“I think I’m gonna go inside and sing myself some more karaoke. ‘Cause God knows that’s what I want to be doing, singing myself some more karaoke.” (aka Sew Dolly Clackett)

One of the things that helped me get back at the sewing machine was #SewDollyClackett organised by Sarah of Rhinestones and Telephones; it is a sew-a-long competition inspired by Roisin of Dolly Clackett to celebrate her awesomeness and her upcoming wedding. I’ve got to know Roisin in real/twitter life and she is as lovely as everyone says ūüôā And her fianc√© Nic is also good at fabric shopping with a good eye for a fun print.

I love Roisin’s style and for the past year I have been thinking “Would Roisin wear this?” when looking at fun fabrics and deciding if they are suitable for grown-up clothes.¬†People who know me in real life will have heard me defend my outfits by saying “but my sewing friend Roisin would wear…!” There are loads of great dresses on her blog, but here are some of my favourites (all pics from Dolly Clackett)…sew dollyPolka-dots, bright colours, gingham, animals (not animal print!), big flowers,… so much inspiration.

The first dress I made was fabric I already had; navy and white elephants. This print is fairly subtle for Roisin, but was a tester for a bodice mash-up combining the Sewaholic Cambie with the Simplicity 2444 bodices (details on how I did this to follow soon).  Annoyingly the fabric was printed off grain so I had a tricky job making sure the elephants lined up all the way around, but it made hemming easier as I could take it up by 2 elephants. This dress is really comfy to throw on, it feels like a t-shirt but with the


Next was the dress I was most exited about because the fabric has baby ducks on it!!! I saw the fabric on The Village Haberdashery¬†blog but thought it would be too OTT for a dress, then when I saw it in person Annie almost convinced me it would work (they also have pink Bambi and blue foxes!), but I couldn’t stop thinking about it all week so knew I had to have it. The pattern is By Hand London’s Anna with a full gathered skirt (a Dolly-Clackett mash-up) which I wasn’t overwhelmed by in the autumn but after wearing again recently I grew to like.¬†ducksI spent a long time matching up the ducks across the centre back and am really pleased with the result. I lowered the back neckline by a couple of inches as I wanted an invisible zipper to show off the pattern matching, and that was the length I had (too impatient to go into town to buy one!). The skirt has some subtle red rick-rack around the hem: a deliberate design choice and not at all because I forgot to add seam-allowances when measuring how much fabric I’d need to buy!

Finally I knew I needed some gingham or polka-dots to channel true Dolly Clackett style, and when I found this fabric I knew it was perfect for the challenge – tape measures that look like gingham! I made a classic Cambie dress and re-discovered how amazing the pattern is to sew, cleverly hiding away all the insides. I added a plain waist band as I had had enough check matching by this point (the tape measures are all slightly different widths, and a little flat piping/band around the neckline, but I’m not convinced how well it works from these pictures. I liked the dress when I was wearing it, but looking at the photos I’m not sure it is the most flattering…

checksAn adjustment I made was to pleat the skirt instead of gathering it at the waist. I pretty much folded along the lines of the tape-measures (to quote Roisin “I’m smug because I’m calling a pleated rectangle a ‘self-drafted skirt’ “)¬†so that the pattern is un-interrupted along the waist band. And I lined up the waist band with the tape-measures for a white border. Patrick and May would be impressed I think!

So there you go, three Dolly Clackett dresses in a week! Luckily I took a leaf out of Roisin’s book and sewed up some tried and tested patterns so there was no fitting, just quick sewing. There are so¬†many¬†amazing dresses in the flickr group it will be tough for Roisin to choose a winner tomorrow!

*The title of this post is in tribute to Roisin’s wacky post titles and one of our shared loves…

Full Bust Adjustment (FBA) tips

The sun is out and I am so tempted to push another Sewaholic Cambie to the top of my to-sew list. It is a really great pattern but gave me a few fitting headaches so, at the request of someone at the big blog meet-up (I can’t match names to all the faces), here is how I did a Full Bust Adjustment (FBA) on the bodice.

This method is based on Fit For Real People Y adjustment (for adding more than 1.5″) but needed some thought due to the lack of side-darts and shoulder-seams. Before you start you need to know how much to add to your pattern. I hold up the pattern on my body with the side-seam aligned, and measure the gap at the front. Or you could compare your high bust and full bust measurements (remembering to halve this number to get the amount to add to each side). For easy maths I’m going to say I need to add 2″ to the pattern at the bust (there is 4″ difference between my full and high bust) which is why I am using this Y method.


