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Dress/ Dressmaking

Grey Jumper Dress

There seems to be a lot of jumper dresses in the shops this autumn so thought I would add one to my own wardrobe!

I purchased a length of a really good quality grey wool rib fabric at our local fabric store just recently. I am not normally a fan of the colour grey, think it can be a bit boring on its own, but was sure I could add something to it to brighten it up.  In amongst my stash in my studio I found a short length of grey polyester georgette with a silver design printed on, which teamed with the rib fabric perfectly.


I drafted my own pattern for this dress which has raglan sleeves, a ‘V’ cowl neckline and deep shaped cuffs. I made piping from the contrast fabric and added it to the collar and cuffs which highlight the design details.  I covered small 11mm buttons with the contrasting fabric carefully cutting the fabric to show the silver colour.

I am really pleased with the outcome with this dress, fashionable yet different from the crowd.

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Coat/ Dressmaking/ Hats

Competition Coat

A few weeks ago I made a tailored coat from a multi-coloured fabric with piping on the seams and buttonholes etc, it took many hours to complete and I was rather proud of the result, I know some of you have seen it.  Well, I entered it into a competition in an American sewing magazine which I subscribe to and to my surprise it was selected as 1 of 5 semi-finalists. It is was the down to the public to vote for their favourite from the selected 5. 

I can’t tell you how thrilled I was at being chosen as a semi-finalist, and even more thrilled to report that I WON the competition with my coat. 

So thank you to all of you who voted for me. 

The Coat

I made this coat using my own drafted pattern and a length of fabric from my ‘stash’. The coat has been underlined with silk which gives it a luxurious weight and feel to it. I used horsehair interfacing for support adding additional layers to the shoulder area and the top back.

For the main body of the coat I used a quality textured fabric which graduates in colours from a mid-grey through to navy/black and back to grey. The fabric also has a ‘circle’ design with flecks of black on top.  The fabric was carefully prepared so that the design of the fabric flowed around the coat without interruption, matching up the colours and design at the seam lines. I added a raspberry/red piping to highlight the princess style design lines on the front and back of the coat, the collar, the side welt pockets, the sleeve back seam and at the top of the sleeve/shoulder area. I also used the piping for the bound buttonholes at the front opening and on the sleeves. The buttonholes are then further adorned with silver ornaments stitched alongside. The buttons are covered in the same fabric ensuring that the buttons graduate in colour to match each placement area on the coat.

Backpc P1080576 Shoulder detail 91498bc0-d0da-4a1d-aaf4-740259358896

The coat is fully lined using the same raspberry/red fabric as the piping for the main body of the coat whilst I used a grey silk for the sleeves. The lining is attached on the inside with a grey piping at the front and back neck facings edges.  And finally I embroidered my own label on the back neck facing.

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Then finally I made a matching cloche hat with the left over pieces of fabric.


Dress/ Dressmaking

Double Piping

Had another fabric buying ‘fix’ just recently and purchased this blue and pink stretch cotton. I used a Vogue pattern V1353, made it a little longer in the skirt, (I don’t have the legs for short skirts anymore!) and added a little more to the bodice length to accommodate my longer back measurement. 

Whilst constructing the dress I thought about adding a little piping around the neck and armholes thinking this would enhance the finish of the dress and pull out the colours, but I couldn’t decide whether to use blue or pink for the piping? 

So, I used both!! 

Bluepinkdresspiping V1353

Bags/ Covers

Motorbike Covers

In 2011 my partner and I went on an extended motorbiking holiday around Europe visiting some 15 countries over a 3 month period. Now as you would expect, there was a lot of forward planning, route maps to do, accommodation to book, bikes serviced, and of course the packing. Although we both ride our own motorbikes packing space is very much limited and space is at a premium!! But as much as I enjoy the riding experience on foreign land the one thing I dislike is climbing onto a bike which has a wet saddle! The damp somehow has a way of seeping through to your nether regions and can make for an uncomfortable ride! So I set to and made waterproof covers to solve the problem!

The main body of the cover is made from a very lightweight waterproof fabric and to give it a bit of style I have added silver reflective piping both along the top of the cover and around the edge. To secure the cover in place when in use elastic/velcro straps have been attached to enable the cover to be fastened to the handle bars, rear grab handles and the sides of the bike near to the foot pegs. When not in use the cover is folded up and attached to its own zipped waterproof bag which is velcro fastened to the top box and has an additional security strap to prevent it from falling off. It looks very neat, does not use up precious pannier space and also doubles up as an additional back rest when carrying a pillion!  

We found them to be very useful, not only did it keep my bum dry but we could also hide our helmets from view underneath the covers and seems to make the bikes a little more secure somehow!  Voila!

We had so many comments about the cover and how useful it is since we returned that I now make them for fellow motorbikers to enjoy and they can now be purchased, if you would like one just let me know!

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Dress/ Dressmaking

White Silk Dress

The Inspiration for the dress

I was inspired recently by a student of mine. She attended one of the dressmaking workshops with me and having enjoyed the experience she decided to write a blog about how she arrived with a pattern and length of fabric and left with a dress! So I thought I would give this blog idea a go!!! So here goes……………………………

Having recently finished making a wedding dress for Tracy whose wedding is in 29 days time (sorry can’t post a picture of the dress just yet!) I thought I had better get round to making something for myself when attending the nuptials. Well, you know what its like girls, I simply just have nothing to wear………………………. but I do have a pair of shoes I purchased some time ago that I have not worn, so it got me to thinking!!!!!

Why not make an outfit to go with the shoes?

It stated with the shoes!

