A Special Dress

I think this might be my favourite thing I’ve ever made. It’s the dress I made for my 30th birthday last month, and it feels perfectly me! The fabric is my favourite style of small-scale abstract print, in my current favourite colours, and the style is comfortable but also dressy enough that I think I could probably wear it anywhere. A win all around really! (Thanks to Emma for taking some photos of it while we were having a drink on the waterfront last week!)

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I used the Named Helmi Tunic pattern, with a couple of small modifications. I wear my first Helmi all the time, but I usually end up wearing a belt with it so that I don’t feel swamped by all that fabric. I really like the drawstring waist feature on my Southport dresses, so this time I added an internal casing and a self fabric drawstring to cinch the waist in without the fussiness of a belt. It was a really easy adjustment to make, I just cut a narrow strip of self fabric and sewed it to the waist seam when I was sewing the skirt to the bodice, and then turned the raw edge under and top-stitched it down to create a narrow channel and to hide the waistline seam allowances. The drawstring passes through two tiny buttonholes that I made in the skirt in line with the edges of the button placket (before I sewed the drawstring casing closed, obviously). The other change I made to the pattern was to shorten the sleeves to cap-sleeve length. I used the Scout Tee sleeve as a guide for how long I wanted them, and then drew in a slight curve to the hem using my french curve.

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I used the collar pieces from the shirt view of the pattern, it has a lovely shape and I really like the size. I do find that it wants to overlap at the centre front a bit when I have it buttoned up to the top, I must have not been precise enough with some of my seam allowances. One thing I did try really hard to do was avoid any twinning in the pattern across the front, and as you can see I failed miserably! I forgot to take into account the concertina fold that makes up the hidden button placket, and ended up with some serious pattern replication across the front. I was pretty bummed when I first laid the two front halves together and saw that I had done, but I’m hoping that that’s one of those things that only someone who sews would notice! I used little pearlescent pink buttons, which match the pale pink smudges in the fabric, but I didn’t realise that even the one at the collar would be essentially covered up! I added some hand stitches between the buttonholes at the edge of the covered placket to stop it from flapping open, which I’ve noticed my black one does, which helps to hide the buttons even more.

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And now about the fabric… I love it so much! It’s an Atelier Brunette viscose print called Moonstone, in the blue colourway. I bought it from Miss Maude specifically to make this dress, and I was so happy when I opened the parcel and ended up with a lap full of this gorgeous fabric! It’s so smooth and soft and cool to wear, just gorgeous. I’d love to buy some more, just in case (but I’m not going to, because stash busting). It was pretty expensive, but I love it enough that I don’t mind! I gave it the full VIP treatment, it’s all french seamed on the inside (including the armscye seam) because I couldn’t stand the thought of putting it through the overlocker. Unfortunately I forgot that Named uses a 1 cm seam allowance, so I have some very tiny french seams… They were a bit of a fiddle to sew, but I got there in the end and they look lovely and neat! I considered hand sewing the hems, but I decided to just sew them on the machine. They match the topstitching on the collar and the waist, and the tread I used in an exact colour match so it isn’t very obvious.

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I wore this dress to a couple of birthday celebration drinks (I managed to spread my birthday across an entire week, I would recommend it!), and was very comfortable in it. I love it even more now though because it’s also the dress I was wearing when Hamish asked me to marry him. I love that I have so many happy things associated with this dress, it makes it even more special than the fact that it’s just my favourite handmade garment!

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(I said yes, of course)


Squeezing in one last sundress

When the latest Tessuti pattern popped up on my Instagram feed a few weeks ago I bought it before I even considered that the end of February might not be the best time to be making sundresses! Our summer has been absolutely spectacular though (best one in Wellington for 60 years, apparently), so I thought I would bump it up to the top of my queue and hope I’d get the chance to wear it.

I used a length of milled linen from The Fabric Store (I’m sure you’re all shocked by that choice) which has been in my stash since last summer, just waiting for the right pattern. I love the colour, but I was slightly alarmed when I tried the dress on to check the strap length and realised that it was almost an exact match for my skin! I didn’t realise that I was ‘vintage blush’… Hopefully it doesn’t disappear too much against my torso.

There are some lovely details in this pattern, the top-stitched pockets are very neatly finished, and I love the split hem with its mitred corners! I shortened this pattern in a couple of places, I took an inch off at the waist and another inch half way down the side splits, and then I ended up taking an inch off the upper edge of the front neckline too to compensate for my short upper torso. I also shortened the straps, but I did that by pinning them while I was wearing it so I’m not sure how much I took off them.

