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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Spot on

You won’t believe how long I’ve been waiting for August 2014.

almond rock new look 6886 viscose

It’s a month of two major events – first, it’s my 30th birthday. (Today in fact) Huzzah! And second, I’m moving to my new home and getting a sewing room.

I am VERY excited. I hope you can sense a bottled up giddiness in my photos; take a look and see if you can catch the twinkle in my eye.

So for my August Minerva make I wanted to make a strappy sundress; I mean can you blame me given the weather we were having?

almond rock new look 6886 viscose

I used an amazing spot viscose from Minerva that I can honestly say is like my absolute ideal fabric –

  • the print is small but noticeable;
  • it has brilliant drape;
  • it’s cool and soft to the touch; and
  • there are so many good colours in their I can wear a wild variety of coordinating clothes and accessories.

I’ve even used this fabric before on a dress, that’s how much I love it. I have TWO dresses in my wardrobe in it now.

almond rock new look 6886 viscose

The dress pattern used is New Look 6886 which is a great staple sundress pattern with several cute variations. I was very tempted to use gathers around the bust but in the end went plain and simple with view D.

The bodice is self-lined, and I inserted a lapped zipper (as I’m done with my invisible zipper obsession now) plus as an interesting touch I used a slider set to make the straps adjustable.

almond rock new look 6886 viscose

This is something I’ve always loved about ready to wear clothes because I have one shoulder lower than the other and even though I try so hard, fitting straps on myself isn’t 100% fool-proof. These nifty sliders are cheap to buy and come in packs of 10, in black/white/transparent.

Doing this will mean a couple of changes from the pattern pieces and a little extra effort – first you’ll extend your strap piece to  cut a much longer strap, then you’ll make a very short strap about 3 – 4 inches long. You should bring out a bra to sit next to you as you sew to compare how the straps feed through the loops.

I absolutely adore this finished dress and feel wonderful in it. It’s been worn every week since I finished it.

almond rock new look 6886 viscose

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Summer Blouse, Makes Me Feel Fiiiiiiiiiiiiine

Oh July – she’s a fickle beast. One minute she’s pouring you with rain and the next it is sunstroke inducing warmth.

almond rock tilly turquoise polyester mathilde blouse

So for my July Minerva make I thought I better sew something that looks nice and summery but could easily work for those chillier days too.

I used the Mathilde blouse pattern from Tilly and The Buttons. It’s a cute pleated front blouse with button up back. My first version of this blouse (in a polka dot polyester) has never been blogged but cropped up during Me Made May (the polka dot week!) a few years ago.

It was too tight across the front yoke and it eventually ripped at the underarms, probably because I like to talk with my hands and use wild gestures all the time.

almond rock tilly turquoise polyester mathilde blouse

The original pattern comes with banded puff sleeves but they don’t really suit me so I swapped these out for straight sleeves. I did this on the first version too. I used the sleeve piece from New Look 6000 which I’ve never actually made because I’m not a shift dress kind of girl.

This bright polyester fabric in turquoise and cream was a great match for the pattern. It’s not like horrible static-creating polyester; it’s quite soft and light. It holds the pleats really well but also skims over your body in a flattering way. And I was sent perfectly matching thread which makes me happy as well.

almond rock tilly turquoise polyester mathilde blouse

There wasn’t much fraying to contend with but I French seamed the blouse for neatness and overlocked the armholes once I’d set in the sleeves.

Take a look at that back!

almond rock tilly turquoise polyester mathilde blouse

I really had a hankering for some gold metallic buttons after seeing them all over the high street lately. Gold and turquoise just seemed the perfect mix.

I used seven buttons in total but together they don’t drag the back of the blouse down as they are very light.

almond rock tilly turquoise polyester mathilde blouse

I can really see myself wearing this all year round as it would be easy to layer and it appeals to my need to dress colourfully even when faced with dreary weather.

Or weather like today where the sun kept disappearing behind massive clouds making my photos look like they’ve been taken on different days.

