One of my plans for this year even before all the lockdown stuff happened was to do some more dress-making. I’m not a big buyer of clothes and in recent years many of my old favourites have got to the point where they are no longer wearable. Eventually fabric gets too thin to be repaired and has to be consigned to the rags.

Unfortunately, rather than being caught up in a whirl of creativity, I have found the lockdown stressful and draining, so haven’t done as much making as I would otherwise have achieved. However, I’ve now completed a second dress (first one here). I’m quite pleased with the end product, but it turned into something of a labour of love. I’ve done lots of dressmaking over the years, so am not too intimidated by a more challenging pattern, but it’s nice sometimes to go for a quick and easy make, which is what I thought I would do in this case. I selected a slightly unusual pattern that was cut in a single piece on the bias, so that it only had a single long seam up the back and two short seams at the shoulders. I had assumed that the neck and arm holes would be faced, but when the pattern said a single piece of fabric, that’s exactly what it meant. The suggestion was that all the edges were left raw, with just a row of stitches to stop them fraying – no hems, no facings, no binding. Since I had bought a piece of linen with which to make this dress, and since it does fray rather a lot, I was not prepared to make a garment that I feared would simply unravel. There was a bit of a throw-away line in the pattern suggesting that you could hem or bind if you wanted to, but that was it.

Anyway, not deterred, I made a toile, prototyped some pockets (like the ones on my Beatrice aprons) and ordered some bias binding. What I had completely forgotten to do was buy some thread that matched the fabric, and with no local sewing shops open and long delays on orders from my preferred online shops, I had to bite the bullet and do some top-stitching in the same colour as the binding (which I did have thread for). Once I looked at the pattern in detail, it turned out that some piecing together was required if the dress was to be possible in my size and in the width required:

Well, I would rather have known to buy wider fabric than to have to do this. Fortunately, my toile had revealed that I wanted the dress shorter than the pattern, so I was able to avoid the joining.

I cut the fabric, stabilised the edges (single row of stitches on the curves and round the bottom and overlocking the straight back and shoulder edges) and attached the pockets before joining any of the seams. I bound the top of the pockets, carefully stitched them on with my contrasting thread, noticed that I’d attached one the wrong way out (the one in the picture), removed it and restitched it, then bound the neck. Then I took hours and hours to bind the arm holes, including several attempts that had to be taken out, because the acute angle at the bottom was so challenging. In the end I had to tack the binding in place to get it anything close to neat, and even now it’s a long way from perfect. The neck was easy to bind and the closure is simply a button and loop. The bottom I hemmed using the contrasting thread.

I’m happy enough with the final version and it’s comfortable to wear, but I feel that the pattern description was incredibly misleading. Still, I love the fabric, the shape of the dress and the drape resulting from the bias cut. If I make it again, I’ll simply add seam allowances and line the bodice part, then top-stitch, which would be a very quick make. Oh well, you live and learn.

Mum knows best

Sometimes you can work on a problem for ages and just not be able to see the solution.

And so it was with my pyjamas. I had bought a paper pattern, cut out all the pieces, completed the bottoms (except the elastic, which I didn’t happen to have any of) and them came to the top. Ah, the top, which was supposed to have a rather nice contrasting binding round the neck, cuffs and bottom. The pattern describes itself as ‘easy’… well, pah to that! There is nothing easy (for me) about creating a bound edge on a V-necked garment… with a seam at the V that means… as far as this pattern goes… that you end up with five layers of fabric in a tiny point. I tried several times to get it right before setting it aside and wondering if there was any way to make a crochet ending for it (I’m a much better hooker than seamstress*).

An easy solution

An easy solution

And then I went to visit my mum. She really is a great needlewoman and, as soon as I described my problem, she was able to offer a solution (and confirm that the binding was ridiculously fiddly). An easy solution… something that I could do without any trouble. ‘Forget binding,’ she said ‘and just make a facing, with no seam at the V’. And so I returned home and completed the neck without any further issues. It means that it doesn’t have a contrasting edging, but I really don’t care. In fact, I then bought some ready made binding for the sleeve and bottom edges and made the whole process even simpler.

Just goes to show that sometimes you need a fresh perspective to help you onto a different track. Thank you mum.

The bottom and sleeves are fancy and were easy to do.

The bottom and sleeves are fancy and were easy to do.


* Honestly, this is a really funny joke if you are a Terry Pratchett fan.

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