A Very Special Dress

  • Pattern: Flared Sleeve Dress (k) from Happy Homemade: Sew Chic Kids.
  • Recommended fabric: London-Stripe cotton (never heard of it)
  • Fabric used: Some pink knit fabric with a metallic hot pink finish on the right side that called to me from the remmnents box and was impossible to ignore.
  • Ease of make: Very easy, a simple pattern with good instructions the bottom half of which is identical to the two pinafore dresses that I made before. The pieces all fit together nicely.
  • Problems: I cut two identical sleeves, so had to cut a third one the other way around (left and right sleeve pieces each have a front and a back and the two sides are mirror images of each other, not identical).
  • Modifications: In seam pockets added as before. Instead of making bias binding for the neckline and bow, I came across some rainbow striped satin bias binding (that was just as hard to ignore as the fabric) and used that. It has a pink in that matches the dress. I also used it to finish the hem and sleeves rather than doing a double folded hem as suggested. As my fabric was knit I didn’t finish the edges, although any time saved was negated by the extra time the machine takes to do a triple stretch stitch. I also topstitched the shoulder seams flat to prevent irritation and French seamed the sides as my pattern piece was already cut with that seam allowance in mind from making the pinafore.
  • Is this dress in keeping with the chic minamilist style of the book? err, no, definitely not. I think it’s channelling an 80’s sci fi programme, or possibly a gospel choir.
  • Any side effects from making this? I couldn’t help giggling every time I caught sight of the fabric. Much to the consternation of my husband, who thought I was laughing at his sewing efforts.
  • Will the recipient appreciate it?A hot pink shiny party dress with feeley rainbow ribbon made by mum? I’m fairly confident she’ll love it, but it’s for the 25th so we’ll have to wait and see. If not I’m sure we can find another small girl to donate it to.
  • Adventures in Mens Tailoring…

    Ok, so it’s not really tailoring, but hubby wants a waistcoat (vest). Well, I did offer and it’s nearly 15 years since the only other time I made him one (which he nearly cut up for rags for the rag coat but decided against it in the end). His request is for one that’s not too farmer-ey (I think that means no checks, which is fine by me, no evil pattern matching) and has the main fabric on the back so he can wear it like a body warmer over a shirt without looking like he’s misplaced his jacket. I took him with me to the fabric shop down the road and he chose Burda 7799 view A, with lapels, welt pockets and shaping front and back. The pattern is for a single layer of fabric, but he wants it lined (just all the lining fabric on the inside, not on the back panel like a traditional waistcoat).

    I decided to be good and make a toile to check the fit and get my head around how I was going to add a lining with the lapels and all. My instant reaction was what yucky instructions and would it really hurt to have all the english on one sheet. I read through them and drew a japanese style overview to get my head around what was going on. (And to stop me just scan reading).

    My attempt at an overview diagram and summary of instructions

    Then there were the patterns pieces, 9 sizes all together on top of each other in assorted styles of dashed line and no help distinguishing which of the 9 little circles (hmm, bet there’s a technical term for them, tailors marks?) relates to your pattern size. Which is fairly ok for the ones in a line, just count in to your one, but the one where 4 of them are in a line at right angles to the line of the other 5? No idea.

    Anyway, to start with I just cut the fronts, backs and belt pieces for fitting purposes. I skipped the pockets (I figured I could add them later if I wanted) and went straight to doing to shoulder and side seams and darts. Hmm, darts, a new technique for me. But fear not, Tilly rounded up several methods of sewing them in a handy blog post recently. I tried a combination of a curved end plus small stitches to stop it unravelling. But my main problem was pinning them. They were quite narrow at the bottom, then widened slightly before tapering to a point. I had great trouble matching the two sides of the fabric up, probably not helped by my rather fient carbon paper markings. I decided not to worry too much as it was a toile. I’m not convinved by the end points of the darts, which creates a slight bagging out of the fabric. More practice needed methinks. I was glad that this is toile. I also abandoned the belt loops as I accidently sewed up a back dart (which they should be inserted into) and couldn’t be bothered to unpick it.

