Sewing The Perfect Autumn Dress

Butterick B5600

Guys, I only flipping made a dress! There are hardly words to describe what an achievement this is, given current life demands. I made a vow with myself that each evening I would do a small, tangible piece of sewing and that I wouldn’t set myself a deadline. It worked – I made a dress in a week – but sometimes it was hard to step away from the wild-eyed, four-hour sewing sessions that are all too seductive. (Sewing is crack to knitting’s herbal tea.)

I chose the Butterick B5600 pattern because it was marked ‘easy’ and wouldn’t need lining. Easy does not necessarily mean quick. There’s a button band, a collar treatment, cap sleeves to insert, tie and tie casing… Worth it, though. This is a perfect autumnal make.


With the dress’s button front, I took the opportunity to crack open my new Bernina buttonhole cutter. When I first opened the box, my first thought was, I paid £19.50 for this?! But that thing is sharp. Like, sharp. Like, don’t drop the blade on your kitchen counter. I’m impressed but, still. I don’t think my seam ripper was doing that bad a job at opening buttonholes.

bernina buttonhole cutter


The fabric was bought for £3.99 a metre. It’s a polyester something, has been through the washing machine and dryer, refuses to crease – perfect for looking smart on a weekend or in the office.

Having made this dress once before, I knew to ignore the buttonhole placements – at 9cm apart, they gaped far too much for the comfort of myself or unfortunate witnesses. So I set buttonholes 7cm apart – perfect. It’s also worth keeping an eye on the shoulder width. There’s a tendency for sleeve seams to hang off your shoulder if you don’t adjust during construction.

The tie belt is an interesting combination of fashion fabric and elastic, which makes it grip the body:

tie belt

I’m thrilled to have sewn something. What about you? Any recent achievements you’re proud of? Recently spent £19.50 on a block of wood and a blade?!


This entry was posted in sewing, sewing and knitting, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

50 Responses to Sewing The Perfect Autumn Dress

  1. T says:

    Ooh, that looks lovely. I have toyed with the idea of buying one of those buttonhole chisels but then worried about the injuries I could cause myself (I am unbelievably clumsy). Great photos too. Do you think the squirrel could be related to the infamous Bake Off one? He has that kind of look to him.

  2. SewSleepy says:

    love the fabric. beautiful dress

  3. Miriana says:

    That’s a rather pricey chisel! Wickes might have been a cheaper option.

  4. Carolyn says:

    It’s a great make! Love the fabric you chose and how you wore it! Btw, you will come to love that block and blade!!!

  5. Lovely dress. Really pretty colours for autumn (or any time). Looks good with a pullover underneath – the perfect answer to cooler weather. I’m impressed that you made it in a week.

  6. Great dress, love the fabric and well done for sewing it. And I liked your post, they always make me laugh 🙂

  7. Angela says:

    Great dress! I too am impressed you made it in a week just by doing a little each day. I need to adopt your method — despite my good intentions I have been getting no sewing or blogging done.

  8. Katie M says:

    My mum has the exact same block and blade, and I think they came with her Bernina sewing machine some 50 years ago! The first time I ever saw button holes being cut with a seam ripper was when I made my Mathilde blouse with Tilly’s sew-along. Completely new territory, and a bit scary as I’m always worried the seam ripper will spear off at an angle, and ruin all my hard work. I’ve been wanting to get myself the same thing, but £19.50 for a block of wood and a tiny chisel seems crazy. Now I’m torn!

  9. I’m still working on a tailored jacket. it’s taking ages – I hope it’s worth all the effort!

  10. Cor, you turned that around quickly…just shows that setting a bit of time aside each evening works!
    Nice autumn look, and just gotta love woodland creatures…

  11. I have the blade but use a self healing mat under it. Now coveting your beautiful block, because I could never go back to seam ripping buttonholes. I’m also loving your dress. I tried this pattern and it just didn’t work for me. On you…it’s beautiful!

  12. Dobermom says:

    Perfectly lovely dress! The idea of adding elastic to a tie belt – I think I’m going to have to give that one a try! It sounds like a brilliant solution to the problem I’ve always had with tie belts – they never stay where they’re supposed to on me, always shifting up or down, or coming untied. For that reason, I’ve always hated them and avoided dresses with a tie belt altogether. This may actually fix that problem! (Now I’m off to find a dress or top pattern with a tie belt…)

  13. Beth says:

    Beautiful dress! I always ignore the button placement guides. I think it was in a sewing class many years ago that I learned to first place a button at the center point of the bust and then place the rest from there. That way, you don’t get a gap right where you definitely don’t want a gap.

  14. I love the fabric! The buttonholes are perfect… Mine always break a bit. Perhaps it was worth the expense.

  15. Buttonhole thingy comes into its own when working with thick wool fabric……

  16. gingermakes says:

    This is so cute! It really is a perfect autumn dress! I’ve yet to try a buttonhole chisel, but I’m sorely tempted!

  17. That fabric looks familiar! Lovely dress and nice squirrel too! x

  18. Paola says:

    I was only pondering the possibility of a button hole chisel yesterday, as I was using a seam ripper to open buttonholes in linen and was less than impressed with the hanging threads. But that chisel would likely cost $50 or more in Aust. How much do I dislike hanging threads?

