DIY drafted dress

Today I have a slightly different post for you all. I hope you read to the end and enjoy what you see.

Almond rock pattern drafting Winnie aldrich

A few years back I was in a luxurious position where I finished work at 4pm every day and could indulge myself in my evenings. One of the things I tried was a course called “‘Develop’ Pattern Drafting” at Leeds Art College. This was just after I tried the print making course and was fully enamoured with the LAC’s facilities.

Over the 10 weeks I made two blocks and about 6 patterns. I then promptly shoved them on a shelf and forgot about them… until a few months ago. I saw an email saying that LAC would sadly have to stop its evening education programmes and it inspired me to dig out my designs.

Almond rock pattern drafting Winnie aldrich

The pleated tuck effect of my pattern is created 90% by dart manipulation and 10% creative construction. I should caveat this by saying that my construction method may not be the most logical way to make this dress. But who cares, because this was my experimentation time and it’s not like I’m forcing you to copy me. Plus there’s a guarrantee I won’t remember the process entirely accurately but let’s cross our fingers shall we?

Almond rock pattern drafting Winnie aldrich

First things first I drafted a V neck bodice with waist-only darts and slim straps and importantly NO SEAM ALLOWANCE. I traced off two copies of this bodice. On the first copy I altered to swoop of the neckline so it fell under the bust (about 1″ below the bust point), leaving a shorter side seam no dart. This became the left side as worn.

Almond rock pattern drafting Winnie aldrich

For the right side as worn, I repeated the above neckline swoop but made the width of the front stop about 1.5cm into my dart area so it would be caught inside the closed dart. I then slashed three lines that angled from the new shorter side seam, connecting to the bust point. By slashing up the dart to the bust point I could pivot the paper so it opened up gaps between each slash, creating my pleats. This was really fiddly, I’m not going to lie. Keeping the neckline edge on the correct curve so it met the centre front evenly and only opening the pleats below that point took some practice.

Almond rock pattern drafting Winnie aldrich

Then I added seam allowance all over! As I knew I would finish everything with bias tape facings and an overlocker I use small seam allowance. On my toile I had some slight pulling due to the positioning of my neckline curve so redrafted slightly to fit better under the bust.

Almond rock pattern drafting Winnie aldrich

To construct the dress I had to sew the shoulder seams, bind the neckline edges stopping short of the back zipper area, construct the pleats, sew the pleats into the left dart and sew the remaining right dart, tack the lower edges, sew the side seams, add the circle skirt, install the zip, finish the neckline binding, bind the armholes and bind the hem. Plus overlock the waist and side seams at strategic moments. You might notice I also changed the colour of my topstitching from the in progress shot above!

Almond rock pattern drafting Winnie aldrich

I wore this dress to a friend’s wedding and felt very glam all day. The fabric used is a silky poly sateen from Minerva Crafts. It’s very drapey with no stretch, so don’t imagine cotton sateen which is more crisp. It was £16.99 so quite a splurge on my part when I didn’t have any specific plans but I couldn’t resist. It’s a hand-painted digital print, with splatters of paint and brush marks visible in the design. The colours are so gorgeous and there are places where it reminds me of a milky way or galaxy. My only regret is not buying half a metre more. I let fear of how much I was spending get the better of me and ended up with a pattern placement I’m not 100% happy with. Although it still looks great, it gave me a lot of headaches trying to place the print in an attractive way to show off the pleats.

Almond rock pattern drafting Winnie aldrich

While pattern drafting at home is rather involved unless you have lots of space and a good head for maths, dart manipulation at home is lots of fun. I highly recommend taking a basic bodice pattern you know fits you and play around with pivoting the darts. You’ll just need some basic supplies like tracing paper, or dot and cross paper with a tracing wheel and carbon (don’t use the hemline carbon it’s crap). William Gee have some great prices on drafting papers even if you just want them for tracing off your patterns. Perhaps you’re ready to try pattern drafting? Well a pattern master will be your best friend for 90 degree angles, quick measurements and soft curves. And I must confess I live by the bible of Winnie Aldrich but some people seem to hate her method. On the course we followed Hilary Campell but I couldn’t retrain my brain to Hilary’s ways. Maybe it’s just what you encounter first?

I hope you found this post interesting. It was a bit more in-depth than many of my other posts but perhaps it’s inspired you to have a go at pattern drafting if you’ve never tried it, or dust off the old pattern master if you’ve left it alone for too long.

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BOND, ANNA BOND… By Hand London Anna

Hello everyone. I’m writing this from a corner of my sewing room, slightly frazzled from car issues and too tired to sew. I’m really keen to start wedding related sewing but have had a few silly setbacks.

One of my bridal fabrics has arrived cut into two lengths instead of being kept whole and I’ve lost the pattern number I noted down for my bridesmaids’ dresses. All fixable of course but frustratingly will slow me down. Chewie isn’t impressed.

