Fishsticks Designs Playhouse dress

Despite the plethora of dresses already hanging in her wardrobe, when Stella asks me to make her something I find it really difficult to say no.  She especially wanted a new dress that could have a sparkly transfer ironed on to it.  Of course she did!

Fishsticks Designs Playhouse dress

Stella is quite definite about her likes and dislikes, and chose the fabrics and how to combine them herself. First of all we looked at some of the dresses already in her wardrobe and identified some favourites, and what it is that makes them preferred over other garments. Stella definitely prefers knits, with full or swingy skirts, that are easy for her to get on and off. So, that’s basically a t-shirt dress, albeit with volume in the skirt. We then spent time going through the pattern box to decide on what she thought would be suitable.

Fishsticks Designs Playhouse dress

This one came in the girls Pattern Parcel that I bought a couple of months back.  It is the Fishsticks Designs Playhouse dress.  From the website: The Playhouse Dress is the perfect dress for playtime or dress-up time! In sizes 12 months to 12, this dress can be sewn with all knits or with a combination of knits and woven quilting fabrics. The Playhouse Dress features a knit bodice, a circle skirt and puff sleeves which can be sewn short or long.  As you can see, we chose the short sleeved version, and printed and cut out the size 6 for Stella.  The pdf allows you to just print one size rather than multi-sized if you prefer, which is quite handy. And the skirt is very flared, but I’m not sure that i would describe it as a circle skirt – it’s definitely at least a half-circle though, so is certainly swishy.

Fishsticks Designs Playhouse dress

I applied the neckband using the handy tip on Gillian’s blog that helps to estimate how long to make it. I discovered this recently and it’s definitely helped my hit rate for applying knit neckbands in the round (often I do them before sewing closed the second shoulder, and I’m pretty familiar with just how much to stretch to get it right when applying them that way). I like the way that it accommodates the more extreme curve that is found in the front of the neckband, that simple quartering never seems to allow for.

Fishsticks Designs Playhouse dress

Otherwise there’s not a great deal to say about this make. I used the overlocker throughout, with twin needle stitching on the yoke to secure the neckband and the curved empire seam. I also twin needled the hemline after securing it with a non-Vliesofix tape that is such a thick layer of glue that I can’t wait to use it all up. It took quite a bit of stretching of the sleeve bands to get them to fit, but the pattern was designed that way so that it gathers at the bottom, and the instructions do let you know that will be the case. It all worked out fine. And the final touch, which was the most important part of the whole design as far as Stella was concerned? Yes, it’s that sparkly iron-on transfer, picked up from Clear It a little while ago! She is very pleased.

Fishsticks Designs Playhouse dress

Both fabrics were in stash, and are cotton/spandex blends. I have to admit that I didn’t like them together all that much when Stella first chose them, but now that the dress is made I think that the final proportions of each colour – and the fine white stripe in the blue knit – work very well! She’s chosen a colour combination that isn’t too cliched.

Fishsticks Designs Playhouse dress

based on Simplicity 1479

Spotlight are selling Simplicity patterns at 5 for $10 at the moment.  Unheard of!  Of course, most of the ones that I was interested in getting for me weren’t in stock at my local Spotty (might need to get my Mum on the case to see if they are at hers) but there were a few in the drawers that I thought Clare would like.  Simplicity 1479 was one of them.

based on Simplicity 1479 view B

I titled this blog post “based on” Simplicity 1479 because although I used four of the pattern pieces from view B I didn’t make the dress according to the instructions. I am quite sure though that I’ll use this pattern again – there are some lovely design options.

based on Simplicity 1479 view B

The bright coral (almost fluoro) stretch mesh came from the Darn Cheap Fabrics $2 table. Clare wanted a very simple dress, so we decided to just make a shift and line it with a contrast. We tried a few different fabrics in a few different colours underneath before settling on this vibrant blue viscose. Clare love the feeling of rayons and viscose next to her skin, and was very happy with her choice.

based on Simplicity 1479 view B

I used the provided pattern pieces to cut the underdress/lining pieces from the rayon, and the overdress pattern pieces from the mesh. I cut size 8 through the body with size 10 length, and lengthened the mesh overdress pieces so that they would be longer than the underdress/lining. I stuffed the neckline facing pieces back into the pattern envelope, as I’d already decided how I would construct the dress and it wasn’t going to include facings. In summary, I did this:

  • sewed the shoulder seams of the overdress and underdress
  • sewed the necklines of both dresses together with the right sides facing one another
  • understitched and trimmed the neckline then turned it right sides out
  • used the burrito method to join one armhole underdress to the overdress by rolling the dress up from the opposite side until I could make the underdress and overdress armholes meet right sides together
  • stitched and trimmed the armhole and turned it right sides out
  • repeated with the opposite armhole
  • then sewed up the side seams with each side having a long seam with overdress right sides together, pivoting at the underarm then sewing the underdress right sides together
  • and hemmed the underdress, leaving the overdress with a raw edge that was longer than the underdress.

