Sewing with butterflies' wings

This dress is one giant step out of my comfort zone. Huge that step, huge. I don't wear chiffon or sheer fabrics really and I certainly don't sew with them. "Why would one create that headache for themselves," generally being my stance on chiffon related matters. But I'm told it's very good to challenge oneself and I understand it's also good to see others creating such wondrous things that your envy and FOMO forces you to suck it up and throw your hat in the ring too. (Debbie and Ellen have a lot to answer for.)

So I did. And this is the result.

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Lets talk fabric first. Because that's what we all really care about, right?

This dreamy, super wafty, light as fairies' wings (again to quote Debbie) is a Liberty Crinkle Silk Chiffon from the collection on The Fabric Store's website. They have a huge selection of Liberty fabric, a lot of which isn't really me, but this had such a subtle, beautifully-coloured wildflower print and its softness and floatiness was really all it took to turn me. So it arrived in all its gorgeous butterfly-like gauzy, delicate softness (and wideness) and then I got the fear and let it sit and stew for a really long time, as the thought of cutting it was too terrifying.

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And also, I had pattern dilemma. I fully intended to use a Stoff & Stil pattern I've had hanging around for a while. It's a simple spaghetti strap sundress which is the same front and back and has a lining and top layer, the latter of which is gathered into the neckline of the lining and then has a ruffle that is gathered into the upper part of the dress. The pattern doesn't seem to be on their website anymore, but this is similar.

I've never worked with anything like a Stoff & Stil pattern before. You choose your size when ordering and when the pattern arrives its made of a lightweight fabric that I can't name. It has notches cut into it where required and all the pieces are full width, not on the fold. The instructions are in a whole bunch of different languages and whilst not illustrated were perfectly clear. They have a large selection of patterns to choose from, but it seems they don't keep them around for too long.

Anyway, back to the epic procrastinating ...

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My dilemma was how to make the most of the movement of the silk. The lining that comes with the pattern is a fairly full A-line shape and as Rina, who responded to my pleading about how to line it, said, the chiffon would get sucked into the folds of the fabric underneath - especially if it was the voile I originally intended to line it with - and lose all its ethereal drama.

I decided that silk would be needed to line it as the two would slip and slide off each other, so I headed to Mood and found an ivory silk crepe de chine that works perfectly colour wise. Then I decided that the lining needed to be pretty form fitting, and that meant bias. And THAT meant the Sadie Slip Dress from Tessuti. So I printed off Sadie and traced the neckline of the Stoff & Stil pattern onto her and that was my pattern dilemma solved.

Still, however, couldn't bring myself to get out the shears. 

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And then I was on the subway and listening to the Love to Sew podcast and specifically the one about levelling up your sewing and how one of the ways to do that was to tackle trickier fabrics. And I thought; I'm a competent sewer, I've sewn with tricky slippery fabrics before, what's the worst that can happen.

Cue quick flashback to being 19 and sewing a lined deep red bias cut chiffon spaghetti strap dress for my first year university ball and getting myself in such a state with it I had to enlist my mum to finish it. But I was totally feeling Caroline and Helen's words so I got home, laid out the butterflies' wings and went to it.

I have no real guidance on how to work with super lightweight fabrics, as my cutting wasn't very accurate. All I would say is choose a pattern that is forgiving; don't cut on the fold; placing the fabric directly on the carpet allows some friction so it doesn't move too much; and use weights as well as fine fine pins, again so that it doesn't move too much.

The crepe de chine was a little easier, but again I used all the above methods and got a pretty good result. 

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In terms of construction. Actually sewing this stuff isn't that hard but it does fray like a B. I used a super sharp needle, loosened my tension a little and lengthened my stitch. I french seamed everything, including the seam where I attached the ruffle and I made a tiny rolled hem on both the lining and overlay. I made a couple of errors: my straps are upside down so you can see the seam. I opted to only use the lining fabric for the straps as I feel the chiffon would be too delicate to stand up to that job.  I also matched the wrong sides when joining the lining to the overlay so the french seams on my lining are on the outside. But there was no way in a million years I was unpicking this fabric and they aren't really that visible, unless you're super picky. Like me.

