Playing with Pleats


Butterick 8038I had been after Butterick 8038 for some time, but it was rarely for sale and was always too expensive when it was, but I was finally lucky enough to win it on e-bay.  According to vintage patterns wikia, it is a 1957 pattern, which looks about right.

I love the fact that the pattern has been used, but never pinned, so either weighted or just free hand cut.  All of the markings had been made using blue chalk, and the bias facings, which are not included in the pattern, were cut from newspaper.  My favourite story was the extract from a letter to the paper asking who stole 2 geranium plants and hoping that they feel bad!

My pattern was for a 36 inch bust. In modern/re issued vintage patterns, this would probably fit alright, but having just had a bit of a disaster with a 36 inch bust 50’s pattern not being even vaguely big enough, I thought I would try my hand at grading the pattern up. I have amended/ adjusted/ tweaked patterns before, but never done a full size change. This pattern is worth the trouble so I looked up various methods.

I looked at several different methods to enlarge the pattern, some of which made much less sense to me than others, and finally settled on this one for its clear instructions and logical approach.  It took time, but all good things do.  I do not intend to reproduce the approach here (especially as I was so messy!) but the tutorial I used can be found at A Stitching Odyssey.

I traced the pattern onto tissue paper and then set about adjusting it. If I do this again, I would use a thicker paper for the initial trace as it was fiddly when cut and curled when I was trying to line up the pieces etc. It looks really messy, but I got there in the end.  It was also possibly not the best pattern to try this on given the crossover of the bodice, but with a consistent approach and a bit of care it seems to have works.  The size increase was not big enough to accommodate an extra pleat so I  reduced each pleat by 3mm and this worked well.

I would have loved the long sleeved version but my fabric was just too tight.  The fabric was a sari with borders one each side.  I had bought it from a charity shop for £4 and I really had set my heart on doing this dress in this fabric.

There was some rule breaking in the cutting.  The skirt was always to be cut cross grain as I wanted the border to run around the bottom.  The fabric was too narrow to cut the skirt back on the grain anyway. Given the sheen, this risky, but all great endeavors are!

I have never really used tailors tacks much, preferring to just place a pin in the fabric to mark a point unless the pattern was very detailed. In more recent times, I have started to use tacks more often, but with this dress used it to mark all points.  This was particularly useful when working on the pleats.  I did the ‘from’ pleat lines in one colour and the ‘to’ in an other which helped make the construction easier.

The dress went together very nicely – the instructions were clear.  The construction appeared complicated when I read it beforehand, but was all quite logical when you were actually doing it.

2015-05-22 018I love the skirt on this.  I am not a slender lady, but find that full skirted dresses are quite flattering.  I love the look of the pleats, the volume they give without adding bulk to the waist you can get with a gathered skirt.

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I am absolutely delighted with the fit of the dress.  I may move the starting points of the crossover sections down about 1/2 inch next time and try using bias binding around the neck and armholes when I make my next version as 2 inch bias facings were hard to double turn when going round the curve of the neckline.  I would really like to do the long sleeved version, possibly with the straight skirt for autumn/winter but also another sleeveless one in a more everyday fabric.  Just love it – I honestly believe it is the best thing I have ever sewn!




Floral and green Lutterloh dress


I was given some fabrics by someone I met on Facebook who was having a clear out.  They were furnishing fabrics, and coordinated well with one another.  I had used some of the plain green fabric to make my walkaway dress, but had a fair amount left.  The floral fabric I had originally wanted to use as the front of the walkaway dress had not been wide enough, but went so well with the green that I really wanted to use them together.  Also, I have wanted to be a bit more adventurous with mixing fabrics.

Page  (27)I had really like the look of a Lutterloh pattern (112) for a while, and it seemed the perfect opportunity to give it a go.  It was from the “domestic bliss” pages of the book (circa 1955), a few pages dedicated to making pinafores, aprons and coveralls for the modern woman so that she can set about her daily tasks suitably attired.  This was a pinafore that you could wear over your smart clothes but gave pretty much full coverage and was quite large on initial stitching to reflect this fact.