Almond rock rifle paper co cotton steel by hand London Anna

So to perk myself up I’m sharing a recently finished make. It’s not my first and not my last Anna dress but possibly my most noticeable. When I wear this dress people love to find out if it’s really Rifle Paper Co, ask to stroke the rayon to feel the quality and tell me the colours are wonderful. I happily answer all the comments because I think the quality is fantastic; the shades of blue and coral, the weight and sheen of the weave, and the scale of the design make this a perfect fabric. Go buy some while you can.

If you’ve made something from Rifle Paper Co fabric please link me in the comments!!

Almond rock rifle paper co cotton steel by hand London Anna

In case you’ve been off the grid, the last couple of years have yielded some fabulous fabrics from the collaboration of Rifle Paper Co and Cotton + Steel.

Anna Bond is the creative force behind Rifle Paper Co, a stationery business famed (primarily) for its painterly florals designed by Anna herself.

Almond rock rifle paper co cotton steel by hand London Anna

Cotton + Steel is comprised of the design power houses Melody Miller, Rashida Coleman-Hale, Alexia Abegg, Kim Kight and Sarah Watts who collaborate on fun and unique prints that still coordinate across each range. The bulk of the offering is quilting cotton but lawn, rayon and canvas substrates are also available for certain designs.

Almond rock rifle paper co cotton steel by hand London Anna

The Birch Floral I used is from the Les Fleurs collection which I picked up from Miss Matatabi. Also in my stash is the Painterly Roses rayon from the Wonderland collection. I have 1m to play with which I picked up from Village Haberdashery using my birthday stash points!

Almond rock rifle paper co cotton steel by hand London Anna

Ok so dress nitty gritty time. This is the Anna v-neck bodice and the Emery gathered skirt with 3cm added to the length. I used a 70 needle to avoid snags and the fabric was robust enough not to shift as I worked or get sucked into the feed dogs.

Almond rock rifle paper co cotton steel by hand London Anna

My armholes are finished with blue bias and I used the facings provided. My invisible zip is pretty invisible considering its navy and I took the dress in a little from previous versions as I’ve lost some weight. I try and save this dress for nice occasions as it does noticeably wrinkle after a few hours of wear.

Almond rock rifle paper co cotton steel by hand London Anna

The big thing this dress taught me is that I love wearing primary colours. My red Sumo dress, started that off. So I’ve bought some emerald green tana lawn which I’m excited to sew up. But that better wait until after I get my bridal sewing back on track…

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The Vintage Weekend at Lotherton Hall

Hey everyone! I hope you all had a great weekend and hopefully some sewing time. On the 15th I had my birthday and planned a few treats throughout the week to help me celebrate. Last weekend involved afternoon tea served on a miniature picnic bench and a little bit of fizz. Sneak peek of my new Simplicity vintage top.

On Tues I took the day off work (always a must in my book), slept in, ate pancakes, went to the spa and then had cocktails and curry with friends. It was fabulous. And this weekend I went to Lotherton Hall to the annual Vintage Weekend.

Lotherton Hall is in village called Aberford, about 15mins from my parents house. I’ve been a few times over the years as there is a beautiful house and gardens, plus a fashion exhibit and bird garden. This was the first time I’d been to the Vintage Weekend. There were 25 stalls of vintage fashion, homeware and collectables. Lots of garments from the 1920s to 1980s and some modern dresses that were vintage style if I’m honest. There were some handmade garments which I loved examining and a few pieces of fabric but they were somewhat overpriced. I wont be offended if you scroll past the photos if you’re only interested in what I picked up from the fair.

I treated myself to a few bits and pieces. A red seed bead necklace (I didn’t even haggle I wanted it so badly). A couple of spools of thread and some red shell buttons. Plus a size 16 60s day dress that I’ll salvage fabric from, an 80s CAMISOLE in forest green and a sweet swiss dot Jaeger blouse with contrast collar and cuffs.

I thought you might also be interested in the fashion exhibit. It’s based on donations from local women of significance or influence including the past owners of the house. The collection is small but immaculate and spans the decades. Here are my favourites… that’s an incredible Ossie Clark at the end.

It was a windy and cold day but I still got dressed up with a vintage vogue floral dress, 50s makeup and jewellery. And for a year without a big party or a special number I think this birthday was a success! My cheeky cat certainly looked life he enjoyed it!!

I’ll leave you with some of my sewing related birthday treats. Fabric from Jimi and Marie, plus patterns and a beautiful vintage Simplicity catalogue from my parents.

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Not a dress, Liberty silk New Look 6035 cami

Hello everyone! I’m sharing something slightly different today. I often wonder if you’re all sick of seeing my dresses. Sometimes I even wonder if I like what I’m sewing.

Do you ever get that feeling? Where you finish a garment and you’re not sure why you actually made it… like it was all just to use the fabric up and you didn’t really learn anything or love the finished make? I’m having a bit of a wardrobe crisis as I’ve got so much fabric waiting to be sewn up that doesn’t seem to fit with the clothes I want to wear lately, but I can’t seem to get rid of it. To distract myself I’m seeing what I can use from my disgustingly huge stash to help me practice for my wedding dress.

