Fleece lined skater dress – OR the alternative slanket

Earlier this year I discovered the wonder that is fleece-lined tights. They were a wardrobe essential from January to mid-May in London.

Now the cold weather has come back, and I’ve made something that’s even better than fleecy tights. It’s a fleece lined dress, of course!

fleece dress 1

This dress is made from the beautiful cotton fleece fabric kindly sent to me by Offset Warehouse, which I wrote about in this post. While waiting for inspiration to strike, I became very fond of sitting on the sofa and draping this fabric over myself while watching TV, so I wanted to recreate that experience in dress form and keep it very simple.

dress 3

I converted my regular McCalls dress pattern to have front and back waist darts, then added a gathered rectangle for the skirt. The waist also has elastic overlocked to the seam allowance.

I’m not sure if gathered fleece is the most flattering look, but this dress is so awesome I don’t care. It’s the most comfortable thing I have ever worn. It’s the acceptable-in-public version of a slanket.

The neckline and sleeves are finished with lycra stretch binding from Minerva Crafts. I used it exactly like regular bias binding, except I pulled it a little bit as I sewed.

This dress was ripped off from heavily inspired by this little People Tree number. I changed the number of tiny useless pockets from the original, as I felt one was probably enough.

fleece dress 2

Sorry for the messy background in these photos. They were taken far too early this morning and it was too cold to go to our usual photo studio (aka the hallway of the block of flats I live in. Glamour!)

I can’t believe I managed to get all this stuff in the background and didn’t even think to pose in front of the Christmas tree. You’ll just have to imagine it providing some festive atmosphere.

fleece dress 3
The back doesn’t usually look uneven, I’m just standing weirdly.

You can get your own fleece backed jersey fabric here from Offset Warehouse, and I highly recommend it. You can also get 10% off anything in the shop, until the 1st January, by using this code at checkout: I_LIKE_THAT_10%OFF!

This is probably the last finished object I’ll get up on the blog this year, so although I might be back with some other witterings, I wish you a very merry Christmas/non-specific holiday!

Man’s (failed) shirt: Burda 7045

Here’s a cautionary Christmas tale.

If you offer to make a shirt for someone else, you need to make a muslin first. Yes, muslin making is tedious beyond belief, but if you don’t do it, you might spend hours making something like this:


Only for it to be received like this:

shirt too big

I handsewed 12 buttons for this shirt, which I believe is the dictionary definition of ‘labour of love’, so I’m pretty gutted that it didn’t work out.

The pattern is Burda 7045. If you want to make your own version, heed my warnings:

  • Collar A looks normal on the envelope, but in reality is a monstrosity of David Frost proportions.
  • The sleeves are also massive, and the cuffs would fit round the upper arm of most men.
  • There aren’t any back pleats included in the pattern.
  • This shirt also doesn’t have a rounded bottom hem. I had to wing that.
  • However it DOES include neck measurements on the pattern instructions. Of course I found this out after I’d sewed this whole shirt. I didn’t even realise men bought shirts by their neck measurements – it never comes up in womenswear…
sleeve too big
Demonstrating the muckle sleeve

The back doesn’t look too bad. I did a narrow shoulder adjustment, but think it might need even more – are men’s shirts supposed to sit slightly off the shoulder?

gingham shirt back

It’s a real shame this didn’t work out, as the fabric was sent to me by Terry’s Fabrics and it’s a lovely, medium weight woven gingham. The small checks mean you don’t have to match up the side seams, and it feels really substantial. Tempted to buy more to make myself a blouse for the summer.

It’s nice to find a source for gingham in lots of different colours, as I find the stuff you get in fabric stores is often nasty polycotton.

So anyway, as Alex wouldn’t wear this, I tried to give it to my friend (also confusingly called Alex) when he popped round for a visit. He seemed to enjoy the shirt at first:

alex busting some moves

But 5 minutes after this he was saying the shirt made him ‘look fat’, so I fear it will never be worn (I made him take the shirt home anyway as it was depressing me to look at it).

