Fully dressed

As you will have gathered I love this dress pattern (New Look 6020). I’ve made it and adapted it so many times, moving the zip from the side to the back, lining the bodice, adding pockets, a tie belt, and halter neck. I love wearing the dresses with one of my colourful 1950s style flouncy petticoats. I’ve made a plain black version for work, this being only the second dress where I purposely bought the fabric off the bolt (the other is the Union Jack dress which I made for Goodwood Revival). Every other dress has been made from a pre-loved duvet, curtain, tablecloth, sheet – or the fabric has been given to me. I can’t resist a bargain.

It is inevitably the fabric design that I am drawn to but also the unusual nature of some patterns.  It has resulted in some striking dresses – the bold blue Dr Who and vibrant Incredibles and Sonic being notable examples. I really enjoyed wearing the London Underground dress (made as a two piece)  in the shop of the London Transport Museum – travelling on the underground that day too. I loved wearing the vintage Christmas dress (green, top row) last December. The beautiful spring flower dress (second row, third from left) made from my mother’s old curtains – and always feel like Maria in the Sound of Music when I do so (you’ll remember the scene – she makes the ‘play clothes’ for the Von Trapp children from her bedroom curtains). There is likely to be at least one more as I have a Buzz Lightyear duvet just waiting to be refashioned.

All the dresses

I have no space left in my wardrobe now, so I’m trying to curb my dress making obsession for now. But I do have some plush black, brilliant red, and vibrant pink fabrics in my stash. I know that I could find a new pattern, and maybe I will. And I certainly can’t promise not to buy a duvet if the design is right!

And for the novice sewers amongst you – this pattern really IS easy. And with any pattern, when you get used to how it works and if you can fit the pattern to your own shape, you’re onto a winner. And actually, a tip is to make it for the first time out of an old sheet – not to wear out necessarily but to get to grips with exactly how the pattern makes up, before you make one from the right fabric. It will increase your confidence and that is a huge bonus, as well as creating a unique outfit for the person that you are.


Bottoms up!

There’s been a pair of linen trousers in my wardrobe that I’ve had for years. I love the colour, but I haven’t worn them for ages. I have a sneaking suspicion that they make my bum look big. So they kept getting left hanging, and several times have been consigned to a charity bag only to be taken out because I really do love the fabric.

It was the same with a skirt I’d bought for £1. I loved the bold flowers on their black background. But this time the skirt was  on the tight side so remained unworn, but I couldn’t just pass it on because I liked the fabric pattern. In my current sewing spree (which threatens to get out of control!) both garments have been reappraised.

The blue trousers are now a top, perfect for the summer – and being plain (much needed in my wardrobe to help coordinate outfits). As before I adapted the bodice section of my favourite dress pattern  but making it less tight. The bias binding strip has been cut from an old pillowcase. Bias binding is so easy to make and a good way to finish armholes, hems and necklines. There are little devices that you can buy to help form the strip too.

The skirt has also become a top. I cut off the waistband and removed the zip. I had to carefully open up the pleats in the top of the skirt using a quick-unpick, to give me a full length of fabric to work with.

I’m particularly pleased with this particular pattern (included in New Look 6080). It couldn’t be simpler or quicker to make. Although I put a short zip into the back  the instructions don’t call for it. It will make it easier to take on and off.

I kept the original care label and sewed it into a side seam (though I do know how to wash cotton!) something that I try to do with most outfits. I’m particularly happy with the cap sleeves here. I shall be returning to my fabric stash to make this top again. Once more I’ve created new from old and I’m delighted with my new wardrobe additions, and just in the nick of time with a summer holiday to plan for.

Putting a halt to my dressmaking

What really –  stopping making clothes? No, of course not – I’m far too addicted. Well, I say addicted, but really it is a constant desire to refine, adapt and challenge myself. I get an idea and I want to see if it works. And so, with a summer holiday to plan for, it was inevitably that I turned once again to my favourite dress pattern.

I decided to combine the pattern with the halter-neck waistcoat pattern that I’ve also used  before. As for my choice of fabric I had a bed sheet (still crispy so never used) bought for just £2 from Emmaus. This would serve as a test in many respects to see if I could make the idea work, rather than using expensive fabric and getting it wrong. All I needed to do was buy a zip.

The waistcoat pattern needed adapting in that I wanted the front section in a single piece, not two halves. The lower edges of the waistcoat had to be shortened to attach it at the waist of the skirt section of my dress pattern (effectively replacing the bodice). I also needed to extend the neck piece by adding ties rather than it be in a closed loop.

This was all fairly straightforward enough, though I also decided that I wanted to line the dress. This would give the bodice more structure, as well as dispensing with the need to edge it with bias binding. And by lining the skirt too it made the outer fabric less transparent. Luckily I already had some pale lemon coloured fabric which co-ordinated perfectly.


I pinned and adjusted the halter-neck bodice as I went along until I was happy with the fit. I did the lining side seams first and checked the fit there, before sewing the outer fabric. Sewing the skirt section was now as easy as pie  (and it has the two pockets that I usually put in). The lining and outer dress are attached around the top of the bodice, and again at the zipper. I have caught the two together at the waist side seam for a few stitches on the inside. Both are hemmed separately. I’m very happy with the results. I will certainly be making this style of dress again, another holiday version and quite possibly an ‘evening out’ version too.