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And you'll notice that the dress dips down a little at the back. I had toyed with the idea of doing this when I was levelling out the hem, but then decided it would be too tricky. Turns out my hem levelling leaves a lot to be desired as I got my dipped hem totally by accident.

I wore this dress for the first time on my wedding anniversary when Ben and I had a kid-free day and chose one of those days where we just went with what we felt like doing, which turned out to be street art and croissants in Bushwick, food trucks in Williamsburg, lying in the grass in Central Park, queuing for ice cream on the Lower East Side, cocktails in Nolita and dinner in Cobble Hill. A mish-mash tour of this city of many faces.

It was a fun day and I felt so comfortable despite the heat and got no less than five unsolicited compliments from random strangers about my dress.

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So it seems that stepping outside my comfort zone is worth it.

See you soon x


I made a hat. And went on a march. And before that I made a skirt.

I haven't really been sure how to write this post. I absolutely want to tell all the lovely people who relate when I say sewing keeps me sane, and come here to read about fabric and stitching about the sumptuous velvet skirt I made (see details below). But, also, given that the majority of lovely people who do come here are women, I have to mention the stunningly powerful thing women all around the world did last weekend. The Women's March.

I knit a Pussy Hat and I got on caravan of buses and I went to DC. To show that I am not prepared to accept the archaic, bigoted and dangerous policies of the new administration. To show solidarity. To stand with the millions of other women, and men, who feel that basic human rights and equality are at stake.

I have always seen myself as a well-informed, liberal person who is not afraid to stand up to defend myself when required. But mostly, as a white middle-class woman, there aren't so many times that is required. I protest vehemently on Facebook (to other mostly white, middle-class people), I've marched a couple of times for things that matter to me and I always exercise my right to vote, but I've never actually "needed" to be politically active. 

And then I went to DC and I realised that whether I need things or not, is not the point. I am a woman, so I should help defend the rights of all women. I am an immigrant, a privileged, white immigrant, so I should be helping defend the rights of all immigrants, especially those who don't have the "benefit" of my skin colour or background. I have never had an abortion but I know many women who have and I should defend their right to do with their body what they choose with the same ferocity I defend my own right to choose what happens to my body. I have children who I was lucky enough to carry and give birth to in a country where pre-natal care is free, non-judgmental and available to all (that being the UK not the US). So I should speak up so that others have that right no matter where they live or who they are. 

Somebody enabled me to have all of those things. They didn't just happen. People, women, protested, sacrificed and were well aware that the changes they achieved might not happen in their lifetime; but they did it because it was right. 

For the first time in my life I understand that it's not enough to just nod and agree and talk. If I believe in true equality for everyone; believe in the fact that a human being can not be illegal; believe in keeping others' minds and hands off my and my daughter's bodies, then I have to DO something.

And so I'll be doing. And when I'm not I'll be sewing. (Because I'm a woman and we can do and be anything and everything.)

Here's the pretty skirt (details at the bottom):

The Sewing Stuff:

  • Top is a modified Named Clothing Inari Tee - I used the V neckline from Papercut Patterns Sway dress as the template for the neck. I made a facing to correspond to that and omitted the sleeve cuffs.
  • The sandy black silk charmeuse is from Mood Fabrics.
  • The absolutely beautiful fluid, shiny, mushroom grey silk velvet for the skirt is from Chic Fabrics, which I believe is sadly closing. It was only $15 / yard.
  • The pattern is adapted from a 1970s shirt dress pattern (Vogue French Boutique 1860 from the Renata line) that was my mums and I also used for the skirt of this dress.
  • I added a 1 inch elastic waistband, stretching and serging the elastic to the waistband and skirt fabric, before folding the waistband in on itself to create even gathers.
  • The pockets are lined with dark grey cotton voile.
  • I finger pressed all the seams and steamed them with the iron and catch stitched the hem.

I hope my political enlightenment wasn't too much for a sewing blog and to see you soon. xx


A Silk Dominique

Ah Dominique, je t'adore.  

And there endeth the extent of my hazy recollections of A Level French.

What a truly wonderful pattern the Combinaison Dominique is.  I've had it for about six months and finally summoned the energy to tackle the French instructions the week République du Chiffon released the pattern in English.  

