A Hybrid dress

What do you get if you cross the Colette patterns Truffle dress bodice with modified Anna dress-style sleeves and a half circle skirt?

This dress...ta da!


I knew that the Truffle dress bodice was a good fit and I loved the simplicity of the kimono-style Anna dress sleeves; both in terms of sewing and wearing.

I was also amazed and incredibly impressed when I saw the By Hand London circle skirt app so I thought a good way to try it out would be to make a simple skirt pattern for a dress that combined the two aforementioned bodices. The skirt is a half circle and it is the midi length.

You could make a similar dress by using any bodice that fits well and modifying the sleeves in the same way and then drafting a circle skirt to match.

There is no doubt a more accurate way of adapting an amhole into a short kimono-style capped sleeve but I just winged it and loosely traced the shape of the Anna bodice in this area.

Order of construction:

1. Sew bodice darts, sew shoulder seams (French seams), then sew sleeve/armhole seams.
2. Sew bodice side seams (French seams).
3. Sew bodice to skirt (French seams).
4. Sew in invisible zip at centre back.
5. Finish centre back seam.
6. Hem skirt - This BHL post was very useful.
7. Apply bias binding to neckline. I realise I'm often a bit slapdash by the time I get to the bias binding stage so I tried to take my time with it by closely following this Grainline studio tutorial intently.

The fabric was leftover cotton lawn from when I tried out the Licorice dress.

Here is to more hybrid garment construction in the future!


Beignet blues


The Beignet skirt from Colette patterns had been on my 'to make' list for a while, and I finally got round to cutting out and sewing over the Christmas holidays. And after a pause in proceedings the Beignet was finally finished off this week.


I'd been inspired by Tilly's love of the Beignet but sadly I have to say I'm not as enamoured with it as she was. But I think this is mainly down to the fabric I chose: some thick textured cotton I had left over from when I made the Truffle dress, also a Colette patterns number.

Also, I'm not sure this shape of skirt suits my body type, which is no bad thing, not all patterns and styles will suit everyone.

But it would be interesting to try it again with a different fabric and some further modifications to the length and the closure - a side zip instead of the centre front buttons, perhaps? I actually unpicked the pockets and stitched up the side seams fully as they really made the skirt stick out. A shame because pockets are always useful!

In terms of construction this has been one of my favourite ever projects. Getting my head around the shell lining and putting it in place was really fun and I had a real sense of achievement when it all came together.


The buttons were also a bit of a marathon to complete. However, I made the hand sewing more pleasurable by watching the Sofia Coppola film 'Lost in Translation' at the same time. Which made for not a bad January evening at all.

And finally...
Last Saturday was the Belgian/Dutch sewing blogger meetup, and it was brilliant! So nice to meet people in real life and talk about sewing! Here is a roundup from Anneke and some photos from Caroline.
Bedankt to Lieke, Anneke, Hanne, and Ilse for organising! I really had a great day!
Will definitely be coming to Antwerp for a visit soon, although maybe I should dust off my Dutch textbook first...


Violet blouse and buttonhole blunders

Here are some photos of my Colette patterns Violet blouse as promised. I finally added the buttons. I was initially going to use red buttons but then these green ones caught my eye and I decided to go with them instead.

The delay in the buttons being added was due to a slight mishap with the one-step buttonhole function on my Mum's sewing machine, which I was using back home in Scotland over Christmas. I just couldn't get it to work! After much initial panic that I'd broken my Mum's machine I decided to wait till I got back to Belgium and use my own machine's 4-step button function. It actually turns out that it was indeed a fault with my Mum's machine (and not my clumsy nature) as she took it to be serviced to find out what the problem was.

The man in the shop said that a crucial piece of plastic had come loose inside and it would cost a ridiculous amount to replace. So my Mum will just have to do without her one-step buttonhole function and use her old machine instead for buttonholes. Interestingly, the sewing machine repair man said he saw this type of problem quite often and that he was always disappointed when he went 'under the bonnet' of seemingly 'good quality' machines to find lots of flimsy plastic inside! A reminder that it is useful to really know your machine, inside and out. This is something I definitely need to learn about! Incidentally, here is an interesting post from Madalynne on the subject.

But back to the blouse and the buttons. I actually inherited a rather large button collection that should keep me going for a while, a mix of both my Granny's collections. So I shouldn't run out of buttons anytime soon.



I didn't make any alterations to the pattern at all. I'll definitely be making it up again. The fabric was cotton lawn left over from ages ago when I made the Colette Sorbetto top.

Now I just have the urge to add peter pan collars to everything!




