Who Dares, um, Passes?

Tweeting is dangerous.  There I was, on holidays at the beginning of 2013 happily sewing and tweeting when, wham!

I had just tweet-bemoaned that my wardrobe was lacking in summer dresses. The elephant dress was recently finished, which brought me to a grand total of one summer dress. I’d worn it two hot days in a row. The dress was a wee bit smelly. I have a tee-shirt dress, yes, but that’s really only wearable in a temperature range of 23 – 29 degrees Celsius (scientific experience). Otherwise, all my dresses are for wearing in cooler temperatures, preferably with tights or leggings (but not both, that would be silly).

Gillian returned with a dare, that I chose to accept: make two summer dresses simultaneously as a sort of production line. I’m down with production lines! I chose to repeat the elephant dress style (if it works and all that) but thought both dresses should have sleeves. I like sleeves.

In my stash were a few contenders: a red linen-silk blend (oh so lovely); a navy and red stripey fabric of some sort; some floral linen-synthetic blend; and a brightly coloured plaid seersucker. I thought the last two would be the winners, but when I pulled out the floral linen-synthetic blend, I realised it was much too diaphanous (lovely word for see-through, or inappropriate, or, Lordy, I am so not lining a summer dress.) Eventually, I chose (with, yet again, the help of Gillian – sure, I can make my own decisions, but why bother when it can be outsourced?) the plaid seersucker and the navy and red stripey fabric. The lovely, lovely red linen-silk blend would probably have ended up looking too bland for a summer dress.

The navy and red fabric, however, was not the rayon-synthetic-y fabric I thought it was but most definitely a silk/satin of some kind. You know where this is going, don’t you (cue the kind of music you would hear in a noir film, as the heroine, face half obscured places a beautifully manicured hand onto a door knob. The baddy is just on the other side of the door. Scary, suspenseful music!)

The fabric had no give in it whatsoever. Simple Modern Sewing’s Pattern 3a has no closures – no zips, no buttons, no velcro etc. (Hmm, Velcro. Gotta make me an outfit with Velcro.) It is put on over one’s head. It needs at least some stretch.

Cue brilliant idea: cut the fabric on the bias! (This is totally the best idea for beginners. Ha.)

Also, further complication, I was now working with obvious stripes and plaid! I managed to work out how to cut so that if I sewed it right, stripes and plaids would match on major seams. I thought long and hard about turning the navy and red into chevrons, but Oanh of Little Brain just could not conceptualise it (plus I couldn’t work out whether it was better for the arrow to point up or down) so I gave up.

I decided against sleeves for the bias cut dress; but spent an age trying to work out how to cut sleeves that would match my plaid seams. I wanted sleeves cut on the bias, because I am a very arm-wavey person and like my clothes not to rip when I have to emphasise a point. Eventually, I gave up trying to match the plaid. I just couldn’t work it out. (In the sewing up, this turned out to be a very clever move indeed, as I discovered that I had cut two left sleeves and no right sleeve. Thankfully, I am an incorrigible fabric scrap collector, and had enough to cut another sleeve, however it would fit, never mind the plaid matching. I am beginner! Watch me slack off!)

I really struggle with spatial / conceptualisation things. A lot of my sewing errors boil down to my severe lack of this ability. Hopefully, it will develop over time. Failing that, I will just need to have lots of extra fabric. (woo hoo! More fabric!)

All up, cutting did not take a super dooper long time, maybe less than an hour. But it took long enough that it was time to do something else (like, sleep).

Sleeping was a brilliant idea because it reminded me that I wanted pockets in my dresses. I like pockets, plus now that I am a hay fever-y person, I need pockets for the surfeit of tissues and handkerchiefs that I go through each day. Among the reasons that I prefer trousers to dresses / skirts, is that trousers tend to have pockets and dresses / skirts tend to not. That can all change if I’m making the dresses / skirts…

Did you know that ever since living in the UK, I can no longer say the word “pants” without giggling a little bit inside? I no longer wear pants. I wear trousers. (Well, in UK terms, I am also wearing pants <- knickers, undies, smalls etc.)  For some reason, the word “vest” is not a problem. I still wear vests (both as base layer and top layer – some of you may know this as a waistcoat -, sometimes both at the same time.) I don’t giggle when I say thong. I am very serious when I say thong.