I also took it in 1/2” at the top of each of the side seams, but I still have a bit of gaping under the arms. If it fitted any closer I think I would need to add a zip to get in and out of it and I like that it’s an easy pull on style, so I’m just ignoring it! I might try taking a narrow wedge out of the CF on the fold next time too, to see if that helps it sit more snugly in the upper chest.

I made a long skinny fabric tie for a belt, I just cut a 2” length right along the selvage and sewed it into a tube. I was very glad to have my loop tuner when I was trying to get that right side out! Even then it was a bit of a struggle getting all 2m onto the length of the turner, I should have left the opening half way along rather than at the end. I really like it belted, but I’m surprised how much I like it just hanging straight too. I thought it might be too shapeless, especially with the length, but I think it looks pretty stylish really!

I wore it out to the Newtown Festival yesterday, hot off the machine! I stuck a tee shirt under it as it was so sunny and I didn’t want to worry about reapplying that much sunblock, and I think it looks ok layered too. I should maybe stick to plain white tee shirts though, as the striped one definitely shows through the linen. I have plans to make another one (with a few changes) for layering in autumn out of some gingham linen, and I’d love to make a fancy version out of some lush mustard silk CDC that I’ve been hoarding. And maybe another one for next summer, in Caper linen from TFS…

Jedediah Shorts (sharing the linen love around)

Even though I do a fairly brutal wardrobe clear out every 6 months, I’m still reaching the point where my handmade wardrobe is well stocked with the sort of every day basics that I live in, and enough ‘special occasion’ outfits to last me several years (maybe I need to get out more?). Instead of sewing less (ridiculous idea), I’m trying to sew more for others. So far this year I’ve made a shift dress for my Mum, and another pair of Jedediah Shorts for Hamish, both in linen from The Fabric Store.

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This is the third time I’ve made the Jedediah pattern (first and second here), though its the first time for a few years. The notes I made in my other blog posts were okay, but I hadn’t altered the pattern or anything helpful at the time so I was a bit sketchy about exactly what I needed to do. I took a wedge off the side seams at the top, tapering to nothing at mid thigh, and then I added half an inch to the width at the hem front and back (so an extra inch in width for each leg). I also remembered having some weird problems with too much fabric between the pockets and the fly on the trousers that I made, so I took a tiny sliver of fabric out there too.

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I basted them all together and got him to try them on, and they were skin tight. I probably should have remeasured him, rather than going off the numbers I had from years ago…I’ve learned my lesson there! Luckily I was able to let the side seams out all the way down the leg to get the fit he was looking for. I’ll need to go back and add that wedge I initially removed back into the pattern, along with a bit more width down the side seam…the adjustment I made across the front hip worked nicely though, so I’ll keep that!

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In some ways it’s good that these started out a bit snug, as the heavyweight linen I used has relaxed significantly, as linen does. The bum does get a bit baggy in these shorts, but it seems to return to its original shape after a wash! This is the same stuff that I backed my cushions in, but in the gravel colourway, and it’s really nice. It’s smooth and soft, and nicely opaque. No underpants on show here! I sewed these as I would a pair of jeans, with flat felled seams and top-stitching and bar tacks. I was going to put silver rivets at the pockets, but that idea was vetoed before I got the hammer out. The pockets are a striped grey and white stretch cotton that I fished out of the scrap bin. At Hamish’s request, I increased the depth of the pocket by 2”, he wanted them to be deep enough for his iPhone to fit in without it peeking out of the pocket opening. The linen definitely develops stretched points where the corners of his phone put pressure on the fabric, but he doesn’t seem to mind about that!

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The tee shirt he’s wearing here is another one of the GBSB Fashion with Fabric tees that I’ve made (and blogged about) before. This one is also merino, but it’s a super lightweight loop-backed merino/lycra blend remnant that I picked up somewhere. Initially I was going to make myself leggings out of it, but it had a flaw that I couldn’t figure out how to cut around, to Hamish’s gain! He wears the three tee shirts I’ve made from this pattern constantly, it’s rather gratifying. I’m going to make some long sleeved tops for him for winter, I just need to get around to printing out the Strathcona Henley pattern…

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He seems pretty happy with them, he’s certainly been wearing them lots in this hot weather! Zelda was in peak fiend mode the morning we took these pictures, she was just determined to get involved! She’s always worried about missing out on something…

Landers in Linen

Oh look, more linen! It really has been the star of my sewing this summer, and I’m not done with it yet… I’m sure you probably recognise the pattern I used for these trousers, they’re the True Bias Lander Pants and they’ve been everywhere since they were released last year! I was immediately drawn to the shape of the cropped version, and since I’ve had such good wear out of my Flint Trousers I was keen to give the Landers a go.


