Valerie Raglan Dress

The start of 2023 has been great for my motivation to sew. One of my sewing goals this year was to really pick projects that help to develop my skills and to only sew items that I would wear repeatedly. Seems like an obvious goal but when I started sewing, a lot of garments were beyond my skills. I tried the big four patterns but often instructions were a bit illusive to a novice sewist like me. When Forget Me Not Patterns generously offered me a pattern for review, I was a bit worried about this, but the instructions and illustrations are one of the best I’ve ever sewn with.

The Valerie Raglan Dress was the pattern that I chose to review. It’s a dress with a fitted bodice and A-line skirt. The sleeves are raglan sleeves but are tailored with a dart at the shoulder, so it doesn’t have the bulky look of other raglan sleeved dresses or tops. There are so many sleeve options included with the pattern. I chose to sew the short sleeve with a flounce, there is also a long sleeve option with a cuff which I’m planning to sew for winter and there’s also the ¾ sleeve and short sleeve version. Along with all these options are also cup size options which is great for obvious reasons!

Fitting the pattern was a breeze with the comprehensive and logical instructions. In fact, the second page of the patterns gives such good instructions on how to choose which size to sew up. I fitted in the medium bust range, so that is equivalent to a B cup to C cup and my dress sizing was between the 38 and 40 for my measurements of 37 inch high bust, 33 inch waist and 38 inch hips. The pattern alteration tips were fantastic because I toiled bodice graded the size 38 bust to a 40 waist and hip. The other impressive thing about the pattern were the little notes that helped me to pause in my sewing so that I would go and check the fit physically. It’s such a good practise to develop as I didn’t have any sad surprises at the end of my sew.

Sometimes the mention of an invisible zipper sends a sewist screaming into the bush, but I had no problems installing it. I just followed the instructions step by step and before I knew it, I had installed it perfectly! It’s not a technique I’m familiar with but the result was the easiest invisible zipper I’ve ever installed, and this is even without an invisible zipper foot! It’s great to learn more professional techniques in a pattern. This was evident again with the facing attachment. This was attached using the stepped-back method. I watched the video and had a few attempts but unfortunately, I was unsuccessful, so I attached it my way. The great thing is, next time I come back to the pattern, I will try it again and I have the resources to help me.

The fabric I’ve sewn with is a rayon which has beautiful drape and is so good for summer. I’ve sewn a lot with rayon because it’s what I reach for in this heatwave called summer. Sometimes, I’ve read comments about the difficulty of sewing with rayon so I put together a little Instagram reels to share some of the tips that were generously shared with me.

Thanks for reading and happy sewing!

X Em

*Full Disclosure: Pattern was gifted for a review but all opinions expressed were my own.

Niya Dress

Sewing the Niya Dress was a great adventure! It was a happy discovery when I won a PDF pattern from J. Desiree Studio Patterns by participating in the Sew Giving 22 Sewing challenge which was hosted by @yagabyrdsews. I chose the Niya dress because it had so many unique features and can also be sewn as a wide pants jumpsuit. 

The bodice is quite loose initially and is attached to the skirt only by the front bodice. The back is open and there are two options. I chose to sew the half closed back but there is also a fuller opening as the other option. The skirt is gathered by elastic in the back and the front is initially sewn flat. While constructing the dress, I had a lot of doubts about if I was sewing it correctly, if the dress would suit me or whether I should construct it differently? I’m glad I stuck to the process and followed it until the end.

It really started to come together when I realised that the front bodice had a channel which I had accidentally sewed up. I used the seam ripper to reopen this to create a channel so that the ties could be fed through it. Both ties are then fed through the channel in the front skirt piece where the elastic for the side and back waistband are located. Once the ties are in, this creates tension in the front bodice which draws in the loose fabric in the front and prevents exposure from the side. The engineering was so interesting in this make as I couldn’t quite picture how it could come together without the traditional side seams. 

Looking at the other Niya Dresses by other sewists, I can see that everyone managed to thread their ties through the channels however, I had a lot of trouble. It might have been that the rayon crepe I used did get a bit bulky once sewn. Instead, I halved the width of the ties and made them quite narrow which I really liked the look of. The pattern has the option of making shoulder channels for more ties, but it was already gathered in the front shoulder bodice. I loved the look as it was without the ties, so I left them off my dress.

