Category Archives: Things I’ve made

A British Affair

You know how sometimes, you’re just walking along, minding your own business, and all of a sudden a length of fabric simply jumps out of nowhere, wrapping itself around you and demanding to be taken home right that minute? (Even if you have no real idea of what you’re going to do with it after that?)

Yep, this was one of those.

I mean, how could I say no? It’s a vintage-inspired floral, all green and orange and white. And it’s a lovely quality cotton poplin – perfect for all sorts of dresses. (And we all know how much I love dresses by now, right?) Plus (and here’s the real cincher) – there are little Hello Kitty faces peeping out from behind the flowers!!!

Yes, that’s right – Hello Kitty!!!!!

Clearly, it had to be mine. (And it continued to inform me so in a rather loud voice.)

I tried briefly to resist, working to convince both the fabric and myself that, since I had no idea what I was going to do with it, it really had no place in my stash. But really, there was no hope in winning that argument. So, I got two metres, and decided I’d figure out the what-it-will-be details later.

(Why only two metres? Because this is a super-wide fabric! 160cm wide, in fact. Otherwise I would have gone for my more usual 2.5 – 3 metres. Plus I figured it may be a bit over-the-top with that floral to be a dress with sleeves.)

My original plan was to go with the vintage look of the fabric, and turn it into a button-up 1970’s sleeveless dress. Only would you believe it – I couldn’t find any button-up woven dress patterns from the 70’s in my stash!!! (There were, however, a large number of zip-front ones. Guess zips were a Big Thing for dresses back then…)

Then suddenly, it struck me – the Vintage Shirt Dress pattern from Sew Over It. Perfect!

(And it was perfect – I got it out of two metres of this fabric easily, even assuming the print had a direction (I went with way the largest Kitty faces were looking). The cotton poplin is a great quality and the weight worked well with the skirt volume and the shoulder gathers. Plus the rounded collar works well with the vintage vibe of the fabric, don’t you think?)

British Kitten dress | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

With fabric and pattern both from the UK, this had turned into a rather British vintage-inspired affair. ;-)

This was my first time using a Sew Over It pattern. I nabbed this one in PDF format when it was launched – I’ve been wanting to try one of their patterns for a while, and a button-up fit-and-flare style shirt dress will always find a home in my wardrobe.

British Kitten dress | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

Overall, I found this to be a great pattern. Reasonably simple, with some cute touches, like the rounded collar and the light gathers into the shoulder yokes. It’s the sort of pattern that lets the fabric be the star of the show, while still being fun and interesting to make.

British Kitten dress | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

I did have a couple of “what the heck?” moments when printing and assembling the PDF. There are two files with the pattern on them – Pattern 1 and Pattern 2. I assumed they related to the two variations of the pattern, so just printed the second file since I was making variation two of the dress. Nope – you need to print both, as it turns out. There wasn’t anything in the instructions about that, nor was there a diagram or table or the like saying what pages each pattern piece was on. Which was a shame, as I like to save paper and only print the pages I need, and in this case I had to print the whole thing, including the full sleeve piece. Ah well.

The other “what the heck?” moment I had came when looking at the actual PDF pages. Each of the pages has edges from the surrounding pages printed on it as well. Which isn’t a problem at all, by the way – I just found it a bit unexpected and had a moment of worrying if there was something wrong with my printer settings printing partial pages!

British Kitten dress | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

Now, the other thing you may want to watch out for is when you’re cutting out the bodice. There are dots that show where the gathering is. There are slightly different lines for the sleeveless vs. the sleeved version, and the gather marker dots are printed on the line for the sleeved version – if you’re making the sleeveless version, make sure you transfer these down down to the right point.

When cutting out the dress, I went for a size 10 bust, grading out to a size 12 waist and hip. (My measurements put me at a size 14 for waist/hip, but the finished measurements for that size had more ease than what I like, so I sized down.) I used the skirt length from size 20, and added a little bit to the length by turning up a 1.5cm hem, rather than the 4cm one called for. I also added 3cm to the length of the bodice, at front and back. (For reference, I added quite a lot less length to the skirt than I usually do for indie patterns, and quite a bit more length to the bodice.)

The dress came together nicely. There are released tucks for shaping at front and back waists, on both the skirt and the bodice. The armholes are finished with bias binding. And the front has a facing all the way along it.

