Tag Archive: dress

New Look 6500 shift dress: a simple pattern that I couldn’t leave unmodified

How much adjustment do you do on a very simple pattern? Do you feel it’s worthwhile to make very small changes to get it just right or perhaps you sew up simple things as is and save your efforts for a special dress or coat.
This simple dress pattern is something that I choose as one of the suggestions for my Sew a Dress class at Hello Stitch in Berkeley. (scheduled again for Sun. July 30 – the first one was great fun. More details at the bottom of this post on all the upcoming classes). As it happens Craftsy asked me to write a longer post outlining all the steps to sew a simple dress, consequently I decided to sew up this pattern and get a lot of things done with one project. Plus I’ve been on a shift dress kick lately. They are such simple and pleasant things to wear. Since it was 107˚F in the SHADE here yesterday I would rather have worn a dress made of ice cubes but since that is not going to happen a shift dress it is.

batik shift dress

I have had this fabric in my stash for a good 5 or 6 years. It’s a cotton batik that I bought in Hawaii, quite a large amount (5 yards) and just never found a use for it. Slightly heavy as a lot of batiks are, so not really good for most dresses plus the vertical stripe had me stumped. I think I found the perfect style for it that uses the stripe best. Plus I can wear my striped navy blue espadrille sandals – double win.
Here’s the pattern envelope, with a sneak peek of a subsequent version of this dress. Which everyone has gone wild for on my Instagram teases, embroidered denim must be the thing this summer. The envelope says D0569 but all the pattern pieces say New Look 6500 so I’m calling it that. I really like New Look patterns, they come up with some super cute dresses and tops, plus they include all sizes in one envelope and cost $ 3.99 all the time.

New Look Shift dress pattern

batik dr front view

Onward to my adjustments: I sewed this dress for the Craftsy post, not as a wearable but as a “photograph-able” item, i.e. something that would really show in the step-by-step tutorial but I had no intention of wearing it. It was actually quite a pleasure to just sew up a dress with no changes, I sewed the size 12 and went from there.
Here is the version I sewed for Craftsy, in a quilting cotton that I had in my stash, I think a remainder from a project I did for someone on Etsy ages ago. And I really loathe this color of green so don’t even tell me that you like this dress on me 🙂 Plus for the most part sewing/wearing garments with quilting cotton is a big NO for me. With some exceptions they always look a bit off: too wrinkly, too juvenile, too unsophisticated to claim my interest.

green shift dress

green shift dress3

But I include the photo of me wearing this one to show the neckline fit. That neckline was choking me – I don’t like that high round neckline and when you move your head forward it’s so uncomfortable. Good shoe match thought, right?

Back to the blue and white batik version. Can you see the difference in the neckline? It is so much more comfortable for me in the second version. I wanted to figure out exactly how much to open the neck so I made a version of just the top half of the dress in swedish tracing paper – and every time I use that I remember that is has absolutely no give. While it seems like a good idea because you can sew it – putting it on is not so easy. I did put a zipper so I could actually try it on – which worked in the end but it was kind of shredded. However it was good enough to slice and dice a bit, figuring out how I wanted the final neckline to be shaped.

neckline comparison

I cut out the batik version based on my new neckline, and basted it together at the shoulder seams to see if I liked the neckline. It still seemed a bit too high for my preference and also I like the armholes to be more cut in at the shoulder in a sleeveless dress. So instead of cutting more off the edges of the dress I made a one piece facing for front and back, and then used tracing paper to mark a seam line. At the neck I took away a further 5/8″ (total seam allowance now 1.25″) and then on the armholes I think I sewed it at around 7/8″ which makes the armhole a bit bigger all around. You have to be careful that it doesn’t make the armhole too low but this dress had a very tight armhole so there was plenty of room.

batik dress facing new seam

On my next version of this dress (the embroidered chambray fabric)  I’ll show how I make the one piece facing plus this upcoming version is lined so it incorporates facing and lining together.

The original New Look pattern had separate neck and armhole facings which works ok, not my preference but not as horrible as some make it out to be. But there’s a better way. Another option for these simple summer dresses is bias binding but I wanted to show the traditional or basic type of dress sewing.