I used a length of cotton/linen twill that has been in my stash for a few years, I bought it from a designer ends sale for cheap. I really liked the pale grey colour, and the texture of the twill, and the cotton/linen fibre blend is really nice to wear in the heat. Its a pretty soft fabric though, and is possibly a bit lightweight for these trousers. I’m not too happy with how the linen pulls out of shape, especially around the button fly. I’ve combated the worst of the pulling (just below the waistband) by sewing a hook and eye to the fly shield, and that’s solved the worst of it, but I think if I make them in a lightweight fabric again I’ll use a more sturdy interfacing, and I’ll interface the front of the trousers where the buttonholes are sewn as well as the fly shield! Next time I’ll have a fiddle with the crotch curve in the front pattern piece too, I could do with a little bit more room there and hopefully that’ll help with the pulling around the button fly too.


I do love the details on this pattern, between the big patch pockets front and back and the exposed button fly they definitely don’t look like anything else in my wardrobe! They were really fun to sew up, and the button fly meant that they were a pretty quick project too. They were pretty snug through the hip and around my bum when I basted the side seams together, but I let them out to a 5/8” seam allowance (rather than the 1” allowance that the pattern gives to allow for adjustments) around the hip, which helped. To be honest, I think I could have left them at the original seam allowance, as the cotton/linen blend relaxes quite a bit with wear, but hopefully they won’t get too baggy around the bum…


When I finished these, I really wasn’t sure about them. I think it was mainly the colour, I never wear such pale colours on my bottom half! I was also a bit stuck with how to wear them, but after paring them with the range of cropped tops I’ve sewn this summer I’m feeling better about them. I thought I’d be wearing them with all of my striped tee shirts, but I didn’t think about the fact that most of my black and white stripes look like plain grey tee shirts from a distance, and it was all a bit monochromatic for me! I clearly need some tee shirts in more definite colours. I’m really keen to make another pair in some non-stretch denim I have in my stash, which I think I’ll find much easier to wear. I’m looking forward to going full 1970’s with them!


Speaking of cropped tops, this is my latest one! I was thinking of just making another cropped Willow Tank with this lush paprika milled linen from The Fabric Store, but I decided to branch out after I saw Emma from Emma’s Atelier make the free Harvest Top pattern from Peppermint Magazine. I made a few changes to the pattern, but I’m really happy with how it’s turned out! I didn’t add on the bottom panel to the tee to make it cropped, and then I used a 1 1/4” hem on it. I also shortened the armscye and sleeve cuffs by 2”, when I sewed them up as drafted I could see my entire bra through the armhole when I lifted up my arms. Not quite the look I was going for! I used the bamboo flower buttons from Arrow Mountain down the back, which I love. They’re just sewn through both layers of the placket, there’s enough room in the top and neckline for me to just pull it over my head. The buttons were initially on a chambray Southport Dress which I made to take to the UK last year, but I must have graded the seams around the bias facings too harshly and it’s started to come apart in the wash. I didn’t love it enough to try mending it, so I was happy to rescue the buttons for this! I’m considering cutting the bodice off the dress and just keeping the skirt, otherwise I’ll just recycle the fabric into a tank top or something little. I think the Harvest tee is a good wee pattern, it took less than 1m of fabric to make this cropped version, and I can think of a few other versions I could make with various modifications. No button back, shaped cuffs (get rid of those wings!), colour blocking, changing the neckline…

A wee bit of Scotland in my living room

I’ve never really bothered to sew homewares, despite my best intention when we bought our house (3 years ago, eek). Curtains and cushion covers are just so boring to make, I keep getting distracted by making clothes! However, when we were planning our trip to the UK last year I really wanted us to go out to the Outer Hebrides, and I knew that we couldn’t visit Lewis and Harris without buying some Harris Tweed (or some Harris gin!). Because I’m not made of money (and I had luggage restrictions), I knew that I would only be buying a small amount, so I had to suck it up and sew some cushion covers!