British Kitten dress | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

(Going with what seems to be a current trend for me at the moment, I finished the seam allowances and edges with some yellow seam binding.)

British Kitten dress | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

The hem was done using a blind hem stitch on my sewing machine, and again some more yellow Hug Snug seam binding.

British Kitten dress | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

The instructions were fine and clear to follow. I couldn’t spot a key for the fabric/garment shading, but it’s easy enough to figure out, and I liked the cute touch of the right side of the fabric on the garment being patterned as though it was a vintage floral. :-)

One thing I did notice that was missing is that the collar pattern piece doesn’t have instructions on it to cut one in interfacing as well – so you’ll need to remember to do that.

British Kitten dress | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

I’m really happy with the final dress – I like the fit. It’s got a little bit of blousiness in the bodice back, as a result of the released tucks there, which is a bit different. The rounded collar makes me smile. :-) And the ease at the waist is just how I like it, so going down a size based on the finished measurements worked out well for me.

(It’s also a bit more vibrant than it looks in these photos – tricky early-morning light with sneaky photos before I went to work. Hah! Spring is on it’s way!)

There we have it folks – one dress, with little Hello Kitty faces hidden in plain sight all over it! (How to get away with wearing Hello Kitty to the office? I wore this dress to work on Thursday and no one noticed the kitty faces. Hah! Stealth Kitty!!)


  • Pattern: Vintage Shirt Dress by Sew Over It
  • Fabric: Hello Kitty cotton poplin
  • Size made: 10 bust, grading to a 12 at waist/hips. (Body measurements put me at a size 14 waist/hips, but I went down one size at waist to have less ease, as per personal preferenace.)
  • Alterations made: lengthened front and back bodice by 3cm; cut out longest version of the skirt and only turned up a 1.5cm hem
  • Things to watch out for: if making the PDF pattern, print both pattern files; if making the sleeveless version, transfer markings for gathering down from where they’re located on the sleeved version; cut out one interfacing for the collar
  • Things I’d change next time: add another 0.5cm of length to front and back bodice; remove some of the fullness at the back bodice by lessening the width of the release tucks
  • Final verdict? Love it! Fits well, fun to make and wear, and will definitely make it again

British Kitten dress | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

Big Green Dots

Hey, how’s this for something a bit different? I made a top! And it’s not even for me – it’s for a lovely friend of mine.

Green Dots Bonnie | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

(Yep, that’s right. It’s not a dress. And it’s not for me. Surprise!!)

This is the Bonnie top from Bluegingerdoll.

(Which, admittedly, I have made for myself before.)

Bonnie top from Bluegingerdoll

This lovely friend of mine has quite a different style to me though, so I made a different view of the Bonnie top for her. Which was interesting, as it’s a view I’d never make for myself – always nice to have a bit of diversity in patterns like that, isn’t it?!

For this one, I used the hip-length variation (as in view C), with long sleeves and a scoop neck (as in view B). The sleeves are actually shorter than they should be though – I underestimated the amount of fabric I’d need for this and was a couple of centimeters short for the sleeves – eek! Luckily the new owner on the short side, so they ended up the length she likes. (Phew!)

Green Dots Bonnie | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

The Bonnie top is a nice and easy make. Self-fabric binding on the hem, some little gathers on the sleeve heads, and that’s about it, really! Aside from the gathering stitches on the sleeve heads, I put it all together on my overlocker, using the coverstitch function for the hem and sleeve hems.

The fabric is a poly blend knit, soft and spongy and cuddly, from The Fabric Warehouse. The colours are printed on it, so it’s actually white on the other side, which gives the black more of a flecked appearance. I must admit, I’m not as happy with this fabric as I would have expected to be for the price, though – it’s faded a bit and pilled a little already after only about ten washes. Still looks fine, and it’s the sort of thing only one of us sewing types (read: fabric-obsessed-people) would notice, but it does mean I won’t buy this fabric again. Which is a shame, as it’s awesome, coz it’s got big green dots on it!

Green Dots Bonnie | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

I spent a while lining up the dots to make sure they went straight down the centre front and the centre back, the sleeves, and that they were evenly placed on the neck binding. Through some happy accident, the dots on the neck binding ended up aligned with the ones on the front of the top, and the ones on the shoulders aligned with ones on the top of the sleeve head. Yippie for happy accidents!