But we are not done yet! In fact this adjustment should have come up first in my writing but I only remembered to take this picture a few minutes ago and include it. The bust dart on this dress is both large and high. I measured it on the pattern piece and could see that it needed to be lower so I did that before I did anything else, just a straightforward shift downward about 3/4″. The bust dart is kind of larger than it would be had there been other darts (vertical waist darts)  or other shaping. Trying it on it made the dart a bit too pointy – not my favorite look. So I reduced the width of the dart.

dart adjustment on shift dress

On the tracing paper on the left you can see the faint outline of the original dart, too high. The second placement, lower but too big, and then the final version in the purple dotted line, just right. I sound like Goldilocks don’t I but if you’re going to do adjustments you might as well go all the way until you like the fit.

Batik dr side and back view

Back and side view, you can barely see the dart but that is the ideal, at least for me. Since the side seams were not even in length I split the difference at the top of the seam at the armhole and sliced off about 3/8″ off the side back at that point. Worked out fine.

batik dress front 2

So that’s chapter one on my summer shift dress extravaganza. I have some more complex things in line for my sewing table but not sure what order I will sew them.

Here’s the link to that Craftsy post: The Complete Beginners Guide to Sewing a Dress.

Update on classes at Hello Stitch Studio on Berkeley. The Fit Lab was great – we are going to schedule this class again soon. In July we are repeating Saturday classes for sewing Skirts, Tunic Tops, and a new one starting on Wed 7/26 in the evening is a Button-front shirt class. All these classes are two sessions scheduled a week apart so not a long term time commitment and you will get a project done (or nearly) and learn some new and useful techniques. The Dress class is an all-day one on Sun. 7/30. FYI: I’ve found parking to be surprisingly easy around the studio and it is no more than a 10 minute walk from the Berkeley Bart station so really convenient to get to.

This was yesterday afternoon. Survival mode with an iced coffee. thankfully lots cooler today (ha ha only mid 90’s˚F).


Happy weekend sewing,

today’s garden photo, this white daisy just looks so calm and cool, even in this heat!


read more

Two fit + flare dresses

Again, I couldn’t help but make two of the same pattern!  This time the pattern is the Bronx dress from SBCC, with some fit alterations (armhole redo, back width increase, sleeve redraft).  As I’m sure I’ve mentioned on this blog before, I just love the fit and flare shape.  What I especially love about this dress, though, is that I can sew it in way less than 2 hours, from cutting the fabric

read more

Curvy Pattern Tutorial: Sew your own Geneva-inspired Dress

If you’re anything like me, you’ve been eyeing that Geneva dress from Universal Standard and wondering if it’s worth the money. I’ve heard from several reliable sources that they’re wonderfully made, that the jersey is awesome, and I love the company for their policy of letting customers exchange their garments for a new size for…

Read More »

read more

Draped in Vogue 1442 – A New Summer Dress Classic

Vogue 1442I love this dress.  Sandra Betzina is so right!  This is a terrific summer dress.  It’s rated as easy, but I had to do some tweaking before I was satisfied with the shape of the side and the drape.  There is only four piec…

read more

Pattern Testing: Orsola Dress from By Hand London

Despite telling myself that I was going to leave pattern testing to one side for a bit so I could focus on my ever increasing sewing queue I saw the design for the latest release from By Hand London and couldn’t resist getting my hands on it immediately! The Orsola Dress is a chic and wearable sheath dress which features a beautiful wrapped back. This classic cut with interesting and considered details is just the kind of thing I love to wear. The bateau neckline that dips in the back combined with the figure skimming fit is super classy. Both the dress and skirt variations included in the pattern have the option for a straight front hem or a scallop shape detail which I opted for as I love how this echoes the shape created by the wrap at the back.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: By Hand London Orsola Dress in Floral Viscose

