Grainline Alder: Reaching my Goal!

I set myself the minimum of sewing goals this year. That’s not to say I wasn’t going to sew as much, but that there were other areas of life worthy of goals too: namely do less, enjoy it more, get fitter, be happier (the yoga practice is working well in all areas!). So setting fewer sewing goals was part of my master plan.

I had two sewing goals. The first was to focus more on silhouette/structure and sew more items in solids. This would bring my handmade wardrobe more into line with my taste. I’ll write more about that next time.

My second goal was to sew some shirt-dresses with all the requisite pattern alterations required by my shape (FBA every time!). I had in mind a range of Grainline Alder variations, and the ubiquitous McCalls M6696. My goal-setting took place in the heart of the Festive season, so naturally it included some plaid aspirations.

I started well early in the year with a couple of Alder version B dresses in cotton chambray and one in Cotton and Steel shirting (pictured below; never blogged). Both dresses involved moving the bust apex northward by 1.5″ and adding a 1″ FBA.


So by mid-October it was time to move onto my Northern Hemisphere winter aspirations. I had wanted to tackle Grainline’s Alder-Archer hack, whereby the shoulder section of the Alder shirt dress is altered to accommodate the Archer shirt sleeves. I had even bought the brushed cotton plaid on Goldhawk Road back in January! I followed the instructions to a tee, apart from only adding 1/2″ to the shoulder, rather than the full 1″ suggested by the instructions. I found that my Archer shirt falls slightly off the shoulder and I wanted my shoulder seams to sit on top of my shoulder.

I moved the bust apex up, pivoting on the existing dart legs, and added the FBA to the existing Version A, before altering the shoulders to take the sleeves. I really like the fitted shape of the bodice before it flows out to an A line. Belatedly I found that Grainline had also published instructions for an Archer-Alder variation, where the start-point is the Archer shirt bodice, extended to Alder proportions. This is undoubtedly an easier hack as it’s only the bodice length that is altered. I am pleased with the shape of the Alder-Archer, so it was worth the work!


As usual, there were a few silly mistakes: I wasn’t sure how best to align the two front pieces, so cut with the centre front lined up on the vertical stripe. When I sewed the bodice together the mismatch in horizontal stripes was impossible to ignore. So I unpicked and re-cut, aligning the armscye on the pattern. I also used the Four Square Walls tutorial for attaching the collar in a different order. This made eminently more sense to me, and I have used it on every collar.

It’s funny wearing brushed cotton in this climate – even being on the balcony in the shade for 10 minutes taking photos was enough to overheat. I also look strange wearing my more usual Northern European palette here. And I don’t think I’ll be able to wear this dress with bare legs for looking like Wee Willie Winkie!

Deep breath….. it’s surely time to tackle M6696…..


Fabric Shopping and Frankie

Greetings fabric fans! I hope you’ve been enjoying your summer. Mine is coming to a close rapidly, with the kids back at school and me back at work tomorrow. New pencil cases all round!

In the run-up to our break I’d found it harder and harder to squeeze any sewing in, apart from a quick and satisfying binge on Inari Tee Dresses. So I felt more than a little in need of some inspiration on our recent holiday to Japan. I absolutely couldn’t wait to get back to Nippori fabric town, where I’d spent a few yen at Christmas. As luck would have it, our hotel was only two metro stops away. Off I went, as soon as it was polite to excuse myself!

I headed straight for the behemoth that is Tomato. You can see from this picture why I retreat here in my dreams (and the more boring work meetings). It’s just packed with the most delicious and reasonably priced selection of fabric I have ever seen. I had a wander round, but knew that my biggest treasures were to be found in the striped jersey section. I took a deep breath and bought four different varieties of stripe. I am renown for being quite careful when it comes to purchases. Tight, some may say. So much so, thst I usually have to add in a return visit to buy all the fabrics I didn’t buy the first time around. I’m not frivolous, and I only buy fabrics that I know I’ll love. So I made doubly sure that I had bought everything I needed before I left, as there may never be another chance!

