Tag Archives: dressmaking

Weekend crafting, 11-12 January

I’m happy to say that I managed to do my hour each of sewing and spinning this weekend with no problems at all. Unfortunately, the sewing was finishing off last week’s Sekrit Project, so no pictures, but the spinning involved plying the Polwarth I’d been working on and it’s come out beautifully.


I think I got about 90m from my 100g of fibre, pre-washing, so that’s definitely going in the right direction! I love how the colours have come out.

In lieu of any actual pictures of the sewing, here’s some gratuituous yarn porn instead – all the different rainbow yarns and fibre that have arrived in my house in the last week.


(From the back, that’s KnitPicks Felici from Great British Yarns, fibre and mini skeins from the Yarn Yard, Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock from Modern Knitting and merino sock yarn from Old Maiden Aunt in a rainbow colourway dyed up specially for the run-up to the Sochi Olympics.)

Next week I will start to think about dressmaking again. I am planning a party to celebrate my 40th birthday in May and it would be lovely to make a dress to wear to that. I have a copy of Simplicity 2444 and I think that would make a lovely party dress, if only I can manage to make it fit me.


This isn’t the outfit I was planning to wear today; I bought a couple of new tops yesterday (in Debenhams, which has lots of nice tops, so clearly I was just looking in the wrong shops – I do have a tendency to stick to the same two or three and forget that others are available, which is silly, especially as two of my current regulars are Fat Face and Monsoon and neither tends to have clothes that fit me) and was planning to wear one of those, but then I spotted the Lisette Market Blouse I made a couple of years ago and thought I’d wear that instead.


Long-term readers (or anyone who’s clicked on the link above) will remember that I made the blouse using the standard pattern size that matched my measurements, was horrendously disappointed by the fit, then managed to rescue it with the addition of the patterned bottom band and waist tie. Well, I say rescue, but given that I made it almost two years ago and I think I’ve worn it once before today, I clearly wasn’t actually that happy with it. Though really, it’s not that bad. It’s not a great fit, but it’s no worse than most of the other tops in my wardrobe. If I made another one I’d drop a size on the shoulders and add a full bust adjustment, but it’s wearable as it is. So maybe I’m not actually that far away from making wearable tops.

Now, if only the weather would cool down a bit so I could bear to sit in the same room as the iron and do some sewing! At the moment even knitting with non-wool yarn is a bit of a struggle…

Summery simplicity

Today’s outfit was exactly the kind of outfit I was thinking of when I wrote yesterday’s post. Smart enough for work but comfortable, colourful and fun at the same time.


Cardigan – Gap
Necklace – Accessorize
Top – M&S
Skirt – made by me
Shoes – Shuropody

What I could really do with making is wintery versions of the things I’m wearing here. The main reason my winter work wardrobe has become so dress-focused is that it’s been a real struggle to find tops that work with skirts and aren’t either very casual-looking or the kind of acrylic knits that build up a huge static charge and make my hair stand on end, and there haven’t been many skirts around either. Maybe I should be thinking about more plain tees in nice heavier-weight jersey and skirts in heavier fabrics to wear with them and not the vague project of making dresses when I’m not even really sure what style would work best for me.

Making and wearing

A couple of things I’ve read recently have made me think about the clothes I choose to wear for work, and how my plans to make more of my own clothes intersect with that. One of them was Dolly Clackett‘s Me-Made May roundup post, and especially her comment about how the challenge has made her realise that the way she sews fits with her body and her lifestyle; I can’t think of a better sewing ambition than to be able to say that myself. And the other was a post I read about dress codes, written by a man who commented that in his workplace, he felt that the dress code for women was less strict than the dress code for men as women could wear t-shirts while men had to wear shirts (although not ties).


Shrug – Lyttelton
Necklace – Fairtrade shop
Top – Monsoon
Skirt – made by me
Shoes – Jones Bootmaker

Unusually for me, I was wearing a skirt with a woven top for work today, rather than a jersey top or a dress. And it made me think about the post I’d read, and how fitted t-shirts really are a perfectly acceptable part of smart-casual workwear for women. Maybe that isn’t fair, when men are expected to wear shirts, but then again men’s workwear is much more straightforward; trousers, shirt, a tie and/or a jacket for smartness, and women’s clothing is much more complicated. Yes, t-shirts are OK, but not all t-shirts. And the same clothes can be smart and work-appropriate on one woman, too casual on another, and inappropriately sexy on a third, depending on body type. And actually, a smart jersey top or fitted t-shirt with a skirt is an outfit that works for me, whereas woven tops don’t. And although I’ve been thinking that that’s because of fitting issues and if I can only learn to adjust patterns to fit me properly it will open up a whole new world of clothing to me, it’s clearly not as simple as just adjusting for my bust size and maybe jersey tops are always going to fit me better. And while I really admire Dolly Clackett’s fabulous dresses, I’m older than her and a different size and shape and what works for her isn’t going to work for me; I have lots of dresses but my favourites are the jersey ones. So maybe I should concentrate on sewing the things I know work for me, and not experimenting with trying to create my own versions of clothes I would never buy in the shops?

