BHL Sabrina dress v3

sabrina front view by fountain

This is my third Sabrina dress. And the best-fitting one yet. The first one was the result of a pattern test for By Hand London and the second, more recent version, was made so I didn’t keep wearing the first one all the time! It was also meant to address some of the fitting issues. But if you read that post, you’d see that I only created more!

But this one is certainly close to the mark with regards a perfect fit.

Most dress patterns come up too big across the back bodice for me. It’s not something I’ve ever properly addressed before I made a Sabrina, mostly because I didn’t know how. But it was as simple as taking a horizontal dart from the centre back and tapering to the armscye.

Sabrina dress back view

If I’m honest, it’s still a little snug across the hips. Probably because this fabric is less forgiving. It’s a sturdy brocade-like viscose. It has shiny woven ‘characters’ on a matt background which works great in the sunshine. The shop assistant guessed it was a polyester, which at £8 a metre stumped us both a little, so he took a sample outside to do a burn test. And it turned out there was more than just a little natural fibre in there!

viscose brocade close up

I also hemmed little bit shorter than the other two.  The skirt section flares out perfectly, especially in this fabric. Perfect for a bit of flirty, flarey fun!

sabrina silhouettes

bhl sabrina battersea

The weather was gorgeous on Wednesday as it is today, and promises to be on the weekend too! So Mr O suggested Battersea Park for our shots. I wasn’t too sold on walking from The Kings Road in Chelsea in high heels but he is mostly and annoyingly right with the no pain, no gain philosophy!

sabrina dress

I remember saying, not so long ago, that I couldn’t bear to make the same thing more than once, given all the amazing options out there. But I’m happy to make as many as it takes if it means I get the perfect fit, and the perfect fabric of course. I still have plans for more of these using some more challenging fabrics but those plans are on hold for a little while, as I focus on what I’m meant to be doing: Dan’s blazer and my Big Vintage Sewalong dress for example… ooops!

The By Hand London Sabrina dress pattern comes in two variations. This one and a lovely strappy button-front one…mmmm… no stop it, Janene. Focus!!


BHL Sabrina in animal print

bhl sabrina dress in leafy arch

I felt the need to sew a failsafe dress. No fancy features, no pattern matching and preferably no lining. One that I’d made before that fits just right and whips up quick. So here she is: The By Hand London Sabrina mark 2 in animal print.

I’m working on a couple of complicated projects at the moment, re Mr O’s #Blazerof2016 and my dress contribution for McCalls Big Vintage Sewalong and I don’t know about you, but whenever I’ve got a lot on, instead of getting on with it, I need a pleasant distraction just to up reduce the stress factor. A little bit of selfish sewing goes a long way in my book!

by hand london sabrina dress

I pattern-tested By Hand London’s Sabrina dress way back in October 2014 and I can honestly say it’s had more wear than any dress I’ve ever owned. To the point that I’m now a bit embarrassed that everyone in the office must think it’s the only dress I own! The fit was pretty good on the first one and all I really needed to do was remove some of the excess fabric from the back.

bhl sabrina back view

So I just needed to pinch out a horizontal dart on the pdf print out I’d kept and well, Bob should have been my lobster… but!

The finished dress came up huge and I just couldn’t fathom why. For sure my choice of fabric had more drape and less structure than the tartan. It’s a cotton/wool blend that I got at a bargain price from Classic Textiles in the Goldhawk Road. It has a little give but no stretch as such. I could only assume that it moved when I pinned it and perhaps I should have used weights. But following a really thinky night’s sleep it dawned on me. And I was horrified to find that I’d paid no heed to the version 1 and 2 lines marked on the front pattern piece. Version two is cut wider for a front fastening and I’m pretty sure I’d placed that pattern line on the fold instead. OMG no wonder I had to take the side seams in an extra inch each side AND pinch an extra quarter inch from the princess seams. It fits now, kinda. But I wish I’d have got it right first time and saved myself the bother of make-shift fitting, doh!

bhl sabrina dress

If I had cut it correctly from the off, it really would have sewn up in less than 3 hours. Not including a hand-sewn hem though. That takes a little time but I much prefer the finish to that of a machined hem, don’t you?

