My collection of True Bias Southport Dresses

The proof in the pudding of a new project is how much wear it gets. There have been things in the past which I’ve initially been in love with, only to later realise it was just a short lived crush left to languish in the wardrobe only to see the light of day for an annual Me Made May outing (I’m looking at you Farrow) On the other end of the scale are those lasting true loves that you can fall back on again and again.

The UK, along with much of the northern hemisphere, has been experiencing a heatwave for weeks (a quick look back at my Instagram Me Made May posts shows the last time I needed to wear a cardigan was the 30th May)  Anything slightly fitted or with sleeves has been uncomfortable to wear and a combination of heat and hormones has led me to be a couple of sizes bigger at the end of the day than I am in the morning. The True Bias Southport dress has been my saviour and I can’t praise it enough; sleeveless, loose and with a drawstring waist, it has made the heatwave bearable. My first one was made three years ago and was a lengthened version of view A.  When I came to blog my latest one I realised I’d never got around to posting the previous two so I thought I’d do a catch up triple bill (warning for the picture heavy post ahead).

The Southport dress is a tank style dress designed to be worn as a coverup at the beach or a dress for around town. It has a button opening at centre front and a drawstring waist with inseam pockets. View A hits 20” from the waist. View B is maxi length and hits 42” from the waist and includes a centre front slit.
Suggested Fabrics:
Light weight, woven fabrics with movement such as cotton voile, rayon challis, crepe de chine, and lightweight linen.’

The size range is good, starting at 32-26-34 and going up to an 18 at 44.5-38.5-46.5. there’s three inches of ease at the bust and 5 inch over the hips. It’s an easy pattern to grade up or down if you are outside the size range.

I cut a size 16 (42.5-36.5-44.5) which is closet to my measurements (42-36-42) The most recent one is the Peacock print. The fabric is viscose and was a late night eBay find (I’d been on a stash diet but had a slight lapse) It was pictured draped over a mannequin with the ovals running vertically. However, when it arrived they actually ran on the cross grain, I decided to just go ahead and cut it across but as I only had two metres there was a bit of fudging needed. For once being 5ft 1in worked to my advantage, as I needed to shorten it by 7 inches I was just able to squeeze it on. The dress comes together really quickly, I omitted the button placket again, the first time was due to fabric restraints, the following two due to laziness and impatience. I used self made single fold bias tape to finish the armholes and neckline and finished all the seams on my overlocker.

My 2017 version is a lightweight viscose bought from Leeds market, I’m not sure how much it cost but it wasn’t more than £4 a metre;

2016 is a poly crepe from the rag market in Birmingham, I think it was £3 a metre;

The Southport really converted me to the wonders of the maxi-dress, I have lived in them for the past few weeks (and the past few summers) and feel quite put together whilst being wonderfully comfortable, it’s certainly made getting dressed in the morning very easy.

We’re not used to prolonged heat in the UK, most summers necessitate the need for a cardigan and the occasional waterproof and any period of sunshine is met with the scepticism that it will go as soon as the kids break up for the summer holidays. We’re now into the third week of the holidays and it shows no signs of abating. Maybe my other summer dresses will get a look in towards the end of the summer but for now my Southports remain in permanent rotation.

My Deer and Doe Myosotis

My Sewjo had taken a bit of a battering over the winter (major work worries which are now thankfully resolved) I kept chipping away here and there, mainly with quick and easy projects (I made three Sew Over It Heather dresses and lived in them all winter) but the enthusiasm just wasn’t there. I made most of a coat but decided I didn’t like it, I never got around to sewing in the lining which was all there was left to do. I knew it was serious when I decided to have a new year stash diet and didn’t miss buying fabric! It’s taken a few months but I think inspiration has finally returned.

The pattern to rekindle my enthusiasm was unsurprisingly a Deer and Doe; the newly released Myosotis dress. I’m an unashamed Deer and Doe fan girl, in a desert island situation I would quite happily be marooned with just their back catalog and be perfectly content to sew nothing else. They’re a good fit for my body shape, well drafted, everything fits together perfectly and there’s never the need to ‘fudge’ anything. They are basically a real joy to sew (and sewing is supposed to be a joy isn’t it?)

