The Acton Dress: part 1 – pattern testing

Hurrah, The Acton Dress has arrived!

I am sure you know by now that I share a studio with Emily of In the Folds, the designer of the Acton.  It has been in the works for some time and I have seen the evolution of this pattern from it’s humble beginnings to the glorious dress you see today.

Emily & I at the Acton photoshoot last month

Back in April, Emily asked me if I would like to test this for her, of course I agreed.  I wanted to test view B which is the wrap skirt option. I knew that with my mum-tum this option would be the perfect cover up. It would remove the need to wear my ‘suck ’em up’ pants!  (Before you say it, I know my stomach is not enormous, but it’s my main bugbear and I feel a bit self conscious about it!)


I started out testing a straight size B but I soon realised that this size would be too big in the bodice. My issue isn’t the boob size, it’s the depth.  I am very short in the body, which means my boobs don’t actually sit where most sit, they are essentially higher.  So for my first proper toile I made up a straight size A, not sure why I decided to go down an entire size!

There was a ‘new to me’ element in this pattern. I have never sewn princess panels before, how is this possible?  I think it’s because I often associate them with vintage style frocks, but with the racer back and the thin straps I think the design is more contemporary. I was surprised how easy the princess panels were to place together and this is where my tailors ham came in very useful!

The wrap skirt is very unusual. From a construction perspective I had no idea how this would ever fit together.  There is a moment when you are attaching the skirt to the bodice at the side seams and thinking ‘have I done something wrong here?’ and ‘this will never work!’  It does work!*  I have to say I have never come across anything like it before.  A little bit of sewing magic happens right before your very eyes.

*(the instructions are now fuller in this area, more details have been added).

You can see from the photos below what I mean.  The skirt is essentially a giant square.

Flashing my giant square!
The fabric was gifted to me by my lovely friend Jen.  A good choice as it is lightweight and has a really nice drape which works well with this design.
Yes, my tum sticks out more than my boobs!
I love the wrap feature & the bodice, it makes me feel confident to wear a dress that shows a bit of skin!
Notice to pulling around the boob area

This was a good toile but after wearing it I could see there were a few issues with the fit.  It’s just a bit too tight. I had initially reduced the seam allowance on the side seams and at the zip to give me some breathing space but still it was not quite right.

There is some ‘back fat’ splurge going on (not shown for obvious reasons).  You can also see in the picture above that there is some pulling under the arm pit towards the boob, indicating it’s too small. I wanted the wrap to meet in the middle too and it doesn’t quite get there. Finally, I cut the hem too short, I was a little overzealous with the scissors.

But this really would have been a wearable toile if I hadn’t burnt a dirty great hole in the back of it when giving it a final press.  Tears were shed.

I enjoyed the pattern testing process and I have big love for this dress.  It’s a great dress to try out new skills, especially with the unique construction.  It made me determined to sort out my fit issues as I had a bigger plan up my sleeve.

…to be continued…





Shoulder pads worthy of Krystal Carrington!

All has been a bit quiet on the SWK blog, mainly because I have been sunning myself in Byron Bay, the home of all hippies and the place where I was married 10 years ago.  So, armed with children and husband we donned our flip flops and off we went.

I find it very difficult to relax.  If I have any precious downtime, I will rush to the machine or read sewing blogs or trawl Instagram for sewing inspiration, I am not obsessed at all.  This wasn’t an option, no machine and minimal internet.  So when I did have a moment to myself, I hit a vintage clothes shop.  Oh, how I love a vintage clothes shops.

There is one particular gem close to Byron Bay, in Mullumbimby, called The Silver Lining.  It really is a treasure trove of gloriousness.  I could have spent hours in there. I didn’t though as I was getting hounded by the masses, so I made a quick purchase of a 1980’s grey and nude pink check jacket.

It fits really well, but it has one major drawback, it has massive shoulder pads. I love a shoulder pad as much as the next women, but I am not sure they love me back!  They would have to go, I look like a box!




I imagined an easy job of removing the pads, but no, it was a big mass of foam which disintegrated as I pulled it away – yuk!


Thinking this would be all I needed to do, I tried it on again but it still looked wrong as the shoulder seam was in the wrong place completely.  I do have narrow shoulder anyway so I decided to reset the arm holes. Sounds horrific! Of course I googled it, and found this fantastic tutorial from Sew for Dough on altering the shoulders on a jacket!

I pretty much followed the instructions to the letter. Job done.  Why have I never attempted this before?  It was so easy.





A subtle change perhaps, but well worth the effort, it softens the look of the jacket completely.

Farewell disintegrating foam, hello awesome jacket!