Green Dots Bonnie | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

I’m happy to report that the girl I made it for loves it, and has worn it a lot already. It’s kinda funny, actually – we work together, and every time she’s worn it into the office she’s had compliments on it. Little warm fuzzies, yay!

60’s Chevron Coat

Way down here in Kiwi-land, things are cold. We’ve got snow on the hills, wind blowing up from Antartica, and the inevitable winter rains. Which makes it the perfect time to sew up a warm, snuggly coat!

60's Chevron Coat | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

I spotted this gorgeous chevron design coating fabric on the Minerva website a while back, and then spent a couple of months selecting and discarding patterns to use with it. Finally, I spotted this reproduction 1960’s coat pattern from Burda, Burda Style 7041 – perfect!

I really like the details of this pattern – it’s got princess seams from the armscye in front and back, and a classic tailored two-piece sleeve. The princess seams don’t quite go over the bust apex in the front, so there are small angled bust darts for added shaping. There are also two pockets in the front princess seams.

60's Chevron Coat | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

One thing I didn’t spend long debating on was which view to make up. A Peter Pan collar on a 1960’s coat? Say no more! And as for the fastenings – that set of two lots of four buttons is just too lovely.

60's Chevron Coat | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

This was my first time making up a Burda envelope packet. A very different experience to making up any of the Burda magazine patterns, that’s for sure! Overall, it was fine – not the most comprehensive instructions in the world, but it came together nicely. I did spend quite a while at the start hunting for the measurement chart though to figure out what size to cut – finally located it on the pattern tissue. Not my favourite place for those charts to be…!

60's Chevron Coat | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

I was a good little sewist and stitched up the bodice as a muslin beforehand. (Mainly because I knew I’d have to make a couple of adjustments, so wanted to check I got them right. Hah!) Sure enough, a few changes were made. I ended up lengthening the sleeves by 7cm, which then became more like 8cm after attaching the lining (I have super long arms, and I think this pattern has wrist-grazing sleeves rather than full length). The shoulders were widened by 1cm. And I moved the bust dart down by 6cm (which in hindsight was about 2cm too far, despite my careful marking on the muslin. Not sure what happened there.).

60's Chevron Coat | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

For most of the construction, I actually followed the instructions. Except for when it came to the lining – it called for hand-stitching the hem and sleeve hems, then hand-stitching the lining to them. I’m not a huge fan of hand sewing. So I just bagged the lining out instead – far easier and faster! (And yes, it meant I lost the little ease fold at the hem of the lining, but since I pre-washed both fabric and lining, I felt this was an ok loss to make.) As a result of bagging the lining rather than hand-catching it to the fabric, the hem and sleeve ended up about 1cm longer than they would have otherwise.

Overall, a pretty good pattern! I enjoyed making it, and would happily make it again. :-)

60's Chevron Coat | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

Now, let’s talk about some of the project details!

First up, the fabric. This is the most gorgeous, soft and snuggly coating I have ever worked with! It’s a wool/poly blend, and wonderfully thick and soft. When it arrived, I may have just stroked it for a while, haha! It washes up well too – I chucked it through my machine on a wool cycle, and it came out wonderfully. (Two small children = lots of sticky hands = I don’t want to have to dryclean everything, hence machine washing this beforehand!) Stitches sink into it, and it presses really well, too (and yes, this coat was given a good pressing, despite the front corner in a couple of photos! Not sure what happened there. Gah). It’s thick and cozy enough that I didn’t bother to sandwich a layer of flanellette between the coating and the lining, which I usually do when making coats or jackets. Yeah, I admit it – I’m in love with this fabric. Wearing this coat is like being wrapped up in a snuggly blanket. ;-)

60's Chevron Coat | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

The lining is just your classic anti-static lining. The coat is fully lined, and there’s an ease pleat right down the centre back.

60's Chevron Coat | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

The lining is used in the pockets too – lining on the top of the pocket bag, fashion fabric for the bottom layer. This way, bulk is reduced, and since the bottom layer of the pocket bag is the only one you really see, it still gives a nice continuous flow of fabric.