I proceeded to cut pockets, using Tiramisu’s pattern, which gave me the chance to trace a smaller bodice for the next time I make up the Tiramisu. Why, yes, I do suffer from AD-HD in my sewing projects. Indeed, in all my hobbies. Yet again, I exhausted my sewing time (and mood), and left the stitching for another date.

One weeknight, I did a bit of preparatory stitching: stabilise neck with stay stitch; practise buttonholes; stitch pockets. I was very well behaved and stopped sewing at 10.30pm AND DID NOT TIDY UP. (That’s in caps because it really is a big deal for me. Add OCD to AD-HD for my collection of adjectival acronyms.)

Practise buttonhole. Not as scary as I thought.

Then I had an RDO and stitched up both dresses to the point just before finishing details (neckline, armholes, hems, drawstring waist etc). This took the entire day! The production line worked well – especially as I could use navy coloured thread for both dresses, and used a needle suitable for silk for both, too. I’m glad I did not choose to sew up the red linen-silk blend as changing thread each time I undertook a new step would have really mucked up the production line, and I most likely would have sewn them up consecutively, rather than doing steps on each dress. The main benefit of production line sewing was really cutting down interruption time. As I would sew, for example, shoulder seams on both dresses, I would then take both dresses to the ironing board for a good press.

The seersucker was a dream to work with; the silk not quite the nightmare I feared.

Throughout the sewing day, I had begun to name my dresses: Tablelcoth dress and Patriotic dress. When you spend so long with something, you give it a name. Now I know how patterns end up being named … but my names are either blandly descriptive or completely inane. (I have a tendency to call things Josephine or Aloysius depending upon perceived gender. I doubt I could explain the reasoning to you because the heart has reasons that reason knows not.)

So very nearly finished.

I’ve been having a think about how some of the more popular Independent pattern designers have named their patterns.
My conclusions thus far:-

  • Sewaholic chooses Canadian place names (I think; couldn’t find Cambie or Minoru)
  • Colette likes food , with a preference towards spices (anise, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg), desserts (crepe, macaron, sorbetto, beignet, chantilly, parfait, eclair) and drinks, especially tea (rooibos, ceylon, oolong, lady grey, sencha, jasmine, juniper & hazel)
  • Deer and Doe has chosen all wildflower names: belladone (nightshade); bleuet (mountain blueberry or cornflower); sureau (elderberries); airelle (blueberries, the fruit, which is sort of a wildflower in Europe, work with me here) and pavot (poppies). It struck me that two of the flowers chosen are symbols of war remembrance: the mountain blueberry or cornflower is France’s, while the poppy is UK / Australia’s.

All the finishing bits took much, much longer than I expected: at least 2 – 3 hours on each dress. There wasn’t much point trying to finish them as a production line; I just worked on the finishing over a few weeknights.

I’ve not quite mastered the art of how on earth to pose.  My courtyard garden is looking great, no? And the blue thing on the left is my tarp-covered worm farm.

I wish I had done a worse job of trying to match the plaid on the sleeves of Tablecloth dress: it almost matches, so that it looks a bit off. Oh well. I might have enough of the fabric left to pull the sleeves off and fix at some stage in future. Although, part of the reason I don’t have enough is because I went a bit bananas making bias tape out of the excess fabric… Had I not made so much bias tape, I would have had a lot of fabric leftover to play with. So, lesson learned. Make just enough bias tape. Finish garment. Then, and only then, go wild making more bias tape.

Plaid matching on the side seams worked!

Still trying to work out how to pose. Good thing I never became a fashion model. I’d be crap at it.

The Patriotic dress is OK.

