not everything works out for me

I recently made the Tessuti Alice dress.  It’s a lovely dress, and I’ve seen some beautiful finished samples of both the top and the dress online.  If only I’d taken the advice of those who’d made it before me, and sized down.

Tessuti Alice dress in Darn Cheap Fabrics linen - way too big

This is the size Medium, which corresponds to my measurements and is usually the right size for me in Tessuti’s patterns. You get a better idea of just how big it is on me when you can see the armhole.

Tessuti Alice dress in Darn Cheap Fabrics linen - way too big

Yep, massive. Which is a shame, because both the linen (from Darn Cheap Fabrics – and NOT from the $2 table but bought at full price) and the really special yoke fabric are both just lovely. Other than the sizing, I really like the style.

Tessuti Alice dress in Darn Cheap Fabrics linen - way too big

I did take a really deep hem, as I think it gives a dress like this a little more weight and substance and helps the skirt to hang nicely. This dress will be given away (Mum, do you fancy it?) but I do have another one cut out – two sizes smaller!  Incidentally, I have also made a Tessuti Ruby top in a size 12 according to my measurements, and the fit is fine!

Pattern Fantastique Celestial Dress

Hello there everyone!  It’s been a while since I last blogged – life, busy, you know, all the usual.  Anyway, here is one of my most recent makes.  The Celestial Dress by Pattern Fantastique.

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Oh, how I love this dress! The fabric is rather striking – it’s a cotton/linen blend from Spotlight, bought during one of their clearance sales last year. I think that lots of people have it in their stash but are not quite sure what to do with it.  I do have to complain about the colourfastness of the fabric – or rather, the lack of it.  When I pre-washed this fabric it left lots of dark smudges on the lighter areas.  Grrr.  So I figured that I had nothing to lose by using it to make what would hopefully be a wearable muslin of a new-to-me design.

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The pattern is actually quite straightforward. One pattern piece for the front and back skirt (cut slightly higher at top of the front skirt), one pattern piece for the sleeves, one pattern piece for the front yoke, one for the back, and pattern pieces for front and back neckline facings. That’s it. The pattern comes as a pdf, and is tiled to use minimum pieces of paper. BUT – and for me this is a big but – you still have to trace the pattern pieces after assembling the pdf, as they overlap one another (apparently in order to save paper). My first thoughts when I discovered this were not very kind ones. If I am sticking pieces of paper together, I want to then just cut them out and go for it. I don’t want to then have to trace them! But in reality it wasn’t a very big deal, because of the relatively small number of pattern pieces. I got over my grumbles.  And construction sped along.

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The sleeves are self lined, and I chose to wear them folded back. They are a bit too flange-like for my liking if just left flat. The neckline facings are topstitched in place as a feature, and the in-seam side pockets are also top-stitched towards the front. I usually leave pockets out of dresses and skirts as I really don’t use them, but I will include them if they are a feature, and in this case they are.

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The dress was very quick to sew – there’s not a lot to it, no gathers or tucks or anything else like that to fuss around with.  Every pattern piece fitted together perfectly.  The pattern suggests a variety of length options. I decided to go with the maxi, but shortened it about three inches to accommodate my 158cm height. By the way, I used size 12 throughout, without any alterations.  The instructions that came with this pattern were excellent.

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I can’t seem to copy any line drawings from the website, Here is the line drawing from the website and their blurb about the pattern:


Our super-femme space age gown. Strong lines and careful shaping give this dress major volume and elegant fit. The Celestial comes with length options from maxi to top lengths. It can be made in most woven fabrics. Perfect for getting married on Mars or becoming your favourite no-fuss dress.
8-16 multi sized pattern
All wovens excluding heavy weight thick fabrics. Crisper fabrics will enhance the garment shapes, making the skirt hem appear wider. Lighter fabrics will provide drape, movement and a softer sleeve.
17 page pattern
11 page instruction booklet
All downloads are A4 PDF documents

From their website I have worked out that they are a new Melbourne based pattern design company. So far they only have three designs available. I’ll be interested to see what else they come up with. And I am very likely to use this pattern again. I wore this dress all day Saturday and loved it – it will definitely be a summer favourite for me.