60's Chevron Coat | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

For the first time ever, I actually used shoulder pads, too. I normally don’t bother, since I have broad shoulders anyway and usually feel like they don’t really need any emphasis, but it felt like the right thing to do with this project. (Mainly because due to small children and lack of sleep, I’m slouching far more than usual these days – shoulder pads help with the illustion of being upright and therefore awake. ;-)

I added a coat hanger bar as well. To reinforce it and make sure it will bear the weight of the garment, I interfaced the back neck facing and also stitched two flat buttons directly behind the bar on the other side of the fabric – one button for each end of the hanger bar. They lie nice and flat, and now it’s all sewn together, you’d never know they were there. Good, hidden structural support!

60's Chevron Coat | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

While the coat calls for button holes, I couldn’t quite face the idea of making 8 small bound button holes, so instead cheated a bit and attached large snap fasteners. The buttons are simply sewn onto the right side of the garment. Sneaky, right?! ;-)

60's Chevron Coat | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

And to finish it all up, I added a couple of labels. My own label on a scrap of Cotton & Steel mustangs print cotton (because, mustard yellow! Horse!), and an Oscar Wilde quote on ribbon near the hem, just for the fun of it.

60's Chevron Coat | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

I’m considering this project a win – I’ve worn it every day since I made it. (Hence also why there are different outfits under it in the photos – one outfit from wearing it to work yesterday (thanks to my colleague Matt for taking pics!), and one from today when we went wandering along the waterfront. And here’s a couple of other shots from our waterfront roam today, just because. The view under part of the wharf, and the Chaffers Marina.

(If you want to see details of the other materials used in this coat, they’re all listed over here on the Minerva website.)



Snuggly squishy cuddly and warm

Oh my gosh, I knitted a jumper!

Cropped jumper in grey and teal | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

And it’s got really long sleeves.

Cropped jumper in grey and teal | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

With cute scallop colourwork where the rib joins onto the main sleeve.

Cropped jumper in grey and teal | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

Oh, and there’s scallop colourwork where the rib joins the body, too.

Cropped jumper in grey and teal | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

Yay!!! :-)

This here jumper – it was actually the second “proper” (i.e. not a plain scarf or peggy square) project I started. I cast it on as soon as I finished my grey Miette cardi, waaaaaaay back at the end of 2013/start of 2014.

(Yeah, that’s right. A good year and a half ago.)

I was making good progress on it, and then I found out I was pregnant.

And you know what? Cropped, fitted jumpers don’t fit so well over a baby bump.

So it got put on hold, and I made a few cardigans instead. Far more practical for pregnancy and nursing, after all!

But then a couple of months ago, winter came along. It was cold (and I am not a fan of the cold). So I picked this jumper up again.

Having to go to Masterton and back on the train for work a couple of times gave me a couple of good, solid knitting sessions. So progress was made! (Finally!)

And now, it’s all done! Yay!

Cropped jumper in grey and teal | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

And it’s super warm and soft and snuggly. With lovely long sleeves that keep my wrists warm. Win!

The pattern is “A Cropped Sweater for Winter” by Andi Satterlund. (It’s a free pattern, by the way. Go get it!) It’s a nice and simple pattern, knit in the round as hers tend to be. It’s got a semi-square neckline, and cute scallop colourwork details with contrast bands. Very easy to knit, and in 10 ply yarn so pretty quick too. (Even if that “pretty quick” knit took me a good year and a half!)

Cropped jumper in grey and teal | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

As is more-or-less inevitable (since I just can’t leave well enough along and have to mess with things every time), I made a couple of changes. Nothing major, though – just length alterations for the sleeves. The sweater is meant to have 3/4 length sleeves but, well, I live in Wellington. It gets cold here. Long sleeves are far more snuggly in winter.

(Plus, I’m tall. RTW things with long sleeves end up as 3/4 length sleeves on me. At times, I overcompensate for this when making things. Extra length! Yeah!!)

So I added 60 rows of knit to the end of the sleeve, before I started the cuff. And then I added an extra 10 rows of rib, too. (And with that extra 70 rows in total, they’re actually only just long enough. Hmmmm.)

Cropped jumper in grey and teal | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

The yarn is Cleckheaton Country Aran 10ply, purchased from Spotlight (horror of horrors! But yes, I actually found some lovely, gorgeous, pure wool yarn amongst their cheap acrylics!!). The body of the jumper is in colourway 4013 (Dark grey) and the contrast is colourway 4009 (Teal).