There’ve been a couple of developments with Deer and Doe’s last two collections, the most significant being the availability of patterns in PDF format, which is good news for sewists outside Europe. Another plus has been extending their size range (although the extra sizing is only available in PDF) I think this is a really good move on their part, making the patterns much more accessible and inclusive.

The Myosotis sizing ranges from 32-24-34 to 41-33-43 in the printed pattern and up to 46-38-48 in PDF. Going by the finished measurements (which are true, I measured) there’s basically five inches of ease on top of each size.
I bought the printed pattern rather than the PDF, even though I was an inch or two over the biggest size (my measurements are currently around 42-35-42 depending on my mood and associated level of chocolate consumption) I figured there was plenty of ease so no real danger of it being too tight.

The fabric is a Liberty Lawn called Florence, bought from Standfast and Barracks on our way home from the Lake District two years ago. (I can’t find the same colourway but the brighter version is available here) It very nearly got used last year but it was a half hearted project and I’m glad I hung onto it.
I had two and a half meters, 53 inches wide (sorry for mixing units) and with a bit of creative cutting was left with a piece just a bit bigger than a fat quarter (potentially one pair of knickers and a couple of meters of bias binding) I’ve another version planned but only have two meters of fabric, I think I’ll need to find a contrasting fabric for the facings, pocket bags and under collar.

I opted for view B, the appeal of the plain dress was it’s potential to be another Sureau in my wardrobe, I’ve made four and they’re probably my most worn woven dresses, great in winter with tights and boots or in Spring/Summer with sandals (They’re what I reach for when I can’t decide what to wear)

The dress is straight forward, front facings are topstitched to form the button band with three functional buttons (although it’s easily slipped over the head so could be stitched closed) I used half inch purple mother of pearl, if you want to use bigger buttons you’ll need to increase the distance of topstitching to accommodate them. The stand collar sits nicely and was easy to attach. The skirt is simply gathered (the buttons don’t continue below the waist) and of course, it has pockets. All in all it was quite a quick sew.

So what about the finished dress, did it live up to my expectations? Definitely, it’s the first thing I’ve sewn this year that I’ve really enjoyed and has done the trick with relighting my Sewjo. It’s very ‘me’ and I feel comfortable wearing it. The loose fit is wonderful in the hot weather we’ve been having. I’ve only worn it once so far, I’ve been taking part in Me Made May again this year and have pledged to have no repeat outfits, come June though it will be difficult to get me to take it off!

A nice little extra, as Myosotis is the Latin name for forget-me-nots it’s coincidentally been released as they are flowering. There’s some dotted around in my pictures but I took a close up, they really are one of the prettiest flowers around!

My Named Lourdes Jacket

This jacket was quite long in the making, I started it in May as I really needed a little light jacket. It was nearly finished, just needing the lining putting in, but the weather suddenly warmed up and I went on a summer dress sewing spree instead. I finally got around to finishing it a few weeks ago and as the weather has dipped into Autumn I’m rather glad I have it. It’s the Lourdes jacket from Named:

• Cropped A-line jacket
• Inverted pleat at the back
• Boat neck with rounded front corners
• ¾ sleeve with a dolphin hem
• Fake pockets, sewn in the waist darts at front
• Closure with five buttons
• The jacket is fully lined
• Choose a medium weight fabric, for example tweed, light boucle or other wool or cotton blend.

I chose the pattern mainly because of my past experience with Named (my Kielo, Talvikki and Tuuli) I really enjoyed sewing these, each one being completely stress free. I pondered on what fabric to use, initially I was going to use it as an excuse to fabric shop but decided to see what I already had in the stash. I’d bought 3 metres of this floral medium weight Linen last summer, a bargain at £2 a metre (From Economy Fabrics, just off junction 29 of the M1) I decided to take a gamble with it, the other half wasn’t convinced as he thought it looked like curtain fabric. I chose to ignore him and went ahead regardless.