    It worked well enough to try on and he liked the fit but wanted it straightened at the bottom and 2″ longer. I’m going to straighten the bottom on this one but leave the lengthening for the real thing otherwise I’d have to recut my pieces and start again. There are lines to lengthen on the pattern so it should be fairly straightforward anyway.

    Next I tried the lapels, ironing on the interfacing before marking and cutting. It sounded fairly straight forward, sew the edge, turn right way and topstitch, but I got a bit confused. You see the piece is cut without the triangular divot, which is marked on as a triangle to be sewn and then cut. I wasn’t sure whether to sew my 1.5cm seam allowance outside the triangle, or on the triangle itself, like a dart goes on the marking. The instructions and diagram didn’t help.


    I decided to sew on the triangle and see what it looked like. It was too small a divot, so I tried again going around the triangle, which was surprisingly hard because I couldn’t see the guides marked on the machine as the fabric was in the way.


    Looking at them side by side it’s not hard to see that the second way must be right.

    That sorted I basted them to the fronts. Which meant unpicking some of the shoulder seams as they’re designed to go into the shoulder seam, there is no collar at the back. Once you know this it’s clear on the pattern packet, but it was a bit of a surprise. It’s kind of a fake lapel really. Needless to say hubby would much rather have a proper collar, so I’ll have to think on this one. Looking at his coat collar, there the divot is at the point of the join between the lapels and collar piece.

    made them both like the one on the left in the end.

    spot the difference

    I am really happy that I’m making a toile now with all these alterations (lining, shape of hem, lengthening, collar) to consider. And the upside of having so many projects on the go is that I can put this on one side to cogitate on whilst I work on another.

    A plethera of last minute christmas makes

    Well, after taking some steps in the right direction, namely seriously denting my pile and making something for myself (which I haven’t blogged properly about yet for complicated reasons) have I capitilised on my success? No, of course not. I’ve started new projects.

    I have completed one. Another school pinafore. Little girl was sad that the first one was in the wash and she couldn’t wear it and I had enough fabric left so I made another. It looks just like the first, but with slightly different buttons, so I haven’t taken a photo. This time I finished the edges of the ruffles that get gathered as well as the edges that get hemmed, as one of my original ruffles had embarassingly started coming apart at the seam and needed mending. I also made sure they were well attatched to the yoke before adding the yoke facing. So far so good.

    Other than not using a different colour thread for the gathers this time (honestly, if you have to use contrast thread to tell it’s there so that you can take it out, why not use the same colour thread and any you can’t spot can safely be left in) the only other thing I did different was to cut the pocket bags in with the front and back. This was simpler to do and quicker to make up but takes more fabric, but I had enough.

    pocket bag ear

    pocket bag ear

    It was hard for me to make the same garment twice in a row in the same fabric. I was itching to change things. I did construct it in a slightly different order, just to keep me sane (nothing major). But it was a lot faster as I knew what I was doing and the pattern pieces were already traced.

    Other than that I’m now planning to make my immediate family Christmas presents. I have left oh so much time for this!*

    There was a painful family trip to the fabric store on a Saturday to discuss fabric and pattern options with my husband. I have the fabric but the pattern is to collect. I was a good little sewer though and prewashed the main fabric (still have to do the lining) and ironed it. It’s a grey wool tweed…


    pre ironed shot with random shadows, for interest

    Then I bought some very special fabric to make up a slightly different sew chic dress as a party dress, fabric that only a nearly 6 year old girl could love. I’ve cut out the pieces but had to wait for a child free time to start it so it stays a surprise. This evening was my first chance but my husband was using the machine to make a rag coat.

    Oh well, I started cutting a shirt for my son instead. I think I’m going to try making the sew chic shirt ‘t’ which has a proper collar but try and mash it up with the long sleeve option of the simplicity pattern that I used to make his pirate t shirt. And if that isn’t complicated enough the fabric is a seersucker check (I was heckled with cries of tablecloth) that requires pattern matching and won’t lie flat due to it’s seersucker nature (no, I have neither pre washed nor ironed it either, I have reverted to type). I have cut out the front, back and yoke and I’m going to construct them before cutting the sleeves.

