Blue Flowered Birthday Dress

I think I’ve mentioned how every year I like to sew myself a birthday dress. This year was no exception.

I used Sprout Patterns once more, and this time chose a dress I’ve had my eye on since the very beginning. This pattern is the Anna Dress by By Hand London. It is super simple to put together, but still feels elegant without being intimidating.

I think my favorite thing about this dress is that I made mistakes all over the place, but because its got simple lines and a relaxed flow you can’t even tell. Most obvious, I wasn’t paying attention and bought the wrong size zipper. Which I didn’t even notice until midnight the day before I wanted to wear it, no craft stores open now! (As a sideline, I’ve always wanted to start a business that makes craft supply vending machines for moments like this.)

What do you do when you only have 9″ of zipper to close up 22″ of back seam? You modify the dress to have an open key hole back! I simply inserted the zipper in the 9 inches of the narrowest part of the waist, cut out a curve in the rest of the back seam, and put a button at the top! Its even a self-fabric covered button, because I had a few left over from a previous project.

Its not a perfectly fitted alteration, but it works for the casual look I wanted anyways. And besides, thats not even the worst of it. Halfway through I mixed up the skirt panel pieces, and discovered way too late that I had attached them in the wrong order, with the front three halfway around the back. Can you tell? Not a bit! I’m pretty sure the front seams were supposed to line up with the pleat lines in the bodice, but oh wait, I kind of screwed those up too.

And yet, with all that, I love this dress. Its obviously hugely forgiving of mistakes, you can put it together half asleep and still look incredible.

Altering the Alder: Sprout hacks

I wrote a post for the Sprout Patterns blog where I dramatically alter a garment using their service. I’ve wrote about it before, but Sprout Patterns is a really cool project and product I’ve been able to work with. They use Spoonflower to print a sewing pattern directly on the fabric. Think about that, no pinning tissue paper, no tracing lines, just simply cut out the pieces!

You should absolutely go read what I wrote in the two part blog posts here:

Altering the Alder: Part 1, Adding Darts

Altering the Alder: Part 2, Adding Sleeves

But if you really just want the eye-candy, here’s some awesome photos of the dress I created. You can also read my review of this pattern here: Grainline Studio Alder Shirtdress ★★★★

Here are three photos that show the stages of alterations I worked with. The first is the shirt directly following the pattern. The second photo shows the difference some added darts can make. And the final dress has drafted petal sleeves.

I frequently wish I could see the INSIDES of dresses that inspire me. So in the future I’m also going to try to include construction photos, and inside out photos of garments I’m really proud of.

Monet’s Water Lilies

A few months ago I saw a random image on pinterest of a model posing in an artist’s studio, and I absolutely fell in love with the dress she was wearing. After searching the internet for awhile, I could find nothing about the dress in question. Even with no information to go on, I wanted to recreate it, so I did.


Artist Marc Chagall posed model Ivy Nicholson in his studio.

There weren’t many higher quality versions of the photo, so I couldn’t get a whole lot of details about the design on the fabric. I chose to make my version out of a print of Monet’s water lilies. Its not exactly right, but I love the effect it creates.

Finding the right pattern was tough too. I eventually settled on heavily modifying the Vogue 8997 dress. It closed with a zipper in the back, instead of buttons down the front. But the neckline was close enough, and it had the fitted bodice with wider skirt I was looking for. I reviewed this pattern here: Vogue Dress V8997 ★★★★★

Since I was going to be changing this dress’s structure in a fairly dramatic way, I did what I so rarely do and actually made a muslin first. Madness, I know! I didn’t actually use muslin fabric for my muslin, haha. Since I have spoonflower, I created a “graph paper” design that I really thought would help me layout the pieces, check that everything is on grain, measure it right on the fabric. It helped a lot, and its an idea I think I’ll keep using in the future when I effectively want to draft a dress from scratch, or modify a given pattern.

Please forgive the horrible lighting in the next few photographs. I was trying to get this dress ready to wear to a friend’s wedding, and didn’t actually take the time to take good pictures while making the dress.
First I laid the stupid tissue pieces out on my mock up fabric (I’m so spoiled by Sprout Patterns at this point). I traced my modifications in permanent marker, and then cut out the pieces.

Then I basted all the pieces together, and played with the fit until I liked out how my button band modifications worked out. Then I used the mockup pieces to cut out my real fabric.

I am well and truly pleased with this dress. Its not perfect, it has some sloppy places that I wish I’d been able to take my time to do right. But it is gorgeous on its own, and I like how close I was able to get to my inspiration dress.

Vogue Dress V8997 ★★★★★

25lineartLots of pieces, fairly complicated pattern. But not overly difficult, and the fit is good. I just wish the big companies would get on board and actually let out some digital patterns.

The cut of this pattern turned out so very flattering. It has everything I love in a dress, a structured bodice, longer sleeves, and a super full skirt. I’ve gotten an incredible number of compliments on this dress.

