I had a client recently who I did a few alterations for initially but then she asked me if it was possible to replicate a favourite dress she had. It was a tiered sundress in plain cotton with a shirred back panel.
Of course, said I.
It was very straightforward to measure the skirt panels, there were three tiers of almost identical length, each layer was more full than the last, plus a small ruffle on the hem. Next I took accurate measurements of the bodice front and drew a ‘plan’ plus the shirred back. I haven’t made anything using shirring in years and it was going to be guesswork a bit but I found a really helpful tutorial by Seamwork magazine on You Tube which gave a few good tips.
Once I’d got all my notes and diagrams I could calculate how much fabric my client would need, I also gave her advice on what sort of fabric to choose. She was going on holiday in less than six weeks so a speedy decision was needed. I saw three fabrics in our local John Lewis branch which I felt met our requirements so she hot-footed it into there and bought all that was left of a 100% cotton poplin in navy.
As the skirt is a series of rectangles I made that up first. I used the longest straight stitch for the gathering which I divided into manageable length sections-don’t be tempted to sew the whole of a very long strip of fabric in one go, break it down into manageable sections because if one of your threads snaps you’re back to square one.
I decided to toile the bodice front so that I could be certain it was correct as I knew there was no option to buy more fabric if I got it wrong…and I’d got it a bit wrong! The cups were much too shallow and didn’t come far enough up my client’s bust and a lot of her bra [which she wanted to be able to wear underneath] was showing. Back to the drawing board. The shirring element however was fine. I didn’t know exactly how much I might need so I used the full width of the fabric and sewed lots of rows of shirring until my reel of elastic ran out! [If you’re using an actual pattern then it will hopefully give you more guidance than this!]
Wind the shirring elastic carefully BY HAND onto a bobbin, use regular thread on the top. You could draw on your parallel lines first if you wish or you could trust your own skills and use the edge of the presser foot to guide each new row. The shirring doesn’t look like it’s gathered up enough but a good going over it with plenty of steam causes it to shrink up beautifully.
Because the first bodice didn’t give enough coverage I redrafted it but that was worse (I didn’t even try it on my client as I could see it was all wrong) On to Plan C…I decided I would try modelling the pattern on my mannequin so I pinned some very narrow black ribbon to the mannequin using the style lines I required. You only need to do this on one half if it’s going to be symmetrical, make sure you start at the centre front working round to wherever the pieces finish, in my case this was just to the side seams.
I joined this new bodice to the skirt and the shirred back and carried out another fitting on my client. Fortunately this time it was fine and I set to to finish the dress just in time for her to take it on holiday!
I made the straps wider than the originals and they are stitched to the correct length on each shoulder for my client-we all have one shoulder higher or lower than the other so don’t automatically make them identical lengths, pin and check before sewing them in position. If one strap always falls off your shoulder this will be the reason why!
This was a rather convoluted way to make a shirred sundress because my client wanted a replica of a favourite but if you like the idea of it the why not take a look at Cocowawa’s Raspberry dress pattern which has a fully-elasticated bodice instead?
My client wanted fabric as similar as possible to her original but you could easily use cotton lawn, seersucker, chambray, soft linen, lightweight jersey, voile, muslin….the list goes on, just keep it soft and not too thick or it could get very bulky. You could also make it just as a skirt and leave the bodice section off if you wanted, that’s definitely a 70s hippie vibe going on right there, add ribbons, ric-rac, bobble trim, sequins etc etc…
I haven’t written a Simple Sew blog post for a few months but now that Sam Sterken has taken over with the organisation whilst Gabby is having her maternity leave we’re up and running again.
I had a bit of an idea in my head of what I’d like to do using the Zoe pattern which I already had so I chose some medium-weight enzyme washed linen in dark turquoise generously provided for us once again by Doughty’s Fabrics. I was really pleased with it when it arrived as it wasn’t too droopy but not over-firm either. Incidentally, it’s been terrible to photograph accurately, the final outdoor photos are definitely the closest to the real thing [to see how I altered the Zoe neckline so it wasn’t so wide have a look at my previous blog post in early 2018)
I drew a few sketches of ideas which all involved using the top half of the Zoe-initially I was going to extend the sleeves with wide pleated frills and keep the dress straight but I went off that idea as I felt the fabric was too firm for how I wanted it, I thought it would definitely work well with a peg-top skirt instead however. I wanted a shape that wasn’t too voluminous at the hem and by using an inverted A-line shape I could add pleats at the top but keep the hemline slimmer.
I tried on one of my existing Zoes (I’ve made 3) so I could assess what length I wanted the top section, and took an arbitrary measurement of 34cms from the centre of the front neckline to where I wanted the waist, which is slightly higher than my natural waistline. As the Zoe has centre front and back seams I then measured from the top edge down to the point where I wanted the waist seam and drew a line at a right angle on the pattern across from that point. I took that line across to the side seam but at the point where the line met the side seam I made it a right angle, which creates a very slight curve on the line. Because the back neck sits a little higher than the front I matched the side seams to one another first and created a similar line across to meet the centre back seam. [It’s important that these lines are at a right angle where they meet at the side seams because otherwise you would have a slight V shape rather than a smooth line from front to back]
I already have a skirt pattern that I’d drafted last year for a similar peg-top shape, it’s essentially an upside down A-line skirt (the hem becomes the waist and the waist becomes the hem) I’d used it gathered though and I wanted pleats on the new dress. Initially I attempted to work out how to get 3 even sized pleats by folding and refolding the paper but I couldn’t quite get it. In the end I decided to cut the pieces in fabric as they were-with a slight modification for the front skirt as that piece was quite different-and then I’d work out the pleats once I was ready to attach the bodice and skirt together.
I cut all the bodice/sleeve/neck facings and assembled the bodice first. I’ve found that it’s easier to sew up the shoulders and attach the neck facings as described in the instructions but then attach the sleeves with the bodice open flat before sewing the side seams rather than in the round. The photos should help make this method quite clear. I added rows of contrast triple straight stitch to various seams as I went including around the neck [I used the quilting guide which came with my machine to do this accurately]
Next I cut the front and back skirts from the remaining fabric, plus I also cut two pairs of pockets for the side seams using the cardboard template I’ve made. [Just choose a pocket pattern that suits the size and shape that you mostly use to go in side seams and then make a cardboard version, mark the grainline and then all you need to do in future is place it on your fabric and draw around it with a pencil or chalk, it saves a paper piece getting scrappier and scrappier with constant use.]
I made up the front and back skirt sections, adding the pockets to the side seams, then top stitched the CF seams as before, I didn’t top stitch the CB seam at this stage as I wanted to be able to sew in a continuous line with no breaks and I couldn’t achieve this until the hem was turned up too. Incidentally, as many of the seams were going to be pressed open inside the dress I overlocked the edges of most of them first then sewed the seam and pressed open.