bhl sabrina hemline

This style of dress is so perfect for donning in the morning. No finding a top to match the skirt. Black tights, fancy shoes and perhaps a cardi if its chilly. A simple shift with a draping skirt that falls off the hips. Room to accommodate a cheeky plate of chips and a pint at lunchtime and worn with cardi for when the hot-blooded colleagues take control of the air con.

bhl sabrina dress

Mr O (aka Daniel Selway) took these photos for me, of course. Now that the children are getting older we are just beginning to enjoy a couple of spontaneous hours here and there, zooming off for pints shoots and today’s wander took us to Richmond Hill. I lived there some years ago but quite forgot how breathtaking the views were. And despite the chill factor, the rain held off and it was lovely to wander about the gardens and blossom trees. Actually it was more like an ungainly stagger in those heels If I’m completely honest!

sabrina dress under the blossom tree

That path was a lot steeper and muddier than it looks and Mr O believes I should suffer for my art. Short of a pigeon-toed pose, I’m trying to emulate a snow-plough ski stance here, in order to not fall flat on my face!

bhl sabrina in the blossom

A little stroll around the more wooded areas drummed up a bit of attention from the local wildlife too. This cheeky little robin insisted on following us around. I’d have loved for him to have created an extra splash of red on my shoulder!

robin redbreast in Richmond

Mr Jackdaw was very keen to join us for a cup of tea but I was thankful for him keeping a polite distance.

jackdaw in Richmond

And this wide-eyed and bushy tailed little fella was definitely keen to get in on the action. He looks much more relaxed on his log than I do on mine!

squirrel in Richmond

So that’s my little weekend fix. I managed a whole two days without working; sewed a new dress; got some running in and managed a cheeky afternoon out with Mr O. How was yours?

Sabrina, checked and tested!

Remember Sabrina Duncan? She was my favourite Charlie’s Angel. She was the leader, the rebellious one. Not the one who spent any amount of time on her flicks. Nor ever to be heard complaining about a broken fingernail and her martial arts skills were unrivalled and unhampered by flares. So cool.

What’s that got to do with the price of fish you may well ask… Well this is my Sabrina dress. This is By Hand London’s latest lady and my new go to dress. Not named in honour of my Sabrina as far as I know but in a roundabout way she led the slightly unorthodox approach to this dress.

Sabrina dress in kensington

When I was asked if I’d like to pattern-test this one it was a no-brainer. Not only was the dress named after one of my childhood heroines, it had princess seams that presented a perfect project to utilise some of that inspiration that I sucked from the JPG exhibition. A clash of the Tartans!

Not anywhere near as edgy as JPG himself but I love it all the same.
A great chance to kick start the Autumn wardrobe too.

Minerva kindly supplied the fabric and I knew exactly where I was heading to search for the cloth in question. I’d been trawling recently and had seen these two tartans together. Blackwatch and Royal Stewart – such a great contrast that had to work.

Incidentally this is a poly viscose blend. Apparent from the prewash that future laundering of this dress would be a breeze; Hardly creases; A joy to iron. In fact if hung up to dry properly you could almost get away with not ironing at all.

bhl sabrina dress kensington station

I have a few nitpicky personal fitting issues to sort, namely a sway back adjustment and since studying the photos, I think there is some excess in the upper bust. Even though I made a muslin – I was never going to cut right into that fabulous fabric without testing the waters first!– I didn’t pay proper attention to a perfect fit. Plus its quite tricky when you are up late on your own and don’t have eyes in the back of your head. So with that aside, I made this dress straight from the packet. from one size, no adjustments.

It does fray, this fabric, especially when over handled. But given how the seams are pressed sideways, trimmed and overlocked seams were defo the way forward.

