Sewing for special occasions – Bridgetown Backless Dress

This month I have loads of weddings to attend so my April project Sew My Style needed to be suitable for special occasions, and ideally something that I can wear afterwards too.

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This Sew House Seven pattern is a pretty good match for my sewing plan, and also happens to be the sew my style project for April- perfect timing!  It is the Bridgetown Backless Dress.  I like that from the front it looks quite modest, and all the excitement is in the back.  This is only the second Sew House Seven pattern that I have used- the first being my Toaster Sweater from January, but I found the instructions and pattern drafting spot on.

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The fabric is a viscose challis called freesia from Fabric Godmother. I spotted this fabric on Instagram and loved it right away. I have never used challis before, but I love the weight and drape.  I wasn’t sure if it was ok to wear black to a wedding, but I think the spring flowers on this make sure that it doesn’t look too sombre.

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It is the shiftiest thing that I have sewed so far!  I cut most pieces on a single layer which helped, and had a new blade for my rotary cutter.  The skirt pieces were cut on the fold and have ended up slightly off grain, but not so much you would notice!  I sewed up a size 4 in this pattern.  There is quite a bit of ease designed into the pattern to help it drape properly at the back.  The waist is brought in with elastic so it can fit perfectly.

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For the sewing, I used a new size 60 needle to help it pierce the fabric, but otherwise it behaved fairly well.  This fabric does catch and cause little runs, so I had to watch my pins carefully!  Like Emily from Self Assembly Required, I found the facing pieces to be too long, but it was very easy to trim them down to size.  I finished all the seams that needed it with a three thread overlock to keep things neat and tidy.

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The sizing has turned out well- the back drapes beautifully but without being too low cut. (I can still wear my usual bra). I do love being all dressed up for spring weddings!  This one was held in these fantastic gardens and by a lake, so it was too difficult to decide which pictures to include and which to leave out… I just couldn’t resist including a whole heap!

English Tea Dress

This week I have another ‘back in time’ post to show you the first ever dress that I lined, the English Tea Dress, by Simple Sew.   I made this dress about a year ago to wear to a spring wedding, and it has found another wedding outing now!  This pattern was free with a magazine, which is something I still enjoy indulging in.  You can get so much inspiration in fabric, style and patterns all in one place.

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I am very proud of this dress. It is not perfect, but not in any way that you would really notice without me pointing it out.  I had to do quite a lot of research and working out to finish the construction, because although there were pattern pieces included for this cap sleeve, there were no instructions about how to insert and finish it, and at the time I had only ever constructed sleeves that were completely set into the armscye.  I found a tutorial online from After Dark Sewing which was really helpful and used it to finish the sleeves with bias binding.

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I am pretty pleased with this invisible zip.  Not quite invisible, but I did manage to get it neatly concealed between the fabric and the lining.  There weren’t separate pattern pieces for the lining included, but my lawn was a bit too thin to just use alone, so I created my own pattern piece for the bodice lining.  I think I used Tilly’s tutorial on how to line a skirt to help work out the construction process.

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This dress is definitely ‘before overlocker’ so the seams are just pressed open and zig-zagged and the hem is a narrow turned hem.  This dress is made in a lovely soft cotton lawn which I think was from Calico Laine, though it is so long ago it is no longer in stock, and lined in a basic polyester lining fabric from Trago.  The fabric is a little busy to show off the unusual shaped bodice, which comes to a ‘v’ at the centre front.

As you can see, this dress is still wedding ready, and I had a lovely time dancing the night away in it!  I’m hoping that it will continue to have wedding outings for some time to come (and in the meantime, I would like the sun to come back so that I can wear it for everyday).

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My second Moneta

Having had a chance to test out the Moneta pattern by Colette a couple of months ago when writing my guest post for Minerva crafts, and having seen some awesome variations in Instagram as part of the Moneta Party, I thought that I would have another go.  This time I made a few little changes, including shortening the sleeves for spring!

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Once again, pockets seem to be an essential feature of everything that I make!

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They are just so perfect for sticking your hands in on a spring evening.

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My previous Moneta dress fit pretty well, but I have taken in a little at the waist, and this time I have adapted my altered pattern pieces from before so that all the seam allowances are the same now.  Once again, I used the Tilly and the Buttons Agnes top to modify the bodice pattern so that it fit me better.

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The only other real change was to switch the gathers on the skirt for pleats.  To do this I measured the difference between the bodice measurement and the top of the skirt. I divided this by 4 (for the 4 pleats- two at the front and two at the back), and then divided by two again (to work out how much fabric I needed to take in at each side of each pleat).  This sounds very complicated when writing it down, but in reality is very simple.  I did add clear elastic to the waist seam, even though I wasn’t gathering onto elastic, to avoid the seam from stretching out in the future.

 

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Surprisingly difficult to see the pleats in this fabric, but I do like the flat front that it gives to the waist.

 

This fabric came from Ebay and can be found here still.  It is a printed Ponte Roma and like my previous Moneta is a nice weight, but still drapes well in the skirt.  I love the deep hems on the skirt and sleeves.