I had some fabric perfect for the skirt in my stash but I wanted to make the dress so I nipped into Lewisham one weekend to find something inexpensive from Maggie’s Fabrics market stall. I happened upon this gorgeous viscose print for just £3/m and could not be happier with how it suits the style. I love how vibrant the red/orange flowers look against the navy. The slinky, slippery drape gives a relaxed vibe to the style and I feel like a more structured fabric would give it a totally different look. I really like the idea of making up a skirt version in a brocade.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: By Hand London Orsola Dress in Floral Viscose

That lovely shifty nature did present some challenges when it came to cutting out and keeping those curves nice and even but patience and plenty of stay-stitching kept things stable. There are so many curves and edges cut on the bias in this design that taking a good bit of time over stay-stitching is essential; although yes it is frustrating not to be able to get straight on with the construction! The bodice is lined so I could have used a more stable fabric for this but I didn’t want to ruin the romantic feel of the draped back so opted to self line.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: By Hand London Orsola Dress in Floral Viscose

One of my favourite elements of the design is the faced hem which gives a gorgeous neat finish and a bit of weight to the hem. I was concerned that the effect of the scallop at the front would be lost in such a delicate and drapey fabric as my viscose so I opted to use a lightweight fusible interfacing on the facing pictures to add a bit of structure. I’m pleased I did this as I think it hangs nicely and keeps its shape well now. In a crisper fabric you wouldn’t need to do this. I also added the interfacing to one set of the waistband and tie pieces. The ties are quite skinny and I felt they might end up looking a little limp in just the fine viscose. The interfacing adds just the right amount of body.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: By Hand London Orsola Dress in Floral Viscose

Your fabric choice combined with how much you choose to stabilise the back edges of the bodice will quite drastically effect how that area fits too. Mine hangs away from the body slightly as I allowed it stretch out slightly (on purpose as I liked the idea of a softly draped back in this fine romantic print). The back edges of the By Hand London samples lay closer to the back and to achieve this you’d need to stabilise this bias edge with stay stitching and possibly the addition of some narrow twill tape/stay tape in the seam allowance.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: By Hand London Orsola Dress in Floral Viscose

As with all By Hand London patterns (I’ve sewn most of them at this point!) I opted for cutting the UK10 and found it to have a little more ease than I am used to with their patterns. I wouldn’t size down though as I love the more relaxed feel of this, I think the amount of room is spot on for the wrap style. I was concerned about risk of exposure with the back wrap when bending over or moving about in the wind but it feels very secure. I do usually have to shorten By Hand London patterns a little and usually do this from the hem but was well into making this one before I realised that the shaped hem would make this really tricky and I could have done with a lengthen/shorten line on the pattern piece (this has been added in since I tested it). It actually turned out fine though as I love the length as is!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: By Hand London Orsola Dress in Floral Viscose

The only change I’d make to the fit next time is to take a little length out of the shoulder (about an inch) as it feels a little like it wants to slip off down my arm although doesn’t quite. I definitely think it’s the length rather than the width that is the problem and taking a bit of length away would have the added benefit or raising the point where the back wrap crosses as at the moment my bra band tends to peek out just a touch. As well as wanting to slip off the shoulders the dress doesn’t want to stay on a hanger so I would recommend adding little ribbon hanging loops. You could insert these into the shoulder seam of the lining for a nice clean finish. I love this dress so much I might well end up unpicking my shoulders to take a little length out to absolutely perfect it so could add these in then.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: By Hand London Orsola Dress in Floral Viscose

I’m not going to talk too much about the instructions as many of the little notes I made while testing have since been tweaked in the final release so my sewing experience is likely to be quite different to yours. I will say that it is a real pleasure to sew as it uses lots of familiar sewing techniques so isn’t too tricky to put together and there are no fastenings to deal with! There’s a bit of hand sewing involved to cleanly finish up the waistband and secure the hole in the side seam for the tie to pass through but nothing too strenuous. If you didn’t want to see topstitching around your hem facing you could slipstitch this in place by hand but equally you could make more of the topstitching and use a contrasting thread or add in more at the waistband.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: By Hand London Orsola Dress in Floral Viscose