2015-04-22 002I enlarged the pattern using a proper Lutterloh tape measure which I only recently acquired from e-bay.  I had used a printed copy previously and have to say that using a proper measure makes it feel so much easier and I do feel that the points were more accurate. I did have a little help with this:2015-04-03 002

The floral fabric (curtain or cushion fabric) was much thicker than the plain green, but I like the contrast.  The section is enough to give the whole dress body and the ‘jushhh’ factor I am often after.  I love the shaping created by the pleats in the front.  It did take a fair bit of altering as the centre front was particularly wide, which is why the shaping around the bust ended up being quite rounded and pronounced, it was while I was fiddling with it but then I liked it so I kept it.  I feel it is quite a balanced look.

I have done very few button holes since restarting sewing, and not covered any buttons at all.  I had intended too cover some normal buttons from my stash, but, as I was using the floral fabric, didn’t want to stitch through the covered button, so I bought some metal cover yourself buttons.  Unfortunately, having spent a disproportionate amount of time choosing exactly which floral bits to make into buttons, I only had one successful button – one covered but quite squashed button, and one squashed but still refusing to clip into place button.  I appreciate that my fabric was quite thick, but still found it disappointing.  A few days later, I purchased the same buttons but the plastic version (cheaper but I just liked the metal ones better) and these worked so much better.  So I finally had my funky buttons.

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The overlap at the back was quite large and I had to reduce this, and also decide whether to just stitch down the back or leave the extra fabric from the crossover in.  I went with the latter.

2015-05-10 009 2015-05-10 011I am very pleased with my results, not the best sewn dress ever, but I think it is really quite pretty.

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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:

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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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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!

Flower power


My next door neighbour bought me this original 1960’s pattern from a second hand shop (thanks Eleanor!). Supplement  It is a semi- fitted dress with various neckline variations -I have seen it for sale on e-bay relatively frequently, so I assume it was a very popular pattern when originally printed.  I know this sounds a bit odd, but I love the dart placement, just a bit more exciting than a couple at the side and vertically down the front.

I went for the wide, scooped out neck line.  The pattern is for a 38 inch chest, which is my measurement but it still seemed large, and had to be taken in pretty much all the way down.  I absolutely love this fabric, a flower patterned cotton from Abakhan’s oddments, and had been trying to decide what to make with it for some time.  I was delighted to just about manage to squeeze this little beauty out of it.


I am so pleased with this dress, it is comfortable and makes me feel pretty – you cant really ask for more than that can you! Image

Red Tulip Dress


I think this is the most flattering dress I have made recently.  It is a Butterick B5032 with the neckline and arm holes of Butterick B5603 (both vintage style patterns).

B5032b 2014-03-24 007B5603a      I love the fabric – really rich reds in a quilting cotton from Abakhan’s oddments.  The bodice is lined with a very light, plain red cotton, almost a shame it cant be seen.

I have never tried a tulip skirt before and was concerned about whether it would flatter my pear shape but I think it does beautifully, and the softness that it achieved by using pleats instead of darts also hides my mummy-tummy.  I think it is a lovely fit around the bust and gives real definition.

I narrowed the neckline slightly to prevent it gaping forward slightly – it was a small adjustment, but one that made all the difference and it was my first attempt at a proper toil!  I think I would slim the skirt down slightly towards the bottom if I made it again as it is a little straighter than I would have liked.

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Why do I sew vintage inspired clothes


I have always loved the 50’s and early 60’s styles.  They are not the only styles I like, but they just don’t seem to date in the same way most other era’s fashion statements do in the great circle of fashion.  Not that I claim to be a fashion aficionado or anything – I am a great believer in making the best of what you have but trying to remain comfortable whilst doing it.   I didn’t even appreciate that they were ‘classic’ patterns when I was young, they were just nice patterns for frocks that we could get cheap from the charity shops.

That was my early teens and the patterns all got lost/gifted over the years and I stopped sewing and bought clothes instead.  The only sewing I did was curtains, cushions etc.

I am no longer a slip of a girl, and as I have got older my body has changed, and rightly so.  I did lose a lot of body confidence after having my son and couldn’t work out what suited me.  It took a lot of searching and bad clothes choices to finally stumble upon Pattern Review – how fabulous!  Real people showing how their versions of outfits turned out.  You can look through them and hopefully find someone with a similar body shape to you and see if a dress suits you, listen to their issues about fit, alterations etc and get general good tips on patterns.  This site has been invaluable to me when purchasing new patterns but also when choosing fabrics.

In short – I wear vintage inspired clothes because they give me confidence and make me feel happy, and that’s what its all about.

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