Tag Archives: Crepe

Phoebe in blue (& a discount!)

I had no immediate urge to sew the Phoebe dress when it was released by Colette Patterns.  I liked the look of it, & thought the styling was cute, but I did not fall over myself to acquire it & make it.  It was not one of those love at first sight patterns, I’ll admit.  But there is something about sewing a Colette pattern that still feels like a total treat – the spa experience of sewing.  Relax, sink into new depths of peace whilst you focus on the detail as guided in the signature little instruction booklet.  You know you are sewing something stylish.  You know it will be a quality garment.    You don’t have to print out reams of A4 sheets depleting your ink & then tape together on the rug in front of the TV.  You pop the envelope, reach inside for the crisp tissue paper folded as it will never ever be again & unwrap your next sewing adventure.  There is something very experiential.  It’s worth taking your time over.

phoebe dress

Phoebe dress is described by Colette Patterns as

A modern A line sheath dress with a customizable style. The lined bodice shaped with princess seams makes Phoebe incredibly easy to fit. Angled waist darts create a flattering shape that is echoed by the lightly flared skirt.

There are two versions – a straight plain fronted dress & a double breasted dress with buttons. I chose the latter as why not get some button interest going?!Phoebe is a modern A-line sheath dress with a customizable style. The lined bodice shaped by princess seams makes Phoebe incredibly easy to fit. Angled waist darts create a flattering shape that is echoed by the lightly flared skirt. Phoebe is a modern A-line sheath dress with a customizable style. The lined bodice shaped by princess seams makes Phoebe incredibly easy to fit. Angled waist darts create a flattering shape that is echoed by the lightly flared skirt. Phoebe is a modern A-line sheath dress with a customizable style. The lined bodice shaped by princess seams makes Phoebe incredibly easy to fit. Angled waist darts create a flattering shape that is echoed by the lightly flared skirt.

phoebe dress

Sew Essential provided me with the Phoebe sewing pattern (they stock so many of the Independent pattern companies’ sewing patterns now along with all of the bigger brands) and some fabric to make it up in.  I was taken by the crepe dress making fabric, & figured a royal blue Phoebe would be super playfully chic if I made it as a pinafore.  Yes, I can wear pinafores, it doesn’t have to be something for the youngsters.  I felt could make it work.

I am not the standard Colette Patterns bodice shape so I had to make a toile, then another, then another.  I think back on that afternoon & remember I was watching episode after episode of the Great Interior Design Challenge on iPlayer through this experience.  Do you remember things like that?  What you were listening to/ watching when you sew something?  For my Joan dress, for example it was the new series of the X Files…..the Rhys Darby episode particularly sticks in my mind.


My version is the white paper – the original is tissue paper behind

So the bodice took some work to get it to fit my (clearly odd ) non standard shape.  It was an effort, as always, because the area that was so wrong for me was behind me.  I pinched out the excess as best as I could & then kept making new versions up with each set of adjustments until I came as close as I was prepared to.  Comparing the original piece with the ‘badger body’ back bodice I was surprised to see that it was in the upper shoulder area – my adjustments to the Laurel dress have a much smaller adjustment taken off at the back shoulder, but the rest of the dress fitted much more easily.  Just interesting.  And I felt I was toiling like a pro when I was transferring the adjustments to the pattern pieces & then remembering to make compensatory adjustments to the armsyce.  Gosh I have learnt so much from the online sewing community.

During the evolution of the toile I was able to see where the bodice waist seam was going to fall – it is higher than my natural waist.  I had the opportunity to lower the waist if I wanted, but as you can see, I was happy with the higher waist (good camouflage for those bloaty days) but could squeeze a sway back adjustment into the final version.

I was confident that I could make adjustments to the skirt in progress & not toile it.  It seems fitting that the bulk of the content in this write up is devoted to the bodice as that is where it felt that all the time went!  Once I had got to my final bodice I could not wait to get sewing.  It is a lined bodice, but I also lined the skirt as well.  The instructions of course are clear & carefully take you through the sewing process, including the bodice lining.  I opted to sew my skirt lining into waist seam & hand sew the bodice at the waist over the top.  I wanted the weight of the skirt to pull the bodice ever so slightly as it fitted better like that!


