Emergency Evening Dress – day 3

Now it’s time to start making the dress.

I trimmed the lining for the drapes slightly to make sure it wouldn’t peek out and then attached the lining to the drapes & under-stitched as much as I could.  I interfaced the midriff fabric to give it some body as there’s a lot of skirt for it to hold up.

When I was gathering the dress fabric for the drape there were real problems trying to pull the gathering thread as it kept catching on the metallic threads in my fabric.  I eventually used Scruffy Badger’s dental floss method which worked brilliantly – and she’s right about the smell too!

There was one near disaster – I couldn’t work out why the notches and dots weren’t matching when pinning the drape to the midriff.  I’d been trying to attach the drape to the waist edge rather than the top of the midriff piece.  Full of confidence I then sewed the midriff lining together & managed to attach the right back to the left front and the left back to the right front – stitch unpicker to the rescue.

Once the top edges of the midriff were understitched and the raw edges overlocked to tidy the edges & reduce bulk the bodice is now finished!

V2962 bodice completed

V2962 bodice completed


Tomorrow I’ve got to fight with the skirt.

Emergency evening dress – day 2

After yesterday’s fights with my lining fabric, I sewed five panels of lining together & cut the second half of the back skirt lining.  Then I sewed the skirt lining together (except for the centre back seam) and overlocked the seams – sorry this is a rush job and I don’t have time for couture finishes.

I tacked and pinned all the lining pieces together to check the fit.  Gathering the skirt is going to be interesting – I was using large pleats for speed and had to pin several pleats on top of each other to make the skirt small enough.

Front view pinned and tacked together

Front view pinned and tacked together

I think I got the length of the midriff about right.

Back view pinned and tacked together

Back view pinned and tacked together

The back looks as if it’s pulling in this view – but it’s actually slightly loose under the arms.  I’ll need to check if I need a sway-back adjustment once the bodice is sewn together.  The zip will be invisible when I sew it in but, if you squint, you can see the end of the thread used to tack it in.

I’m pleased that

  1. I managed to find my halterneck bra
  2. The back of the dress is high enough to cover the back strap of the bra!

With the lining fitting I gathered my courage together and laid the pattern out on my main fabric.  Do you know – it fit perfectly!  I think I checked three times to make sure I’d left room for all the skirt pieces.


Scraps of main fabric

Scraps of main fabric

and this is all that’s left of my main fabric.

(by the way, you can see the project I was originally working on in the background of the first two photos)

Emergency Evening Dress day 1

Fabric buying day.  There is a Fabricland in Bristol, but I’ve never noticed any particularly inspiring evening fabrics  when I’ve been there.  Another hour’s Googling and I found Cloth of Gold in Royal Wooton Basset which isn’t too far away.  She specialises in bridal and evening fabrics and stocks the big 5 patterns.

When I got there I checked the Vogue pattern book just to make sure my pattern was included, but fell in love with this:

Vogue 2962

That’s more like it!

Vogue 2962  Lined halter dress in two lengths, gathered upper bodice with fitted lower bodice around midriff.  Skirt gathered into waistline seam.  Back buttons, loops and snap closures.

No boning, nothing on the pattern about “no provision for above waist adjustment”, the skirt is straight panels and sod the buttons, I’ll use a zip.  The pattern says the back length for the short version is 47 1/2 inches.  Since I’m only 5′ tall the fabric requirements for the short length should do me.

I also found fabric.



It’s really difficult to photograph, but it’s a violet crinkle-effect polyester woven through with a green metallic thread so in some lights it’s green, in some it’s violet and sometimes it’s a silvery grey.  I also bought matching violet lining fabric.

Once home, I cut out the pattern and tissue fitted it.  I cut the size 12 and removed 1 inch from both the upper and lower bodice and 5″ from the length of the hem for the long version.  Then I laid out the lining material to cut that out.  I’ll use the lining as a muslin to check the fit.

First problem – I can’t fit the pattern onto the lining fabric!  The skirt is about 6 metres wide – and I don’t have enough fabric to cut out both sides of the back skirt.  Eventually, after much fiddling and swearing, I worked out that I had enough lining to cut one side of the back skirt as four narrower panels and sew then together.

Dinner was very late and I’m now worried that I won’t have enough of my main fabric.

Eek… Emergency evening dress needed!

Monday evening my husband tells me that we’re going to a summer ball next Friday (11 July) – it’s not a total surprise, I knew it was on the cards, but other things have been taking my attention.  On Tuesday I thought I’d better find my evening dress and check that it fits and doesn’t need cleaning.

