Christmas sewing: applied learning

Hello and happy new year!  Hope 2016 started well for you? For us it was a very quiet one; a much needed, muddy walk in the fresh air during the day, followed by a nice meal we cooked at home, a spot of TV and sleep! Rock and roll, I know – life with small kids!

We spent today at my in laws when I wore the dress I’m blogging about today, my Christmas Emery dress. Wanna see?

Obligatory Christmas tree / santa hat / novelty print dress combo

I have to say this is not the most flattering photo of me, but if you read my previous post, you’ll understand the monster bags under my eyes (also, I admit to being unable to edit photos: any recommendations for good software?)  I absolutely love this dress though, despite a certain amount of fun had making it!

I’ve been eyeing up the Emery dress for a long time now; it looks like my perfect day dress with its high neck, fitted bodice and full skirt.  This is what I like to wear at work if possible; comfy and yet put together.  But at 3m it’s quite fabric hungry so I’ve been waiting until my skills were a little better.

Then in October I was lucky enough to win the Village Haberdashery haul giveaway – £25 of free fabric! I’d been toying with making a novelty print Christmas dress – perfect excuse! I ordered the necessary 3 metres of a Dashwood Studios reindeer fabric.

I then waited until I’d been on my bodice block course as I wanted the fit to be really good (bad fit is starting to REALLY annoy me!) Then I had a google around to figure out how to use the damn block and eventually found this tutorial, which once I’d figured it out was a bit of a light bulb moment.

Basically, there are a few steps to go through to get the pattern fitting you (in theory anyway!)

  1. trace out both your own bodice sloper and the relevant pattern pieces (front and back bodice in this case)
  2. pivot your darts on the sloper to be in the same places as the pattern
  3. sort out your seam allowances (not something I needed as my sloper includes the seam allowance)
  4. align sloper over bodice pattern at centre, then slide up or down until the shoulders meet
  5. make your sloper into the equivalent of the sloper the pattern company has used by folding and/or slashing horizontally then vertically your sloper until it “fits” the pattern
  6. stick your sloper to the pattern, then bring the sloper back to its original shape and size, taking the pattern with it

Obviously the article explains it a lot better than that! but that’s the basic idea.

So off I went.  Obviously this was my first go and there was a lot of head scratching going on, but when I made up a muslin, it seemed to be pretty good (please pardon dodgy pj’s and my belly!)

I decided it felt a little short and there was a note on my sloper that the bottom hem on the front had no seam allowance included. So, like a fool, I adjusted the pattern after this muslin, made no further checks, and dived straight in.

I made up a full lining (the pattern just has you lining the bodice but it’s easy enough to attach a second copy of the skirt) as I hate skirts sticking to tights and, realistically, it’s a Christmas frock, it’s going to be worn with tights. I used a white pongee dress lining from Remnant Kings (what the heck is pongee? anyway it feels nice!), I even tried that on and I noticed nothing wrong with it.

So I powered on and made up the outer frock. Including the gathered skirt (HATE sewing gathered skirts!) and the invisible zip.

Oh look, a dropped waist dress 😦

At which point it dawned on me that the waist was way, way too low!!!

After a little online encouragement from Instagram (Thank you!), I accepted the unpleasant truth that I was going to have to remove the skirt and the invisible zip and lop a load off the damn bodice.  So that was an evening down the drain.


Nice photobomb there from Bella!

Vastly better, although it could probably stand to be shorter still.  On the plus side, although the first zip was good, the second try was brilliant!


After that, it was a case of inserting the sleeves.  The adjustments to the bodice pattern were to a size 8 but impacted the armscye.  Nervously, I decided to cut the size 10 sleeve so that it wouldn’t be too small.  I’m not sure I would repeat this as they are probably a little fuller than I’d like but then, I’m not sure my pattern drafting skills are safely up to making them much smaller! Time will tell.

And time will tell because, all troubles aside, I would make this one again.  Probably in several versions with differing sleeve lengths (and slightly less season specific fabric!).  I think it could still use some adjustments but in honesty, I think some of that is the fact that I’ve been losing weight and am smaller than I was when I went on the bodice block course (no complaints, nice problem to have!).  I would shorten the bodice slightly more, I would also hand sew belt loops on the side seams as I like the look of it with a belt, but that aside, it’s a great dress.  With pockets!!


What’s not to love?

So all in all, not a bad way to end my 2015 makes.  I haven’t touched a sewing machine since Christmas Eve so I’m starting to get slightly twitchty; I just need to decide what the next make is going to be!

Wishing you all a very happy (fabric filled) 2016

Becca x

8 thoughts on “Christmas sewing: applied learning

Add yours

  1. Thanks for that – I was wondering how I would use my block with other patterns. Still need to make my basic self-drafted dress but liked you haven’t been on my machine since before Christmas and even then it was just for gift making. It is a really fun dress – did the girls want one too?


  2. Looks great! And yup, unpicking as it’s much better fit. I get really annoyed by bad fit too, if I try on any of my old makes that were poor fit, I just cringe! All a learning curve though.You’re really progressing! 😀 That’s not meant at all condescendingly! I’m a little embarrassed I don’t know/do some of the stuff you do!


    1. Now I know you’re just being kind! There’s so much trial and error going on around here. Although right now it’s just old fashioned indecisiveness : just don’t know what to make next! I have too many choices and not enough hours in a day!


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