The End: of both a month and a dress

August is over. Officially it looks like summer is as well. I spent my bank holiday Monday determined to get something out of the day despite buckets of rain washing clean any last vestiges of dust that had escaped the attentions of previous clouds. That included biting the bullet and getting this dress finished, which has dragged its sorry self through an entire month and a depressingly slow pace of progress. To think this is the same person who sewed four dresses in the same amount of time in a previous year! To be fair, this was when it was a little less busy, but even so…

I’ve had to redo various bits after making a number of fatigue related errors. Still, we have got there. Sadly there’s no one to take photos of me in it but the dress form will model it nicely instead.

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I am feeling slightly foolish for planning (and making) two dresses which are so summer orientated whilst the weather is so cool that the quilt has relocated back on to the bed and I am wearing a wool cardigan. Still, you could call this advance sewing for next year right?

In the mean time, there is one immediate practical garment which has shoved its way on to my sewing to do list which will leave longer term readers pinching themselves in disbelief. I am intending to make (drum roll please) some stretch trousers for my yoga class. This, from the “I am not going to make any trousers again after making two for my sewing course”. Accept having spent 6 months in various poses using stretch jeans and sometimes finding the stretch a little, ummm, lacking my teacher suggested investing in something more akin to leggings. The only problem is that the last time I wore leggings was when I was about 13.

So I am not investing in any leggings, I am intending to make some stretch yoga trousers though. Happily lacking any tricky fly zip or lining. Hopefully Kwiksew 3988 won’t be too taxing though having read some reviews it looks like I will need to amend the crotch curve and fit a bit. Wish me luck!!

two become one

The last few weeks have been rather less than productive. I listened with a certain sarcasm to the advert telling me to relax as its summer. Someone tell my workplace! its the busiest time of the year and I haven’t had much energy left at the end of the day. What work (dressmaking wise) I have managed to achieve hasn’t been the best. I was left inspecting my invisible zip wondering how I could have done it THAT badly. Combination of not checking details and also sewing whilst very tired. Not a good idea.

Whilst busyness at work is yet to continue for a while (unhappy face) at least one dress is nearing completion. I have inserted the lining, added the facings, done the hemming, and all that is left to do is bind the armholes and finish the neckline. Hence the two become one. That also leaves one other dress to finish, for which I haven’t even cut out the fashion fabric for the bodice yet. I decided to focus my energies on the one project.

Anyway, on to the details. I added a faced hem as I figured the skirt was getting rather short. I ended up reducing the bodice seam allowance with the skirt to 5mm after (not sure how this happened after my careful measuring against my sloper) discovering it was a little on the high side. This did have the added benefit of reducing all of the bulk from the skirt gathering. The skirt lining is from viscose, not something I have used before in this way but it was in my stash and I thought it would drape nicely and not blow around like some of the more full skirts have done in the past.

I realised too late by adding the bias tape to the seams on the bodice I couldn’t do my usual lining technique to include the armholes. So bias binding its going to be after all. The hand stitching for the facings took a while but I think its worth it for the nice finish it gave. Cutting out the faced hem and the facings from leftover fabric gave me a nice feeling as I don’t normally know what to do with such small pieces.

More photos later of me modelling the dress. In the mean time, here’s how things look….(the v at the front neckline still needs finishing too!)

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picking up the threads: of dresses and progress

My carpet floor is once more calling hopefully for the attentions of the vacuum cleaner. It is (finally!) sewing time. If there is one way guaranteed to make the process of cutting out a drawn out affair, I can guarantee deciding to line your project, and also make another one all at the same time is a pretty good way of achieving this. But, i did sign myself up for this so I have only myself to blame….

I have the lining finished for one dress. But trying to take a photo of a white outfit is not very interesting ,or easy in terms of seeing the details. So I am leaving that outfit for the moment until its easier to see the progress. Instead you get to see the photo of dress number 2. Which still has some work to do (like attach the lining, and attach the bodice to the skirt). As I am my usual impatient self, the ensemble of the current work in progress has been pinned on to my dress form (as its not exactly going to work being displayed as is on me).

The fact all of the bias binding has been made by me is something I never thought I would do. I normally always buy ready made. But the idea was for the bodice to match the skirt. So there was nothing for it but to the plunge. After reading the Collette tutorial on continuous bias binding it was not too bad in the end.

I think its coming together as I envisaged. The neckline is going to need some interfacing to get a nice crisp finish. Normally I would eliminated the facings but I think I might include them by sandwiching them between the lining and outer fabric to add stability.

