• Dresses

    Polka dot Nina Lee Spring Dress

    Hello Spring! And hello you lovely lot. I’m full of the joys of Spring. And I love that saying. Spring and Summer is my sewing magic timezone where I can make dresses and floaty clothes and don’t have to worry about tights anymore. With that in mind I picked up the Nina Lee Patterns Spring Dress which came with Simply Sewing mag.

    Almond rock dressmaking Nina Lee Patterns Spring Dress polka dot viscose

    Okay let’s get the elephant out of the room, yep this is the first time I’ve bought Simply Sewing as a regular consumer. I had to buy every single issue while I worked at Love Sewing to add to our library of sewing magazines. This helped us try to avoid accidentally copying each other like interviewing the same people, featuring the same fabrics and so on. Since it launched after I started at Love Sewing I never bought it just for me until now. The magazine isn’t really for me as it’s only 20% about dressmaking but I had a quick flick through out of post-professional curiosity. I miss magazine design because let’s face it, banking websites aren’t designed to be colourful or fun. The patterns were the draw. Now back to the dress…

    Almond rock dressmaking Nina Lee Patterns Spring Dress polka dot viscose

    I made two toiles of the dress because I wasn’t quite sure how much ease I’d like. The first toile made me realise the sleeves and shoulders were not going to work for my body type. I am extremely narrow shouldered with small arms so often have to do a narrow shoulder adjustment. I adjusted the paper pattern to adjust the shoulder by 1″ for the first toile but it was clear the sleeve head as drafted was very flat and I need a much higher head and the shoulder was still very wide. I use a cut and move method for narrow shoulders (tutorial) but there’s also a slash and overlap method (tutorial).

    Almond rock dressmaking Nina Lee Patterns Spring Dress polka dot viscose

    On my second toile I redrafted the armhole to use the Tilly and The Buttons Indigo dress bodice and sleeve pieces. You lay the two patterns on top of each other, matching shoulder height and copy round the Indigo armhole curve onto the Spring Dress: First for the bodice front and then for the back. Then I could use the Indigo sleeve piece when I cut out and put the Spring Dress sleeve to one side.

    Almond rock dressmaking Nina Lee Patterns Spring Dress polka dot viscose

    This polka dot viscose challis from my stash was picked up at Birmingham rag market. It’s the perfect weight for this dress as it gathers easily and is a nice breezy fabric for this style (see a video of it in motion). I think you could use a stiffer fabric for a bolder boxier effect. When I discovered a number of small holes in my fabric (not moths thank god) this moved into the wearable toile category so I stopped worrying over the print matching down the centre front. Made you look!! It’s good enough to me for a dress I’ll wear until the fabric frays further so don’t bother messaging me about it. I added some fusible interfacing behind each of the holes I saw but I bet it will keep making more when I next wash it, it just seems that delicate.

    Almond rock dressmaking Nina Lee Patterns Spring Dress polka dot viscose

    I made a size 10 in the upper bodice and 12 at the waist down to the hip. The bodice ever so slightly rides to the back now which is what happens on my Indigo where I never fixed the bodice. Again I don’t mind on this dress but really should fix it before I make any more versions. And as you can see the neckline is finished with tiny little bias binding that extends into ties but wearing it tied feels a little too twee so I leave them undone. As a last tweak, I added elastic cuffs to the sleeves but they aren’t very billowing so it’s a subtle effect. Importantly I added 3″ to the length of the skirt. Remember I’m 5ft4 so this is a short dress without that length! Chewie approves of my floaty new dress.

    Almond rock dressmaking Nina Lee Patterns Spring Dress polka dot viscose

  • Dresses

    Self drafted terrazzo dress

    Abstract prints like terrazzo or Matisse style cutouts are having a fantastic revival. They’re so bold and imperfect and interestingly can evoke different feelings depending on the colours mixed in. After spotting a dress on Pinterest I had been searching for a great abstract floral print and sewsewsew came to the rescue.

    I needed a terrazzo that wasn’t on a pale or white base as that doesn’t suit my colouring so it was really exciting to find this beautiful Gabriella Peachskin on the website which comes in grey, red, mustard or navy. Katie has a great eye for fabric so I nearly got sidetracked 10 times looking at everything that is available. I chose the red background with white, grey, mustard and black pattern. It’s like terrazzo meets flowers which is wonderful.