(I learnt a lot about how to read labels on balls of yarn while buying this, from a lovely lady who was also browing the yarn selection. She knew lots about knitting, which was awesome as I knew pretty much nothing at that point in time, and she was very happy to share her knowledge! She taught me how to check dye lots as well, to make sure I didn’t run the risk of any colour variations. Thanks, wonderful stranger at Spotlight! Aren’t fellow crafty people awesome?!?)

Cropped jumper in grey and teal | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

Changes I’d make next time would be adding yet another 5 rows to the sleeves (so a total of 75 extra rows, instead of the 70 I did here), and adding an inch and a half to the body as it’s just a smidgeon too short. (And next time, I’ll learn to do the super stretchy bind-off, as it’s a little tight getting it on and off over my shoulders – whoops!)

Anyways, I’m really happy with this jumper. Sure, it’s not perfect, but it’s snuggly and goes well with things in my wardrobe, and it’ll keep me warm.

Yay, knitting! :-D

Cropped jumper in grey and teal | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

My lovely sister snapped some photos up at Truby King Gardens, where we went to get pics of the final two samples of the Sophie cardi. Gotta love that winter sunlight through pine trees….




Mushrooms and cornflowers amongst the trees

Went for a walk the other weekend, with my lovely friend Nikki. We both had outfits to photograph, it was a beautiful day – seemed like a good excuse to head up to Truby King gardens for fresh air and photos-for-blogs.

Plus, my new dress is green and has mushrooms on it. Dresses like that deserve to be photographed amongst trees, don’t you think?

Mushrooms Bleuet | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

This pattern-and-fabric combination came about as a result of the 0 Degrees of Sewing Separation Challenge that the Wellington Sewing Bloggers Network did. Jen, Mel and I decided to create links between our projects – Jen and I both had this mushrooms cotton, Mel and I both had the Bleuet dress from Deer & Doe. As you can see, I was the link between their two projects. :-)

linked dresses

(You can read all about Mel’s Bleuet dress here, and Jen’s mushrooms Alameda dress here.)

(‘Bleuet’ means ‘cornflower’ in French, in case you’re wondering where cornflowers fit into this story.)

Funny story about this fabric – Jen discovered it at a Fabric-a-brac event a while ago – it was the only length of it there, and we’d never seen it anywhere else. Naturally, she snapped it up superfast.

Then a couple of months after that, our parents went on holiday to the States, and mum bought us both back two lengths of fabric for our birthdays. And one of the two lengths she gave Jen was… the mushrooms cotton! Seriously, what are the chances?!? Anyway, Jen and I switched fabric – I got the mushrooms (because – ‘shooms!) and Jen got a cotton with pirates and skulls on it (which she’s planning on turning into a dress. Because, dresses.)

Anyway, we now have dresses in the same fabric – wheeee!!!

Mushrooms Bleuet | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

This is the second time I’ve made the Deer & Doe Bleuet dress. The first time was in a lightweight stretch denim, and gets worn quite a bit. I did several of the same alterations for this one, and added a couple more as well. This time ’round, I:

  • Lengthened the skirt by a lot (I forget how much – maybe 10cm or possibily a bit more?)
  • Did a small bust adjustment and removed 4cm in total from the bust
  • Added 2cm to the width of the sleeve cuff (last time they were a little bit too tight)
  • Spaced the buttons further apart than the pattern called for (because really, I didn’t want to do that many button holes! Plus my buttons are quite large so suit the wider spacing more)
  • Only interfaced one side of the collar and collar stand
  • Didn’t interface the sleeve cuffs
  • And I stitched a spare button onto the seam allowance of the skirt – it’s a habit I’m trying to get into, in case a button gets lost at some point, as it means I’ll always have a replacement one handy.

Mushrooms Bleuet | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

I wanted to pipe the princess seams of the dress, so that they stand out a bit. Otherwise, they’d get completely lost in this print. After a bit of debate (there were quite a few colours to choose from that could have worked) I went with a soft grey for contrast. (My sister used a dark brown on her dress for contrast, so you can see how they both look against the ‘shrooms.)

I used the same grey for the bow in the back.

Mushrooms Bleuet | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

And for the sleeve cuffs.

Mushrooms Bleuet | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

And also for the inside of the collar stand, which I slip-stitched down by hand along the bottom edge. I spent a while trying to decide whether to use it for the outside of the collar stand as well, but decided to use the ‘shrooms for the outside, and the grey for the inside for a little pop of contrast.

