Thursday, 27 August 2009


A word on what I'm working on at the moment - because it's driving me crazy. I don't know if it's the heat (it's hot and humid in London at the moment!), me needing a bit more experience with knit patterns or if it's the pattern.

This is the culprit ......

It's Vogue 8571, "Very Easy, Very Vogue" - looks like a nice, simple dress doesn't it? Hmmm. I have made up a muslin (in some very cheap white cotton knit) and it turned out to be huge - but more about that when I get to do a proper review of this (assuming I do get to finish it). Anyway, after cutting the pattern pieces down a size or two I am plunging ahead with the real thing although I have a few doubts. I'm not certain about the way that the neckline is put together (the facing is handstitched down and I'm wondering if this is going to look a bit 'home-sewn') and I'm going to think again about the way they have you finish the armholes (which is just turning in the seam allowances and stitching in a narrow hem) because I did a trial run on one of the armholes of the muslin and didn't like it.

But I still have high hopes that, after all, it will turn out great (positive thinking or delusions?) and I've set my heart on having another knit dress - so the fabric is now cut and, for better or worse, I'm embarked ....... I'll keep you posted!

Thursday, 20 August 2009


Believe it or not, we've been having some warm weather in the UK - which brought to the surface my longing for a sundress. This has previously been a bit of an impossible dream because ready-to-wear sundresses just don't seem to fit me: they gape in all the wrong places and cling in even wronger places! Shopping for such a garment always left me feeling frustrated and freaky. But, with my new sewing skills all that has changed. Look! I have a sundress .........

and it seems to fit in all the right places ....

I made this dress from Butterick 5351

Although it took a bit of messing around with muslin to get the fit just right it wasn't too difficult and, in the end, I think it was worth the effort. I started with a size 12 band (the bit that goes round the body at the top of the bodice) then graded out to a size larger for the bodice and skirt but tweaked it in a bit for the waist as well as raising the waist about an inch. The trickiest part of the fitting was getting the strap placement just right - I have narrow shoulders and attaching them as the pattern was drafted meant they just would not stay on my shoulders. After a bit of trial and error I attached them about an inch further in towards the centre and shortened them by couple of inches. Now they stay put.

I think one of the key things about getting this dress right is getting the bodice band to fit closely around the body. The pattern tells you to cut this piece on the bias but I noticed with my muslin that the band was stretching out -by the time I had finished with the muslin it was far too large and all pulled out of shape. So, (and this was possibly breaking the rules about these things?) when it came to cutting the real fabric I cut the band with the grain instead of on the bias. This meant the band stayed the right size but it still wasn't quite perfect - there was a little bit of gaping at the top of the band above the bust between the straps and the underarm. I considered sewing a little dart into the band but, after some thought, came up with the following solution. With the dress on me I pinned out the gaping - it needed three quarters of an inch taking out. Then I opened up the band and ran two lines of long stitches along the seam allowances where the band joins the band facing (at the very top of the dress) from the front straps to the underarm. I pulled up the lines of stitching until I had taken three quarters of an inch out and distributed this evenly so there were no actual gathers, just some puckering. I cut a piece of twill tape then sewed this down over the puckering, right up against the seamline, to keep it anchored like this ........

After repeating this on the other side I turned the band back down and sewed it down. I was really happy with the result because the band now stays close to the body and doesn't gape under the arms.

Butterick call this pattern "Fast and Easy" and, if you discount all my messing about with the straps and the band, I would agree that it is, indeed, both fast and easy to construct. I'm also interested in making up either View C or D, which have a looser, elasticated bodice - I thought that made up in a stretchy towelling material this would be a great poolside/beach dress along the lines of those made by Juicy Couture.

Those of you with sharp eyes might notice that the fabric is the same print as my wrap dress made from Vogue 8379 (see my earlier posting) but this isn't a knit, it's a cotton poplin. Rather surprisingly I didn't even buy the two different fabrics from the same supplier - I bought the knit by mail order then some months later happened to notice this cotton poplin in Peter Jones (big London department store) and felt that I just had to have it. I guess I must really like this print!

So, now I am hoping for some more sunny days ............

Friday, 14 August 2009


I first made up this New Look pattern a few weeks ago (see my previous post for a picture of version one) and liked wearing it so much that I decided to make another.

It's very quick and straight-forward to make (though I have to say I didn't quite manage their two hour estimation for either the first or second version). This would be a really great pattern for a beginner.

It's a pretty easy pattern to fit. I have very narrow shoulders so I cut a size 10 for the neck, shoulders and sleeves grading up to a size 12 from the armholes downwards (Technically, going by the Sizing measurments this is one size smaller than I should have but I am learning to always go down a size with the big 4). I also did a small FBA (by making a dart then rotating it into the neck gathers) so as to keep it loose-fitting across the bust and to ensure the front length was right. Even though I cut a smaller neck I still cut 4 inches off the length of the neckline elastic because I didn't want my bra straps to show - one of the good things about this pattern is that this is a very easy fix and you can adjust the neckline to exactly how you want it.

