The Ellis Dress – hacking up a perfectly good pattern!

I think it’s fair to say that I have taken the idea¬†of ‘slow sewing’ to a whole new level. I am not entirely sure this is a bad thing, I think that churning out make after make is, I suppose, probably as bad as fast fashion. ¬†So the idea of slowing down and really choosing my projects with care is probably a good thing overall. ¬†Problem is, it doesn’t quite satisfy the maker in me. ¬†Food for thought.

The Pattern:

So, onto my latest make, a great pattern by Merchant & Mills, the Ellis & Hattie Dress. I bought my pattern from Stitch 56, it’s¬†thrilling to have a paper pattern, I rarely treat myself.

It was the neckline, darts and sleeves of the Ellis version that really won me over. ¬†But I did hesitate initially, the skirt part, it’s just not me. ¬†I am not keen on a gathered skirt, it just adds volume where I don’t need it. ¬†So, I decided to hack up a perfectly good pattern and make it my own.

The toile:

I decided to extend the bodice of the Ellis and make it into an slightly A-line dress with inseam pockets.  I also wanted to add in an exposed zip which meant I needed to alter the back by adding a yoke.  Starting point was this toile.

A couple of issues emerged. ¬†Firstly, the shoulder seams were way too big. ¬†I notice on the original shots from Merchant & Mills that they don’t sit right on the shoulder of the model. ¬†They were way too big for me though, so I decided to remove a couple of centimetres.

I have altered the shoulder seam before on a previous make. ¬†I had to add width to the shoulders on my Frankie dress, here’s how I did that. ¬†But for this dress I needed to reduce the shoulder seam so I reversed the process. ¬†I drew a diagonal line from the shoulder seam to the arm hole and then slit the pattern (leaving a few millimetres to allow for the pivot). ¬†I then reduced the seam by 2cm and then trued it up. ¬†If you try this at home, remember to do this to the front and back!

I also felt that the neckline was too high so I reduced it, again by a couple of centimetres.


I decided to add some length to the sleeves. I just wanted them a tad longer to cover my elbow. Finally, I changed the back yoke, mainly to accomodate an awesome zip that I wanted to fit here.  I lengthened the yoke accordingly.

The fabric:

I bought this fabric at FabWorks on my recent visit to the UK in June last year. ¬†Yep, it’s been sitting in my cupboard staring at me for a whole year. ¬†It’s a fantastic fabric. ¬†A heavy and slubby cotton in a dark inky blue. ¬†The fabric works either side, but I preferred the darker option. ¬†I would love to say that I remember the fabric specs, I always think I will and then never do.

Both sides of this fabric would work I think, shame I didn’t make it reversible!

The result:

This all sounds easy and quick, and yes, to someone concentrating on it for a stretch of time it is. ¬†But, I tackled this piecemeal, in mini pockets of time. ¬†The ultimate slow sew. ¬†After a few weeks of tinkering away,¬†¬†I made it and I really couldn’t be happier with the result (even if my forced smile below suggests otherwise).


It has a good amount of volume to hide all those wobbly bits!

I am super pleased with the fit.  The top of this dress is perfect and I think it suits my shape.  The darts give it a lovely shape.  The only issue is that the fabric is so textured that the darts vanish a bit. I really liked the top stitched darts on the Merchants & Mills version, I did consider this but chickened out at the last minute.

3 darts at this side, can you spot them??
I can’t believe my luck with the fit!

The back of this dress turned out much better than I expected. ¬†My initial plan was to reverse the back yoke and have the white side of the fabric exposed. ¬†But, when I was sent this zip by Who Says Sew it just had to be part of the dress, it worked so well. ¬†The original pattern calls for a button closure so I had to work out the addition of the zip. ¬†It wasn’t too difficult but what I did fail to do (think piecemeal sewing and not concentrating) was consider how to finish the top of the exposed zip.

In the end I had to remove some teeth, I used a little tutorial from Makery to help me with this.  I then unpicked the facing and sandwiched the zipper tape between the facing and the dress.  It was super fiddly and but I managed to get a (fairly) clean finish with the machine and some nifty hand stitching.

Loving my feature zip!
I have even managed to wear this dress 3 times already!
With or without?

I can see another Ellis in my future, it’s really a lovely pattern. ¬†The instructions are clear and well executed. ¬†I am looking forward to hacking up the Hattie version in the summer. Watch this space.

There is only one gripe I have with this make, this time it’s down to me, not the pattern. ¬†I added the inseam pockets far too low down the dress. ¬†When my fingers hit the bottom of the pockets, my arms are almost straight. ¬†I also feel that the pockets are adding volume just where I don’t need it. ¬†At this point, the pockets are still in, but I am sorely tempted to remove them just to slim the silhouette down a fraction.

What do you think? With or without pockets?


Margie’s kimono

A couple of months ago I received an email from my friend’s mum, Margie. ¬†She said, and I quote,

“I have been having a clean up at home (mainly to save the kids if I die!) I have quite a lot of good¬†fabric, no rubbish (Liberty etc) and if you could use it I would be delighted to give it to you.”

You can imagine my response (apart from snorting with laughter at her text!)  AHHHH, yes I would love it!  I have to show just a few pieces here.  Some really gorgeous fabric, and this is only some of it.

Once I had got over the shock of such a wonderful and generous gift, I started to think of a way to thank her.  I can say, Margie expected nothing from this but I really wanted to give her something so she would totally get my thrill at receiving such a stash.

I know Margie loves a bit of Japanese design, she has a very unique style herself and wears really beautiful clothes.  We had both done an amazing Shibori workshop and we were just about to embark on a Slow Stitching workshop so this was a good jumping off point.

I settled on a kimono.

I found a lovely tencel in Spotlight¬†which was perfect for the project, it had a hint of Shibori about it with it’s random pattern and colour. ¬†I used the pattern I had drafted for myself recently, see¬†my punk kimono. We are similar in size so I knew it would fit.

Of course, I had to line it with some Liberty, it seemed fitting and the darker tones of the Liberty fabric worked really well with the tencel.

I added pockets too, who doesn’t love a pocket?
I love the randomness of the fabric here
The lining makes it look like a 1920’s smoking jacket
The most gorgeous pattern, I love it.

I had to try it on, of course! ¬†I am really pleased with the result. ¬†It’s a much lighter fabric than my denim version. ¬†It sits a lot better¬†for it.



I gave it¬†to Margie yesterday at her granddaughters birthday party (of which I was running one of my sewing parties). ¬†Over a glass of champers I handed it over, a little nervous to be honest. She told me that it was so unexpected and that it was very special to her because of the effort and thought that I had put into it (lump in throat). ¬†Ah, that makes it worth every stitch, don’t you think?