Monday, April 25, 2016

Comparing vintage wrap dresses: Vogue 1548 (DVF) & Simplicity 7705

As you have probably realised by now, I loooove a bit of op-shopping.  There's a good one on the way home from work which is open late so whenever I get the chance I pop in for a bit of a rummage. A couple of years ago  I struck gold and found an uncut Vogue1548, size 10 for 99c.  I have to confess that I didn't actually know it was such a desirable pattern until I got home and did some googling.  Crazy stuff.

Fast forward to the end of last year and the same op-shop turned up trumps again.. this time with Simplicity7705, a DVF knock off.  What was going on?  Had a wrap dress-loving person donated their entire awesome pattern stash to Savers where is was slowly released into the shop?  The sewing gods were clearly in my corner.

I actually made the V1548 a while ago but never blogged it - not sure why. Maybe knowing that it isn't the best thing I've ever made but that the pattern is the bees knees made me think that it wasn't worth it somehow.  However,  I  recently finished Simplicity7705, decided to stop being so silly and do a little comparison of construction, fit and finished product of each pattern.

Vogue1548 (size 10)

The pattern description is as follows: wrapped dress (can be worn forward or backward) with fitted bodice and flared skirt, three inches below mid-knee or evening length, has full-length sleeves, pockets in side seams and attached tie ends that wrap and tie at waistline. 

Suggested fabrics are light stretchable fabrics such as cotton knits, jersey knits and lightweight double knits. DVF dresses are famously made with silk jersey but as this was supposed to be a wearable muslin, I used a stable cotton knit  with a bit of weight to it that I picked up in Spotlight a while ago fro $3 p/m- rather easier on the pocket! This dress is a real fabric eater  because of the half circle skirt - I think I used almost 3m of 150cm wide fabric although possibly I could have laid out my pattern pieces more efficiently.

I followed the instructions fairly closely. The construction of this dress is interesting - the instructions are more what you would expect from a woven rather than a knit, but are really clear.  It has interfaced facings and the sleeves are set in instead of put in flat (I deviated from the instructions here) and sewn with a 1.5cm seam allowance.  I sewed each seam on the machine using a slight zig zag stitch then used the overlocker to finish them instead of sewing twice as instructed. 

Rather too much "front' here but you can see how low the wrap goes!

All facings were interfaced and I followed the instructions to hand stitch them to the inside of the bodice. It looks OK - you can just see the stitches through the dress and I think with more careful sewing it would have looked better (Cut Cut Sew did a great job on hers for example).

I haven't hemmed the dress yet and I can see from these pictures that the hem is seriously uneven!  I like the midi length though -- it'll work with boots for winter.  For a summer version, I'd go a bit shorter but it's nice to have a skirt which such a good twirl factor :) 

Fit wise, it's pretty good. This is the size 10 which is just a bit smaller than my measurements. The neckline is a bit low - it definitely needs a singlet underneath for work - but the wrap feels quite secure. It's perhaps a little bit big across the shoulders and could do with a small FBA; there is some pulling there. Black silk jersey for the next one ?

I'm very fortunate to have found this pattern and I've leant it to a couple of sewing friends so I'm looking forward to seeing their versions!

Simplicity 7705 

When I first picked up this pattern I assumed it would be very similar to Vogue1548. It's actually supposed to be knock of another DVF pattern and there are actually quite a few differences between this and V1548.  First, it is to drafted for both wovens and knits and has darts and gathers on the bodice. Second, the wrap is held in place by fastenings, rather than by an attached tie (the tie belt is separate) and lastly the skirt is less full.    

I made this up (size 12 pattern which corresponded with my measurements)  in a viscose knit that I picked up on sale in Wellington on a trip to the Fabric store with some of the Kiwi sewing bloggers.  It's probably a bit drapier than intended for this pattern but I thought that the large scale print would work well as a wrap dress.  It used less fabric than the DVF dress - around 2.5m I think.  I sewed it the same as the other dress - sewing machine for the seams, finished on the overlocker. 

I decided to leave in the bust and back darts but folded out the sleeve/elbow dart.   I also left off the cuffs and rather fabulous 70's collar , although I think they would look good in a firmer knit or woven and would make the dress look closer to the DVF original. 

Construction -wise it went together easily although it's worth noting that some of the steps were for both knit and wovens (adding interfacing to the bodice for example was optional.) I added knit interfacing to the bodice and wrap (interestingly the facings are not interfaced in this pattern) and I  stabilised the shoulders and waistline with clear elastic.

