Sew Sarah

adventures in dress-making

Navy bird dress 

I have really wanted to make another fit and flare dress with sleeves for a while. I only had one and I wore it to death and last winter, one slight over extension saw the shoulder give way.

There isn’t much need, I think, for warmer dresses in Queensland. I don’t tend to feel the cold much either so a cardigan and denim jacket is all I need to convert my summer wardrobe to winter.
I thought the cap sleeves on this Burda pattern would work well. I have a sleeve but it won’t be a problem when I put one of my cropped cardigans on (I hate that line you get on your arm when you put a jumper over a shirt).
I had a go at this yonks ago and despite getting it perfect on my toile, I couldn’t get those square yokes into the bodice. It is still sitting scrunched up in the back of my wardrobe.
So, I did something very technical. I got my princess seam bodice block and overlaid it with the Burda pattern. I retraced and voila – dress with cap sleeves sans square insert buggers.
It fits perfectly.
I used a cheap poly cotton from Spotty that I got on sale for about $4.50 a metre to make a toile that could end up being worn if it worked. The fabric itself is pretty ordinary, as you would expect, but loving the pattern. The pattern patten placement was a little tricky. It has a border-type print running through the middle.
The only problem I have is that the fabric is really thin and for some reason my machine hates it. Especially the gather stitch. I have to tighten my tension a little more than I normally would which results in a few snapped rows before I get a successful gather. Patience a isn’t a virtue I posses. The other thing my machine hates sewing in this thin poly cotton is zips. Don’t know why. So, it isn’t my best zipper but hey-ho, after four attempts, it will do (see above note re: patience).
I am now planning a second make in this. I have a nightie cut out and a denim (ish) Elisalex ready to get on the machine but need to change the overlocker thread! 
I am tempted to head to Spotlight today to get some more fabric but I am sure I have something in my stash. . . . But something navy and polka dots would be cute…no I have some red polka dot fabric….this debate could go on for some time….
It is super windy outside today so very difficult to get a shot where my dress isn’t blowing up and revealing my knickers to my neighbours.



New Look 6002

In about 2004 I bought two dresses which I still wear pretty regularly today. So I do need to wriggle and squeeze to get my bust in but look, I can still wear them. Judging from the pattern and style I think they are Lazybones dresses. I have been a little obsessed with finding a pattern to match. Then I found Retrospec’d dresses which make a similar style in some pretty awesome fabrics (see below).


Excuse me for the lack of technical terms but it is a sweetheart cross over neckline with a separate midriff piece. Each bodice part is separately lined so gives a lot of strength without boning.

After (many) hours Googling when I shouldn’t be, I found Gertie had made something similar here. Success you might think? Out of bloody print. After (many) hours of trawling eBay and Etsy, I had a duh moment. Sold for about five bucks as a out of print pdf pattern here.

Be warned. It has one million pages. Seriously. I had to spread everything out across our entire loung room. In some instances small pattern pieces are on five separate page. I think it is because it is just a pdf replica of a print pattern. I ended up laying it out, picking what I needed and turfed the rest. I self drafted the gathered skirt as it was much easier. 

Anyway, it was relatively easy to get together. I self-lined it and the inside is as neat as the outside. A rare score.


The front section was too wide so pulled in the cross over section by about an inch. That did mean however the bodice at the side and back was a little snug. In usual form I didn’t do a toile.  Though I carefully fitted as I went. That served me well but once I added the security of a zip (rather than pinning), it pulled it a little tighter. 

Next time I would definitely need to do a FBA though unsure how I would do it on a pattern piece like this? Suggestions? I could add some extra fullness to the gathered part of the bottom and a little more depth to the curve at the bust??

Total cost:

PDF pattern – $4.29

Fabric – 2.5 metres poplin at Spotlight’s 30 per cent off sale a few months ago. Taking it down to approximately $27.10. I normally  squeeze a dress out of 1.8 metres but the self lining and the cross over bodice spreads out the patten pieces. I added a little extra to the length as well to balance out the bodice.

Would I make this again?

Totally, with the adjustments mentioned above.



Dirndl dress, winter wardrobe

I was keen to knock over a few makes for my winter wardrobe over the Easter break. I wanted something easy but with sleeves though in Queensland winter is short lived. I landed on this Burda staple, fitted bodice with capped sleeves, as a in-between solution. 

I took a gamble and cut a size smaller than I measured up on the size chart, a 42. The fabric was a super cheap poly cotton from Spotlight so I took the risk. In the sale it come down to about ten bucks for two metres.

I made the dress up with no alterations except scooping out the back a little but next time would shorten the bodice. It is a good inch too long. I would also lift up the neck line as it is a little low for my comfort.  I think I might also have to top stitch the facing down as it is rolling a little, the poly cotton doesn’t press crisply. You can see the evidence on my sleeve in the photo of my back.

