Saturday, 29 October 2016


I am so pleased with the dark velvet I chose for the collar of my Joan dress

You may recal that I was aiming to get this dress out of two and a half metres instead of three and a half. I decided to achieve this by shortening the sleeves, cutting the skirt to above the knee instead of below, and dispensing with the collar...

Then I looked again at my fabric and thought that the blue flecks in it could be enhanced by a bit of emphasis and that would happen if I used something blue for the collar.  I bought half a metre of blue silk and viscose velvet from Beckford Silk and am so pleased I did.

By cutting the velvet on the bias and leaving it as a soft roll the neckline looks just right and I think the dress might have looked too plain without it.

All done! and feels just fine. Had I used fabric with a bit of stretch I might have made the dress in a size smaller, but in this fabric I think I would have has straining at the seams issues!

In summary, I made three adjustments to the pattern for fit

  1. Lengthening the bodice (in two places, armhole and underarm seam)
  2. Increasing the sleeve width
  3. Reducing the waist darts 

And three so that I could make the dress out of 2.5m instead of 3.5

  1. Shortening the sleeves
  2. Shortening the skirt
  3. Making a contrast collar 
I would love to hear about how other people have made up the Joan Dress - fabric choices, modifications and alterations please!



Tuesday, 18 October 2016


Friends who know me and my knitting life will know I don't swatch.  Of course that can have bad results but give me a skein of squishy woolly goodness and a new pattern and I just can't wait to cast on 'properly'.  It's the same with making a toile when I'm dressmaking.  I mean, there's slow fashion and there's #whenamIEVERgoingtogetthisdone?' fashion. But I am making an exception with my Joan Dress - two reasons

1. There is a lot of shaping in this pattern, it has a waist seam and darts in several directions.  Each dart and seam must be in the right place. If I get the fit wrong it will not forgive me

2. My gorgeous Japanese fabric from Raystitch has very little give, I love it and don't want to ruin it but for me to do justice to the pattern and the fabric it must not be too tight or too loose.

So I made a toile.  Well actually I made up the lining as a toile using this lovely vintage fabric.  I bought it in a sale, from a place that gets stock that has lain in people's lofts for years. It feels like silk but I don't think it is, could it be rayon?  Does anyone know how to test?  I think there is something called a burn test but that sounds dangerous.

My two main fitting concerns were the waist, I am a UK size 16 and the bust and hip measurements were fine but I needed a couple of centimetres more at the waist, and the bodice length.  I decided the darts had enough in them to ease the waist size and to add 2.5cm to the bodice length midway down the underarm seam.  Otherwise I cut the pattern out as it was printed.

I had some cat help!

The fit was pretty good,  the waist in the right place and the sleeve/shoulder seam sat just right.  Sitting down, the skirt did not ride up too much

But there was a problem with the sleeve.  It looked fine with my arms straight but as soon as I reached forward it was too tight.  The solution was to widen the sleeve - possible with the outer fabric but what to do with the lining that is already cut?  I decided it would be OK if I let in a strip of fabric down the centre of the sleeve, from crown to hem giving me another 3cm around the top of my arms.  

This of course means the sleeve is fuller at the crown, with too much to shrink away with the usual double line of gathers. The solution was to make the armhole bigger.  So I split the 2.5cm extra length for the bodice by adding 1.5 above the bust (giving me a total of 3 cm extra circumference  to the armhole) and 1 cm below the bust.  It worked!  The only other modification I made is to shorten the skirt so that the finished length is just above my knees.

Needing to make notes on my modifications and not having a notebook to hand I wrote on the lining with a frixion pen - the writing will magically disappear when the fabric is ironed. Before laying the toile pieces out on my fabric and cutting out I ironed everything with Flatter By Soak.  An ironing spray, originally developed for patchworkers but also fab for dress making, it's not a starch, it does not clog your iron but it does give a lovely professional finish to any fabric and smells nice too.

When I made the toile I used a wide machine basting stitch and some bright red thread so that I could easily unpick and iron before using the modified lining pieces instead of the paper pattern.

And so, using my toile as a pattern I cut out my fabric  I only have 2.5m of fabric, much less than the pattern states.  To make this work I am going to 'bag' the lining (i.e. a similar construction to a coat or jacket), make the sleeves shorter and cut the collar out of a contrast material (to be revealed in a later post).  I just made it with not a centimetre to spare!.

I stitched all the darts, the shoulder and side seams and now I must pause, I need to shop for a zip and wait for my contrast fabric to be delivered.

More sewing coming soon



Friday, 14 October 2016


Well, I confess, this is truly slow fashion.  So many things have conspired to keep me away from my sewing room this week and today is the first time I have had the chance to turn on my overlocker (serger).

Having decided that I certainly need to pre shrink this lovely Japanese cotton fabric I needed to do a little pre-prep before throwing it into the washing machine.  It frays, hence the overlocked edge.

I'm washing it at 40deg c. Although 30deg would be fine for something that does not actually need washing I am thinking of what might happen to the dress in the future.  There is no division of labour in my house, since we no longer have small children at home, washing is done on a need to wear basis (by which of us has run out of socks or underwear).  This means as often as not there is a man doing the washing in our house and although his sorting skills are second to none (no jeans washed with white shirts for him) he washes everything at 40deg and I don't want further shrinkage to occur.

I have readjusted my schedule a little and, having checked my measurements against the pattern hope to be cutting out on Sunday.

I have a physical pattern rather than a download but 'bglad' in the comments on my last post asked if anyone had tried taking the pdf to a print ship and printing off on a continuous sheet.  Well, yes I have,  when I was involved in the Titanic Project this is what I did and it worked very well, though I needed strong pins as the thinest paper in my local shop was still quite thick.  It was also quite a novelty for the guys in the printers, I don't think they had had a similar request before.



Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Making Joan

At a recent visit to Ally Pally - AKA the Knitting and Stitching Show, I bought a couple of patterns from a lovely (fairly) new company called Sew Over It.  Including the Joan Dress.  I posted a photo of my pattern and fabric on Instagram and before I knew it I was joined by Alix and Becky and we had a SAL.  I'm actually more used to Knit Alongs but the idea of a Sew A-Long sounds fun so here we go.  Please feel free to join in, I shall post my progress on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook with a little more detail on here.  No rules or time scales, I am not sure how fast I shall work on this, although I hope to get the dress cut out this week.  But look out for and use (if you wish), the hash tag #makingjoan then we shall all be able to pool our experiences

Pre-wash or not pre-wash?  I'm not a fan of pre washing fabric, I love to feel crisp new fabric under my fingers as I sew.  But Raystitch, where I bought the fabric recommends preaching and I have had some recent disasters with shrinkage. So I cut a small piece of my fabric and gave it a gentle swish through some Soakwash (I buy mine from here in the UK)  as this will be how I wash my dress when made.

It's clear I shall need to wash the whole length!  If you are joining in please let me know in the comments or social media - whatever way you prefer. We would love some company and to learn from each other