I thought I’d done well. I thought I’d scratched the striped-fabric itch. But then I spotted a new dress pattern on Instagram: Tessuti Fabrics’ Frankie Dress. And it was striped. I knew I had to make it as soon as I landed back in KL. But I wanted one more chance in Tomato to make sure that I had the perfect fabric for it. So back I went. Twice. In the pouring, pre-typhoon rain. And it was shut. There was a hand-written note in Japanese stuck to the shutters. I couldn’t read it. But it was definitely closed.

Thankfully, with four flavours of stripe in my suitcase, and at least another three at home, there was more than enough for a Frankie. Not wanting to waste a single piece, I tested Frankie out on some bright red viscose I’d recently picked up in Hanoi. I was smitten. The pattern is exquisitely drafted. Whilst it’s essentially just a jersey tee or dress, the shoulders and chest are a close fit, with the garment flaring out from the bust down. Further, the neckline construction is more detailed than you’d expect, with a facing on the back neckline that hides reinforcing tape. It’s then stitched into place to give a really tidy finish. The red dress was such a success that I wore it straight away without a hemimg_4823So I knew that Frankie was worth a stripe or two. I had this 100% cotton knit from my Christmas trip to Tomato. A couple of hours later she was here. I love her! She’s comfy, she’s chic, she’s swishy!

The stripe matching even went well, although after Thimberlina’s recent post on high-end fashion at society events I’m not sure I’m going to waste my time worrying about stripe matching anymore!

I hope you’ve all had a joyous and sewing-fuelled summer. Take care! x




Inari Tee Dress

Happy Sunday, sewists! The world seems to be descending into all hellish colours of chaos, but here at Sew South London I am seeking solace in the peaceful pleasures of sewing. I hope I find you in a similar state.

True to form, I’ve been sewing up a few multiples. The Named Clothing Inaree Tee Dress has reached mythical status in the online sewing community. It’s taken a while for me to get round to it, but once I did I could not stop. How can such a simple shape be so universally flattering?

I made my first version in a cotton linen fabric from Simply Fabrics in Brixton. Anyone who has ever shopped there will know that every bolt has an interesting heritage. This fabric was apparently ftom Paul Smith. I’ve made several tops from it already, including an early Tilly Mathilde hack. (Gosh I look young in that photo.)

The wearable toile turned out so well that I bounced straight on to the next one. And the next. In fact I’m making a fourth in Chinese Shanghai Tang silk as I write! 

The second version was in delicious denim linen mix from The Little Fabric Store in Louth. I’ve used this before on an Emery Dress and a Deer and Doe Sureau (which I don’t love). It’s such a great staple. 

I’d read lots of reviews of this pattern, almost all positive, but there were a couple of mentions of armhole issues. I made it up as designed and was happy with it. I guess it’s a matter of how close to perfection you wish to be. This is the perfect casual and almost-smart dress for the climate in Malaysia. 

Yes, the annoying electrical socket is still there, I think to myself! This gorgeous red linen fabric came from Tessuti Fabrics in Melbourne. There’s a certain starstruck feeling when you finally visit a real bricks and mortar shop on the ‘other side of the world’ when you’ve spent years looking longingly at their website! This fabric was a dream to sew with. Thanks to the generous fabric requirement of the pattern, there’s enough left over for an Inaree Tee too!


Me Made May 16: I did. Did you?

Hello (sheepish whisper). It’s been quite a while. i honestly didn’t know if I’d come back to writing this blog. Which is a shame. It was an absolute lifeline when I was at home in London with two very small children. Being in touch with the sewing community kept me on the right side of sane. Just. A year into life in Malaysia and with a full-time job, I have a lot less desire to spend my evenings in front of a computer screen, but I am still sewing and I do stay in touch with my favourite bloggers even if it tends to be on Instagram!