Mushrooms Bleuet | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

(Haha I chuckle when I use the word ‘pop’ these days. A friend/colleague of mine who is a designer utterly hates that word. It may be creeping into my vocabulary more often than usual as a result. Coz I’m a terrible person like that sometimes.)

Mushrooms Bleuet | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

The ‘shrooms are directional, so I had to think a bit when cutting out the collar – which way to put them? I went with having them upright at the back collar. Wanna see something I’m pretty amazed by? Check out that pattern matching on the back collar – some of those mushrooms line up perfectly with the ones on the back bodice, making perfectly complete little ‘shrooms across both sections. Yippie! Totally intentional, of course. (Hah!)

Mushrooms Bleuet | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

The inside is finished simply with overlocked/serged seams. Rather than pressing the princess seams open, I finished both sides of the seam allowance as one and pressed to the side. The hem is done with Hug Snug and a machine blind hem.

Mushrooms Bleuet | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

Mushrooms Bleuet | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

And, you know. ‘Shrooms dress, in the woods. Gotta pretend to be a ‘shroom, right?

Mushrooms Bleuet | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

Big thanks to Nikki for taking all the garment photos. Thanks, Nikki! :-) (Here’s her outfit that we took photos of at the same time, if you’re interested.)

sitting on log

Here’s a few photos I took up at Truby King, just to round things off. I love it up there – tumbling bricks, massive rhododendrons, tall trees and all.

white flowers


blue flowers




road and wall

Melissa in polka dot chambray

It’s a funny thing, but I always feel a little odd, posting about something I’ve made using one of my own patterns. It’s quite a New Zealand type thing, really – we’ve got this phenomenon over here called Tall Poppy Syndrome, and the flip side of it is that we all tend to be almost painfully reluctant to talk about things we’ve done that we’re proud of. Crazy but true. And you see it evidenced everywhere. People downplaying achievements, brushing off compliments, pointing out things they didn’t do so well to take the focus off things they did do well. You even see it in companies hiding awards in cupboards, embarrassed to be seen putting them out on display. We’re a shy, self-deprecating bunch over in this corner of the world.


And I’m very much from New Zealand. Which means, I’m not particularly good about talking about things that I’ve done, either. Turns out the main way it shows up here is when I make something with one of my own patterns – I feel a strong reluctance to talk about it, a fear that it would be seen as self-congratulatory, boasting, or similar. Yep, I feel kinda embarrassed to show that I like my own pattern enough to use it to make myself things. Silly, isn’t it?!?

I figured a way to try to counter that, for one post at least, is to combine a garment I want to make with a Minerva Network post. (Clearly, it’s not going so well so far, since I felt a compelling urge to put that disclaimer at the start. Hah!)

So today, here’s a new Melissa dress that I’ve made.

Polka dotted chambray Melissa dress | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

Anyway, ever since I made my brown linen Melissa dress, I’ve been wanting to make myself another one. I wear that one all the time (as evidenced during Me Made May, a round-up post of which I’ll get up on here sometime soon!). The idea of a polka dotted one in particular was stuck in my mind.

Polka dotted chambray Melissa dress | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

And then, when I was happily procrastinating by browsing the Minerva fabric selection, I came across this beauty – a polka dotted chambray! Woo hoo!! Perfect.

I had one heck of a time deciding which colour way to use though. Indigo? Sky blue? Argh! Both so pretty! In the end I went with the sky blue, even though it’s a lighter colour than what I’m usually drawn to. A key reason I chose this one was because of the fabric I wanted to use as the contrast inset at the back. You see, I’d spotted this pretty cotton crochet-look lace, and got to wondering how it would look for the contrast. A lace v inset? Hmmm…..

Polka dotted chambray Melissa dress | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

Anyway, the sky blue seemed to fit with the lace better, so sky blue it was. ;-)

I’m really happy with how the lace looks on the back inset – I think it adds a fun and pretty touch.

vee inset being sewn

The sleeve cuffs required a bit of thought though. The cuffs are made by making two identical bands, sewing them right sides together, then flipping them out wards. The seams are enclosed, and the cuff is then attached to the sleeve. All well and good, but doing that with lace would have meant visible seams on the inside.