  1. Trace your pattern onto tissue paper or tracing paper (or greaseproof paper if you are desperate). Transfer all the markings clearly.
  2. Imagine where the shoulder straps will be. With a ruler draw 3 lines from the point of the bust dart: ¬†one to the centre of the “shoulder”, one to the underarm (just past the point where the straps meet the bodice), and one to divide the dart in half.
  3. Mark the stitching lines on the pattern. This is very important, so you don’t distort the final shape.seam line
  4. Cut along the line through the dart to the shoulder, stopping at the stitch-line you just drew. Spread the pattern half the amount needed at the bust point (in my example, I need to add 2″ in total, so here I am spreading the pattern by 1″). Lightly tape this in place.
  5. Cut along the line from the dart point to the stitching line of the underarm. Spread this part by the same amount (another 1″ here).
  6. Carefully secure the pattern onto another sheet of tissue paper (I use coloured tissue saved from presents). Make sure the pattern is smooth and flat before you tape it down.
  7. Draw a line at the bottom of the bodice at right angles with the fold line. Cut this line.
  8. Lengthen the centre of the bodice until the bottom is level with the side piece. Tape this in place, making sure that the fold/grain line is straight.
  9. Hold the pattern on your body to measure your bust point/apex and mark this on the pattern.
  10. Draw a circle around the bust apex to mark where the dart will end. If you are full chested this should be further away than most patterns suggest; I always have to do trial-and-error but on me it looks best being approx 1″. Redraw the dart legs, making sure the centre of the dart is on the grainline.FBA

So now you have a dart that is big enough to fit your body. However on this pattern there isn’t a side dart to share the fullness. My first dress needed a lot of careful pressing to avoid looking like an 80s Madonna pointy bra.dartsI divided the fullness into a few darts so that they would all be smaller and less pointy. The picture below shows how I did it, however after wearing my Cambie I think I’d ¬†lower the central dart a bit more.dart fullnessIt has taken me a lot of tweaking to get this dress to fit how I wanted so I hope this helps you with your fitting; if anything isn’t clear or you have any questions please ask and I’ll try my best to answer them.

A Tale of Two Cambies

2 cambiesI’ve made not one but two Sewaholic Cambie dresses¬†this week!

First up was a stash-busting tester of the pattern, using some black something that I think I got at Walthamstow market early in my trouser-making days. I thought it was poly-something, but the more I worked with it, the more I felt like there was some wool in it; I did a burn test and it is definitely at least 50% poly but I guess I will never know. I had some black and white striped bias-binding which I used to add some piping details to the waist and neckline.

cambie 016b

I did a FBA seen¬†here¬†and toiled the bodice in a heavy IKEA print, but when it came to the black fabric there was still adjustments to be made. Lots of unpicking was involved in this make around the bust. The darts aren’t perfect but seriously who, other than eagle-eyed sewists and readers of this blog, will notice when I wear it in everyday life?!

cambie 017bThe overall look of the dress is pretty plain and simple, but I think there is definitely space in my wardrobe for some plain simplicity. I can imagine this becoming a spring and autumn work staple, to throw on with a bright cardigan.¬†I used “Doll Pink” lining for a splash of fun on the inside and in the pockets.

cambie 019bI love the overall shape of this dress, when I was finished I just wanted to spin and twirl around in it.

Once I was happy-ish with the fit I was ready to turn to the floral fabric I ordered from Stone Fabrics (sadly they didn’t have enough bunny fabric for a Cambie dress, but I got the last piece to make a Ginger skirt). But before I cut the fabric I did a bit of dart manipulation to turn the giant under-bust dart into three regular sized darts in an attempt to lessen the pointiness.

cambie 010b

I’m not sure if you can see, but the fit is much better now the shaping is spread out around my bust. Still not perfect, but getting closer! (Still a teeny bit of wrinkling at the front) When I tried the final dress on, it was a bit loose around the bust and waist so I took the side seams in a bit. Obviously my finger-based measurements weren’t entirely accurate so when I tried it on again there was no breathing/eating ease! Third time lucky and the side seams nip me in enough to be flattering but with enough space to move and eat. (Looking at these pictures the sleeves on this version seem slightly looser, but it might just be a posing issue).

cambie 012b


I love this floral print so much, although I think it will need a lot of ironing. I lined this with a dark navy lining fabric; it was the premium lining from John Lewis as that was the only colour match, but it feels so nice to wear and worth the extra £5 or so it added to the cost of the dress.

I’m definitely going to be making more Cambies; it is drafted so well and the method of attaching the lining to the dress makes it so pretty inside as well.¬†I just need some suitable weather for wearing pretty dresses.


Planning: Decisions!

I spent most of Saturday was spent playing with tissue paper, tape, colour pencils and rulers Рmaking FBA (full bust adjustments) to the patterns I am planning to make in the Easter holidays (one and a half days to go!!). I have been umm-ing and ahh-ing over my choice of fabrics, and after recieving some swatches from Stone Fabrics (this did not make my decision easier since it gave me more potential choices) I have some sewing plans for the holidays. Hooray!