The size range starts at a EU 32 which is a US 0 and UK 4 and goes up to a EU 46 Us 14 UK 18. Interestingly the size chart only contains the actual garment measurement (the bust range is 35 ¼ – 46 ¼ and the waist 36 – 46 ¾) I really wish all pattern companies did this, it makes it so much easier to pick a size rather than going on arbitrary body measurements and trying to figure out how much ease has been added.
I cut the largest size a UK 18. Helpfully the chart includes the finished bicep measurements, I’ve had problems in the past with sleeves being too tight, I have quite chunky biceps due to work and the right one is a full inch bigger than the left (it took me two years to realise this)

 

It came together very quickly; the only tricky part was the dolphin hem of the sleeve. I sewed as far as I could on my machine and hand stitched the rest. I really went to town with the pressing as I went along and used the tailors’ clapper my father in law made for me. This has made a significant difference to the finished jacket, particularly the sleeve hem. For the lining, I decided to go for some plain navy rayon, anything else would likely have clashed horribly. I made covered buttons with some navy cotton poplin from the scrap bag (justification there for saving all those little leftovers!)

I really enjoyed sewing this, the drafting is good and everything fits together perfectly. It was quick and easy to make, an ideal project for an advanced beginner wanting to dip their toe into outerwear. The fake pockets have got a bit lost in the print and I would have preferred them to be functional but I think it would be easy to convert them to a proper welt pocket. Although it’s a very simple jacket the dolphin sleeves and inverted pleat at the back really elevate it. I’m pleased I went with the navy buttons and lining as it is nicely understated and works perfectly with the print. The husband’s admitted that it doesn’t look like it’s made from a curtain after all!

 

My Cross-Back Japanese Apron

I’ve often admired the style of Japanese pattern books; the clothes look so stylish and understated. I’ve resisted buying any as the size range is usually tiny and would need some serious grading up (plus the instructions are in Japanese!) One thing I’ve really wanted however is a cross back apron.

Simplicity 5201 and 7481 are the only commercial pattern I’ve found but both are out of print and fetching over £35 online. There are many tutorials of how to draft your own but after a little browsing of Pinterest I came across a free PDF pattern from Japanesesewingbooks.com. Patterns are available for both adults and children and there’s a very good video tutorial of how to put it together.

I couldn’t see any measurements for the adult pattern but knew I would have to size it up a bit (I’m a UK 14-16) I added 2 inches to the centre front and an inch to each side seam.

I used two meters of medium weight denim from the stash (I’d made the mistake of pre-washing it when it was folded and subsequently had a faded fold line down the front) It was very quick and easy to sew, there are only two pattern pieces (and one of those is the facing)

The edges are finished with bias binding which can be exposed or faced under. I used possibly six metres (just guessing but it was a lot) I’d made around 25 meters of single fold binding using remnants of Liberty Lawn a couple of months ago, it’s proved to be time well spent. I added the pockets myself as they are none included in the pattern.

(I’ve just realised one of the straps is folded in this picture)

I’m incredibly happy with how it’s turned out, the denim makes it perfect for gardening (I have a habit of getting my hands covered in compost and wiping them on whatever I’m wearing) I’d like to make a Linen version to wear around the house for cooking and housework (although this would likely get a lot less use than the denim one as far as housework’s concerned!) All in all, it’s incredibly practical and far more stylish than a flowery apron!

 

My Sew Over It Heather Dress

I’d had my eye on the Sew Over It Heather dress since it was released.  Knit dresses are definitely the most worn things in my wardrobe and the Heather was quite different from the ones I already had.  It also had enormous pockets which is a big plus in my book.

Here’s the blurb:

If you live in knits, the Heather Dress sewing pattern is for you!

Versatile and super comfy, the Heather Dress is sure to be a wardrobe staple. A gorgeously chic jersey dress, Heather can be smart as well as casual and will keep you looking put-together and fab wherever you are; at work, for dinner out or just at home.

The Heather Dress has cleverly concealed in-seam pockets (always a winner!) and a panelled bodice which makes fitting a dream. With opportunities for colour blocking you can really make Heather your own. Stay subtle in a solid fabric, go jazzy in a print, or go bold and mix the two to make a feature of the lines. There are three sleeve options to suit the seasons – choose from a short capped sleeve, 3/4 length or full length.