But hey, no don’t notice that… Look at my shoes! They match my top! Phew, glad I distracted you.

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Shopping list as long as my arm

As I think you’ll be well aware, for the MC blogger team’s June garments we are all making fancy frocks in celebration of the Minerva Crafts Meet-Up event Saturday 14th aka TOMORROW!! We’re going to have a little blogger celebration after the day for the awesome awards the Network has won.

almond rock Minerva Crafts Meet up reveal

There’s a whole day of fun that’s open for everyone remember. I really hope to see as many of my readers as possible there! You can watch me burn through my paycheck.

As we aren’t revealing our finished dresses before the event, you are just getting a teaser today. I hope you like what you see!

Clue no.1

I’ve made a dress I made recently. I didn’t say at the time but it was totally a “wearable muslin” for this party dress. It’s not exactly the same as the pattern includes variations that I’m taking advantage of.

almond rock Minerva Crafts Meet up reveal

Clue no.2

I’m using a fabric used by a fellow blogger and friend at the end of last year. Do you recognise it? It is beautiful cotton sateen in reds, greys and pinks. I’m pairing it with a luscious crepe-like satin (I mean seriously luscious, I could have made my whole dress out of this stuff).

Intriguing I hope? Because I was in the mood to make an effort I added a few extra touches to make my dress extra special.

Including a handpicked hem to make it as invisible as possible (everyone who knows me, knows handsewing is a rare thing in these parts). I used hem tape in a coordinating colour to do this and then neatly picked through to the front periodically. Can you see my stitching!?

almond rock Minerva Crafts Meet up reveal

I also added support to the waist by stitching thin ribbon in the seam allowance, almost like a waist stay. This will stop the sateen from stretching out.

almond rock Minerva Crafts Meet up reveal

Finally I’m adding sew in boning to the sides of the bodice for support.

Right! That’s all I’m telling you. You’ll have to look out for the big reveal across social media and the blogs over the course of the weekend! 

Look forward to seeing many of you Saturday.

I’ll be the one loud and proud in my red stripey sundress!

almond rock stripey sundress minerva crafts

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Minerva Mosaic Skirt

I couldn’t wait any longer to show you this amazing and eyeboggling skirt!


Minerva Crafts and The Sewing Directory have been teaming up for the Minerva Blogger Challenge. Sewing Directory post various Minerva products on their site and bloggers are invited to email and say what they’d make from it.

I entered to make something from their new range of premium cotton prints!

I originally chose the safety pin fabric but it was too popular and sold out. So my back up was this lovely colourful Mosaic print.


My plan was to make a dress and I decided the weight and drape of the fabric would work well with the Belladone dress. There isn’t really a predominant colour so I went with purple for my contrast binding and topstitching.

2013-10-27 18.17.00_edited-1

Now a lesson learnt is that you can’t sew bias binding around a neckline, then unpick it all and expect to redo it like nothing happened. I totally stretched out my neckline!! Beyond saving as well. I was so sad and didn’t have any spare fabric to work with. I mean look at this gorgeous binding that has gone to waste. The topstitching on my first go was appalling though (think “drunk monkey”).

Determined to not waste this lovely fabric, I decided to follow up on my plan to try a belladone skirt.



It’s super easy to do, you just make a waistband facing and use a shorter zip. I had a perfect size purple invisible zip in my stash too!

Ok so a bit more about why this fabric deserves the name “premium”.

  1. The fabric didn’t bleed at all. Not remotely! Surprising given the vivid and various colours in use.
  2. The weight and drape is what you expect from the high quality cotton you see in shops like Backstitch, Frumble and Fabric Rehab but without the same price tag.
  3. Minimal creasing. I love wearing cotton but I hate looking like a crumpled mess by the end of the day. Even though it would be hard to tell in this print, I wore this skirt all day at work. That’s a lot of sitting on trains and at desks and in meetings but the skirt barely creased.



Now I just need to wait for that safety pin fabric to come back in stock so I can buy myself some. Yippeee.

Thanks Minerva!

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