I was instantly drawn to the lantern sleeves on the Closet Case Patterns Cielo Top when they released it as part of their Rome Collection earlier this year, and specifically to the top as I tend to wear separates a lot more often than dresses. But I wasn’t really that into the samples they made using drapey fabrics – as soon as I saw the tech drawing I knew I wanted to make it in a more structured fabric to really draw attention to those sleeves and let them stand up on their own rather than have a more 70s bell-sleeve vibe.
James has a black linen shirt from Muji that he utterly loves. He’s worn it very nearly to death over almost ten years, though, with it rather faded and with a hole worn in in one place. So he asked me if I could copy it, as it’s a design that he’s never been able to find it shops again.
It’s an over-the-head design with a front button placket, stand collar, back yoke, and short sleeves with little button tabs on the sleeve hems. The only change I made from the original was to introduce a small pleat at the back yoke, as I just think men’s yoked shirts look weird when they don’t have them, plus it gives a bit of wearing ease back there.
I traced out his existing shirt with craft paper and my serrated tracing wheel, and made a quick muslin, which miraculously needed no fitting changes! Then it was onto the first real version, made up in a lime-green linen-blend mix from Ditto which he chose when we were in their Brighton shop earlier this year.
Plackets always tend to intimidate me as they seem like a bit of witchcraft – how can this weird shape turn into that in just a few steps?? So I put off sewing it, until I remembered that I’d scanned and digitised the placket template from David Page Coffin’s excellent “Shirtmaking” book. This is one of my clever-er ideas, as it means I just just adjust the width and length of the placket in Illustrator and print myself off a fresh template. Because obviously the dimensions for sleeve plackets for men’s shirts are of a different scale than the neck placket here!
I must be the only sewist on earth without enough casual dresses, but alas, the weather has turned very hot and summery and I’ve taken to just wearing the same jeanskirt and pair of 17 year old shorts (no, really) around the boat while I work from home. I realised I could just make any number of knit dresses, but that’s too easy, and besides, my knit stash is a little low and my woven stash is spilling over.
So I decided to pull out the StyleArc Pamela dress pattern I originally planned to make for my Mexico travel wardrobe last year, and pair it with the same blue linen (blend?) that was gifted to me by Veronica back in 2012.
It’s been ages since I sewed a woven for myself, so of course I forgot that they require pressing, which means heat and steam standing by the iron, ugh! But let me tell you, it was all worth it in the end because I totally love this dress. I think it might be the perfect summer dress, as it’s both casual and a little different, and you can change the look just by tying it either in front, or in the back.
I bought the pattern when I was a StyleArc size 14 (I’m closer to a 12 now), so the dress is a little bigger than usual on me, but this works for summer because you can get a looser fit by tying the integrated ties in a bow under the bust. Or, if you want, you can also cinch in the waist by wrapping the ties around to tie it in the back. I’ve been wearing it about 50/50 according to my whims.
There are a lot of great little details in this pattern – the shawl collar extends to the centre back neck, falling nicely into an inverted pleat at the inset corner.
I am very pleased to finally be able to show you this dress, which has been quite a while in the making!
I first bought the motif at Mode et Travaux in Paris when we visiting there last summer, but then a few months ago I decided that I really wanted to do something with it, so I started laying out my first pattern ideas. Then I finally decided on a a pattern and started basting the motif onto my linen in preparation for our French road trip, where I painstakingly sewed the motif onto the dress using silver thread and an embroidery hoop.
The finished dress is a variation on dress #102 from the March 2010 KnipMode supplement, but I modified the neckline heavily so that it’d match the motif’s curves. In actuality, I cut the curve of the neckline after I’d completely sewed the motif into place!
Since I changed the front neckline, I also had the widen the back at the neck edge to match the front, too. It means my big head can only just fit through, as it’s much narrower than the original pattern.
Thank you all SO much for all the feedback on my pattern shortlist earlier this week. It’s so incredibly helpful to hear from others which have worked and which haven’t, and to get me thinking on what I most like to wear (and what I don’t!).