The sizing of the Niya Dress is very flexible. I made the medium with a mini skirt option. With the open back, it would look beautiful as a jumpsuit or a ball dress with maxi skirt. I needed a summery beach dress so the mini dress version was the perfect version for me.

Thanks for reading and happy sewing!

X Em

Aura Dress

Frocktails 2022

October zoomed by in a blur. There’s been a lot of making but very little time for documenting. So, it’s nice to be sitting with my cup of tea to write about the Aura Dress which I made for Perth Frocktails! What is Frocktails? In very simplistic terms, it’s a social gathering of people that love to sew and is hosted by the Australian Sewing Guild. Everyone dresses in their beautiful handmade frocks or outfits. I was awed by the creativity and talent around me. Some people were dressed in completely bespoke items down to self-made shoes and bags. 

Initially stepping into a big crowd without knowing anyone else apart from my daughter was a bit daunting and put me out of my comfort zone but as quick as the thought passed through my mind, I found myself chatting to so many others that I was soon at ease and having so much fun! I was curious about where everyone’s beautiful fabrics came from and how they started their sewing journey. It was also fun to have my daughter along as everyone was so lovely to her. We had a great night and hopefully this will mean a few more sewing meet ups in the future!

Now onto my Aura Dress which was a lucky win from Papercut Pattern’s monthly sewing challenge. I had entered my Nova Coat for the challenge and was so happy to learn that I had won a free pattern. I knew I wanted to sew the Aura Dress which is a wrap dress with beautiful puffy sleeves and the skirt has the silhouette of a pencil skirt. 

I had three meters of turmeric coloured linen in my stash which was perfect for the dress. I sewed the size 4 and because I had started the sew so late, I did not have a chance to toile the dress. Luckily it fitted but I had to wear a slip on the night as the temperature is still dropping at night (remember, I grew up in the tropics). If I were to make this dress again, I would adjust the skirt size to a 5 to fit my 33-inch waist size better. It was very funny and slightly distressing when I sat down in my dress and realised the split in the front rose very high which was also another reason for the slip and the strategically place handbag whenever I sat down on the night!

Perth Frocktails was a blast, and it was good to be part of a real world event in a time where online life has proliferated. I still enjoy and appreciate my online sewing community but now I’m hoping to be able to show someone in the same room what I’m making and say, “Is it supposed to be like that?”.

Thanks for reading and happy sewing!

X Em

Near and Far Rayon Fabric from Sew to Grow

Featuring: Hannah Dress

Rayon is my favourite fabric for spring and summer. It’s so soft, has beautiful drape and stays cool and comfortable in the heat of the warmer seasons. It’s also super absorbent so it’s great when the humidity of summer sets in. I was so excited to be invited to collaborate on the re-launch of the Near and Far Fabric Collection from Sew to Grow. I adore the beautifully vibrant Oeko-Tex certified fabrics featured in the collection. I’m sewing “Market Place” which is reminiscent of Lindsey’s travels to many marketplaces on her travels. 

I’ve matched the Hannah Dress with the rayon fabric because the fullness of the gathered skirt required a floaty and drapey fabric. Usually, patterns that need something breezy and loose are the best match for this fabric. It is great for summer because of its softness and how breathable it is. These are all features of the Near and Far Rayon. It is a bit heavier at 150gsm (normally rayon sits at 113 gsm to 142 gsm) which, in my opinion, gives even better drape. I noticed that there is a twill weave in this rayon which gives the fabric more strength compared to a plain weave.

To begin my sew, I made sure that I washed my fabric. Rayon can shrink and it’s not a fabric that recovers well (you can’t rewash and re-stretch it after). I also overlocker my fabrics before washing but you can choose to skip this step if you wish. I tend to airdry my fabrics but if your dryer has a cool setting, you could also risk putting it in the dryer. I then go over the fabric on the wrong side of the fabric with the iron. I must be especially careful as my iron only has one heat setting and if you overheat rayon fabric on the right side, you could leave a shiny residue on the fabric. I was really happy to note that there was no shrinkage after the cold wash and the fabric remained brilliantly colourfast!

