• Dresses

    Pink and Red McCall’s 7969

    Well well, I feel like the last person on the planet to jump onto the love train for M7969 but now it’s all aboard and full steam ahead! TOOT TOOT! Months after it was released, this pattern couldn’t escape my attention any longer. It has a lovely surplice neckline and swishy skirt. And although I don’t wear oversized sleeves like the pattern views, I had seen the lovely Kathy of Sew Dainty make a puff sleeve variation that I could pull off.

    almond rock in a pink and red print version of m7969 buffet dress surplice bodice with gathered skirt and puff sleeves

    Looking at the finished bust measurements on the tissue I decided on size M. That’s a 39.5″ at the finished bust so roomy without being too baggy. I did my favourite tape measure trick to check where you make a loop the same size as the finished measurement and dance around in it to see how the finished dress would feel. Then I made a toile because I wanted to see how much gathering was included at the sleeve head and whether I’d need to add more coverage to the centre front V neckline. I didn’t bother adding the skirt to the toile as I knew how that would fit. I also like to use a longer stitch length on my toiles to speed up the sewing and incase I need to rip out any seams quickly.

    Everything was good to move ahead so I chose one of my most prized fabrics. Not because it was too expensive but because I love the mix of pink and red, and it sold out so quickly I have no chance of getting more. It’s a stretch polyester crepe, and has good body plus drape and is totally opaque – everything I look for in a fabric! It’s such a beginner friendly pattern without any fastening and forgiving on fit. They just need to master the art of gathering, because there’s lots to try. Plus the binding at the neckline is a nice technique for beginners. As I’m not a beginner I flew through this in an evening. I was home alone, had a delicious dinner and sewed all evening while watching tv in the background… heaven.

    almond rock in a pink and red print version of m7969 buffet dress surplice bodice with gathered skirt and puff sleeves

    Chain sewing the pieces made it even quicker. This is where you batch prepare your pieces and you pin every seam or dart etc that can be pinned at that stage. For this dress that meant side seams, sleeve seams and skirt side seams. Then I overlocked everything and pressed open before moving onto the next set of seams. If a seam relies on a previous seam being sewn you obviously can’t include it in the same batch but it does speed things up AND save thread because you sew each prepared piece, backstitching at the start and end as normal BUT you don’t lift the foot and clip the threads. You just move your piece out from under the foot and move a new piece in place. The thread tails between each piece are much shorter saving thread. Plus by not stopping to clip threads until the end you save time.

    almond rock in a pink and red print version of m7969 buffet dress surplice bodice with gathered skirt and puff sleeves

    For the puffed sleeves I cut piece 5 at the shorten/lengthen line and hemmed with a 1.5cm hem. Then I sewed a line of stitching with elastic in my bobbin 2cm up from the hem edge. This gathered the sleeve into a pleasing puff shape. You wind the elastic on the bobbin by hand so you can maintain a gentle tension, but still keeping the thread close to the bobbin core. I could have added two rows of stitching but one felt enough. My top tip for bobbin elastic is to hover your iron over the stitching line and press to release steam. This gathers the elastic up a little tighter, perfect if you’re doing rows of shirring.

    This dress makes me so happy. I can’t wait to wear it out and about soon. I think it’ll go really nicely with tights in Autumn and winter, and the colour will keep me smiling all year round! I made a video of tips for this dress you can see on the Simplicity McCall’s UK Instagram as well as a video round up of some amazing versions from the sewing community! There are a whopping 3k shared using the hashtag at time of writing. Now I know why…

    almond rock in a pink and red print version of m7969 buffet dress surplice bodice with gathered skirt and puff sleeves

  • Dresses

    Briar rose McCall’s 6891 shirtdress

    Hello everyone! Here’s a cheer to the weekend!! I actually had a nice short week as I took Monday and Tuesday off work to have a super long weekend. With my in laws staying Saturday and Sunday, it was nice to have the extra two days so myself. On Monday I pottered around sewing and doing jobs at home. Then Tuesday I went to Parcevall Hall Gardens for a walk and a photoshoot. It’s about half an hour drive away, down the end of a winding country road. It’s a private house and stunning garden featuring woodland with special hybrid rhododendrons and a waterfall plus formal gardens at the peak of the hill. 

    If you didn’t realise I LOVE FLOWERS. The rhododendrons were beautiful colours and there were peonies, roses, poppies, alliums and much more in bloom. Plus plenty of shoots waiting to pop later in summer. The climbing roses in the garden seemed like the perfect backdrop for photographing my new rose print shirtdress.

    The print on my fabric reminds me of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and Sleeping Beauty, because of the hand drawn quality and colours that are similar to the roses that feature in both films. It’s an Art Gallery Fabrics poplin print called Pruning Roses from the Woodland collection – sku FUS-W-605. You can’t go wrong with AGF cottons. They consistently display a quality of fabric and print.