I took it out for a swirl and test drive this afternoon and saw Cinderella at the cinema. Terrible movie, fabulous costumes. Did the job.

Might put a navy one together tomorrow!



Ps. Small confession. Couldn’t be bothered changing the overlocker thread so it is finished in black. We all have these dirty little sewing secrets doesn’t we? Please don’t judge me!

Winter fabric, winter wardrobe: navy and red variations 

I decided this morning that all my fabric in my stash was too summery and I needed a few new winter additions. Catch is they would all need to go with my winter staples of red shoes, red cardigan, cropped denim jacket, red vintage beads and well, red lipstick. 

Ever the risk-taker and happy to step right outside my comfort zone…..yup you guessed it, red and navy floral fabric…….might even really take a risk and try a fit and flare pattern……

Look, I am happy. And it all only cost sixty bucks. Thanks Spotty. Gotta love a thirty per cent off sale.


Easing into Easter sewing, ninja style 

Look. I will be honest. I tend to make grand sewing promises. Yes I will mend your pants, yes I can make you a beach throw, summer nightie or tunic. I might even go as far as the fabric purchase, only for it to languish in my stash followed by some awkward excuses. I just haven’t had time, my machine is broken, do I even know you??

That may work on my mum or sister. It hasn’t worked on my five year old nephew, Harry. He doesn’t take that crap from me. 

Meet Harry.  Charmer, chatterer and will-bender, so it seems.


In a moment of weakness I promised a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle library bag. I may have forgotten but Harry hasn’t. 

I finally caved to the pressure and splurged on this licenced fabric from Spotlight. $20 bucks a metre. They saw me coming. Without a plan I knocked this up this morning. I intended to make a draw string bag but got crazy with the overlocker and stitched closed the gap for the cord. So I added some facing and some handles instead. Unsure of this is standard library bag contstruction methodology but don’t think Haz-Dog will be complaining! 

Will post it tomorrow mate….(failure to post things as promised is another personal challenge!).



Teeny tiny homemade bikini

I have been contemplating making swimwear for a while but am a little scared of it. What happens if I jump in the water and it stretches the wrong way and ends up around my ankles?

I have found a solution.

Make one for someone else!

I was in the Salvos at Burleigh yesterday and scored this for fifty cents. I knew full well my double D cup would never squeeze in there but for my gorgeous little sister, it was love at first sight.

 Fortuitously we were heading past East Coast Fabrics on the way home and popped in and purchased three metres of  this lush Lycra (not an expert on stretch so happy to be corrected). It was with a pile of similar fabric and my sister believes it is Seafolly. What ever it is, it is has a gorgeous feel. 

I also bought enough to make this New Look wrap. I realised this morning it is a mock wrap so may need to pattern hack as I want a proper DVF inspired dress. 

Anyway back to the cheeky bikini. It was super easy to make. I am on staying at a friends this weekend and borrowed her machine (thank-you Pam) while she is away. I didn’t have an overlocker but the machine had a stretch stitch. 

It took no time to put together and was pretty simple.  The only change we made was adding little wooden beads to the tie ends. My sister loves it and we will be doing a controlled ‘pool’ test later this morning.

Nothing like a full skirt to brighten one’s day

Hopefully the completion of my favourite vintage Butterick 5748 means I have come through the other end of bit of a sewing funk. Saying that, I actually do have about half a dozen dress projects which are blog worthy but it has been so hot in Brisbane over the last few months that the last thing I feel like doing is doing my hair, slapping some make-up on and putting on a bra to take a photo. Way too much effort for a weekend!

Dirty secrets revealed!!

Anyway, I love nothing more than swishing around with a circle skirt and this stiff linen holds the shape well. The only problem is that it is a relaxed weave so after one wear the seams in the bodice (which has no wearing ease) are giving a little. Oh well. Life is pretty good when you have a full skirt, polka dots and my favourite colour red!!

There are no real adjustments made to this patten except I ended up making two sizes down from the measurements on the envelope. This seems a pretty standard Vogue and Butterick adjustment for me.

The photo doesn’t show it but next to full skirts, red and polka dots, I love nothing more than a scooped back and this dress has a lovely one! Check out the envelope package. It was such a bright day when we tried to take this photo that we managed to get one semi decent one before my husband lost patience with me!

Anyway, my next project is well underway. New Look 6002. It is out of print but was able to download it for a few dollars from the Simplicity site. As usual, look beyond the envelope as it is pretty dire. I have a Retrospec’d or Lazybones style dress in mind. I was inspired by a post Gertie made forever ago.

I have already cut the bodice to kick start a sewing Sunday fest on the weekend and am living dangerously. Cut a standard two sizes smaller…. I don’t think I have made a New Look so hoping for the best…….

Preparing my next project and posing in the sun (don’t mind the bin) with my new vintage Buttericks…..



