Sewing a dress on Saturday afternoon, to wear on Saturday night, was something I though nothing of doing when I was seventeen. But other than taking up a hem or resewing a seam that has frayed from wear, it's been years since I've sewn my own clothes. I've bought fabric and patterns on sale but haven't actually jumped in at the deep end and tackled a large sewing project.
When I was a student, I sewed from necessity. Dresses were expensive but fabric was cheap. Now it's the opposite, you can buy a dress cheaper than it costs to make it yourself.
But I long to feel the thrill of wearing something I've created. Some YouTubers I watch have great tutorials on sewing and it's given me the bug to unpack the sewing machine and actually make up a simple dress. For economy purposes, I'm using a cheap craft fabric that I picked up on sale years ago.
I like that it's cotton though, as I think it will be light and cool as the last hot days of Summer stretch into Autumn, here in Melbourne. But my northern hemisphere friends are eagerly awaiting the warmer days of Spring to arrive. I can imaging wearing this romantic dress to pick the first blooms of the season with a basket slung over my arm and a pretty shade hat to guard my complexion.
The first step is to wash, dry and iron the fabric. Cotton is likely to shrink, so make sure this has happened before cutting out the fabric.
Cut out the pattern using a loose fitting dress that only has four seams, the shoulders and side seams. Fold the dress in half with the back facing out. Place the fold on the fold of the fabric. Cut around it leaving a 1cm seam allowance. Add 4 cm to the bottom for hemming. I didn't because I wanted the new dress to be shorter.
Next, fold the dress in half with the front facing out so the v neckline is visible. Place that on the fold of another piece of fabric and tuck the back under at the neckline, revealing the v. Cut around leaving a 1cm seam allowance all around.
If you want the dress to be longer or shorter simply add or subtract that amount when cutting out. If a shorter dress is desired fold the bottom up to where you want it. A tip is to put it on and insert a pin where you want the hem to be.
Because I had a stain on my fabric I decided to add pockets so had to make sure it would sit under a pocket placement before cutting it out.
To make the pockets, measure a square by eye and cut it on the fold so that makes a rectangle. Turn it wrong sides out and stitch around leaving a gap to turn it out. Sew straight stitch about an inch from the fold. This will be the top of the pocket. The double layer of fabric will give it added structure and strengthen it. Last I sewed on a lace embellishment with zig zag stitch. Top stitched the pockets into place on the front panel. I sewed the pockets to the front before sewing up the seams because it was easiest that way.
Also on the front panel I hand stitched a gathering thread under the bust and pulled it in. I sewed a thick panel of lace over it. However, when I tried it on after the dress was made up, it wasn't gathered enough so I put it on the sewing machine and bunched the lace up as I sewed straight stitch at the top and bottom of the lace panel. This gave it the look I was after. You could instead treat the front the same way as the back, sewing a length of elastic on the wrong side, if you don't want lace. Instructions are following.
I sewed a piece of elastic to the back panel to pull it in like the original dress does which gives the dress shape. Work out where to place the start of the elastic by stretching it out and centering it over the back panel. Keep holding the left edge in place and let go of the other end. Pin the left edge to the fabric. This is where you'll begin stitching.
Start sewing the elastic and then stretch it as you sew to create the gathers.
Sewing the front and back panels together can be done in any order but I like to sew the same direction for each seam. Start under the armhole and stitch down to the hem. I don't flick it over and sew up, but start at the other arm hole and sew down so that the dress falls evenly. I used quilting clips to hold the seams together until they were sewn but pins work great too.
As this is a pull over your head style of dress you don't have to worry about buttons or zips however I did add lace for interest and to bind the neckline. I sewed the lace to the wrong side and flipped it over to the right side and top stitched it down. You could sew it to the right side and fold it inward and stitch if you don't want lace to show or use bias binding.
I hemmed the dress turning it over about 2cm and then another 2cm and stitching it down on the machine using straight stitch. The arm holes were hemmed the same way but turning it over half a cm twice and stitching down.
After trying it on it felt too plain at the hem and too long, so I added interest by sewing two bands of folded over fabric, parallel with the hemline. I made them the about the same width as the hem and the top stitching on the pocket so that elements were repeated and made the design cohesive.
Here's the finished dress. I added lace because felt the all over small print needed something to lift it. I also like to accessorize with a strand of pearls.
I've worn this dress quite a bit since I made it a couple of weeks ago. It's so comfortable and roomy. Being cotton, it's cool and breathes in the hot weather. Anyone could make a version of this dress, the lace could be left off. It would be beautiful with a matching bias binding around the neck and sleeves.
Because you make it from a dress you already own, it will fit any size. Use a shift or caftan style dress already in your wardrobe that you can pull on over your head. If you'd like it more fitted, elastic can be added all the way around under the bust line or at the waistline, whichever suits you best. The hemline detail required measuring and careful pinning to keep the lines accurate but this feature and for that matter, the lace wouldn't be needed on a larger print.