    I used McCall’s 6891 to make a cool crisp summer shirtdress. This pattern goes up to a 50.5″ bust. I used the view A sleeveless bodice and view D length. I’ve made this pattern once before but had to size up this time. I made a size 10 in the upper body, 12 at the bust and a 16 at the waist/hip. It’s intentionally a little looser but still looks fitted which is just what I wanted. This is the DREAM SKIRT but it is fabric hungry, the dress took 3m.

    I know the collar construction has confused a few people in the past. There are lots of different ways to make a notch collar, but the most common is making a collar then using a back and front facing on top. This adds extra bulk to the back collar you don’t need. Instead the facing and upper collar are attached and then sewn in place so the upper collar acts like the back neck facing. 

    To make this make feel a little more special I created my own bias binding to finish the hem and armholes, and also used it to find the raw edge of the facing and collar. This is such a fancy touch, especially in matching fabric as it’s such a small detail that shows the effort I put into the dress. My buttons are vintage and although there isn’t an exact matching shade of red in the fabric, they do suit the print. I like to finish button front dresses with either a press stud or reverse button at the waist point to stop any gaping when you sit down. 

    It was kind of empowering to go out to the gardens on my own, set up the photoshoot and take these pictures. It was quiet enough that I could take the photos without disturbing anyone’s visit and I met some other amateur photographers capturing the beauty of the gardens. After a tough work week being around the flowers and blue skies my spirits were soaring, and then just as I was leaving the most beautiful eagle flew overhead. I really want to go back soon. 

    This post contains affiliate links. This means I earn a small commission if you shop the products I share. It helps me pay for the running of my website. If you prefer not to use my links you can easily copy the product details and head straight to the websites to shop! 

  • Dresses

    Dreaming of a white Christmas

    Well hello. It’s been a while since I posted! For those of you who follow me on Instagram you’ll have had an insight into why life is a little crazy right now.

    After nearly 5 wonderful years, I will be stepping down as Love Sewing magazine Editor in January. I’ve collaborated and worked with many incredible people, I’ve learnt so much and achieved things I’ll cherish even when I’m a little old lady.

    With 13 years in the publishing industry it’s always hard giving up a title you love, but it is time for a fresh start and new challenges… but I’m still going to be here sewing furiously you won’t have to miss me!

    Ok!! So it’s December and I’m so happy to be sharing a Christmas make. I love the festive season. There are parties and great food and a sense of excitement in the air. I make so many social plans and then binge watch seasonal movies… soon I’ve run out of any sewing time. I know there are worst problems to have!

    It’s funny because we plan and photograph our festive issues of Love Sewing during the summer so I sort of have two Christmases! We’re wrestling trees and baubles around in the hot weather and planning party dresses months before party season. It can drive people a little crazy. But back to my latest dress… you might have seen it already on the Minerva Blogger Network but I thought it deserved a closer look here.

    Almond rock sewing dress ballet knit jersey sequin Minerva crafts vogue 9000

    This dress is going to be a great staple this year as it’s that magical combination of toasty and fancy. AND SPARKLY!

    Almond rock sewing dress ballet knit jersey sequin Minerva crafts vogue 9000

    It’s the fabric that makes it so wonderful with subtle silver metallic threads and white sequins woven into the jersey. There is a great texture to the fabric too that makes it feel like a sweater knit you’d find in ready to wear clothes. I wish I had more of it for a jumper.

    Almond rock sewing dress ballet knit jersey sequin Minerva crafts vogue 9000

    I used a mixture of the Dixie DIY ballet dress bodice with Vogue 9000’s skirt which I cut on the fold and adjusted at the side seams to fit the bodice. The sleeves fit so well, I love the scoop neckline and you can’t beat a swishy skirt. I made a slim waist belt in the same fabric but also like it with my black patent belt. I should have made thread belt loops to help stop the belt sliding down! Still time to add those now it’s done.

    Almond rock sewing dress ballet knit jersey sequin Minerva crafts vogue 9000

    The fabric cuts and sews very easy as the sequins aren’t too densely spread over the fabric. I used a rotary cutter and mat then finished everything on an overlocker. The hems are just turned under and zigzag topstitched. I used a universal needle and narrow zigzag for all the construction. Easy peasy!

    Almond rock sewing dress ballet knit jersey sequin Minerva crafts vogue 9000

    When using a woven pattern with a knit fabric you might want to size down to compensate for the stretch but I don’t mind the skirt a little loose as it leaves room for dinner.

    My finished dress is a little sheer but as you can see with a slip underneath I have perfect coverage. The glittery fabric gave me a good excuse to break out my wedding jewellery again. I feel so sparkly and merry!!

    Almond rock sewing dress ballet knit jersey sequin Minerva crafts vogue 9000

    Merry Christmas, happy festive season and a wonderful winter to everyone!