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We arrived in Stornoway on Saturday, and drove straight down to Tarbert in Harris to visit the Tweed shop and the Harris distillery. The drive was magnificent, suitably dramatic skies, terrifyingly winding single track roads, and lots of sheep. it was a bit like driving around some of the wilder parts of New Zealand, but everything felt much older and more worn in. I was stunned by the beaches, I knew that Harris was known for it’s white sand beaches but it was still a surprise to drive a round a bend and see them laid out before us! We visited the distillery first, and unfortunately were unable to do a tour, but we did some gin tasting (and buying), and read about the formation of the distillery. They won’t have any whisky available for several more years, so they’re making delicious gin in the meantime! Then we crossed the carpark to the Harris Tweed shop

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…which was amazing! It’s a tiny little place, absolutely packed to the ceiling with bolt after bolt of tweed. I had a good chat to the man who was looking after the shop, and he gave me a quick demonstration of Harris tweed weaving, using the type of loom which the tweed used to be woven on (a newer style of loom has been used since the 1990’s which can make a wider cloth, more suitable to the modern garment trade). I initially had the impression that there was a factory on Harris that I would be able to visit to see the tweed being woven, but he explained that to be given the official Harris Tweed stamp of authority the tweed all had to be produced by hand in the weavers home. At that point I began to think that £40p/m was pretty reasonable! That meant that any tweed which came off the loom in the shop (pictured above) couldn’t be called Harris Tweed, as it was woven on commercial premises. We could have organised to visit one of the weavers homes and see them at work, which would have been amazing, but unfortunately we were there over the weekend and there are pretty strict rules about what can be done on a Sunday out on the Islands…I’ve done a bit more reading about the rules around the Harris Tweed authority, and originally everything had to be done on Lewis and Harris, from shearing the sheep to the weavers sorting, carding, spinning and dyeing the wool themselves. Now the wool can come from the islands or the Scottish mainland, and the processing, dyeing and spinning of the yarn is done in mills on the islands before being sent to the weavers homes to be made into tweed. (I read Tartan + Tweed by Caroline Young and Ann Martin for extra information on Harris Tweed)

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In the end, we settled on a mustard tweed, with a pale blue, terracotta and white tartan pattern. It had to go on our grey couches and not clash with our mustard rug, so I think we picked pretty well! I backed the cushions with a beautiful pale grey heavyweight linen from The Fabric Store, and I love the contrast in textures between the coarse, nubbly wool and the smooth linen, but I also love that the weave pattern is so visible in each fabric. I’m glad I decided to back them with a different fabric, as the tweed is pretty scratchy and I can flip them over to the linen side if I’m lounging on the couch with them under my head. They gave us three official Harris Tweed labels to sew onto the finished cushions, which I love. No knock-off tweed here!

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I’m really happy with how they’ve turned out, I used all of the 1/2m of fabric we bought so they’re good big cushions and they’re really squashy and comfortable! I love having such a visual reminder of our trip to such an awesome place, fabric really does make the best souvenirs. And sewing cushion covers turned out to be a pretty simple task, I think I probably managed to sew all three in a couple of hours. I guess that means I should start thinking about sewing some nice new curtains for all the huge windows in our living area…



90’s throwback

*edit to add: for some reason the pictures failed to upload properly for the first version of this post, which is the one that was emailed out if you follow me via email. I’m sorry about that!*

This revival of 90’s fashion is weirding me out a little bit, it’s the first time clothing I remember wearing when I was a kid is back in the shops! I vividly remember having a slip dress when I was 8 or 9, it was chocolate brown and had a cream ditzy floral print. I wore it over one of those white ribbed tee shirts that everyone had, probably with jelly sandals, and I thought I was so cool. And now, 20 years later, I’ve cycled back around to the cami-dress and tee shirt combo! I’m not doing jellies again though, those things gave me wicked blisters…

This is the Mito Cami/Dress from Papercut Patterns. I admit, I passed over this one when it was first released, it looked a bit too cleavage-y and the low back makes wearing a bra hard. Then I started seeing the whole slip and tee shirt combo coming back, and I changed my mind about it! I really like the shape of this pattern, the triangular bodice pieces and the scooped back are so pretty. I chose my usual Papercut size of XS, which is a size down from where my measurements put me, but which seems to fit best! 

I chose a very drapey dark teal rayon crepe from deep in my stash to try this out. I love how flowy the crepe is with this pattern, but it does hang very heavily from that central point where the skirt and bodice pieces meet. Something with a bit more structure (or less weight) would sit more smoothly there I think! I debated about whether I should sew fixed length straps, but in the end I followed the instructions and used lingerie sliders to make them adjustable. If I shorten the straps heaps I can hike the back of the dress up high enough to cover my bra band, though I doubt I’ll be wearing it alone! It’s a good option for a slip though…

I did make my life slightly more complicated by changing the order of construction so that I could line the bodice cleanly. I sewed the skirt pieces to just the outer bodice pieces, and then hand sewed the lining pieces over the seam so that it’s all nice and tidy inside. 

The tee shirt I’m wearing here is also a new one, it’s a crew neck Lark tee made in some more of the striped cotton/Lycra knit that I made a long sleeved version out of last year. I’ve used every version of the Lark pattern now! I used the short sleeve piece here, but I prefer the cap sleeve I think. Something to remember for next time! 