Next, I made sure that I inserted a sharp new needle. I used a 10/70 needle to avoid snags in my fabric. The Hannah Dress is a gorgeous wrap dress from By Hand London. This required a bit of staystitching on the wrap front and the back neckline. It’s a good idea to staystitch when you use rayon because it can stretch out when you’re sewing. A great feature of rayon is the drape of the fabric, but it also means that you need to stabilise the fabric. It’s the same treatment you would give for fabrics sewn on the bias. 

The other tip when sewing with rayon is to make sure you transfer all your markings accurately and you need to use as many pins as it takes to match your markings. This was the case when I was fitting the sleeve to my Hannah Dress. I’m making the dress with the bishop sleeves this time and I found that I had to ease in the sleeve fabric to ensure that the markings matched up. You can also sew a line of gathering stitches to help ease the sleeve in, but it was easy enough to use some pins.

Next, I used the fabric to make some biased binding for the neckline and front bodice. This was my first experience of making bias binding using the continuous method. This is by far the best way to do it! 

Bias binding

Overall, I can honestly say that sewing with the Near and Far Rayon from Sew to Grow did not disappoint. All my pattern pieces stayed in shape, and it was enjoyable to sew with. It has a beautiful quality with the slightly heavier weight. Wearing the rayon is even better. I love the drape and here are some pictures from the Spring Festival! Oh! Final tip, don’t forget to let it hang for a day or two before finishing the hem.

Thanks for reading and happy sewing!

X Em

Full Disclosure: Fabric was gifted in exchange for review and sponsored Instagram Post but all opinions are my own.

Lanti Swing Dress

When Sew to Grow put a call out for testers, I was quick to apply as I’ve been keen to challenge myself to sewing to a time frame and I have found testing to be invaluable experience especially when interacting with other more experienced sewers. Lindsey, the founder of Sew to Grow, is a sewing teacher so I find all her patterns have a quality of thoughtfulness and caters well for all skill levels from beginners or those who are trying to advance their skills in sewing. The Lanti Swing Dress was initially designed for her classes and with a beginner in mind. Now it’s been made available for everyone!

The Lanti Swing Dress is a versatile pattern that comes with three options. Option A is a smock dress, Option B is an A line dress and Option C is a blouse. There are also sleeve options for short sleeves with cuff or three-quarter sleeves with frill.  This dress is also a great wardrobe basic with potential for hacks which is what I did with my second make.

The first dress I made for the test was Option A and using the three-quarter sleeve but without the frill. I love making dresses but found that I lacked a neutral basic dress. The Lanti Swing Dress is a great core item dress which is designed to be versatile and a foundation piece for dressmaking. The fabric I used was a beautifully sheer flax coloured cotton which is lightly textured by a weave of beige coloured tread in a stripe pattern running horizontally. This dress can be styled with sandals for summer or layered with a jacket for autumn and spring. It can be left loose for a boho look or cinched at the waist with a belt for a stylish work outfit. 

My test was for the size 12 as my measurements of 37.5-inch bust, 33-inch waist and 38-inch hips fit well into that category. There wasn’t any need for adjustments, but I left out the pockets and the sleeve frill. My fabric was very sheer so instead of a facing, I fully lined the dress with a muslin which also served as the first toile of the pattern. The Lanti Dress is a great dress to practice installing a lining as the closure is a simple button closure at the back so no tricky zippers to line. In order to line the dress, it’s a case of using the bodices and skirt pieces but with your lining fabric which is often a lighter weight fabric. The bodice pieces are sewn up and the same instructions given for attaching the facing were followed. Once the bodice outer shell and lining pieces are attached, it is turned the right way and the skirt shell and lining can be attached separately. I should also mention that I lengthened my outer shell hem by 2 inches.

It was such a pleasure to sew that I made a second dress but this time with a fun hack and I wanted to try making those pretty frill sleeves. Again, the pattern is great to play with for a hack as it is drafted to be versatile. To make this hack, the bodice was shortened by 1 inch. The skirt was left the same width for the upper two-thirds and the bottom one-third was widened by 10 inches. This time the frills were added to the sleeves. The result is a fun party dress which can be dressed up or down.