    So I’m itching to get started on one or the other, but then I realised I only have the daytime this week and Thursday evening to make hubbies present while he isn’t around. The pattern is here now so I’ll try and get it tomorrow without accidently buying something else at the fabric shop and then I can do even more cutting out, eurghh.

    *please note the sarcasm

    Sew Chic Pinafore

    So, I bought a pattern book, which hadn’t been the plan, but I have made something useful with it from my to do pile (yay), so I’m forgiving myself.

    First about the book, it’s Sew Chic Kids (Happy Homemade) which I saw on Tilly’s website a few weeks ago and I’ve discovered since buying it that there is more information on lovely site that reviews japanese sewing patterns. (By the way I was initially considering the adult version, but I’m not sure how the gorgeous sleek clothes will look on me, rather than a model, I’m worried they’d look tent like and shapeless (and I will look huge and frumpy). So buying this was a sort of dipping my toe in the water. If anyone sees any of the adult clothes made up in blogland please let me know!).

    The book does indeed have 20 patterns, but one of the first things I noticed was lots of them use the same pattern pieces so it’s more like there are several variations on fewer patterns, like there are several pattern packets each with different views. I partly bought this book because the fact that there were boys patterns too helped justify the outlay, but there are no where near as many patterns here for boys as girls. In fact there are 7 dresses (that look like variants on 3 or 4 dresses to my untrained eye), 4 blouses (which mainly seem to be shorter versions of the dresses), a skirt, 4 pairs of (unisex) shorts (with or without seperate waistband and with pocket and hemming varients), 2 boys short sleeved shirts (the only noticible difference being the collar), a pair of wide trousers (possible unisex but not a style I’ve seen boys wear) and a 3/4 length sleeve pull over top thingy called a parka that is described as unisex (I’m condsidering lengthening the sleeves and making it in fleece as a cosy hooded jumper).

    I don’t mind that there are lots of variations on a theme, it’s interesting to see what pattern pieces are the same and how they vary, but don’t buy this expecting 20 very different patterns.

    Also, this seems very much summerwear. The tops are all short sleeved or 3/4 length and eveything in the photoshoot is made up in lightweight fabrics. It was the fact there was no long sleeve shirt option for boys that disappointed me most, I guess it helps keep them simple to make.

    Anyway what have I made from it? Well I had a pile of grey “school uniform” fabric that I’d bought to make my daughter a full circle skirt for school (twirlyness and ribbon/satin being her favourite things) but had changed my mind and wanted to make her a pinafore dress instead. Whilst I can draft an elasticated circle skirt, a pinafore seemed more daunting especially as it needs to have fastenings or be loose enough to take on and off without any, so I thought I’d use it as an excuse to buy this book.

    Most of the dresses in the book have buttons at the back, which is annoying for all concerned when it comes to clothes for small people as then she needs help getting dressed. It’s quite common in shop bought clothes too, but just for girls. Sigh. Anyway, it’s even less appropriate in school clothes (as the teacher doesn’t want to help 30 kids change for P.E). So I chose one of the two dresses with front fastenings, r, the pinafore dress with two buttons at the front, which is the one they made up in fine blue and white striped fabric if you look at the links above.

    First off I had to trace the pattern pieces, which is not something I’d ever done before and not exactly what I wanted when I was ready to get stuck in (but hey, it’s probably good for me to learn to slow down a little). All the pattern pieces for each style and size are on 2 double sided large pieces of paper in a little envelope in the back of the book and seam allowance (stated as 3/8″ / 1cm in the instructions) needs to be added when you trace them. It was actually ok, the shapes are all quite simple and well labelled and are different colours. My main problem was that I decided to do this one evening when hubby was out and not only did I have no tracing paper in the house, I had didn’t have any of my usual substitute, greaseproof paper either. I scrabbled around and found some bits of clear plastic in the craft pile and used those instead, which worked ok once I found a pen that worked on them. The only thing that I changed was the side seam allowance, increasing it to 5/8″ so I could use French seams.


    tracing out the pattern pieces

    The dress is quite simple, A line back and front pieces (with the front wider than the back), a small rectangular front yoke (& facing), a back yoke with straps (& facing), 2 ruffles,and instructions on how to cut armhole facings (but no pattern).