  • Dresses

    Hibiscus Simplity 8594

    Hello everyone! There was a little gap in my blogging there wasn’t there. I started feeling pretty meh about some of my previous makes and decided not to photograph them. I haven’t thrown them out or anything but I’m not sure they’re worth blogging as they’re not the most interesting or photogenic. I know these are weird problems to have!

    almond rock Simplicity 8594 simplicitybyme s8594 hibiscus hawaiian halter dress

    Instead I’m sharing the last of my honeymoon wardrobe posts from Mahé, in the Seychelles. This time featuring this super fun “halter dress”. I use that term lightly as the dress appears to be held up by a neckline strap but these extend into regular shoulder straps at the back. It’s rather ingenious.

    almond rock Simplicity 8594 simplicitybyme s8594 hibiscus hawaiian halter dress

    I’ve been daydreaming of a pattern like this for about 4 years now ever since a young-ish editor went to her second Love Sewing interview with a portfolio of potential projects for the magazine including a very similar dress based on a vintage Etsy dress I’d see for sale. It wasn’t right for the magazine but it never left my mind. This dress is possibly nicer as the straps are more curved around the neck and I love the flared skirt. I was especially grateful when the team at Simplicity offered to send me a couple of patterns from the new Spring season last year. I chose S8594 and also S8599 (an off the shoulder lace dress pattern). Two different but equally feminine designs that hopefully you agree suit my style.

    The dress is fitted with princess seams and finished with a lining. The centre back zipper is a thing of beauty when you get the straps and everything to line up nicely. I might suggest adding hanging loops to the side seams to reduce the strain on the shoulder straps when it’s hanging in your wardrobe.

    I used a linen/cotton mix broadcloth from B&M Fabrics in Leeds. I picked it up at Sew Up North a couple of years ago and it’s perfect for this dress. Medium weight, a bit drapier than cotton poplin and with interesting texture on the surface, plus the print is perfect for a tropical holiday!

    Image result for gal meets glam halter dress

    I’ve also made a version for The Dressmaker’s Ball  you can see here and still have more planned as it’s so flattering!! Maybe another tropical version using this orange and purple palm leaf cotton. And a version adapted with thin straps to match the Gal Meets Glam dress above too!

    Want more inspiration?? I love this Liberty version from Liesl of Jorth, and I love the colour blocking of this sleeved version I saw on Pattern Review. Last but not least, ohhhh Mimi’s version is so good (and she made the neckline sit a little lower)!

  • Dresses

    Pretty little pattern hack Butterick 6318 and Butterick 6453

    Sometimes an idea for a dress sticks with you.

    almond rock gertie b6418 b6453 butterick retro sewing patterns art gallery fabrics floral universe

    I have a wonderful and annoying job where I constantly search for fabric for the magazine. Mostly the thrill of featuring the prettiest fabric in the magazine is enough but a lot of the time I become obsessed with getting some for myself. Like the cover garment for issue 43…

    almond rock gertie b6418 b6453 butterick retro sewing patterns art gallery fabrics floral universe

    This Art Gallery Fabric rayon is absolute gorgeous and was designed by Maureen Cracknell. I’ve bought a couple of her other prints and I’m a big fan in general. The design is called Floral Universe in turquoise from the collection Soulful. You can still buy it here.

    almond rock gertie b6418 b6453 butterick retro sewing patterns art gallery fabrics floral universe

    While I loved the wrap ties with the gathered skirt of B6318 I had a feeling the grown on sleeves and high neckline on the bodice would drown me. Then I remembered this dress I’d saved on Instagram! The perfect compromise. So in steps B6453!

    almond rock gertie b6418 b6453 butterick retro sewing patterns art gallery fabrics floral universe

    There’s not much to say about the B6453 dress as I’ve made it before. I added the wraps into the side seams during construction like the B6318 instructions direct. The fabric is pretty opaque but I underlined the bodice for stability and lined the bodice for a clean finish. The skirt is unlined and I overlocked the insides. I use a metal loop turn to turn through straps which I know some people hate but it always works for me.

    almond rock gertie b6418 b6453 butterick retro sewing patterns art gallery fabrics floral universe

    So in hindsight the waist ties could have been a smidge longer as this back shot below shows. Meh, you live and learn I say. It’s hard to see but there’s a lapped zipper as it’s my favourite and it is what the pattern recommends. Plus I used rings and sliders on my straps, again following the pattern which let’s you get a custom length. The sew-along and Facebook support group for this pattern is wonderful if you are nervous.

    almond rock gertie b6418 b6453 butterick retro sewing patterns art gallery fabrics floral universe

    The colours of my fabric are heavenly and the scale of the print is so fun and the feel of that rayon… oh hubba hubba, it’s so dreamy!! AGF rayons are amazing quality. I wote this dress on honeymoon and felt amazing. I wanted to dance around like a vintage movie star to make the skirt swish as often as possible. It was hard staying still for these photos.

    almond rock gertie b6418 b6453 butterick retro sewing patterns art gallery fabrics floral universe

    Now I’m excited to take it on more sunny adventures and swish around new countries!

    *Just to let you know this post contains affiliate links but products I link are from trusted sellers like The McCall Pattern Co selling through Amazon or Minerva Crafts. There’s no obligation to buy through the link of course. I don’t advertise on my blog so this is a little way to fund the running of the site!