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.
It's the boxing day sales and I'm wanting to go and see what I can buy but, this year, I'm not going to. It's hard but I've made a decision and I want to stick to it. What is it about not shopping that is so challenging?
There's a lovely little craft site that I've been watching on YouTube. While creating a gorgeous shabby chic tea cup bouquet in a live stream video, Olivia, from Olivia's Romantic Home, chatted with the viewers about all sorts of things. A comment came through which she repeated, 'Sometimes it's hard not to shop.' It woke me from my relaxed, dreamy state and sat me up. I totally feel that way.
Since a little girl I've enjoyed spending money. Dad said that when I was little, if I went into Coles with 20 cents, I always come out without it. I'm adult about money now, and don't bankrupt myself with overspending but I do love to buy the odd sweet little thing.
I love to snag a bargain on the internet but Kmart is the place I enjoy shopping at most. Once in the door I head straight to the home decor. At only $5 for a posy of roses or a $3 candle, it's easy to part with the cash. I gaze at the more expensive items that are around $20 and sometimes bring something home.
But now, I've stopped all those pick me up purchases because it can add up over time. Wouldn't it be healthier to spend less time in the home Decor section of Kmart? What if I used that time creating something. I could be writing, also I love to craft and I've let that fall by the wayside until recently.
I'm getting married late next year, and we have a lot to pay for. I want to save every spare dollar so that I can have a lovely romantic themed wedding with roses on the tables and pretty gifts for our guests. I'm hoping to craft some of the decor for our wedding but supplies cost money too.
I've deleted the Wish and Amazon apps from my phone and have curtailed my saunters around Kmart. But not spending was doing my head in.
This Christmas I spent a little on decorating but made nearly everything using only what I have. What is it about your own stuff that is so boring? I look at my fabrics and think but it's not the color I really want, or it's dated. But forcing myself to use what I had made me try to make it work and that stretched me creatively.
Even though my heart was calling for this season's decorations, I resisted and got out my paints. I turned burgundy Santas and a bright red and green nutcracker into pink ones. Baubles got the pink paint treatment to. An old lace curtain became a table cloth, decorations for the tree, garland for a wreath and a table topper. (Click on the Christmas category in the side bar to find the blog posts on how I did it)
I found that not shopping was hard because I wanted that bright new shiny thing for the pick me up it gave me. Nothing is easier or quicker than popping into your favorite shop and buying a little treat to make you happy, but making things gave me a much longer lasting feeling of satisfaction. I still feel a glow as I write about what I made.
The boxing day sales are on, and O BOY I really want to go and live it up but I'm resisting. I really don't need anything. I want new dresses, and shoes, and jewelry, and makeup. But what I have isn't worn out and is just as pretty now as when I bought them. So I'm sticking to my plan and leaving all the tantalizing, new things in the shops.
I believe buying little presents for myself has been a way of expressing self love which is why I feel happy doing it. I now realize that self love can also be the gift of time to do what you love. For me that it craft, writing, cooking, going for a walk to look at the gardens or looking after my own garden.
Shopping in itself isn't a bad thing when you can afford to. Yes, it's hard not to shop when you don't have the money, but either way it's good to think about why that is. What does shopping do for you that could be achieved in a more self affirming way?
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.
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.
Sadness over losing Mum last year is still very present. Sometimes it’s worse than others. But I know what she’d advise me to do, to carry on. When I’m feeling down it can be so hard to be enthusiastic and cheerful. I find if I spend time doing the things I enjoy I can bring some cheerfulness back to remind me there’s still good in my world.
If, like me, you groan at that idea, read on. I have ways to get myself walking by doing things I like that involve taking a stroll. It’s worth trying because; it has been proven that walking is good for enhancing the mood. My Dad thinks it might have something to do with getting more oxygen to the brain, I think he’s got something there. But I also think, getting out of the house for a while works wonders too. But my daughter and I were joking that just walking for the sake of it is a non starter for us. We just won’t. However we know we’ll walk if there’s something to look at or a reason to go somewhere on foot.
I will drive to a small local lake to look at the pretty views and birds. It’s so beautiful it entices me out of the car and walking to the pier. Then I think I’ll go for a walk to see all the plants and birds on the other side. Sometimes I meet my sister and we walk around it together.
Another less obvious walk is to go to a garden centre and walk around looking at the plants. I love this because plant nurseries stock flowering plants so it’s very pretty. I might treat myself and bring home a punnet of seedlings to pot up.
The last way I manage to get a walk in my day is inside but it’s better than not moving. I park my car at one end of my local shopping mall and walk all the way down one side looking in the shops as I go and then all the way back the other side. This is great for really hot or cold/wet weather because it’s air conditioned or heated and dry.
Art and Craft
The act of making something is soothing to my creative soul. I have lots of unfinished projects to choose from so I might tinker with an ongoing hand stitched quilt or do some colouring in. Anyone else love the smell of Derwent pencils?
Christmas was a bit tough this year so I made myself think of some things I could make to lift my Christmas spirit. I saw a YouTube video of wooden clothes peg snowflakes; to me they looked like stars so that’s what I call them. Hot glue gun in hand I made a milky way of wooden stars and it worked like a charm.
YouTube creators have a lively energy. When I’ve absolutely had it with living and am blobbing on the couch but nothing interests me on the TV and I’m just over it all, I go to YouTube. When really sad, I choose an Andre Rieu video and in no time my spirit rises. He actually says a doctor told him that when he plays one of Andre’s DVD’s to patients they all feel well again. It has that effect on me too. I am feeling brighter and enjoying living after listening to a few songs.
I have some other favourite YouTube channels that always give me a lift. Women who do craft and decorate their houses inspire me to make things. Garden Answer is a lovely channel for getting me motivated outside, planting things or potting up cute little succulents.
Of course I sometimes need a good cry. But when it’s time to dry my eyes these things help me to look forward and be as happy as I can. I know Mum would want me to try and make the best of things even though it’s not how I would like it to be.
What gives you pleasure and lifts your mood? Do you know what your top three things are?
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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.