The instructions call for three hooks and eyes to close the bodice, but I used small snaps instead.  I also added a small snap to secure the wrap - the gape-age was pretty serious without.    Due to the large scale nature of the print and a complete disregard to the aforementioned print when cutting out the pattern I ended up with a dress that looked very different depending on which way it was wrapped.   Instagram came to the rescue (again) and unanimously voted for this wrap direction.  At least I hope that's what everyone meant when I asked "left or right" ... Hmmm, now I'm  starting to worry that I picked the best side!

The fit is OK - the bodice feels too big  at the sides and the sleeves are quite wide, although it would be interesting what the fit would be like in a woven.  I must just have to make another one up to compare!

This dress was hemmed a little shorter - but still in midi territory - using some stretch lace from the op-shopped stash.  

So, what do you think? Which pattern do you prefer?  Do you have any suggestions to improve the fit? 

Friday, April 15, 2016

Autumn wardrobe part 1

I did a heap of sewing over Easter - a mini Sewcation if you will - with the aim of making things that actually went together. No more orphans in the wardrobe!    This has resulted in a bit of a backlog of items so the lovely Nic came over and took some photos on my front porch (cue lots of outfit changes.. good job she bought her knitting).

Anyway, here are the first few items.

The skirt: Simplicity 2451 

This  pattern has been around for ages and there are lots of lovely versions around.  I made the size 12, version C but ended up taking in the side seams and waistband 1/2 cm on each side so should have probably cut the 10.    It's really comfortable to wear - the curved waistband sits slightly below the natural waist - and it has a vent at the back.   I love the look of pencil skirts but they are not particularly practical for my bike riding lifestyle but this tulip shape is fine. The fabric was a lucky op-shop find, a denim with a little bit of stretch.  Pockets and yoke were lined with Liberty scraps.  

I think this skirt would also be nice for winter, lined - I've got some bright pink wool blend that might work.

Top 1: Maria Denmark Kirsten Kimono Tee

The top is a Kirsten Kimono T - size small with no seam allowances added, and the sleeves lengthened slightly. I sewed it on the overlocker but  finished the neck with a facing and topstitched it from the right side with a twin needle . Fabric is a rayon ponte from Spotlight which feels oh-so-lovely to wear.  Not much else to say. Super-quick satisfying sew, free pattern. What's not to like?

Culottes: Vogue 9091

Vogue describes this pattern as  "Culottes, shorts and pants have waistband, front pleat variations, side pockets, stitched hem and back zipper"

When I bought this pattern I didn't actually notice the big box pleat at the front and I wasn't sure how it would look.  I did contemplate removing it (coincidently Charlie from Noble & Daughter was making these at the same time and posted an Instagram picture of her version with the pleat removed which look fantastic)  but in the end I decided to make a wearable muslin as per the pattern.

I made view B, size 10 (sized down from my measurements after the experience with the skirt).   Fabric is some mystery man-made suiting from the op-shop. It has a nice drape which works for the big pleats but I'm not sure I'd want all that volume in a beefier fabric so removing or reducing the pleat volume could be a good idea in something like a thicker wool or denim. I did a centred zip, but I think an invisible one would have looked better.

Size-wise these ended up being too small (grrr) so I had to unpick the waistband and sew smaller seam allowances.  Other than that they went together pretty easily.   This pair isn't  perfect - there is something a bit weird going on with the zip at the back - but they are kind of fun and great for bike riding.  I'm thinking about wearing them into winter with boots and tights - good idea or not?- and making another pair in wool.   And look - they go with the top!  

Up next on Autumn sewing.....  more tops and a jacket.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Breaking the rules: Vogue 8903

Why breaking the rules? Well Vogue 8903 lists Silk Jersey, Crepe de Chine and Challis as the suggested fabrics and this is none of these, Instead it's a soft, lightweight denim from the op-shop.  It was sort of intended as a wearable muslin but then I got all carried away with the top-stitching and well, it worked out OK !

