My Tweaked Dress


I had just returning to sewing clothes after many years absence. I had done a few bits and pieces but finally felt like doing something a little nicer. I had lost some weight and felt ready to try something a little more fitted.

I had bought some Butterick vintage re-issued patterns to make a dress for my sister’s wedding, but had chickened out due to lack of body confidence (which is a shame as they are the sort of dresses that suit larger ladies as well as slim so I would have carried it better than the dress I chose in the end). The poor, unopened pattern had been sitting for over a year not fulfilling its destiny. Now was its time to shine!

I had recently discovered Abakhans, found a fabulous piece of pattered crafting cotton and I was off! My pattern is Butterick 6582:


The construction was quite quick and easy. I was a bit disappointed that the crossover is fake, and also that it gathered at the shoulders when the image on the packet looks like pleats. Also, the image makes the dress look very fitted, when in fact it is semi-fitted (confirmed in the pattern description). I have since got better at interpreting these images!

I made the dress in a size 16, which is the size I am in the sizing chart.  I tried it with gathers at the shoulders, but felt that it was a little bulky so I flattened it down to pleats, trying to fan them out a bit, and this is what I got (sorry about the poor photography – we are working on that):

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I loved the dress – it made me feel pretty again and I received lots of compliments.  It was a bit loose under the arms, which I have since learned is a problem zone for me.


2014-05-20 001As I was taking it off, I noticed how nice it would look in a tunic length and had some left over curtain fabric from Ikea so gave it a go.  It is a lovely dress to wear with leggings or trousers (but I would confess that it is not as carefully constructed as most).

Winter was coming and it was still my favourite dress, but I wanted something with sleeves so I did it again with another oddment.  This time I went down a size, which was slightly too tight at the hips, but this was easily amended by reducing the seam allowances.  I added the sleeves (and sleeve holes) from my flower power dress.  I also made the crossover real, taking the underneath section to just below the bust.  Again I pleated at the shoulders.  I did do a small area of facing across the width of the front shoulder catching on the sleeve edge to stop the pleats flanging out and taking the front sleeve seam with them.  Anyway, my favourite of the three:

2014-03-09 024TA-DA!

Love this dress – very comfortable, slightly more fitted but still not clingy and just a very lovely shape.  I definitely prefer the ‘real’ crossover and would repeat that in later versions.

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Wiggle Dress


I love the style of clothes in Madmen, the earlier series mainly.  The contrasts are fabulous, from the demure wife with her full skirts and beautifully contoured bodices, to the overtly seductive, figure clinging dresses of the office secretary, Joan Holloway.  Very different looks, yet both are extremely feminine and, in my opinion, overtly sexy.

oh my!

oh my!

I also love the figures that fill the dresses, January Jones, who plays Don Draper’s wife, is petite shapely, whilst Christina Hendrix, who plays Joan has larger than life curves and she uses them.  I assume both looks are helped, at least in part, by good foundation garments, but there is something so sexy about dressing to accentuate what you have rather than hiding away.

I loved Gertie’s wiggle dress from her book.  It has diamond shaped gussets under the arms to enable movement.  I had never seen this before, but have since found it in the ‘how to’ sections of my Lutterloh books.  The concept fascinated me, so I have given it a go.

My first wiggle was in a light cotton.  Gertie has her own sizing, based on the American sizing, so my top was a size 10 (UK equivalent 14) but, for the first time in my life, I had gone down a size at the hips to a size 8 (UK12).  I couldn’t quite believe it, even though Gertie does say that she has her sizing is based on herself and those women she has come across, so I stuck to a 10 all the way down.  It was massive – not only were the hips too wide, but they reached their widest much too low as well.

The dress is heavily shaped along the side seam – much more reliant on this shaping than other dress patterns I have used.  Given this, it is one time when drawing an outline of yourself on a large piece of paper and using this silhouette to decide the widest/thinnest points of your figure would be a good idea.

