Category Archives: Pattern swap

Pattern swap fun

Over on the Sew Weekly sewing circle a while back, the lovely Tina organised a pattern swap. I heart swaps – they’re so much fun, choosing what to send your swap partner, and then the anticipation of what you’ll get as well. Making new friends all over the place, and the tangibility of receiving something from another sewasaurus-rex somewhere else in the world, another little strand that unites us all in our sewing love. What’s not to like about them?!?

I haven’t heard yet if the person I sent things to got their little parcel ok (fingers crossed it got there, and they liked it!), but check out what gorgeous things the lovely Paloma sent me, all the way from Texas!

A copy of Simplicity Project Runway 2403, which is a cute shirt dress, and will be great to make up for once the little creature arrives and I have to feed it lots (haha!). I’ve never tried using one of the Project Runway patterns before, so I’m pretty keen to give this one a go!

A card with a wonderful letter inside it that made me smile lots.

And this gorgeous little dark blue knitted aviator cap! Isn’t that the sweetest thing? It even has a sheep on one side.

Thanks Paloma – I love it all! And I’ll be posting a pic of the baby wearing the cap, once it arrives. :-)

The “All Buttoned Up” Dress

The Theme
Last week on Sew Weekly, it was all about the buttons! (Does anyone else get a bit nervous when buttons are involved??)

The Facts

  • Fabric: Around 3 metres of brown floral craft cotton, $4 per metre from Spotlight
  • Pattern: Simplicity 3407
  • Year: 1940
  • Notions: 11 self-covered 14mm buttons (half a gift from a friend, the other half around 20c from an op shop) and a vintage hook and eye
  • Time to complete: 11 hours (lots of handsewing plus a good hour covering those there pesky buttons!)
  • Will I wear it? Definitely!
  • Total price: $12.20

The Story
Late last year, a group of girls from the Sew Weekly’s sewing circle online community got together and held a pattern swap, where we each sent someone else a mystery pattern. I was lucky enough to receive a gorgeous package from the amazing Debi over in Scotland. (Thanks, Debi!) In it, amoungst other things, was Simplicity 3407, from Debi’s favourite fashion era (and one I’ve become increasingly more fond of over the past year), the 1940′s. Check it out:

I mean seriously, how adorable is this pattern? Pockets, sash waist, insets, shirt dress, gathers – everything about it is adorable, and I’ve been wanting to make it ever since I laid eyes on it.

As soon as I heard this week’s theme was buttons, I made a bee-line for this pattern, determined to make an amalgamation of versions 1 and 2. I used the button front and the darted sleeve head from version 2, and the pockets, short sleeve length, sash belt and cuffs from version 1.

This fabric was a find over the Christmas holidays, when my mother and I headed into Spotlight down in Dunedin during their sale. It was down to $5 a metre, then another 30% off that. Score! Clearly, it had to go home with me, so I bought the last of the bolt. (I also bought the last of about 4 other different fabric bolts. I suspect I made their sales staff happy, as they didn’t have to put things back on the shelves. Hah.) Yep, I had myself a little spending spree. And then two days later, I made a New Year’s Resolution not to buy any new fabric (second-hand is ok) in 2012. Perhaps I made that resolution as a kind of penance….

Anyway, it was a toss up between this brown vintage floral craft cotton, or a pink craft cotton with icons of cars and trains all over it for this dress. A quick wander into the kitchen to ask the boy and his friend which one they thought I should use, and the brown floral was a hands-down winner. (I like to get external input when making decisions, just for the added fun of it. :-) )

Since it was a button challenge, I decided to push myself a bit and attempt something I’ve been slightly scared of trying for a while – self-covered buttons. I buy these things whenever I see them in op shops, and have been amassing a bit of a collection, but I’ve never been brave enough to try them. This was clearly the challenge for it! 11 of the dratted things, even. Some a gift from a friend, some from an op shop. Yes, it took ages, but you know what? It wasn’t that bad, and I was getting the hang of it by a few buttons in. In fact, I’m gonna do it again sometime soon. I’ve decided I quite like the look of fabric-covered buttons, after all that.

The Pattern
The pattern itself was nice and easy to make up. Aside from doing a frankenstein of the two variations, I didn’t really make any adjustments to it at all. I didn’t even bother with my usual small bust adjustment, figuring (correctly) that the gathers at the bottom of the bodice would be fine even with a small bust. The only thing I did differently was move the buttons in towards the centre a bit more – I used smaller ones than the pattern called for, and if I’d left them with their original placements there would have been an oddly wide gap between the centre front edge and the buttons.

But, if it was easy to make up, why on earth did it take 11 hours to make?!?

Well, firstly, those covered buttons. That took me an hour, by the time I cut out all the little circles of fabric, decided the template was slightly too small and recut them all larger, then did the gather-tie-cover thing. An hour, but a worthy hour, I reckon.

Then there was the hand sewing. I was a good little seamstress this time – I hand-stitched the inside collar to the dress, and did a hand-stitched blind hem as well. I also invisibly stitched the cuffs to the sleeve to keep them upright. I’m not the fastest hand sewer in the world, so this all took a wee while to do. Time versus feeling virtuous. This was one of the rare occasions where virtue won out – maybe I’ve been influenced by Debi a bit much?!?

The Verdict
I really like this dress. It feels a bit demure, but that’s almost part of the fun, in it’s way. I figure it’s a year-round type one as well – light enough for summer (or what’s passing for summer this year), but with the colours I can wear it with tights, a merino top and a cardigan or jacket for winter.