It was so much fun to test for Lindsey of Sew to Grow and it was a lovely team of testers to join. She made it stress free and was always quick to give feedback when we needed it. It was also nice to have a bit of interaction with the other testers and see their beautiful creations. If you can, you should check them out.

Thanks for reading and happy sewing!

X Em

Hannah Dress

Wrap dresses are the hardest working items in my closet. They’re great for a smart casual outfit or a night out to dinner. Wrap dresses are also a bit more flexible in the fit. I find the Hannah Dress from By Hand London is so flattering on any figure. It was a dream to sew this beautiful pattern.

I chose to sew the Size 10/14 for my measurements of 37-inch bust, 33-inch waist and 38-inch hips. As mentioned, the sizing in a wrap dress is great because there’s some flexibility with the ties. I was very happy with the sizing.

If you’re like me, you’re probably wondering if there was any gaping of the neckline. This is a common problem with some wrap tops or dresses but I’m happy to report that there hasn’t been any gaping. I think this is because the neckline of the bodice is finished with bias binding which places tension along the biased edge of the neckline therefore holding the edge neatly. I’m fascinated by the engineering that goes into a making a garment!

The other feature which makes the bodice fit so well is the “rouleaus”. Expanding my vocabulary! Googled it and it means a coil of ribbon, knitted wool or other material. I’ll just call them ties. So, the ties are not threaded through the dress. Instead, there is a pair of internal ties and a pair of external ties. It’s such a neat way of fastening without the need for a hole to pass the tie through.

There are three options of sleeves with this dress. The first is a simple short sleeve which is what I chose to make this time. The second is a tulip sleeve and the third is a bishop sleeve. I usually must make a full biceps adjustment, but I found these sleeves fitted well without adjustments.

The final step of construction was to attach a gathered skirt. This is my favourite feature of the dress. It’s nice to have the volume of the skirt as it accentuates the waist and creates a lovely hourglass silhouette. 

The instructions are overall very beginner friendly. The only instructions that could have been a bit clearer was attaching the bias tape to the neckline. When I tried to use the link given for the tutorial, it kept coming up with the error message. I also tried on the By Hand London website and this was also not working. If you get stuck at this step, I found googling, “Attaching double fold bias tape” to be a handy search phrase. I’ll aim to document this when I remake this pattern.

This dress has already had a few outings and will be worn on repeat! I’ve really enjoyed making the Hannah Dress and now want to make all the versions of this beautiful dress.

Thanks for reading and happy sewing!

x Em

Holmen Top & Dress

When I looked up “Holmen”, images of a water-bound neighbourhood in Copenhagen popped up. The Holmen Top and Dress is a new release pattern from The Uncut Project. Anna and Isabel are the super talented duo behind this pattern company. They are from Copenhagen and their patterns reflect a cool Scandinavian vibe. 

I feel so lucky to be included in the testing team for the Holmen Top and Dress. The top and dress were made to have a good degree of movement and it can be worn for casual outings or out for a night. It transitions so well from day to night. Definitely a good one to pack for future holidays!

Being a self-taught sew-ist, I was mindful of my limitations, but this pattern is made for an advanced beginner which I felt, was an accurate designation. The bodice of the Holmen Top and Dress are made in a yoke style. It has a fitted yoke which a gathered tier is attached. The first tier for the dress is shorter and then fitted to another full gathered skirt tier. My favourite feature is the back of the Holmen Top and Dress. There is a low scoop which skims the curve of the spine, and the back panel is attached by a thin set of ties.

My test was for Size L. I felt the sizing was quite accurate. I did have to check with them for the back of the dress as this is such an original design. My measurements are 37-inch Bust, 33-inch Waist and 38 -inch Hips. So, my measurements fall between Size L and Size XL. I went with the Size L because the finished garment measurements were quite generous, and the fitting of the bust area was adjustable due to the straps. 

Unique Back Details

The process of testing is always interesting. I started by sewing a toile for the Holmen Top using some scraps of fabric from leftover projects and this allowed me to adjust shoulder strap length. It also allowed me time to follow the construction process and make notes where I felt instructions needed clarification. There really wasn’t any, only one small detail about which notch to sew to in the back tier, but all the instructions were clear, easy to follow and followed a logical sequence.