2014-06-16 12.28.15 2014-09-13 008 I like the dress as it emphasises/exaggerates natural curves.  I like this but it means you have to get the fit just right, otherwise it will just bag out at the sides – more obviously too large than when that extra fabric is shared around your body.  That said, if it is close, tweaking is relatively easy.

I made the second dress in a heavier, plain green cotton with a slight stretch to it.  I went down to a size 8 for the hips and it was a much better fit, needing a couple of centimeters reduction around the hips as they were still a little low.  I love this green but am now debating whether to scoop out the neckline at the back into a deep curve.  I think that as it is complete I shall wear it a couple of times before I consider changing it.

Update:  I have done a third version in a very heavy, vintage jersey fabric.  I didn’t do the underarm gussets this time as the stretch permitted movement.  This is a very warm and comfortable dress for winter.

Bombshell (Part 1)


F1309_2-vintage-style-mother-of-the-bride-dressJust look at it!  Possibly the most perfect dress ever created.  Unfortunately I cannot take credit for it, it isn’t one of mine.  It is a creation of the fabulous Whirling Turban who make the most beautiful, vintage styled clothes ever!  Unfortunately they are a little out of my price range but one day……..

It’s the neckline that I love most, so I have set about making something similar.  It is going to take a while, but all good things come to those who wait.

My starting point is from Butterick B5814 by GertieBombshell starting point

I appreciate that this may not look that much like the dress above but when you look at the construction it is an excellent place to start, and a damn fine dress in its own right!

Having read some reviews on one of my favourite sites, Pattern Review, I decided that a muslin was a must.  In most modern patterns I am a size 14 on top, increasing to a 16 for the waist or hips depending upon the style.  The reviews had said that this pattern is a snug fit, and having read the finished measurements I decided to go 16 all the way.



2014-03-24 003The muslin was not impressive.  It didn’t excite me and needed tucks here, and adjustments there.  The shoulder adjustment was expected as I have slightly narrow shoulders, and Gertie has done a whole tutorial and making this adjustment.  I needed to also do a toil for the skirt to see how low the top came.  So I made the skirt and then couldn’t find where I had put the top!  House turned upside down, I even remember vaguely thinking to myself that I shouldn’t put it there as I’d never find it again!  Anyway, I haven’t and as I knew it didn’t fit I had to do it again.  Given that it had seemed quite large, I decided to try the 14 so did it again.  Please excuse the fabrics – curtain lining skirt and son’s quilt cut offs for the top.The ugly fabrics did show me something though – how nice it was to have the stripes running down the left hand front side – just a lucky cut as the lower left front is a separate section.

The fabric I had chosen from my stash as a first attempt is a rather loud floral cotton.  My only concern is that given the details within the dress, it might become too busy, but I am going to try and match the pattern in some of the most eye catching places to reduce this issue as much as possible.  I am considering it to be a wearable muslin but hoping it will be fabulous.

It has been a slow process – most of the pieces were cut out separately as it is asymmetric and also to pattern match as much as possible.  I haven’t used boning since the early 90’s and managed to sew the first piece in the wrong way round.  I unpicked it, then sewed it in the wrong way round again!  Luckily the third time was a charm.

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Gorgeous but a little too revealing!

The dress is fully lined/interlined and has, in my opinion, been quite fiddly, but gorgeous takes time and effort.  I was delighted with the final result upon first try on.  Unfortunately, upon wearing it (around the house) I have discovered that it is too low/short in the bodice for me.  It is supposed to be a low dress and I was prepared for that and, in a snap shot it is fabulously saucy!  But when I pull the waist down to my natural waistline, it gets a little too low and shows my bra.  I deliberately added the skirt to the muslin to check if it would be decent, but didn’t face it.  That 1.5cm seam allowance can make all the difference.  My plan is to separate the bodice and the skirt and insert a ‘belt’ panel, possibly in red if I can find a good match.

This was never expected to be a one attempt wonder, I am glad that, once altered, it will be a fabulous dress, and one step along the road towards the dress of my dreams!