A short stint working in the office of a fashion house was part of the inspiration for the book I have recently finished revising. Ruby is a fashion designer and, like me, grew up making her own clothes. I hope to have her story for sale this year.
If you haven't read the Katrina or Natalie's stories you can find them here.
Heart melting, passionate romance.
Why should I feel like I don't want to answer the door because of the way I look on these comfy outfit days? I still want to look put together. I won't do a full face of makeup, at the most, I might add a little lip-gloss and a single coat of mascara to the upper lashes. But not necessarily. I've done nothing with my hair in this photo just ran my fingers through it and I have no makeup on. Natural is beautiful also and I often go a for a week without touching my makeup bag. But I do like jewelry, its shiny and adds a touch of whimsy that I find very appealing. Anything that makes me smile on a day where I want to feel cosy and comforted is allowed.
A quick note. This blog isn't sponsored in anyway, I'm just sharing some of the things I've purchased on a tiny budget that give me pleasure. Links in photos are provided for your interest only.
I like to color coordinate what I team the comfy pants with. I have a very long striped pink grey and blue T shirt that is oversize. It's actually a nightie but the grey stripes match my pants and the pink matches a cardigan I bought recently at Kmart Australia.
The cardigan is blush pink and is so soft and not in the least bit bulky. It matches some pretty rose gold and blush pink earrings I also purchased. At $4 they were a steal. I also bought a necklace and bracelets in the rose gold for around the same price. I've worn them a lot this season. I'm loving the blush pink colors and little Eiffel tower on the bracelet because they appeal to my romantic nature.
Taking a cosy comfort day is one way I accept the need to slow down and take a break. It's a gift of comfort to myself and it creates a window of time to do things that I don't normally have time to do. Like make a big pot of vegetable soup and scones for lunch or go through my craft cupboard and give that a refresh. Writing wise I might leave editing for another day and instead, cut out inspirational pictures from magazines or brainstorm ideas for a new book.
I hope you enjoyed what inspires me to relax and live life at a slower pace, at least for a day and feel good about doing it.
clothing. I got to see buttons and fabric samples, zips etc. I already had an interest in fabric from learning to patchwork so that part of my day was the favorite. Samples would arrive from the upstairs workshop and I’d be asked to try it on to check the sizing. I dreamed of being a real model but had to admit my first love was fashion designer.
In my senior years at high school I talked about being a fashion designer and doing a diploma at The Melbourne College of Textiles. At the time the college was just down the road and around the corner so it seemed like a perfect fit for me. However I was advised it would lead to work as a pattern maker at best or a machinist at worst. I knew I didn’t want that, I wanted to draw and create things. I didn’t come from a rich family who could fund me going solo so I looked for a way to earn a living in an office. Working in the fashion industry gave me an opportunity to see behind the glamour and find out what the industry could be really like.
My to be released book the Australian Billionaire’s Secret Proposal, is the third and last book in the Baxter Sister Series. It's about the middle sister, Ruby. She's a talented fashion designer, but she struggles to stand up for herself. Only when she can does she find her way back to true love. I was inspired by those days working alongside fashion industry professionals but I wanted to know more about being a designer.
As luck would have it I was talking about the book to my travel agent who put me in touch with a working fashion designer. We met and I told her about the events in my book (a fashion designer who's had her designs stolen) and the setting in Melbourne, Australia and Jaipur, India to check for authenticity. She told me the book could have been about an experience she once had in the industry.
She gave me heaps of information which enabled me to understand the pressures a designer is under. She explained of the number of garments and how many collections per year she had to design to tight deadlines and importantly, the potential to have your work stolen is very real.
I was so lucky to have an afternoon talking to her and all she wanted was a salad from subway as a thankyou. While we ate, I filled a notebook as she talked about her time at a previous employer who’d sent her to India to work. She was so surprised that I’d used that city as the setting for the last portion of the novel.
With all of that being such a huge coincidence I feel that this book was meant to be.
Mum taught me to sew when I was a teenager. The first thing I learned to make was a basic wrap around skirt first which I wore with pride. Then, I graduated to more complicated dresses.
Smock style clothes were my favourite I have a picture of me wearing a smock top I made when I was about forteen. I loved the feel of cotton the most and the sight of luxurious, meters spread out on the dining table. It seemed a shame to cut into it but I wanted the new dress so the paper pattern pieces were pinned on and cut out with Mum’s best sewing scissors.
Those early clothes making attempts gave me a can do attitude to crafting with fabric. I altered patterns and combined two different patterns to get the style that would suit me best. I made party dresses and the dress I wore to my high school graduation ball. I also made the dress I wore to my engagement. But with the price of patterns and fabric going up and the cost of buying a new dress coming down, it didn’t make good financial sense as I went into my twenties. What had once been a necessity was a luxury later on. But sewing my clothes during my teenage years created a lifelong love of fabrics and fashion.
