Recreating Ready To Wear: LK Bennett Tweed Shift

I don't know about you, but since I started sewing my own clothes regularly I can often be found taking photos of things I've seen in shops so that I can recreate them myself. 

Sometimes they're simple things that I think I could make a better job of, or change slightly, sometimes they're things I couldn't afford to buy even if I wanted to. 

This dress falls into the second category.

A few weeks ago I was out shopping with my husband and I saw this dress in the window of LK Bennett. 

LK Bennett Nessa Tweed shift dress
I didn't even go in and look at it because I knew I wouldn't be able to afford it, but I did think I could make it myself. 

It's basically a simple shift dress with added fringed edging to the hem, neckline, sleeve hems, pockets and centre front. 

I dug out an old favourite pattern, New Look 6000, and had a rummage in my fabric stash.  I didn't have anything identical fabric wise, but I did have a couple of metres of cream and black dogtooth check fabric that I bought about four years ago and had never used.  It was one of those purchases when you just want to buy something and I was never quite sure what I was going to do with it. 

My version of the LK Bennett dress.

I've made the simple shift dress version of NL6000 several times so I knew I didn't need to make a muslin.  The only change when cutting out the fabric was to cut the front as two separate halves, with a seam allowance at centre front, rather than cut it on the fold. 

When sewing it up I omitted the front fisheye darts at the waist and just sewed the bust darts.  On the back I sewed the fisheye darts as normal. 

For the fringed trim at the centre front I sewed the two front pieces together WRONG sides together, pressed the seam allowance open and then topstitched down the seam with a wide zigzag stitch.  I then fringed the two seam allowances to create a double row of fringing.  It's not exactly the same as the inspiration dress, but it wasn't until after I'd cut it out (stupidly) that I really thought about how I was going to do the trim.

Here you can see the zigzag stitch I used to secure the seam allowance at centre front.

The rest of the dress was sewn as per the pattern and I added the fringed trim after it had all come together.  I simply cut a strip of fabric, sewed it to the appropriate hem/edge with a zigzag stitch and then carefully pulled out the threads to create a fringe effect.  It was fun, but rather messy.  The zigzag stitch has the added benefit of preventing the fabric from fraying too much. 

Fringed trim on sleeve.

The hem and sleeve trims were added after I'd finished these hems, the neckline trim was added before I finished the neck because I didn't want my black zigzag stitch to show on the bright pink bias tape I used to finish the neckline. 

Neckline finish.

Pockets were added once the dress was complete.  I basically guessed on the size I wanted and marked the position of the top inner corner of one of them with a safety pin while trying the dress on.  Luckily I got the placement right first time!

The pocket blends pretty well into the dress, with just the fringe showing.

This is one of the things I love most about sewing; seeing something I would love to own but can't afford, or that doesn't fit me quite how I'd like it to, and being able to make it myself.

Back neckline and invisible zip.

I hope you've enjoyed seeing how I turn my ready to wear inspiration into a me-made garment.  I've got lots more of these posts planned and will be doing a monthly series.  I've teamed up with Minerva crafts to bring you Recreating Ready to Wear posts over the next three months, so watch this space.

Made by Me: Alison Glass Woven Essentials Dress

I recently made this dress as a shop sample for Fabric HQ.  It's made using the Woven Essentials pattern by Alison Glass, and it's lovely!

I'm really annoyed with myself that I didn't take some photographs of the pattern packaging, because it's really great.  The pattern actually comes in the form of a booklet and as well as instructions for a short sleeved shift dress, a long sleeved, gathered skirt dress, an A-line skirt and a tunic top, you also get fitting instructions and a section at the back with ideas for embellishments for your finished item, if that's your kind of thing.  The pattern sheets are all in an envelope at the back of the booklet, and the booklet itself is printed on lovely thick paper.  It's gorgeous!

These are the garments you can make from this pattern, as well as a knee length (or any length!) A-line skirt.

I made the basic short sleeved shift dress shown on the left in the above collage. 

As I was making this for a shop sample (albeit in my size, so that I can wear it when they've finished with it), Fabric HQ kindly provided me with the pattern and fabric.  They requested that I used Frou Frou fabric, which is a beautiful cotton lawn in various colourways and floral patterns.  The colour choice was mine and although there are some lovely lighter summery colours, I chose this pretty navy design as I thought it would work year round. 

