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!

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.

MMM’13: What still fits

Me-Made-May is more of a challenge this year than I expected, as quite a number of my handmade clothes have lost the battle with the bump and been packed away until more streamlined times.  So the start of May was a timely investigation into what can still go the distance – click on the photos for the original garment posts!  First up, some Sewaholic Pendrells:

Check out the amazing slimmingness of those princess seams… you wouldn’t guess from these photos that there’s a five-month-baby tucked up under there, would you?  And still fitting comfortably (albeit with less ease than they used to).

Even more super-roomy, a Simplicity 2406 goes a long way:

I can see these lasting well into the third trimester (and they’re just a size 10, imagine the potential as a maternity pattern if one went up a few sizes).  In fact, there is another 2406 brewing on the sewing table which will hopefully make a MMM’13 appearance!  Along with loads more stretchy knits:

Sewaholic patterns triumph again with a snug Renfrew on the left, while on the right, I think this restyle may look even better now I’m rounder than it did back in February.  Empire-line plus a peplum = perfect maternity shape.

Of course, this wouldn’t be a proper MMM round-up without a pyjama appearance.  These only just work with the top button left undone, so there are a couple of new sets cut out and ready to sew.


Seven items down, 23 to go to meet my target – and we’re already over a third of the way through the month!

Round here

“Step out the front door like a ghost / Into the fog where no one notices / The contrast of white on white…”  Saying ’round here’ always triggers my favourite Counting Crows song, but those opening lines do fit today’s weather: white hail (!) against a whitish sky:

Weather 12th April

So, round here, number (1): there are quite a few works-in-progress…

Works in Progress

These are all made from old fabrics I’ve had for years, frantically stash-busting after the unprecedented step of putting all my various fabric hoards together in one place for the first time:

Fabric stash

As Mr B said when he saw it, I can’t tell if it’s better or worse than I’d expected.  But at least now it’s a known entity – though I’m bound to end up buying some new fabric at…

(2) the awesome meet-up being organised by House of Pinheiro: the V&A, handmade outfits, fabric shopping, swapping, and food.  Perfect.  And I’m so looking forward to re-meeting some fabulous bloggers.  But I’ll look a little different to last time because…

(3) Like Zoe, I have had to put aside my original sewing plans for the last few months (miniskirts, princess-seamed dresses) and look into a whole new range of patterns: maternity clothes.

Source: via Amy on Pinterest


Yes, one of the pregnancies I alluded to in my last post is mine!  I’m coming up for halfway through, and finally feel up to regularly sewing and blogging again, rather than  just lying on the sofa watching E4 re-runs.

(4) Talking of Zoe, I’m looking forward to Me-Made-May ’13  even though my pledge means I need to get on with lots of maternity sewing in the next few weeks because: ‘I endeavour to wear 30 different handmade or refashioned garments  over the course of May 2013.’  I set myself a slightly different challenge from last year, because I realise I ended up hitting the same garments pretty hard (ahem, pyjamas) to count as my ‘one item per day’.  This time round, I’ll only count each handmade item once, but there’s some flexibility as I’m not tied to a daily quota.

Also round here, (5) I’m feeling it’s time to make this blog a little more exciting, and I’m using some of that sofa-time to ponder style and navigational changes.  Please watch this space…

(6)  …and if you’ve been watching this space through Google ‘days-are-numbered’ Reader, then why not Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

See you all soon – maybe in real life on the meet -up! – happy sewing x


A me-made cocktail

In the time-honoured traditions of all my me-made challenges, I started with a bang and went out with a whimper.  I think I just about managed my pledge (albeit with drastic over-wearing of Pendrells and pyjamas) but I tailed off on photos…

May’s been a ridiculously busy month, work-wise, house-wise, voluntary-work-wise: good busy, but tiring busy. I’m looking forward to June being a little bit more interesting social-wise and hobby-wise.

So in honour of wrapping up MMM12, and my excitement at this gorgeously long weekend (two bank holidays, thanks your Majesty), here’s a me-made cocktail, inspired by this top:

…or this skirt:

Seeing as I dubbed this colour as Pantone’s Sodalite Blue, a cocktail combining blueberries and soda water seems to fit.  I invented this with my sister-in-law on our recent trip to the Lake District.  It took us five attempts, moving from mashing up the blueberries (looks ugly) to simmering them up in a syrup (looks awesome).  It tastes pretty zingy, so I present:

A ‘Fresh Fifth’

  • Blueberry syrup (made in advance; see recipe below)
  • Lemon juice
  • Amaretto
  • Soda water (optional)

Put the blueberries in a small saucepan with a tablespoon of sugar and a splash of water – the more water, the more watery the syrup will be. 

Cook the blueberries for about 10 minutes, stirring and mashing from time to time til they’ve broken down and gone mushy.  Push through a sieve and chill.

Put a load of ice in a cocktail shaker, and add: 1+1/2 shots of chilled blueberry syrup, 1+1/2 shots of amaretto, and 1 shot of lemon juice.  Shakey shake!  Strain into a glass.  I like to drink a lot of cocktails, so I tend to soften the alcohol content a little – in this case, by adding a couple of shots of soda water.

Enjoy, fellow dress-making cocktail-drinking friends, and have a fabulous weekend!

