Simplicity 2215 – Definitely Not A Dress

Simplicity 2215

This is not a dress. Definitely not a dress. I don’t need any more dresses, right? It just looks like a dress. Okay, it’s the Simplicity 2215.

I received the cotton lawn last summer from The Village Haberdashery and it’s taken me this long to sew with it. Shame on me. If it looks familiar, it’s the same lawn that Handmade Jane used on this classic dress. It’s such a beautiful fabric that I put a lot of work into this dress. I’m not entirely sold on the pattern, truth be told, but the fabric. I couldn’t disrespect the fabric.

Simplicity 2215 Collage

Because the fabric had beaten me into submission, I set to work. I made two toiles of the bodice, including applying a split bust dart. I used both muslin and silk organza to line the dress – for the bodice and skirt, respectively. I used petersham ribbon to keep the innards of the waist seam neat and tidy. I even made a special trip to Liberty for the buttons. This was a labour of love. And yet, and yet…

I don’t love it. This type of bodice doesn’t particularly suit me. A round neckline only accentuates my round face. The lack of interesting detail on the bodice makes my chest look matronly. And I’m approaching an age when sleeves are my friend. At least sleeveless dresses lend themselves to the wearing of a cardigan!

Of course, I’m being over critical. My biggest success was lining the skirt section in silk organza. I didn’t have any suitable lining fabric in my stash on a rainy day. Out of sheer laziness, I reached for something more expensive. I’m really glad I did, and here’s a short video to explain why:

Talking of films, I’ve delved into the world of Periscope. If you fancy a chaotic, unedited and rambling tour around Walthamstow market, check this out. But be quick. Periscope videos only stay online for 24 hours. For which we may all be rather grateful.

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Drop The Dress

dress detail

There comes a time in a woman’s life when she doesn’t need another dress. There, I said it. I know, we don’t want to hear it, but it’s true. Obviously, it’s not going to stop me from ever making another dress (I’m working on one right now!) but a person can disappear down a black hole of sewing only dresses until she’s donning a rose print to put out the rubbish.

The truth is, there’s a whole load of other patterns out there, doing other interesting things. Setting you new challenges and introducing new techniques. Here’s my run down of fun sewing that isn’t going to make you cry if you don’t have a skirt to flick around.

Pauline Alice Dungarees

Dang, I loved making my Turia dungarees. They’re really fun, a whole new learning curve and you even get to hammer rivets. If you can’t quite tear yourself away from dressmaking it’s super-easy to adjust the pattern for a dungaree dress.


Tailoring projects. You will learn a lot, a lot from these and feel ever so proud of yourself. Have you seen the Sew Over It Francine Jacket? That’s a heck of a nice jacket.

Ginger Jean Pieces

Jeans! Right at the opposite end of the spectrum to a dress. I really loved this sewing journey and still am totally amazed that I actually made a pair of jeans. That I wear. Ginger jeans rock.


Do you harbour the love that dare not speak its name? Do you have a soft spot for sewing for the home? I made these cushions nearly two years ago and still love them deeply, the bark cloth a daily reminder of the Isle of Wight where I picked it up.

I really want to make some Roman blinds for the house. I have the fabric and all the trimmings. I don’t know what’s stopping me. Fear? Ooobop has made some great blinds and there’s even a Craftsy course. Come on, Karen, pull your finger out.


Blouses! There are so many pretty patterns out there. Above is a detail from the Simplicity 1941. I’m also a fan of the Afternoon blouse and the Sew Over It Pussy Bow blouse.

Liberty Print Espadrilles

I could go on and on. There are jumpsuits, trousers, bags, pyjamas, jersey tops, espadrilles… What do you enjoy sewing when you don’t want to sew a dress? And are there any new non-dress patterns out there I haven’t spotted yet?

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The Long Exhale

petersham ribbon

Sometimes, it’s helpful to appreciate those midweek days when you just can’t find the time to sew. This is your thinking time, when challenges percolate in your head. Yes, that’s how to stabilise my zip insertion. Selvedges! The right answers don’t always come to you when you’re wild-eyed and strung out after a six-hour sewing marathon. Sometimes you need to go and let your limbs relax in the bath. (Don’t your best ideas happen in the bath or on a walk?)