I added a couple of tricks into the construction which I’ve picked up over the years and tend to do for all my dressmaking projects now. I pressed the lining darts in the opposite direction to those of the shell to reduce bulk at the waistline. This pattern does involve sewing a lot of darts which aren’t my favourite thing to do in a shifty fabric. I would recommend marking them with tailors tacks and marking them at an additional point along the leg rather than just the tip and raw edge so you can ensure that nothing has shifted off grain and your darts are nice and straight. I also under-stitched the neckline as lining peeking out is a real pet hate of mine. This is really easy to do with this neckline if you do it before you sew up the armholes. The By Hand London method of sewing the neckline and armholes then the side seams of both the shell and lining in one fell swoop is fab.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: By Hand London Orsola Dress in Floral Viscose

It’s a big statement but this could be my all time favourite By Hand London design! Top three at least! I feel really elegant yet effortless in this dress and whilst the cut is fairly modest it’s quite sexy at the same time with the flash of skin at the back. It would be appropriate for so many occasions made up in different fabrics; weddings, garden parties, work events or just casual summer days. A skirt version is next up in my sewing queue and then I’d like to try another dress in a solid colour of a more structured fabric like a linen!

read more

Hemingway Designs fabric dress

This dress was inspired by Vogue 8577 after I saw a gorgeous version on Instagram made by Becky from Studio Snippets.  Becky’s version was made from some Hemingway Designs fabric, which made me recall the Hemingway Designs fabric I had in my stash…

read more

Grainline Farrow Dress

This is the Grainline Farrow Dress pattern that I sewed a sample for my new class at the Cloth Pocket. I wanted a dress pattern that would be simple enough for true beginner garment sewists. Beginners often have a difficult… Continue Reading

read more

DIY tie front cut-out dress or swim coverup refashion

Instructions: *Try to find a shirt thats a little thicker so you it isn’t too see through! 1.Seam rip our cut off any pockets sleeves and collars. 2.Turn the piece inside out and line up a skirt on top plenty of room all around because the skirt half will be more A-line shape and we

read more

True Bias Southport Dress

Summer is in full swing here in Texas. Time for some sun dresses! This is the Southport Dress by True Bias Patterns. I’m a little late on the Southport bandwagon but I’m so glad I hopped on. This is a great… Continue Reading

read more

Latest sewing plus some Craftsy blog posts

A quick post today with a little bit of my latest sewing and links to some of my recent Craftsy Sewing Blog posts. The response to my last post of Pattern Whispering was fun to read – and you all really like those posts. What should be the next categor…

read more

Simplicity 3678 maxi

Hey look! It’s me! I know y’all, I haven’t been around much, and the few things I’ve sewn for me have been boring necessities. But I finally made myself something new and somewhat frivolous! Actually not at all because ITY maxi dresses are my summer un…

read more

Anza Dress

A while ago I tested the Anza jumpsuit, for Itch to Stitch patterns. That pattern comes also with a dress option. The upper bodice is the same as the one from the jumpsuit only with a skirt for the lower part. 

I made it in size 4C and I s…

read more

Ebony Tee – Dress

I’ve made about 500 Ebony Tee’s since my last post, and now a dress!This is actually my second attempt at the dress pattern. I thought that the dress would be S-H-O-R-T like the Tee so added 2″ to it…which also entailed adding width. Turns out I did …

read more

Liberty Silk Crepe de Chine M6696 Shirtdress

At the start of the month The Fabric Store got in touch to see if I’d be interested in trying out a selection of their fabrics. Of course I jumped at the chance as I’ve been addicted to this store since I visited their LA branch 18 months ago and was b…

read more

Butterick 6182 dress in denim eyelet

Is there such a thing as too much denim? I hope not because this spring I have been sewing denim, buying more denim, and planning future projects in denim. And this doesn’t include jeans. More specifically it’s denim dresses among my sewing projects, s…

read more

indigo days

Hey guys! It’s been a hot minute. Or maybe more than a hot minute? Lately I’ve definitely fallen prey to the instant gratification of Instagram over the longer format of a blog post, but I’m trying to make myself sit down and actually blog, because, qu…