Getting back my sewing mojo

The last few months have been bit of a roller coaster ride and the spinning of numerous plates! I am sure many of you know the feeling! As a result my sewing mojo has been a little off. Saying that, I have completed a few projects but some not to my satisfaction. I may blog about them in the next few days, if I can bring myself to bring the item from the back of my wardrobe.

Ultimately however, the disasters where a result of not making up a toile and thinking that I have made Vogue patterns before and this should be okay!!! Yeah. Not so much.

On the flip side, I am about to finish another dress which started off as a toile but moved onto a wearable item. I will probably get around to posting it tomorrow. As I think the dress pattern is a hidden gem (hidden under hideous front cover styling).

So, what is in my sewing table at the moment?

The terrible v1397. The fit was way too big but the sleeves way too tight. After making sleeves and arm scythe larger, I realised the bodice was way too long above the bust. I ended up removing the sleeves and hacking off about an inch and a half. Should have made a toile. Lesson learnt. Potentially salvageable. Would try the pattern again when feeling stronger.




Just about to finish v8997


I am using a random fabric from a bargain bin. It isn’t washed silk but really does look like it. It is a really comfortable fit and unlike the above Vogue pattern, I had no fit issues. Just with all the lining and the gored full skirt, a lot of seams to seam, fit to the bodice lines, adjust, overlock and press. I just need to buy a zipper to go into it. Anyone looking for a tailored looking work dress that is relatively simple and easy to wear, would recommend this.

I have also just finished two semi-self drafted circle skirts though they are in four panels as the fabric wasn’t wide enough. I love circle skirts but might try a more fluted version next time. The two above patterns have fluted full skirts and it just means less fabric around the hips but still keeping the fullness and swooshing-ness.



I also had made a vintage style dress for my anniversary but the pattern was horrendous. I won’t name and shame the boutique pattern maker but the PDF tiles were badly misaligned and the fit pretty poor. I did make a toile and made adjustments but have fallen out of love with the pattern. I have ripped out the lining and have biased bound the arm and neck holes but just need to finish it up. This is my third go at this and I think the pattern will need to be retired.


Finally, I made a toile of Burda 7178 about six months ago and have found the perfect fabric, the beautiful upholstery ikat fabric. I need to make a few tweaks to the toile including dropping the neckline down a few good inches, letting out the hips a good inch and paring in the waist a good few inches. However, I might make another toile as while I was gifted the ikat, I know it was very expensive.



That should keep me very busy for a while. But back the mojo issue. I think I just need to finish a few items rather than starting one and moving into the next so quickly.

Dress making in miniature

One of my best friend’s was hosting a birthday 1st birthday party for his little girl and just didn’t know what to buy. Having ten (I did have to count using my fingers there) nieces and nephews I know how presents get torn open and then left forgotten about. So, with only a few spare hours to go before the party, I decided to make little Zoe a dress. I struggled finding the right fabric at Spotlight as the kids fabric was just plain tacky. Ended up settling on this lovely floral seersucker. I had Burda 9831 in my stash and made view C. Because I like to bite off more than I can chew I decided to not do the ruffle but added a few centre metres onto the length. It was a super easy make though didn’t follow the instructions. I french seamed all exposed seams and added some red bias binding to the hem. The lining then enclosed the bodice completely. The inside as a result was just as good as the outside. I had a big yellow ribbon in my stash and that matched perfectly. I also had originally repurposed some covered buttons from my failed Anise jacket. However, I was a little stingy on the button holes and they didn’t fit. Thank god for my stash as I had only minutes to spare.

I think the dress went down well and have another one for a little three year old in London who picked out her own fabric. Any suggestions for a pattern? Thinking of maybe an Oliver and S one, they are super cute!







Making something from leftovers

Just like that left over roast chicken or that slow cooked lamb, it is too good to just throw out or left just to languish at the back of the freezer. I was taught never to waste things so whether it is food, clothes or house hold items, I am a bit of a hoarder. Fabric off-cuts are no exception. Like many sewers, I am often left over with scraps that are too small to make a whole garment from and too big to chuck in the bin.

I was going through my stash yesterday making some grand plans with some of the beauties that are often left untouched because it is too hot in Queensland to wear. But with this cold snap, perfect. But I got a little distracted. Discovered a lot of my off cuts could actually work together- red, blue, white, polka dots, block, floral, chambray. I also have about 4 metres of this stiff red vintage
chambray- type fabric with red spots, a navy polka dot vintage Vogue dress with a busted zip (which has been in the back of my wardrobe for about 12 months) and a chambray Colette Hazel which no longer fits but the fabric is still fine.

How much sewing I get done today is the question. But the volume of fabric strewn around are townhouse does demonstrate a want!!! Watch this space.

How much random fabric scraps do you have? What do you do with them?