TO BE CONTINUED…………………………….

red roses


2014-08-09 006I bought this fabric a couple of years ago to make a dress for my sister’s wedding, but couldn’t decide what to make with it so it sat in my stash until I found a dress that I thought would be perfect for it.  It is a fairly heavy weight printed cotton with a slight stretch.

When I finished my ‘Playclothes Captain‘ dress I thought that I had finally found the perfect dress after a two year wait.  I love that dress so very much, especially as it feels so weighty and wanted something in a more summery fabric, which this is, but it retains the weight due to the fabric.

The bodice is based on the bodice from Butterick 5603, with the scooped out neckline from the previous dress, and the skirt from Butterick 5813.  I did add an inch to the length of the bodice, just for comfort.  In addition, when I attached the skirt I wanted one from each set of pleats to line up with the bodice darts, so I moved them outwards slightly.  I felt that this made the flat section at the front too wide, so redid this, having the outer pleat in line with the dart and felt that this looked much better.

2014-08-09 020I wanted this dress to have some schwoosh factor, and had finally managed to source some horsehair braid.  I have been desperately trying to find some since I read about it on Gertie’s Blog for Better Sewing a couple of months ago.  This is a tape, originally made from horsehair but now generally synthetic.  It comes in different widths and weights, stiffer ones can be used to make hats and fascinators.  It can add weight and stiffness to a hem and I wanted to try it rather than having a full underskirt which feels a little dressy for everyday wear to me.

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The secret to finding it in the UK is knowing its other name, crinoline tape, or crin tape.  I got mine from Sew Curvy.  They only do the one weight/width, and I would say it is on the firm side, but it suited this dress perfectly.  This is my first attempt with crinoline tape, but I am really pleased with the result.  .

Thanks to my photographer, Logan.

Thanks to my photographer, Logan.

My first Lutterloh dress


I came across the Lutterloh dressmaking system by finding vintage patterns on Etsy that needed enlarging.  I looked into it further and found a lovely site dedicated to using these patterns, and then I managed to buy some on e-bay.

The pattern system started in the 30’s and they are still producing books using the same system today.  You start off with pattern pieces that look like this:

Lutterloh pattern example copy

You enlarge them using your bust and hip measurements and a special piece tape measure.  You do need prior sewing knowledge, or excellent instincts, as there are no construction details and many of the patterns have darts without details of their depth and sometimes width. There is a whole section on sewing techniques and skills, although mine was in German , which I don’t speak.   I believe that the average woman would have a greater sewing knowledge and be used to adding or adjusting darts at the time when these patterns were published.

I chose this dress as my first Lutterloh project because it is gorgeous, and not too precision based as it has the gathered sections.  Lutterloh pattern example copy I decided against the central front seam, but with hindsight think it would have been a point of interest.  I intended to do buttons down the back of the dress as in the original pattern but had issues finding buttons that were interesting enough for the straps on the front and not too fussy, overbearing or lumpy to use on the back.

Whilst I am pleased with the dress, I find it a little plain, and don’t think it suits my body as much as some other frocks I have made.  I think my choice of fabric was poor, but I just loved the colour so very much. The fabric has a light cotton feel, but also has a slight stretch, which I thought would be a good idea as it would be a little more forgiving on the fit if needed.  The straps across the front are functioning as they need to be opened to get the dress on and off – the zip (button opening) in the back only goes to the waist, so you need to be able to open the gathering on the front panel.  2014-05-04 014

I didn’t think I would like the neckline as it extremely high, but I stuck with the original draft and am glad I did as I think it is one of the nicest necklines I have, and it feels sophisticated.  The fit has absolutely delighted me.  I had read that these patterns do fit very well, but given that we are all different shapes and that the enlargement is drafted using bust and hip measurements, I had reservations.  In addition, scanning and printing the pattern and then enlarging it myself does leave plenty of room for human error.  But I am delighted – it fits beautifully around the back.

One problem is that with natural movement, the front seam joining the top to the bottom can become visibly from behind the lower tab.  I have countered this by putting a small press stud between them, just to stop it riding up and down.