Try again. Fail again. Fail better.

Following my great nipple epiphany a few weeks ago, I thought I’d have another go at doing a full bust adjustment on the Colette Sorbetto.

FBA 020613

Using the actual position of my nipples as the bust apex puts the adjustment point a lot further out from the centre front, which actually makes it seem like a much smaller adjustment; I increased the front width by an inch which added a good inch to the depth of the dart, but almost nothing to the length of the front, and the armhole kept its shape much better too. It’s definitely an improvement on last time, when the darts were far too long. I think it looks pretty good from the front now.

FBA 020613

Unfortunately, I can’t really say the same for the other angles.

FBA 020613

I think I probably need to go up a size before I start adjusting; the back is definitely too narrow and there’s pulling across the upper chest as well, even though the size I started with this time is the one that should fit my high bust measurement and that’s what all the tutorials tell me to go for.

FBA 020613

I suspect the darts could do with being a little bit higher, too. But hey, it’s progress!


Amy Herzog’s Knit to Flatter suggests that the best way to figure out your body shape and fitting needs is to take a photo of yourself in fairly form-fitting clothes, draw horizontal lines at the shoulders, bust, waist (or narrowest part of the torso) and hips, and then compare their length. Azzy has been posting her pictures, and it struck me that the pictures I took of my Birgitte tee with jeans probably showed my figure off well enough, so I thought I’d have a go.

F2F shape

The shoulder line is a bit approximate, but it’s clear that despite wearing a GG-cup bra, from the fron my bust isn’t a lot wider than my shoulders. My waist is (a) very high and (b) not particularly small, both of which I knew, but the bottom half of my torso is actually quite a lot wider than the top, which comes as rather a surprise when I have always thought of my chest as being far and away my most prominent feature.

Amy also suggests looking at a side view, and handily I also have this deeply unflattering picture from the Birgitte photoshoot.

Birgitte - side view

Apart from showing that I should really have done a forward shoulder adjustment, I can see that my bust is far more prominent from the side (as, sadly is my stomach) and that I have a serious sway back (which probably doesn’t help with the appearance of my stomach, really).

In terms of translating this to clothing, well, I obviously need to add fabric across my front and take it away across my back, and my waist is high enough that the waistlines of most garments will be in the wrong place. And maybe I should give up on my dream of having a wardrobe full of lovely full-skirted Fifties-style frocks like Dolly Clackett‘s, which I suspect would only exacerbate my lack of waist and larger bottom half, and look for patterns with more gentle shaping that might suit my figure better.


Today’s cashmere cardi, wool dress and knee-high boots really felt more like an outfit for January than April, but it’s still freezing cold and was trying to snow earlier. I really don’t know what’s happened to spring this year.


Cardigan – charity shop
Dress – Boden
Tights – M&S
Boots – Duo

This dress is a much straighter shape than I’d normally go for, especially in a woven fabric, but somehow it works. I have been giving quite a bit of thought to what shapes of clothing actually work for me recently, partly in preparation for the pattern cutting course (if I’m going to end up with my ideal summer frock it will probably help if I start out with some idea of what that ideal actually is!) and partly because I recently bought Amy Herzog‘s new book, Knit to Flatter (I’m not normally a big fan of body-shape driven advice on what to wear, but I have had the disappointing experience of knitting myself things which really don’t suit me before now, and given how long it takes to knit a garment I’m not keen to repeat it, and Amy’s advice is less you-must-wear-this and more ‘these things will do x, and draw focus to y body part, and if you would rather the focus was on z body part try that instead’. And there are some very pretty cardigan patterns in the book, too). I know that I tend to gravitate towards fitted tops and full or A-line skirts, open cardigans or jackets rather than buttoned ones, and fit-and-flare dresses, but when I look at the pictures of me wearing this dress I wonder how much of that is just because that’s what I’ve always worn and felt comfortable in. When it comes down to it, I’m not sure I really have the faintest idea about why some things make me look better than others (or at least make me feel that I look better, which is not necessarily the same thing). And while I think that my perfect summer frock would have a fitted bodice, sleeves and a full skirt (something like Simplicity 2444 or the Sewaholic Cambie if it had proper sleeves), would that really suit me? Honestly, I have no idea. And sometimes I think life was easier before I started being interested in clothes…

2012 in sewing

Having started the year with grand plans for sewing myself lots of clothes, 2012 actually turned out to be a bit of a washout, sewing-wise. I managed a grand total of one finished garment for myself, and that was just another version of the very first skirt I made.