    At first glance the Japanese style instructions are quite sparse and daunting as they’re unfamiliar, but once I got my head around them I prefered them. They consist of a list of pattern pieces (as they’re scattered across 4 pages it would be easy to miss one), materials needed, pattern layout (which you need to refer to when tracing patterns as it tells you what seam allowance to add, this dress had 1 1/2″ / 4cm for the hem and 3/8″ / 1cm elsewhere). Then a numbered dressmakers sketch of the finished garment, to show order of assembly (which I found really useful), then details of prep work (just pressing for this dress) followed by diagrams with numbered instructions for each step (that name each piece shown and if it is right or wrong side in the picture, nice and clear). Sometimes it referred you to the same step on another pattern and I think sometimes simple steps were just on the original diagram on other patterns, but there was an explanation for each step with this dress.

    I am a definite convert to this style of explanation for making a pattern up, but then I’m not intimidated by diagrams and I could see it might not be to everyones taste. As a rule of thumb, I think if you’re happy following lego instructions then I you’ll probably do just fine with Japanese style instructions, certainly the ones in this book.

    So the first step was to make ruffles. The edge is just neatened, folded over and topstitched. I used the overlocker foot on my sewing machine which lets you zig zag right up to the edge and the finishhed seamlooks much better than I expected it to (I was a bit dubious this construction method would loom scruffy).

    The front yoke and facing is simple to sew together, it’s just a rectangle. I tried a neat trick for turning shirt collars that I came accross here which worked well except I used some cheap pink thread that broke when I tried to pull it out afterwards leaving a small piece of pink at the corner that I irritatingly couldn’t totally remove. No one else will notice but I’m annoyed.

    The back yoke was the hardest part. As well as sewing the back and facing together, you have the ruffle sleevelets in between. The result is really professional looking (with the raw edges all hidden away inside the yoke) but it’s a bit fiddly to achieve. First the ruffles are gathered to fit between the notches. Then I added an extra step an sewed them down at 1/4 ” seam allowance to hold them in place (lazy taking, outside the “real” seam allowance). Except I forgot to use a longer stitch, which made unpicking difficult when I realised I’d sewn one ruffle the wrong side up. The finished sandwich needs to be back yoke right side up, then ruffles wrong side up and finally the facing wrong side up on top.

    I tried sewing the ends of the straps before the sides and doing the corners turning trick again but I failed to get it to work, it was just too small and fiddly for me to manage. As my fabric is possibly a tad thicker than the pattern intended and it was hard to turn the long thin straps neatly the rightside out with even corners. Luckily the end of the straps are hidden under the front yoke when the dress is being worn so it’s not too noticable. I also did the outside of strap seams with the ruffles first, then pushed the ruffles out of the way of the inside of strap seam so they didn’t get caught.

    With all this faffing about the end result should have been great but one of the ruffles had slipped slightly and there was a little raw edge poking out of the seam in the middle. Arrghh. I twice tried unpicking that section and redoing it but when the strap was turned back inside out for remeial action the ruffle was on the inside again and I couldn’t see where the problem was. Plus I had two rows of nigh on invisible grey stitching (drat my thread choice) to unpick (from sewing the ruffle on and sewing the yokes together with the ruffle) and my already trimmed raw edges were fraying like crazy. In the end I gave up and darned the offending small amount of raw edge on the outside. It doesn’t show, I just hope it holds. I think it probably happened when I had to unpick the upside down ruffle, I must have been in a hurry when I repinned it. I should have checked it was sewn on correctly before attaching the yome facing.

    The side seams are very straight forward in the pattern. As well as turning them into side seams I decided was reminded by a small girl to add self drafted pockets.