Next I pinned on the skirt starting by matching the centre front, back and side seams. Because I had no other markings now I played around with different positions for the pleats until I happy with how they looked. This will vary according to what size you’ve cut the waist but for mine I settled on 10cms each side of the CF seam for the first pleat and then the second and third pleats were a further 4 cms away from the previous one. I checked all the measurements to ensure that they were each symmetrical and well-balanced before I sewed it all together, overlocked to neaten and added another row of top stitching to the waist.
This just left the hem length to check, I had opted for quite a long skirt length because I wanted the dress to be a fairly loose throw-on shape but not too baggy or undefined. I was happy with the length I’d plumped for so I used the triple straight stitch once again around the bottom and then down the CB seam, creating an angled line to define the facing which finished the slit opening.
I’m not always super-happy with everything I make (and in truth I’ve positioned the pockets a little bit low in this dress) but I can’t wait to wear this dress during the summer! I’ve only ever worn my previous Zoes with long-sleeved tops layered underneath in chilly weather so it’s a bit of a revelation to realise that the sleeves are the perfect length for a summer dress. I think the skirt shape is more interesting than just a gathered dirndl and the lime-green contrast topstitching is a bit of fun. The linen is a great weight for this too, it will be crumply but that’s part of the charm of linen fabric…I think I may have to make more of this frock!
So, has anything changed yet in the use and portrayal of older sewers and makers in dressmaking in the media? I think the simple answer is still “no, it probably hasn’t much” but before we feel completely downhearted about it I think we should reflect on what has been happening and how we can continue to try and move things forward. Love Sewing magazine in the UK wrote an article about the situation and 10 of us featured in the photo-shoot that resulted…how about a follow-up article Love Sewing? Grainline have released a new pattern which features an older woman modelling it, are there any others doing this yet?
Since Judith Staley started the account in August 2018 it has gained over 12,000 followers and that number continues to climb steadily. I believe part of the reason for this is because people are discovering that it’s a very inclusive account where everyone in it is happy to share advice or tips, to encourage others, where the colour of our (slightly wrinkly) skin is not relevant, our physical abilities and the size of our waistlines likewise. We share our wide and varied takes on patterns both from the so-called Big 4 and Indie designers and, even though we continue to be frequently ignored by them, we will still mention which pattern it is and tag the company anyway. Generally we aren’t sore about it…There have been some successes with reposts by a few pattern companies on their Stories or feed which, if @SewOver50 is tagged, we’ll see. Make sure you always tag the account or use a recognised hashtag-they are all listed saved in Highlights on the account but by using #SewOver50 or #So50Visible for example Judith and Sandy will see you. If they repost your mention they will use the hashtag #So50thanks to acknowledge our appreciation to the pattern company involved. It’s a virtuous circle really, we buy the patterns, we sew the patterns, we share our make, the pattern company sees it and likes it, we buy more patterns! See? everybody is happy and so it goes on. We have the cash and we want to spend it on your product but if we don’t think you’re interested in us because we aren’t young/slim/pretty/etc etc insert as appropriate then we won’t buy your product any more because there are many other ways we can spend our hand-earned money instead.
Personally there are a couple of companies that I don’t bother to tag any longer because neither of them acknowledge or repost a make by anyone under the age of about 35, let alone mine. I mention the pattern and the brand so that others know which design it is but I don’t ’tag’ them. You might think this is petty but I find it very irritating that everyone these days says “tag us so we can see your makes” but then they don’t offer a ‘like’ or a brief comment to acknowledge or ‘reward’ you. I do realise that some accounts have tens of thousands of followers which makes it difficult but it can’t be impossible, and meanwhile we just continue doing free advertising for them. Somehow some companies seem to exist in a vacuum which is unsullied by their actual customers… How about a new hashtag? #NoLikeNoMention or #NoLikeNoTag?
Anyway, moving on…we’ve been asking recently on the SewOver50 account if you have experience of pattern reviewing, pattern testing or blogging about your makes? How was this for you? How did you get started, were you approached or did you volunteer to a call out of some kind? Any or all of these would be a really good way of continuing to have older faces in the mix.
Obviously I do all of the above because that’s why I write this!
So, looking at the first area ‘pattern reviews’ There are several ways you can get involved in this. Firstly decide on a pattern you think people would be interested in hearing about-you may base this on your experiences with it which might be great or they might be terrible! Either way, if you think you’ve got something to add to the conversation then get writing. There are two places which immediately spring to mind to do this and they are The Fold Line online community which is UK-based, and the Pattern Review which is in the US. BOTH are fully accessible from anywhere in the world so this doesn’t mean they are exclusive to those areas, you just might find more ‘voices’ from one or the other. They are VERY different from each other starting from the way they look, The Fold Line feels a little more ‘youth’ oriented and ‘modern’ in its look, I find it more visually appealing and easier to navigate whereas the Pattern Review I found a bit cluttered visually but I’m sure it’s whatever you are used to, I know it’s really popular and there’s a very broad range of people posting on the site which is great. Both have options to leave pattern reviews and share photos of your makes, I’d say that Pattern Review has a larger back catalogue of reviews by virtue of being around longer than The Fold Line. I like that PR has a series of questions available to guide your review which can be helpful and keep you focussed if you aren’t sure what to write, Fold Line is all in your own words. On both you can give an ‘out of 5’ star rating. We’re trying to encourage more of you to leave reviews and these are two places you can do that, it will keep our beautiful older faces in line of sight! Do you know of or use other sites? Let us know either in the comments here or on the IG account so that we can all share and participate. Judith has asked a few stalwart SO50 supporters for their experiences and impressions of using various pattern review sites so look out for those on Instagram this week too.
Personally, I write my own reviews here on the blog as well as The Fold Line although I include a lot more technical stuff than I’d put elsewhere. Most of my reviews are on patterns that I want to write about because I have something to say about them, and a few are because I’m part of a ‘blogger network’ such as Simple Sew patterns. I’ve always endeavoured to be a ‘critical friend’ when it comes to a pattern review and I don’t always give 100% glowing reports, if I encounter problems or errors I will point them out and I’ll try to give alternative methods or techniques if I can. I don’t find the kind of ‘review’ which just says “yes, this is pretty and I love it” very helpful. Preferences are obviously very individual but why do you love it? does it go together well? are the instructions clear? do you need to fiddle around to get a good fit? What sort of fabric works well? All these things matter and that is what many sewers want to know before committing to buying a potentially-expensive new pattern.
I also write reviews of fabrics which I’ve been provided with free of charge by various companies including Sew Me Sunshine and Minerva Crafts. I’m not embarrassed by this because I take a lot of time and effort to write comprehensive and helpful reviews of the product, a couple of metres of fabric is a very modest reward for many hours of work for me. At this point in time I’m not paid to write by anyone.