This was a really fun project.  I sewed it over a week - cutting out last weekend which took longer than usual as I was eking out the patten from much less than the recommended fabric (one of the challenges of using op-shop fabric!) and sewing in short bursts during the week.  It's been a while since I did this kind of project - something more involved that can be broken up into bite size sewing pieces - but it was really enjoyable.   I had been feeling a bit indecisive and 'meh' about sewing since finishing my jumpsuit and this was a really great project to get me feeling positive and energised again.  Actually that's not entirely true. It almost went very wrong when I managed to cut the front at the version A line and the back at the version B line (A line is waaaay short)  but I had a "make it work" moment, cut off the back to the same length as the font and then re-attached a band to the back and front, top-stitching it to make it look like a deep hem.   

The contrast inner yoke is  Liberty  from the Phillips shirtmakers sale . Such a pretty print. I have lots of long (20cm) pieces of this so I expect it will turn up on the inside of many more garments!

Definitely not pretty on the inside - I used every last scrap of fabric!
The pattern doesn't call for this much top stitching, but I'm planning on making jeans at some point you see and wanted to use this as a trial run.   For efficiency  I had three machines set up at once:  my Jamone for stitching seams and buttonholes, overlocker for finishing seams and Bernina for top stitching.  After a few false starts, using a size 14 needle, Gutterman top stitching thread and regular thread in the bobbin worked the best.     

The beautiful shell buttons also came from the op-shop and by chance I had exactly the right number (14) .  I think perhaps that the iridescent shell was the intended side to be shown - but I love the irregularity of this side and the way the colours look against the dark blue of the denim.  Weirdly I loved doing all the topstiching, and making all those button holes (I avoided  buttonholes for years) but drew the line at sewing on all those buttons by hand.  Folks, if you have a button foot ( it's probably the little blue and clear plastic one ) and have not yet used it, go find it - it's a lifesaver! 

I also made a self fabric belt - shorter than the pattern calls for due to fabric restrictions. The dress can also be worn loose, it has a couple of fish eye darts  for shaping which prevents it from looking to sack like. 

I sized down, but then regretted it after basting the dress together and realising that it was going to be too snug so the side seams were sewn at 1cm instead of 1.5cm.  I think I got away with it , although I probably should have done an FBA. In a knit the fit would probably be fine though.

The short sleeve length doesn't quite work for me, so I'll most likely wear them rolled up like this.  I think the longer length  with tabs would be nice though.  


  • Pattern: Vogue 8903 loose-fitting dress has collar/mock front band, yoke, forward (no shoulder) shoulder seams, and stitched hem. I made Version B with short sleeves and the mandarin collar
  • Size: 10 (but with 1cm side seams instead of the 1.5
  • Fabric: 1.2m soft denim from the op-shop
  • Buttons: shell (op-shop)

Adjustments/What I did differently

  • Added a band to the hem to add length after stuffing up the cutting
  • Finished hem with bias tape  to preserve length.
  • Top stitching. Obviously 
  • Used the burrito method to attach the yoke - much easier and neater than the instructed method in my opinion.
  • Added interfacing to the button band. 

Changes for next time

  • Make it in a knit or ponte. I'm not sure about all those button holes in a thin knit though.
  • Do a FBA.
  • Full collar. 

I really like this dress.  It's more fitted than the couple of Alder shirtdresses that I've made so feels a more dressy, but it still comfortable.  I rode my bike in it today (I had to undo the bottom couple of buttons!) and it was fine.    The fabric does bunch a bit at the back when belted, which probably wouldn't be the case in a knit.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Juuuuuumpsuit! Mccalls 7203

A few months ago  I was filled with the sudden need to sew a jumpsuit, probably something to do with seeing Meg's (In this fabric!!!) at a boxing day catch-up.  Fortunately patterns were on sale at spotty for $3 each so I picked up a couple including Mccalls 7203 which is described as:

"Loose-fitting romper and jumpsuits have elasticized, dropped waist, blouson bodice with front pleated and back gathered into self-lined yoke, forward shoulder seams, no shoulder seams, mock-front button bands, and tapered pants"  

Romper eh?  Sounds a bit like something you'd make for a baby but never mind... And actually that description is misleading,  The front is gathered and the back is pleated and there are definitely forward shoulder seams.

I liked the look of this one because it wasn't too fitted in the  leg - less adjustments  for my 'generous' calves - and  it had buttons (I have a lot of buttons to use after my mega-op shop find). There weren't too many reviews of this one on the Interwebs which is always a bit of a concern, although but Erica B made a very chic black version so that was somewhat reassuring.   The fabric suggestions are Challis, Crepes, Crepe de Chine, Cotton Blends. I used a rayon with nice drape which was a good match.  I reckon anything too thick would be too bulky as the top is quite blousy.