I answered the call to Me Made May with a pledge to wear something handmade every day, which I more or less do most of the time these days. I got to the end of the month with no repeat outfits and learned a couple of things to boot.

Although I wear my handmade clothes almost every day, I really missed my favourite Muji linen dresses. They are so comfy and loose-fitting but after this week’s new Inari Tee Dress even they may become obsolete. FYI: I think this just may be the most versatile and flattering dress ever!

Over the course of this year I have been consciously making clothes in solid dark colours and in jersey to redress the balance of my wardrobe and to reflect my fashion preferences. MMM was reminder that my early handmade clothes were often inspired by my love of colour and print. As I reached for my favourite black Moneta, I realised I wanted to look more sleek and elegant than ‘colourful art teacher’ chic. We all had one, didn’t we?! There’s still a fair bit of colour in these photos, but some solids too.

The month also revealed my pattern company loyalties. When I like something, I want it in every colour and texture. Chances are I will buy all of your patterns. Witness my numerous Colette Patterns outfits (Wren, Moneta, Laurel), and multiple Tilly and the Buttons numbers (Mathilde, Agnes, Bettine), not to mention ALL the Grainline Studio patterns! There was a profusion of indie patterns, and according to these photos, only a couple of big pattern companies (the floral scuba McCalls M6886, Simplicity 2444, and the Big Purple One – Simplicity 2406).

Being ‘coerced’ into wearing all the handmade clothes I could lay my hands on meant that I rediscovered a few gems that have been languishing at the back of the wardrobe. I kicked off Day 1 with my first ever Tilly Mathilde (not pictured here). It was like a reunion with a dear friend. Why was I not wearing this every week like I used to? Is there such a thing as too many handmade clothes??

The daily selfie-taking did me in eventually. The light in the tropics is unforgiving and harsh. If I didn’t get my photo taken pre-school run it wasn’t possible. Lord knows there’s enough pressure in my life getting myself and two small people out of the house by 7.45am without a blog-worthy photo shoot thrown into the mix. My five year old did me proud and snapped a few of these – clever girl. The downside is that her school photo came this week. There she is with hand on hip and giving good ‘right leg’ while the other kids stand up straight. They say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree…!

I’ll sign off (for another 3 months!) with one of my two new garments from May – a black Colette Wren (the other was the Grainline Alder at the top of this post). It’s a winner and ticks all the boxes for dark, solid colours in a flattering, work-friendly jersey dress. It’s been lovely to catch up. Take care all. x


Alder with Added Liberty

Can you believe I’ve been labouring over this Grainline Alder dress for over a month! Since Father Christmas brought me some books on achieving a great fit, I’ve really slowed down my sewing in an attempt to up-skill my fitting techniques.  

My most common alteration is a full bust adjustment. I took ages deciding which size to base my dress on. My measurements matched a size 12, but knowing that Grainline draft for a ‘B’ cup meant that I knew I’d be better off using my high bust size. Also, the finished garment measurements looked huge and I didn’t want the dress to turn out like a chambray tent. So I traced off a size 8 with a 1″ FBA and made up my first toile bodice.

Straight away I could see that there was a problem: the bust dart was incredibly low so the ‘added fullness’ was completely in the wrong place. Back to the cutting table…. I raised the bust dart by 1.5″, pivoting up the apex and leaving the dart legs where they were on the original position in the side seam. The Grainline sewalong suggested boxing and moving the dart up or down in its entirety but there wasn’t enough space below the armhole to accommodate the whole dart up by 1.5″! I don’t think I’m the only person to have had this issue with Alder. I went with the fitting textbook and was pleased to find that it worked out: the next toile fit perfectly.