Love Sewing magazine here in the UK includes a reader every month who sew up their own version of that month’s free gift pattern and then they feature in a professional photo shoot. I was lucky enough to be invited to do this nearly two years ago and it was great fun, if a little nerve-wracking to start with. You may know of other magazines which do this so why not email and offer yourself to them?! Another way of featuring in magazines is to try tagging them if you share photos of your makes (best if you’re using their free gift pattern or another item which was originally in their mag as they’ll be more interested) you might get used on their ‘reader makes’ pages-it’s always fun to see your face in a magazine and sometimes there’s a ’Star Maker’ prize too. Most magazines and pattern companies have a Facebook page as well as Instagram which are easy ways to share your photos, Twitter is much less about images so I tend not to use that. Make sure your photo is of a decent quality though-clean the lens, or the mirror, check the background-are there pants drying on the radiator behind you? You don’t need to be David Bailey or have a fancy camera but if it’s not a clear picture of your make they won’t use it. Again, the SewOver50 account gave lots of tips for taking successful photos using your phone and they are saved in Highlights.
Pattern testing is another area you can volunteer for and could be your opportunity to put your skills to good use. Keep an eye open for tester callouts on IG, or have a look at company websites for a sign-up list but bear in mind that you’ll almost certainly be doing this for purely altruistic reasons, almost no one pays or rewards testers in any way other than a free copy of the finished pattern after release. (This is a bit of a contentious area-should we be more adequately rewarded?- which I’m not going into here) You’ll probably provide your own fabric and donate your time and be helping small companies to improve their products. When I’ve done this in the past the better companies give you a set of questions which is helpful because you can direct your answers to specific areas they want to know about, plus add comments of your own. They should want to know things like ‘do the seams match’ or ‘are there notches missing’, ‘could the instructions be clearer or worded differently?’ I take pattern testing seriously and it can be frustrating and time-consuming when there are problems or errors, there are now rather a lot of inexperienced people releasing patterns which are ill-thought out and inaccurate. I’m more picky about volunteering now as I’m not keen on wasting my time, I get invited to help by some companies which is flattering. You’ll be more or less expected to ‘advertise’ the pattern when it gets released which is fine if you’re happy with what you’ve made, and the very small companies are usually very appreciative of this because they generally have little or no advertising budget so they rely on people like us making and sharing.
Finally, you could have a go at exactly what I’m doing now-blogging! I started to write here four years ago as a means to document what I was making more than anything and it’s diversified a bit because I also review exhibitions and books too, or places and events I’ve visited that have a sewing context. [The word ‘blogging’ or ‘blog’, if you didn’t know, comes from ‘web log’, a form of keeping an online diary.] I don’t have a massive following, or sponsors, like some but I know many people appreciate my plain speaking and honesty in my pattern reviews. Vlogging is a ’thing’ too but I’m not interested in that, I prefer to write and I’d bore myself (never mind you!) wittering on about my latest fabric haul or whatever. There are lots of places that ‘host’ blogs, I use WordPress for which I pay a modest monthly fee but there are many others, some free, some not. If you follow other bloggers, which providers do they use? Do some research to find the site that meets your needs, if you want more bells and whistles later on, can they be added? How much will it cost? You could just write a Word Doc and copy and paste it into a Facebook page. I have a Facebook page for Susan Young Sewing but I must confess I barely use it, I don’t find Fb as engaging as Instagram. Incidentally, The Fold Line has a useful Facebook forum which is where all the discussions take place, and you can sign up for their weekly newsletters which is a round up of all sorts of up-to-date sewing and dressmaking goings-on.
So, to sum up, there are a variety of ways we can continue to get our lovely faces featured so that we aren’t overlooked and the more of us that do it the harder it will be to ignore us! Judith will be sharing ideas and personal testimonies by other Sew Over 50 ‘activists’ during the coming days and weeks so keep a look out for them. If you’ve got a story you want to share with us make sure you use the @SewOver50 tag so that it gets seen [although with our growing numbers this is getting harder so DM if it’s really important] Let’s keep plugging away together, older women have wider choices and opportunities than ever before and it’s so much better if we can endeavour to support each other in reminding the wider world that we’re here and we aren’t going to go away quietly.
I hope we can continue to inspire, support and encourage one another using SewOver50 as our touchstone because we’re bloody brilliant!!
I thought in this blog I’d take a look back at some of the things I’ve been up to over the last twelve months and it’s made me realise what a wonderful varied collection they are. As well as sewing multiple garments from numerous patterns (which I’ll look at in a separate blog) there have been several meet-ups including the Stitchroom Sewcial in June and the now-famous Sewing Weekender in August, plus one I organised myself in November. I’ve visited quite a few exhibitions, some of them more than once, read lots of books and written reviews of several of them in case anyone out there was interested in knowing more if they fancy a visit or a read for themselves. I’ve been back to the Knitting & Stitching show, and The Handmade Fair for the first time too.
In January I made my first coat in decades, the Butterick 6423 and was pretty pleased with the outcome overall.
My first meet-up of the year in February was a return visit to Balenciaga at the V&A organised by Alex (Sewrendipity) where I met a number of lovely fellow dressmakers in the flesh for the first time. It was so nice to go to an exhibition with like-minded people and then we all went for lunch together afterwards-very civilised!
Also in February Gabby Young invited me to become one of the Simple Sew bloggers so I embarked on a year of wrangling their patterns into submission, they are nice designs but aren’t always faultlessly accurate in their drafting or instructions. I took on the role on the understanding that I’d be honest (although never rude) but informative and constructive. I’ll leave you to be the judge of whether I achieved that.
I had the opportunity to visit the Fashion Technology Academy in April which was such an inspiring place. You can study many of the technical aspects of clothing production there and we also had the chance to try out a taster session of TR pattern cutting with the supremely gifted Claudette Joseph while we were there too. If you, or someone you know, wants to go down the technical route into garment manufacture then this place in North London could be a good place to start looking.
Also in April I returned to the Fashion and Textiles Museum in Bermondsey, London to attend their fascinating ‘Inside couture’ afternoon. I’ve been once before but it’s so enjoyable, and such a treat to get the your hands on real couture clothes (with white gloves on, natch). I highly recommend a visit if you’re in London but you do need to book for these particular events, the museum itself is open most days.
The first London Stitchers meet-up was held at the beginning of May and although I’m not technically ‘London’, as has become obvious, I go up a lot. These are organised by Ana Cocowawacrafts and Georgia One Stitch Forward and they vary in their locations between north, south and central London. Anyone is welcome and it’s a great way to meet new people and know that you all have at least one shared interest! It’s like speed-dating for dressmakers!!