The Phoebe dress doesn’t have to have a centre back invisible zip but that’s what I chose.  If there is a faux double breasted front, let’s hide the real opening I thought.  (The instructions suggest using a regular zip).  Onto that double breasting.  Yes it is faux in that it doesn’t function as a way in/ out of the dress.  But it is made up of two separate overlapping lined bodice fronts so if you played with the skirt, you could make this into a suit dress hack with buttons going all the way down the skirt front too.   Hmm.  That could look pretty cool – pinstripe maybe over a plain white shirt?

phoebe dress

Back to this version though.  Call me lazy (but not too loud!) but I was not going to sew buttonholes just for the sake of it.  There are 10 buttons after all & with buttonholes, mo matter how careful you are, there are always stray tufts sticking out.  You could of course go full on & sew bound buttonholes making this rather a showcase of skill.  But not me, not this time.  I sewed the buttons onto the markings through all bodice layers.  This keeps the bodice where it needs to be & with the bonus of buttons.  I like royal blue & black so hunted out a couple of options.  Here are the two choices I gave myself – both plastic-  flowers & faceted jet-like buttons.  I had the fortune of a second opinion via my sewing guru (my Mum) & we concurred – flowers were more fun.

Here it is in action, photos courtesy of my very own David Bailey  father.  I took Phoebe with me on my last visit, handsewing still to be completed, but knowing that my family photographer loves to be called on for a photoshoot with a willing idiot….

phoebe dress

One thing I will say.  The fit feels good, the bodice has less ease due to it being kind of tailored.  The front is easy to fit with princess seams, but the back is where my problems were…never easy when you sew solo.

phoebe dress

If I was to wear this without a top underneath my bra straps show.  That could be down to my armsyce adjustments (pride comes before a fall afterall) or maybe they are more scooped.  Anyone else made Phoebe who can comment?

phoebe dress

Anyway, the gorgeous crepe dressmaking fabric  that I used is available from Sew Essential – lots of colours available  & this is an Orla top, made from the cream crepe, isn’t it fine?  You can get the Phoebe dress sewing pattern at Sew Essential too …and until the 29th March 2016 there is a 10% discount if you use the code BADGER10!  Tempted?

Minerva make: Vogue 8829 in crepe

Minerva make: bow neck shirt dress truly awesome …

crepe 1So let me tell you where I started with this month’s Minerva Blogger network make.  I started for a change with the pattern.  Usually I start with the fabric & then match to the pattern, but this time it was different.    Vogue 8829 is a pattern I’ve had for about a year, and always bring out to swoon over.  This folks is a shirt dress with sophistication & elegance.

Whilst it provides quite a few design options in terms of skirt shape, length, sleeve length & even collar style for me it was always going to be knee length pussy bow with sleeves (long or short).  It was also always going to be a dress I made in a solid colour- I could not imagine it in a print (except polka dots) , and that is why I have never made it until now – most of my stash & fabric buying tends to be ruled by prints you see.  So making my Minerva wish list up started with selecting this pattern & choosing suitable fabric from there.

crepe 3With my Minerva makes I try to extend my sewing skills & try something new.  I aim to develop my sewing skills & experience as it could be that if it scares me it might scare others, & if I can breathe in & take the plunge, it’ll encourage others to try as well.