You may remember a while ago that I posted about the bargain  tablecloth I’d found at IKEA. This has now been made into a skirt and a top. The top is so simple, adapted from the bodice section of my usual dress pattern. Instead of adding a peplum (as with the Underground top) I  lengthened the pieces at the waist, slightly flaring them to give a better shape. I used a zip rather than buttons as a closure. The zipper is fitted so that it undoes from the hem to the neckline of the top. Both top and skirt have been finished off with white bias binding (cutting up an old cotton sheet to provide the strips).

Dressing up pirate

I love this child’s duvet cover from the retailer Next with its pattern of pirates, each side with a variation of the design. Multi-images like these are always good for turning into skirts or dresses.

Once again I used my favourite pattern. This time though because of the way the pirate figures were aligned I dispensed with the skirt pattern pieces. Instead I cut and gathered two panel widths. I also decided not to make the bodices out of the same fabric but to chose a plain fabric instead (something that I will repeat in the future I’m sure). With the red bodice dress this meant appropriating the gingham band into the finished dress. For the hem the gingham has been cut from the top of the skirt sections and sewn at the bottom. I used a contrasting ‘dotty’ fabric to make bias binding for the armholes and neckline. As you can see I didn’t make a tie belt but instead utilised an elasticated one I’d made earlier (must make one in red).

pirate dresses

For the blue pirate fabric (the quilt’s reverse side) I bought a piece of white cotton drill for the bodice section. This fabric has a lovely weight to it and is great to sew. The armholes and neckline have been edged with bias binding made from an old shirt, left over from one of my previous projects. Each dress has a zip at the back and no pockets.

The duvet dresses that I make work really well with 1950s style net petticoats (inexpensive on Amazon). Wearing this dress today I passed by a woman who remarked upon it, saying that it reminded her of her teenage years back in the 50s.  Last week I was up at the London Transport Museum shop in my London Underground dress (THE perfect place to show it off). My dress was much admired by the staff. One aspect of wearing dresses like this is that they do have a nod to vintage style – and vintage style is proper dressing, not the unisex jeans and tee shirt combination. Vintage style also flatters all ages. The summer is perfect for dresses and I’d urge every woman to feel floaty and feminine in a frock like this (pirates optional!).

A little sew & sew

I’ve been busy with various sewing projects in the last  week which has been very satisfying.

Having had remnants of a fabric with a bicycle design on for a while I thought that it was high time that I used it up.  Some of the fabric went to make a new top – one based on the bodice section on my favourite dress pattern (as done so with the London Underground fabric). But there was sufficient left over to trim two existing items of clothing. I cut a pair of trousers shorter and edged them in the bicycle’s contrast design (stripes). Then I added panels of the fabric to a lightweight blouse. The blouse was very transparent originally so this reduced that effect. I now have a set of three summer garments which co-ordinate. If you’re new to sewing this is one way of adapting existing garments that will give you confidence to try more!


Last week I bought a very long pinstriped pencil skirt in a charity shop but it was only when I got it home that I realised that it had a small L-shaped tear, each side of which being about 1cm. The cost of the skirt was negligible but the tear would notice if I’d sewn over it as a repair. I thought about using the skirt for it’s fabric and re-inventing it as a new garment. But the solution that I chose was easier – and could be one for anyone who has a tear or a small stain on a garment that they love, that proves obvious to the eye! I repaired the tear using a backing of iron-on interfacing, then did a zig-zag stitch over the top. Then I carefully sewed on a length of braid (gross-grain ribbon) down the whole length the skirt, going over the top of the repair. In the braid I had created a loop in which to make a flat bow as a decorative feature.



Thunderbirds are GO!

If you are a regular reader of my blog you’ll know that I can’t resist a bold duvet design. So you can imagine how I felt when I saw this Thunderbirds duvet in a charity shop. I loved the characters and the bright colours. Of course it was going to become a new addition to my wardrobe.

The design was done in such a way that by cutting the duvet into three I had two strips with the puppets, and one with the craft. Using the strips with the characters made creating this simple skirt the obvious choice rather than a dress. The pattern on the reverse of the fabric made the yoke – and there is more left over to transform into a top or a waistcoat. Job done – perfect for the summer!

A hem!

We’ve all seen those beautiful long column-like dresses, often with geometric or floral designs, in a slightly stretchy fabric – but often way too long! Does the retail market think that all women are over 6 foot tall? OK, maybe I’m just a short-arse, but this gave me an idea when I saw a brightly coloured dress at a bargain price.

Like everyone else I’m glad that the days are lengthening, and with the prospect of summer holidays with my lovely boyfriend, I thought the dress would make a welcome addition to my wardrobe. The original length was about floor length plus two inches trailing! I could have simply turned up a hem to make it floor length (and avoiding the trip hazard). I could have made it ankle length to still give that flowing evening appeal. But, I decided, if I took it up a ‘knicker’ height I could still rock the frock, but gain some matching undies in the process!

I love making knickers – it is so simple and there are plenty of instructions on the internet (I used this site http://verypurpleperson.com/2013/01/tutorial-sewing-panties/). If you are already adept at making your own clothes, simply de-construct a pair of knickers that you know fits, and re-make! Or you could make some as presents for others using inexpensive pairs (Primark?) as your template to work with.

I recently made a couple of pairs with a matching camisole top from a beautiful black stretch lace, another super fabric to get creative with. But I’ve made loads from various garments with a little stretch in them as long as the pattern has appealed. I’ve used ordinary elastic although you can buy ‘fancy’ edge elastic specifically for underwear it’s not vital if you have a stash of ordinary elastic available. Cutting off the length of fabric from this summer dress gave me enough fabric to make two new pairs of knickers.

I noticed on Facebook this morning a link to a pattern for a retro-style bikini, now there’s some more food for thought! Those summer days are going to be fun!

Summer dress