    Peachskin is that magic combination of drapey and opaque so it’s perfect for blouses, dresses and skirts. I really wanted to make another version of my self-drafted birthday dress which features grown on cap sleeves, a faux wrap bodice and gathered skirt. I learnt pattern drafting a few years ago and it’s lovely to have it in my back pocket when I want to sew something specific.

    Multi-directional prints like this are really worth their price in my mind as they open up garment layplans to be much more efficient. Even though I was kindly gifted this fabric in exchange for a review I honestly believe at £4.50 a half metre it’s a great price and definitely recommend it. It would look great in a tiered hem skirt or Cielo from Closet Case Patterns.


    Peachskin does have a tendency to fray so all my seams were overlocked and the necklines and sleeves were finished with bias binding. This was cut from the same fabric and stitched before turning to the inside as a facing. I installed a red invisible zipper in the centre back and added a nice deep 1” hem to the skirt.


    I love invisible zippers but know they can be tricky for people. I find it best to baste the zipper in place by hand with needle and thread at the waistline. It only has to be a couple of inches to get the intersection aligned. And I absolutely swear by my invisible zipper foot for easy first time installation. My other tips include avoiding a high iron heat so you don’t scorch the fabric and start with a new fine machine needle to avoid snagging the fabric.


    The dress is boxy and breezy, perfect for the recent hot weather but would easily work with tights in winter. Peachskin doesn’t crease easily so this style is a perfect partner for the fabric and I feel relatively smart no matter how long into the day I’ve been wearing it. The sheen of the fabric and scale of the print make it a joy to wear.

  • Dresses

    The maxium cake dress

    Please don’t think of me as terrible birthday brat but I wanted to share details of day 3 from my long weekend of celebrations. I still have one more day to go before I head back to reality and another press day on Tuesday.

    almond rock dashwood studio pattern drafting rayon viscose fragment soiree Susan Driscoll dress

    My family weren’t free to catch up until the Saturday after my birthday so we made plans to have afternoon tea at Weetwood Hall near Adel. This 17th century manor house is popular for weddings and parties and there was a wedding going on as we arrived! We sat in the indoor terrace. All the beauty of a garden area but safe from the elements!

    We dined on gorgeous sandwiches (I had the veggie selection of aubergine and hummus, avocado and salsa, and cream cheese and cucumber plus a huge onion bhaji). Then there was a dessert tray of scones, treacle tart, brownies, lemon posset, candyfloss and choc ganache lollipops!! Fizz, wine and Earl Grey tea finished the table off nicely and we chatted away the afternoon.

    almond rock dashwood studio pattern drafting rayon viscose fragment soiree Susan Driscoll dress

    Sometimes you need a baggy dress. When you have this much food to eat its practically mandatory!! I haven’t been fitting into my clothes very well lately so a baggy dress fits well into my life right now. I’ve been inspired by DIY Daisy’s floaty dresses which are quite straight up and down while still feeling figure flattering.

    almond rock dashwood studio pattern drafting rayon viscose fragment soiree Susan Driscoll dress

    I drafted a basic bodice with grown on sleeves and removed the darts from the front and back. Then I adjusted the front to a wrap extending into the waistline (rather than the side seam) using a v neckline as a guide. It sits high on the shoulder then drops in a steep v, crossing just under the bust. The skirt is just a gathered rectangle.

    almond rock dashwood studio pattern drafting rayon viscose fragment soiree Susan Driscoll dress

    The excess fabric was used to make bias tape to finish the armholes and neckline. It was an awkward assembly in that I had to bind the front up to the shoulder and leave the ends unsewn first. That meant I could construct the bodice and join to the waist then install the zip. Then finally I could bind the top of the zipper and remaining bit of neckline. Of course I used my blind hem foot to edgestitch the binding. I got impatient before adding a hook and eye at the top… a job for later.

    almond rock dashwood studio pattern drafting rayon viscose fragment soiree Susan Driscoll dress