I made a concerted effort to get out of my blue comfort zone and opted for a green and black floral Ponte from the Textile Centre’s eBay store.

The pattern has a good range of sizes from an 8 (33-26-36) to a 20 (45-38-48)

I cut a size 16 (41-34-44) which was the closest to my own measurements.  The finished measurements for a size 16 are 41-40-46.5.

The dress came together quickly and easily, I used my overlocker throughout but it would be equally easy to use a standard machine.  I had a bit of a problem with the fabric stretching out on the side seam near the pocket and along the hem.  I overlocked the hem before turning up and finishing with a twin needle, I think it was the overlocking which stretched it out and caused the subsequent rippling.

Although the dress fitted well through the shoulders and bust it came up very large through the waist and hips.  I took a good inch off each side which slimmed it down a bit.  Next time I’ll grade down at least two sizes through the waist and hips.

Overall I’m pleased with the finished dress, it’s perfect for pottering about the house and garden and I love the big pockets.  I’ve already bought more fabric to make another one, it’s a heather Ponte so it will be a heather Heather dress!

My day out at Love Sewing Magazine wearing Butterick 5488

A couple of months ago Amy, the editor of Love Sewing Magazine, got in touch to see if I’d like to review one of the upcoming free patterns.  I was happy to give it a go as I’d been in the sewing doldrums and hoped a bit of a challenge would bring me out of it.  I was a little concerned about getting a half decent picture when Amy asked if I would like to go and do a proper photo shoot; hair, make up and everything!  They wanted to showcase readers makes but also show them on real bodies.  I must admit to being a little apprehensive, it’s one thing taking a few photos in the back garden to put on a blog but being in a national magazine (the UK’s No 1 sewing mag) took it to another level.  But my family encouraged me to do it, saying I’d never done anything like it before and may never get the chance to do it again!

So one bright morning in February I ventured across the Derbyshire Peaks to their studio in Stockport.  Amy was first up modelling her Vogue eve appeal dress which looked stunning.  Meanwhile, Nina did my hair and makeup. I’d worn black tights and taken my blue wedding shoes to wear but Denise the shoot director persuaded me that blue tights and blue suede heels would look better in the pictures (I was worried I’d look like a Smurf but looking at the photos she was so right, I could really do with her restyling me every morning before I leave the house!) Then it was my turn in front of Renata’s camera.

Who knew modelling could be so difficult? I quickly exhausted my blog photo poses (hands by side, hand on hip, I couldn’t do the usual hands in pockets as I didn’t have any!) I was at a bit of a loss what to do so went to my default setting of giggling and messing around.  The problem was I screwed my eyes up when I laughed so I had to try and master smiling with my eyes open.  I was a bit worried they wouldn’t get a single shot of me with a straight face but after taking umpty nine photos (along with some of me and Amy giggling) they were satisfied with what they had.  (Renata also took a couple of head shots which now grace all my online profiles, I only wish I could use it for my driving license!)    

Anyway, here’s the review and loads of photos.  (I’ll post the full text of the review afterwards in case the snapshot is unreadable) 

 

 

I’d just like to say a big thanks to Amy, Nina, Denise and Renata for making me feel so comfortable and making it a day I’ll never forget!    

Here’s the review:

I think it’s sometimes easy to be put off a pattern due to the way it’s been styled on the front of the envelope.  Bearing this in mind I wouldn’t have initially been drawn to this pattern but going by the line drawing I could see that it had potential.

The fabric I used was a midnight blue animal print Crepe de Chine from the Fabric Godmother. Very lightweight and floaty with a lovely drape to it.  After a test sew I decided to use a size 70 needle and a slightly shorter stitch length to minimise the risk of puckering, which is one of the pitfalls of sewing with fine fabrics.

Although my measurements (42-34-42) put me at size 20 I know from experience that Butterick patterns come up large on me so decided to size down to an 18.