Me Made May was also happening on Instagram and for the first time in ages I managed to post every single day for a month-long challenge even though I was out of the country for some of it. Lots of garments I shared weren’t new and box-fresh, in fact quite a few of them were old favourites, which is as it should be. We made a trip to Assisi in Italy during this time so that made my backdrops a bit more interesting for a few days!
I tried something a bit different in May by going on a course to learn how to make and print my own etchings. I’d done this once a million years ago when I did my Foundation Course at college and have always found the medium fascinating and beautiful. [Go and check out Rembrandt’s work in particular if you aren’t sure what they are] I’d met a lovely lady called Chrissy Norman on the first Sewing Weekender two years ago and it turns out that not only does she sew and knit, she’s a super-talented printmaker too. She has a separate IG account for her prints and I admired a print she posted on it early in the year. It transpires that she teaches courses a few times a year at Sudbourne Park Printmakers workshops. Long story short, I signed up and joined her in Suffolk in mid-May. It was soooo interesting and fun, plus I made some pretty respectable prints based on a photo I had taken of the Maggi Hambling sculpture on the beach at Aldeburgh, Suffolk.
The summer saw the first of several visits to the Frida Kahlo exhibition and Fashioned from Nature at the V&A museum. I also loved the retrospective of the work of Azzedine Alaia at the Design Museum, I didn’t write a review though because by the time I went there wasn’t much left of the run sadly. It was spectacular though and I’m very glad I made the effort. That same day we went to see the musical Hamilton which was absolutely stupendous, Mr Y normally doesn’t go for that style of music but even he has raved about it ever since-highly recommended!
In June I was one of the lucky attendees of the first Stitchroom Sewcial event organised by Anne ‘New Vintage Sewing’ and Lucy ‘Sew Essential’ at Anne’s workplace in the University of Loughborough. They had excelled themselves with activities for us all to try including visiting the print and weaving workshops, computerised machine embroidery, an individual photoshoot AND time to sew and use the industrial machines Anne has in her classroom. I really hope I’m lucky enough to go again in 2019…
I took a road trip with my ‘local’ sewing friends Alana and Helen to visit Sewisfaction on their first Big Summer Stitch-up which was great fun, even though it was a steaming hot day.
At the end of July and beginning of August I posted two blogs which seemed to light the blue touch paper that rapidly became Sew Over 50. When I wrote them I thought no one would read them, much less agree with me, so I was stunned by the response to say the least. My now-friend Judith was amongst those who read them and was feeling the same way so she went one step further and created a new Instagram account called @SewOver50 and everything went a bit nuts from there on. As I write this post the account has gained over 5,300 followers since mid-August which is phenomenal. It’s become a place of inspiration and encouragement for thousands of women (and the occasional man) who sew but felt they, we, are being overlooked or dismissed by the burgeoning home-dressmaking market because of our age.
One thing that some people misunderstood about the whole idea wasn’t that we wanted to be separate from any other age group, like some kind of exclusive club, not at all, we just felt that some people-magazines, pattern companies-were overlooking the opportunity to tap into a market and a group who had cash to spend, had styling ideas, skills and experience to share, originality, fun, empathy, quirkiness, style. For a lot of the people who started following the account they had very little experience of using social media to broaden their horizons in sewing terms, and for connecting with like-minded people around the world, including Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the US, as well as Europe. Suddenly there was an identifiable hashtag to follow which took you straight to the heart of this community. In fact it isn’t only sewing that members are supportive with, many face health challenges, a changing body with the menopause, dealing with elderly parents or caring for grandchildren so there have already been lots of conversations that have strayed away from sewing completely, and that’s OK too.
It’s been gratifying to see that a number of sources are making a big effort to be more diverse in who they feature in articles or as models. There is still a long way to go though because we’re conscious it might appear that it’s mostly white middle-aged women who sew, but we know this isn’t the case because there are many women of colour who sew too, maybe they don’t engage as much with Instagram or other social media though? I don’t know the answer to this one except to say that all are welcome because that’s the whole point. It makes me very happy when much younger dressmakers comment to me that they also follow us to get inspiration and advice, which is also the reason that I follow younger sewers myself!
Onwards, there was another amazing Sewing Weekender in August which was quickly followed by SewPhotoHop on Instagram in September organised by Rachel ‘House of Pinheiro‘. I didn’t keep up with this one so much and dipped in and out a bit [the same happened with Sewvember as well] but it’s a good way to find new people to follow and be inspired by if all this is new to you. I’ve just remembered there was MIYMarch (Make it Yourself) but that passed me by completely this year.
In September I became a Minerva Crafts blogger so I’m provided with fabric by them to make up into my own choice of garment and then write a comprehensive review for their own website. I’m enjoying this and it’s another string to my bow.
October saw me return to Birmingham for the SewBrum event which is magnificently organised by Charlotte ‘English Girl at Home’. It’s a chance for dressmakers from all over the place to come together in Birmingham, shop for fabric, visit Guthrie & Ghani and generally hang out together.
I was really chuffed to be invited by Amy Thomas, editor of Love Sewing magazine to contribute an article about the Fashioned from Nature exhibition to the magazine in November. It was a really big deal for me to write something specifically to appear in print. I’ve been lucky enough to write pattern reviews for Love Sewing and Sew Now in the past but this was a new departure. I’d love to do more like this in the future. There’s definitely a little something coming up early in the new year but I can’t talk about that yet…..
I organised my own meet-up at Walthamstow Market in east London in mid-November which fortunately was a beautiful day as it was well attended and we nearly all went for lunch afterwards, to continue chatting! It was the first meet-up for quite a number of the attendees but I think everyone enjoyed themselves and were delighted to get the chance to chat together in real life and not just in a comments box!
There was a lovely pre-Christmas sewing day in Cambridge called SewCam organised by Jen Walker ‘The Gingerthread Girl’ which was a delightful antidote to festive fever, and a final London Stitcher’s meet up the following weekend to round everything off nicely!
When I look back at everything in this way it makes me so happy to realise the sheer quantity of wonderful opportunities that my love of dressmaking has brought me this year in particular. I continue to teach my lovely group of ladies locally-they think all this Instagram nonsense is ridiculous in a good way! I’ve met so many awesome and inspiring women in real life for the first time and I’ve deepened some of the friendships that started last year, or longer, ago. Many people think that ‘friends’ on Insta aren’t real but that just isn’t true. Of course there are those people you should give a wide berth to and we are continually plagued by nut-jobs who think women who sew will be interested in their guns, or love of God, or whatever but if we all continue to report them then so much the better.
Wherever you are in your sewing ‘journey’ I hope you find it relaxing, fulfilling, inspiring, empowering, distracting, whatever you need it to be. I’ll never stop learning and being creative is so good for us ( we knew this all along but science is finally realising it too!)
