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.

Last make of 2012

I feel like I’ve just got back to sewing and blogging after my moving break, so a What-I-made-this-year round-up doesn’t seem to fit right now.  Instead, here’s what I made a few weeks ago for Mr B’s Christmas party:

Yes, basically t-shirt and shorts!  The top is mostly black jersey, apart from that centre panel (lined in pale-gold, don’t worry) and the peplum.  I used best-friend-pattern Simplicity 2588, omitting the zip. 

The lace came from Goldhawk Road – a rather accidental buy.  I was just admiring it in one of the shops, no project in mind, and with a massive bag of fabric already… but I got sort of sucked in to the sales patter:

  • Goldhawk Rd guy: “Hey lovely lady!  You want some of the lace?”
  • Me: (Shouldn’t really.) “Um, how much is it?”
  • GR guy: “£23/m”
  • Me: (!!!) “Oh… that’s a bit more than I wanted to pay…”
  • GR guy: “How much you thinking?”
  • Me: (About a fiver?) “Like, £15?”
  • GR guy: “Nah… but could do £18?”
  • Me: (Walk away now, you don’t even really want it.) “OK!”
  • GR guy: How many metres d’you want?
  • Me: (firmly) “One”.
  • GR guy: “One? What you gonna make with one metre?”
  • Me: (Don’t know, but there’s no way I’m putting down more than £18.) “A top?”

That metre of lace sat in the stash for about 9 months.  I didn’t even look at it too often, feeling the twinges of spending regret.  And then I came across this outfit:


I like everything about it, from the collar to (Jessica’s) shoes.  And finally my guilty lace clicked into place.  See, Goldhawk Rd guy, I did make a top!

I’m thinking of shortening the peplum a little bit more, and I do want to try a white collar, but otherwise it works – so comfy in jersey, and still classy enough for a smart-casual dress code.

(And the shorts?  Oh… the shorts are a self-drafted wearable muslin, barely finished – in fact, I left the waistline raw (can’t see it under the peplum), and the hem is just turned under once and stitched in place – shhh, don’t tell anyone.  Hopefully something more presentable will emerge shortly.)

Happy new year everyone!  Here’s to excitement and achievement in 2013!

OWOP catch-up

Hello!  A little different from usual, I’m typing this post from an Alpaca farm near Lake Windermere.  Honest!  And the Wifi is a little ropey, thus my reflections on OWOP are a little late.  And, extra honest – getting ready for the holiday took over last week, so I only have pictures for 4 of the 7 days… but I did faithfully wear my Simplicity 2588 creations (while grinding my teeth in frustration that I seem to have lost my purple Sew Grateful skirt…)

My blue roses skirt (using the ‘flared skirt’ part of the pattern) took centre stage, worn on four days.  Here’s Sunday and Wednesday:

And my Cheryl-Cole-Chevron skirt (using the ‘Slim skirt’ pattern) came out twice.  Here’s Saturday’s outfit:

But the most successful OWOP day by far was Tuesday, the one-off outing of my Apple dress.  Almost everyone I met commented on it – from a colleague who said it looked like an Orla Kiely (I copied it from Orla Kiely! I whispered excitedly in the meeting) to the man in the corner shop who asked for an apple (but not in a creepy way).  I chickened out of asking one of them to photograph it though, so this is the best I could do by myself:

I paired it with a thrifted jacket I found for £5 in a charity shop:

(Ok, so the prints don’t really match, but I felt I could carry it off with a ‘hey, I’ve deliberately clashed some prints together’ rebellious shrug. No-one pointed or shouted anyway.)

Thanks again Tilly for organising OWOP – it forced me to wear this dress to work, and I actually liked it!  It was nice to have a bit of back-up when people said “ooh, don’t you look nice” with surprise… I could explain about the challenge, and blogging and making my own clothes.  But now I’ve had that little push, a lot more dresses are going to feature in my work wardrobe from now on: I just felt well-dressed, pardon the pun.  And yes, that means plenty more outings for Simplicity 2588.

Last make of 2011

Happy new year everyone!  As usual I’m running late, and have a project from last week (last year!) to post before thinking about this year’s goals and plans.

I wasn’t planning to make myself anything for Christmas, on top of all the stitching I needed to do for other people, but then I found this fabric on eBay:

It’s a soft brushed cotton which really should’ve been shouting PYJAMAS! at me.  And it was listed by the fat quarter in auctions, which made it painfully long-winded to buy.  But the chevron pattern reminded me of this:



Cheryl Cole is not normally my kind of fashion icon, but I like everything about this skirt – the fabric, the shape, those belt loops.  And the front pleats instead of darts reminded me of my all-time favourite pattern… Simplicity 2588. Again.  I know!  But it works every time!

Put it all together, and I got this:

(Yep, I even copied Cheryl and paired it with a shirt).

