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?


Primary coloured polka dots – playschool or supercool?

I recently found this awesome spotty tablecloth in the charity store.  A rather cute circular number, 100% cotton with quite a loose weave.  It was in great condition and was just crying out for a refashion.


When mulling over my refashion it didn’t occur to me for one moment that it may be ‘too young’ for me.  Seriously, who wears primary coloured spots over the age of 40?  Well, ME!! There was no way I was giving this fabric over.  I was going to enjoy it, all for myself.

I consider a circle skirt, that would have worked a treat given the fact that it was already a perfectly good circle and would need little alteration but I just couldn’t do it.  I don’t really do circle skirts, I love them but they don’t love me.

It needed to be a more radical refashion and a simple bantam vest from Merchant & Mills felt like the right answer.  I do love the bantam, the shape is so cool and I really love the racerback. AND I was lucky enough to stumble upon the Merchant & Mills Workbook in the library recently and so I set about my make.


I decided to make a toile.  I am not a big ‘toile’ maker.  I usually don’t have the patience for it (I know, big mistake!) but with this pattern I thought I should.  I know it’s a simple pattern but I know my shape well. I knew it would be way too long in the body (it was) and have too much gape around the armholes (it did).  So I made some tweaks and the toile ended up fitting perfectly.



I made this toile out of another charity store find.  It was a couple of dollars, so cheaper than calico and with the possibility that it would get worn. You can see it is quite open around the armhole, but as there are no darts, this was how it worked.  I kinda like the style of it.

The toile isn’t a complete success though, you can see that the binding hasn’t worked very well and has puckered (mmm… my sewing I suspect!).  It’s also rather fat, especially around the shoulder straps which I am not keen on.  Better luck next time.

So, onto my playschool/supercool version.  The main challenge was finding the grain line, not as easy as I thought when you are playing with a circle.  Once I had cracked that, then it was plain sailing.  I decided to add the binding in a slightly different way so it’s a slimmer option and sits really smoothly. I am thrilled with the colour choice, I love emerald green.


Are those scones on your legs?  No, actually they are my knees.

Note to self: get a better racerback bra!

I don’t care what anyone says – it’s definitely supercool.  Not bad for a pre-loved tablecloth!




A toile, saving me from impending doom!

I have been lusting over one of my vintage patterns for ages, visualising the end result and loving it.

Very well loved (even before it came into my possession!)

It was time to get it underway when a niggling thought in the back of my mind stopped me. The last time I made this dress was in the late 90’s, pre-kids. My body shape has undergone so much since kids, it’s basically ruined.

So, I decided to make¬†a toile. A toile, for those who don’t know, is basically a trial garment. I watch my sewing friends make endless toiles and most end up being completely wearable. I don’t often make toiles, mainly because I mostly¬†use second hand fabric which is cheaper than muslin or calico, so I just plough on and tweak as I go. ¬†I am also lazy and¬†sometimes¬†can’t be bothered!

I thank the sewing gods that I made a toile with this one. I remembered from years back that the waist sat too low on me and there wasn’t enough room in the hips so I thought I would retrace the pattern and make those adjustments.

I am so glad I decided to retrace this pattern, it is in a terrible state. There are tears and even a piece missing.



The fabric I used was a charity store find of yellow cotton gingham. It has a nice feel to the fabric but I don’t do yellow (as you will soon see) as it does nothing for me. It’s also a bit Daisy Duke (without the good boobs). But I used it because it is the same fabric weight¬†as the good stuff I was hoping to finally make it from.

I am not exaggerating when I say a toile saved me from impending doom. If I had ploughed on and made it I would probably be crying by now.  My initial idea was that I refashion this beautiful kimono into this dress, a sleeveless maxi version. Disaster averted!

My kimono to be refashioned!

I made a terrible mess of the front bodice centre seam, I even under stitched it and the facing will still not sit flat.  I also failed miserably when attaching it to the skirt Рeek!

Must try harder…
The waistline was too low so I moved it up a little
I added some width to the hip area

My main issue is the way it skims my stomach, I know I would spend my entire time sucking it in and feeling paranoid that is was too tight and pulling. It just has that maternity feel to it. ¬†It’s the one bit of my post-kid body that I really can’t shift or come to terms with! My friend calls it my body dysmorphia issue! Perhaps she is right, but¬†the last time I wore an empire line dress someone asked me if I was pregnant. ¬†Well I had been, two years earlier!

I am sucking it in here!


I find the overall pattern unflattering.¬†It really isn’t my cuppa tea anymore. I am a little sad about it because I love this pattern and I love all the dresses I made from it in the past.¬†I think it’s time to realise that clean lines and perhaps more modern shapes are my style these days.

Hi5 rubbish toile!