the curves. Then the top is just folded over and stitched to create a casing for the elastic.

Maternity maxi skirt back

And of course, there’s every skirt’s most important feature – pockets.

Maternity maxi skirt 3

In hindsight, it could’ve done with being more A-line, to have sufficient volume at ankle-level… but hey, I’m not exactly striding along at the moment, so there’s enough space for my waddling gait.

Which colours are you buzzing about this summer?

Simple little things

Third trimester, and I’ve never been so tired in my life (and thanks, but please don’t leap in to enlighten me on how much worse it’s going to get once the baby’s born).  Fortunately, I do get short energetic bursts periodically, just enough for a step or two of a mini-project…

I picked up this top for £5.50 after a little indecision, as I usually don’t go over a fiver in a charity shop, but it is Monsoon, with some lovely silver embroidery on the placket.  I took in the seams at the sides and the back, leaving the front nice and full, and shortened the sleeves.  I actually took the extra out at the shoulder (cutting the sleeves off at the shoulder seam, shortening, and reattaching) to keep the finished gathered cuff:

Maternity top restyle

Taking some length off the sleeves is a small thing to change, but makes a big difference – that original length always looks a little awkward to my eye, sliding about and making the wrists look gangly.  Now: a much-needed addition to the maternity wardrobe!  Just not while it’s 27 degrees outside.

Next up, a restyle on a display box from a junk shop for £1.  I’ve had it for years, waiting for a purpose… which arose recently when I wanted a new way to store my stud earrings.

Display box

The fabric choice was entirely dictated by the weave – it was one of the few things in my stash that would easily allow the earring posts through it to bed in the foam squares underneath (and the foam came from the stash too, hoorah for free projects!)

Earring display box

None of my jewellery’s valuable, but it all has good memories attached – these earrings range from the smiley faces I bought from Camden market at 15, to the wire drops made bespoke for my wedding day, to the sparkly crowns Mr B bought to cheer me up on a glum day…  I’m enjoying being able to see them all in their new home.

And then a little paper project – a hand-stamped birthday card of seasonal strawberries:

birthday card pic

What’s your opinion on mini-projects?  Satisfying creative fillers or just distractions from the big stuff?

(By the way, thankyou lovely people who commented on my last post – the MRI results came back positive, so that’s one more worry off the list x)

What to wear to an MRI

What would you wear to an MRI scan?  It’s a hefty wardrobe conundrum – ‘no metal zips, fasteners, buttons, belts or buckles’.  Even those little studs on jeans are out!  Then, add dressing with a front-heavy bump.  On one of the hottest days of the year:

hot day

I think every blogger I follow has written at some point about having a wearable wardrobe (as have I).  Isn’t this one of the big aims of home sewing?  A situation arises, suddenly, with precise sartorial requirements.  And among our handmade items, there is Just The Thing.  Because we have sewed deliberately and diligently to: fill the gaps in our wardrobe / make a capsule collection / colour coordinate it / all in a range of lengths, fabrics, finishes.

I am pretty guilty of sewing new for every occasion.  Not just weddings, or big birthday cocktails (c’mon, that’s standard new dress territory) but average events – hey, a picnic in the park! or hey, Thursday night at Wetherspoons…

Which is why I forget I actually already have a lot of things I can wear.

In fact, I had a nightmare along these very lines a few weeks ago.  I was in my old old bedroom (a house we moved out of when I was 13) getting ready to go to a ball with Mr B.  I didn’t have any time to sew, so I checked my bulging wardrobe.  And it was full of hideous things I’d somehow made – like a denim pinafore with knotted nude tights for sleeves (not joking, my subconscious really came up with that).  I was more horrified by my bad taste than by having nothing to wear.  Almost had to check my real wardrobe when I woke up.