I made a quick muslin before cutting into the good stuff and although the fit was fine around the yoke and bust there was a lot of ease in the dress and it came up very large.  There’s no shaping to the dress so it’s straight up and down.  The pleats at the back also produced a lot of volume which is a place where it isn’t necessarily needed.  I decided to tweak it a little and add a bit of shaping. I graded right down to a 12 at the waist and then graded out to a 26 towards the hem to give it a bit of flare around the bottom.

As the fabric was very lightweight I used Vilene superfine interfacing on both the yoke and yoke facing which gave it an extra bit of stability.  I used French seams throughout and it came together very quickly.  The most time-consuming part was sewing the yoke.

The grading between sizes seems to have worked quite well and I am much happier with how the dress falls now.  It has also pulled in the back a little across the waist but there is still a lot of volume above.  I think pinching out a couple of the pleats at the back might help reduce this.

Advantages: quick and easy to make, no fastenings so easy to throw on.

Disadvantages: a lot of extra ease and unnecessary volume at the back (but these can be fixed with a bit of tweaking).

It’s quite a difficult dress to fit as you go along, it’s impossible to try it on until the yoke is attached (by which time the dress is essentially finished)  One option would be to only sew the top few inches of the side and back seams and then add the yoke.  This gives the opportunity to tweak the fit of the dress before finishing the seams.

It’s an ideal dress for summer, the loose fit is perfect for hot days when you don’t want to be restricted by anything fitted.  There’s also the option to shorten the dress into a top, which is what I plan to do with the muslin I made.  I think fabric choice is key to making this pattern work, it really needs to be fairly lightweight with plenty of drape, anything with a bit of body could have the potential to look bulky. I would add in seam pockets next time, one of the best things about sewing your own clothes is the opportunity to add pockets to everything!

My Named Talvikki Sweater

Sewing dresses is all well and good but I’m in desperate need of some basics.  It’s been a while since I made any tops, and the T-shirts and sweatshirts in my wardrobe are looking a little well worn.  Bearing this in mind, and needing something warm and cosy to layer up, I embarked on making a Named Talvikki Sweater.  It was seeing Shauni’s at the last SewBrum meet up that led me to add it to my ‘to sew’ list. Here’s the blurb:

·       Oversized and cuddly sweater

·       Turtleneck with darts on the neckline

·       Dropped shoulder and extra long sleeves

·       Deep vents at the sides, and an uneven hemline

·       Pick a medium-weight to heavy stretch fabric with at least 30 % stretch. For example sweatshirt jersey, cable knit, knit fleece or a boiled wool.

My fabric is a heather Ponte from the Fabworks Mill shop which I bought at the Sew Down Dewsbury meet up.  As with other Named patterns there’s a good size range, from a UK 4 (30-23-33) up to a 22 (46-39-48) I cut a size 16/18 but shortened the body and sleeves by two inches.   

It was impossible to use chalk or frixion to mark the darts so I used tailors tacks instead.  It’s critical to sew the darts perfectly to form the structure of the turtleneck.  I sewed the shoulder seams and attached the sleeves with my overlocker, then finished the sleeve and side seams by overlocking down each side before using my normal machine to stitch them together.  I reduced the length of the back hem by an inch just to get it in proportion to my height, and used a slightly long straight stitch to finish the hem and sleeves.  The neckline is finished with a facing which is easily kept in place by tacking it to each dart and shoulder seam.

Looking at the pictures I really should have given it a press beforehand but I was a bit eager to wear it (the hem ripples have straightened with a good press since).  I was a little worried that it was too ‘oversized’ but after putting it on realised that the ‘cuddly’ description was very true and the fabric lends itself perfectly to the pattern.  There’s a lot of volume in the sleeves which I was initially not sure about, but after wearing it a couple of times it doesn’t seem to be an issue.    

 

 I intended to only buy knit fabric at the Dewsbury meet up.  I did very well but a couple of woven pieces sneaked in, a navy version of the floral I used to make my Bruyere and I couldn’t resist the bees. 

I’m going to try and focus on practical sewing for the time being, Spring is here and I really need some more T-shirts. I’m thinking of trying something different from my TNT Plantain, Hemlock and Kirsten (all free to download, all excellent patterns) I’ve just got one more dress to finish off before I can get started!