It was a straightforward sew.  I made View C and sized down to the 10 (my measurements put me as a 12).

And it's a surprise winner!  Oh so comfy but fitted enough in places not to look shapeless and being rayon it is cool and lovely to wear. The dropped waist took a bit of getting used to, I kept wanting to pull it up resulting in an unfortunate wedgie, but I've got the hang of it now :) Oh, and toilet breaks need to be planned with time to spare to allow for the undressing required.  TMI?  Probably.

A big thanks to Claire for taking these impromptu pictures at the lovely Winchelsea where I joined a group of Melbourne sewists for the Dressmaker exhibition.  Such a lovely day out!  If you missed the exhibition it's coming to Ripponlea soon.


  • Pattern:Mccalls 7203
  • Fabric: 2m Rayon from Spotlight, $10 p/m
  • Buttons: Op shop
  • Size: 10


  • Used 6 buttons instead of 4 and adjusted the spacing accordingly.
  • Did some improv patchwork on the side where I sliced a hole with my overlocker *head slap*
  • Slightly smaller hem than indicated on the pattern - maybe 1cm?

What I liked about the pattern

  • The v neck - just about the right dip for me.
  • The gathers at the yoke (hard to see in this fabric)
  • Button front
  • Dropped, elastic waist. Sooo comfy.

Things I learnt/changes for next time

  • I followed the instructions for attaching the yoke but it was very fiddly.  Should have used the burrito method like my Alder dress.
  • Maybe grade down a size at the hips?  The pants have a bit of excess fabric at the sides. 
  • Jumpsuits are the bomb! I want to make more.
Jumpsuit = happy!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Making all the shorts - Simplicity 1887

Shorts were required and time was, well... short :) so I decided to give Simplicity 1887 a go having seen Emma's version (she's since made another awesome pair in Nano Iro).   I'm so glad that I read her sizing advice before I cut into my fabric. The pattern has a huge amount of ease and if I hadn't significantly sized down - I made the 8 when the measurements put me as a 12-14 - they would have ended up round my knees.

I ended up making three  pairs - a test pair in some lovely soft dark blue op-shop cotton and then two more constructed assembly-line in a cotton drill  from Spotlight and a rather bright vintage op-shop floral cotton.


Fabric choice does make a difference with these shorts. Because of the gathering and pleats, a softer fabric with some drape works much better. As a result the cotton drill pair are my least favourite - the stiffer fabric puffs out and the shorts look a bit like like big bloomers from the front despite my best attempts with the iron to get them to sit better. The back waistband gathering is also more obvious - giving them a bit of a boxer shorts vibe.  I'm a bit annoyed because I really like this fabric and had it earmarked for a par if Maritime shorts before I went crazy with this pattern so I may deconstruct them and see if I can make those instead. Or just wear a top pulled down over them which, let's face it it is the more likely thing to happen...

I like the floral pair more than I though I would, although they look best with a black (or maybe a stripy?) top and I only have one, ratty black rtw vest top in my wardrobe. Time to make some more! The blue ones go with everything and had lots of wear during our recent holiday in Thailand.

Construction of these shorts is quick - there is no zip or closures, just two channels for elastic. The most time consuming thing is feeding the elastic through.   I ignored the elastic length guide and just cut a longish length of elastic, pulled it through, pinned it in place at one end and adjusted it until the fit was right.  The waistband is wide and curved and supposed to sit just below your natural waist (I think I have it pulled up a bit too high in the above pics).They require a little bit of wriggling to get them over my hips but are super-comfy once on.

A note on elastic.  I ran out of the required width elastic but happened to have some wide underwear elastic from the op-shop on hand which was double the required width.  I ran it through my overlocker and then finished the edges of the cut peice with the overlocker sa well. Voila! new, correct-width elastic :)

Pattern: Simplicity 1887
Fabric: Drill (Spotlight), floral and blue cotton (opshop)
Sizing:  8, but cut the length of the size 12.
Adjustments: Used own elastic length

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Lovely linen layers - Tessuti Kate top


The Tessuti Kate top is a  fairly basic pattern but what attracted me (apart from the opportunity to enter the competition of course!) were the nice details: the mitred cornered hem and the keyhole fastening.   Keen eyed viewers will see that this top doesn't actually have a back fastening -  I decided that the layering and the side slit were enough and could get the top easily over my (small) head.