I went to work in an office and that allowed me to buy an expensive fashion magazine called Harpers Bazaar. During the early 1980’s I cut out pictures of the fashions I loved and pasted them into a scrap book. I still have it. I dreamed of being a fashion designer and going to Paris, but it was never something I could fund so it remained a dream. There in the back of my mind until I began writing romance. A fashion designer came to me, a rebel with vibrant magenta hair at high school and a dog eared scrapbook that she took everywhere with her.
She woke in me the girl who’d made her own clothes and took pride in her work and she lived the dream I couldn’t. Ruby Baxter finished high school and went to work for a middle of the road family fashion house. She designed bread and butter styles that sell but dreamed of having her own line. She put in hours of work to pull a new collection together to relaunch the fading fashion house but when it was met with rave reviews her boss took all the credit. So Ruby leaves determined to pursue her dream and work as a freelance designer but her ex boss is afraid Ruby’s work appearing elsewhere will uncover her lie so she tells another. She claims that Ruby stole the designs from her and passed them off as her own.
Of course she needs a white knight and there’s one who’s been following her career for years. He’s the boy she loved back in high school. Hushing up a family secret had divided them but now he’s determined to clear her name. Ruby has no other option than to accept Jarrod’s help but he commands a high price. Ruby’s hero turns out to be a calculating businessman in the fashion industry who will turn protecting an old friend from scandal into an advantage.
It always amazes me where my stories come from and I’m really enjoying the memories of how much I enjoyed sewing and creating a fresh design to wear that no one else will have. I think if I’d been on the verge of achieving my dream and having it stolen from me, I’d so just about anything to make it right. If it was the handsome Jarrod who I’d never really gotten over, it would be a major challenge but I think I’d take the chance. What would you do?
The Australian Billionaire’s Secret Proposal is the final book in the Baxter Sisters Series and is coming soon.
Sign up for my newsletter for a free short story, Brave in Love and get the details of when Ruby and Jarrod’s story will be released.
When Valentine’s Day rolls around I want to look romantic. I like to style my hair in romantic waves and curls and wear makeup. Not least, I’ll choose to dress romantically, even if it’s a dinner I cook at home. Sam and I have been together for four years so we’ve notched up a few Valentine’s day dinners. He’s not super romantic, but goes along with it all to please me. There romance in that.
But not everyone is in a relationship, so to those of you who are single, I was single for a while too. Celebrating Valentine's Day was still fun for me. One year a friend invited her women besties over to her house for dinner. She’d decorated the room with hearts, and we were all dressed up and drinking champagne and toasting each other a happy Valentine’s day. Love comes in all shapes, and types so you can still enjoy the spirit of romance and the day devoted to love with an outfit that makes you feel romantic.
So what do I mean when I say dress romantically? For everyone, that’s going to be a bit different so I wouldn’t like you to think that my style of romantic is for everyone. However the color red and pink preferably together say Valentine’s day. For me flowers are also synonymous with romance. This year I’ll be wearing a dress (pictured above) that I wore to a wedding last year (you might have seen it on my Instagram feed). It has a black background and has a stunning border of pink and red full-blown blooms. They also feature on one shoulder.
In years gone by a red and black dress in chiffon was my favorite. This photo of me and Sam was taken at another wedding. Sam has a matching red tie, how cute is that? I framed this photo of us and gave it to Sam for Valentine’s day the following year. For me silky, slinky and soft fabrics are the sort I love for a romantic mood. Brides choose these sorts of fabrics for their wedding dresses because they’re romantic. Lace is also used for romance, and I’ve seen gorgeous red lace dresses in the shops this year.
A word on red, you need to find a red that will suit your complexion. For me blue-based reds make my skin look healthy and cheeks pink. A yellow based red and my complexion goes grey. Don’t do it to yourself. No matter how much of a discount you’re getting it’s not worth it. Yellow based reds look great on people who can wear orange next to their face. If you gravitate to cool blues, go for a more bluish undertone.
Lastly, be comfortable. Your dress doesn’t need to push up your boobs or cinch your waist. Romance can be sexy, but it’s about love. Love your outfit and yourself in it. If you’re not comfortable, it will show on your face. You want to be able to feel the love of friends family or your partner, not how your shape wear is digging into your ribs. Indulging yourself with a day or evening of feeling lovely and romantic is the goal. Your fashion choices can enhance your experience.
I really and truly hope that you all have a very, lovely, Valentine's Day.
Romance author and lifestyle blogger
My whole life is inspired by romance. I write romance novels of course but also love creating DIY's and decorating in a romantic style. I'm rejuvenating an old garden, recusing roses and planting new ones.