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.

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?

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!

Nautical stashbusting tunic

Knit top 1

Mr B and I wanted to have a little holiday before hitting the third trimester, while I’m feeling reasonably well; gearing up for the roller-coaster-slide to the due date.  I fancied a few days at the seaside, so we pitched up at lovely Ventnor on the Isle of Wight:


Ventnor iow map

I finished this top just in time to chuck it in the suitcase. The pattern’s a vintage one from 1979, which came home for free from April’s epic V&A meetup – thankyou, anonymous swap contributor!

Simplicity 9196

Check out that classy velvet number, accessorised with side ponytail!  Normally I would have looked right past this one, but it’s a loose stretch knit with a belted waist, which makes big waves on my maternity sewing radar.  Plus, the yellow version actually looks super-cute (sort of 1970s does 40s homage?)

The stripy stuff came from this Dorothy Perkins vest top, £1.50 from the local Barnardos.  I had a go at wearing it as-is, but the fabric is really flimsy and those white sections are almost see-through: much too high-maintenance.  Instead, there was just enough room to cut the four collar pieces.

Collar restyle vest

The blue fabric has been sitting in my stash for a few years, so all I needed to buy was some knit interfacing.  Yep, knit interfacing – REVELATION.  I have something of a crush on interfacing generally – it just makes fabric pieces so beautiful and crisp and mmm.  And you can get it for knits as well?  How did I not know already?!

Knit top 2

For what’s essentially a baggy t-shirt, I think the collar and gathered sleeves really notch it up a level.  Wouldn’t it make a good work outfit in a nice jersey fabric?

The Daisy Duvet dress

Duvet daisy dress 1

This was a gem of a find in a charity shop – a cute and quirky duvet cover, in a nice crisp cotton blend, for £3:

Daisy duvet 2

I almost balked at cutting it into pieces… but it was much easier once I realised the whole print is truly deeply wonky! (Though that also made the actual cutting logistically harder…)

Daisy duvet

I wanted a pattern that would showcase the print without too many darts or seams, and plumped for the beautifully simple Victory Hazel dress which I’ve used twice before:

RWB Hazel dress

Red White and Blue Dress

Summerbirds dress 1

Victory Hazel bodice

So a few maternity adaptations: I added 1/2 inch to each of the bodice seams to give an extra 2 inches round the bust; and added eight pleats across the front skirt (all 1 inch deep and 1 inch apart) to make space for the bump.

Duvet daisy dress 5

…with a bit of contrast on the back

Duvet daisy dress 2

Which sort of blends back in along the sides:

Duvet daisy dress 3

I almost finished this for May, but my Me-Made-May pledge fell sadly by the wayside this year.  I should have pledged to wear all the things that still fit me and to sew as much maternity wear as possible – in retrospect, I was far too over-optimistic about how much sewing I’d get done (what’s new, eh).  These days, more and more time is taken up with antenatal appointments, and sometimes I’m too tired to clean my teeth in the evening, let alone thread a sewing machine and get stitching.

Duvet daisy dress 6But voila, this did get finished; it makes me feel pretty; it’s cool and comfortable; and it doesn’t need ironing.  Win, win, win.

Maternity transitions: Vogue 8645

Script top 2

The ultimate aim in maternity sewing: a garment that will fit the whole way through pregnancy – and beyond.  Once I’ve spent sewing time on something, I expect some potential for years of wearing, don’t you?  And I think I’ve hit on an ideal pattern here with Vogue 8645.


See, it’s not a specific maternity pattern: the shape comes from wherever the belt sits.  Normally it would be round the waist, like in the pattern illustration.  Right now, I can belt it above the bump – and there’s still space in the skirt, and around the bust from the shoulder gathers.

Script top 1

The fabric is an Ikea print – I resisted on two consecutive trips, but the third was too much and I came home with 4 metres of it.  Just as well, as the cutting placement demanded serious yardage to line up the script on the front and back (as far as possible – the sections all fan out below the waist).

Script top back

I first wore this to the epic sewing meet-up last month, under my Megan Nielsen maternity skirt (it wasn’t hemmed!)


But now that it’s properly finished, it’s a huge part of my current wardrobe.  The shoulder ties keep bra straps under wraps, and it’s roomy without gaping or slipping around.

