Category Archives: dress making

A Scrubs Top using Simplicity 4101


Animal Print Scrubs Top

In the sleeve photography and on the pattern envelope, Simplicity 4101 bills itself as a pattern for unisex work wear. If you are sewing it for a man or woman of small to average proportions, you would be wise to check the fit before you start cutting the fabric.

While non-stretch work wear needs to have a lot of wearing ease to allow movement, even the small size of this pattern was too large for me to use unaltered.

For my size 14 frame, I adjusted the small size pattern by removing 1 inch horizontally at the armscye and another 1 inch horizontally at the waist, and took a further 1 inch out of the garment width, from shoulder to hem on the front and back, with corresponding sections taken out of the front and back sleeve.

This resulted in a scrubs top that still had a dropped shoulder and still had plenty of wearing ease but which was roomy without being oversized. It’s a comfortable fit, even with the modifications I made.

The pattern illustration shows the woman wearing the crossover style with a tee-shirt underneath.  There’s a reason for this. A tee-shirt would be good to preserve modesty when bending over, as care and health workers often have to do. Even then, the flapping front would get in the way. I chose to solve this problem with a snap fastener where the right and left front crossed.

I was happy with my decision to use cotton twill tape instead of facings at the front and I used a bias edging at the back neck, again instead of a facing. This reduced the garment’s bulk and gave me a better line.

The roomy pockets are perfect for work-wear though next time I would probably also add some a tape to affix an ID card on the front chest.

I made this scrubs top as a skill building exercise and to practice pattern alternation. Now that it’s done I will use it for lounge wear and doing home-based chores.

Cross-Over Apron 

Front view of cross-over apron showing double bound finish

Front View

This apron was based on Kwik Sew 2311. I’ve been wanting to make a cross-over apron for a while and had been planning to draft my own, until I discovered the pattern in my collection.

I avoid using bias binding as the commercial product tends to be poor quality fabric and it’s almost always too narrow for my purposes. I usually make a hash of attaching it, too, so used a Hong Kong finish at the neck and along the arm and double binding on the back and hem.

The binding fabric is remnant from Spotlight, of Premium Cotton Sateen in Wedgewood colour, purchased for $1 when they had all their remnants on sale, but normally priced at $16.99 per metre. The binding fabric width was 127cm. I was only able to verify that the fabric was 100% cotton after taking it to the register and asking the staff to scan the bar code, which fortunately was still attached. The fabric seemed to have some spandex in it as it was moderately stretchy and I was able to cut my binding strips on the cross grain.



Next time I would stay stitch the neck before attaching the binding. I might also play with the back shoulder component of the pattern to make it curve a little more, for a better fit to the body.

Modified Pattern


I omitted the button closure in the original pattern. Closures on aprons can so easily open at the wrong time, not something I want in my workwear. It’s easy to put on and take off without the button closure in the original pattern. I did test that before sewing the shoulder seam.


Butterick 5347 – A Breezy Summer Dress

This has already proven itself to be a very wearable summer dress. I found the pattern at my local thrift store and used the smallest multi-size available, which was 16. 

I read recently that the big pattern companies haven’t changed their sizing in a very long time and that you need to use the measurement charts rather than your normal dress size when selecting a pattern. Based on this experience that sounds about right. I wouldn’t buy a ready-made garment in size 16, but this dress was a reasonable fit. Admittedly it is designed to be loose fitting, so there’s a bit of intended wiggle room (aka pattern ease).

Pattern and construction adjustments: roughly two inches of length removed from the bodice, bust dart extended, longer zipper than recommended as I used a zipper from my stash, no hook and eye closure above the zipper, French seams on the side seams which resulted in seams of about 1.8cm instead of the called for 1.5 cm.

What I would do differently next time: slightly lower the bust dart, make a small full bust adjustment, better workmanship on the zipper, stronger stitching at the start and end of the sleeve, follow the construction instructions.