There are two things I learned from this experience.

1. Always make a muslin first, as already discussed. I’m making my second attempt in this gorgeous Paul Smith cotton which can’t be wasted on another failure.

photo (1)

2. There is a gap in the market for a modern men’s shirt pattern! Every guy I see on the street in London is wearing a slim-cut checked shirt of some kind, but there aren’t any perfect patterns to make them.

This pattern needs to have back pleats, a yoke, a small collar with the option to button it down, and normal sized cuffs (with a cutaway edge). It should explain all the professional RTW methods like sleeve plackets, flat felling and the proper way of sewing the yoke.

Yes, I know I could collate all this myself, but wouldn’t it be handy to have it in one envelope? Colette have done a good job with their Negroni, but I don’t see many guys wearing this style of convertible collar, whereas the standard shirt is everywhere. Indie pattern designers of the world, I challenge you to come up with this holy grail!

2013 Sewing resolutions – how did I do?

This recent post at Did You Make That reminded me that I made some sewing resolutions of my own in Jan (although I left it too late to actually get them into Karen’s infamous jar).

With Christmas approaching like a tinsel-covered express train, it’s a good time to see how I’ve measured up over the last 12 months. Here goes:

Resolution 1: Take part in Me-Made-May and actually make it to the end this time.


With the help of a new iPhone this was a doddle. My selfie taking improved immeasurably, and I loved checking the Flickr group every day to see what everyone was wearing. It was  the coldest May for 50 years so the challenge was a good distraction from sitting at home shivering.

You can see my final Me-Made-May post with here, and this is my favourite photo from the month, for obvious reasons.


Resolution 2: Scale the trouser-making mountain and sew some stretch skinny jeans.

I have now been up and down that particular mountain four times, which counts as a success in my book. Here’s all the pairs I made this year.


You can see that my facial expressions and posing skills have not evolved much in 12 months – maybe that’s a challenge for 2014.

Here’s a round-up of how these jeans are getting on now:

Pair 1, stretch denim from Tissu Fabrics, Jan 13: The fit isn’t great, but they’re so comfortable that I pull them out of the drawer fairly often. They are EXTREMELY high-waisted so keep you very warm, although not good for eating large dinners in.

Pair 2, Extremely stretchy Barbour twill from Mandors in Glasgow, March 13 : I hardly ever wear these. Probably because they are very brown, and I don’t get on well with that colour.

Pair 3, bright blue stretch twill from Mandors in Glasgow, June 13:I wore these constantly this summer. The fabric has gone quite saggy now but a hot wash pulls them back into shape. They’re ankle length so a bit too chilly now it’s cold.

Pair 4, stretch glitter denim from Minerva Fabrics, Oct 13:  This is embarrassing, but I’m going to be honest with you guys. I wore these a lot – until the bloody zip slider came off. AGAIN. I spent 2 hours trying to prise it back on and had to admit defeat. I will get round to putting in a new zip at some point. Probably.

I learnt a whole lot from making these jeans. The fly front no longer holds any fear for me, I can sew pockets in my sleep, and my topstitching skillz are second to none. I am high-fiving myself right now.

Resolution 3: Work on my personal style so I only make what I’ll actually wear.

I think I have slightly improved my dress sense this year. Pinterest has been my friend. I have one big board where I pin everything I like the look of, and I’ve found out that I like simple shapes and bright colours (I realise that makes me sound like a children’s TV presenter).

I can never wear frills, ditsy prints, or outfits with no waist definition, and I need to make more shirts and plain skirts.

My favourite Pinterest inspired projects this year were these two skirts:

doubled zipped skirt.jpg greenskirt

So that’s 3 out of 3! I think I now deserve a celebratory glass of mulled wine and a mince pie. And some spare time to think up next year’s resolutions…

Aubergine crepe New Look 6070 dress for the Minerva Blogging Network

I’d like to put in a vote for purple to become the official colour of Christmas.

purple dress 4

Red is played out, don’t you think? It’s so obvious, so Coca-Cola. Let’s all pretend we’re Roman emperors and drape ourselves in shades of aubergine.