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DCF Challenge – Spring 2014

I met Emma of Ernest Flagg through sewing blogs.  Her blog hit my radar when she won the Tessuti Jaywalk competition earlier this year, and since then I’ve had the good fortune to meet her in person.  Emma noticed that she and I often use the same fabrics in our garments, and suggested that maybe the two of us could do a little seasonal sewing challenge, using fabrics purchased from Darn Cheap Fabrics.  So the DCF Challenge began!  Now, Emma lives in Sydney, and I live in Melbourne, not all that far from one of the DCF branches.  So I was put in charge of fabric selection.  How is that for trust! And this is what I came up with.

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Not one fabric, but two!  Both are polyester, which I usually try to avoid, but I absolutely couldn’t resist the colours.  The woven on the left is almost a crepe weave, and feels surprisingly nice.  The knit on the right is a lightweight “sweater” type knit.  Both were the ends of the bolt, so we ended up with less than two metres of each fabric for each of us.  There were no rules about which fabric should be used, or what to make other than it being seasonally appropriate.  So, what did I make?

McCalls 6739 view B in fabric from Darn Cheap Fabrics

I made McCalls 6739 from the woven, in view B.  I have been eyeing off this pattern ever since I saw a sample made up at The Cloth Shop in Ivanhoe.  The pattern description is as follows: MISSES’ DRESSES: Loose-fitting, pullover dresses have neckline/side front pocket variations, princess seams and topstitching. A: ruffles. B: seam detail. A, B and C: semi-fitted through bust. Ruffles A and sleeves D: narrow hem. Designed for light weight woven fabrics. SUGGESTED FABRICS: Linen, Denim, Jacquard, Poplin.

I haven’t seen many of these made up, but the first one that appeared in my search was this gorgeous sleeved version by Anne.  I’m definitely going to make a sleeved version of this dress at some stage.

McCalls 6739 view B in fabric from Darn Cheap Fabrics

As those of you who follow me on Instagram know, when I first assembled this dress and put it on Ada I was VERY concerned about the shape and depth of the armholes at the front.  And yes, there is a little bit of side boob exposed, but it’s not indecent.  I will probably wear this dress with a strapless bra though – there is just way too much potential for strap exposure, even with bra strap holders (that I hadn’t added anyway).  And I’m too old to be exposing my very utilitarian bra straps.

McCalls 6739 view B in fabric from Darn Cheap Fabrics

The neckline is higher than I generally prefer, but think that it balances out the rest of the silhouette at this level, and because it is squared off it is a bit more interesting.  In terms of alterations, I sewed size 14 but petite-ed the entire pattern at the “shorten here” lines, and I’m glad that I did.  It really helped with the overall proportions.  Actually, there was one piece that I forgot to petite at the time – the pocket lining piece – and had to go back and take a big tuck out of it to make everything line up.  I like the pockets – they are fun and add a terrific design element.  I am not generally that excited by pockets in dresses or skirts and tend to leave them out unless they are part of the overall silhouette and design, as I don’t ever put anything in them.  But these ones are fun.

McCalls 6739 view B in fabric from Darn Cheap Fabrics

I also angled the centre front and back pattern pieces about half an inch off the fold of the fabric at the neckline to reduce the gaping potential and encourage the neckline to sit closer to the body.  And yes, I did remember to do the same thing with the facing pieces.  This has worked pretty well and is something that I often do, especially with the back of garments.  Remember when patterns used to have darts at the back neckline?  That is why – to contour them more closely to the body.

McCalls 6739 view B in fabric from Darn Cheap Fabrics

The sewing machine got a fair workout during construction.  I used the overlocker on some seams and for edge finishing.  Because the dress is topstitched in a number of places I decided to twin needle the hem as well rather than hand sewing or blind hemming.

McCalls 6739 in fabric from Darn Cheap Fabrics

And of course, I couldn’t leave the knit fabric languishing.  In my eyes, the two fabrics “match” one another (although they definitely don’t match one another in my husband’s or younger daughter’s opinions).  I had the Mouse House Creations Julia cardigan pattern, and there was just enough fabric for the short banded sleeve version.