Polka dotted chambray Melissa dress | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

After giving it some thought, I cut the cuffs out in lace, chambray, and a lightweight fusible interfacing. I laid the lace with the wrong side of the lace against the non-fusible side of the interfacing, and treated them as one piece. Then, once the two cuff sections (one in lace and interfacing, the other in chambray) had been stitched together and turned right sides out, I fused the interfacing to the chambray, thus capturing the seam between those two layers and keeping it hidden. The interfacing also gives a solid white background for the white lace, which I think looks quite effective.

Polka dotted chambray Melissa dress | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

Sadly I had to give up on the idea of using the lace for the pocket edgings though – the edgings are quite narrow, and this lace is quite bulky, so that just wasn’t going to work. I did a same-fabric edging instead, and I’m really happy with how that turned out. :-)

Polka dotted chambray Melissa dress | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

The chambray was a dream to work with – wonderfully light, with a great drape and a fine weave. It presses well and hangs well, and is soft and lovely to handle. I may be in love with it. And now I want it in the indigo colourway as well, to make something else! It’s the perfect weight for dresses, I reckon.

Polka dotted chambray Melissa dress | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

Because I wanted the lace to be the main feature of the dress, I used smaller buttons than I usually choose for shirt dresses. I kept them white to tie in with the lace and the polka dots, and picked simple little circles with a round embossed design in the centre. (I do love me a bit of texture!)

Polka dotted chambray Melissa dress | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

Just for the fun of it, I used fushia coloured Hug Snug on all the seams. The one exception being the centre back seam, which I overlocked and pressed open, as I didn’t want the Hug Snug to be visible through the lace inset. Because there are a heck of a lot of seams, rather than pressing them open I pressed all the others to the side and bound both sides together with the Hug Snug. I love the inside – it’s so bright and cheerful!


I also used Hug Snug on the hem, and finished it with a blind machine hem. It seems to be my hem finish of choice at the moment. *shrug*


The photos were taken outside a sub station near where I work, by my lovely colleague Kelly. (Thanks, Kelly! You rock!!) It’s always a bit tricky getting photos this time of year – dark before work, dark when I leave work…. It was pretty windy, you may spot a bit of hair sticking straight up in one or two of the photos! I’d been wearing the dress all day at work too, so it’s got those good ol’ lived-in creases going through it. ;-) The graffiti is by a local artist – he’s quite prolific, with his work featured all over the place. Lots of happy smiley cartoon animals who are oddly dissected but seem perfectly fine about it. Strange. But also colourful, so I’m down with that.

Polka dotted chambray Melissa dress | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

Also, the fabric and buttons were given to me for my monthly contribution to the Minerva Sewing Bloggers Network. You can see it all over here, along with pretty things made by other lovely sewing people. Yay! Sewing!

Polka dotted chambray Melissa dress | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

Gothic Mystery dress

Well well, isn’t that a mysterious title? Kind of brings to mind images of flowing gowns, windswept castles and midnight strolls by candle light.

Sad to say, none of those are featured in this post. Although I nearly got New Zealand’s one-and-only castle in it! (Not that it’s really a castle – rather, it’s just an old-fashioned English style “country house”. Either way, my plan to have this finished in time for wearing to High Tea at Larnach Castle didn’t happen. Such is life!)

However, I do have a new dress to show you all!

And it’s a bit Gothic, with skulls and roses.

Gothic Mystery dress | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

The mystery part? Well, that’s where the pattern comes in. More details on that soon.

This is my Minerva Bloggers Network make for the month. The fabric is a poly/cotton blend in a gothic roses print. It’s nice to sew with – crisp yet light, easy to manipulate, and behaves itself quite well. The 70% polyester content also means it doesn’t need ironing – win!

(But then I completely destroyed the ‘yay no ironing!’ factor by using a pure cotton for the contrast bands. Whoops.)

Gothic Mystery dress | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

Since this fabric has a good amount of body, while still being lightweight, I paired it with a vintage 1950’s dress pattern with a gathered skirt. Sure enough, the skirt stands out nicely, and the gathers aren’t super bulky around the waist. Yay again for successful pattern-fabric pairings!

(Plus since the fabric is from the ‘budget’ range, it doesn’t break the bank to get the amount needed for those crazy big 1950’s skirts.)