Liberty london silk satin cami new look 6035

This simple looking top was actually a really good challenge PWD – Pre-wedding dress. I wanted to ease myself back into using silk and had been hoarding this piece of Liberty silk satin for years. I used one of those amazing Liberty tokens that has the building embossed on it. Very hard to give up in all honesty.

Liberty london silk satin cami new look 6035

The print is called Alice Alina C. It’s a photographic winter garden print exposed in a dark room using photo sensitive paper so the leaves and buds have a ghostly feel. The yellow heart shapes in the print are especially gorgeous.

LIberty london silk satin cami new look 6035

The top is part of a bumper pattern pack from New Look. I originally picked this up to make the jacket (another thing that isn’t a dress to look forward to) but decided to try the top first instead. There are no darts, just neckline gathering as easing for the bust and you can add hem vents if desired.

Liberty London silk satin new look cami

I used French seams throughout, a super fine needle and cut out with my rotary cutter. I didn’t need tissue paper or gelatine or any other stabiliser which was reassuring. When making the bias I tried my best to have as few joins as possible to avoid those unsightly seam lines showing. This is super skinny 12mm bias which was then folded in half to make 6mm trim. I basted the bias in place before topstitching so I wouldn’t go totally insane.

LIberty london silk satin cami new look 6035

Aren’t the little yellow leaves adorable? The colour is quite dark for me but feels very luxurious. Focussing so intently on not warping the seams, keeping the fabric on grain and not slipping around as I topstitched the bias was a really nice exercise in calm careful sewing. I’m using duchesse satin as one layer of my wedding dress so I’m definitely going to sew some more slippery silks before it’s time to start just to keep my skills in check. I think I’ll also make another top in polyester or crepe to tuck into skirts. And really, it would make a great pj top too. It’s an all round staple throw on item!

LIberty london silk satin cami new look 6035

If you have any tips that might help me with my current wardrobe predicament please let me know. Part of the issue is knowing that when I start my wedding dress and potentially the bridesmaid dresses I won’t have much time to sew other things so it puts more pressure on each garment I do choose to make. To-do lists never seem to work but I did start look at each piece of fabric I have, to work out what garment it may become one day. This was an exercise to justify it staying in my stash… I got through one box. EEEK HELP ME!!

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Busy bee embroidery 

Hello ladies and perhaps a few gents. I’m away at Alison Smith’s sewing school learning the secrets of bridal couture. It’s an amazing three day workshop where you make a crazy sample that incorporates lots of techniques that you might use in bridal but probably not in one dress! More to come on that.

If you follow me on Instagram you will have seen I’ve been trying out some embroidery lately. It started with a boost to put more embroidery in Love Sewing and then the etsy team offered me a kit to try as a thank you for supporting the site. They sent the rainbow sampler from Oh Sew Bootiful which was a fun intro to the basics.

I then jumped on the pre-sale for the Flowers and Bees kit when I saw it. This wasn’t long after the Manchester attack and the thought of embroidering bees, the symbol of the city brought me some comfort.

Both kits feature very clear step by steps with photos and vector style illustrations, a stitch guide (which doubles as a template if you trace it), a pre-printed piece of cotton, spongy wadding, more than enough floss wound on a card, a practice piece of cloth plus two gold eye needles. Phew! Well worth the money I say.

Almond rock embroidery oh sew bootiful

I worked sporadically and threaded each of the needles up with a different colour so I could choose as my mood suited what to stitch. Only a couple of areas dictate the order you work in, e.g. where a stem stitch is then covered by a flower petal on top. I targeted easy stitches first like French knots and split stitch to gently get going. Towards the end it was then mostly satin stitch so I used five pre-threaded needles to keep up momentum.

Almond rock embroidery oh sew bootiful

Stitching during my lunch hour was very calming but not always possible. A good session in the garden during the hot spell saw a lot more get done and then a week in centre parks with my in laws saw me complete the rest.

Almond rock embroidery oh sew bootiful

As I moved around the hoop my technique massively improved and I went back and did two daisies again for a better finish. The bees are absolutely wonderful with the shade of eggy yoke yellow singing out at you. The centre of the poppies were quite hard to keep defined and I will say there’s A LOT of lazy daisy stitch to do. With lazy daisies and French knots you really need both hands so a table to work on is a must for a neat finish.

Almond rock embroidery oh sew bootiful

I’ve hung this hoop in my sewing room and it always catches my eye as I pass it. I’d really recommend this pattern. And honestly think the kit is worth the money for the quality and quantity of supplies included. I had to source my own felt for the backing but that was easy and now I’m itching to start another project.

Almond rock embroidery oh sew bootiful

Mindbogglingly a photo of my rainbow hoop shared on social media won me a of pattern of my choice from Oh Sew Bootiful’s online shop. Steph the owner picks four winners a month so get sharing your pics if you make one of her designs!! I chose the Hearts and Flowers template so watch this space for that one.

Almond rock embroidery oh sew bootiful

Have you ever tried embroidery? There are LOADS of fantastic free patterns on offer at DMC if you sign up to their newsletter. I’m going to try some of the florals and succulents soon. Maybe also this tiger!! What do you think?

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