Script top 4

So of course I’ve already got another V8645 on the sewing table, lining up some stripes this time…

stripy fabric

Very Easy Vogue – does what it says on the envelope.  Snap it up fellow sewists, and belt according to need.

Sewaholic / Megan Nielsen mashup

I recently posted about my first attempt at the Megan Nielsen Maternity Shirt.  There were aspects I liked, but I hit some sizing issues and the cut didn’t quite work for me.  This is my second attempt, a little hybrid experiment: half MN maternity, half Sewaholic Renfrew!

maternity tee 7

I’d been pretty spoilt by the Renfrew t-shirt – I love the way Tasia puts a garment together, and this one’s just right.  The instructions minimise stretching out the neckline during construction, and give such a simple way of setting in the sleeves.

maternity tee 5

Plus I realised my existing Sewaholic Renfrews still fit comfortably round the bust, so I figured I could use the upper bodice part, incorporating that well-constructed neckline, and blend it in to the Megan Nielsen one, keeping the nice ruching and length.

pattern mashup

I traced out an XL version of the Megan Nielsen top first, then laid my TNT size 10 Renfrew pattern over the top.  Funnily enough, the two patterns met exactly around the first side notch… confirming my feeling that the ruched maternity t-shirt has incredibly teeny tiny sizing!  Surely one pattern’s XL and another’s size 10 shouldn’t line up at the bust?!

The orange line below is what I ended up cutting, and the green is the original Maternity t-shirt outline.  You can also see that the shoulder seam of the Renfrew is much shorter, so that the sleeves sit further in (which is my preference).

pattern mashup 2

When it was all sewn up, there was still a little excess round the tummy, so I guess I only needed the XL sizing up top, and probably just a Large lower down.  I took it in at the sides, but didn’t trim the seams so I can let it out again if I need more space later on.

The colours just came together from old knit fabrics that happened to be in my stash (the yellow’s from an old hen party t-shirt), but I’m enjoying the contrast!  Doesn’t it look a little… superhero-esque?  Maybe once I take off my glasses…

maternity tee 8

Haha, Super Amy!

maternity tee 9

So my conclusions: if you’re trying out this pattern, make it BIG.  Unless you happen to be petitely miniature.  But if you’re a standard medium or above, start with the XL and work down.  Compare and contrast with your other t-shirts to get the fit and cut you like, and then blend that ruched section right in.  Sew on, super-sewist amigos!

Here’s one I made earlier…

…and forgot to post about here.  But it’s one of the decreasing group of me-mades that still fits in my second trimester, so I feel it deserves a proper mention at last.

I’d finished it just in time to wear to Day 5 of the London Olympics last August:

Olympic Renfrew 1

Welcome London 2012

We bid for quite a few different events when the tickets were first released, and ended up with women’s water polo (don’t knock it – I first watched a match at university when my friend Anna played for Yorkshire. It’s fast-paced, exciting, pretty easy to follow, and extremely violent. No, there are no horses involved. People keep asking me that.) And we got to see Team GB play!

GBR supporter

We later lost 16-3 to Australia.

We’d probably have gone to pretty much anything though, to see the Park and soak up the atmosphere:

London 2012 fans

The fabric came from a thrifted slightly-too-big t-shirt that caught my eye in a charity shop: look, they’re actually proper little British lions!

Lion print

When I checked the label, it turned out to be by Pringle of Scotland (prestigious luxury brand dating back to 1815), so a total bargain at four quid – as the lady at the till in the charity shop pointed out; she seemed a little miffed about the whole thing.

And it was just perfect for refashioning, because it came with two layers of fabric – there was a whole other t-shirt of the solid blue colour under those lions!

Original Pringle top 3

I managed to squeeze a Renfrew out of the top layer with some creative cutting and positioning, and then had plenty of blue for the contrast banding.

Olympic Renfrew 3

It perfectly fit the bill for a subtle show of London 2012 support – a very British design from a UK firm. And blue, just like Stella McCartney’s design for Team GB.

It was a brilliant day out, and I’m so glad we got to go – it’s probably the only time in my life I’ll actually attend an Olympic event. So I bought a keyring to show off to potential future grandkids, and legged it for the last train home.

Water polo arena