So a sudden MRI: One of the reasons this blog has been quiet for a few weeks is that medics have recently been scanning and rescanning our petite (small for dates) baby via ultrasound.  Now they want to have a higher resolution look.  I’m shattered and rather wobbly, but at the same time feeling safe and blessed with a whole bunch of immensely gracious people praying for us, and trusting that God is knitting this baby together just right.

deckchair dress July

And the wardrobe winner was: Vogue 8645, no zips, no buttons, no fastenings!  Another score for lazy sewing patterns.  Of course, in the event…

hospital gown 1

What do you wear to an MRI?  What they give you.

Tofino Pyjamas two ways

Hi fellow PJ-party-ers!

Tofino shorts 3

I’d expected to be taking these photos out on the patio in the June sunshine, but it’s been far too gloomy and drizzly here in the UK… in fact, perfect weather to stay in pyjamas all day!

Tofino shorts 1

This is my second bash at the Tofino pattern – I was fortunate enough to be a pattern tester before it was released.  Back then, I got so excited that I ended up with a touch of GBSBF (Great British Sewing Bee fever)… aka limited time and strong desire to impress, leading to over-ambitious sewing projects.  Aha, I’ll be different, thought I: I’ll use satin!  With a lace overlay!  Plus satin piping!

Tofino testing 2

Maybe it would’ve been better with firmer fabrics, rather than these slightly stretchy cheap ones… which slid and shifted all over the place, and I couldn’t get those puckers out of the seams.  And the green stuff frayed like crazy.  Still, I’d hope Patrick and May would say it was an interesting concept, even if my sewing techniques let it down…

Tofino testing 5

So for this second version, I went for a nice woven cotton – from a duvet cover that I picked up on eBay for a few pounds.  I skipped the piping for easiness, but even without it, those side panels are fun to play with!  I switched the direction of the stripes to make things interesting (and it avoided any pesky odd stripe mis-matching along the seams).

Tofino shorts 2

Sorry to bore you all with the maternity adaptations, but for any pregnant ladies out there, these work really well.  The front is cut lower than the back anyway, great for fitting under the bump – I just lowered everything a little bit extra (1″ around the back, increasing slightly to 1.5″ off along the front).

As people are fond of telling me, I’ll probably be spending large chunks of my maternity leave in my pyjamas – so at least they’ll be stylish ones.  Thanks for the pattern Tasia, and nice job on hosting the party, Karen!

Deckchair Vogue dress

Vogue Deckchair dress 3

This dress popped into my head fully formed as soon as I spotted the fabric in my favourite Goldhawk Road shop – don’t ask me what it’s called, but it’s got a really narrow long basement downstairs… do you know the one I mean?  I was wearing my first Vogue 8645 at the time, and knew this stuff would be perfect for version 2.

This is the second garment I finished just in time for my weekend to the Isle of Wight.  So these photos were snapped at Osborne House, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s family home in East Cowes:

Osborne house 2

It was pretty fun checking out the dress in Victoria’s dressing room full-length mirror, but you’ll have to take my word for it (no pictures allowed inside the house).

Vogue Deckchair dress 2

This time round, I upped the neckline an inch or so at the front.  Sure, the whole thing looks a little higher at the front than the back, but that’s down to the bump, not the dress.  Oh, and this one has pockets!  Can’t believe I omitted pockets in the first one.  Dresses should always have pockets.  Always.  Any time I skip em, I miss em.

Vogue Deckchair dress 1

Pretty good stripe matching, huh?  I cut just one of each of the pieces using the paper pattern, then flipped the fabric version over, matched up the stripes, and used it as the pattern for the second piece.  It worked really well – here it is, all pinned in place:

Dress stripe matching

I’m totally into these stripy sorbet colours, though I did start to wonder if it’s all a bit too… deckchair camouflage attempt?  Ice-cream vendor?  Stick of seaside rock?  Still, all those things considered, it shouts SUMMER at me just as loudly as it did in the shop basement.

Vogue Deckchair dress 4

Welcome to summertime one and all, and happy Longest Day!