I got myself in a spot of bother by inserting the zipper before sewing the neck/arm facing, which meant I couldn’t turn the two back sections through the facing. I got out of trouble but not turning the facing at the armscye and instead sewing through all thicknesses from the right side. developing the solution took a bit of thinking and was a valuable learning experience. I should, of course, have anticipated the problem, but I didn’t.

Cotton summer dress with cap sleeves

I had the perfect button in my button box

This dress was my first project with my new Janome sewing machine. Rather than spending time sewing scraps I decided to just get on with a real project to get familiar with the machine. I had to unpick a little more than usual but I had a wearable dress at the end of the process. Happy with that.

Another Finished Tunic – New Look 6544

I’d made this pattern before, for a trip to Cambodia, where it’s traditionally required that you be modest in your dress. It’s a society where even today a married couple wouldn’t hold hands in public,  though I suspect that might be changing rapidly due to the influence of overseas media and foreign visitors.

New Look 6544 Women's Mandarin Collar Tunic and Pants

The tunic I made then served me brilliantly for our trip to Angkor Wat, where it was very hot and humid. That was a few years ago now and the old tunic needs to be replaced. I haven’t thrown it out yet and I may still rip it up for a rag rug, assuming one day I become the proud owner of a loom. The loom purchase is in plan and I’m waiting for one to come up second-hand at the right price.

I found some fabric called modern tribal  on sale at Spotlight and made up the top again, this time cutting it a little smaller than the first one, which was a touch generous.Finished_Tunic

Last time I sewed this pattern, the front opening gave me a bit of difficulty. This time, I used a trick I picked up in a book or on the internet and sewed just a couple of perpendicular stitches at the point. Those couple of stitches gave me just enough clearance when it came to cutting the slash and turning the facing. That gave a nice clean look at the front though it’s hard to see on the photo.

With a bit of luck, I’ll be able to give it a trial run later this week.

Finished Tunic – Simplicity 2230

I’m disappointed.

I put a lot of effort into this top. All the seams are neatly finished using my shiny new overlocker (serger) and I think I did a nice job of the hand detailing along the neckline.

Pretty, isn't it?

Pretty, isn’t it?

Simplicity 2230, started life as a plus-sized pattern and was, I believe, graded to a misses pattern. But Simplicity did a poor job of that grading process and the pattern remains more appropriate for the generously proportioned. While I certainly suffer from a bit of quilter’s butt,  nothing changes the fact that this tunic drapes at the shoulders and is simply too wide for me.

I cut it to the size that the pattern sleeve indicated was right for my measurements – a standard size 14, but with a little length removed from the sleeves and bodice, as I’m not as tall as some. It should have fit, but it doesn’t.

I’m hoping it might work for my mother. If not, what? Etsy maybe?

Simplicity 2230

Spotlight FlyerSpotlight recently gave out a flyer showing how crafty chicky-babes might make up Simplicity 2230, as a funky modern tunic top, though they called it a kaftan. Have kaftans had a resurgence as a fashion item for hipsters? Did I miss something?

The Spotlight advice was to sew it using Prints Charming fabric (whatever that may be) and Prima Homespun, for the neck band. They weren’t friendly enough to let you know how much of the Prima Homespun you might need to buy. As a result, my facing has a join in it that wasn’t in the cutting instructions. No harm done, but I did feel like a bit of an idiot for under-estimating the quantity. I forgot that you would need to cut two, one for the neck band and one or the facing. And I call myself an experienced dressmaker. We’ll come back to that idea in just a minute.

I would not have bought this pattern had it not been for the flyer, as the pattern sleeve makes it look like it was designed for generously proportioned women and the photo of the garment on the pattern sleeve doesn’t look flattering in my view. The Spotlight flyer showed a completely different interpretation and I picked some fine 100% cotton to make it up in. Melbourne summer can bring some very hot days.

