Tag Archives: dressmaking

Hanten Jacket 


Do your projects sometimes take on a life of their own? This one did for me. It was intended to be a prototype but ended up as a project. Here’s the story:

I wanted to be true to the origins of the hanten jacket, a padded garment traditionally worn by workers.

Being true meant adding batting, which added complexity and a need for quilting.

Adding batting meant adding a lining, which for me was unbleached calico from my stash.

Following tradition meant having a contrasting neck band, which I read about online.

Being thrifty meant finding a wooden barrel button at the ops shop (charity shop.)

Using a button closure meant braiding a round kumihimo eight strand braid for the button loop and button band.

Using a round kumihimo eight strand braid closure meant learning how to transition that round braid to an eight strand flat braid so I could comfortably fit it under the sewing machine presser foot to attach it to the front band.

And dos it goes….

Pattern Source: Clothing from the Hands that Weave by Anita Luvera Mayer from Kay Faulkners extensive library.

In progress. I later swapped the fabric hanging loop for a braided one. Prototype closure elements.


Quilting template and kumihimo disk. 3/2 cotton for the braids.


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.

A Traditional Scandinavian Apron

My latest apron is a traditional Scandinavian design, using a different pattern from Kwik Sew 2191. You may recall that I made a workshop apron recently, also using Kwik Sew 2191.

Still need to add the buttons

Still need to add the buttons

I modified the pattern just a little as I wasn’t crazy about the single button closure on the back and the need to add reinforcing under that single button. Instead I made a self-faced button band with interfacing.  I also extended the centre back to give a little more coverage. This modification will allow two buttons to keep the apron in place.

I’m happy with the result but the bias binding was a real pain to attach. This project reminded me why I often avoid patterns that call for raw edges to be finished with bias binding. It’s often more trouble than it’s worth, especially when the binding is narrow, as it was in this case.

This pattern required a lot of bias binding, too. I ended up using every last millimeter of the 5m of binding in the packet, and had to do some heroic zigzagging to make ends meet on the last arm hole.

Designed for serious cooking

Designed for serious cooking

I love this fabric. It’s a retro drill from Spotlight.

If you decide to make this pattern be aware it’s quite generously sized. I made the large size and it’s very roomy. Knowing what I know now, I don’t anticipate I would ever make anything other than the small size. After my recent experiences, I’m beginning to have serious doubts about commercial dress pattern grading these days. Maybe I’m just having a bad run. Or maybe no-one’s double checking the patterns against real people.

Update: I’ve been asked how I know this is a traditional Scandinavian design. I know this because it’s the style of apron my Swedish grandmother used to wear. This Swedish blogger makes that style now and calls them retro.

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?

Workshop Apron

KwikSew 2191 and Simplicity Pattern Sleeves

Same pattern, different looks?

I used a pattern for this one. Kwik Sew 2191, which is suspiciously like (meaning having an identical shape to) Simplicity 7254, published in the 1970’s.

There’s a great deal of re-use in the pattern industry, it seems to me. You just reshoot the photos or re-draw the sketches and re-publish the pattern, maybe with different accompanying patterns, and hey presto – more revenue with little marginal cost.

I was reasonably faithful to the pattern, but added a zipped pocket to the top so my beloved can keep his mobile phone secure and close to his ears. That could be handy if I need to ask an urgent grocery question while I’m out shopping. We’ve often joked about having a webcam in the pantry to solve those urgent, ‘Can you just check if we have any cumin in the spice box?’ type questions.

Workshop Apron with Tape for the Ties

Need to Check the Pocket Placement before I attach it.

Rather than making the ties, I am using braid so that he can do a double wrap and tie the apron around his middle.

Talking of middles, I added an inch to the centre of the apron and roughly 3/4 inch to each side. The apron, as designed, is skimpy and skimpy is the last thing a man needs in his workshop attire.

Now, let’s see if he wears it because it’s useful, or just to please me. I hope it turns out to be useful.

Update 1: My beloved reports it’s a winner! I’m happy about that.

Update 2: He has now lodged a feature request – he feels the zipper should covered with fabric so there is no risk of the zipper teeth scratching a finely polished item of furniture that the wearer might be lifting. I’ll make that change next time I make a workshop apron.

Day 2 of Pattern Making

Day 2 of my pattern making class was slightly less frantic  than the previous week but still packed with information. I worked really hard to complete my skirt in the week between classes and was surprised to discover that some class participants hadn’t finished theirs as they didn’t have the skills to make a vent or sew on a waistband. Others just couldn’t get the job done in time, something I completely understand. Making a skirt in a week is a big ask if you’re not a professional and  have a full time job doing something else.

I made my skirt up in a lightweight synthetic fabric from Spotlight’s remnant bin. It turned out OK and it was very satisfying to find it fit well, was the right length and didn’t need to be altered during the construction process, other than resewing the darts to widen them a little. I think that was more down to my sewing than a problem with the pattern.

I wore my new skirt to a family event on the weekend and was happy with how it felt, though I did notice that a small fold formed just below the waistband. I’ll come back to the fix for that, later.

Bodice Block

In class two we made our own pants and bodice blocks. The bodice block is a cardboard representation of our torso and is not a pattern so our tutor showed us how to use it to make a pattern. It may not be evident from the photo, but the dart markings would run onto each other in a very messy way if you tried to sew them as indicated on the block. You’d also end up with a very pointy bust point. Think Madonna in her John Paul Gaultier corset, but uglier.

Made up, the bodice pattern would make a tight fitting garment and we were told to add an open ended zipper to get in and out of it, and to make facings so the armhole and neck wouldn’t stretch. I’m curious about how I would use this block to make a princess-style bodice. Seems the Burda site has a tutorial. Must read it in detail.

I’m really sorry we didn’t get time to draft a sleeve block. That would have been useful, but our tutor told us that would take another day to learn.

I feel I am now armed with enough knowledge to alter commercial patterns and get back to dress-making.

As part of this journey I have looked into several books about pattern alteration. The one I bought is an OK basic reference and would be more than adequate for a relatively ‘normal’ shaped beginner, but it did not cover my particular alteration requirement, the one which caused a little fold to form under the waistband of my skirt. The diagnosis for that fitting problem is that I have a slightly rounded tummy, something that happens to many of us as we age and spend too much time inside sewing. I’m trying to address that with diet, but am making slow progress, so a pattern alteration is needed solve the problem in the immediate term.

Fast Fit by Sandra Betzina covered the necessary alteration, plus just about every other and it’s the book I’d recommend. It takes a body part by body part approach, which is very helpful, particularly if you are dressmaking for others and need to know wide range of variations. Thick calves, big bottom, small bottom, sloping shoulders, they’re all there, with clear instructions on how to cater for each, along with instructions on which to tackle first.

Armed with all this new knowledge, I’m keen to do more and learn more. Just for fun, I’d like to make a middy blouse. It will be the perfect garment for when we launch the new canoe.