I altered this pattern pretty heavily, but it still turned out great. It was fairly easy to turn the back center zipper into a front button panel. You can see the results of those alterations here: Monet’s Water Lilies

Sprout Hacks with the Alder Shirtdress

So the one big fear everyone has with Sprout Patterns is that since the pattern is directly printed on the fabric, you feel like you can’t make alterations, can’t fit it exactly, can’t sew “outside the lines” as it were. Dramatic alterations? Maybe not, but you can definitely get good sizing, and make modest alterations with sprout patterns. These dresses prove it!

Both of these dresses are made with Grainline Studio’s Alter Shirtdress patterns through sprout patterns. Now, the Alder Shirtdress is a very straight silhouette, almost smock-like. I, however, have lovely wide hips, and without a little definition around the waist, a dress like that would look like a tent on me. But I still loved the concept of the shirt dress, light and summery, and I thought it would be amazing in the poly crepe de chine. So I when I ordered in through sprout patterns, I ordered a size larger than my hips would normally dictate. After constructing the dress, I added four vertical darts in the bodice, two in the front and two in the back.

This added just enough definition around the waist that the dress curves with my curves that instead of hanging awkwardly and making me look wide, it looks like a lightly fitted shirt dress. Just what I wanted! The contrast fabric in the collar is perfect and adds that little detail that makes this feel like a custom made dress, not something I’d find in a store. And check out those buttons I found! (Fabric design byrochelle_new)

“Just added darts” you say?! That sounds hard! They’re not even in the pattern! How did you draft them? I didn’t. Does that sound wild? Its really not that crazy. I learned this method from a friend, and it is truly so obvious and easy. Want to add darts in any garment ever? Simply put it on inside out. Find where you feel like the dress has extra fabric, isn’t fitting right, or could do with some structure. Pinch that extra fabric between your fingers, move it around, shift until I feels right and then pin it together. (Sometimes its easier to do this WITH a friend, especially if you’re trying to add back darts.)

Once you’ve gotten enough pins in place, you’ve got effectively folds of fabric sticking away from the dress, but its not too tight and moves well, puts some basting stitches along those pins. Pull out the pins, and put the dress on right side out. Does it look like what you wanted? Excellent, sew along the basting stitches, you’ve now draped your own darts! Does it not look quite right? Back to inside out and shift-y pinching, draping fabric. Do it until you feel good.

“But how do you make both the darts exactly the same?!” I don’t. My body is not exactly symmetrical, why should my darts be? It takes a little practice to be sure, and sometimes my first try ends up with weird puckering, or a skewed dart. But in general, this method works GREAT for me for minor alterations, fitting well, and good structure.

This method worked so well for the first dress I made (the purple one) I had to have a second Alder dress. The first dress was out of poly crepe de chine, its flowy, its light, its a dramatic piece. But I felt like this dress could also be completely different. A different fabric, with a little more structure, a different design style, this could be a completely different dress. So I ordered it again, out of the cotton lawn, with an adorable design I’ve had my eye on for awhile with a crumpled paper texture and cute line-drawings of cities. (Fabric design by leighr)

I used the same method as the first time with adding darts to the front and back of the dress, and I liked it, but the dress was just missing that something different. I wanted this dress to have a bit more, structure than the first. With the fabric design, I almost wanted architecture. I decided, what I wanted was sleeves. Wait, the Alder Shirtdress pattern doesn’t come with sleeves! So? The armsyces are pretty basic normal armsyces. I’ve got a basic short sleeve pattern piece around here, yep, it looks like it’d work. Yep, there’s definitely enough printed scrap fabric included with the Sprout Patterns fabric, I can fit two short sleeve pieces out of the extra. Will it work? Let’s find out!

In the end, yes, I love it. The short sleeves add that just extra bit that makes this dress feel very different than the first. The cotton lawn has more body and the dress stands out and holds its own shape while still being soft and comfortable.

These dresses prove to me that you can still modify Sprout Patterns dresses and make them your own. You’re not stuck “sewing within the lines.” You can take a basic pattern and modify it in crazy different ways. It doesn’t take much to change the “attitude” of a dress.

I also wrote a review of this pattern here: Grainline Studio Alder Shirtdress ★★★★

Sprout Spring Birthday Dress

So every year I sew a birthday dress for myself. The weather starts turning warm, spring flowers bloom, my favorite daffodils turn their faces to the sunshine, and I have a new fun dress!

This year I decided to take advantage of an awesome Sprout Patterns promotion, and try out the Colette Monetta at a discount! (They’re running this discount for the full month of march! Go get it!)

This dress was so fun and so easy to sew! With the fancy sprout product, I was able to take this dress from un cut fabric, to a fully finished garment in just two hours and six minutes. Slice slice with a rotary cutter, zoom zoom with my serger, out pops a dress!