Blue skirt

I did also make three pairs of pyjama trousers for T, which have been a great hit with him.

Pyjamas Pyjamas, mark 2 Pyjamas

And I spent lots of time practicing full bust adjustments and nearly made a dress, although it has significant enough flaws that I’m never actually going to finish it.

Bebe front view

I did buy quite a lot of patterns; as well as the pyjama pattern and the Bebe dress, I bought the Colette Ginger skirt and Jasmine blouse patterns, and the Sew Liberated Ashland dress (which has different pattern pieces for four different cup sizes, so might work well for me), and only last week I bought the Sew Liberated Schoolhouse tunic. I just haven’t managed, so far, to summon the courage to start tracing the patterns and thinking about what fabric I could use; not having an easily-visited fabric shop is probably part of the problem here, as I still don’t really feel I know much about types of fabric and what’s suitable for what kind of garments, and apart from quilting cottons non-synthetic fabrics tend to be expensive enough that I’m very scared of making mistakes. Then again, I’m just as scared of picking the wrong pattern and making something that doesn’t suit me. I was going to make the Colette Pastille dress because it looks like a nice simple pattern to start with, and I even bought three metres of purple cotton poplin in John Lewis to make it in, but then the more I looked at the pattern pictures and bloggers’ pictures of their versions the more I thought it looked a bit skimpy, and that I wouldn’t be comfortable with such a short, straight skirt, and I really want more shoulder and armpit coverage than you get with cap sleeves, so if I was going to make it I’d have to do an A-line skirt (fairly straightforward) and add proper sleeves (not so straightforward) and I’m still not sure it’d really work for me. I think my sewing goal for 2013 should be to try to conquer the fear of failure and Just Make Stuff. That’s one of the main reasons I bought the Schoolhouse Tunic pattern; because I’ve tended not to devote much time or thought to my casual wardrobe, all the patterns I bought at first were things that I could see myself wearing to work, but until I’ve really got to grips with the fitting issue I’m clearly not going to manage to produce anything that I’m comfortable wearing to work, apart from very basic skirts, so I thought that maybe I should try sewing more casual clothes first, and I’d quite like some tunics I could wear over a long-sleeved t-shirt and jeans. So that’s my next plan, though who knows when I’ll get round to it – making T’s Christmas pyjamas was the first time I’d touched my sewing machine since August…

For the birds

Relatively tame olive-green tights today, but I was wearing my Big Birdie skirt and an owl brooch, so I think there was enough fun and whimsy in my outfit anyway.


Necklace – made by Helen
Jacket – Jigsaw
Porcelain owl brooch – Susan Sharpe on etsy
Top – Gap
Skirt – Clothkits, made by me
Tights – Debenhams
Boots – Duo

I took a close-up photo of the brooch, though it’s a bit fuzzy:

Wol brooch

I’ve been wearing dresses a lot more than skirts recently, and I thought it was because I didn’t have any tops to go with the skirts I own. Actually, I realised today that I have plenty of plain but reasonably smart jersey tops; I just don’t have many winter skirts that feel right for work. Some of the skirts I used to wear are just too small, a couple of others have broken zips that need fixing, and several (from my Per Una phase) just don’t feel right – they tend towards the flouncy and while they worked beautifully with layered tops and tough boots, in a straightforwardly business casual outfit they’re just too girly for me.

Luckily, ‘not having enough skirts’ is a really nice problem for me to have. ‘Not having enough tops’ is tricky, because of fitting issues (though I’m wondering if I should just learn to make basic scoop-necked jersey tops so I can have them in the colours and sleeve lengths I want, with necklines that don’t threaten to show my bra to the world every time I bend down), but skirts are the one thing I can make relatively successfully. I see an examination of the fabric stash in the very near future…

I made a dress!

Bebe front view

OK, so I haven’t installed the neckline facings and it still needs hemming, because by the time I’d got the zip in I’d been sewing for five hours sat next to a very hot iron on a hideously hot and humid day and I’d reached my limit (which isn’t too bad given that a year ago I could only sew for an hour at a time), but an unhemmed dress with no neckline facings is still a dress in my book.

Bebe side view

And admittedly, the bodice is too short so the underbust seam is straining against the bottom of my bust, and frankly the whole effect is a bit 70s-maternity-dress, and the back is a bit wonky, and I’m not entirely sure I’d make the pattern again because I suspect that actually, it’s very hard for a 38-year-old woman to wear an empire-line dress without looking (a) pregnant, (b) like she’s trying far too hard to look cute or (c) like Mrs Bennet. Or possibly all three.

Bebe back view

But so what? None of that takes anything away from the fact that I made a dress.

(Serendipity Studios Bebe pattern, in printed poly-cotton from Croft Mill and with an ordinary centred zip rather than an invisible zip.)