Now I have 2 more summer-y dresses, but summer is almost done for the year! I’ve only worn the Tablecloth dress once and the Patriotic dress not at all. Hopefully, I will wear both.

Neither seem to me as wonderful as the Elephant dress (I mean, what could be?) and both are sufficiently formal that I could wear them to work, provided it is a work day on which I am not required to suit up (court/commission/tribunal appearances). Even so, one can always throw a jacket over the top of any dress and call me Lawyer.

Sewing Dares: Pass. It’s not quite a win. I’m pleased, but more that I learned heaps, rather than that I now have two ridiculously awesome dresses. (And don’t worry, Gillian, I enjoyed this process a lot, had fun and the dare kept me right motivated it did.)

I am a little bit, but not a lot, sorry if this post was ridiculously long and boring.


  1. I love your posts. You rattle on a bit like me and I feel quite at home (not enough to make myself a cup of tea but it’s getting close).
    I think Sewaholic uses street names of her home town too.
    And I’m a hopeless poser – I just wander around and get hubby to take pictures.


    1. I second this- I love a casual meandering post- it’s like 2 friends sitting together and one just happens to have 2 new lovely dresses. Posing is hard- I need fake activities…


      1. Yes, I do mostly write the way I talk. Which means that when I talk, I ramble on and on. I just feel really silly posing. But I’ve always been bad at having pictures of me taken.

      2. Just think of something that relaxes you and makes you smile. Like my outburst during a zumba class that my friend insisted I attend with her on Saturday morning (I am very anti-gyms). After struggling for half the class I burst out laughing and the instructor asked me what was so funny. “Well I just realised how much easier this is if I pretend I’m really drunk and at a nightclub!”. Fortunately she thought it was as funny as the rest of the class.

    2. Oh, that would be worrying, if you went and got a cuppa with which to read my posts!
      Partner keeps telling me not to frown, and not to talk. Then we end up with pics of me doing both things, at once…


  2. Well I can answer one thing for you, I used to live in Vancouver and the sewaholic patterns are all street names in Vancouver 🙂 Lovely dresses


  3. I love your posts too, Oanh. They’re always so funny and tongue-in-cheek.

    I think both your new dresses look super! Have you not worn the Patriotic Dress because you don’t like it so much? Because I like it a lot 🙂


    1. Thanks, Gail!
      I do like the Patriotic dress, but I don’t love it. Also, I generally don’t wear dresses very often. So when I do feel like wearing a dress, the Patriotic dress has to contend with the other dresses in my wardrobe. Most of my dress problems actually come down to not having the right shoes!


  4. I like how these two dresses turned out — and am only sorry you don’t have many opportunities to really enjoy them as summer dresses. Please do keep posing your projects in the garden. That way, we can get a mini garden update at the same time!


  5. Loved reading your post & your dresses are pretty nifty too.
    I am pleased to hear that you are wearing pants as well as trousers, but surely you don’t need a vest under your summer dresses ;-). Though you would if you came back to England I suspect.


    1. Thanks, Viv!

      Sometimes, I can envisage wearing vests under summer dresses, even over here…

      I don’t recall wearing dresses more than a handful of times when living in UK for almost 4 years!


  6. I quite like the plaid dress. It looks great on you.

    Have you tried sewing the infinity dress? It’s a circle skirt bottom, but the top has long straps so you can wrap them various ways to get an infinite number of different dresses. I bought black jersey fabric to attempt it, but a year later, I still haven’t gotten started.


    1. Thanks WC!
      My family have mixed responses to the plaid dress: some cannot stand the plaid. I am unsurprised.

      I’m aware of the infinity dress, but its not really my style, even though its heaps of styles, none of them really call out to me. Too much fabric I think! I’d love to see your make when you get around to making it!


      1. Ha! I mentioned it so you could sew it before I attempted it. 😛 There’s actually only a few styles of wearing it that appealed to me. I would modify it a bit so it would appear more like a dress and less like a skirt with lots of straps to wrap around, which is what it mostly seems like to me. But what I imagine and what actually comes out are very different things.

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