 

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Perfect drape for a bit of swishy-ness

 

I’m sure there well be more of these dresses in my wardrobe at some point.  It is just so versatile- can be dressed up or down, can be worn layered or on it’s own.  It is a great pattern for adding options to your wardrobe.

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Fehr Trade XYT Top

Having made the funkiest leggings around, I naturally needed something to wear to coordinate with them!  I thought that it might be a bit much to go orange and pink all over, so I needed a pattern that had the option for a contrast panel.  This is the XYT Workout Top from Fehr Trade.  Melissa who designs the patterns designs exclusively active wear and so the patterns are actually designed to be used while exercising.

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This pattern has loads of options for both styles and finishes.  The instructions are clear and helpful, and the Fehr Trade website has a few suggestions about where to purchase suitable fabric.

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This top I made with the scraps from my Virginia Leggings, and some navy lycra which I am using to make a cycling jersey for my husband.

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I chose the make the ‘Y’ option, and initially planned to add the built in bra, but it ended up being far too small! It may be that I size up the bra part if I make this again. Once I had decided to abandon the built in bra though, it went together pretty easily.

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The finish is definitely not perfect, but for my first ‘activewear’ pattern I am fairly happy and there is nothing about it that would stop me from wearing it.  Just slightly wavy hems and fold over elastic!

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This top is comfortable and moves well. The lycra is very stretchy so I have great freedom of movement. I think I will be giving it another go in the future.

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On a side note- I did say that I wasn’t sure how well the leggings would hold up to use and wear.  Sadly, the fabric is starting to tear at the waistband- I think this may be the point that I caught some extra fabric and had to unpick my overlocking so there may have been a weakness there already.  I will wear them for now though, and once they fall apart I can make another equally crazy pair!

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A not so-my-style Top: The Megan Nielson Rie

It can be very tempting as a sewing blogger to only share the successful garments that fit seamlessly into your wardrobe.  Today I am sharing a less successful make, not because anything went wrong in the construction, but because it doesn’t really fit my personal style.

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This is a Megan Nielson pattern called Rie.  Perhaps I should have caught on, when reading in the pattern description that “Pattern features fitted yoke with gathers from above the bust and can be worn as maternity wear” but I ploughed on regardless.

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In the pattern drawings there are both maternity and non-maternity drawings but this pattern makes me look like I am pregnant, even though I’m not, and my bust looks totally out of proportion with the rest of me.  It is very comfortable, just not me!

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The fabric is lovely though- a great t-shirt weight jersey from Girl Charlee which I bought at the Handmade Fair last year. They don’t have it in this heather-grey colourway any more, but there are some other lovely options, such as these here.

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I have tried styling this top with a belt, and I think it is a little better, but I’m still not sure about it.  It may be that I just need to concede defeat and either remake it into something else (I’m thinking another So Zo Vest) or take it to the charity shop for someone else to enjoy.

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Grainline Moss- An Everyday Skirt

Yay for clothes that get worn everyday!  This skirt got hemmed then put on immediately and has hardly been taken back off since.  This is the Grainline Studio Moss Skirt, and I made the mini length in size 4 with no pattern changes.  The fabric is a larger scale corduroy from an eBay seller and can be found here.  I bought the zip, jeans buttons and lining cotton locally at Trago.

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I decided to make this skirt for two main reasons: One, it reminds me of a ready to wear skirt that I have had forever and wear all the time, and two, I am hoping to make a pair of jeans this year (having signed up the Closet Case Patterns online jeans making workshop) and wanted to have a first attempt at a front fly zip insertion.

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I feel like it has been a great success in both counts.  My zip went in really well, and the instructions in the pattern and the Grainline tutorial were fantastic.  Each step was explained simply and added up to a new skill mastered.  You would never know that this was my first attempt!

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The little details in the pattern are great too.  You may already have noticed that I like patterns with pockets and the pockets on the Moss Skirt are especially good.  They have a little extra space included to make them perfect for sticking your hands into, and have a clever facing that allows you to use a pretty lining fabric with no chance for it to peek out.

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The only changes that I made to the pattern were fairly minor.  I didn’t cut my fabric very well and ended up without enough to cut the waistband facing so I decided to cut it from my lining instead.  I also changed the construction order of the waistband because I was feeling too lazy to hand stitch down the facing so I switched to the instructions for adding a waistband from Tilly and the Buttons book Love at First Stitch.  This just meant that it was easy to ‘stitch in the ditch’ on my machine instead of pesky hand sewing.

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In a slight quirk, I set my jeans button in using the marks on the pattern without checking that it lined up properly.  This meant that it didn’t sit very well and the waistband was a little loose.  As a quick fix, rather than trying to remove it, I just added another button in the right place. Now you would never know once I am wearing it!

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This skirt is a little shorter than I would usually wear, but I love it’s casual vibes.  I’m sure I will make another at some point and perhaps lengthen it a couple of inches.  The pattern does include a knee length version with a hem band, but I think I prefer the clean look of the skirt as it and will probably just lengthen the pattern piece instead.