This is also the time to gather arsenal for the next stage of sewing. I’ve spent this week buying buttons and ordering petersham ribbon. There’s a really useful blog post here about the difference between petersham and grosgrain and why you should care.

work in progress

I’m happy that a work in progress brightens up the living space as it patiently waits for me to pick up a needle again. I often wonder what my dog walkers think when they come for Ella. What’s she making this time?!

And it’s good to gaze at handiwork and feel satisfied, before all details become enshrined and hidden in a dress for wearing rather than making. Below, a French seam in silk organza.

french seams in silk organza

Breathing out is as important as breathing in, don’t you find?

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In Praise Of Split Bust Darts

Lilou Bodice DartsSplit bust dart on my Lilou dress

I’m currently in the process of making a bodice toile for a potential new make. It’s the Simplicity 2215. I was inspired to order this pattern after seeing it featured on The Village Haberdashery Instagram account. As if we didn’t already know, social media really helps a person spend money!

I liked the dress, but could see immediately that I’d need to toile the bodice. I often have fitting issues around the upper chest with excess fabric. Over the years, I’ve learnt that doing an FBA (full bust adjustment) really helps.

Colette Patterns Book

Whenever I do an FBA, I turn immediately to page 88 of The Colette Sewing Handbook. I don’t even read the instructions anymore, just look at the diagrams. Then I set to with my Swedish tracing paper, pencil, scissors and fashion curve.

Split Bust Dart Collage

An FBA can give you a very deep bust dart, encasing a big lip of fabric. Which can lead to a very pointy point on the tip of the dart. I prefer to avoid the bullet nipple look, so was very happy last summer to learn about the split bust dart. At its simplest you divide the largest section of your bust dart in two and open up your dart to make two darts. My FBA’d bust dart had a depth of 6cm. I split that into two darts, each with a depth of 3cm and about 1.5cm distance between the two darts. Keep the two darts level – you’re not altering the angle of either dart. Just spacing them out. (See above far right.)

If you can do an FBA, you can certainly apply a split bust dart. These techniques look head scratchy, but once you’ve successfully done one you’ll realise that nothing is as difficult as it first appears. Nothing! Okay, maybe opening a jar of olives without spilling brine down yourself. That’s still difficult…

Happy mid-week, everyone!

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Sewing Turns Me Into A Vampire

Fabric In The Kitchen

I can’t be the only person who doesn’t sew in a clinical environment. I sew in a home – a messy, multi-tasking home where the ground floor is largely open. I sew in this space and I also cook here. A Sewist has to eat sometimes, you know!

But lately my routine has left me scratching my head. It goes something like this:

Bring freshly laundered fabric in off the line, chuck it on the table by the kitchen window, spot the fridge, hear tummy rumble, start cooking, throw garlic into oil, inhale aroma, turn round, spot fabric, scoop it up, toss it into the living room or run upstairs with it, hope freshly laundered fabric doesn’t now smell of garlic

And so it continues. Every time I cook a meal, I glance at the fabric sat by my sewing machine, metres away from the pan. It isn’t easy having a multi-tasking home. It must be even more trying for those of us living in studio spaces – which will be pretty much every Sewist residing in a city.

Any hints or tips? And if I’m learning to hate garlic this much … does that make me a vampire?

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High Five To Five

Ultimate Trousers Five

You’d think there’s nothing new to say when you’re on your fifth version of a pattern. You’d be wrong!

This is a thick cotton with a tiny percentage of lycra. When I saw it at TMOS, I knew it was too stiff for a dress and walked away. Then I realised this fabric would make the perfect pair of Ultimate Trousers and diverted Ella from her walk in the park to go back and buy a metre and a half. Sorry, Ella.

My favourite and most comfortable pair of Ultimate Trousers (to date!) are my denim ones. They have some stretch in them, too – hence the fantastic comfort factor. The stretch does mean they tend to bag out and on this version I wanted to make sure that my waistband didn’t stretch and distort.

I was all set to add twill tape to stabilise the waistband, but hesitated. It felt so thick – wouldn’t it compromise the finish? Then I remembered I had a roll of red ribbon. That would do the job!

Ribbon Waist StayDo you find talk of money vulgar? I don’t! These cost me £4.50 to make. And now, maybe, I truly have nothing left to say about the Sew Over It Ultimate Trousers. Maybe…

Ultimate Trousers Collage

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How To Sew In Chunks Of Time

Clear Focus app

Some people ask how they can fit sewing into their busy lives. I ask a different question. How can I fit sewing into my busy life without throwing everything else off schedule?

