Sew Sarah

adventures in dress-making

Category: Finished sewing projects

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.


Looking beyond the cover, New Look 6776

I bought New Look 6776 at a sale for 5 bucks. I think. Looking at the front cover art, I couldn’t imagine that I would have paid anymore. From memory, I think it reminded me of a Lazy Bones dress I bought over a decade ago and is still a well worn and firm favourite. The fabric was from a fabric swap at the first Brisbane Spoolettes meet-up back in March. The fabric, while never would have been a first choice, has become a favourite. Thank-you to the kind person who donated it. I know I spoke to the original owner but just can’t place who it was amongst the other gems I took home and the other kind owners who let go a little bit of their precious stash.

The dress, made in in view D, went together easily enough. However, it was initially fiddly and took a little time to wrap my head around the lining instructions.

On second inspection, the instructions were actually well written and it was the neatest lining I have ever completed. The inside is a perfect match to the front.

In ended up using a self drafted dirndl skirt. Unlike the last time, I made sure I didn’t use too many gathers near the zip. This reduced the bulk significantly.

Because of the gathers on the bust I didn’t do an FBA. I think I got away with it, within a millimetre at least. Next time, I think I would add maybe a cm or two to the bust depth. Need to wrap my head around how to do that.

I think New Look 6776 is a hidden gem and translates well for a vintage-style look. Just squint and look behind the crappy photos on the pattern cover!!!!!


Embracing my new dress with vintage fabric, I went and checked out Paddington antique centre to find some matching accessories. Didn’t find what I wanted but did discover this gorgeous opera coat for $70 bucks!

Elisalex, I can’t help myself


My mother tells this story of my banjo playing grandfather (Pa Pa). During the war, while in Borneo, he was a radio signaller by day and entertainer by night. I have some hand drawn posters of him during this time and he is called Banjo Parton (a play on his name and the Australian bush poet). Anyway, he was pretty straight laced and whenever he tried to write a tune, no matter how he tried, it always came out like God Save the Queen!!!

Why am I telling to this story?

Well, I am experiencing something not dissimilar. Everytime I make something, despite my intentions, it turns into an Elisalex!

This dress is no exception. It was supposed to be a version of this vintage pattern and one by one, things went wrong. The sleeves were way too tight (thanks to the quilting cotton), the
angled bust darts sat way too low. Just for starters.

Do you have those sewing days when you truly believe the dress is cursed?!

Anyway, despite much unpicking and restyling, I have a finished product. The waist seam at the back is about three quarters of a cm out after inserting a dress zip but I will be damned if I am going to unpick it! I will wear a belt (or just kick anyone in the shins who notices and mentions it).

Saying all this, I am pretty sure I will get a lot of wear out of it. The wide dirndl skirt is a little longer than I would normally have but felt like a little swooshing!

I wore it to Westfield Chermside yesterday and got a few nice comments!




Colette Laurel

I have just finished my third Laurel in a red polkadot Tilda fabric and really not sold. I have been tinkering with the fit, particularly around the bust and arms and it is now a little too baggy. Saying that, it is pretty comfortable and works well for a weekend slouch dress. I finished the neckline and hem with exposed self-made bias binding. I ended up hacking a little too much off the length and needed to scrounge a few precious millimetres! I also hemmed the sleeves flat before I stitched them up and attached them. Made life a little easier. Will do that again in future.

I should really take a photo of it on but not feeling so crash-hot so have decided to stay behind the camera today!


Kielo by Named

It has been a little while since my last post and can provide a litany of various excuses including travel, work and the bloody Queensland humidity! In fairness, I have actually finished my stretch grey marl Laurel dress but it has been too hot and humid to even think about trying on. Once it cools down a little, I will make sure I post it.

However, in the meantime I wanted to share a new boutique pattern company find that Sophie at Circ du Bebe told me about over the weekend at a Brisbane Sewing High Tea at The Marriott organised by Busy Lizzie in Brizzy. Then Donna at Sew Independent wore a wonderful navy version which everyone cooed over. Hopefully people find this useful and I am not telling you all something you all already know!

Introducing (for those who aren’t familiar)….Named. The Finnish based company is run by two sisters and their creations embrace the simplicity and beauty Scandinavian design is so greatly known for.

My favourite is definitely the Kielo wrap dress which I bought last night and arrived instantly via PDF. I have no fabric so it definitely means a trip to East Coast Fabrics on the weekend (as I know they have plenty of stretch fabrics). I am thinking a very light weight jersey with a suitable drape, maybe in black or navy. Or red. Or even a grey marl……..Maybe all. It looks pretty easy to construct with one front bodice on the fold, two back pieces and then the two ties. At first glance, the instructions aren’t that great. For example, the suggestion on how to finish the neckline and armholes is ‘finish all edges’. But look, who am I to complain. I am terrible at following instructions. It does get me into trouble regularly but in this instance, puts me ahead!

I better cutting and pasting to get the pattern assembled in time for the weekend.

Has anybody else heard or tried Named patterns and want to share some sage advice with me?

Kuvassa: Heini Salonen

Living dangerously, sewing stretch without an overlocker

I haven’t gotten through my projects this week due to work and a little bit of laziness. I had planned to get out of work on time last night and sneak in a few hours but ended up at the local pool. It was was of those lovely Brisbane evenings and I didn’t want to waste it.

