Tag Archives: dress

Starting my 2019 “Make Nine”

17 Feb

At the very start of the year I went through my clothes patterns to think about why I haven’t used most of them yet, and to plan whether and how to use them this year. I picked out nine that I wanted to try to use this year – inadvertently setting my own Make Nine challenge! I think that it was started by Lucky Lucille setting herself the challenge back in 2015. Here was mine, with the first one completed today!


I really loved having this little square (/rectangle) of projects to choose from! I was a little worried that I would feel stressed to do it since I “commited”, but actually, having the list just meant I reserved some time for myself instead of trying to find more things to make for others!

So… onto my making this dress!

I got this pattern from a charity shop (in Halstead, Essex) for just £1! I felt very lucky. And the black fabric is a cotton crepe from a shop on Goldhawk Road in London (the one nearest the market, but I can’t remember it’s name…maybe A-one?), just £10 for 2.5 yards! Plenty for a dress ☺️


For the first time, I paid close attention to what fabric the pattern recommended. The two times I made dresses previously, my lack of planning had mixed results – the basic stretch cotton worked well on my New Look 6495, but I think the New Look 6431 needed a fabric with much more drape. The pattern calls for “medium weight knits and wovens”, and I thought this black crepe would work perfectly for View B.


Yes, I am actually that pale…! It’s a shame you can’t see the pattern on the fabric from here, but it makes a simple black dress look so nice. I am not a big fan of this neckline, it looks like it’s trying to be a bit of a halter neck.

Unfortunately, like with my previous two dresses, I still couldn’t get the back to fit nicely. I am pleased with waist/hip fit at the front though!

I spent two Saturdays sewing (last weekend and this weekend), I had the zip in and ready to try on. I’d worked hard, for the first time, to make sure that the inside was neat and that the very, very fraying fabric would not come undone in the wash. I even bought an overcast foot and found out that my sewing machine (Singer 4423) has an overcast stitch!!

I still haven’t decided whether I prefer the overcast stitch or the zig zag for enclosing seams. The overcast stitch looks neater but I’m struggling to believe it will hold in the wash. Time will tell, I guess! Do you have any tips for how to use the overcast foot and stitch?

Even if I don’t use it with the overcast stitch, the overcast foot makes zig zag edging SO MUCH neater – I’m not going back!

So, I now had a nice, neat dress, just waiting to be hemmed and pressed. And it was not good.

The waist was too big.

The shoulders were falling off.

The chest was gaping SO much.

There was a LOT of bunching at the back.

I didn’t understand, as I’d thought carefully about the sizing. With my measurements (B 37, W 32, H 45), my bust was at the bottom end of M, waist in the middle of L, and hips at the lower end of XL. I don’t mind a closely fitting hip so went for a M bodice, and the skirt was a M at the top but graded to a L a few inches down.

So, I made some changes.

First I took 2.5″ out of each side at the neck back, with two darts reaching down to meet the original darts that reach up from the waist (if that makes sense?). I also took another 1″ out from each side at the waist.

The waist fit a bit better, but the neck seemed too squeezed, and the back started gaping. Forget the neatness of darts (I think it was at this point that I declared to my boyfriend that this dress shall henceforth be known as a wearable muslin…), I reduced the dart at the neck to about 1.5″, increased the waist reduction to 1.5″ (so it was less a dart and now just taking out a chunk, I guess a bit like a princess seam), and took out 2″ from the in between bits (all from each side, so 3″, 3″, and 4″ overall).

I think it now looks nice from the front – not perfect, but nice enough to wear out… If I have a cardigan hiding the back. Plus I’m not a big fan of the sleeves – they are much bigger than I thought they would be.

What do you do if the front fits well, but the back is far too large throughout?

I thought an FBA could be the answer to my problems but when I tried it on the New Look 6431 pattern (which I didn’t write about on this blog because it went so badly) it just didn’t seem to work. As I seemed to fit this pattern’s stated measurements well I thought I’d be safe but clearly this will haunt me if I don’t sort it out before I try another dress or top…

So I am happy with it, especially as this fabric is so comfy to wear, and think I’ll wear it when I’m out and about but not to work or “out out”. I am really proud of how neat I made the insides, and that I learned a few things:

  • How to insert sleeves, including ease gathering.
  • How to use an overcast stitch and an overcast foot.
  • How to make a double lapped zipper (this might not be the right name? There’s two vertical flaps which open in the middle to reveal the zip).
  • I learned how to do a machine blind hem – in future I might try to hand sew it, but by the time I got there I had decided it was a wearable muslin so was much less bothered about the finish.

I’m looking forward to getting on with the rest of my nine items for 2019!