So I went for it…. Apart from sewing curved bust darts to get a more natural shape, I sewed the dress up as instructed. On reflection, looking at these photos, the dress looks a little too baggy on the front. The bust fit is spot on, but the extra 1″ added on each side has resulted in spare fabric on the front panels. In a dress comprising of bodice and skirt you can remove the added fabric in waist darts, but in a shirt dress the added fabric stays to the hem. I wonder whether I should had removed the extra 1″ from the side where the front panel hits the gathered skirt? Or am I over-scrutinising?   

Either way, I am extremely pleased with this dress. It’s the perfect summer outfit. I took care over the top stitching and added some of my precious Liberty Tana Lawn Oxford as a contrast yoke and collar stand. I wasn’t sure if the collar stand was a step too far, but lovely insta-buddies agreed that the more Liberty the better! I finished off with a gorgeous teal button for a splash contrast colour. I think I might be making another one sooner rather than later. I’m already planning my Christmas plaid Alder with sleeves! 



Happy New Year in the Gregorian and Chinese lunar calendars! I started the New Year with a diet – a smart phone diet! And as with most diets, once you get over the worst bit it becomes a little bit life changing!

I’d noticed that I was spending increasing amounts of time enthralled with your amazing sewing blogs and visually tantalizing Instagram feeds. It was time to give it a rest and rejoin the real world!
I’ve enjoyed taking time out and regaining some reading and sewing time, but now I want to share with you my new Colette Patterns Wren dress. I’m really pleased with it after the alterations I made. The fabric is a gorgeous and light viscose knit that feels like it’s floating on your skin. In order to get a perfect fit I read and re-read Thimberlina’s detailed description of her alterations.┬áThank goodness for other bloggers doing the hard yards! I mocked up a bodice and found that not only was it too short, but there was not enough coverage across the wrap, so I lengthened the whole bodice by 1″ and extended the front wrap panels by 1/2″ at the top, grading out to 1″ at the bottom which resulted in a much more substantial overlap. It worked! To stabilize the neckline I added clear plastic tape around the whole of the front and around the neck. This has given me much needed bust-security and so far there hasn’t been so much as a flash of bra!

My final tweak was to swap out the original skirt for version B. I thought it looked a bit full for my taste, so added a Moneta skirt instead. What do you think?


Top 5 of 2015: The Misses

 And where there are highs there must be lows! Here’s my second post in Gillian of Crafting a Rainbow’s annual roundup of sewing hits and misses. I’m unwilling to call these garments fails as I think that contributes to an unhealthy obsession with achieving perfection. There’s no failure in honing skills. Let’s just say that each of these garments taught me something about pattern choices. And there’s only three!

Maxi Moneta

I don’t know what to say about this dress. I am deeply in love with my black Moneta, which featured in my Top 5 last year. Over the summer I saw a number of maxi dresses, including this gorgeous Moneta hack by Cashmerette. I had some black jersey and decided I would have one too. What resulted was a dress I lived and wore regularly until I saw the photos I took for the blog….. I still wear it most weekends so it’s not such a massive miss. it’s just not a very flattering outfit, compared to my favourite black Moneta. It does feel like you’re going to the shops in your nightie. Is that such a fail?!

The Big Purple One

As discussed (at length) over the festive period, this Simplicity 2406 (code named The Big Purple One after the people’s favourite Quality Street) just didn’t turn out as envisaged. It’s not a bad frock, just a bit shapeless for my style. Now I’m halfway through reading Fit For Real People I’ve got a much better understanding of the Big 4 pattern companies’ sizing. I would have started smaller. Noted for next time.

Bluegingerdoll Violet Dress


There’s not a lot to say here. Wrong. Shape. Totally the wrong shape for me. I tried to be cute by combining two different pontes. It just looked wrong. I’d love to know where it is now after I donated it to charity earlier this year!

 In Loving Memory…

 Polka Dot Moneta
I couldn’t sign off without paying respect to my beloved polka dot Moneta, who has passed on to the great textile recycling bin in the sky. I suspect the cheap fabric was at fault as the dress began to ladder along the seams. This was my first Moneta. Gone but not forgotten.