I’ve already got some ideas for next year but, to be honest, much of 2018 just unfolded one thing at a time without too much planning in advance. I’d like to expand my own skills in 2019 and not necessarily in dressmaking terms, I have always enjoyed art so perhaps I should get my pencils and paints back out again.
There’s always an element of me hoping you enjoy what I write and find the reviews helpful or informative although, in truth, I’d write them anyway as a record. Thank you for joining me on the journey and Happy New Year, and here’s to lots more sewing adventures, maybe we’ll meet ‘in real life’ in 2019?!
Usually when I write a Simple Sew blog post it’s a garment for me but this time the finished article is for my friend Janet. We had a shopping trip to London’s Goldhawk Road a little while ago to choose fabric for a dress for Janet’s daughter to wear to a family wedding and while we were in Classic Textiles we got distracted and spotted this lovely pastel tweed. There wasn’t a lot left so she snapped it all up as well as some pretty matching lining, we didn’t have a pattern in mind but I knew I’d have something suitable at home.
The jacket got put on the back-burner for a few months because I had the dress for the wedding to make first, and then a last minute dress for Janet herself to wear too so it dropped down the priorities.
With the wedding out of the way in August I could revisit the project. Because there wasn’t a lot of fabric and there could be tricky pattern matching to do I didn’t want a pattern that was too complex with a lot of pieces so when I found the Notch Collar jacket I thought it would be perfect.
If you’re going to make this jacket yourself I would say it’s VITAL to make a toile first. In my opinion it’s quite narrow across the front and shoulders so if you’re fuller-busted you will probably need to do an FBA. With this in mind I was really pleased, and a bit surprised, when the toile fitted Janet perfectly with no alterations but then she is quite petite build.
If you read my pattern reviews regularly you’ll know that I’m not usually a ‘tracer’ but because Janet is so much smaller than me, and I may want to use the pattern again sometime, I opted to trace this one. If you’re short of fabric or if it’s going to be tricky pattern matching it can be really helpful to make pairs of any pieces that require 2 eg. Left front and right front, a pair of sleeves or the whole back rather than just place on a fold. In this case though I folded the fabric carefully in half and pinned in numerous places through the fabric so that I knew the checks were matching on the under layer.
Because of the wide width of the fabric I could easily place the front and back side by side so I knew that the check would match down the side seam as far as possible. Because of the dart it wouldn’t match near the underarm seam though, this is inevitable.
I didn’t cut out the sleeves in tweed at this stage. I cut everything out in lining too with the addition of a pleat of extra fabric in the back to allow for movement. I also cut facings which incidentally I’d made a lot wider than the originals-I think they are too narrow. [later on I discovered that there’s no lower back facing piece and very little hem allowed to turn it up either. I made my own by tracing the lower edge of the back pattern up to the same depth as my front facings-8cms-so that they match when joined at the side seams.]
To stabilise the tweed and give it some extra body I interlined the fronts and back with some calico and basted it to the tweed within the seam allowances around the edges. This is known as ‘mounting’ the fabric and is a very useful technique if you have a fabric that needs stabilising or a little more body for some reason.
I immediately disagreed with the instructions here because, after making the darts, the first thing I would do is make the pockets and sew them on. Because the fabric frays quite a bit I opted to use some lining as well as the facing to ‘bag out’ the pockets. This makes them more stable as well as neater. After matching the checks I top-stitched them on but that pushed everything out of alignment so I ripped that stitching out and hand-sewed them on instead. These aren’t pockets that will need to take a lot of weight so they should be plenty strong enough.
After joining the shoulders and side seams I pressed the seams open with plenty of steam over my tailor’s ham and gave them a good bashing with my wooden clapper to knock the steam out and flatten the the seams effectively. I used it on the darts too. If you don’t have a clapper you could use a wooden rolling pin if you have one.
Things got trickier after this because I had to match the sleeves to the checks of the jacket. Initially I did this by lining up the pattern piece again the jacket on the stand and drew some guide lines onto the pattern. I was reasonably sure this would work so I cut out a pair of sleeves…I was wrong. I’d placed the pattern piece onto the fabric but it was matched to the wrong set of stripes. Damn and blast! Fortunately, I still had enough fabric left for another pair of sleeves and I could cut the front facings out of the incorrect sleeves instead.
I tried a different approach to matching the sleeves. I took the whole piece of remaining fabric and offered it up to the jacket armhole on the stand where I pinned it in position. This seemed to work so I carefully thread traced the crown of the sleeve, removed the fabric again and then laid the pattern piece on top.
Obviously I needed a second sleeve so I had to cut the first one, remove the pattern, place it in the correct position for that sleeve to match and cut it out. If I got this one wrong there was no Plan C…. I’m extremely relieved to say that all was well-phew. One of the benefits of the tweed is that you can make the slightly loose weave work in your favour so I ran the usual two rows of ease stiches around the crown and tacked the sleeves into position.
One fitted perfectly first time and the other I had to reduce the amount of fullness over the crown to make it fit, and still have the checks matching. At this point Janet popped round for a fitting and we were both very relieved that it fitted really well-high fives all round.
One tip I’d give as a result of doing quite a few alterations on coats and jackets is to use a wide strip of iron-on interfacing at the cuff to give it a crisp edge.
iron on interfacing
cuffs tacked up in position
This is the sort of soft-tailored jacket which will benefit from a small shoulder pad. We aren’t talking ‘Dynasty’ or ‘Dallas’ 80’s shoulders here, just enough to give a little more definition to the shoulder-line. I didn’t have anything suitable so I made a pair with some medium thickness wadding and covered them in fine calico.
To line the jacket next, I interfaced the facings with iron-on Vilene and neatened the edges, then I stitched them wrong sides to right sides on the lining pieces.
I made up the lining as a complete unit-fronts/back/sleeves-which in hindsight wasn’t the right order because after I sewed the jacket and the lining together all the way around the outer edge it meant I couldn’t under-stitch any of it. I should have sewn the lining in without the sleeves attached, under-stitched the neck edge first then attached the sleeve linings afterwards. Instead, I pulled everything through right side out and gave the neck edges a jolly good steam and wallop with the clapper again. Then I ‘stab stitched’ the edges of the front and neck edge by hand, and also a few stitches directly through the lower section of each side seam to keep the two layers fixed together. Finally, I slip-hemmed the sleeve linings in place.
As I said before this is a ‘soft-tailored’ jacket rather than a very structured one, although I’ve used one or two techniques which I picked up on the tailoring course I did two and a half years ago.
The sparse making up instructions do have a few errors or anomalies which could trip you up. I set the sleeves in rather than on the flat which might not make any difference to the overall finish but the lack of lower back facing or sufficient turn up instead isn’t good, and it says there’s a turn up of 5mm on the cuffs when it’s actually 1.5cms, and in fact 4cms is what I used to give a better finish. I know some of the earlier Simple Sew patterns have a few technical errors and this is one of them but, with this in mind, don’t dismiss it because it’s an attractive little edge-to-edge jacket but make a toile first!
