Working on the bias: My first Sicily slip dress

Janene is wearing her handmade Sicily slip dress and is posing with one hand on hip in front on a white door surrounded by brickwork and ivy overhead. She is wearing a self-drafted black turtleneck top, grey bobble hat, black rimmed glasses and Vivienne Westwood Bondage Boots.

I’ve been admiring all the Masin Sicily slips since I saw the very first one, with the same thought in mind each time ~ could I pull it off?!

It’s a very clingy nowhere-to-hide kinda dress and I’ve never been ok with putting my belly out there but I figured I’d never know the level of exposure until I tried!

But why the lilac Janene? Haha, I thought I’d get in there before anyone else does! Because to be fair I don’t often break out of my red and black palette. (I’ll be running back to safety after this post, don’t you chicken curry about that!)

Janene is wearing her handmade Sicily slip dress and is posing with both hands on hips in front on a white door surrounded by brickwork and ivy overhead. She is wearing a self-drafted black turtleneck top, grey bobble hat, black rimmed glasses and Vivienne Westwood Bondage Boots.

Truth be told there was a lilac lovers party going on and fomo got the better of me! Hosted by Cut One Pair and Pigeon Wishes and to celebrate the collaborative button collection this is the second time in the space of a few weeks that an Instagram challenge has given me a push out of my comfy zone. My first being my now favourite jumper!

I have never sewn a bias cut dress. Save a bias cut skirt section of the BHL Jenna dress which I just realized I never blogged (doh!). And I can’t actually remember the last time I sewed a cowl neckline so I was really looking forward to (read, super apprehensive about) making this dress!

Back vew of Janene wearing her handmade Sicily slip dress. She is posing with both hands on hips in front on a white door surrounded by brickwork and ivy overhead. She is wearing a self-drafted black turtleneck top, grey bobble hat and Vivienne Westwood Bondage Boots.

Now for clarity (and first note to self) I have to say that putting together 50-odd sheets of A4 pattern pieces nearly drove me over the edge. And not for the first time. I don’t know why I put myself through this. Rewatching The Crown while I was doing it eased a bit of the pain but I so don’t want to do that again for a very long time!! Took me an age to get back up off the floor, if nothing else!

The next issue I had was cutting it out. I invested in an A0 cutting mat (Affiliate link) some time ago. It was quite pricey but equally worth every penny. I quickly learned that cutting slippery fabrics with scissors was not the best way forward the first time I tried! So I had both mat and rotary cutter lined up but still, working on the floor was a bit of a nightmare. I had to roll the rug back on the living room floor to pin the pattern to fabric and then roughly cut around each piece so they would fit on the mat to then be cut out more accurately.

Janene is wearing her handmade Sicily slip dress and is posing with arms outstretched in front of a white door surrounded by brickwork and ivy overhead. She is wearing a self-drafted black turtleneck top, grey bobble hat, black rimmed glasses and Vivienne Westwood Bondage Boots.

It was better than I expected but the pinning and shifting of pieces was a little detrimental, I’m sure, and I’d have much rather have used pattern weights and cut on a large sturdy eye-level purpose built cutting table. Excuse me while I dream the sewing studio dream… again!

This is the first time I have used a sewing pattern by Masin and I have to say I found the instructions beautifully laid out, concise and super helpful. There’s a clear explanation of bias grain behaviour and how to pick the correct size. Having said that I still managed to pick a size too big because my hips are bigger proportionally than my bust (so I made the wrong choice instead of grading). And I think that is why my cowl neckline appears rather more dramatic than most. I’m still deciding if I’m comfortable with it. It’s perfectly fine layered with an undergarment but I’ve got a whole pack of tit tape at the ready for when I dare to wear it on its own!

waist up image of Janene, wearing Masin Sicily slip dress. She is holding 3 lilac colour carnations with both hands to the bottom of the frame. She is wearing black rimmed glasses and her head is back, laughing.

I was surprised that this view A with the skinny straps was suggested as the easiest version to sew. It’s taken me years to master those spaghetti rouleaus! But I have to say now that I’ve grasped it, I actually quite enjoy making them. I recently posted a little tutorial here if you are interested:  Rouleau Loops Made Simple

There are very few pattern pieces for view A – like front, front facing, back with facing, and strap – and no closures; so the rest of the instructions were super plain sailing BUT… and quite a big BUT…

I think I made a boo boo by stay stitching the bias side edges with a straight stitch. I’m not entirely sure because I could have stretched out the seams when it hung over the edge of the table as I sewed, or perhaps as I was sewing the actual seams. I did use a small wide zigzag stitch to French seam the sides but of course that was like closing the stable door after the horse has bolted! While the dress is hanging, the bias cut fabric is going to stretch more but the stay-stitching is going to… well, STAY! (Second note to self: try zigzag stay-stitching too!)