First up is the spring jacket. I made a muslin of the ¬†BurdaStyle 02/2013 #106 jacket and decided that I actually liked the lapel-less style. I showed my blog post ¬†to my colleagues at school, asking if the turquoise was too bright, and was told by A “You don’t need a plain navy jacket – you’re not 50!” That was me told! I ordered a swatch of it and as soon as I opened the envelope I was squealing with delight.* The colour is so much better in real life and so I am placing my order tomorrow, along with some white for the contrast bands (and I think they have some polka-dot contrast lining that will work! double squeal!) My only remaining dilemma is whether I need to underline the fabric, and if so with what (I used silk organza to underline my couture dress). I think I need to read Claire Shaeffer’s Fabric Bible in bed!

For the Cambie dress fabric choices, again A gave me a stern talk. “NOT the red one, you already have too many polka dots.” Too many polka dots? Is that a real problem? Hmm… Then I remembered an episode of New Girl (starring the quirky Zooey¬†Deschanel, new series starting tonight) when she gets accused of “rocking a lot of polka dots.” Her response, which could also be describing me,¬†was:

“I rock a lot of polka dots. I have touched glitter in the last 24 hours. I spend my entire day talking to children. And I find it fundamentally¬†weird¬†that you are not a dessert person – that’s just weird and it freaks me out!”

So did I choose polka dots for my Cambie? Nope. The clear winner among friends I showed my swatches to was in favour of bunnies!


I also really liked the swatch of this floral print – it is not as bold as some of the other designs but has bits of hot pink, purple and turquoise so will match all my favourite cardigans! I am going to make both versions of the dress pattern, partly for a bit of variety, and partly because the bunny fabric was the most expensive and the narrowest so I’m going to try to reduce my costs slightly.

fabric choices


I made a muslin of the bodice in calico and then cut up my IKEA fabric to make a wearable muslin. (I wanted to make sure I posted this before I get distracted by hot-cross buns and mini-eggs, so apologies for the mirror-pose photos). I love this dress so much already – after doing an FBA the neckline fits perfectly with no gaping. I was planning to make this to wear, however I think the fabric is a bit too stiff (the bust darts are too pointy however I sew them and the skirt doesn’t hang right). I want to get the fit just right before cutting up my expensive bunny fabric so I may make a final test in plain black fabric (with some black and white stripy piping to add a bit of fun).

cambie muslin

*another colleague has commented how cute it is that I am so easily excited when I talk about/stroke fabric! This did start the day I got all those free Liberty samples.


One of my¬†new year sewlutions¬†was to make less but make what I make much better, so I’m going to have to plan my makes a bit more.

I got my Cambie dress pattern in the post last week and have searched my stash for suitable fabrics. It seems my stash is not as extensive as I thought it was – lots of fancy-dress/toy/home-decor fabrics but not much dress-making fabric.


The only suitable things I could find were (clockwise from top)
1. some black poly-something bought when I was first trying to make trousers. Is a black summer-dress too dreary? I could add a pop of colourful piping to the waist and neckline… would that be more fun?
2. Some black and pink floral IKEA fabric. I think it might be a bit too heavy for the gathers on the sleeves and skirt, but I might pre-wash a bit and see what happens. (yup, my new sewing attitude includes pre-washing fabric occasionally now!)
3. A shiny dotted turquoise fabric with a bit of stretch, bought ages ago from Fabrics Galore. I am tempted to make an everyday version before using this fabric as this is a bit too shiny for wearing to work. Or could I use the reverse and just have shiny dots?

Since my stash is so small it is a good job Karen has introduced me to Stone Fabrics (I am so tempted to join the swatch club!) Here are some potential fabrics – click on the pictures for links):

Fabrics Galore: Poplin pinstripes

Fabrics Galore: Cotton linen-look spots

Stone Fabrics: 1940′s floral Liberty archival printed Cotton Tana Lawn

Stone Fabrics: Irregular trellis printed Cotton Lawn

Fabrics Galore: Cotton tiny stars

Stone Fabrics: Batik flower bubble cotton

Stone Fabrics: Bunny Rabbit Printed traditional Japanese Cotton

Fabrics Galore: Cotton Lawn

Stone Fabrics: Kaffe Fasset printed cotton

Stone Fabrics: Spiral Printed traditional Japanese Cotton

Stone Fabrics: Italian fine cotton lawn

Fabrics Galore: Liberty Lifestyle Woolf cotton

So what do you think? Simple polka dots, classic flowers, or quirky bunnies? Too much choice!

Another project I want to tackle is to make a nice spring/summer jacket.

BurdaStyle 02/2013 #106

First I saw this pattern in last month’s Burda – the cover girl was wearing it with jeans and a simple top and looked effortlessly cool.¬†Or should I make a more traditional blazer-style, like the jacket in this month’s Burda?

Burda Style 03/2013 #102

And the potential fabrics…

Stone Fabrics: Wool/Acrylic Bouclé Knit

Stone Fabrics: Laurent Garigue Turquoise Blue Cotton Bouclé

Stone Fabrics: Linen and cotton medium weight denim

Stone Fabrics: ‘Gudrun’ heavy linen

Simple navy to go with everything or bright summer turquoise? Decisions, decisions. Help me decide!