Liberty Wool Hawthorn (aka. My New Favourite Dress)

liberty 8

This is the most recently completed garment from my epic photo-shoot (just one more garment to show you!) but it is also the most worn item. I took my time making this version of the Hawthorn dress so I would do the fabric justice – introducing my first Liberty dress! The fabric is a lovely printed wool blend from Classic Textiles in Goldhawk Road (£12 or 15 per metre!) and is lined in fuscia silk-cotton (again from Classic Textiles for an amazing £4 per metre – I’m never buying pricey poly-linings again!) so at over £40 for the dress this is one of my pricier makes (luckily I found some cheapish buttons I liked, instead of spending £2 a button on the super fancy ones!).

liberty 1

liberty 2The bodice looks a little odd here, but it is a great fit in real life since this is the fourth real-fabric version of I have made now. It is slim fitting around the waist but there is enough comfort ease to feel great wearing it. Construction was pretty similar to the dotty version, except I lined the bodice and sleeves which eliminated some of the facings. You can just see a bit of pink showing through, but I promise I did hand-stitch the lining down around the collar.

liberty 5People in real life commented that the dotty dress was a bit loose around the waist (before blog photos) so on this version I took the side seams in on the bodice. I forgot to allow for this on the skirt pieces, so I just made a little pleat centre back, which I quite like.

liberty 3It took me ages to choose buttons that would compliment the luxurious Liberty wool but that were affordable to buy 15 of! In the end I chose these clover-shaped pearl-effect buttons – they are a little bit more interesting than regular round “pearl” buttons, but I think they work well with the print and dress design.

liberty 6

I added two buttonholes to the sleeve cuffs (have I mentioned how much I LOVE the sleeve placket instructions? So effective and so neat!) for a bit of extra flair. My only big “mistake” making this was sewing the plackets on the sleeves flat (as in instructions) and then inserting the lining once the shell and lining were complete; this meant I had to hand sew the sleeve lining right next to the placket. It looks good but I wish I had worked how to do this by machine (treat the sleeves as underlining for this step?). I also sewed half the skirt sides up before I remembered I was adding pockets, which added some extra time, but definitely worth it for a winter dress with pockets for tissues and lipbalm.

liberty 7

Finally, I hand-sewed the hem. Yup, I sewed a full skirt by hand over a few hours instead of doing damage by machine (just like fixing the bodice lining to the main dress). I don’t have pictures but should also add that the entire dress is French seamed (except for parts hidden by lining). Karen’s Mistress of the Jar will be proud!liberty 4

The extra time (and money) spent on this dress was definitely worth it; I feel so great wearing it 🙂 It is flattering, comfy and cosy, with enough pattern to make it exciting but subtle enough for everyday. It is definitely going on my Top 5 Hit list tomorrow!


Parisian Polka-dot Hawthorn

Hello my lovely readers! You are in for a treat this week; I was at home during the day at the weekend and got my tripod and camera out and took not one set of blog photos, but five! Yup, I had a big photo shoot session and finally got pictures of some past makes.

I am really desperate to show you my New Favourite Dress, however I’ll start in chronological order with my first Hawthorn dress.dotty 4

The pattern and fabric were both birthday presents in the summer; the fabric came from Paris via my step-mum and is a gorgeous turquoise covered with polka-dots. I had originally thought I’d make an Elisalex dress with it, but when I struggled to find a zipper that came close to matching, it became destined to be a Hawthorn shirt dress.

dotty 1

I made a blouse and my bowling shirt before making this which gave me time to sort out the fitting and finishing details. I did my usual FBA, changing the dart into diagonal French darts, and got rid of some of the facings in favour of using bias binding. During my first wearing I realised there was a tad too much waist ease, so I took in the side seams a bit; it’s not a perfect adjustment but it’ll do.

dotty 2

This would have become a favourite dress if it wasn’t for the dye. I pre-washed the fabric before sewing, and have washed it a few times, but the turquoise is a really strong colour and keeps rubbing off on everything! My sewing machine turned blue during sewing, and when I wore it my arms and my slip underneath turned turquoise. Eek. After more washing, the colour transfer isn’t as bad, but you can see under the arms where the white spots have turned blue.

I was trying to get festive with some Christmas tunes while taking all these photos so here is a dancing-twirly picture.

dotty 3

Autumn Sewing Plans

sewing plans

I have a couple of finished garments to show you, but before I show you all my sewing I though I should share my plans for autumn back-to-school sewing. At the beginning of the summer, while bored from my break from sewing (saw the physio this week and the rest has helped) I decided to draw all the things I was planning to make. Last year I made a personalised croquis* using the instructions in the Colette Sewing Handbook and I printed some out to doodle my wardrobe plans. I’m not normally one for planning my sewing, as you’ve probably worked out by now, but I was preparing for a blogging meet-up shopping-trip and had time on my hands.


  • A By Hand London Victoria Blazer. I have already shown you the blazer I made, which turned out pretty similar to the original idea; plain dark jacket with contrast (spotty) lapels.
  • A dark grey or black Hummingbird skirt. Last autumn/winter I lived in my black cord skirt, so another plain dark skirt is a basic wardrobe necessity.
  • A “plain” t-shirt to go with my patterned skirts. This was the plainest jersey I could buy; I am attracted to fun prints in fabric shops, but there is a space in my me-made wardrobe for plainer tops to wear with the snazzy prints! I’ll use my jersey t-shirt block for this, with self drafted cap-sleeves.

aubergine skirt

  • Last year I bought LOTS of aubergine-coloured corduroy and I haven’t made any clothes with it yet! I love cord skirts in winter, so am going to use it to make a Hummingbird skirt.
  • My wardrobe needs a plain navy top or t-shirt to match with my navy skirts. Still haven’t bought fabric for it yet.