Saturday morning was the next opportunity but the St Patrick’s Day parade called.

I finally got to my Colette Laurel at about 3pm. It was traced and cut earlier this week. Around an hour or so later, have just one sleeve, facing and hemming to do.

I am using quite a stable jersey I picked up in a charity shop in Toowoomba for about $2.

I really should be overlocking it but the overlocker needs a service. I should get this sorted but am in Melbourne this week and really want something a little warmer. I have Googled heaps of different ways to sew a stretch on a regular machine and decided to go one row basting-type stitch and one row regular straight stitch. In fairness, my saving grace is that the fabric is quite stable so don’t think I will run into too many problems (famous last words).

How does everyone else sew stretch sans overlocker?

I hope the dress turns out how I hoped. The last Laurel I made was too tight. Then I made this one a little bigger than I normally would wear as I wanted more of a lounge-sweater type dress. I think I have gone way overboard and even by taking in the side seams an extra few centimetres, it is a little on the roomy side. Oh well. I think it will be still wearable and it is really comfy so am thinking I might head over to Spotlight tomorrow and get some ponte to make another one.


Away from my machine but still thinking about it

I am away at beautiful Burleigh this weekend catching up with friends and family. The only problem is that I am having withdrawals. I am mid-project having cut out a night dress for my mother. I am now dying to get behind the machine and finish it off for her. It is
My first time sewing for someone else and first time sewing night wear. I am totally motivated to get this done as I saw an amazing white voile with fluro yellow spots in Spotlight last week. I want to make my own nightdress now! This pattern looks super easy. Given how light weight the fabric is, I think I will need to use French seams. The yoke / bodice is self lined of course so the finishing will just be on the side seams. Easy peasy.


This morning we are heading off to the Burleigh car boot sale so hoping we might find some hidden treasures!

More later 🙂 A poolside coffee calls me. My morning project is to source some inspiration for By Hand London’s newest pattern Flora. What are your thoughts? Please share!


Colette Laurel Pattern Review

Now I am not a shift dress person. I am short and anything that isn’t nipped at the waist makes me look like a sack of spuds.

So when Colette Patterns launched the Laurel last year, I wasn’t really sold. But as I saw more and more people, with an assortment of body types, make the dress, I started to reconsider.

So, not wanting to be the one who misses out, I jumped on the bandwagon as well.

I found some lovely spotted cotton (with a tiny bit of stretch) at Spotlight. I think it might be a cotton chintz. It has the look of sateen but not as thick or as stretchy.

The construction was super simple and knocked it up in a few hours including matching bias binding.

The diamond darts at the back give it that needed shape.

I didn’t even bother with the instructions, it was sooo simple.

However, next time I make it I will add a little more length. Also, the sleeves were a little tight but actually think that I will need an fba. I think that is what is constricting the sleeves.


I have already started another version but went up two sizes as I was too lazy to do a fba, I wanted something loose fitting and the fabric was some sort of shiny chambray and had no stretch…..cutting corners does mean an unsatisfactory result. It was way too big. I also added some length and it comes half way down my calf!

Doh. But actually, I think I can fix this pretty easily. I also want it to be a comfortable shift to hang around the house in the evenings and weekends.

I want the finished product to look a little like this dress I saw in David Jones a few months ago (I think it may be French Connection).


A project for a rainy day I think!



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Elisalex – a love affair

A few versions of Elisalex from the archives.








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Elisalex viii Pattern Review

By Hand London’s Elisalex, hands down, is my favourite pattern. Why?

It is versatile – I have made a version for a wedding, several for work, a few for a night out on the tiles and a few for knocking around on the weekend.

It can be scaled up or down – I have made a few versions which I have knocked up in a couple of hours and three which are delux (fully lined, french seamed, bias binding hems, hand picked zips etc).

It is flattering – surprisingly, I find the tulip skirt slimming.

Mix it up- I have invested the time to do a full bust adjustment and the bodice fits perfectly. I have teamed it with all sorts of skirts including gathered, dirndl, circle, pencil and gathered tulip so on and so on.

I could go on but you get the picture. I have just finished my eighth version (but used the bodice on another half a dozen versions).

I used a sateen from East Coast Fabrics. I got it for $5 a metre along with a few other gems.


I used every single scrap of fabric as I also was able to squeeze a Charlotte skirt. This meant I had nothing left for facing or binding. I used a plain stretch cotton from The Fabric Store instead for lining. I normally prefer facing or binding the neck and armhole but didn’t have enough matching fabric.

The only problem is that the sateen was really stretchy, more than I would have thought for a sateen, and while I got one side of the lapped dress zip in perfectly, no matter how taut I pulled and pinned the other side, it just wouldn’t match. I ended up hand picking the outside lapped bit. However, after a day of wearing, it has given a little at the waist (see picture). I think this can be easily fixed by making tighter and smaller stitches.




The side seams and box pleats match perfectly with the bodice. I was really pleased with that as the fabric was stretchier than I would have liked.



I normally would post a photo with me in the dress but I couldn’t unglue my other half from watching Wales v Ireland rugby highlights!

So, the BHL Elisalex love affair continues. I think I would like a plain black shiny sateen version for those days where I need a work/ cocktail dress. Better get on then!!