Swirl dress sewalong

I’m a binge sewer. I like to cut something out in the morning and wear it that night. Terribly impulsive and impatient, me. When Beccie posted about a sewalong for a swirl dress, I signed up in a flash. It’s an old-skool design I’d always wanted to try but hadn’t a pattern (or energy to draft one). Huzzah! But then I had a pattern! And I wanted to sew it up! So I did. swirl I added about 2″ to the bodice length but found the skirt surprisingly long. I also tucked one edge of the pockets into the side seams. Pink is not really my colour, so it was a wearable-muslin sort of effort that I might end up passing on to a friend who is less pink-phobic, and I’ll make it again in a more me-ish colour. I can attest to its comfort and utility, though, particularly in hot weather!

I’m very much looking forward to seeing all the other versions pop up in the sewalong, but looks like, this time, I’ll just have to be patient…

That turned out rather well, didn’t it.

Butterick 5880, a reissue of a 1951 pattern, is a winner!

frock frock2

It’s made from an old gold polyester curtain that probably came from an old dead person’s house. In fact, my fella said “We had those curtains in orange,” when he saw it. It has a weave shot with nubbly yellow and black, so it has that metallic shimmer that’s incredibly difficult to photograph.

This make is a cautionary tale in overcompensation. I added 4.5cm to the bodice length (for tallth, you know) only to shave it off again. Likewise, I cut the skirt wider only to resew all the seams 4cm narrower. Ah well – better too big than too small.

And because I love nose-to-tail eating, I used the curtain lining (lovely soft cotton sateen) as the interlining. If you look closely at the guts of the frock below, you’ll see bands of yellow staining from its decades of curtainry. This delights me no end. (Also, not shown: a tear in the front where light damage weakened the fibres. About this I am somewhat less delighted.)


Here’s more adjustification – pulling in the back waist darts and the back skirt seams to better follow the curve of my terrible posture.


Anyhoo: I declare this a win. And will make again, if I can be arsed.

Mulberry madness

What colour are we calling this? Purple? Burgundy? Magenta? Plum? Mulberry?


No, there’s nothing wrong with your eyes. This is a blurry photograph. Let’s call it an arty action shot, shall we?



Still swirling.

Having made a rather slapdash and short-lived version of this old English Woman magazine pattern once before, I took a bit of time to get this one right. There was a muslining operation, there were fitting tweaks (narrow the neckline, lengthen bodice, futz with darts til they were right) and an all-important bilateral pocket installation. I was thinking of frankensteining a straight skirt, but at the last minute the deflated balloon won out. (I’ve used the skirt pattern before in this tropicale number and this Burda concoction.)

The fabric is this cheapie poplin from Spotlight which is wonderfully crisp. It makes a swishy noise when I move so it sounds like I mean business. And the colour is fabulous.

I made a very quick and easy belt with a wide strip of leftover fabric and a big belt buckle I found on the road. Really, I did. One side has asphalt marks on it from where it was run over by a car. I am the recycling champion of the universe!

Hit the ground running

I did nick off to warmer climes, as mentioned in last past. For which I whipped up a sleeveless Vogue 8280 – which had a ridiculous amount of fussy convolutions to make those shoulder straps. Bored already. Moving on!

Came home to the tail end of Spotlight’s 40% off sale. Felt obliged to stop by. Glad I did.

A while ago Moggy lent me a few patterns because I wanted something with drapey details for some silk I’d picked up. Nothing came of that idea, but the combo of just-purchased cheap cotton stretch sateen and post-holiday chutzpah, I launched with gusto into Butterick 8116.

Sateen’s in the background. Have you sewn with this stuff yet? I love it. It’s thick with a lovely matte sheen, the stretch makes it super easy to sew and wear, plus Spotty’s doing quite well with the retro prints. Some examples of other frox made with it are Kristy’s KILLER New Look 6968 (confession: I bought some of this print in the sale too, despite not generally liking pink or digital splotchiness, but Kristy inspired me) and Adey’s cheongsam of delightfulness. The moral of the story is Get Thee Some Stretch Cotton Sateen.

Anyway. Enough rambling and pontificating. Here’s the frock.

I frankensteined the balloony skirt mentioned here after initially considering drafting up a straight skirt with fishtail at back. The change of mind occurred when I saw I could use up every last piece of the fabric with a full skirt – nose to tail eating is very satisfying. I also took a little more time with the details, and I’m glad I did – my hand-picked zipper is just lovely. Virtually invisible.

I know lots of folks are hiding zippers in side seams these days, but I’ve learned the hard way that it doesn’t work for me. Due to my spinal curve, I’m a bit asymmetrical and I can never get side zips to sit right – all they do is emphasise my twistiness. Great to know that I can put in an old-skool metal centred zip so subtly. And it really didn’t take that much longer.