I relieved to say that Janet is very pleased with her jacket and hopefully will get a lot of wear from it.
Summer is (allegedly) on it’s way at last and so my sewing thoughts turn to summery frocks. On that optimistic basis I decided on the Kaftan top and dress as my next Simple Sew blogger review and this time we have Doughty’s Online as one of our generous fabric sponsors too. I have to confess I wasn’t familiar with them but when I checked out their website I was very impressed with their wide selection of fabrics available. I chose this beautiful digitally-printed cotton lawn by Lady McElroy fabrics in a design called ‘Scottish Emblem’ and it’s lovely quality, similar to Liberty Tana lawn I’d say.
Before I cut into the lawn I decided to make the top version in some georgette that was languishing in my stash. I’d bought it ages ago in the Birmingham Rag Market without a project in mind, I wrote post about that visit which you can read here.
I’ve made my last few Simple Sew makes in size 14 based on my measurements and this one was no different. Georgette is quite wiggly so my advice is to take your time laying it up, tear the cut ends to get a really straight edge and use the edges of the table to give you a visual ‘marker’ to lay the fabric up as straight as possible. You can even layer it between spot-and-cross paper but that’s longwinded and uses up your paper. Georgette is also sheer and frays quite badly so I used French seams throughout. The pattern calls for bias binding on the neckline and sleeves but that would be too heavy on georgette so I simply pin-hemmed them instead.
This revealed a bit of an issue with the depth of the V!
It all went a bit pair-shaped at this point because I got in a right two-and-eight with the buttonholes and the casing for the waist. I wasn’t happy with the position I sewed the buttonholes (according to the pattern) although in the end after a lot of messing about I left them where they were and made the casing wider around them but narrower for the rest. I found the instructions a bit confusing so I urge you to take each stage carefully and take into consideration how wide your ribbon/cord/elastic is when making the buttonhole openings and make the channel only as wide or narrow as you need it to be, not necessarily the width marked on the pattern.
Once I was happy with this first version I went ahead and cut out the full-length one in my lovely cotton lawn. It has a large repeat which is a one way design although not with an obvious up or down-in other words, everything must be cut going the same way but it didn’t matter which way that is. Just before I cut it I noticed when I placed the CB bodice on the fold that the neck edge isn’t quite ’true’ which would result in a slight point in the centre of the neck. It isn’t difficult to correct this.
One other change I made before I cut was to raise up the V so it wouldn’t be as revealing as the georgette one!
It was just a case of putting everything together like before, the difference this time is that I added self-fabric bias binding to the neck, I also stay-stitched the neck edges to prevent them stretching before I sewed the bias on. First join the shoulder seams then…
Before I joined the under arm seams I added some lovely pom-poms which I’d bought in Liberty especially.
I tried the bodice on and decided that the neck needed the pom-pom trim too, I wasn’t originally going to put it here but the neckline looked a bit plain against my pasty white skin!
I pinned it on in two different ways and eventually settled on just around the V
Because I’d bought a very narrow cord to put around the waist I made very small horizontal round-ended buttonholes instead of the larger vertical ones indicated on the pattern. Attach the skirt and make the casing for the cord according to the instructions and you’re almost there.
I opted to leave a knee-high split in one of the side seams. The sun came out so Doris posed outside!
I eventually finished the georgette version too, I used a shoelace from an old pair of my husband’s shoes in the casing because it was a perfect colour-match! I cut off the ends and embellished them with a few colourful buttons.
I hemmed this one by using the rolled hem setting on my overlocker. It definitely needs a vest under it though!
The kaftan will be a lovely cover-up on holiday in the summer and as I chose the cotton lawn it will be decent enough to go out in public and not just by the pool on hot days too! It would work well in a drapey viscose or look glamorous in a slinky crepe de chine, or a lightweight jersey like interlock. The short version would look nice in a Broderie Anglaise or Swiss Dot too. Instead of the pom-poms you could embellish it using Indian or Chinese-type braid, ribbon or even beading, you could put elastic through the casing too instead of cord or ribbon.
Thank you especially to our new fabric partners Doughty’s Online for supplying my choice of cotton lawn, it’s been lovely to work with and I’m looking forward to being able to wear it…soon, I hope!
In my previous blog about the Tilly and the Buttons Cleo I told you how my daughter had bought me the aubergine babycord kit for Christmas. I finally got around to making it this week after a bout of flu and a lingering cough slowed me up considerably.
You can read the first blog here, the reason for writing this one is to tell you briefly about putting a flap onto the patch pocket.
First I made a pattern piece for the flap using the actual pocket as a template.
I cut 2 in babycord but you could could have one in the main fabric and one in a contrast or lining fabric [this is definitely worth doing if your fabric is thick or bulky]
Sew the patch pocket onto the dress front according to the balance marks and then place the flap above it.
All finished! This time I topstitched around the edges which I didn’t on my teal version. I used the clips which were supplied with the Cleo kit too.
Button and buttonhole on the first version and no topstitching.
I love the shade of purple and I’m thinking about a top to go with it, possibly my next Simple Sew blogger project using some fabric from my stash….watch this space!
I’ve only put a flap on the main front pocket but there’s no reason why you shouldn’t do them on the back pockets too.
I hope you find this easy to follow and it adds a little extra to the dress I think.
I’ve been asked recently to join the Simple Sew Bloggers so every now and again you’ll be getting the benefit of my wisdom (!) on their patterns. This first blog though is about one of their patterns which I’ve had for ages so I’ve done a quick write up on the Zoe dress and top because I’ve already used it a number of times.
Since the Zoe pattern was given away free with the very first issue of Sew Now magazine, which I reviewed here, I’ve used it 3 times. It’s a really wearable basic layering style which I think is similar to those you can find in Fat Face or White Stuff. I’ve made mine in fabrics with a bit of body and I layer long-sleeved T-shirts underneath. The neck has a deep facing which I’ve top stitched in contrast colours usually, the same on the sleeve bands.
I made the first using some interesting printed denim I got from Ditto fabrics in Brighton. There are only a few pattern pieces-front/back/neck facings x2/ sleeve band-and no fastenings to worry about so it can be a quick make. I like the front and back centre seams because they give it visual interest and contrast top-stitching helps give it individuality, although if you cut the pieces on the fold you could make it even simpler and quicker.
This first version threw up a couple of issues, namely the dress was much too long for this particular style I felt. Being a straight shift it ended quite a way below my knees (I’m 5’5’ so not especially short) and was unflattering.