As you can see, I used one of my favourite sewing techniques and piped the neckline, sleeve hems and also the waist seam.  For this I used a package of Frou Frou bias tape in a pink colourway that coordinated really well with my main fabric.  I just managed to squeeze all my piping out of one package of tape, but did have to cut the last bit in half lengthways to get enough for the sleeve hems. 

The pattern is very good, the instructions are detailed enough for a beginner to use and the added fitting instructions and information is very useful. 

At £23.00 the pattern isn't cheap, but then you do get what amounts to four or five different patterns in one once you've taken into account all the variations included.  I'm sure you could probably come up with more variations as well, you could add short sleeves to the full skirted dress or long sleeves to the shift dress.

I'll definitely be making this pattern again, I can see the shift dress working well in a tweedy fabric for work or in lace for a Christmas party dress. 

Watch this space on that last thought...

My Favourite Sewing Techniques - Piping

Today I'm going to show you how to do two different types of piping - single and double. 

I love piping, I've used it a couple of times recently, once in a dress I made for myself that I have yet to blog (but will do shortly) and in a dress I made as a commission. 

As you can see from the photos of both the dresses, you can achieve very different looks with piping, and it can be used either on edges (necklines, sleeve hems, etc) or between two panels or parts of a garment.

You will need to same equipment for both single and double piping:

Bias strips of fabric - or ready made bias tape pressed flat.
Piping cord - for this tutorial I have used 2mm cord.
A piping foot or zip foot for your sewing machine.
The fabric or pieces of the garment you want to pipe.

For ease of demonstration I've chosen to pipe a straight seam, but you can also pipe curved seams such as necklines, or princess seams in dresses.

For single piping using 2mm cord and a seam allowance of 5/8", cut a bias strip of fabric 1 and a half inches wide.  Lay your piping cord down the centre (I normally cut the cord a little bit longer than my bias strip).

Pin in place, close to the cord with the two long edges of the bias strip together.

Put your piping foot (or zip foot) on your machine.  Here's a close up of my piping foot, you should just about be able to see the little grove (to the left of the red line) that sits over the piping cord.  You can get piping feet in different sizes, for different sized cords.

Sew down your strip of fabric, as close to the cord as you can.  The piping foot should allow you to get very close.

You will then have something that looks a bit like this:

Pin your strip of piping to the main fabric, making sure the edge of the piping strip matches up with the edge of the fabric.

Lay the second piece of fabric over the top and move the pins so that they secure all the layers together.  The edges of all layers of fabric should match.

Sew down the seam.  You can just about see the little bump of the cord between the layers of fabric. 

Press the seam open.

From the front of the piece, you will now have piping between the two panels of fabric. 


Or for a piped neckline or hem, press the facing piece to the wrong side:
And there you have a single piped seam.
For a double piped seam cut two bias strips, one 1 and a half inches wide, and the other 1 and a quarter inches wide.  The narrower strip will sit on top of the wider one.  You can either make them the same colour or contrasting colours.   Make two pieces of piping in the same way as shown above.
Pin them together with the narrower strip sitting on top of the wider one.
If you are using double piping in a curved seam, you may find it easier to pin the wider piece in place first, then pin the narrower one afterwards.  This may make it easier to ease them neatly and evenly around the curve.
As before, pin them between the two pieces of fabric where you want the piping to be, and sew as close to the edge of the piping as possible.  You may need to use a zip foot this time, unless you have a piping foot wide enough to sit over the full width of both cords. 
Press the seam open.
Note that you will need to take extra care to insert double piping the right way round so that the narrower strip is on top once you've pressed your seam open.  Single piping looks the same from both sides, but double piping doesn't.  If you were piping something like the pale pink dress I've shown above with double piping you would need to make sure that the piping was mirrored on each side of the dress, so that the same colour was nearest the centre on both sides. 
You could also use double piping around a neckline, or on the edge of an item. 
From the back you can only see the strip that sits underneath. 
How do you feel about piping?  Is it a technique that you love, or one that you stay away from?
I'll hopefully be doing a monthly post on my favourite sewing techniques, please let me know if there's anything you would like me to cover. 

Colours of Autumn

Yes, I know it's only the beginning of August but I was wandering around the shops yesterday lunchtime and everywhere I went they'd started to bring their Autumn ranges into the stores. 

I have to say, I loved a lot of what I saw; I'm definitely more of an Autumn/Winter girl than a Spring/Summer one.  I actually can't wait to get my opaque tights out and start layering up again.  Sorry, that's just the way I am.  I feel far more comfortable in Autumn/Winter clothing and I do in thin Summer dresses and the like. 