Here’s my contribution to the cause, in the form of my latest project for Minerva Crafts. It’s another version of New Look 6070 which I’ve made before in a summery floral cotton – you can see that here.

purple dress 3

It’s made in a gorgeous luxury crepe from Minerva. This fabric is amazing. It’s drapey, heavy, and beautiful, and it makes the perfect winter dress. They have it in a range of beautifully saturated colours – I’m keen on the maroon, might have to pick up some of that for my next project…

This went together pretty smoothly. I had an issue with the facing, which required some tacking down, and the hem, which has annoyingly decided to flare out at the bottom. This fabric also frays like mad, so you’ll need to get the hoover out regularly when sewing.

new look 6070 dres back

I think the pleated shoulders stay just on the right side of being too 80s, although you may disagree. The fit is great, helped by the fact that this crepe has a slight stretch to it. It’s very comfortable to wear.

Top tip for working with this crepe – use a press cloth! You need quite a high heat to make it behave, but it’s easy to put a shine on the fabric if you’re not careful. You should also baste down all the pleats (I do it on my machine with a long stitch length), as you can’t iron them flat  as you would in a cotton.

Read my post about this dress on the Minerva network here, buy the kit here which includes two metres of fabric and a matching zip, and get the New Look 6070 pattern here.

Here’s to a purple Christmas!

new look 6070 dress

Galaxy bowling shirt from a vintage Style pattern

So this was a ridiculous and fun project.

bowling shirt front

I made it for the Spoolettes bowling trip, which was an extremely good night out involving bowling, karaoke, large pizzas, and ice-cream cocktails. The shirt was a last minute panic effort on the Thursday and Friday night before the big event.

Luckily I managed to make it entirely from materials I already had. I rummaged around in my messy pattern stash to discover this gem from the Paul Knight shop in Stevenage (not bought by me, you’ll be surprised to hear). From the styling I’m guessing it’s late 70s/early 80s.

photo 2

At some point in the long journey from Stevenage to Hackney, the pattern pieces had come unmoored from the instructions, so I had to wing it.

My main problem was that I’d never made this kind of collar, and I had no idea what it was even called. Eventually I found a good tutorial from the much-missed ‘pattern scissors cloth’ blog after extensive googling.

Is it a rolled collar? A blazer collar? Any ideas?

Either way it is magnificently massive, in a 70s kind of way.

shirt close-up

This pattern also featured something I’d never seen before, a tiny dart in the front. I think this supposed to help you fold back the lapels, although mine were actually folded in front of the dart. If you can shed any light on this I’d be intrigued to hear more.

photo 1

The fabric is a kid’s duvet cover from Tescos, already used by several sewists including Katie and Emily. You can see it here online, although it’s been sold out for a while.

I bought it a long time ago but it’s not the most lovely fabric in the world, to be honest. It’s thin but stiff and feels quite cardboardy. But it’s perfect for a space bowling shirt. The burnt orange contrast stuff was a remnant I got in a fabric sample sale, it’s slightly sueded and I think it suits the massive collar.

shirt back

Here’s a cool thing I discovered when making this shirt. While reading the manual for probably the second time in 8 years, I found out that my Bernina can sew pre-programmed letters. They’re straight stitch so it’s not technically embroidery, but its pretty awesome anyway.

Obviously I chose to embroider ‘COSMIC BOWL’ on to my shirt.

cosmic bowl

I didn’t get any good photos on the night as I was chatting too much, but you can see some great ones on triumphant winner Sally’s blog Charity Shop Chic here, Sew Dixie Lou here, Diary of a Chain Stitcher here, Nicole Needles here, and My Oh Sew Vintage Life here.

Will I ever wear this again? To be honest, my bowling skills don’t really justify a specialised shirt for the activity. But I’m sure it will see the light of day at some point. And if I ever want to open up a 50s space-themed diner, I already have my own uniform!