That’s where the first eek! comes in.  It’s over four years since I last wore it and I’ve put on weight since then – it doesn’t fit!  It won’t even do up and there’s not enough fabric (or too much of me) to let it out!

I’ve now got just over a week to find a pattern and material for a long evening dress and make the thing – and it’s got to be a long dress, it’s that kind of do.

Cue an evening’s pattern searching online.  I eventually found this:


Vogue 8574

Vogue 8574 described as

Slightly flared, mid-knee or evening length dress has close-fitting, lined sleeveless bodice, neck band, raised waist seam, front and back pleats, side seam pockets and back zipper.

It’s a Very Easy Vogue, there’s nothing particularly complicated and it’s got pockets… I just feel a bit meh about it.

Shopping day tomorrow.

Adjusting Dora the dummy

Back at Christmas my very generous husband bought me a dressmaker’s dummy since I’ve taken up sewing again.  As we were about to move house, I set her up quickly and adjusted all the dials to the correct measurements but, somehow, she didn’t quite look like me.

Now that we’re settled into the new house I’ve had another go.

I already know my measurements, but they’re just my circumference.  What about my broad shoulders and sway back – is there any way I can adjust Dora to mirror them?

Wearing a leotard, I got my husband to measure my back at bust level from side seam to side seam and to do the same thing for my hips.  I also got him to measure my back waist length and then got started.

So that you can see what I’m talking about, here’s a croquis I made earlier (using Lauren’s tutorial)…



so, V shaped to straight-up-and-down but not much up top, it’s all shoulders and back.

The first, and hardest, thing I did was adjust the back waist length.  My back waist length is 15″ which is about as small as Dora goes.  Then I used the side dials on Dora as the side seams and just turned the dials until her back bust measurement was correct according to my tape measure.  I ignored the numbers on the dials.  Then I adjusted the front until the total measurement was correct.

Here’s Dora’s and my backs



…and me

and here are our fronts



and me

and me

Just look at the difference in the adjustments on Dora – her front’s as small as it’ll go.

But the biggest difference came in the side view:




…and Dora

Now we’ve both got bad postures and maybe it’s just coincidence but I think that’s the closest I’ll get to a sway-back on a dummy without getting one custom-made.

What do you think – ever had any unexpected results adjusting your dummy?


Maybe I should just rename this the Twice a Year blog…..

What can I say… life, work, dissertation (I passed!!), house move (we’re now in Bristol)… but there has been some sewing:

really chuffed with this topstitching

really chuffed with this topstitching


my first fly zip


love the pocket lining

Do you know what it is yet?

Yup, it’s the Grainline Studio Moss Skirt


I really need to do something about my expression in photos…

although my version isn’t quite a mini.  I used some black denim from The Nylon Shop in Bristol (getting my priorities right when exploring a new town) and made a standard size 6 but added 4 inches to the length.  I was a bit worried about the fly zip as it’s the first time I’ve inserted one but Jen’s photo tutorial made it really easy.

Kathryn’s Twenty Top Tips for Topstitching really helped as well.


Double topstitching! (please excuse the cat hair)

The only things I’d add are that I used my practice scrap behind my presser foot to keep it level when sewing over seams and I used the edge stitch foot that came with my machine (like this) to keep the stitching line even.

The top is another me-made based on the SBCC Tonic T-shirt pattern (a free download) which I converted to long sleeves using Jen’s long-sleeved scout variation tutorial.  The collar is a narrower version of the collar from V8597 (several unblogged versions of this also made) and the fabric is a cotton/lycra jersey from Fabricland (yes, we’ve got a Fabricland shop in Bristol!)

The Airshow dress

More catching up.

This was made back in July and has been worn several times but I’ve only just got around to taking photos on a chilly September Sunday……


DSCF1426So, we were given some free tickets to one of the hospitality tents at Waddington Airshow being held just up the road from us and I decided I needed a new dress.

I’d got a free copy of Simplicity 2444 which was a magazine cover give-away so decided to go for a simple sleeveless version using some lightweight turquoise home-dec fabric I’d bought for something else.  I also found some almost matching poly cotton in the stash to use as a lining.