Anyway, what struck me most was the lovely colour palette; dark, bottle greens, ochre/mustard yellows and orangey rusts.  Gorgeous!  It all looked very 1970's to me, in colour if nothing else. 

I thought I'd share with you some of my favourite pieces from my quick look yesterday, and maybe some suggestions for recreating the looks yourself.

I went into Marks and Spencer first.  I always look in there, they can be a bit hit and miss, but generally the Autograph range is good and so is the Limited Collection.  However yesterday I think several of the items I liked were from the Per Una range, which is one I rarely look at as it normally features embellished knits and "overdesigned" garments as far as I'm concerned. 


This Ponte tunic dress looked pretty nice, easy to wear, comfortable but still halfway smart.  I like dresses like this for work as I often spend several hours in the car getting to where I'm going, and wearing jersey or Ponte fabrics means I reach my destination largely crease free.  I'd wear this to work and at weekends, with opaque tights and ankle boots.   

You could easily use a simple shift dress pattern to recreate this, the trick is finding two striped fabrics in matching colours but with differing width stripes.  That could be a bit difficult, so you could always do a stripe for the body and plain sleeves, or vice versa if that was more your thing.

I loved this green lace skirt, but am not really sure where I'd wear it.  For me this would probably be a special occasion type garment, although I do love simple lace skirts with a chunky sweater and (again) opaque tights. 

There are any number of simple skirt patterns that you could use for this - I would use my skirt block - either straight or A-line, and White Tree Fabrics have a lovely selection of laces that would work a treat for this. 

This coat is the perfect style and length for me, and I adore the colour.  I'm not a fan of coats with collars, and the length of this would make it an ideal coat to wear in the car - see above, I spend a LOT of time in my car. 

Burdastyle Dress Coat 09/2012 #102 is a pretty good match for this, although it has raglan sleeves and inseam pockets rather than patch pockets. 

Patch pockets would be easy to add though.  I'm sure a more thorough search would bring up something even closer.

I really liked these ochre/mustard culottes as well.  I think I'd have a go at drafting my own, once I've finished my trouser block.  I must get that back out, I started it months ago!

Then I moved on to Next.  Again, I generally have a look in here but I'm often disappointed.  Most of their clothes seem very identifiable as being from Next which some people might like... I don't.  But it's a pretty good place to get ideas and they do have some nice pieces.

There were a few things I fell in love with, the first being this skirt.  I love, love, love the fabric.  To me its very Art Nouveau / William Morris. 

Again, its a simple shape which would be easy to recreate, and if you wanted to make your own there are plenty of furnishing fabrics around with this type of print.  You could even go the whole way and treat yourself to some Morris & Co fabric, although at £59 a metre I'm not sure I would.  I know this is a sewing blog, but I can see myself just buying this skirt. 

Classic William Morris "Strawberry Thief" design.

William Morris "Lodden" fabric
This lace top would look lovely with the ochre culottes from M&S above, or with a black pencil skirt or trousers; maybe even with the skirt above.  Again, White Tree Fabrics would be an excellent place to look for lace to recreate this.  Apparently they have over 700 lace fabrics on their website, so I'm sure you'd find something you loved.

I then spotted this dress and again I love everything about it.  The cut, the colour, they really are me!  I'm definitely going to recreate this; I will probably use Alison Glass's Woven Essentials pattern (which I have recently made as a sample for Fabric HQ and am yet to blog about) and draft some flutter sleeves.  This pattern is great by the way - you get a basic shift dress with a slightly A-line skirt, then additional pattern pieces for a gathered skirt, longer sleeves, a skirt and a tunic top.  Although the pattern is for wovens, I'd make this in a Ponte fabric.  Minerva Crafts have some in a Forest Green which looks as if it's an almost exact match.

Finally, another dress and not a style I'd normally go for.

To me though, this looks REALLY Vivienne Westwood and you should know by now how much I love her designs.  I think you could use the (sadly now out of print) DKNY Vogue 1488 as a starting point for this.  I'm so glad I bought this before it was discontinued. 

Change the neckline to a V-neck and lengthen the sleeves and you're pretty much there!  I'll be searching for some large plaid fabric later!

I hope you've enjoyed my virtual shopping spree.  Have you started thinking about Autumn projects yet or is it far too early for you?