Side view of Janene wearing her handmade Sicily slip dress and is posing with right index finger on lip in front on a white door surrounded by brickwork and ivy overhead. She is wearing a self-drafted black turtleneck top, grey bobble hat, black rimmed glasses and Vivienne Westwood Bondage Boots.

All was not lost though. The worst of the puckering was near to the hemline and I had been mulling over a choice of midi and mini length at the start. So decision was made when I realised I could crop off the worst areas by going for a mini length!

I’m pretty pleased with my hemming too. I sewed a quarter inch away from the cut line and pressed as instructed and then sewed close to the second fold. Even though this velvet touch poly is totally synthetic I was amazed that it pressed so beautifully.

Detail of small hem on dress. Cropped image of hands holding out skirt to sides

Once again I have learned new things. Testing things but valuable lessons all the same and nowhere near testing enough to put me off trying again – the absolute best thing about sewing adventures!

All in all I am delighted with the outcome and I will be revisiting this pattern again. Leopard print satin is already prewashed and sitting patiently atop the stash! So if anyone has any thoughts about stay-stitching bias dress side seams before I crack on, please let me know in the comments below. And I will love you forever!

Janene is wearing her handmade Sicily slip dress and is skipping towards the lens in front on a white door surrounded by brickwork and ivy overhead. She is wearing a self-drafted black turtleneck top, grey bobble hat, black rimmed glasses and Vivienne Westwood Bondage Boots.

Lovely photos by Daniel James Photographic

Testing the Tamzin dress

BHL tamzin dress by ooobop

It’s been a while since I’ve taken on any pattern testing. I’ve been trying to claw back time so I can focus on a whole host of things that I want to work on and develop and I managed to resist the urge until By Hand London contacted me to test the tremendous Tamzin dress. How could I possibly refuse?

It’s so floaty, so folksy yet so cool and classy all at the same time.

And if you hadn’t noticed already there’s some beautiful bonus details which bring the added charm.

A square neckline is always a favourite of mine. I love the clean lines and that it shows just enough skin to keep it classy. The external front and back neckline facing is such a neat finish. I’m sure it helped that I used quite a lightweight fabric to get that topstitching nice and consistent but the proof will be in the pudding when I get my hands on some lovely linen for the next version. I just can’t resist the urge to embellish that facing much like Elisalex did.

BHL Tamzin dress made by ooobop

Incidentally the fabric I used for this was won over a year ago, in the #brightsewing challenge hosted by @thepinkcoatclub and @theunfinishedseamstress. (I had entered my Yellow shiny appliquéd number!) Part of my prize was a voucher which went towards this amazing Atelier Brunette diamond viscose fabric from SisterMintaka. It is such a beautifully soft and draping fabric that I was almost too scared to use it. I wanted it to be for something special and, well now you see it!

I didn’t quite have enough for the full length of skirt – its quite hungry on the yardage due to those pin tucks and the sleeves pieces are huuuge! – but to be fair, I had already decided on a shorter version so there wasn’t any heartache involved. Except I sewed the pin tucks too small!

And let’s just take a moment to ogle at the pin tucks on the sleeves. Aren’t they simply divine?!

By Hand London Tamzin Dress sleeve detail

Before I read the instructions I had anticipated a right royal pain in the arse time of getting them even, especially with drifting draping fabric but there is a nifty technique included to make life so much easier and perfectly sized and spaced pint tucks to boot!

Now you may think I’m being lazy here but another selling point of this pattern is that there are no closures on this dress other than the delightful back ties. I don’t hate sewing zips as much as I used to but the joy in not having to sew one at all is immense!

BHL Tamzin dress handmade my ooobop

I chose the variation with the ties that start from the side front and wrap around the back. There is another version of the tie that starts from the back. But I wanted all that ribbon detail and for it to cinch me in at the waist.

I think you can probably tell already how happy I am with the result.

BHL Tamzin dress made by ooobop

The instructions were super clear, and it was a joy to sew. Not complicated at all but I must add that it’s not the quickest dress to whip up – those added details come at a price of a couple of hours more but it’s totally worth it.

Are you sold? Or have you made one already? I’d love to know what you think either way.