  19. Pingback: Colette Hawthorn: A Modern Sampler | Lazy Stitching

  20. anniesews says:

    I love the fabric and dress. Your button holes look so neat compared to mine haha. I might need to invest in a chisel myself! Perfect Autumn dress (feels weird saying that, as it’s Spring – feeling like Summer – here in Australia).

  21. This is lovely! And the chocolate brown colour is so perfect for an autumn dress. Good idea about moving up the button holes. Gaping is the worst. My absolute favourite blouse of all time (which I didn’t make) gaps rather interestingly, but in a way I don’t mind as I get to wear a big brooch with it. But with a pattern like this, you’re going to need those extra buttons. Thanks for giving me something to be aware about with dresses with buttons

  22. Jen (NY) says:

    Pretty and comfortable! I just recently got a buttonhole cutter too (Clover, about US$10). Have only used it a few times, but I like the cleaner cut. I’ve never used a ripper to cut a buttonhole. My prior method was to fold the stitching and cut a small slit in the middle and then cut the rest -using small sharp scissors. The cutter is faster and cleaner, I think, especially with heavier fabrics.

  23. Philippa says:

    Your new dress looks lovely. It looks brown in most of the pictures but black in the close up? Anyway, well done for finishing it when you are so busy. I do nearly all my sewing in little snatches like this and also find I can achieve quite a bit – if I get too tired, I make horrendous mistakes!

  24. Pat says:

    That’s a nice dress and I love the fabric. Great photography too. I paid close to $20.00 for my concealed zip foot. The “universal” foot that was half the price wouldn’t work on my Janome. It was worth the money and I’ll use it a lot.

  25. Margaret says:

    I have a buttonhole cutter, very similar to yours. It also came with an apple-shaped block and a round eyelet hole cutter. I paid $6.50 (link:
    I’d never give up such a useful tool!

  26. Catherine says:

    Such a nice fabric! It looks very nice for Autumn. Ill have to look into a button hole cutter, but first i must make my machine actually MAKE button holes!

  27. Yvonne Bennett says:

    I purchased a set of four EXTREMELY SHARP wood chisels in a nice storage case for $20 in a home improvement store in (US). Love the four different sizes. Keep them stored in with a small hammer and small wood block. Works great and cheaper than “buttonhole” chisel, which appears to be identical, just different package labeling. Lovely dress!

  28. Uta says:

    Perfect fall dress, well done! Thank you for the squirrel pic; DS appreciated it (more than the sewing review, I’m sad to say 😉 ).

  29. Sewingjen says:

    I also find that short sharp sewing does the trick! Although being retired I can always find a window in my day to do some sewing. The trick is to stop before you get into difficulties or problems, which then require an unpick into the night!

  30. Stephanie says:

    Anything bought from Bernina feels like a rip off. I have a lovely old second-hand Bernina I sew everything on, but I just can’t afford buying all the feet I need for it. They go for around 25-35 pounds each. Madness!

  31. Daniela says:

    I didn’t even know that buttonhole cutters exist! Lovely outfit!

  32. tillybuttons says:

    Ooh pretty! I hadn’t seen that pattern before but it’s great – looks like the kinda thing you’d get a lot of wear out of. But what is that squirrel doing, please? xx

  33. Liza jane says:

    Love the colors! Looks great with your brown boots.

  34. Roberta Fahrni says:

    Well done – and it looks great on you. Like you said, perfect for Fall!

  35. redsilvia says:

    Very cute and I adore your boots! I’m a huge fan of little sewing blocks of time and it really does work – you can actually make something even if you don’t have “time”.

    Great dress!

  36. Lovely. And the chisel is worth it. Just one stuffed buttonhole cutting experience would unpay for it, if you follow the reverse logic there… 🙂

  37. LinB says:

    Oh, lovely dancing dots! What a happy, jolly dress for autumn. I made a dress for DD a couple of years ago from that pattern –it’s not as easy a make as they’d have you believe — setting that tie casing nearly sent me to Butner (local loony bin). The tie treatment is the weirdest I’ve ever seen, but very effective. And you were so wise to ignore the pattern’s suggested button placement! (I mean, only seven buttons for the full length of a shirtwaist dress? They’re bonkers. I regularly place ten just from neck to waist for a blouse.) I keep meaning to drag this pattern back out and make one for myself. Your example may just have prodded me to do that very thing.

  38. Oo, I love this! You’ve styled it just perfectly, too. I’ve been on the fence about the chisel for ages, so you’ll have to keep it posted if your love grows!

  39. Marie says:

    Good work Karen! It’s amazing what sewing in short bursts can amount to…and relatively stress free compared to longer bursts at the sewing machine! The dress looks fab and you look incredible!

  40. Pingback: Spadea’s Collection of Designer Sewing Tips Vintage | Pages 54 to 77 | Pockets to Collar Magic « Vintage Patterns Dazespast Blog

  41. BMGM says:

    What a lovely autumnal dress!

    There are cheaper buttonhole chisels. I have this one successfully for years (no mishaps yet!).
    I see that it now comes with a keyhole/eyelet punch as well.

    It’s $6.49 for customers in the US. They ship internationally, but I don’t know how much they charge for that. Once in a while, I purchase sewing supplies in bulk from them (teaming up with a friend so we get the $100 minimum to get free shipping within the US).

  42. Saw this post and thought of you, more for the sewing gadgetry (is that a word?) than anything else! loving the idea of the button hole marker…

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.