So everyone has that ONE pattern that they go back to time after time right? Well mine is Sweetheart by Sew La Di Da. I’ve made so many of these dresses! My first was a rather rushed make the day before I stood on the Cenotaph in central London to mark the 100th anniversary of ‘The Watch’ and the start of that year’s Annual Poppy Appeal. I even, although very fleetingly, appeared on the lunch time ITV news programme stood on my corner quietly contemplating all those thousands of soldiers who never come home from war… but that’s a different story.. Back to the dresses.
Sew La Di Da is a small independent company run by the lovely Caroline Smith down on the south east(ish) coast of England… Geography was never my strong point 😦 I have three of her patterns so far but haven’t really managed to get past the first one! I really should address that issue and soon! And I really must get Margo… a fabulous wide leg jumpsuit pattern.
They maybe a little on the expensive side as patterns go however what you get is very worthwhile. The patterns are good quality paper not flimsy tissue. They are marked in colour coded sizes so easy to follow. The instructions are in a neat little booklet comprising of clear actual photos not diagrams and they used contrasting threads to your can clearly see which bit you should be stitching where… Oh and notches match up nicely too 😉
Back to the dress! I started by making a toile of the top half of the dress with the sweetheart neckline out of some leftover cheap polycotton fabric to check for fit. The fit itself was great however I did alter the princess seems to give a more defined look around the bust area otherwise I found it all just hung off my bust and didn’t give much shaping to the overall dress… that issue is more down to my individual body shape and nothing to do with the pattern itself… Rather too many curves! Other than that little adjustment I had no issues at all. In actual fact, as you can see form the pictures below I went on to line the toile with a plain fabric trimming the edges with lace so it can be worn as a top 😀
Other than that little adjustment the dress was pretty much perfect so I went ahead and cut out my cotton floral fabric. I did decide to make the actual dress with the straight neckline and not the sweetheart version as I felt it more suitable for the occasion I was going to be wearing it for. I think I finished the whole dress in about 4hrs… not bad at all I thought. 😀 It does look better on me than it does my mannequin but I hate photos of me sorry. That said the black and white photo here of me in the same dress was taken by Mathew Keller as part of a photoshoot that was featured in In Retrospect Magazine highlighting my Ration Book Challenge 🙂
I’ve since gone on to make several dresses with different necklines, then no sleeves, then altered sleeves and pockets and patch pockets…. The hacks I’ve done to this pattern are endless! I’m pretty sure each dress has been different on one way or another. They are all shown below… the only limit is your imagination really.
One of my favourites is my ‘Sewing Dress’. Whilst at the Knitting & Stitching Show on year I spotted some really cute fabrics by Henry Glass called ‘And sew on…’ They were on the Fabrics Galore stand… and walked on by… and I looked again … and I walked away. And then I kicked myself all the way home! A few weeks later I went to the shop in Battersea London and came out with my three designs… oh and about £130 worth of other fabrics that I didn’t really intend to buy but hey ho… When in Rome and all that. 😀 I made the dress up in different panels of fabric. The left overs later became one of my machine covers that I blogged about a long while back.
After I’d made a few dresses I managed to split two of them right across the waist. Basically when I get in my car I have to have the seat right back and I then slide it forward so I can reach the foot pedals properly. If I leave my seat in its driving position I knock myself out on the door frame when I’m getting back in or out again! (Short people’s problems!) One day I got in, tucked my skirt underneath me as you do, leant right forward and down to reach the seat slider bar and RIPPPPPP 😥 Twice I did it! So now I add about 2inchs to the torso of the dress at the waist point and so far I haven’t ripped a dress since… fingers crossed it stays that way!
My most dramatic pattern hack so far has been my Button Top. Again I saw a fabulous fabric I just had to have… I didn’t have a clue what I was going to do with it… but I had to have it! One day inspiration hit me. In a nutshell I cut the front into two halves adding extra seam allowances for button fastening. Then I shaped the hemline so the top was longer at the back than the front (so disguise my fat butt) and then I added buttons to my buttons! 39 of them to be precise however wasn’t going to make rouleau loops or button holes for that lot.. Noooo way! What I did do was purchase some elasticated button loops similar to that used on some wedding dresses. I did add a small modesty panel just in case my bulges bulged out a little too far ;D The overall effect turned out pretty damn cool I think 🙂
My most recent dress has been made from one of three fabrics I plan to use in the very near future… This one I made for my 50th birthday evening out. This time I added pockets in the skirt side seams (fairly normal and most essential hack of all dresses!) and I changed the sleeves quite dramatically. The effect was fab and I will definitely be doing it again soon.
I will be blogging about each of the ‘Hacks’ individually I think as this post is far too long already! Some of the dresses pictured will be covered under my ‘Cruise Clothes’ blog that will be coming soon too.
My top tip for hemming these, and other full skirted dresses is to use your overlocker if you have one. Have you noticed that some fabrics naturally ‘gather’ or ‘stretch’ as you pass them through your overlocker? Sometimes you have to keep the fabric taught as it feeds through the machine. Well I use this natural gather to my advantage. If you practice on a small length of fabric first you will find that you can use your thumb and forefinger to slide the gathers around on the threads which will give you just enough gather to take you the dress with a nice neat flat seam. Do NOT set your overlocker to gather… just leave it on its normal settings and make sure you leave a long ‘tail’ so that you don’t slide your fabric right off the end of the stitches. At some point I will do a video to demonstrate just what I mean.
Vintage kinda gal loves all things 40s 50s and art deco. Loves all kinds of crafts especially sewing. addicted to fabric, antiques and shoes. Have two sons and two Akitas that I adore. Passionate about our armed forces, WW1 family history. Living on WW2 Rations for Charity for a whole year. Would one day like to have a tea shop/haberdashery/sewing rooms to relax chat and teach/share all sorts of craft skills in <3