The Ingredients

So I popped along to my local fabric store and purchased 3 lengths of silk dupion in white, black & grey and a vogue pattern V1162. I then set about cutting out the pattern pieces. but as the silk is quite lightweight I have decided to underline the dress with both silk organza and a cotton lawn, this will add body and weight to the garment as well as help to disguise the seam allowances from the right side.  The main body of the dress will be in white with the grey and black as accents, but I haven’t quite decided yet how this will take shape. I will see how the dress evolves and try out different ideas as it is constructed. I will also be lining the dress with a fine silk habotai. 

White Silk Dress Voguepattern

I Begin………

I have cut out the the main pattern pieces in the silk dupion along with the under linings in the silk organza and cotton lawn. I then basted the three layers together and tailor tacked where necessary.  

Tailortacked Frontdresspatterncutout

Continuing with dress – I have now pinned, tacked and stitched the tucks on the front piece into place. I then put together the back pieces and inserted a concealed zip down the centre back. I much prefer to use concealed zips whenever possible as I think they give a nicer finish. The dress was then tried on and minor adjustments made to the fit, this is where I enlisted the help of my Man! It is not always easy to do your own fitting so if you can get somebody to help with this the better, they can also see round the back – he was a great help!


Once I was happy with the fit I then unpicked the 2 side seams so that I could to do some embroidery on the front. I have this idea of using the shape the tucks produce to create a sort of ‘sun-ray’ effect with some satin stitching. First of all practised my idea on a  piece of scrap fabric until I was happy with the result before proceeding with the stitching on the dress front.

Embroidered front

It was a “good idea”

Once the embroidered ‘sun-ray’ was in place I thought it might be a good idea to add a few beads around the stitching.  I hand stitched a few black seed beads along the lines of stitching and added a few swarovski beads to give it a bit of ‘bling’. The beading took me an astonishing 11 hours to complete, sometimes I wonder why I have these ‘good’ ideas, I think I have bead blindness now!

Beaded 1

The Ruffles

Next to takle is the ruffles.  Cutting the strips on the bias, I combined both a grey ruffle and a black one layering them together, and with a lot of fiddling attached the ruffles across the back neckline, around the shoulder yokes, and around the back armscye ceasing at the side seam . 

Ruffled shoulders

After several more fittings I reduced the shoulder seam at the top of the arm and tapered an adjustment down the front and back of the armscye, I also nipped in the back and side seams to get a perfect fit. 

The next thing to tackle is the sleeves!

I have now spent several hours over the last couple of days making the bias ruffles for the sleeves, black ruffles on top of the grey fabric,  and hand stitching them into place before adding the sleeves to the dress. I stitched the ruffles to the sleeve pieces in a spiral starting from the centre outwards, occasionally putting in a few swirls and bends to create something resembling a rose pattern. The photo doesn’t really do it justice as they did come up quite nice!


With my dress on the body form, I offered up the sleeves to the dress and pinned them into place so that I could get an overall look of the end result before proceeding with machine stitching them into place…………………………

But to my great disappointment I didn’t like the look!  The black and grey sleeves along with the grey yoke and neck ruffles together made the dress look top heavy and the shoulders broad, it was a little reminiscent of the 80’s look with the big shoulder pads and not the sort of look I wanted to go to wedding in.  A little re-thinking is in order now I think!!!

The Re-think!

After spending sometime re-thinking what to do with the dress I finally came up with a plan, so I set to and un-stitched the front yoke and ruffles from the dress. I replaced the grey yokes with white ones and also re-made the sleeves in white, but this time I did not add the ruffles. I removed the piping I originally put just on the lower front neckline and replaced it with piping around the complete neckline. I reviewed what to do with the ruffles as I did like the previous look with them around the neckline, so with the dress on the body form I played around with different fabrics until I came up with what I thought would work. I made the new neckline ruffles this time in a grey silk organza graduating the depth from the lower side neck edge to the centre back. I then added piping to the lower sleeve hem, now I was starting to feel happier about the dress!!


I tried on the dress once again to make sure of the fit and decided on the hem length. I cut away 2″ from the hem and used some of the habotai to make a bias strip to bind the hem. The bias strip was machined to the hem and the hem and back vent hand stitched into place. Having underlined the dress this meant that I cold stitch the hem without any visible stitches showing through on the right side! A bonus.  

Bound Hem

The Lining

Now happy I decided to start constructing the lining, the bodice top I cut from the cotton lawn and the lower pieces I cut from the silk habatai, stitched the lining pieces together and attached it to the dress machine stitching around the neckline. I then hand stitched the rest of the lining into place along the zip opening and the sleeve hems. I checked the length yet again, I am always checking and re-checking, before turning up the hem on the lining and ‘voila’ the dress is almost complete!!

The Finished Dress

Whilst I was playing around with the corsage that I envisioned, Tracy unknown to me was doing the same thing, but as she is far better at free-motion machine embroidery than I she made came up with something much better. She combined the embroidery with black & grey silk organza to produce a ‘rose’ and added some swarovski in the centre, the effect is quite stunning!!


So, where to place it on the dress? My ideas thus far was to place it on the side of the dress where I have stitched the sun-ray embroidery and beading. I attached 2 press studs to the back of the corsage and its 2 counterparts on the dress and I must say that it looked rather good. So I tried the dress on yet again so that I could get an overall look of what it looked like on me, however when I looked in the mirror I thought the beautiful corsage looked a little lost on the side so played around yet again with its position and decided to move it to the neckline. I removed the studs from the side and re-stitched them into place in there new position. I then had to set to and fill in the gap on the side with more beads…………………………………so another 3 hours later and all the beads are now in place and the dress is finally finished.


After all the trials and changes of heart about this dress it just goes to show that sometimes what you envisioned does not always work out and you have to be prepared to make changes as you go along!! But I have to say that I am now rather pleased with the end result.