You may well ask why I would want to take on the added pressure of pattern-testing. After all, its not like I’ve got any spare time on my hands. Kids and all the outside school activities that get involved in, full time plus overtime self employedness, and contrary to the belief of my kids I don’t employ fairies to cook clean and bottle-wash and of course my night time activities are sewing! It’s not like it’s paid and its not like I’m given any lead time. And so I have even asked myself the same question. But in writing up this post the ‘why” suddenly presented itself to me in a duh sort of way.

sabrina dress stained glass

I have a list longer than both arms of projects I want to sew. Dresses, jackets, suits and hats. Mostly all of them are inspired by a ready-made pattern that have a ready-made image on the front or in the mag. It’s quite difficult to think outside the box when you are presented with something that fundamentally works already. But when you are given a computer generated line drawing or better still a rough fashion sketch of a dress that isn’t even invented yet, that’s more than enough to shake up all those creative juices and set my brain on fire with ideas, mostly above my station I might add. Leather, feathers, fur, gold lame. It doesn’t matter that most of these aren’t realised. They will be in time. It matters that I’m focussing on the textile rather than the design. That bit has already been done for me in this case by the By Hand London Ladies. So I can concentrate on what fabric will work best which will have greater structure, beautiful drape or sharp enough edges to carry it off properly. It excites me. That is all.

bhl sabrina dress phonebox

I don’t think I pushed the boat out too far with this dress but its a start on my journey of discovery. When I presented my Photoshopped image to Vicki at Minerva she was really excited to see the end result and said she’d never seen those two fabrics put together before.

I’d like to try some leather in place of the Blackwatch in the future but even a pvc might be as good. I think Ms Duncan is calling for some added tomboy!

The dress itself is such a flattering and simple shape. Nicely fitted to the waist and charmingly flared to just above the knee. Its also a great base for incorporating a collar, changing a neckline adding some bodice detail.

sabrina dress tube stn

It sews up real quick. Just be careful around the bust shape and watch out for puckers. That happened on my muslin.

It’s unlined. Just has a bodice facing which is all you need really for a medium weight woven. Doesn’t stick to my tights either!

The hem should be kept small to avoid gathering the excess in the flare and I would say that was the trickiest bit.

I kid you not its had more wears than any dress in my wardrobe and it’s the newest!

The above shots were taken in and around South Kensington and at the Victoria and Albert museum. That’s my favourite London hangout too by the way!

sabrina dress, victoria and albert museum

We were child- and fancy-free and popped in to see the Horst exhibition. Perfect inspiration for some glamourous dresses and stunningly lit fashion photography. Just Google Horst photographs for an eyeful of awesomness!

sabrina dress at the victoria and albert museum

Photography Daniel James Photographic
Shoes Lola Ramona
Handbag: FARA Ealing

On winning my most favourite pattern yet

Butterick_547I do worry myself sometimes. It’s not as if I don’t have enough patterns. It’s not even as if I don’t own any lovely vintage coat patterns. They just weren’t the right ones. And I just didn’t know it until I saw this one. And I wanted it.

The trouble is, someone else clearly had the same line of thinking, and that person wanted it badly too. We went head to head on Ebay. I even warned my prospective opponent up front, via Twitter, that I really really wanted it. But when the bidding reached £40, still with 3 days to go, I decided to back out.

But I dreamt about the finished coat in the meantime. I had a vivid dream of twirling in a garden. Heaven knows where I was. That was beside the point. It was enough of a sign that I had to get back on that bidding horse. After all, how much in real money would a ready made coat like that cost me in real life? I bags I couldn’t even find one to fit so perfectly for any money.

But I wasn’t that hasty, oh no. I did a frantic 2-hour search online just to check that there wasn’t the self same pattern in hyperspace ready to pop in my shopping cart for a fiver. Of course there wasn’t. In fact there wasn’t a single solitary fitted coat pattern remotely similar, anywhere on the web. I guess that’s why I had such a fiesty opponent to deal with.

Anyhows. To cut a long story of a 7-day bid a little bit shorter. I won this gorgeous pattern for a princessly sum of £50. It made a giant hole in my monthly budget and It’s true to say I would have happily survived without it. But I don’t regret it one tiny little bit.

I’m casually stroking wool in all my local fabric shops. Doing the sums and still constantly dreaming of twirling around in the finished article. But I have to say, it’s doing nothing to help me keep cool at night, I can tell ya!

All is rosy in an Elisalex

Elisalex in red roses dressHooray for Elisalex! I want to shout it from the rooftops! I am sooooo happy with this dress. Does it show?!