Maybe I should think about attending a sewing fitting class? Has anyone attended one and found it useful?


A new spring dress (and I’ve already worn it out!)

29 Apr

I made another dress! I got this fabric from Goldhawk Road (like most of my fabrics), for about £5/metre  as a cheap way to practice sewing with knits (I think I needed two metres, but there seems to be about half a metre left over). Thankfully I already had stretch machine needles left over from hemming a knit dress for my mum years ago. I got New Look 6495 for galf price from Hobbycraft :D

I was keen to put this one together as I cut out the fabric ages ago, and since my last dress (New Look 6431) showed some fit issues with a woven, I thought it’d be good to get a knit done so I can have one of each done without adjustments before moving on to FBAs etc. It took me about 8 hours to put this together, after having cut the fabric out ages ago – but I am a slow sewer and also had to unstitch one armhole and half the zip!


It fits a lot better than the woven – but it’s a smaller top (12) in a knit so the better fit makes sense! The skirt was a 16. I’ve always needed my skirts 1-3 sizes larger than my tops, so well-fitting dresses are hard to come by, so I am quite happy with the fit of this one as a starting point.

I wore this out for breakfast/brunch today, and can definitely see myself wearing it out again (but with a cardigan to hide the imperfect back). I do need to improve my finishing:

  1. The neckline and armholes aren’t sitting flat. Maybe the top is still one size too big, and needs a small FBA? The neckline facing worked well on my last dress but that made closing/adding the zip at the back really messy/difficult. So I’m not sure what to do except practice and go slow, but I think trying an FBA on a cheap fabric is worth a shot.
  2. The back pieces (two bodice and skirt) don’t line up, by as much as 2cm. There was about 1cm of shift in the last dress too. I can match up pieces/notches fine but things move around when I put the zip in. That said, the invisible zip itself is fine thanks to this guide from ByHandLondon.
  3. My zips are messy both at the top and bottom – I hand stitched at the bottom as I couldn’t get the sewing machine to do the first inch! The top of my last dress zip was also very messy. Maybe I need practice?

This was an easy make, and I will definitely make it again! Mostly, I am enjoying working out how to make dresses and I’m really looking forward to making them fit. But for now, I have a few other mini projects: an ereader cover, a bag holder, a tote bag, a RTW dress adjustment, and some pot holders. It’s great having my machine back :D

I finally made my first dress!

14 Apr

Having bought my sewing machine around five years ago, I’ve finally made my first dress! :-)

I got this lovely red cotton, with lots of tiny white stars, from Goldhawk Road. I knew I wanted to use it for a red skirt on a dress, with a black top. So, when I saw New Look 6431 I thought view B could be just right for letting the black and red balance each other out. I think it widths well!

I wasn’t expecting it to be easy, but it was even more of a challenge than I had been expecting!

The neckline pleats and interfacing proved trickier than I thought they would be, logistically, but they turned out quite nicely.

Getting the neckline interfacing done was a bit tricky, and I did it wrong a couple of times, but eventually I followed the guide at Tilly and the Buttons and I was really happy when it eventually worked and sits flat.

Then I had to deal with the armhole bias binding – I had no idea what I was doing and the pattern was confusing, as I mentioned in my previous post and seesawyer helped me out by commenting with the answer! For the future I found this tutorial with pictures.

Attaching the skirt was easy peasy, so no problems there! Hemming it at the end was also fine, except at that point suddenly my machine decided that it needed a higher tension – I had been using 3.5 all throughout, but now it needed 6…

Adding the zip was pretty difficult! I was worried as soon as I saw that the pattern needed a normal, not an invisible, zip. The guide by Nancy Zieman guide was super helpful. Nonetheless, I had a couple of problems – first my lap wasn’t wide enough to cover the zipper pull at the top. Then, the LHS of the dress/top was longer, so it went about 3/8″ longer than the RHS, so I had to try and shorten that before attaching the hook. I think this will be something for me to work on more in future – hopefully it gets easier with practice!

Overall, I am happy but will have to sort out some sizing issues before it is wearable. You can see here that the top is far too large in the back, and it is also too large in the waist (my waist-hip ratio is high, so I find tops have to be well-fitted for an overall outfit to be flattering). I chose a size 16 top, with a size 18 skirt, but I think that maybe I should have chosen a smaller size top and did a full bust adjustment (I guess patterns aren’t made for an E as standard!).

Next time I will definitely look at doing an FBA, but for now, I want to work out how to sort out this one so the top is slightly more flattering – then I can actually wear it out :)

I really enjoyed doing this – it was hard at times, especially when my sewing machine broke for a couple of months, but I am so keen to work out the FBA for future dresses, hopefully I can get a really nice fit eventually!