Once the toile was completed, I went ahead and sewed the Holmen Top. It’s a very satisfying sew. I used a thin blue cotton and lined it with white muslin. It was a challenge sewing the thin straps with my lightweight cotton as it kept shredding when I tried to turn the straps the right way around. In the end I used my own method to achieve the look. I love the look of the thin straps and I think it’s worth the effort. There is a lot of gathering especially around the curve of the back and it was a bit hard doing that amount of gathering but it was better the second time around when I sewed the Holmen Dress. Practise makes progress!

For the dress, I found a beautiful honey hued yellow textured cotton. Still lightweight but not as sheer as my blue top. I also lined the dress but only halfway with the white muslin. It’s a bit more economical doing your lining this way. I’m in love with the silhouette of the dress. It seems reminiscent of the nineteen twenties. 

Doing this pattern test has been enjoyable especially with Anna and Isabel, from The Uncut Project. It’s also so fulfilling at the creative level. It really makes me want to do more in the future. I always hesitate to apply when I see the call for testers but I’m so glad that I was offered to join the testing team otherwise I might have not been confident enough to join in!

Thanks for reading and happy sewing!

X Em

Celestia Dress

The Celestia Dress is a new release from Papercut Patterns, and I think it’s appropriately named! It’s heavenly to wear in this scorching summer heat. The Celestia Dress has a three-tier skirt which fans out from the under bust of the bodice. A bit of a twist from an empire cut dress. There are two options with a square neckline option and a bandeau style bodice which is adjustable with drawstrings. I was immediately drawn to the interesting bandeau style bodice with drawstrings. I’m documenting here my process (and mistakes made) of the bodice.

Initially this was going to be sewn as a top so that I could toile the Celestia for some incoming fabric.

However, I just couldn’t resist making the whole dress after finishing the top half. I was using some leftover linen and lyocell blend from another project. It’s in this beautiful red brick colour.

So, we start the sew by making these drawstrings. This was a great eye-opening process as I didn’t have to struggle with any loop turners or safety pins. It’s all done with cord. It’s then a simple process of attaching the drawstrings to the bodice which is wedged between the shell and a facing. 

Attached drawstrings to bodice

Papercut Patterns always have beautifully detailed instructions which is how a novice like me can sew from a wonderful pattern like this. However, I made a small mistake in Step 9 where we’re making the slit opening for the drawstring. We’re told to only snip the outer layer but unfortunately, I enthusiastically snipped through both layers. But fear not, I repaired this with some fusing. It has worked well, and disaster was averted. Phew! 

As I said, it was just me reading too fast and skimming rather than stopping to check each detail before doing. I have found that as my experience grows with sewing, I sometimes skim instructions and sew in a way that is familiar to me. However, I’m trying not to assume that the technique I’m using is the right way. I’ve found that different designers can have a different technique which is more effective or look better, so I always want to try follow instructions exactly as written in case it could further my learning. I’m also grateful for help from other seamstresses who share their knowledge and techniques.

Well, the rest of the sew was thankfully uneventful. To finish the bodice, there is a cord that runs between and then encased. You then pull a little out at each slit making a loop on each side.

You then finish by attaching the skirt to the bodice. I left the pockets out as I don’t always find them useful, and it can be annoying to iron around them. 

I made the size 4 but I think you’ll find the fitting very easy on this. The drawstrings can be adjusted for a broader or narrower back. It’s quite ingenious engineering. There were no modifications made. After many wears, the hemline may have dropped in the back of my dress. I was impatient to finish and wear the dress and so I’ll have to trim and resew the dropped hemline.

This was worn out and about in Fremantle which is a beautifully historic port city in Perth. It’s full of Victorian Era architecture and has a certain vibe. It was the first city we lived in when we arrived in Western Australia and I have fond memories of the buzz on weekends where it felt like the whole of Perth had descended on Fremantle. 

Exploring Fremantle

Thank you for reading and happy sewing!