I cut a Large, based on my measurements.  It was so hard to decide which side of the fabric was right and which was wrong that I decided to use one side for the body and the reverse side for the bands.  This was constructed entirely on the overlocker, and I think it took less than an hour.  I didn’t have enough fabric to cut the neck/body band double, which would have been my preference, so just used the overlocker to roll hem the edge.

McCalls 6739 view B and Mouse House Creations Julia cardi in fabric from Darn Cheap Fabrics
This cardi could do with being photographed again over a plain garment!  The jury is still out with me regarding this pattern.  There are elements of it that I really like, but I don’t think that the angle of the side seams at the bottom of the band sits well.  I like it from the waist up, from the waist down not so much!  There have been many of them popping up on blogs, and it’s definitely easy to sew, but I’m not convinced on the fit.

McCalls 6739 view B and Mouse House Creations Julia cardi in fabric from Darn Cheap Fabrics

So there you go – my first DCF Challenge garments.  I can’t wait to see what Emma has made – it should be up on her blog this evening!  I think she has used the knit…..

McCalls 6739 view B in fabric from Darn Cheap Fabrics

striped shingles

Back when I made my first shingle dress early last year, I said that I would make another.  Well, this blog post is evidence that I do as I say – but it is also evidence of how long this can take.  Around eighteen months, apparently!  This time I used stripes, to really make the most of those angled shingle pieces.

Vogue 8904 in striped knit from Darn Cheap Fabrics

 Now, I do understand that lime green and black stripes are possibly not everyone’s cup of tea.  But they are mine!  I paid full price for this fabric from Darn Cheap Fabrics when it first became available, although it did eventually move to the $2 table.  But you never know!  It’s very stretchy and has a pretty high polyester content, but also has vibrant colour, excellent recovery, and fantastic texture.

Vogue 8904 in striped knit from Darn Cheap Fabrics

After my experiences with my last dress, I tried out a few ways to hem the bottoms of the shingles.  Turned and stitched with a twin needle, zig zagged, overlocked, roll hemmed on the overlocker.  They all looked terrible.  So in the end I left the edges raw.  They show no signs at all of fraying or ravelling in any way, so I’m happy with that.

I made size 14, and did most of the sewing on the sewing machine.  There are lots of layers through the side seams, with the under dress then the shingles on top, and in places where they overlap, so I felt that machine sewing left less room for error.  Some finishing was on the overlocker, and the sleeves were set in using the overlocker as well.  The neck band was applied to the outside with the sewing machine, then turned over the layers to the inside and stitched in the ditch.
Vogue 8904 in striped knit from Darn Cheap Fabrics

This is such a fun dress to sew and to wear.  And it creates all sorts of fun optical illusions!  I do like the “slimming” illusion.  My husband says that I need to make sure that I never wear this dress on television – the cameras couldn’t cope.  Since I am never actually filmed for television I don’t see that as a potential problem.

Vogue 8904 in striped knit from Darn Cheap Fabrics

Other pattern details:  if you haven’t already worked it out this is Vogue 8904.  The pattern description is as follows:

MISSES’ DRESS: Close-fitting, pullover dress has self neck binding, tiers, and raw edge finish. A: sleeves. B: self armhole binding
FABRICS: For Two-way stretch knits such as Rayon/Spandex, Cotton/Spandex.

Line Art

Now I am tempted to make the shorter sleeveless version in more sedate stripes for summer.  I wonder what else is in the stash?

Lekala 5144

When the weather warmed up a few weeks back I was inspired to sew a summer dress.  Does that happen to most of us?  I feel that I really have put my cold weather sewing behind me for the year now, even though the weather is still very up and down.

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The pattern is Lekala 5144, a raglan sleeved knit dress with gentle shaping and a separate faced neckband. Super simple.