Another shot in better light to show those spiffy bodice folds, and better shows the deflated balloon skirt… I’m calling this frock Florigenius after the company who tried for years and years to make a blue rose, and a purple cabbage-lookin’ thing is the best they could do…

Sulphurous delight

My 50s sheath made up in 70s lurid sulphur-yellow rose-printed corduroy that I warned you about in the previous post is finished and I’m delighted with it!

Who knew that mashing up two such disparate decades would work?! Love it. So soft and cosy. And the fit is great – the only thing I’d change for next time (and I suspect there WILL be a next time) is to bring it in a bit at the top of the back seam where it’s a bit roomy because I have no shoulders.

Otherwise, usual adjustments, blahdy blah, lengthened bodice, widened hips, same old same old.

I would like to make special mention of lsaspacey for two reason. One, is her series on designers on the Colette Patterns blog is awesome. Secondly, she requested that I make the sassy neck detail (done) and talk about the instructions for this given my proclivity to charge ahead without reading them properly. Let’s have a close look at the neckline, eh?

Right. Now the eagle-eyed among you will notice that the wee pointy bit does not line up with the raglan sleeve seam. It’s set back about, oh 1.5cm. How could this be? This is not in the pattern illustration! They lied, again!

Nah. I just didn’t read the instructions again. I sewed the facing on in one fell swoop whereas I should have stopped and started and pivoted and so on to work around this seam. Never mind – it worked out ok, but next time I’ll do it right, if for no reason other than penance, and I feel I owe it to lsaspacey…

Bad drafting indignation

So we rabid fans for old stuff love to shakes our heads nostalgically and talk about how modern sewing patterns are made for the masses and fitting is a dead art, woe, lament, etc. Old patterns were just so beautifully drafted, we say.

Not always so. I’m going to show you a zinger of an error in a pattern I’m working on. It’s a small thing… but surely, because it’s a small thing, the fact that it’s wrong is more puzzling and infuriating.

Here’s the offender – Simplicity 4232, a ‘4 Season Dress’ they say. Cute, eh? Raglan sleeves, French darts, sassy next detail.

Here’s the pattern piece for the bodice. That’s quite a deep dart, non? That’s to be expected because it’s doing the work of both a bust dart and waist dart. Ambitious little thing. Sure to go far in this world.

Let’s see how it lies when the dart is sewn and pressed flat. Traditionally you press bust darts down so let’s examine that first…

Oh my, that’ll never do. See how the dart isn’t caught in the side seam the whole way down? What’s that little triangle going to do flapping away in there, unrestrained? It’ll fray and make a weird bump on the outside, that’s what it’ll do. No no no. So maybe it’s meant to be pressed up? I advocate pressing up anyway because if you’re going to have extra bulk hanging about, wouldn’t you rather have it enhancing your bustular region rather than upgirthing your midriffery? I’m not the only one who feels this way – pattern~scissors~cloth is a bit more scientific about it, though…)

Oh my word, that’s even worse! Outrageous! You can imagine my indignation as I made up my muslin. Well, let’s see how Simplicity explains this disaster! Get me a time machine so I can zip back to whenever this pattern was made so I can shake my fist at the Simplicity patternmakers!

LOOK AT THAT! They don’t even DRAW DIAGRAMS accurately! Those bust darts are huge, how on earth are they little skinny slips of things now?


TRIM darts and press open.

Trim them.

Ahahaahahhaaa. Right.

My tip to you…. read every word of the instructions. Don’t just look at the pictures. Because old patterns were so beautifully drafted and they thought of everything.

By the way, if you’re easy offended by anachronism and the colour pallette of the 1970s, look away now.

I’m making this dress (with trimmed, open darts) out of some printed corduroy that my sister in law gave me when her mum cleaned out her fabric stash. I love to think the her mum had plans for a suit, or maybe overalls for this. And believe me, that gold colour is even more radioactive in real life. So awful it’s good. I”ll be like a walking velvet painting and eyeballs will be insulted everywhere.

Yellow and grey the 50s way

I pulled out every decent yardage I own to see what would be best for the Fifties Fair frock I have to whip up by Thursday. They either weren’t quite right or I couldn’t bring myself to cut them just yet. So, shopping! I hit the Brunswick hotspots upon advice from Moggy (who is making her Fifties Fair frock from a particularly tasty splashy cotton sateen) and picked up some voile in possibly the most fifties colour combo in the world: yellow and grey.

Nice, eh? The other one is a heavy sateen remnant that may or may not be an accompanying bolero. Let’s see how I go.

I also got some crisp plain voile to line it but it was too blinding-white. I wanted something just a little bit yellowy-creamy like the background of the dots. So I stuck it in some tea… too pink. Then some instant coffee… more browny than yellowy. Then the Curmudgeon, who proclaims himself uniquely qualified in the craft of staining clothing with foodstuffs, suggested a bit of turmeric. Threw that in too and you know what? Perfect. Plus, I will smell just a leetle beet like curry.

Now, to cut out my circa 1976 Style 1542 pattern and whip it up! And 1950s purists bedamned!