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Virginia Leggings

Here is the March installment of Project Sew My Style; some Virginia Leggings by Megan Nielson.  I wasn’t quite sure which size to cut as I have sometimes found in the past that their patterns come up a little small, but I cut a size S  in the petite length, and hoped that my fabric would be stretchy enough to overcome any slight fitting issues!

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The fabric that I used was a remnant from Fabric Godmother, which is now out of stock, but they do appear to have something similar here.  It is a crazy orange snakeskin textured spandex!  It is printed on a white background, and is a tiny bit thinner than I had hoped, but my leggings are going to be the most exciting running-ware in town!

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Having just two pattern pieces, these sewed up extremely quickly, and the instructions were simple to follow.  I should have adjusted my overlocker tension a little or used a more similar thread colour, because you can see the white thread on the seams that are slightly under tension.  I did succeed in getting my hems to match though, using the most exciting two coloured twin-needling I think I have ever done!

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The pattern suggests using 1″ elastic, but I only had 1.5″ and it just fit the channel.  This has resulted in a lovely firm waistband which feels very secure.  If I made these for running again I would widen the waistband some more to match the styling on some of my ready to wear pairs, but for everyday leggings the fit is probably perfect as it is.

As they are not designed as running leggings, I have found them to be a little restrictive around my lower legs when running, but nothing too troubling.  It does try to pull them down a little though! I think perhaps sizing up a little might have solved this problem too.

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Overall, I am really pleased with these! They are so different to the colours and patterns that I usually wear, but I do enjoy a more vibrant print in my workout clothes- if they are exciting to look at I am more likely to put them on!

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Sadly, my fears about the fabric were well founded, while it was stretchy enough, at the seams it is so thin that it has started to tear.  I don’t think that these will last very long, but they have at least shown me that it is possible to make my own, and I am going to be looking for some more suitable fabric sometime soon.  If anyone has any recommendations, please let me know.

Agnes Top

I wear so many long-sleeved or 3/4 sleeved tops under jumpers and dresses in the winter, so this Agnes Top by  Tilly and the Buttons has become a staple for me.  I have 2 different versions, using all the pattern variations, which include elastic and gathering options for the sleeve and neckline.

I love that this pattern is well fitted to my shape.  I have cut a size 3 in two different fabrics, but both have worked well.  One is in the same teal stripe from Girl Charlee as my Molly Top from a couple of weeks ago, another is in a cheap polyester jersey from Trago.  The trago fabric was lovely and simple to work with because there was no need for stripe matching, but I did find that if overstretched the white backing shows through which is a shame.

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With basics there is not really a huge amount to say.  This pattern has fantastically simple instructions and illustrations.  Tilly really does have a way with creating beginner friendly patterns.  If working with jersey fabrics is intimidating to you, she offers an online workshop for this pattern too. I haven’t used it myself, but if it is like her written explanations, I’m sure that it is a great way of learning to use these sometimes scary fabrics!

As I said the fit is great, and if you have already seen my guest post for Minerva Crafts you will know that I used this pattern to modify the fit of the Colette Moneta dress too.  I’m sure I will be using this and other Tilly and the Buttons patterns again in the future.

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Making basics with the Molly Top

In the last year I have been working hard to make the things I wear every day, and that means basics.  perhaps not the most exciting sewing, but these Sew Over It Molly Tops  from the My Capsule Wardrobe E-book get so much wear.

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This magenta and grey is my first attempt and it did go together very smoothly.  I decided to use the neckband on the cross-grain, but this was a mistake because there wasn’t enough stretch in that direction.  It ended up hanging away from the body quite a bit at the neckline so I have fudged a fix by turning the neckband down again and stitching it in place.

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This pattern is one of 5 PDF patterns in the e-book. It is a loose-fitting, kimono sleeved top with a dipped hem. The sizing is spot on. It is loose and flowing without ending up oversized.

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I now have two short-sleeved versions, and a long-sleeved top (all striped which did create some extra work matching).  It does help that you don’t need to stripe match at the sleeve seam, because the stripe direction changes.

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All three of my tops are made with jersey from Girl Charlee who really should be your go-to place for jersey.  These are all quite lightweight, so don’t have loads of stretch and do need to be handled a little carefully to stop them from stretching out.  The two short-sleeved tops are 1/2 inch stripe, cotton jersey blends available here in teal and magenta.  There are lots of other colour options too.  The long-sleeve is similar, but unfortunately now out of stock.

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On my long-sleeved version I have found the sleeves a little short and they got stretched out hemming so I have since added a cuff.  Not really sure that it helped, so I may remove the sleeves and keep it as another short-sleeved version.

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I would definitely make more of these.  If you didn’t have stripe matching to deal with they would be such a fast make. The short-sleeved version only has 3 pieces- front, back and neckband.  Not so sure about the sleeved version, perhaps I should try again in a more stable jersey, but at the moment I think I prefer the Tilly and the Buttons Agnes Top which I will be reviewing here shortly!