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Lekala patterns are pdf patterns that are customised to your measurements. In addition to height, bust, underbust, waist and hip measurements, you can tweak your order further by specifying things like shoulders wider or narrower than normal, biceps larger than normal, bust higher or lower than normal, waist higher or lower than normal, and so on. Of course, the issue here is knowing what “normal” is. I’ve been experimenting a bit with this feature on Lekala. My starting point was with the alterations I normally need to make with patterns. I know that as well as being short (this is taken into account with the height measurement) I am proportionately short-waisted. So I chose that option. I think that I might have narrow shoulders too. And depending on what bra I intend to wear with the garment, I might order the pattern with a lowered bustline. But this time I told Lekala I had a broader back than “normal”. Big mistake.

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See that fold? That is how much fabric I had to remove from the top of the centre back seam. I often remove fabric from that area anyway, as I have a rounded upper back (sometimes known as a “dowager’s hump”. Ew). Luckily it wasn’t hard to do – I unpicked the topstitching from the back neckband, folded it out, and resewed the seam. Problem fixed.

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Otherwise, the construction of this dress was very fast and highly satisfying. Seams were overlocked, and topstiching of the band and the hems done on the machine with a twin needle. I used different colours in each needle, mainly because I could.

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I’m looking forward to wearing this dress. The fabric is a light weight double knit (like a ponte) from Super Cheap Fabrics in Brunswick. I love the retro style of the print and the colours. There were another couple of colourways – I’m tempted to get some more, but there is already so much in my stash that is begging me to be sewn.

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If you are interested in making this pattern there is a tutorial on sewing the neckband here.

Style Arc Zara dress

I love a sack dress.  I love a dress with a fitted waist too – but just not on me.  I’ll leave that to the girls with a defined mid-section!  I really do prefer things to skim past my middle, which made the Style Arc Zara dress a pretty obvious choice for me.

The pattern description is as follows: This dress is suitable for all occasions. The twist neck falling into a pleat makes it easy to wear. A very clever pattern which is interesting to sew and you will love the result. Make it sleeveless or with a short sleeve.

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I chose the sleeveless option with the slightly extended shoulder. There are separate armscye cutting lines for the version with the sleeve, so I assume that the sleeved version would fit together as it should. I used size 12, and made petite adjustments to shorten it through the body and take the length up to just above the knee. I also eliminated the centre back zip after working out that I could easily get the dress on and off without it.

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That centre twist/pleat feature was pretty tricky. I had to take it extremely slowly, and study the diagrams and instructions over and over. But in the end we got there! If you are making this, do make sure that you finish the edges of the fold/tuck pieces really nicely, possibly with a very narrow hand-stitched hem. I didn’t, and regret it. You can’t really see it in the photos, but given how long I spent fiddling with this part of the dress it would have been just as quick to do the finishing in that area – and tacking – by hand to really see how it came together. I suspect that once you have made this dress once the tuck/pleat would come together very quickly the second time.

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There is a kick pleat at the centre back for walking easy, which was straightforward to construct. The armholes are bound with self-fabric bias strips, as is the neckline. Next time I would just make bias binding from the self fabric with my bias tape maker gadget and use that. The fabric is viscose from Darn Cheap Fabrics. I adore the colour, but it’s shifty stuff to work with, and shows every pull/wrinkle/watermark. Makes for great wearing comfort though. And absolutely my colour.

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I’m looking forward to getting some wear from this as summer kicks in!

In House Patterns Kimono Tee #2

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This is another garment that was sewn and photographed a few weeks ago. It’s the In House Patterns Kimono Tee, made pretty much exactly the same as the last one – but obviously in different fabrics.

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The back yoke is laser cut neoprene from Darn Cheap Fabrics. The mustard knit is very soft and semi-sheer, and was in stash. From somewhere. Can’t remember.

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The two fabrics were vastly different in weight, but still attached without much trouble. Construction was shared between the sewing machine and the overlocker. The final top looks bigger than the last one, and the neckline is definitely lower despite cutting the same size. One of those examples of the fabric type making a difference to the fit!

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The new True Bias Sutton Blouse looks like an extremely similar shape to this, but is designed for wovens rather than knits. It will be interesting to see it pop up on blogs.