MMM’12: Week 1

First week done: target of 9 handmade items achieved (with one repeat…)

Tuesday: Roses skirt and spotty Pendrell top

Wednesday: Bicycle Pendrell top

Thursday: Snowflake skirt (am); Sodalite top (pm)

Friday: 2-become-1 dress

Sunday: Sew Grateful skirt with new Pendrell restyle

Monday: spotty Pendrell

This week I’ve learned:  I need a haircut.  I’m rather struck by the boring-ness of that repetitive daily pony-tail… 

A me-made (and minimally consumerist) May


It took me ages to add my pledge for MMM12, and I only requested to join the Flickr group today… maybe because I’m so ridiculously pumped about this challenge, I’m forgetting to publically acknowledge it?  Anyway: I, Amy of Diana & Me, sign up as a participant of MMM’12. I endeavour to wear 9 me-made items per week for the duration of May 2012.

This being my 3rd go at a me-made-month, I’m pretty sure I have enough handmade clothes to manage.  But I like to be quite flexible, so I’ve gone for a weekly, rather than daily, total… which also means on some days I’ll have to include more than one me-made item.

But I’m adding my own little challenge to the mix.  I admire how Zoe’s attitude to sewing and fashion reflects bigger ideas about sustainability and consumerism.  (Did you read the post on cashmere goats?  Fascinating!)  This is something I feel quite challenged about: does my lifestyle actually reflect my convictions about recycling, sustainability, and generally being a good ‘caretaker’ of the physical resources I’ve got access to? 

So, for the month of May, I’m radically cutting down my spending and consumerism.  This means no non-essential spending.  In other words:

  • I can buy groceries from a supermarket – but won’t buy lunches at work, I’ll bring my own.  Ditto, toiletries like shampoo and toothpaste are allowed – but not non-essentials like nail polish or eyeshadow.
  • No fabric buying!  Or notions buying!  Or even (sustainable as it is) buying second-hand from charity shops – I have enough potential restyles backed up to last me a lot longer than a month.
  • Buying birthday presents is OK, but not ‘little treats’ for myself / the house / Mr B.  That includes books / magazines (I’ll use the library).

I am giving myself 3 get-out-of-jail-free cards – basically, if I totally forgot to bring my lunch, I won’t go hungry for the day.  But the plan is not to use those unless I really have to.

I know all of this is a tiny drop in the ocean, but I’m interested to see if it changes my mindset longer-term – not needing that instant gratification of see-it-buy-it, but thoughtfully considering how and what I spend money on.  Planning my meals for the week should cut down on food wastage, and save money on M&S sandwiches.  Not buying new material means I’ll have to use up my stash.  And so on.  Here’s to May – see you on the other side!

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.

A wearable wardrobe

Over the last year, my sewing projects have meandered along as and when something catches my eye – someone blogs about an interesting pattern, or I spot an exciting fabric on eBay.  Nothing wrong with that, but I’m feeling the lack of order and co-ordination.  I still end up wearing all the same stuff on short rotation, while other items barely get worn.

So this year, I want to be more focused about creating a co-ordinated, wearable wardrobe, not just individual garments.  To help in the quest, I’m turning to the Colette Sewing Handbook (of course!) and Nothing to Wear? by Jesse Garza & Joe Lupo.

First step: figuring out my style.  The Handbook recommends picking out 5 items that you love to wear, and working out the common themes or qualities  (I’ve really enjoyed reading other bloggers’ posts on this topic!) Here’s mine:

Spotty Pendrell top; Peaches and Picnics dress; Maxi skirt;

Joules Carrick Boots; Laura Ashley Birds cardigan

Looking at these 5 pieces, my personal style seems to be:

  • prints! Back in July I identified how much sewing has changed my attitude towards print and pattern, and now it makes up almost all of my fabric stash. Even the cardigan, which goes with almost everything because it’s navy, has those little embroidered birds to keep me interested.
  • feeling comfortable: I love the fact I was able to play a whole game of rounders in my Peaches dress; and that my Carrick boots are waterproof and faux fur-lined (I’m virtually living in them right now).
  • easy care: none of these items need handwashing or even ironing – stick em in the wash, hang em up to dry, and it’s sorted.
  • feminine, but not too girly: I’ve got ruffles, floral fabrics, skirts, dresses, bows, but I like to mix it up with jeans, chunky boots and monochrome.

 I also did the questionnaire in Nothing to Wear? which put me as having a ‘whimsical’ style.  I wasn’t convinced when this was described as ‘sometimes ethereal and romantic’ but then I looked at the example pictures and style icons (such as Kirsten Dunst and Sophia Coppola), and the phrase ‘thoughtful combination of color and pattern’, and actually I think it fits.

Garza & Lupo describe a wardrobe in terms of ‘cake’ and ‘frosting’ .  ‘Cake’ is the basics – neutral colours in flattering styles.  The ‘frosting’ is the statement pieces – patterned or embellished or ‘trendy’ fashion pieces.  “Without the cake to support the frosting, you will either find it too difficult to pull together a coherent oufit, or you will appear too busy, too over-the-top” (p.90). 

This is exactly the problem with my favourite items – I couldn’t combine any of them in one outfit, there’s too much frosting.  I need to make more cake!  So by the end of 2012, I hope to have created a wardrobe that I can mix and match for any occasion, co-ordinated and comfortable and in line with my lifestyle.  Watch this space…