It isn’t perfect, but as my first attempt at a Lutterloh pattern I am delighted and hope to try it again in a more interesting fabric.  I hope to do it in a textured fabric, maybe a tweed or wool mix for the autumn.  I would also loved to do the top with the buttons down the back – I know that would be awkward to do up/undo, but that opening is not essential as long as the front tabs are real.

Even more excitingly, I shall be enthusiastically trying more of them!  Watch this space!

Play Clothes Captain!


Yes, I’ve gone all ‘Sound of Music’, and made a frock from some old curtains bought from a charity shop I  – and I LOVE it! 2014-03-15 001 The linings did not come up very bright when washed so they have been used for toiles (nothing gets wasted), and the curtains themselves had one faded area, but I have managed to cut around that so its all good. I started with the bodice from Butterick 5603 as I know it is (now) an excellent fit.  I have already adjusted it slightly to reduce width of the front slightly at the neckline.  This is now my ‘go to’ fitted bodice pattern. I wanted a circled skirt rather than fitted or gathered – I just find that gathering can add bulk to my waistline.  The fabric does have a checked pattern to it which will slope off because of the circular skirt, but I am happy with this – it looks quite effective. I know I can draft my own circle skirt pattern, but looked at my little collection and decided to add the skirt from Butterick B5813, which has 2 deep pleats on each side at the front. As the fabric is fairly heavy and a loose weave, I have interlining it with a light, white cotton fabric.  This has helped to strengthen the dress structurally without adding weight, and stops the pieces from skewing out of shape before stitching.  I had tried washing the fabric at a high temperature to see if it tightened the weave at all, but it didn’t seem to help. I have altered the neckline as I fancied a scooped out neckline with a  fairly low back.  This was my first attempt and I used a french curve.  It took two attempts to get the scoop right as it was more of a curved v-neck at first.  The tip is that the neckline needs to be horizontal at the centre front.  This is before the neckline is scooped out further: 2014-05-22 00.54.24 - Copy When the basic dress was put together I was really pleased.  Need to decide about the length (I am thinking about knee length?) and also whether to face or line the bodice.  Given the weight/bulk of the fabric, I decided to line it with a plain cotton and am absolutely delighted with it now that it is finished:   2014-05-27 03.13.51 2014-05-27 17.32.33 I really love this but do feel that it is probably more of an autumn/winter weight dress as it is very heavy, but this gives the skirt a lovely fullness and swish factor.  It is perfect on those not so warm summer days.  I should be able to add small sleeves in the autumn if I want to then.  I haven’t drafted sleeves to fit into a pre-existing arm hole before so that would be interesting.

Me-Made-May ’14


 ‘I, Elizabeth Owen,, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May ’14. I endeavour to wear at least one item of clothing that I made myself each day for the duration of May 2014’

This is a new idea to me which I love – I missed Dressember completely as I hadn’t heard of it, so feel it will be fun to give this one a go.  It is the creation of Zoe of So, Zo…What do you know?

The idea is simple – you wear something you have made each and every day in May.  I think I can do this, but there are likely to be repeats.  I will hopefully be posting a picture on here each day.  Wish me luck……

Day 11:2014-05-11 12.01.04

Day 10: 2014-05-09 11.12.26 

Day 8:  Another favourite of mine – this one will bDay 9:  2014-05-11 01.08.10e b`logged soon, along with earlier versionsDay 8

Day 7:This is a vintage Mordella pattern.   2014-05-07 08.26.29

Day 6:  The T-shiirt is a raglan sleeved Burda pattern – nothing vintage about it I’me afraid.2014-05-06 09.56.36

Day 5: My flower power dress (one of my favourites) 2014-05-05 016

Day 4:  My first Lutterloh dress 2014-05-04 017

Day 3: My red tulip dress 2014-05-03 18.08.00

Day 2:  Simple crossover warm top (it got cold) pattern from Burda magazine (11/2011). 2014-05-02 12.51.25

Day 1:  Simple A line skirt – plain and simple.2014-05-01 003