Little Bow Pleat dress

When I was about to get in line at the checkout the last time I was fabric shopping, a glittery gold fabric caught my eye. I thought something along the lines of “ooh!” and snatched it up, thinking of the Little Bow Pleat dress pattern that I had saved on my computer and how sweet my niece would look in glittery gold.

You will be shocked to hear that this hastily made decision was, in fact, not a good one. The fabric was very stretchy (which I expect is fine for someone with more sewing experience, but was a complete pain in the arse for me), and it has a weird texture – when my niece spilled water on herself at her party it just pooled on the dress and didn’t sink in at all. This is actually quite a practical feature for a toddler’s dress, but it’s not a particularly enjoyable tactile experience.

Due to the stretchy nature of the fabric, I had to get a lot of help during my sewing lessons, including with really basic things like the hem. I would sew around the hem and despite my best efforts the fabric kept bubbling up (if that is the technical term, which I highly doubt). I ended up having to do a tight stitch around the hem before hemming. I don’t know if that’s the technical or correct term either – what I mean is that I sew along with my fingers pressed up against the back of the needle, so that the fabric gets very slightly gathered as I sew around. Then I just had to slightly stretch the fabric on as I hemmed, which I find a lot easier, and it turned out ok.

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Doing the puffed sleeves, the pleat down the front, and the bow was all great fun. Inserting the zip was horrible, but it is my considered and educated opinion that all zips are horrible. This is the nature of zips.

The dress looked very sweet on the day of her birthday party, and I am very pleased with it despite my general dissatisfaction with the fabric. I would like to try making it again with a softer cotton or something like that, to see how that changes the shape of the dress, but I also have so many new things I want to make. This is the problem with my excellent taste in patterns – I love everything I’ve made so far and want to make them all again, but I have to balance that with my rather intense desire to make All The New Things Right Now. (It would possibly be a good idea if I stopped buying patterns for a while, but there are so many lovely patterns out there, it seems unreasonable to stop perusing them and then occasionally buying one. Or two.)

Renfrew tops

The next two things I made after my lovely purple knit dress were two Renfrew tops: View A, the long sleeved scoop-necked version in a grey knit, and View B, the short sleeved v-necked version in an orangey-red knit. I spent a long time pothering over which way the grainline was on the fabric before cutting it (“you will be able to see clearly from examining the fabric!” said Google merrily. I could not see at all), and got it wrong. My sewing teacher told me this wasn’t particularly disastrous given that the knits were fairly substantial, and I barrelled on, beginning with the grey top.

I made the grey on a sewing machine, overlocking the seams. The neckline was really baggy, so it was ripped out, trimmed a bit and re-sewn in (with substantial teacher assistance). I don’t think I found anything else too tricky. Making the red top only on the overlocker (except for top-stitching the neckline and making the v-neck) was wonderful. So speedy! Overlockers are magic! Eventually I definitely want to get one of my own. I had heaps of help with the v-neck because it looked fairly terrible and not very v-like when I first tried.


Comparison of the seams – sewing plus overlocking on the left, overlocking only on the right.

The below photo makes me look incapable of dressing myself – what on earth is going on with the left side of the red top. The grey pulls a bit towards the neckline which I think is a result of re-doing the neckband. Overall I’m really happy with them and have been wearing them a lot – they’re a comfortably loose fit, and I like the construction, particularly the waistband. Next time I would like to try for a closer fit, which will probably require adjusting the 14 rather than going down a full size.

Renfrew tops

Purple Tiramisu dress

The Tiramisu was my first piece of clothing sewn for myself, my first dress, my first knit and my first go at pockets! I cut it out at home, and sewed it up over the course of three sewing lessons. The instructions that come with the pattern are great – very clear and simple to read. The trickiest parts that I had the most help with were the pockets, and the bottoms of the sleeve bindings where they meet under the arms.

A photo to demonstrate a) my poor selection of thread colours and b) my terrible hemming. I was rushing to hem it and didn’t pin or press, which I think would have helped with the puckering of the fabric.

Doing the little pleated bits under the bodice was fun! I need to adjust the fit a little the next time I make it – the top part of the bodice needs to be a little longer and I need a slightly smaller cup size. I think I’ll make the skirt a teensiest bit longer as well. Overall I’m really pleased with it though – I like the design (the pockets are fantastic), the heavy knit makes it a great winter dress for Brisbane weather, and it’s super comfortable. I love swanning off to work in it thinking “I made this!”. (My inner dialogue is not modest).

Grand plans

As my vague intentions of learning to use the Elna sewing machine I inherited from my grandmother never came to any sort of reality (as with most vague intentions, I suppose, but especially mine) I have been going to sewing lessons once a week. I have now got to the stage where I can (mostly) thread a machine, know how to use an overlocker – overlockers! what marvellous machines! – and I’ve sewn two completed things, a pair of pyjamas and a pair of pants with an elasticated waist, both for Edward.

The pyjamas were from a McCalls pattern for – I think it was actually for a baseball uniform, pants and a baseball shirt. It looks very sweet in a purple flannelette as pyjamas, with blue buttons on the top. “Blue buttons!” Edward declares when he wears them. He is currently in a “gleefully identifying things” stage. He read a book to me this morning, the story consisting of “cat! tail! ear! leaf!” as he jabbed his finger at those parts of the picture on the page he had chosen.

I chose a rather lurid purple floral fabric for the pants, a heavy and slightly corded material for winter. They look rather groovy now that they’re completed, and I really like the fit – a nice narrow leg but with enough room to wear comfortably with a nappy. (They’re from the Clean Slate Pants from Blank Slate Patterns – I skipped adding pockets, as Edward doesn’t use them yet. It was my first PDF pattern, and very easy and convenient to print out and put together. I think I’m a fan of PDF patterns).

My inherited sewing machine has a broken gear and I’m waiting for it to be repaired. In between lessons I cut out patterns and fabric, something I am incredibly slow at. My next project is something for me, a Tiramisu dress in a dark purple ponte knit. I have high hopes for it as dress I can wear to work this autumn and winter, but it does involve only my second attempt at sleeves and my first attempt at pockets, so I might reduce them to moderate hopes.

After the Tiramisu, I intend to sew the following, possibly not in this order:
1. A Beachy Boatneck for Edward in a cheery red spotted knit
2. Two Renfrew tops for me – a rusty red knit with short sleeves, and a dark grey knit with long sleeves
3. An Alma blouse for me in a floral print, although I think I may be being a bit ambitious leaping into that pattern.
4. The Little Bow Pleat Dress for my niece because it’s so gloriously cute, and I want to make something with an extravagantly huge bow on it just because.

And then endless possibilities and an increasing collection of bookmarked patterns stretch out temptingly before me – exercise pants! Cardigans! It would probably be sensible to wait until my machine is in working order and I have made a little sewing area at home before I go too crazy with future plans, but not-being-sensible is just too much fun.