But, you know what, it actually wasn't that hard.  The diagrams whilst few, are very informative and as with all sewing patterns, the instructions are very repetitive so once you've worked out what "endroit contre endroit" and "surpiqûre" and "parementure" mean, you can pretty much work it out.  (Oh and I think that's "right sides together", "topstitch" and "facing" in case you were wondering.)

And there's always Google Translate ...

I've been wanting to make a jumpsuit for a while but none of the patterns I could find really appealed until I saw Isabelle's version of Dominique which is the perfect combination of structured and casual due to the pattern design, her fabulous choice of fabric and the fact she is so effortlessly cool.  

Around the same time I was also hunting for fabric for a skirt I was making my wonderful aunt for her birthday.  I don't know why but I decided on silk noil not really having a clue what it felt or looked like and thought this would work well for both projects and promptly ordered 4 yards in navy from

When it arrived I loved the weight and slubby nature of the weave, and it was a gorgeous deep rich navy but the smell, well I wasn't expecting that.   And then when I washed it it faded a lot to a more french navy, didn't entirely remove the smell and it developed a more mottled appearance.  I was pretty disappointed as it wasn't what I had envisaged for the skirt at all.  

However, for the jumpsuit it turns out to be pretty perfect, it feels absolutely glorious, the mottled appearance of the fabric fits with the relaxed design and it has enough weight to hold the pleats and the shape of the bodice.   In these photos I'd been wearing this all day and it doesn't look too baggy in the rear.

Over the last few years I have become much more content with my figure.  Not that much has changed, just now I accept that this is my body and I need to look after it and appreciate it for what it does and has given me, rather than give it a hard time and worry about the bits that aren't as I would like them.  That said, my BF bottom has always been my 'asset' of choice for denigration and, despite the above declaration of recently found love for all my assets, I am still less than convinced about my rear view in a jumpsuit.  But you know I can't see it and I love the jumpsuit, so who cares ...

After spending a long time looking at the pattern measurements and measuring and re-measuring my body and asking instagram for advice on the best time to make alterations - i.e. before or after making the first muslin / toile - I made a number of alterations to the pattern which seem to be fairly standard for me.  I added: 

  • an inch to the bodice at the bottom of the yokes,

  • two and a half inches to the length of the trousers,

  • I then did a full butt adjustment adding one and a half inches to the back crotch length and one inch to increase the back hip measurement.

I was so completely pleased with myself when I tried the muslin on and aside from a few minor tweaks, it fitted really well.  I am slowly getting better at intepreting what changes I need to make to accommodate my figure.

The additional alterations I made included:

  • Adding an inch to the shoulder width - I've recently become aware of how square and broad my shoulders are.

  • Adjusted the length of the placket facing to accommodate the bodice changes I made initially

  • I also had to add some height to the pocket pieces to ensure they were caught within the waistline seam. I don't think this is an error with the pattern as it is beautifullly drafted, but can't think why my other alterations would have made them too short.

  • I then also added a further inch to the back bodice at the centre back waistline, blending it to nothing at the side seams. This probably isn't technically correct, but I only needed extra length there and the resulting fit is pretty good as it gives me more room to move and increases the blousey appearance of the bodice.

I can't tell you how much fun this was to make.  Sometimes more complex, muslin involving projects can seem like a bit of a slog to me, but I enjoyed every minute of this, even when my french failed me and I really didn't know what I was doing.  The silk is beautiful to work with and I love the details of this design, such as the way the collar pieces are curved which you think is going to make it impossible to attach to the neckline, but you work it out and the curve then gives the collar some volume and doesn't sit completely flat.  I love that attention to detail. 

I kind of mimicked the whole 80s vibe République du Chiffon had going on with their sample versions and chose embossed gold 'metal' shank buttons. I've realized that 3/8 inch buttons are my preferred for button down blouses, bodices etc. I'm not sure proportionally if they work, but I always feel half inch are too big.

I'm not sure I need another jumpsuit in my life, but I'd really like to make this again; perhaps a short version for next summer.  Or using the bodice for a pleated shirt dress might be fun.

I have at least five other RduC patterns and this is one of the more challenging ones, so now I know I can make sense of 'les etapes de montage', I really should get on with the others.

Have you tried any of République du Chiffon's patterns?  And isn't that just the perfect name for a sewing related company?!

See you soon x