read more

Completed: Deer & Doe Réglisse Dress

I feel like it’s been a long time since I’ve made a pretty dress. To be fair, it’s also been a long time since I’ve felt like wearing a pretty dress – something about the cold and winter just makes me want to dress in head-to-toe black, and only wear pants (very, very stretchy pants, […]

read more

All the ruffles

It all started with a Sachin & Babi dress that I fell instantly in love with. At that point, I wasn’t truly intending on making a dress, but I couldn’t stop thinking about how I would do it, if I ever decided to go ahead with it. I actually had the most perfect fabric in […]

read more

How to make a diy ruffle sleeve with open bow back (bridesmaid dress idea!) VIDEO

Supplies + Instructions: This feminine dress showcases pretty gathered sleeves with an open back tied together with an oversized bow. This dress is perfect for church or something special like a wedding or it can even be a bridesmaid dress. *You’ll need a longer dress- preferably one that has a zipper down the center back.

read more

Vietnam, and did I actually wear what I made?

So, it’s two weeks since I’ve returned to reality from what turned out to be a FANTASTIC holiday in Vietnam!  After reading a not-so-positive travel biography before I visited I have to admit I was expecting Vietnam to be terrible, really hard goi…

read more

The Vogue Cocktail Hour Sew-Along! – Floral Brocade V1537

Today it’s my turn to share with you the outfit I’ve made for the Vogue Cocktail Hour Social Sew-Along in aid of The Eve Appeal! I really enjoyed taking part in their Big Vintage Sew-Along last year and am delighted to be one of the bloggers spreading …

read more

Using Layers and Sewing a Dress-Based Capsule

When I first heard of wardrobe capsules, it was in the context of minimalism and travel. You know… cutting down your wardrobe and traveling the world for three weeks with four articles of clothing, looking fresh and funky every morning. The stuff of Project 333 and every single ‘Classic White Shirt Wardrobe’ magazine article ever…

Read More »

read more

Pride and Prejudice Preparation

Every year, I get together with one of my best friends and we spend a weekend together watching Pride and Prejudice (BBC, 1995), stuffing our faces with cheese, and drinking lots of wine.  We started this in 2004 I think, and since then we’ve both moved around quite a lot, changed careers, got married, and […]

read more

DIY very EASY dress to jumpsuit or romper refashion

Watch: Daniel Wellington Make this jumpsuit from almost any dress or cut the legs short and make it into a romper perfect for Summer! As I was sewing this together I was shocked with how easy this was. And if you are lucky enough to find a dress that already has a zipper then its

read more

Start Living…

“Let’s start living and dressing like every day is an occasion because it is!”          Julia Alarcon. Lialia I have a true friend whose life has been turned upside down recently: she is remarkable; she is shining … Continue reading

read more

Pattern Review: SBCC Tai Dress

Pattern name: Skinny Bitch Curvy Chick (SBCC) Tai Dress The Tai is designed for wovens, and is a sleeveless princess-seamed dress with back waist darts, flared pleated skirt, optional skirt lining and in-seam pockets. The neckline is finished with facing, while the armholes have a bias-faced finish. The Tai has two views, a scoop neck…

Read More »

read more

Pattern Testing: Eve Dress from Sew Over It

I am pattern testing much less nowadays as it can be really time consuming when you do it throughly and to be brutally honest my sewing queue is so long that I’m never short of things that I’d rather be sewing! However there are some things that I just…

read more

Two summer shirtdresses: M6891

I was definitely not kidding when I said I tend to sew up a pattern twice!  Since I made this two dresses just days apart, I thought I would post them together 🙂

The pattern is McCall’s M6891.  It’s a good, classic shirtdress style with a convertible collar and pockets.  I love the full skirt, waistline seam, and ungathered back (why do designers do that??). Since it’s a Palmer and

read more

adventures in patterndrafting // mystery fabric contest 2017

This dress was kind of a beast. It was unwieldy and not very nice at times. It also kind of had a mind of its own but I mostly managed to wrangle it into submission with a lot of hand-stitching. But let’s start at the beginning. I had two main sources of inspiration for this […]

read more