We had the loveliest day yesterday. Sunshine, park-life and the company of great friends. And the perfect day in fact for an Elisalex showcase!

Elisalex dress in rose print

This is the first independent pattern I have purchased. I’m mostly persuaded by the charm of a vintage pattern but having seen lots of gorgeous examples modelled recently I was totally sold on this dress.

Those girls over at By Hand London have my total respect. Not only does this dress look amazing on everyone who wears it, I kid you not when I say what a joy it is to make. Just one test garment and boom, on to the real one! No faffing, no head scratching and no time-consuming fussiness about it.

I know a few of you have voiced concern over the shape of the tulip skirt – and I have to admit, I did waver myself – but believe me, I am not of minimal hip or butt for sure and although the shape is all about that area, it flatters beyond belief! This is also the most easy to wear dress ever. Not out of place for a picnic but would also go down a treat at a wedding or a party or a shopping trip…

Elisalex dress in rose print

I made this one with a great score of stretch cotton fabric that I shared with Dolly Clacket, whilst on our Goldhawk Road shopping trip organised by House of Pinheiro. It’s totally machine washable and has enough stretch to fit so comfortably without losing shape anywhere at all. It was a dream to sew. Hardly fraying at all. The skirt is nipped in at the hem so that little bit of stretch helps for bigger walking steps too!

The only worry, working with this fabric was how to line the bodice. Given the stretch, I didn’t want an un-stretchy lining. And given the princess seams I wanted as smooth a finish on the inside as there was on the outside. Given that stretch lining doesn’t appear to exist anywhere on the planet I bit the bullet and self-lined. There was a minor moment of panic when I thought this just might make for too much bulk. Its heavier than your usual woven cotton which is great for the structure of the skirt… but it worked a treat!

This pattern is defo a keeper. Any dress that can be rustled up in a couple of evenings and makes me this happy is worth making again, and again… and again!

Elisalex the perfect picnic dress

Thank you, as always to my wonderful though crazy, dog-biscuit munching, talented photographer hubster, Daniel x

daniel eating dog biscuits

A proper pencil skirt

pencil skirt

I do believe I have sewn a garment in the same month as the current Burdastyle! Not sure that has happened before. But I was very excited about April’s edition and I knew I would make this skirt.


I love classic, timeless styles. And the pencil skirt is no exception. Worn anywear, anytime, dressed up or down, it makes getting dressed for work or an evening out, a mindless operation! I also love that it can be modern or vintage, whatever you team it with.

Satin was the suggestion for this particular version but there was another one with a gabardine recommendation. Satin is a bit too posh for work and everyday so I set off to get some gabardine. I bought some but wasn’t filled with the usual glee once I’d parted with my cash. Praps it will soften a bit in the wash, I thought! But just as I was on my way out of the shop my eyes continued searching – as they always do – and I spotted some black stretch denim. That’s the stuff, I thought. And I was right. Comfy, casual but smart and sturdy enough to hold me in, in all the right places!

pencil skirt

This is possibly the shapeliest pencil skirt pattern I have come across. Largely due to the panels and princess seams I would assume. It is really high waisted and a lack of waistband allows for a shapely top at the waist, or near under-bust!

The instructions didn’t relay details of a lining and I have learned hard lessons from not including one so I dug out some deep red poly lining, cut the same pieces as the skirt, minus the facing and allowed a pleat in the front.

lining pleat

I felt quite pleased with myself for remembering this trick but alas it wasn’t enough ease to have just the one in the front. I should have really allowed for another two, one at the top of each back panel. It really is a very snug fit!

The invisible zip went in without any probs. It lines up and everything!

invisible zip

I will definitely return to this pattern at some point and would love to make a posh version and include the couture techniques suggested on the Burda Style website, namely adding boning, underlining etc.

But I seriously must not veer off the project list any more than I already have! I have much more interesting projects to fry, not least of all my jacket! I can report that it is, at last, taking shape, all be it in the initial stages, but it has a body, nonetheless, and some welt pockets with flaps and a collar ready and waiting its turn….. honest! 😉