The other issue is that the bateau neckline is rather wide and might not suit you if you’ve got narrow shoulders. It isn’t a problem if you’re wearing a top under the dress but if you’ve made the shorter version to wear on it’s own I think your bra straps would be constantly showing on one side or the other. I left it on the first 2 versions I made but when I made the checked one more recently I extended the shoulder seams in towards my neck by about 2cms. This means it’s much snugger although still easily goes over my head.
On the denim version I top stitched many of the seams using neon pink thread.
This was before I got my new machine which I can use a twin needle on so I laboriously did each line twice. One of the nice details about the dress is the patch pocket positioned over the side seam. My suggestion to make this a bit easier would be to only sew up that side seam and apply the pocket before you sew up the second side-it just gives you a bit more room for manoeuvre. There’s only one pocket-obviously you could have 2-and somehow I managed to sew mine on the left side when I’m right-handed! Oops.
For the second version I used a lovely printed needlecord which I got in Goldhawk Rd, London. This time I put the pocket on the right side and I top stitched in both pink and orange. I embellished the neckline with a few brightly coloured buttons from my stash, it’s a fun way of adding some individual touches to something you’ve made.
It’s looking well worn now as it’s been through the wash quite a bit, although that does mean the fabric is nice and soft now.
And finally….the most recent version made shortly before Christmas came out of a very modest remnant that was probably 15-20 years old, minimum! This is a dress that you can get out of very little fabric, particularly if it’s wide, because the main pieces are virtually straight, the sleeves are two rectangles and the facings aren’t very wide, or you could cut them in a contrast to save fabric. I had to cut the pocket across the fabric but that’s fine although it did mean that I couldn’t pattern-match it.
Incidentally, I didn’t follow the pocket instruction method they suggested because I think it’s a bit cack-handed, pressing the edges in is a palaver so I bagged it out like this instead, it’s probably quicker too.
Firstly, cut the pocket piece so that the pocket top edge is the fold, not the lower edge as they tell you. Next sew from the fold down one side, pivot at the corner and then sew a few more centimetres and stop. Backstitch, or secure the end by your usual method. Now, leave a gap of a several centimetres (no more than about 5-6 probably, it needs to fit your hand through it) Start sewing again towards the corner, pivot and continue to the top, backstitch and finish.
Now you can trim the seams slightly and turn the whole pocket through so that it’s RS out, push out the corners to form nice squares and press.
You should now have a nice neat pocket shape which you can place over the side seam and sew in position, making sure the fold is at the top. The stitching will automatically close up the hole at the bottom of the pocket piece as you sew. Simple!
This is the one where I narrowed the neckline a bit, I top-stitched in a bright blue this time to match the thin blue stripe in the check. I was able to pattern-match the front and back but not the sleeves or pockets with this one.
So there we have the Zoe dress, as you can see for such a simple dress it’s very adaptable, and so comfortable to wear, although it may not suit all figure-types admittedly. I haven’t made it as a top funnily enough, I think that’s because I like the dress length better.
I receive no payment for writing this, I’ve even provided all my own fabric, so you can be sure I’ll say what I think!
Two years ago I did a 10 week tailoring course at Morley College, London but it’s taken me until now to actually make my own coat. I settled on Butterick 6423 partly because it’s a fairly similar silhouette to a RTW coat I already own and wear a lot, and then, ironically, it came free with Love Sewing magazine just before Christmas.
Added to this I had 3 metres of lovely turquoise-coloured wool in my stash that was gifted to me about a year ago by a friend who was clearing out her mother’s belongings and wanted the fabrics and patterns (LOTS of them) to go to an appreciative home. Not only that, I had just under 2 metres of almost psychedelic lining fabric which came from a different elderly lady ( I had no idea what to do with it at the time but, as is often the way, it goes really well with this wool)
Because I had plenty of fabric, which makes a change for me as I tend to underestimate, I could cut out the coat without having to watch every centimetre. I didn’t have quite enough lining though so I cut all the pieces which would be visible inside the main body and the sleeve linings I cut from plain lining, again from my stash.
Initially, before I cut the fabric, I pinned the tissue together to check it on my dress-stand. I chose to take 3cms out of the overall body length and 4cms out of the sleeves because they seemed terribly long. This proved to be sensible as you’ll see in the finished garment.
I found the instructions very clear to follow and I don’t think at any time did I get in a muddle although I do think a common problem with the ‘big’ pattern companies is that the diagrams can be very small making it difficult to see exactly what you should be doing, particularly areas like clipping into important corners eg at the collar/shoulder seam.
Because I do a lot of alterations for people I’ve noticed various techniques employed in the construction of RTW garments. Cuffs, for example, are usually stabilised with iron-on interfacing of some kind so that’s what I did here.
By doing this it stops the cuff from stretching (my fabric is fairly loosely woven too) and gives it firmness and stability. I bought my iron-on interfacing in Goldhawk Rd, London so I can’t really give much detail about it except to say I was told it’s suitable for woollens and tailoring with a light jersey backing. I used it on the collar facing too and it seems to be absolutely fine. You could use a firmer one if you wish, that would make the collar firmer than mine.
There are a few places where you’re told to hand sew hand, attaching the sleeve lining to the inside of the cuffs for example, but if you’re not a fan of hand sewing it is possible to do this by machine, you just need to get them pinned correctly (double-check you’ve got it right first by turning the sleeve right-side out before you sew it)
It’s also worth attaching a small amount of the sleeve-lining seam to the sleeve seam inside, this stops any chance of the lining sliding out of the end of the sleeve.
You can do this on the machine, or a few running stitches will do the job.
Making the back pleat needs a bit of concentration partly because the lining gets stitched together with it-this makes sense because it reduces the bulk if you’d done them each separately. I opted to partly stitch the pleat together for about 10cms down from the top simply so that it didn’t have a chance to be to flappy in wear.
Once the pleat section is sewn on the instructions say to slip-stitch the lining down. Again, it’s possible to do this on the machine, you need to work your way into the right place by going in through the gap at the front between the facing and the coat front.
I sewed the coat hem up using herringbone stitch because I think it holds a hem nice and firmly. You sew this stitch from left to right, looping each stitch backwards from the previous one, one above then one below.
Throughout the making process I pressed often and used plenty of steam, with a pressing cloth to prevent shine. If you’re using pure wool you can press and re-press because it’s very forgiving although be more careful if you’re using a fabric that isn’t well or is made with mixed fibres. As my tutor on the tailoring course often said, “steam is your friend” A tailor’s ham is a great boon too because it will enable you to press in tricky areas or under curves seams, for example.
The lining hem was just turned and machined. To neaten the bottom of the front facing I applied a little bit of self-made bias binding, it’s looks nice and it doesn’t add the bulk that turning the edge over could do.
I also added 2 small loops of fabric to hold the lining and the coat together at the side seams, again this stops it flapping about in wear.