    I decided to topstitch the wrap in place as I can’t be arsed worrying about flashing people. I don’t have a lot of boob to flash but no need to take the risk. The waistline is slightly raised to help the body feel and the rayon means the dress is delightful floaty!! My favourite part of the dress is this stunning print.

    almond rock dashwood studio pattern drafting rayon viscose fragment soiree Susan Driscoll dress

    Susan Driscoll designs the most gorgeous prints and I was overjoyed when she released her rayon collection ‘Soiree‘ with Dashwood Studio. I actually bought three of the designs! This print is called Fragment and it reminds me of geology and gemstones. It’s all my favourite colours in one design. It looks a little navy in my pics but is on a black base. I got this dress out of 1.5m of 45″-wide fabric by the skin of my teeth!

    almond rock dashwood studio pattern drafting rayon viscose fragment soiree Susan Driscoll dress

    Do you think you can identify rayon? It’s known in the UK as viscose and is a natural fabric made of plant pulp. BUT sometimes shops just call drapey polyester ‘viscose’ which blurs the lines and sometimes it’s mixed with polyester… the same way any other fabric base can be mixed with polyester of course.

    almond rock dashwood studio pattern drafting rayon viscose fragment soiree Susan Driscoll dress

    You can get rayon challis, rayon linen, and rayon jersey plus much more. 100% rayon challis is prone to shrinking, goes hard and rumpled when washed then goes back to being silky and smooth when dry. It doesn’t melt under heat or make static when you wear it. Its breathable and luxurious to wear and it’s my favourite fabric type! You need a sharp needle and sharp pins as its prone to snagging and you need a large space to work on so the fabric doesn’t slide as you work or cut out.

    almond rock dashwood studio pattern drafting rayon viscose fragment soiree Susan Driscoll dress

    I hope you enjoyed this post and the details of my self drafted dress. I’m building up courage to cut into the Secret Garden print above and figure out what style to sew. If you are keen to try pattern drafting I recommend the Aldrich book series. I also attended a great evening course at Leeds Art School which taught me other methods of drafting if you don’t get on with Winnie Aldrich.

    Finally thanks do much to everyone who commented on my tile dress on the blog and on Instagram. I definitely appreciate it!! Cheers to you all!

  • Trousers and skirts

    All the arrows skirt

    Hello everyone!! Today is a good day. I’m feeling good as my lovely photographer friend Renata and I powered through a chunk of my epic list of unblogged garments after work last week. That means more regular blog posts! Looking forward to when I can share makes properly again is getting me giddy. I do my best not to disappear into my work but it does use a lot of time and energy so it’s great to carve out some time for this.

    Let’s start with a quick post on this skirt. Self drafted and lined, it came together very easily. The front and back pieces are rectangles made from the full width 45″ fabric gathered to fit a 32″ waistband. This makes it hang straight but gives enough hip room for my curvy 42″ butt. Normally I prefer a gathered a-line cut skirt but this was an afternoon make and my hips push the silhouette into an almost a-line naturally.

    Almond rock fabworks self drafted skirt sewing sewing bee gbsb

    Now I don’t really think skirts are that flattering on me which is why I rarely make them. I feel like my bodice looks oddly short but weirdly doesn’t in a dress. I even chose a narrow waistband width to help with this! Oh well, I’m not going to grow any taller am I?

    I installed an invisible zipper in the back and added a lining to avoid the skirt clinging to tights. The lining is sewn into the waist but free around the zip area with the seam allowance pressed away to make an opening. The centre back lining seam starts just below the zipper allowing the two layers to move independently. Meaning great swish. (Also how damn cute is this top?? I love the back and must make something just like this).

    Almond rock fabworks self drafted skirt sewing sewing bee gbsb

    The cotton I used is a gorgeous navy shirting with embroidered arrows in neon pink. I picked it up at Fabworks a while back and got the skirt easily out of 1.5m. Although they don’t have this fabric anymore the shop is chocca with great shirting fabric. Let’s be honest it’s full of great fabric, full stop.

    So there you are. Told you it would be an easy reintroduction to my blogging. Don’t want to rush these things. I’ll leave you with an outtake from the shoot showing my normal state on set. Professional model I’ll never be…

  • Dresses

    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.