Anyway, the fun bit: photos……

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inching forwards – altering the fit

Today has been an interesting reminder in the importance of a well drafted pattern and the difference some time spent on fitting adjustments can make. But maybe some illustrations of the above will help explain what I am going on about….

I haven’t adjusted the neckline yet, as I wanted to check the effect of a minor alteration to the arm scythe would have. The bodice bottom has been shortened and shaped. The bottom side seams have been taken in slightly at the front bodice. The “tallest” dart has been reduced by 1cm, I think it still needs another cm.


still some wrinkling at the back



this bodice got altered the most, 3cm higher! its also more shaped too

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the back is looking pretty good

Neck(line) and neck(line)

It’s rained for a good part of the weekend. Amongst the necessary evils that must interrupt the pleasures of a long awaited weekend (its been a very busy week) some dressmaking was on the cards. Given both of the simplicity patterns (1803 & 2444) came with more ease than usual, and my experience with making my last dress, I decided to invest some more time, rather than my usual sew and fit approach.

The 1803 dress had the most ease and lots of people said it was too big when they made it in their usual size. So I went down a size at the waist. The other dress was made in my usual sizing. Here’s what they both look like so far! I’ve not made two dresses at the same time before so this is a new experience.

Some immediate thoughts. First, thank goodness I’m planning to line both of the dresses. Its not in the instructions but I think the fabric will hang much more smoothly for it. The amount of ease seams ok, I don’t think I would want to size down much more. I think the dart ending for 2444 needs to be lowed slightly.

Anyway, here’s what they look like so far…..1803

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and 2444

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with excess ease did I shift (this dress)

Ah yes, you may remember a while ago I was wrestling within the confines of a rather spacious dress. Billed as a shift dress by Simplicity, my first version resembled a wine bottle in terms of shaping and fit. Not a good look! the quilt project took over my entire sewing life, and pretty much swept everything else (literally dragged the thing across the floor everywhere) in to the corner.

Having finished the quilt it was time to lavish some TLC (and some major narrowing) on the waistline in order to actually indicate I have one. I have not spent 8 months exercising to make it look in one fell swoop like I have done absolutely nothing at all. Two waist darts later, and some careful pinching out at the side seams, we still have the shift dress shape, but one which is, dare I say, much more becoming.

The finish line was further delayed by having to undertake a fair amount of hand sewing (how an earth did I end up doing more of that voluntarily?) in order to hem the scalloped edge and finish off the armholes with bias binding. A must given my lack of facing as I had opted for a full lining. Given how the dress feels, with plenty of structure and a nice drape, its been worth the effort.

You are lucky to be seeing photos today, courtesy of my next door neighbour, as the resident photographer (literally so, as she is my housemate) is currently away.

Fear not, my sewing machine will not remain idle for long. The chair from which I write is currently surrounded by the tissue paper pieces of not one, but two, new dress projects. The fabric from China won the battle for domination amongst the stash and I intend to make Simplicity 1803 and 2444. I’ll be using the paisley type fabric. More to follow soon!

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back to square one


I’ve had a break from it all. Work, phone calls, the quilt. All swapped for a lovely week in France spent eating amazing food and walking in beautiful countryside. The idea was, after some very hectic months of late, to renew my energy levels and regain some zest. As the edges of me, if you will pardon the pun, were looking a little ragged at the seams.

Suffice to say it must have helped as on my first day back after returning I found myself up nice and early cleaning the bathroom, the kitchen and even did some hoovering. On a day off for me to actively choose this ahead of anything else is rather unusual to say the least! I have also found the motivation to give one last push at the quilt. You’ll be both pleased and relieved to hear IT IS DONE. Yes, there will be no more posts about quilts for a good while. I have well and truly got it out of my system for the moment.

Looking at the end result, it’s not perfect. There are areas where the tension during the quilting process didn’t quite work. I have no walking foot and for my poor Bernina it would be a rather costly process to get one. Who knows, something I may purchase in future but not right now. I now know why even experienced quilters don’t normally make quilts of this size. It is physically demanding to handle that much fabric. I also know why they don’t use home decoration fabric. It makes it even heavier!

On the plus side, I defy anyone to feel cold underneath this thing, or for it to fall off your bed. I doubt you would feel a draft either. In that respect I think I have made something more suited to chilly victorian bedrooms then the modern day equivalents. There is one final finishing touch to admire (or should I say shake your head over). Not content with the machine quilting, I decided it would be nice (feel free to substitute this word with other less favourable descriptives regarding my thinking) to hand quilt all the blue contrasting squares. Because I didn’t want white to go over them, the thought of moving all that fabric through the machine after changing to blue thread did not appeal, and it would make the squares stand out more.