Book review: The Great British Sewing Bee


The Great British Sewing Bee book was waiting for me under the Christmas tree this year. Santa Claus must have known that as soon as I heard about the programme's existence I fervently downloaded it all so I could watch it here in Belgium, a land where accessing BBC iplayer ain't possible, even for UK passport holders in exile like myself.

It's a great read and if you were a fan of the programme you'll probably like the book. What I actually think makes it a good book is that it doesn't really dwell on the programme itself too much, or the contestants: luckily the author, Tessa Evelegh, has put together a varied selection of patterns and projects that aim to inspire beginners and established stitchers alike; the book is not made up of filler recapping the series or profiling the contestants. Not to say that would not be interesting, but if you have seen the programme then you probably know all that already.

I've made up one pattern so far, the tunic top/dress pattern that is included with the book (the other patterns can be accessed online and downloaded). I made it up in some black corduroy that my Mum had stocked away for years unused. It's a nice simple pattern to make and it is the first time I've actually got my head around how to do a facing that conceals both the neckline and armhole edges in a 'clean' way. Maybe this is obvious to others but it has taken me so long to work this out! I'll maybe try to do a post on it one day with photos as I have no idea how to explain it in words! So from that respect the pattern was a great exercise as I really learnt a new skill. I hope to use the pattern again with a different type of fabric. It's probably a good pattern to have for adapting as it is nice and simple. Next time I would definitely lower the armholes slightly as they are a wee bit tight, but maybe that's more to do with the corduroy! It's the first time I've made something in corduroy and it was great for keeping warm when blasted with extreme Scottish gales.



Given the title of the series and the general tendency in the UK at the moment for everything from supermarket produce to advertising to hark back to this imagined idea of 'Blighty in the olden days' where everything was just 'spiffing' and we all sat around doing twee things draped in bunting and thinking of how we could best serve our Queen and country, I had feared that the programme would be a bit annoying but I was happily proved wrong! Not that I have anything against bunting. I'm just happy the producers didn't make the programme too cringy as I don't think that's a way to inspire people to sew. I thought the programme was excellent as it really showed how much all the contestants got out of sewing and I was pleased that it stuck to telling the viewer about the competition and presenting the projects in as much detail as was possible for a TV show that has to appeal to a wide audience and not just sewing fanatics.

And the book continues in this vein. I don't think any sewing book can be used in isolation and no book can ever be a complete compendium of a given subject so it is unfair to expect that. For example, if I was a complete beginner I would probably still be crying over that facing insertion. It was my previous knowledge as well as other books and blogs that helped me to my 'Eureka' moment, in combination with the GBSB book.

Most of all I like that the book has opened up my eyes slightly to the possibilities of sewing non-clothing items. While clothes are my immediate priority it would be nice to have a go at making cushions and curtains at some point!

Overall I think the book is a lovely way to inspire someone to get into sewing and a good reference for those already at it, although not an essential one.


Bonne Année

My Christmas holidays were largely spent occupying my parent's dining room with sewing and pattern tracing activities. Here is a photo of my nearly finished Violet blouse. Really happy with the collar and just the buttons to do now! Will do a post on the finished item soon.

So at the calendar's turn 2014 has arrived and with it the chance to reflect on what has passed and look towards what is to come, but this year I'm going to try not to put any pressure on myself and let what happens happen!

So I won't set any unrealistic sewing goals, I'll just take this advice from Lladybird and make sure to use my time effectively to sew whenever possible. I do disagree with her on one point though, I don't believe you should finish every project, if it is not working out or you realise you won't ever wear it - abandon ship! Life's too short. You could adapt it into something else or salvage the material and use it for a future project.

The main thing I'll try to do is keep in mind that I want to learn dressmaking because I enjoy it and not make it into something stressful.

I also read this quote recently from American author Ira Glass (as quoted in Tavi's Rookiemag January Editor's letter) and I think it is really interesting:

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.” 

When I read it I really felt it applied a lot to my relationship with sewing, I'm constantly thinking I'm not 'good enough' etc. but I'm actually just disappointed because I've set high standards for myself! But rather than feel despondent I should use this feeling of wanting to improve to drive me to make more! And we should all pat ourselves on the back for trying as even if it doesn't feel like it we are improving. Look at the first thing you made and look at the last. I remember a time when I couldn't even sew a zip, something I can do automatically now, let alone set in a sleeve or a collar! I remember when I didn't press any seams! So the only way is up! I'm just going to try and enjoy the journey and not make myself ill trying.

So I hope 2014 is a happy and peaceful year for you!

p.s. I think making new years resolutions is totally ok if it works for you but here is a really interesting post (from a non-sewing blog) that says if we want to do something or make a change in our lives we can do it anytime!

p.p.s. Very much looking forward to taking part in the Belgian/Dutch sewing blogger meet up on 18 January!