    I drew round girls hand, added ease at the sides (but not more depth) then added seam allowance

    Then, after cutting 4 out I had to work out all over again how to attatch them in a French seam so I’m writing it down now as a reminder to myself…

    To put pockets in a french seam, pin the pocket pieces in place on the garment right side together, matching the straight edges, with the pockets facing into the garment. Sew the straight seam at 3/8″, finish the raw edges, then press open so they stick out like ears. Hmm, as I write this maybe I could have saved myself a step by adding the pocket bags to the front and back pattern pieces and cutting them out as one piece. Oh well. Next pin the garment pieces wrong side together (you can’t see the finished edge of pocket at this point) and sew 3/8″ seam down the side, going around pocket (you’ll need to turn a corner at the beginning and end of the pocket bag) and down the rest of side. Trim the seam allowance and snip into corners where seam turns for the pocket. Press as is, turn the garment inside out, pull out the pocket bags (you can see finished raw edge at this point, that’s ok as this is the inside), press again then finish the seam enclosing the raw edges and press to the back.

    I did take some photo’s but they’re too rubbish to show what’s going on.

    Next step was the facings on the armholes which meant two new skills for me, making bias binding and facing an armhole with bias binding. Credit to the instructions I didn’t notice this until afterwards, it all went smoothly. It helped that it was only a small section.

    Attatching the dress front and back to the yokes and topstitching was straightforward. More gathering. I also added a strip of ric rac on the front yoke at the join, an idea gleaned from blogs such as Scruffy Badger that would never have occurred to me (yay for the internet). My first try at this and it went well. I also put ric rac the “proper way” round the bottom hem (as part of my hemming).

    Finally, despite practising on scrap fabric I right royally fu messed up the buttonholes. It was the first time I’d used the special button hole foot and automatic buttonhole function on my new machine and the first time I was disappointed in my new machine. To be fair, trying to finish a garment at midnight is not the best time to try out new things. After making the first end bar the machine stitches backwards, which surprised me. Then when coming forward on the other side of the buttonhole it doesn’t stop automatically at the front bar, you have to notice and stop, not very automatic. This I realised on the scrap fabric.

    Then I had to guess where to place the button holes as they wasn’t marked on the pattern piece and I didn’t have a model at that time of night to try it on. Once decided I found it really hard with a huge ungainly foot which protrudes fore and aft to line up where to start the button hole and my first attempt was abandoned part way through when it overran the top of the yoke. Bother. I decided leaving the stitching in place would show up less than trying to unpick the tight stitching and maybe fraying the fabric in the process, so the second attempt went next to the unfinished first. Maybe that great thread match is a good idea after all! I also didn’t get the two buttonnholes symmetrical. AND I noticed that the stitching on one side of each buttonhole, where the machine was going forwards, looks different to the stitching on the other side where it was going backwards. Grr. A disappointing end to a generally good make.

    As I was hanging the dress in my daughters room I started to question my sanity in making a fancy grey pinafore when they are available so cheaply in loads of shops. I was rewarded in the morning when she came and woke me up to say thank you! (Not usually her forte). And she thanked me again after breakfast. It is apparently “not very twirly” but that doesn’t matter as the fabric “feels silky soft” (not something I’d considered but it’s better quality than cheap supermarket pinafore fabric) and “no one else will have one like this, not everything needs to be twirly Mummy”! She approved of the ric rac on the yoke and hem too. And filled the pockets with tissues in preperation for runny noses at breaktime.

    Phew, after all those words anyone skimming/reading this far deserves a picture or three…20131209_085702



    One happy customer. What do you think?

    A little something extra

    Remember my lovely curtains. Well, they got me lots of compliments but I think it was more down to the fabric I choose rather than my sewing skills (after all a curtain is just a rectangle of fabric with hooks).

    But it got me thinking about what to do with the leftovers (I’d got extra to ensure pattern matching) and I realised that they wanted to be a bag. (This is not unsurprising, I like utilatarian sewing in general and bags in particular and the curtain fabric was the perfect weight for a nice strong bag).

    I loosley based the bag on one I already had (which was another present bought for me from Skye Batiks but they don’t seem to make that style anymore). It’s large, with pockets inside and out, strong, well made and beautiful. Quite hard to live up to then!