As for the pattern – I’m a fan! I’m planning on making it up again, possibly in some sort of lightweight wool in version 2 for winter. One of these days I’m going to try version 1 as well, just as soon as I get my hands on a zip that’s long enough……

The Photos
We were a bit late for the photos this time, so they’re taken at dusk out back of the house. That’s Steve’s car beside me – we named it Moon Unit, just like one of Frank Zappa’s kids. (Why on earth would you name your child Moon Unit?!? That I’ve never understood. Unless too much LSD was involved.)

Just for the fun of it, here’s a few photos of some of the details of the dress.

Pointed sleeve cuff


Insets at front bodice waistline, with gathers above them


Self-covered buttons! Turns out they blend in so well, you can barely see them

The Texan Gingham dress

The Facts

Fabric: 3 metres of green and white gingham ~$12
Pattern: McCall’s 3394, gift from Sew Weekly Sewing Circle member Crissy as part of the 2011 pattern swap
Year: 1955
Notions: 55cm invisible zip ~$5
Time to complete: 5 hours (including 1 hour of alterations)
First worn: 7 January 2012, to yum cha with friends
Wear again? Yes, though ironically not with the belt

Total price: ~$17

The Theme
The first of the Sew Weekly challenges for 2012 was Accessorise. “This week we draw inspiration from an accessory — be it a pair of shoes, jewelry, bag or hat. Anything goes.”

Hmmm, but which accessory to choose? I decided to go with a blue and white floral waist belt that I bought a few months ago and have never worn, mainly because it doesn’t really go with anything in my wardrobe. (Yes, that’s right – I have things that don’t go with anything else. Quite a few of them, in fact. What can I say? I’m a magpie for colour and print.)

Belt in hand, I hunted through my fabric stash and lighted on this green and white gingham. Blue and white floral, paired with green and white gingham? Seemed like a good idea at the time. Now I know better.

The pattern was a gift from Crissy from Texas (hence the ‘Texan Gingham’ dress) as part of the pattern swap some of us girls from the Sew Weekly community did late last year. So much fun! I’ve been looking for a chance to use this pattern, and with the combination of the accessory challenge on the Sew Weekly, and the Sew Grateful week that the fabulous Debi is running again, it became the first pattern used for 2012. Thanks, Crissy! :-)


The Pattern
The pattern itself was pretty easy to sew up, despite the huge number of pleats in the skirt, combined with this gingham not holding creases very well at all. They managed to stay for long enough for me to sew the pleats down, then they all fell out again. Repeated pressings didn’t get them to stay, either. Guess this is destined to be a soft pleated dress. I can live with that.

I was a bit surprised by the sizing of this pattern though – I’m not sure if it’s meant to flare out a lot at the hips, or if it was just the cut, but there was quite a lot of extra room there. Which meant it didn’t sit so well under the belt, so had to be adjusted. I took it in by a good size-and-a-bit down the length of the entire bodice to make it sit right (even though the pattern was technically half a size too small for me in the first place and I got lazy and didn’t bother adjusting it). Which meant the pleats at the hips are a bit denser than those elsewhere, since there was no way I was going to unpick and re-pleat the entire skirt just to adjust the bodice. I also adjusted the bodice darts – they were far too wide near the bust point and also too high on me, so I lowered the points by about 1cm and tapered them off a lot more gradually. (I got rid of the side darts for a small bust adjustment when cutting the fabric.) I must admit to getting slightly carried away with the adjustments though – although it fits, it’s a little bit tight around my ribs, so I’m going to let the side seams out about 0.5cm on each side (2cm in total) around the top half of the bodice.


The Verdict
Will I wear it? Yes, I will. I’ve always avoided this type of pattern, with a drop waist, as I thought they’d look horrible on me. Being given one from Crissy and giving it a go, I’ve changed my mind about that though. Bring on the 1950′s drop waists! After all, they still fit snug around the waist and hips, before flaring out, so they’re fine to wear. :-)

I won’t be pairing it with this belt though – while the combination seemed to work while draped over my sewing table, it’s just a bit too busy when made up as a dress. Guess I’ll need to come up with something else to make to go with this belt……

Exciting sewing goodies from Scotland!

Some of us girls over at the Sew Weekly Sewing Circle have been taking part in a pattern swap. The idea being, that everyone’s names get put into a hat and you send a pattern, and a little something extra for Christmas, to the person whose name is drawn for you.

I was very excited when I got home from work the other day and sitting waiting for me on the coffee table was a package from none other than the super-fabulous Debi from Scotland!

(If you haven’t seen Debi’s blog before, I highly recommend you check it out. She makes the most gorgeous creations, lots of 1940′s styles, and has the cutest photo shoots all around Edinburgh. Make sure you see her 1935 cape, it’s one of my favourites.)

Anyway, check out what the lovely Debi sent me!

There’s a lovely pattern from 1940 – Simplicity 3407.
Some pretty pink ric-rac (which I’m planning on using for version 1 of the dress (the pink one) in the pattern, as it has ric-rac trim in the design).
A gorgeous sparkly 1930′s-esque card (with a lovely note – thanks Debi!)
Shiny gold braid trim.
A super-cute black heart buckle (which will be the focal point of a dress, as soon as I figure out which pattern and which fabric will set it off best).
And a snuggly soft tartan scarf in pretty blues and purples.

Very exciting, and I can’t wait to get started on the dress! :-)