I wrote a review of this pattern here:

Happy birthday to me!

I also spent some time playing with chalk art to create a cute sign for the kegs we got for the party. Mm, local beer!

Pluviophilia Rain Dress

I mentioned my involvement in the new Spoonflower project called Sprout Patterns before, but to repeat myself: there is an amazing new thing out there called Sprout Patterns and you really really must go check it out. The idea is that Spoonflower will actually print the pattern for various garments and projects directly on the fabric for you, filled in with your chosen design. They’ve partnered with a whole bunch of indy pattern makers to bring you a really diverse and excellent set of options. In addition, you can actually see your project before you buy it, projected in 3D in your browser. You can even shift the pattern around if you care about design placement, and they’re working on allowing design rotation so that you can accurately place border prints. Its so cool. This is what my dress looked like when I built it in sprout patterns.


The bit on the left is literally what your printed fabric will arrive looking like, with obvious cut lines, labels, et al. I find the sense of scale invaluable when trying to judge how a various project will look with a spoonflower fabric design. Not to mention, the bit where you have to print out a pattern, tape endless sheets of paper together, tediously cut out all the bits and only THEN start playing with your fabric is completely removed when you use Sprout Patterns for your project. I cut out the pieces for this dress while sitting on my couch watch tv. I just followed the lines on the fabric. And it turned out fantastic, if I do say so myself.

I actually designed the fabric for this project as well. I’m one of those people who actually really love thunderstorms, cloudy days, even sometimes just the steady drum of of a rainy wet day. You know, when I can sit inside, warm and dry with a book and just watch it. So awhile ago, I designed myself a set of curtains with watercolor and ink pen clouds, pouring forth a stream of words, all quotes about rain. When the sun is too bright and sharp and loud, I can pull the curtains closed and it all gets softer.

I re-used the cloud elements to create a fully repeating cloudy day fabric design. If you like it, you can buy it yourself on spoonflower in small scale like my dress below, and large scale.

The pattern for this dress is the Colette Myrtle, and it was perfect for this project. The fit is very relaxed, obviously, without a whole lot of pieces, or a need for exact fitting. Considering the steps that sprout takes out, it was also very very very fast to put together. I even did french seams on the side of the skirt! The fabric is Spoonflower’s poly crepe de chine, which is still one of my favorites. Light, flowy, slightly textured, super easy to sew.

I reviewed this pattern here: Colette Myrtle ★★★★★

Also as promised, more pictures of myself, wearing my creations. This one is definitely a crowd pleaser, a winner, and something I actually get to wear frequently.

1920’s Christmas Dress

Well, here’s the yearly Spoonflower Christmas Party dress. The theme this year was the 1920s, so of course I had to draft my own pattern.


I found this amazing art-deco-ish embroidered net fabric at Mary Jo’s in Charlotte and couldn’t really resist. The lining, and the skirt, is a simple navy blue satin. It has a dropped waist, loose fit, handkerchief skirt line, and (my favorite bit) a cowled low back. I also, of course, bedazzled the crap out of it. The skirt moved really gorgeously when I walked and danced (and in the wind), which is obviously why I assume it was so popular for this era. And I had to make a gif of it.


I didn’t use a pattern for this dress. I hand drafted a basic bodice sloper, and then used that as the base to drape the fabric directly on the dress form. Its a simple silhouette, but I am still ridiculously proud of how it turned out. The skirt is just a square with a slit cut in the middle. Then I used my old favorite hot-fix crystals in a deep blue all along the hemline to give it a bit of weight and help it move nicely.


It has always been a goal of this home-made blog to encourage me to take more and better photos of my work. Especially to take photos of myself wearing each sewing project. Well, here you are, proof that I wear what I sew! A little sloppy but better than nothing ;-). I really enjoy the one where I’m making crazy chicken arms, but I included it for shits and giggles, and because it shows the movement of the skirt quite well.

Butterick Retro Dress B5603 ★★★★★

1lineartI love this pattern. It is easy to put together, and perfectly flattering. Given that, I will admit that its not perfect. I think there might have been some minor mistakes when Butterick translated from the retro original. The back skirt always ends up slightly wider than the back bodice for me, but its easy to fix with a dart tweak. I almost never use the given variations, and I find the bows horrendous.

But this pattern has become an amazing base for me to make up my own variations. You can see that it is easy to draft petal sleeves, create an interesting draped and pleated skirt structure, create a lace bodice top with sweetheart neckline, use a built in petticoat lining or separate petticoat, or anything else!

I never fail to get compliments on dresses I make with this pattern. And I’ve used it to make 7 different dresses over the years: 50’s Birthday DressScience Girl Eats50’s Mad Hatter Dress50’s SilkBridesmaid DressScience Girl is Sour

Butterick B5603 Misses’ Empire-Waist Dresses