I’m so pleased with it, especially as the improvised belt-loops turned out exactly as I’d wanted with zero fuss (and how often does that happen in sewing?).  Hurrah!  Happy Christmas to me.  The only question is, can I get away with wearing it during the rest of the year?

Amsterdam and apples

On holiday I missed my sewing maching, but I missed internet access even more.  All those little daily references: weather, email, love-to-hate-it-Facebook, reading other people’s blogs, Google, and for Mr B and I, extensive use of Wikipedia to settle arguments discussions.

So in Amsterdam we found an excellent coffee shop with free wifi access (and ahem, no smoking) and debated whether a holiday should truly mean ‘getting away from everything’.  I definitely wanted to leave a lot of things behind for a while (and maybe not have to pick some of them up again at all) but actually, pottering around the web for a while is something I do enjoy.  It regularly sparks my curiosity and creativity.

And besides, we could see the canals out of the window.

And besides, the coffee shop was awesome:

Later that day I finished the hand-stitched bits on my apple-a-day Orla Kiely homage and I love, love, love it. Except…

…I’d put the zip in in a rush about an hour before chucking it in the suitcase and leaving the house, and one side is higher than the other…

…and I’d like to change the buttons for something chunkier and retro, more like Orla’s:

But all in all, I’m pretty darn chuffed with it:


Maximum awesomeness

Isn’t it lovely when a project seems to work out all by itself?

I bought 3m of black/white polkadot polycotton with the idea of making the main view of this:

And then I was just sort of draping the cotton round me (does anyone else do that when they get their hands on new fabric?) and thought… polkadots would make an awesome ballgown.

Sadly, no invitations to the ball have been forthcoming… and one could not have a polycotton gown.  But, it’s just a little design jump to get to a maxi dress, no?  I was convinced that a maxi wouldn’t suit me, mainly because most of the examples I see have only teeny tiny bits of thread for straps and itsy bitsy triangles to hold the girls in place… so no can do, despite those gorgeous floaty skirts.

Instead, a bit of pattern mix-and-matching, and voila:

I still made use of the Lisette pattern: can you spot it?  I used the skirt from the waist down, extended to hit the floor.  Oh my goodness, those pockets! Love a good pocket, me.  Possibly one of my main drives in dressmaking is that ready-to-wear clothes never have good pockets – if any at all, it’s really rather shocking.

And then the top half is my favourite pattern of ALL TIME, Simplicity 2588:

I used the sleeveless bodice view:

Almost matched the spots at the waist seam!  As the 2588 is close fitting but the 2245 has a lot more ease, the top edge of the skirt is gathered to fit at the waist.

To conclude, I now know maxi dresses to be awesome: a) they’re an outfit in one, so no thinking’s needed to coordinate a top and bottom, plus b) it doesn’t matter what state your pins are in.  When life gets busy, that is pure gift from my wardrobe.




Day 6: Happy swirly Monday!

Hello!  I’ve been cut off from my blog for the past few days… something reset something else somewhere on a server or something (I have no idea) and I couldn’t log in at all.  But hoorah, at last all is well (thanks Mr B) and here I am.

When I went to work this morning, I hadn’t yet heard the good news, but I’m still smiling….

… because I really love this skirt.  Everything should have big deep pockets like this.  I’m so glad MMJ forced me to wear it – I was just catching up on admin in the office, which usually automatically equals jeans.  But today?  I sort of skipped around the filing cabinets swirling my skirt, which made it more fun than the average Monday.  Must must MUST make another one.

I won’t blog outfits from days 2 to 5 here, because 1) you can see them in the Flickr group, and 2) I’ll probably end up wearing each of them again, as we’re not even a quarter of the way through June…

Sew Weekly UK meet

Isn’t it great that you can line 14 people up in the courtyard of the V&A for photos, and everyone who walks past assumes that they should be taking photos too?  I wonder what they thought we were all about?

One of the great things about the Sew Weekly is seeing how many different ways a bunch of creative people interpret a theme – check us out in our red white and blue!  This meet-up was of course the inspiration behind my bank holiday hearts top and roses skirt:

Great day.  Coffee and cake, followed by the Yohji Yamamoto exhibition – which drove me crazy because you can’t touch anything or take pictures.  I know there are good reasons for that, but it makes it hard to a) work out how he did stuff and b) remember any of it.   We checked out the gift shop, and examined the workmanship on their Horrocks dresses – for sale at £98 a pop!  Charlotte’s handmade one was far better (second from the left, below) and the pattern is free to download!

Then off to Goldhawk Road to pattern swap and fabric shop…

More on that once I get round to making something from my new stash, but as you can guess, I came home with a lighter purse and a heavier bag.  My one regret of the day was not having more time to chat to the Fabulous Fabric Fandago-ers as we all raced round the shops… just some quick hellos and hugs with the beautiful ladies I met last time in Walthamstow.  So now of course I’m off to read all about it on your blogs.