According to the sizing on the back of the pattern I should have cut a size 14
(14!! 14!!! – I know it’s only a number but I’ve never been a 14 in my life, I wear a size 8 to 10 in RTW

but after measuring the pattern I decided to cut a 12.  I did cut out my lining fabric first to try the fit and from that decided to shorten the darts by 1 inch and lift the neck edge of the shoulders by half an inch to cater for my square shoulders.  I also took 4 inches off the length as I’m only 5′ tall.

DSCF1451It’s fully lined and although it was a scorching hot day, it was beautifully cool to wear – and yes, I did get burned!

The tutorial for the bodice lining came from http://theslapdashsewist.blogspot.co.uk/2010/08/all-machine-clean-finish-sleeveless.html (thanks for the video by the way, I was getting into a horrible mess until I watched that!) and the tutorial for the combined lining and mock hong-kong seams on the skirt came from http://www.fromthesehands.net/journal/2010/10/5/underlining-and-seam-finish-in-one.html – note: doing it this way means you loose all the notches on the side seams of the skirt.  Make sure you make a left and a right back – not two right backs (ask me how I know 🙁 )

Other notes:

  • Legs of the darts on the back are curved
  • Legs of the darts on the front are straight

Here’s some more photos:

DSCF1427 DSCF1430 DSCF1433

(howzatt for an invisible zipper btw!)


P.S. Sorry for the strange facial expressions – the camera was on a 2 sec auto focus and I was concentrating on keeping my balance after pressing the shutter and diving back to the front again)


Totally free top!

It must be my Scottish blood, but I love the idea of a totally free top!


Total cost…£0.00!

The pattern was the Sorbetto top free download from Colette Patterns (OK – I know everyone else in the sewing blogosphere has already made this umpteen times but I only joined the party 11 months ago)  and this


Anyone know what to do with worn-out collars and cuffs?

is the remains of my material – an old shirt of my husband’s where the collar and cuffs had worn out but the body was fine.  I treated myself to a bias binding maker and used the shirt sleeves to make matching bias binding:

Seven yards of handmade bias binding

Did you know you can get seven yards of bias binding out of the sleeves of a man’s shirt?

Unlike some other people I had no problem using the bias binding widget (just watch your fingers if you’re using a steam iron) but I did have a problem trying to get all the stripes to go in the same direction and had to enlist my engineer husband’s help.

But it was worth it…


Yes – the buttons still work!

The back of the shirt became the back of the top and the fronts of the shirt became the front of the top – I just folded the pattern back along the line of the centre pleat and didn’t even need to add a seam allowance.

Here’s what it’s like on:








And the last photo?  Well, I meant to use the shirt tails to give it a high-low hem but forgot when I was cutting out the first piece so it’s just got a slight curve at the sides!


What happened to this blogging lark then?

Um……..dunno is the answer.

I don’t know about you, but as I get older the time just seems to disappear.  There has been some sewing going on, quite a lot of knitting (surprisingly for me), but not a lot of mini-ing.

We’re just back from visiting my mother-in-law in rural Aberdeenshire where this:

Red squirrel on a peanut feeder

Meet Tufty the red squirrel

was the view from the kitchen window.  However; we had to extend our visit by a week so as a result I’m now frantically trying to catch up with research for a dissertation which is due in the middle of August.

There is some sewing going on which involves these:

Remnants of a man's shirt

Guess what this started as?

Seven yards of handmade bias binding

Handmade bias binding (don’t use the steam setting on your iron – you’ll scald your fingers!)

(did you know you can get seven yards of bias binding just from the sleeves of a man’s shirt?)


Historic knitting, sewing and embroidery patterns

I don’t “do” miniature knitting and my real-life knitting is very slow; however, in the States Friday was apparently I Love Yarn day.  To celebrate, Two Nerdy History Girls posted a link to what is possibly the oldest English printed knitting pattern, from 1655, part of a book called Natura Exenterata: or Nature Unbowelled By the most Exquisite Anatomizers of Her.  The book is here and about three pages is is the first pattern To make Network called the Broad Arrow, and the Diamond.


A sewing machine from 1881

That book is on a website called the On-Line Digital Archive of Documents on Weaving and Related Topics and it’s a treasure-trove of historical pictures, books and patterns on all sorts of fabric-related subjects.


A further collection of digitised knitting patterns and images of historic sewing patterns is provided by the the Visual Arts Data Service, part of the University for the Creative Arts based in the south of England.  Part of their collection includes sketchbooks belonging to Victor Stiebel who was an English fashion designer whose clients included Catharine Hepburn, Vivien Leigh and Princess Margaret.

Whatever type of needles you use – enjoy!