It’s far too easy to get lost in sewing. The activity absorbs all your attention; you don’t even notice the minutes ticking past. Next thing you know, you’ve forgotten to eat, missed that important meeting and the rest of the day is a train wreck. There has to be an answer!

It’s called the Pomodoro technique.

At it’s simplest, you take a kitchen timer and set it to 30 minutes before the alarm rings. 30 minutes of sewing, then STOP. Go on, get in the shower. But, of course, there are a gazillion apps out there to do the same job. I like the Clear Focus app, which breaks activities down with short or long breaks or a combination of both. (You can work four sessions with 5 minute breaks before you are rewarded with a long 15 minute break.) Great for clearing the mind and reminding you to step away from the sewing machine.

Do you have any tips for making your precious sewing time really count?

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Can Social Media Help You Choose A Needle?

Sew Over It Youtube

Have you joined the 1000+ subscribers to Lisa Comfort’s new Sew Over It Youtube channel? I have, and I’m really enjoying each episode. I don’t have to do anything other than watch (usually propped up in bed), there’s always an interesting tip or two embedded in the chat and it’s inspiring to see Lisa giving us a twirl in her makes.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how social media is always changing. Youtube is the fastest growing media channel and some Youtubers are now more famous than movie stars. All from creating free content in their bedrooms.

Blogging is not the platform it once was, in my humble opinion. But it’s still a valid platform, especially as one from which to launch a profile should you then want to engage with Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr…

I love both Twitter and Instagram as the easy grab options. Twitter gives me an immediate conversation; Instagram allows me to share snapshots of my life and see pictures of other people’s lives. You can’t yet embed web links into Instagram, which I think is an important part of its success. It still feels authentic. This week on Instagram, I learned all about microtex needles, just from posting a photo of my sewing machine needles.

sewing machine needles

Some people get a bit twitchy around extended social media. I just want to sew! Well, so do I. I also want to talk about sewing, read about sewing, watch sewing, and see what people are up to when they’re not sewing. Plus, you would not believe the number of times I’ve met someone through the day job whose first question isn’t about the meeting’s agenda. They want to know if I’ve made my dress. It’s the ultimate ice breaker!

Do you enjoy watching the ebb and flow of social media? Any looking glass for the future?

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The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Sewing Machine

Lonely Sewing Machine

Sewists crave summer. We endure the bleak light and short days of winter, stoically sewing our practical makes, secretly craving cotton lawn and poplin. Fun prints, bare legs, no lining needed. When, oh, when can we sew summer dresses again?

Finally, our prayers are answered. Sunshine, light and warmth – ye gods! We run outside and immediately get sunburnt. Soon we’re negotiating the heat, the sweaty commutes, swollen digits and sapped energy. Before we know it, we’re lying on the sofa begging someone to massage our feet.

Sewing grinds to a halt. If we’re not inert, we’re out of the house enjoying long summer evenings with friends. Prosecco in the park, or taping together a PDF download? Oh, I can’t sew in this heat! Hobbies lie forgotten. Sewing machines languish, bare and neglected.

Right now, I have so much sewing to do. If I don’t get a wiggle on, summer will be gone. I have two fabrics I urgently want to sew with. I dream to sew with. I desire to sew with. I’d DIE to sew with!

Just as soon as I can find the energy. Right after I’ve finished this long, cool glass of water and found someone to massage my feet…

Summer Fabric

What would you make with these?

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How To Sew Espadrilles – Turn Up On Time

Liberty Print Espadrilles

Making espadrilles is easy. FACT! Or so I found out recently, when Kate of The Makery invited me to a class at John Lewis Oxford Street. There was only one problem – I strolled up a full hour late. Anyone who knows me will know how this type of mistake brings me out in hives. Could I catch up with the other students? Just!

Espadrille Collage

A pair of espadrilles use no more than a fat quarter of fabric, so I took some leftovers from my Liberty print pyjamas. Kate supplied the jute soles and strong thread, showed me how to do a basic blanket stitch – and I was off.

Making EspadrillesThis is such a fun and satisfying project – perfect for summer. If you’d like to make your own espadrilles, Kate’s supplied a discount code for ordering jute soles. Just type didyoumakethat10 at her online shop to receive a 10 per cent discount. If you’re between sizes, I suggest sizing down.

Other than that? Make sure you have lots of pins to hand.

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