Close up of neck band as stitched

This bit was colourful language inducing

I’m tipping the chicky-babes might have had to pull out some of their more colourful language when making this pattern up. This experienced dressmaker had to unpick the curvy corner of the neck band twice on one side and once on the other and pull out some colourful language from her repertoire. Maybe she isn’t as experienced or clever as she thought. The problem is basically that you’re trying to sew an inside curve on the neck band to an outside curve on the tunic front and that, my friends, is a royal pain in the bum.

The pattern instructions were challenging to follow, too, very cramped and leading you off from time to time to the instructions for a different view, making you hop, skip and jump all over the place.

Too tired to sew (any more today)

Too tired to sew (any more today)

This is where I got to when I declared myself too tired to go on. I’m planning to do some running stitches in embroidery thread on the neck band and I may also stitch in the ditch by machine where the neck band meets the fabric, just to keep everything secure and tidy.

I’m not anticipating any problems finishing the tunic from here, as all I have to do is attach the sleeves, sew the side seams, make a casing in the sleeves, insert the sleeve elastic and then hem the garment. One more weekend, maybe and I’ll be sure to post a photo when it’s done.

Fabric Shop Fun in Sin City

You know how countries and cities like to make jokes about each other, Canada vs USA, Australia vs New Zealand, Belgium vs Holland, and so on? Sydney and Melbourne are a bit like that, too, though just like those other places, we love each other underneath the good-natured jokes. Hence, Sydney, sin city.

My work took me to Sydney last week. It’s not often they let me out of the office so it was a welcome change. Not only did I have two highly productive days of working with one of my company’s very important customers, but I was able to fit in a visit to some fabric stores, too, in the inner suburb of Surry Hills.

We Melbourne people are straight-laced, slow-paced and dress in black. They say Sydney people are just the opposite. Personally, I love visiting a town that has hills, with streets that don’t run on a nice tidy grid and where tradesmen wear board shorts teamed with high visibility tops. (I saw this in Sydney. It would never happen in Melbourne. Really.)

Loved this Shop

Loved this Shop

I went to The Fabric Store at 21 Cooper Street, Tessuti Fabrics at 110 Commonwealth Street and E & M Greenfield at 30-36 Ann St all in Surry Hills. I wouldn’t recommend any of these shops for quilting supplies but if you love fabric or craft or dressmaking they’re definitely worth a visit.

Greenfield's Shop front

E & M Greenfield – Industrial, hard core and a bit of a Time Warp.

E & M Greenfield are hard core suppliers to the trade, as evidenced by a cutting fee of $3.60 that they apply to any purchase under 25 metres. Similar to Hong Kong the fabric is stored out of reach and you pick what you want up front, in this case, from a binder. They had several binders but I wasn’t in the market for anything in particular so I rummaged among the remnants. Once I’d found the piece I wanted I had to go downstairs to pay for it, then return with my docket to prove I was legal. On the way I passed a wall with time cards – who knew anybody still used time cards?

I loved that the docket for the remnant I bought at E & M Greenfield came with full care instructions. For a $4.40 one metre remnant of cotton drill I got to hear all about the country of manufacture, washing, drycleaning and ironing instructions and that the composition was 100% cotton. I wish all fabric shops did that. E & M Greenfield also have an impressive range of notions. If you need bathing suit cups, that’s the place to go.

Tessuti's Store FrontTessuti Fabrics had bridal and other laces safely stored behind glass, and would be my choice if I wanted to sew evening wear but there was something a bit elitist about them. They have a range of pattern books but only sell Vogue patterns, thank you very much.

The Fabric Store was my stand out favourite. They had a good range of high quality dress and suiting fabrics, including designer brands and hard to find fabrics like wool jersey. There was a lot of lovely linen and linen cotton blends, plus wool blends for coats. In short, it was as far away as you could get from Spotlight in terms of range and quality and their store had a lovely ambiance and gorgeous staff, too.

If you like dressmaking or fabric craft, you NEED to go to The Fabric Store.

If you like dressmaking or fabric craft, you NEED to go to The Fabric Store.