Phew! Clear as mud? I really like this method of sewing lined sleeveless tops and dresses – it gives such a nice clean finish with no fiddly sewing together of shoulder seams as the last step.

based on Simplicity 1479 view B

It’s a very simple dress, but the fabric combination makes it that little bit special to wear. Clare was happy! By the way, did you notice her doll, Rosie? Clare sewed Rosie’s dress from a Burda pattern, and made the coordinating headband and shoes from loom bands.

Burda doll dress sewn by Clare with loom band shoes and headband

She did prefer to have me give her step by step guidance on what to do rather than taking her time to read the Burda instructions. Not sure if that is a reflection on Burda, or simply the result of having me available to ask! Anyway, she did all the cutting and sewing herself, and I am rather proud of my not-yet-twelve-year-old. Now I just need to persuade her to sew her own dresses.

based on Simplicity 1479 view B

And thanks everyone for your comments on the Celestial dress – as you know, I love it, but it’s rather cool that you do too!

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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November Sewjourn

Our November trip to Sewjourn is probably the one that I look forward to the most, in that the timing is perfect.  It’s at the end of year after what often feels like a long winter, yet isn’t too close to Christmas.  It allows us all to breathe out and regroup before we launch into the busy end of the year.

Sewjourn November 2014.

There were only five of us this time, which made it rather quieter than usual! And it was all about garment sewing. Tan finished two tops, one using lace she had dyed herself, and did lots of work on drafting clothing to her shape. I was really impressed at the way she took different ideas and launched into them, modifying things as she went along and translating her thoughts into shapes. Love watching the creative process! The rest of us used patterns. The top from New Look 6216 was the pattern of choice among many of us, being made in knits, wovens, lengthened into a dress, pieced from scraps, and generally played around with. I took along all of my knit scraps (there were four or five bags) and they were pounced upon and turned into a number of different garments. The leftovers were thrown out, which was rather liberating! I now have a tidier sewing room. I will get to blog posts with details on all the garments that I made at some stage, but in the meantime here is the weekend’s output (not quite everything that was made, but not far off it either).

Sewjourn November 2014.

Clockwise from top left: Kathryn’s garments (there were a couple more pairs of pants and a muslin of a top as well), Wendy’s knit extravaganza, Rachel’s beautiful woven garments for her daughter and herself, and then mine, with something for every member of the family.

The sewing room is now unpacked and reorganised – just in time to me to start thinking about my mid-December trip back to Sewjourn!  I am so lucky.  Thanks again to my sewing friends.  I know I say it every time, but you really are a wonderful group of women.

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?

Oliver + S Library dress

I suspect that I now own almost all the Oliver + S patterns.  Oh my!  Well, there are possibly a few missing from the collection, but I certainly have purchased plenty of them.  My latest make is the Library Dress.

Oliver + S Library dress in Spotlight cotton/linen

These are such reliable patterns. They are always beautifully drafted and finished, and the instructions are excellent. This one was no exception. Clare chose to have it made with short sleeves and no collar. I added flat piping made from bias strips of chambray to highlight the edges of the neckline, sleeves and the front band.

Oliver + S Library dress in Spotlight cotton/linen

There was impetus to get this finished – Clare was going to a Japanese themed birthday party. We thought that a dress that looked Japanese inspired would be better than a costume as such, and this fitted the bill nicely. The fabric is cotton/linen from Spotlight, and the selvedge describes the print as being of a Polish folk design. Not terribly Japanese at all!

Oliver + S Library dress in Spotlight cotton/linen

This was lovely to sew. I think I used size 10, and as you can see it is quite roomy in width. She did need the length of the 10 though. The contrasting buttons down the back please me greatly.

Oliver + S Library dress in Spotlight cotton/linen

The pattern description says: This sweet, little mock-wrap dress includes a wide front waistband with optional piping, a pleated skirt, and buttons up the back. It can be sewn in two different versions: a short-sleeve dress with a collar or a three-quarter-sleeve dress with notched cuffs.

Oliver + S Library dress in Spotlight cotton/linen

This is a style that works well on tweens. It’s not too “little-girl” frilly, yet has nice swing to the skirt and feminine details. Nowadays I always choose to buy my Oliver + S patterns in pdf, so that I can easily reprint different sizes as required. While I mention pdf patterns, I have to say that Oliver + S are my favourite ones. Each pattern piece prints separately. Pieces that are small enough to fit on one page are on one page, and those that need to be assembled are still on as small an amount of paper as possible. I love just assembling one piece of the pattern at a time – highly preferable than trying to align and tape a massive sheet that won’t even fit on the table.

Oliver + S Library dress in Spotlight cotton/linen

I have a few more Oliver + S patterns in the works for this summer, especially since Clare has grown a little and needs some new dresses. And I get to pass the other Oliver + S ones that she has outgrown down to Stella, and enjoy seeing them all over again! Win win!