I did make another version in linen with contrast liberty binding with the keyhole fastening as you can see below and it's a lovely detail so it will definitely feature in future versions (of which there will be quite a few I think!). A note on the linen version - both the Liberty for the binding and linen came from a $5 scrap bag from the Phillips shirtmakers sale so it ended up being a very economical top!

For my second version I  couldn't get past the crisp, clean linen version on the front of the pattern and luckily had 1.5m of beautiful linen picked up as an end of the roll at a recent  Phillips fabric sale for the bargain price of $8 p/m.

I'd been hankering after a top like one that I'd seen on House of Lane's Instagram feed and thought that this pattern would work well (Spoiler: it did!)

I chose View B with the higher neckline. To get the layered effect, I cut two tops:  one as per the pattern but lengthened by 2cm at the 'lengthen here' line,  and a second one without the mitred corners shortened but following the hemline of the first top.  The hem falls just on the mitred corner detail of the undertop which can be seen through the linen as it is quite sheer.  The extra layer adds structure as well as making the top less opaque (good job because the only skin coloured bra that I own is really rather hideous).

A few adjustments were required.  I made the View B,  XXS with a 2cm FBA, slightly raised and lengthened the bust darts and added 2cm in length to the undertop.  The  FBA also added some width which I decided to leave, rather than take out of the side seams  as I wanted  it to be breezy and not too fitted.

I  constructed the tops separately as per the instructions up, sewing the overtop with a slightly smaller SA, until the the step of adding the binding.  The longer top was finished as per per in the instructions with the mitred hem, and the overtop with a narrow (1/4") double turned hem.

The two tops were then basted together at the neckline and armholes and finished with the binging as instructed.  I used the Tessuti turorial for applying the bias and it was a game changer.  Now I just want to add ALL THE BIAS.   Due to the thickness of having an extra fabric layer, I graded the top seam allowances as much as possible before under-stitching the binding.

The instructions for this top are great (pictures work really well for me as I'm a visual learner) and make for such a nice finish.

Glamming it up in the potato plants :)

Tessuti Kate Top - PDF download $10
Linen from  Phillips shirtmakers, Melbourne $8 p/m
Size: XXS
Adjustments: 2cm FBA

It's the prefect summer top!  And as evidenced by all the amazing entries for the competition, there are so many possibilities to customise it.  There will be more (in fact, I already have another one almost finished in Rayon!)

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Ruby Sunset

Do you ever have those projects that just don't work out the way you envisaged?   This top started out as one of those - as an Inari T dress.  The black linen one has been a favourite so I thought a dresser print version in silk would be the go.     But... it just wasn't working. The 'stripes' on this beautiful silk (bought from Kinki Gerlinki a little while ago) were slightly off grain so they didn't match up at the side of the dress which I had so painstakingly cut on grain (doh!) and the dress was somehow too much, too shiny, just not right.

So, I changed tack and decided to make another Ruby top. The  silk one that I made earlier this year has been worn regularly. It's the perfect summer top really, with its floaty shape and cut away armholes, and great to wear with jeans.

Because I was working with already cut fabric pieces, plus a scant 75cm of fabric left over it was a bit of a challenge to get the Ruby pattern pieces to fit, especially as I didn't want to end up with a wide white stripe across my chest!  But with a little help from my social sewing buddies, it worked.  I ignored the grainline this time and just matched up the stripes which luckily does't seem to have affected the drape.

The 'right side' of the fabric which though beautifully vibrant, is also quite shiny so I decided to use the  matte side of the fabric instead which makes the top a bit more wearable for everyday.

To break up the paler colours near the neckline I used exposed binding - attaching to the wrong side, then flipping to the right side and topstitching.  Stitching a straight line, even with my beloved edge-stitch foot was a bit  tricky in this slippery silk, but it's passable.   I hand stitched the back facing and added a line of machine stitching to reinforce the split - I'm still deciding whether to go back and unpick this, but I don't want the split to rip. The top was hemmed using my rolled hem foot.

The button loop was made by plaiting three threads of overlocker chain together.  I watched the Tessuti tutorial on making a thread loop about 15 times and couldn't get it even though I've done it successfully before.  What's with that?   I must be getting old.

Pattern: Ruby Top by Tessuti
Size: 8 with a 5/8 inch FBA
Fabric: Silk from Kinki Gerlinki ($10 p/m)