  • I love the new Colette Patterns Hawthorn shirt dress; it is cute without being too vintage or girly looking. In my head I imagined a dark purple fabric with a subtle print, with a plain collar and cuffs. Whether this fabric exists in real life is still under investigation…


  • I’m pretty sure there will have to be a few adjustments made, plus my first time making sleeve plackets, so I thought I should plan to make a wearable muslin of the Hawthorn blouse; If it is in a busy print it should disguise any mistakes I make.


  • I got this turquoise dotty fabric from Paris as a birthday present, and thought it could be a great first go at an Elisalex dress bodice, with a Cambie-style gathered skirt. I have seen so many lovely Elisalexes and variations, that I had to give in and get the pattern too.


  • I love my Tiramisu dresses and really want a long-sleeved cosy one for the winter, in a heavy ponté jersey. Not black, so maybe dark purple/plum or maybe a deep red or pink…


  • When fabric shopping with Jo from SewLittleTime I bought some pink polka-dot jersey that we thought would be great for a Hummingbird peplum top. I didn’t even own the pattern, but Jo had the measurements written down so I bought some fabric in the hope of owning the pattern.
  • My second self-drafted pair of jeans were a much better fit, but the knees are already starting to fade from so much wear. Time for a new pair of jeans, in a dark almost-black colour.

So those were my plans at the beginning of the summer – stay tuned to see which plans stayed the same and which ones changed! Is anybody else getting excited about autumn sewing (despite it still being summer!)? What are you planning to sew?


*The croquis was made by taking an accurate (and unflattering) photo of myself in underwear and then tracing over it, to get an accurate outline of my body. I used an edge-detector tool on the computer to generate my outline and printed it in pale grey. The final image shows what I actually look like, and not what I think I look like, so my sketches of my designs look more realistic.



United Stashes of Awesome Skirt

Could you guess why I was making thread chains yesterday? You might have spotted that the fabric I was sewing was (only half of) the fabric sent to me by the lovely Kristen.

A pattern I have been waiting to sew for ages has been the Colette Ginger and I thought this would be the perfect fabric for a fun skirt, but I totally ignored the instructions and put it together in my own way. I joined all the front parts, including lining, together and did the same for the back. Then I sewed the entire left side seam in one go, lining and all, and repeated for the right side. Why? Well, I’m hoping that if when I lose a bit of weight it will be super easy to adjust*, without having to mess around with unpicking waistbands – the only thing to be mindful of is getting the angle where the two arrows meet right for a flattering waistband.

I wore the skirt today, and went for a lovely walk through Westminster to the National Portrait Gallery. En route I passed lots of London landmarks that I thought would be great to get in a photo with the USA landmarks on the skirt. In the gallery I saw some amazing photos and paintings, including ones of Her Majesty the Queen and Olympic stars (including the caterers), and got lots of ideas for framing perfect photos. Then I left the gallery and discovered it was pouring with rain! I grabbed a quick shot on the way home, but I should add it was the first self-timer outdoor photoshoot I have done.

Just as I had hoped, I think this skirt looks pretty sensible from a distance – I certainly didn’t feel like I was wandering around with

In true blogger-style I spent ages thinking of the perfect name for this skirt, until I was dropping off to sleep last night. United Stashes of Awesome! Why? Apart from the obvious print of the fabric, it came from the stash of Kristen in her giveaway. I found a black invisible zip in my box and had just enough black lining left over from my trousers* so this skirt was made from nothing but sewing stashes. I think that is pretty awesome, and after a day wearing the skirt I think it is rather awesome too.

*There is an article in the current issue of Threads about incorporating men’s tailoring for women. Apparently the way men’s tailor-made trousers are constructed makes it easy to change the size at the waist.
** If there is a way to cut out trousers without having a long strip of fabric/lining left in the middle, please let me know! When sorting my stash out there were lots of these pieces, that might just be wide enough for panels of a skirt if I am lucky.

Sorbetto success!

This morning I hinted that I was working on something very exciting, and I can now reveal that I have spent the long weekend trying to perfect the Sorbetto.

FBA on the original pattern

I had already made a couple of Sorbettos last summer, but the fit never felt right. I assumed it was because I’m not used to wearing woven tops (RTW woven tops = nightmare fitting problems) but I had a niggling feeling that I should be able to move my arms.

I tried on the existing tops to work out what was good about them and what needed changing, then I made a muslin (using actual muslin for once). I did lots of pin-fitting, pinning out any weird bubbles and wrinkles, taking it in at the sides so I had a bit of a waist.

Adjusting my muslin and marking changes

As you can see above, I pinned out some baggyness in the back, then looked it up in Fit for Real People and discovered that I need a sway-back adjustment (or a normal-back-big-bum adjustment). I used the Sew Weekly sleeve pattern, but slashed and spread it to make a floatier sleeve, before making it in this purple floral poly-crepe (from Fabrics Galore last week).

Fitted Sorbetto (worn with me-made jeans)

I think the neckline was a tad too wide, causing it to keep slipping off my shoulders, so I added a tiny pleat in the centre front to pull it in, although this nearly undid the good work I did on the FBA.

There is another version 2/3 of the way to completion (I though 11pm was probably too late to use the sewing machine, but everything is pinned and ready to sew up) and a couple more fabric choices planned. I am slightly concerned that getting a comfy fit for this pattern now opens up my fabric buying options – hello pretty printed cottons!

I have made so many changes that I’m not sure if it is still a Sorbetto – how many modifications do you have to make before something stops being the original pattern and starts being a self-drafted pattern?