Handmade 10×10 challenge

I’ve been reading more and more about capsule wardrobes recently. On one hand, it’s a fairly seductive concept; who wouldn’t want a small, cohesive wardrobe full of beautiful, luxury garments which all match and make getting dressed simple? On the other hand, its a fairly ludicrous idea for me, I love making and wearing all sorts of clothes and I can’t ever imagine paring my wardrobe back to that extent! So I thought I’d dip my toes into the capsule wardrobe world by trying a 10×10 challenge. I’d seen this idea on various fashion blogs, where you choose ten items of clothing to make up a capsule wardrobe to wear for ten days, but when I listened to the Love To Sew podcast episode on trying it with a handmade wardrobe I decided to jump in (along with Emma from Emma’s Atelier). This is the capsule I put together:

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One dress: The Mito Cami dress from Papercut Patterns in teal rayon crepe (unblogged)

One Skirt: v1247 in indigo cotton

One pair of trousers: Flint Pants in viscose twill

One long sleeved top: Melilot shirt in chambray

Two tops: Willow Tank and Ogden Cami

Two tee shirts: Lark Tee (unblogged) and Plantain Tee

Two pairs of shoes: Leather sneakers and gold flats.

I decided at the beginning of my planning that what I really wanted was to shake myself out of some wardrobe ruts that I often find myself in. Obviously I could have made this really easy by picking a pair of jeans, 7 tee shirts, a Driftless cardi and some lace up shoes, which is what I wear about 70% of the time anyway, but that isn’t really the point! So I purposely didn’t pick jeans or a cardigan, and I also tried to pick items that I tend to wear as part of specific outfits to force myself to find new ways to wear them.

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This is what days 1-5 looked like. Nothing terribly exciting, to be honest, but I managed to wear every item in my capsule except for the Ogden Cami, and I felt like I had enough separate pieces to put together 5 outfits that didn’t feel limited or boring or repetitive. I had a couple of small cheats, on day one I was unexpectedly invited out to a fancy restaurant for dinner that night and I decided to wear a pair of heels with my Flint Trousers and Willow tank to dress them up, and on day 2 I was at the cricket all day and I took my raincoat along (luckily, as it started to rain that evening). Even though none of these outfits are groundbreaking, even small changes like tying my tee shirt or shirt at the waist made them feel a bit different and is outside of what I would normally have done (I usually just tuck things in, easy but lazy!). I especially like how my Plantain tee looks tied over the waist of that skirt. This was also the first time I wore my Mito cami dress, which I had been feeling a bit ambivalent about, and I was pretty comfy in it!

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Days 6-10 carried on in much the same way! My outfit for day 6 was basically pyjamas for lounging around the house, and day 7 annoyingly ended up being the only repeated outfit of the 10 days as it suddenly got chilly and I wanted long sleeves! Days 9 and 10 were probably the only days that I branched out, I know it sounds silly but I struggle with mixing prints and even the combination of navy and white stripes with the navy and white abstract pattern on the skirt made me think twice. I think it looks fine though, the pattern on the skirt is so minimal it barely counts! I was also glad to see that the Ogden cami works pretty well under the Mito dress, which is good because it’s a much breezier combination than a tee-shirt under the dress. the other combination I considered trying was the Willow Tank over the Mito dress, and the shirt open and tied at the waist over the dress (or over the Ogden/Flint outfit). I did try throwing the shirt on unbuttoned over the tee shirts, but I just felt a bit silly. I think the Melilot is too shaped at the side seams to look right unbuttoned, and I felt a bit swamped in fabric between that and the billowing Flint pants.

I was lucky that I picked a 10 day stretch of pretty settled, warmer than average summer weather, a capsule wardrobe for standard Wellington weather would need to be considerably bigger than this one! I also think I picked a pretty good selection of items. Keeping to a limited colour palette and choosing all separates definitely helped, and I felt like I had plenty of options. Ultimately, I don’t think a capsule wardrobe is for me, I was feeling pretty over all of those items by the end of my 10 days! I also found that it killed my urge to sew, because I knew I wouldn’t get any instant gratification by sewing and then wearing something immediately (I feel like there’s a bit to unpack in that realisation, do I do the sewing equivalent of fast fashion? I’ll have to think a bit more about that…). I am glad that I found a few new ways to wear some things, and that I took a small step outside of my comfort zone, so it wasn’t a wasted experience!

Do any of you stick to a capsule wardrobe? Have you tried anything like the 10×10 challenge? I’d love to hear what other people think about this sort of thing!