Twenty squares later I have discovered I am not good at working out a straight line by eye and my hand quilting skills aren’t all that great. But hey, I did some hand quilting! the lady who avoids hand sewing when ever I can. What ever has got in to me?

I now need to finish off my terracotta orange shift dress which has been sadly languishing on a chair making distressed neglected noises at me whenever I have walked past. Then to decide what to sew next. Any thoughts? should I break in to the China fabric stash maybe?


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distress call from a drowning sewing machine

Mayday, mayday, can anyone hear me? I am a three quarter size minimatic sewing machine and am in severe distress. I am currently labouring under over 5 square meters of fabric, destination unknown. Conditions are fierce, I was never built for these kind of yardages and am battling to move forwards.

My mistress at the helm has taken the bizarre notion to quilt a king size monster and the weight is killing me! I am steadily ploughing in a straight line but every time the end appears in sight there is another line to follow. According to the latest calculations there are over 50 of these wretched paths to complete before the all clear can be given.

As soon as i can get a signal to the society for the prevention of sewing machine cruelty I will be filing a report with immediate effect. I need to return to my designated role of clothing specialist instead of this quilting nonsense. Leave that to the long arms, that’s what they are designed for, not poor mini me.

I’ve not even been given a walking foot to help tackle the different streams of fabric, which toss and turn my stitches and needle. I guess I’m out of date, those new fangled feet weren’t meant for the likes of my good self and won’t meld as one.

I have been a devoted servant to the dreams and ambitions of she who commands me, but this is truly undeserved. I will battle on to the bitter end but enough is enough. Never again shall I be made to work on a King. A regular double is good enough and more suited to my talents.I shall rest my weary cogs tonight, and gather my electric spark for the coming days ahead. Keep me in your thoughts and wish me good luck. I shall need it……….

Signing off, model 707 (returning to radio silence)

maxing out the sewing machine whilst having a mini panic

You may have noticed a ringing silence echoing within the confines of this blog. My last news was about rushing through my ridiculously self imposed list of projects in time for my friend’s wedding. Having literally just made it with 5 minutes to spare to get dressed for the actual event (my eyes swept over the necklace selection without any time to even choose anything) I can safely say I couldn’t have cut it any closer.

My dress (vogue 2902) was just about done, but was worn with tailor tacks still inside the bodice lining and my attention throughout the day was snagged on bits of thread I hadn’t spotted earlier which needed trimming. In the end I made it in 4 and a bit days. Not bad! I have since subsequently tidied things up a bit by lowering the bodice darts by 1.5cm and I still need to add the waist stay and a hook and eye at the underarm by the zip. But I am very happy with my border print creation.

The fabric was so cute I have even made a mini version with the scraps to create a halter neck dress for my friend’s little girl (Newlook 6387) which was a nice therapeutic experience after wrestling with 2 circle skirts and the quilt.

Ah yes, that quilt…it remains un quilted as there was no way on earth that I was going to finish both the dress and the quilting at the same time. My friend did get to see it and I plan to start quilting it shortly. Given that she’s about to embark on her honey moon I have some time fortunately.

Its safe to say I have now got the vogue dress pattern out of my system and would recommend finding another way to make the bodice contrast band as the stitching by hand recommended dosnt sound very strong. I machine stitched the facing on the inside of then bodice and did my best to slip stitch the outside as neatly as possible. I was up until 2am on the day of the wedding to make sure this got finished.

So, here are the pictures of the dress, and the mini version to go with it.

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sew where next? hopefully common sense and logic…

The realisation that I may have bitten off rather more then is comfortable to chew dawned on me today. Much as I have enjoyed making the quilt (binding, batting and backing now added) its taken a LOT of my time. I have finally started on the vogue dress I planned to make, but hadn’t got to as I was so busy with the quilt project.

We will see if I manage to get both finished in time for the wedding on Saturday. Fingers crossed! in the mean time, here are some photos of what has been taking up my bank holiday weekend…

Toile/lining of dress bodice. This has been rather hastily pinned together as its late and I wanted to see what it looked like. I also need to find the instructions – so have just sewn the darts and pinned on the straps. I think the neck line is looking good and the bust darts don’t look too bad either. Of course, once the circle skirt is added it will pull the whole thing downwards, which is not happening at the moment, especially at the back.

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Then there is the quilt. At least it won’t be quite so messy to work with now the backing is on. I used a stitch in the ditch method to attach the binding to the back. Much easier then hand stitching nearly 10  meters worth of fabric.

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Still got to sew those corners by hand, but otherwise looking fairly neat.


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