This month’s personal challenge was to sew with fabric that was expensive (to me).  Being someone who is always attracted by discounts & bargains I almost have subconscious guidelines on how far my purchasing power extends, as one of the reasons I sew is to have an array of unique clothing that is not only very personal, but does not cost me the earth.  I am at heart a cheapskate.  This means that any quality “expensive” fabric that I do buy tends to lay wrapped up in tissue paper in a drawer until I can pluck up the courage to slice into it with my shears.  Therefore, choosing some absolutely incredible “designer” crepe as my November supplies forced me to be brave, to put my teddy bear to one side, take my thumb out of my mouth & lavish reverence, care & extreme attention on this most stately fabric.  I hoped this crepe would make a winter dress for work that would be easy to care for, but never having worked with crepe before, I did not really know if it would be true!  But folks, in reality this fabric is not as expensive as buying a ready to wear dress – remember that.  This fabric costs £11.99 per metre and is 150cm wide.  This dress takes 2 m – it really is not expensive!

crepe 2So this fabric is amazing folks.  It is definitely a mid weight autumn/ winter dress fabric.  Apart from its wonderful touch (feel the quality) & drape, it has two very distinct finishes.  It could be described as “self lined” for those who want to wear it with matt side out, shiny side in.  But then you might want to wear it shiny side out, in which case the inside would be matt.    However, even though the pattern envelope of my chosen dress showcased a dress in shiny fabric, I knew that would not be my look of choice.  Matt side out was my intention from the outset.

crepe 8So away I went.  Once I had sewn a toile of the bodice.  I wasn’t going to plough through my crepe with an as yet untested pattern!  The bodice fit fine (apart from a vertical pinch I took out from shoulder to chest) & in fact has quite enough ease.  It all seemed to be hitting the right spots, so then I wielded the shears & went past the point of no return.  It helped that I had a deadline to make this for.  No room for dithering!  I set to & made this dress up in a day.  I cut out style A but with the narrow skirt – but you can see that it is not a tight narrow skirt, more of an A line with soft pleats (more of those later).

crepe 4Oh folks, this was a dream to sew.  I really enjoyed the challenge of sewing with more expensive fabric.  Not to say that I am slapdash, but my usual need for speed when making things had to be tempered with giving this make the respect both pattern & fabric deserved.  As a result I found I raised my game with most of my manoeuvres executed with precision & when I did make the odd mistake, I did not allow fudges, but took it back & did it again.

crepe 5But I don’t think there were many mistakes, just the odd bit of topstitching that had veered off line.  I found all of the instructions were clear & easy to follow & loved the construction of the dress with big soft pleats at the yoke to create a blouson effect as well as big soft pleats in the skirt.   It seemed odd sewing the hemline before the dress was finished as that is usually the last thing I do, however, when it’s a style with a button band, the button band has to be attached with hem complete.  I think the trickiest sewing though, was attaching the tie collar when the size of the collar to neckline needed gentle easing to accommodate the slightly larger neck edge.

crepe 9Hahahaha – love the action shot!

OK, so that’s all I have to say about the sewing and the fabric.  What about design options?  This fabric gives you a new dimension which did not occur to me until I was well on the way.  With its matt/ shiny contrast think about how you can make use of this.  My choices were quite conservative opting to keep the dress matt with a shiny lining.  In this case I reversed the yoke lining so that its shiny side was out (you’d normally sew the inside yoke lining right side out), this made all of the lining shiny.


crepe 6

When I was sewing the neck tie it occurred to me that there were lots of areas that I could have played around with the play between matt/ shiny sides.  Eg shiny cuffs, button band and neck tie.  That felt too flash for me though, as this is going to be a work dress.  I just made use of the shiny contrast in its self cover buttons, which I like a lot.

crepe 7So I’ve worn this to work now & it is just the dress & more.  In fact it has exceeded my expectations as I think it doesn’t have to be solely an office dress as I was intending.  Worn with the right footwear you can get different looks, not just smart workwear.  Its fit is casual & blouson-ish which makes it feel fun to wear.  And I love the bow neck!  Swoon.   Should you want to give it a go, Minerva’s kit contains 2m of fabric, matching thread and  self cover buttons.  This dress though has plenty of room to wear long vests, t-shirts etc underneath if extra warmth is required without compromising its style by trying to get the right cardi.  Perfecto!!  I am imagining how lush this style would look in a check flannel now…