This is a garment I still have from my high school sewing. A pink baby’s dress. It was part of my portfolio of coursework to be assessed for my O Level in needlecraft and dress. The brief was to make something that had some element of handsewn needlework - like embroidery. I chose smocking.
It’s very strange and lovely to be able to inspect something you have sewn decades ago as a sixteen year old. What strikes me are all the details in this dress. It must also have been very fiddly sewing something so small (especially the sleeves).
The dress has:
I think about the craft revival that’s happening now and sewing back then. I went to a state school, but it had a sewing room and sewing was on the curriculum. There were sewing workstations around the sides of the room, pressing equipment, bins of scrap fabrics, and the opportunity to learn to make clothes with a knowledgable teacher, who came to work in clothes she made. This isn’t the case in schools today.
I started to make clothes again in 2011 and this has been significant for me personally. Returning to sewing clothes felt soothing. Stitching fabric together and making something functional and beautiful felt like making a connection to something fundamental inside.
Sewing is a skill that has a history of being pass down from previous generations, usually via women - grandmothers, mothers, aunts. I think this dress makes a connection from myself as a sixteen year and now as a woman in my forties. When I discovered the sewing blogging community, it felt like I could contribute something to this passing on of sewing.
PS. The back of this dress is so sweet.
I used a lightweight dark denim fabric that I bought at Rachel’s meetup. At first I thought it was chambray, but on closer inspection - it actually has a diagonal weave, which would make it denim. It really is lovely - a rich dark blue/black colour, which has a liquid sheen to it when the light catches it.
I used red gingham piping on the front and back yoke seams, and at the waist seam. It’s not perfect, a bit uneven in places - if you look closely. I found it quite difficult to decide where to put the piping, or if it was too much or not enough. I think next time I might use piping on the wrap edge instead to accent the cross-over. I think this time I wasn’t too confident about adding piping and trying to sew the facing as well.
This make seemed to take me a long time, although it wasn’t too complex. Doing little bits here and there, amidst distractions and lapses of focus. Working on this dress took many ‘outings’: sewing on Clapham Common; hemming the sleeve on the tube on the way to work; hemming the other sleeve at my desk during my lunch break, and hemming the skirt at the London Dressmakers Club meetup at the Royal Festival Hall.
The adjustments I made were:
When I was adding the piping to the seams I realised that my sewing machine seam allowance markings are in imperial (inches) but I measure in metric (centimetres). I know it’s only a fraction difference, but when you’re trying to insert very skinny piping, it really makes a difference. So now I know!
This dress looks surprisingly smart (for denim) - so I think I could wear it for meetings etc. The red gingham stops it looking too serious - it’s reminds me of candy sticks.
I named this dress after Tom Odell’s amazing “Another Love" from the album "Long Way Down". There are songs that become soundtracks to your life and this one captures the mood during the period I made this dress.
This is the toile/muslin for a dress that I’m making for my sister. (Burdastyle 02/2013 #112) It might be a while before we find time to get together to do a first fitting.
This is in the size for women who are 5’3”/160cm in height, which is good as it means I won’t need to add length which I think might be tricky with this pleated design. I used tailor’s tacks to mark all the pleats. There wasn’t a waist marking that I could see on the non-pleated side, so I think this is the side that might need adjustments.
It feels different making something for someone else. You do feel a bit of pressure to get it right and you hope that they will like it.
This is such a striking design, so feminine with lovely curved lines - I really hope I get to make it for real in a beautiful fabric.
In the meantime I’m pre-washing fabric and daydreaming of what to make next for myself.
I had been eyeing up some lovely hot pink fabric in the shop for a while. Then after seeing bernie and I’s lovely creation - I decided this would be a great colour to make something vivid and cheerful.
I decided to make a classic shirt dress with the fabric I was gifted for christmas from my wish list (lucky me!)
The only adjustment I made to this pattern was to add some width to the waist on the bodice and skirt pieces. (I worked out the what the waist ease was from measuring the pattern. Added this ease to my actual waist measurement to give the total width I needed.)
I found making the ‘shirt’ part actually quite straight forward. When I was learning to sew in high school - I made quite a few blouses and shirts, so the construction felt quite familiar. I used to love making buttonholes and it was nice to discover that I still do!
This pattern has some lovely details. There are yokes at the front and back, gathers and pleats on the bodice pieces. The skirt is made of four panels altogether and drapes very well. I made the three-quarter length sleeves which has a lovely ‘v’ cut shape at the cuffs.
I decided to use fabric covered buttons after some deliberation. It works well and helps to show off the bodice details without being distracting or busy. I also added a button to each cuff.
I made this dress in small chunks of time and worked on a small section of the garment at a time. When I was tired after work, I would just do some ‘prep’ eg. tacking/basting seams.
I’m really happy with the finished dress - it’s so classic. It would also work well in a navy fabric with some white piping, or some grey wool for a work dress.
This is the first dress I’ve made that’s suitable for the autumn/winter season. I actually started planning this in the summer when I got the August 2012 edition of BurdaStyle magazine. I really liked the bodice - the pleats at the neckline and the long sleeves which has two darts at the top and is flared at the sleeve hem. The dress has a pencil skirt which is very elegant looking, but I decided against making it and went for a flared skirt instead. I don’t think pencil skirts look good on me, and I have to run for the train!
The adjustments I made were:
The needlecord is lovely to touch and has good body. But for the hem - to reduce bulk, I used bias binding to finish it off. The dress is quite formal looking, so I chose a yellow gingham bias binding to give it some ‘pop’ and to make it a bit fun as well. (Even if I’m the only one who knows it’s there.)
This dress will be worn over the holidays - to celebrate another year (nearly) over & looking with hope to the next.
One of the things that I wanted to make this year was a dress that can look like separates - one that has a contrast to the bodice and skirt. I’ve seen many lovely ones including Mena’s statement necklace dress and what I wore’s ray of light dress.
I cut the bodice from a Liberty Tana Lawn, which I bought in Edinburgh (Crafters’ Ceilidh). The print design is very busy, so I thought a block of colour for the skirt would be a good contrast. I found a cotton that perfectly matched the lovely teal colour that can be found in the print design.
The pattern is a contemporary one - Simplicity 2444 from the Project Runway series, but the shape of the neckline and full skirt has a retro nod to 1950s/early 1960s shapes. The diagonal pleating detail in the skirt is really lovely - ‘architectural’ almost, and the plain colour fabric really sets it off well. The skirt is my favourite part of this dress.
I always have to redraw the waistline when I make dresses - as there is a one size difference between my bodice and skirt size. I’m learning slowly what I need to do to try and resolve fitting issues with bodices. I moved the point of both sets of front darts one inch higher.
There are still some improvements I can make to the front bodice pattern to make it fit better, as I’d like to use this pattern again to make other variations of this dress. I found some good instructions on how to eliminate darts, so I might remove the outer darts as I don’t think I need the extra shaping. I think also I could also redraw the centre front line about 1cm in at the neckline to eliminate a little excess fabric there.
This is the first garment made on my new Singer sewing machine - which is lovely.
Spring will be here soon, and I’m really looking forward to wearing this dress.