I like the style of this pattern because it has some shaping through the waist so you can avoid the 'heavily pregnant look' (a great look if you are expecting but not so good if you aren't) but it's still loose enough to be comforable. For both versions I chose View B because I love the flouncy sleeves - I have a real thing about flounces and ruffles at the moment!

Here's the second version -

It's made in a beautiful silk charmeuse from Gorgeous Fabrics - this big, bold print was crying out from my stash to be made up in this pattern - I was going for an exotic, summer in the tropics look!

So, if you're looking for a quick top with a bit of glamour, this is a great pattern.

Monday, 10 August 2009


I recently returned from a two week trip to New York city. Although I live in London I travel to New York as often as I can and every time I get there I feel the urge to kneel down and kiss the sidewalk - I love, love, love to be there so much! So, here's a few highlights of my trip ....

Of course no trip to New York is complete without a thorough look round the fabric suppliers of the garment district. Unfortunately I have put myself on a very strict fabric regime at the moment - my stash is getting rather overstuffed (more about that at a later date) so I showed unprecedented restraint and only made two fabric purchases, both from Mood Designer Fabrics (I always imagine myself on Project Runway in there!).

The first is a light-weight cotton with a lovely satin finish in a large peachy orange and bright pink print (I've photographed it with the carrier bag so you get an idea of the scale.)

I'm imagining this made up in a caftan type of top - something along the lines of Tory Burch or in the style of Michael Kors' wonderful summer casual wear.

My second purchase was a real find. It's a silk twill and, as you can see from the selvage, was originally produced for the designer Rebecca Taylor -

Aren't these colours just gorgeous? I am planning to make this up into a traditional style party frock. I am considering this pattern, New Look 6723 -

But don't hold me to that because there is a lot on my to-do list and I might have totally different thoughts by the time I get to this!

In New York I have lots of favourite places to go and things I like to do but I always like to add something new to my list. This time I found a wonderful place to have tea - Alice's Tea Cup - which is in three different locations (check them out at Their scones are sooooo delicious. Also, and this is a big WOW, was The High Line (the walkway running from the Meatpacking district up to Chelsea alongside the river). What a great stroll and wonderful views. I had heard about it but I actually stumbled on it accidentally after having visited Trina Turk's boutique in Gansevoort Street, which is where the High Line starts (for more about the High Line go to

We also visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art and, as you might expect, went to see their exhibition The Model as Muse: Embodying Fashion, which was very inspirational for a humble home sewer like me and even Mr Fabulous, my lovely husband, enjoyed it! We also climbed to the roof to look at Roxy Paine's sculpture, Maelstrom. Here I am entangled in it -

Finally, back to a strictly sewing theme, here I am strolling the New York streets in a top that I made from New Look pattern no. 6892.

This is such a great pattern, I really recommend it - it's easy to fit and quick to make and I love those sleeve flounces. By the way, the fabric is from Gorgeous Fabrics. For more info on this one, please take a look at my review on Pattern Review.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009


I loved this dress as soon as I saw the picture in the Vogue patterns magazine. I've visited Tracy Reese's lovely boutique, in the meatpacking district of Manhattan, several times and am the happy owner of a really nice skirt and a cardigan bought in there. So I was very attracted by the idea that I could make a Tracy Reese dress for myself - one that would actually be tailor-made to fit me.

On a styling note, I'm wearing it here with a really pretty pair of pink Marc Jacobs shoes that I bought many years ago - his shoes never seem to date!

This pattern is graded "Average" difficulty- so, for me, it was quite an ambitious project - my previous dresses have been made from "Easy" patterns and this one had so many different pieces. But, no pain, no gain and, you know what, once I had got the muslin fitted, it really wasn't too anxious making.

As is so often the case with me, it was the fitting that took up so much time. I had to make two muslins of the bodice - I started by cutting a straight size 12 but the shoulders and neckline were so loose-fitting that I decided to re-cut the bodice pieces to a size 10, grading up to a size 12 from under the armholes down to the midriff.

In the end I still had to take a couple of inches out of the centre front seam to stop the neckline gaping and to prevent it from looking too blousy.

I bought the fabric from - it's a linen/viscose mix and, although it's a little heavier than the fabrics recommended for this pattern, I chose it because it hangs really nicely but has enough body of its own so that I didn't have to line it. Added bonus is that it goes in the washing machine. Because the fabric wasn't as lightweight as the recommended fabrics I decided not to follow the pattern instructions to use french seams - I didn't want to add any extra bulk or stiffness - instead I used regular seams finished with my serger.

In the end I'm really pleased with this dress and it's one of those happy garments that you can wear on a summer day but also looks good as evening wear. I've worn it to a couple of parties already and it came on a trip to New York with me and was worn out to dinner three times (I think our hotel reception staff and doorman must have thought that this was the only dress I own!).
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