X Em

Roscoe Dress

It is traditional to wear red to the family reunion dinner when celebrating the Lunar New Year. Red is considered a lucky colour, so I was excited when Maai Design started to stock Storrs London Fabric, and I came across the Hermia design in red. I love the big flowers drawn across a background of red with pops of highlighter blue-green and hot pink leaves. I knew it would match well with a boho inspired style dress which immediately brought to my mind the Roscoe Dress from True Bias. The dress has a gathered neckline with raglan sleeves. It also has a centre slit with neck ties. It’s truly such a pretty design. On the practical side, it’s lovely and cool to wear in summer when matched with the Hermia Storrs London fabric. The superfine 100% Egyptian cotton is billowy, loose, and cool to wear.

I made the size 8 for my measurements of 37-inch bust, 33-inch waist and 38-inch hips. Bohemian dresses are loose and made with freedom of movement in mind. The finished dress for my size was 48 inches around the chest which gives you some idea of the ease in the fit. There are three versions of the pattern, the first is a blouse which I’ll definitely be returning to sew, a tunic or short dress version and a midi version. I chose the short version which still falls just above my knees. I’m 5 foot 7, to give you some idea about the length of the dress.

Construction was very easy which was a relief because I was sewing to a deadline. The date of the Lunar New Year changes each year according to the cycles of the moon. It came around a lot earlier this year. The sewing went well, and it was a relief that it was so beginner friendly. I love to be challenged with my sewing but now was not the time! 

No modifications were needed however, initially I had made the bottom ruffle pieces slightly longer thinking that I wanted to cover my knees. I found myself shortening them to the original length promptly. It was only an inch and a half but it really threw off the balance of the design. It was interesting that such a small detail could detract from the beauty of a design. I guess that’s why they say that, “…the devil is in the details”.

Nothing much more to add except that it felt special to wear a dress that I had made and it was a great hit. I think I mentioned on my Instagram Post that I need to hide this next time my mum comes over or I might be missing a dress. It was lovely and cool to wear and sewing it with such special fabric elevated the dress from casual to special occasion wear.

Thanks for reading and happy sewing!

X Em

Grace Dress as a Pinafore

First of all, I’d like to say that I love the design of the Grace Dress as it is. The Grace Dress is a result of the creative collaboration of Taree Marsh of Masha Style and Abby Huston of Abby Sews. You can see my previous version of the Grace Dress on the blog. I have finally got some holidays coming up and I wanted something that will be good to wear with the current changeable weather. I love how the pinafore can be paired with a t-shirt or tank top for warmer days or a long-sleeved shirt or turtle neck for cooler days. It’s such a versatile garment. So, when I came back to sew Version A of the Grace Dress, it occurred to me that it could easily be hacked into a pinafore.

Version B Grace Dress

Before I get into the hack, have you ever thought about personalising your garments with a bit of embroidery? On a whim, I thought I would try it. Embroidery isn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. I’m definitely hooked so I’ll be putting together a bit of a “how-to” in the future. Make sure you don’t miss out by tapping on the follow button for future blog posts!

Trying out embroidery

Basically, the pinafore was invented as a protective garment for your dress. It was like an apron that could be worn over your “good” clothes. Very practical at a time when washing your clothes (especially heavy dresses) meant hard labour and was done with muscle power not a machine. Of course, that application no longer applies and we’re now lucky enough to be able to do our laundry by pressing a few buttons. As mentioned earlier, I like the pinafore for its versatility as a garment.

Okay, I started the hack by thinking about the front bodice neckline and the armscye. It is usually worn over another dress or shirts so there needs to be enough room to fit over whatever is worn underneath. So, I started by scooping out the neckline and the armscye. The neckline was deepened by two inches and I graded back to the curve to make sure that the neckline was not widened with that. 

The armscye was a bit more difficult. I was a bit fearful at first and made quite a shallow cut. Probably only deepening it by 1.5 inch but I later deepened this leaving 4 inch from the bottom of the bodice. I realised that the deepened “arm opening” was quite a distinct feature of the pinafore. Now that I had deepened the armscye, it is natural that the dart was no longer required. It’s important to meet the back armscye with the front so I went ahead and matched that up.

Essentially that was the only modification needed! I told you it was simple. Version A of the grace is fastened by these cute ties on the shoulders. I’ve sewn them together so they stay fastened without any risk of unravelling. It would also be cute to do the buttoned version of the shoulder strap!

Thank you for reading and happy sewing!

X Em