Gothic Mystery dress | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

The pattern is Academy 3883 – a dress featuring a darted bodice, gathered skirt, wide scoop neckline at front and back, and a wide button band down the centre front. It’s one I’ve wanted to make for a while, so it was nice to finally get it to the top of the sewing-ideas-list.

Academy 3883 | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

I took fabric, pattern and notions down to Dunedin on a trip we made the other weekend to visit my family, with the plan to sew it all up on my mother’s sewing machine. This Elna beauty from the 1980’s. According to my father, one of the last mechanical machines. I love this machine – it purrs along beautifully, feels so wonderfully solid, and has pretty colours. (Orange! Green!). It also has a weird foot pedal – it’s an air pedal, a circular disk with a half-circle of rubber on the top. You press down on the rubber half-circle to make it go. A lot harder to regulate the speed than on a traditional foot pedal! And I completely forgot to get a photo of the pedal. Whoops.

mums sewing machine

Since my mother’s overlocker hasn’t been used for a while, I decided not to risk having to spend hours getting it to go, and instead used some Hug Snug and bound all the seams. (Plus, it makes for pretty pink on the inside!)

Gothic Mystery dress | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

I made a few changes to the pattern straight away. Added 1cm width to the shoulders and 1cm length to the bodice (front and back) and did a small bust adjustment – all without bothering to check the pattern, as they’re fairly standard adjustments for me. I also added 8cm in total to the width at the waist, tapering to nothing under the arms. (Then had to let the side seams out at the waist a bit more during construction. Still working to get rid of that post-baby bulge….!) Since I’m still (hopefully!) getting rid of the post-baby bulge, I stitched the front bodice to front skirt and back bodice to back skirt first, then did the side seams all in one at the end to make it easy to take in in the future. Eventually. When I stop my “I need it because I’m sleep deprived” excuse/addiction to chocolate….

Gothic Mystery dress | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

While trying it on while making it up, I also lowered the side bust dart point by 1″ – if I was to make it again, I’d lower it by another cm as well, and also lower the point of the waist dart to match.

The neckband and button bands are done all as one, with a sharp corner at the top to add a bit of a challenge. The instructions called for the band to be stitched on with a lapped seam, then the inside to be hand stitched down. Um, yeah. A bit too much hand stitching for me, really. So instead I just stitched the band to the inside first, then folded it over to the front and top stitched it in place. Far faster! I love the way the wide contrast bands look on this, especially with the wide scoop neck. :-)

Gothic Mystery dress | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

The hem (and sleeve hems) are finished with Hug Snug and a machine blind hemming stitch.

Gothic Mystery dress | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

Gothic Mystery dress | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

Now, here’s where things started to get somewhat interesting. When I was cutting out the fabric, I discovered that some of the pattern pieces were copies, cut out and hand written as to what piece they were. I can only assume they were direct copies of the originals, as I have nothing to compare them to! (Although I have my doubts about the sleeves, which were also a copy – there was no way they were going to get set in without some gathers at the sleeve cap. Also, the ease in them is quite off for the bodice, which makes me suspect they were copied from a different pattern….)

Gothic Mystery dress | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

The pattern is an unprinted vintage pattern. And when I had finished the dress enough to try it on properly, I made a rather unwelcome discovery – for some strange and mysterious reason, the waist line curved up by about 1.5″ in the centre back. Thus ending up with it far above where it should be! Argh!!!! (And this is where the high-tea-at-the-castle plans got derailed abruptly.) Such an odd, odd fit, and no indication of it being like this on the line drawings. Which makes me wonder if some long-ago seamstress directly altered the pattern by cutting part off on an angle. Since it’s an unprinted pattern, I have no way I can tell…..!!!

It nearly signified disaster for this dress, though! Eek!!!

I played around with adjusting seams, but couldn’t adjust them enough to make up for that massive centre-back shortening. So then I had the idea of making a cummerbund to cover it.

But that all failed miserably as well. Gah.

Then I hit on the simple solution – just chuck a wide belt on over the top, and all is well/hidden! Phew!!!

And now (as long as I hide it’s waistline flaw with a belt!) I love it! Yay!

Gothic Mystery dress | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

(Also, it fits nicely with my Vintage Pattern Pledge. Yay for sewing vintage!) (And yes Gillian, more are in the works. I’m playing posting catch-up first. ;-)