    I was feeling inspired and made it up in a Sunday afternoon when the kids were running around. I made it up as I went along and not all the edges are as straight as they might be. I started off hemming the top of a strip to be pockets around the outside. Then I sewed it on to the main piece along the bottom and added vertical seams (with ‘T’ bars at the top for strength) to divide 7it into 4 pockets, two for each side.

    Putting pockets on the outside first.

    Putting pockets on the outside first.

    Then I sewed the sides and base together. I tried out the overlocking foot on my new machine which enables you to sew right along the raw edges with a zig zag in a passable imitation of an overlocker (serger). Next I mitred the corners to add depth to the bag. This put the pockets along the bottom of each side. I anchored my triangles to the bottom seam, thinking they might add a little strength to the base of the bag.

    Mitred Corners

    Mitred Corners

    I hadn’t thought that as my pockets are the width of the bag, once it was mitred they now run round the corner at one edge and finish on the bag side, but it works ok.

    Then I made a lining from the same lining fabric as my curtains (I’d forgotten when I was buying curtain fabric that I didn’t need to order as much of the lining material as there was no pattern matching, so I might as well use it). I made the lining the same way as the main bag just slightly narrower (~1/4″) than the main fabric and with one small patch pocket on one side and a larger patch pocket on the other.

    I had a wide narrow piece of bird fabric left that was perfect to be a wide shoulder strap (good for spreading the weight of the contents of the bag). I added a mobile phone sized patch pocket towards one end and lined it with the lining fabric and topstitched along the long sides. Then I attached it to the main bag fabric at each side, with 2 or 3 rows of stitching for added strength (as where the handle is attached is often the first place to go on bags), and finished the raw edges.

    After completely mucking up the topology and sewing it togehter with the lining inside out and the handle trapped inside a bit of trial and error, I worked out that I could join the pieces neatly by starting with the main fabric bag inside out and the handle folded in where it was joined on and pushed down to the bottom seam, then the lining, also inside out, was placed inside it (so the right sides were together) and pinned into place. Then I sewed two lines of stitching, one along the top of each side, to join the two pieces together (leaving spaces at the handles) and turned the bag the right way out through one of the spaces where the handles were (this wouldn’t work with narrow handles). To finish I topstitched along each side and slipstitched the lining around the handles by hand. It’s my neatest bag ever, well, lining to main fabric wise (don’t take a set square to the pockets) and I was pretty pleased. Unfortunately I was concentrating so much I forgot to photograph how I did it. Wanna see how it came out?

    Birdie bag

    Birdie bag


    Not bad, if I say so myself. Then I had to decide who it was for. After some thought I realised it was for a friend who moved abroad and has two small children a similar age to mine and therefore a lot of stuff to carry around like me and who would almost certainly would benefit from a treat for her self.

    Then I realised that I could make another purse too. I didn’t bother with interfacing this time as the curtain fabric was pretty stiff. I shortened my pattern piece slightly, but I reckon it could be a bit shorter still. I also re read Lauren’s instructions and discovered my pattern was supposed to slope inwards slightly, so I ammended that too. I wonder what else I’ve done wrong with this pattern!

    The making went slightly easier this time, I even glued the second side before the first was completely dry 20131125_235200

    Although it needed regluing before sending, whoops.


    I got the bird nicely aligned though.


    Here’s the inside of the bag. And here are the two sugar mice I found to stop her boys from getting too jealous. (It was putting them, wrapped in bubble wrap, in the purse, that made it burst and need regluing.)


    Well, I’m glad to report that she was pleased, although the boys tried to claim the clippy clasped purse. And I was delighted and surprised to recieve a knitting needle case in return. Making one has been on my to do list for a while. Now I’ve no excuse not to sort my needles out!


    There were some extra presents too. The case is lined with yellow fabric and the needle pockets are graduated in height.


    The main fabric is green with embroidery and mirrors on. I think it’s upcycled but no idea what from.


    And it rolls up and ties shut. I’m very pleased with my lovely surprise! If I’d ever got round to making one (currently my needles are rattling arou d in a cardboard tube that a bottle of whiskey came in) I would never have used such exciting fabric. Thank you D!