I added a hanging loop at the neck which I should have sewn on by machine at an earlier stage but I forgot so I had to sew it on by hand at the end.
The last thing to do is the single buttonhole. I had a rummage for a suitable button first and I came up with a single beautiful mother-of-pearl one which I’d bought a couple of years ago, simply because it’s lovely! I paid £1 for it and I’ve actually left the tiny price label on the back, just because…
I created a surround of tacking stitches to hold the area firm and stable before sewing the buttonhole. I did several trial ones first because my Pfaff is so new to me and I didn’t want to mess it up at this late stage. Unfortunately the thread I’d used for the whole garment was clearly too dark in such a prominent position so I had to go and buy a single reel of thread just for the buttonhole! When I sewed the button on I sewed another small button on behind it so that the fabric doesn’t have to take all the strain of a button being done up and undone constantly.
This is a coat with a slightly retro aesthetic, it’s a little bit 50’s, the back is a little bit 20’s. The result though is modern and wearable and I’m really happy with it.
I love the fun lining inside too. The wool fabric isn’t that thick though so I don’t think I’ll be wearing it when it’s very cold although there is room for a jumper underneath.
As you will have noticed it’s a difficult colour to photograph accurately, the outdoor ones are probably the closest to the real shade.
It’s been an enjoyable process, I took my time over it and I’m very happy with the result. It would be a good project to try if you’re becoming a bit more experienced with your sewing, nothing is terribly tricky, buy suitable but not too expensive fabric and take your time! I’m glad I took some of the length out of the body and sleeves as they would have been very long. I made the size medium and it was plenty big enough, I think the sizing is definitely on the generous-side though so don’t be tempted to go up a size, make a toile if you need to or tissue fit if you can. I didn’t bother neatening any of the seams inside because all of them were going to be enclosed but you could choose to leave the coat unlined and then bind all the seams (Hong Kong finish) which is practical and attractive.
…and the coat cost me barely anything at all!
Because it was the free pattern with Love Sewing I expect there will be lots of versions of this coat popping up over the winter so it will be fun to see how they all vary. Have you made this pattern, I’d love to know how you got on?
Jennifer Lauren is a designer who is based in New Zealand and her patterns come in both paper and PDF format. She has several womenswear designs including dresses, tops, skirts and a cardigan, and there’s a man’s cardigan too and, just for a change, her newest pattern release is Nixie knickers! Her aesthetic is both modern and vintage, and lines are simple and unfussy with the occasional quirky detail which is what attracted me to her designs in the first place.
The Mayberry is a dress with a drawstring waist and an asymmetric button front, and 3 different sleeve lengths. It also comes with the choice of 4 cup sizes (A to D) alongside the actual bust measurement which means you should be able to get an excellent fit without having to do an FBA or SBA.
I was chosen as a reviewer for the dress and obviously I would be making the PDF version, so initially I was aghast when I thought there were 100 pages to print out! On closer reading it was clear that you only print the bodice front in the cup-size that you need, not all of them, phew! Also, you don’t have to print all the sleeves, only the ones you want. To help you decide which sets of pages you need to print there is a single page with all the plans for each section illustrated which is really helpful.
If you need help with deciding which size and cup you need to choose there’s a very comprehensive set of instructions, with illustrations, which should set you right. There are also several lay plans for the different sizes on different fabric widths so you shouldn’t have a problem cutting out.
As with previous PDFs I don’t print out the instructions, I read them as I go along. Jennifer suggests that you print out and stick together each of the sections, and then trace them off and cut the traced sheets out. I can’t be doing with all of that, I just want to get going but obviously the choice is personal so you might prefer to do the tracing/cutting out method.
Once I’d got everything good-to-go I could cut out my fabric. I used a gorgeous plain aubergine-coloured fabric I’d bought about two years ago from the Man outside Sainsbury’s at Walthamstow market, I’m not sure what it is though, possibly challis. Either way it has a nice drape so would be ideal for the Mayberry. Other suitable fabrics would be chambray or soft denim, soft woollens or cotton lawn, Jennifer lists a few choices and also reminds you to wash your fabric before using it.
It’s really important to bear in mind when you’re cutting out the bodice fronts and facings that because they are asymmetric you mustn’t flip the pieces over if you’re using a patterned fabric because they could be all wrong if you do. You should be OK with a plain fabric just so long as it’s the same on both sides-not needlecord for example. a note on that-if you’re making the Mayberry in a thicker fabric for winter then you could cut the facings in a lighter contrast fabric for a neat touch and to reduce the bulk at the edges.
It’s an idea to highlight important information as a reminder to yourself. You may notice in the right-hand photo that my cutting out looks a bit inaccurate, this because the fabric is a bit slithery and moved about a bit so I had to check some of the smaller pieces carefully. I’m always very fastidious about cutting out because if it’s wrong before you start sewing pieces together it will only get only more wrong as you go, especially if you tend to be a bit sloppy with seam allowances too! You have been warned!
Jennifer’s order of making has you putting the bodice together and completing the buttons and buttonholes at this early stage. This is good a good idea although it’s one that I didn’t follow!! That’s because I hoped to use some snap fasteners instead of buttons but I hadn’t got (and never did manage to get) any in the colour that I wanted. Eventually I used buttons so making the holes was less accurate than if I’d done them without sleeves and skirt attached, never mind.
One of the details I like about the Mayberry is the drawstring waist. I was really chuffed to find some cord in exactly the right colour in Anglian Fashion Fabrics in Norwich on my recent visit, along with some cute little metal stoppers (if only they’d had the snaps in the same colour too)
Delightfully, there are pockets in the side seams which is always good news! Joining the skirt to the bodice is pretty straightforward and I thought the instructions for sewing the casing were good. You sew a wide 2.5cms seam allowance first of all then you trim one side down and press under and stitch the remaining side down to form the casing.
The sleeves are nicely full without being overblown and they have a pretty, narrow band to finish them off. The instructions for making the sleeves and inserting them into the arm-scyes are very detailed, along with helpful illustrations.
I decided to finish the hem off by hand because I didn’t want a row of machine stitching showing but you can also machine it up if you choose.
I think the Mayberry is a nice variation of the shirt-waister and I’ve made my version as a simple, elegant winter dress but I’ll definitely make more in other fabrics and with another sleeve length. You could make it in nice check brushed cotton for example, how about cutting the left front panel on the bias for a quirky feature? I appreciate Jennifer Lauren giving me the pattern for nothing in order to review it and luckily I’ve been very happy with the outcome. I made the 14 with a C cup and the fit is very good for me. If you’re a bigger cup size than a D then you’ll still need to do an FBA but at least you’ll be starting from a better position.
This would be a good style to try if you’re an ‘improver’ and keen to try something a little more tricky. You need to concentrate when you’re cutting out, and making up too because of the asymmetric front but it’s a satisfying make.