Since I tend to email commenters personally but not put my responses in the comments themselves, I thought it might be helpful to answer a few general questions from the comments. I’m not really seeing this as an overly dressy/posh/fussy dress – for me, the linen dress on its own would be something I’d wear to the office, out to lunch with friends, or out in town, and the motif I bought in Paris is just a sort of permanent necklace. I always overdress anyway, and I’m not envisioning this as anything “left for best” in the slightest! Believe me, there’s very little I keep aside and out of my daily rotation!
Nancy K suggested a tunic might be more wearable than a dress, but I had to admit to her that I really, really don’t feel comfortable wearing tunics. There’s just something about the awkward “too long for a top but too short for a dress” length plus too many layers that just makes me feel self conscious. Whereas I wear dresses and skirts almost continuously in summer (compounded by the fact that I don’t wear shorts)!
Finally, I decided against a bunch of lovely sheath dress patterns purely for linen/wrinkle reasons, and my thinking that these would probably have more horizontal wrinkles from sitting than full-skirted numbers. I’m debating whether I’ll underline this dress or not for that same reason, but I suppose it all depends on if I can find suitable cotton or silk lightweight fabric for a good price while we’re in France.
Enough with the commentary – I finally decided on dress #102 from the KnipMode 03/2010 supplement (one I didn’t even scan in my initial review! gasp!).
London has gone super sunny and warm over the past few weeks, so my thoughts have turned to spring sewing and using up some treasures from my stash. Remember the silver chain and sequin motif I bought in Paris last summer? Well I still adore it, and I thought it’d be a great showpiece for a spring dress.
Since the motif is mounted on blue netting, I thought it’d be best to pick a similar coloured fabric for the dress, so that the little spots inside the design which can’t be trimmed away wouldn’t look too out of place. Luckily I’ve had this turquoise linen/rayon mix in my stash for a few years, so its day has come!
I thought it looked good next to the motif, but wow! it looks amazing when I actually pull some through underneath it!
Has anyone worked with motifs like this before? I’m guessing I just get silver lurex thread to match and take tiny stitches the whole way around and trim off the excess netting? Is an embroidery hoop useful (or necessary)? I’m hoping to get the piece cut out and ready to work on during our French road trip over Easter, with any luck.
The next step is figuring out which pattern I’m going to use. I used my usual method for sifting through my pattern magazines (like I did for my wedding gown and my latest winter coat) – since I’ve got all my At-a-glance pages scanned in an online gallery, I flip through them all looking for a suitable pattern, and when I find one, take a quick screenshot of that pattern (Shift-Apple-4 on Mac makes it really easy!), and rename the file to be the issue number so I can find where it came from.
I’ve been calling this James’s “fantasy jacket” because he’s asked me to recreate a beloved unlined, simple, waterproof jacket that was stolen from a pub on the night he met me all those years ago.
He recalled it from memory while I attempted to create an accurate tech drawing, and then once that was agreed, I compared this against my vast pattern magazine archive (made much easier since I started tagging my At a Glance scans online, so I just had to shuffle through those issues tagged “menswear”!).
I decided that BWOF 10/08 #134 was a pretty good starting point for what James wanted, and I went from there. The muslin went well, so around Thanksgiving I started on the final jacket, made from a very cool laminated linen from Mood in NYC, with bias binding made from some dark red and black tie silk bought in Dublin three years ago.
I’m a bit late in getting the photos from last weekend’s wedding off James’s computer, but I know some of you were waiting to see how the silver linen shift dress and the matching fascinator looked together, so here you go!
This banner was actually up outside the venue advertising an upcoming wedding expo, but it was too good for the bride and groom (and us!) to pass up for photos…
You may remember that I made my silver linen dress to wear to our friends Holly and Simon’s wedding this weekend. While at Holly’s delightful (and crafty!) hen party / tea party on Sunday, I mentioned that I was debating whether to make a matching fascinator and it was demanded that I comply!
So in the spirit of my first fascinator, I got out a bit of scrap plastic, some soft, squishy fleece, silver linen leftover from my dress, and grey netting and went to town…
This dress has been fully formed in my mind ever since February, when I bought Burda 7783 and this beautiful linen/lurex blend at Hickeys in Dublin. Luckily, they print the fabric content and washing instructions right on the receipts, so I can tell you with some degree of accuracy that this dress is 53% linen, 44% rayon, and 3% lurex. As far as I’m concerned, this fabric is 100% gorgeous – it’s got a subtle bit of shine under bright lights that really makes it special.