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Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Pattern hack: The Billie Jean Sun Dress

Hello Bluegingerdolls, I'm currently in a bit of a sundress making phase and keep looking for ways to hack my favorite patterns into strappy confections. At the beginning of the summer I spied a RTW dress that reminded me of the Billie Jean pattern.  It had a full skirt and a princess line seamed bodice, but with spaghetti straps. What I really liked about the dress was that it was made with two different fabrics and had a faux waistband. The whole "dress that looks like separates" look really tickled my fancy.

As luck would have it, Marcy Tilton stocked two black/white polka dot cotton shirtings that were the reverse of each other.  The perfect fabric for my hacking idea! So I got out my Billie Jean pattern and created the sundress/mock separates version.

Modifying Billie Jean into a sundress turned out to be a straight forward process.  I cut off the sleeve area and fashioned myself a few spaghetti straps. After sewing together the bodice, a simple waistband rectangle was drafted and tacked it to the waist seam. The skirt portion of the pattern was not modified in any way. I sewed it up according to the directions and attached it to my faux waistband and bodice.
I really love this version of the pattern.  It looks pretty by it's self or under a cute cardigan. I even got the ultimate sewing validation, the complete stranger complement. Hooray! 

So I have I hooked you with the sundress version yet? If so then you're in luck.  The hacking steps can be finished in about 30 minutes or so.  I've also added a few sewing directions below the hacking steps so you'll know how I put the dress together.

How to Modify the Billie Jean Bodice
I'd recommend making any fitting changes you need before hacking the pattern into a sundress.

Step 1. Start with the front bodice pieces. The side front needs no changes and can be placed to the side.

Step 2. On the center front, place the ruler at the top of the princess seam. Use the  angle made by the top of the seam allowance as a guide.

Step 3. Draw a line across the entire shoulder.

Step 4. From the neckline side, place a mark 3/4" in on the line you just drew.

Step 5. Use the mark as a guideline to draw a new neckline with a french curve.

Step 6. Cut off the excess paper. Your new front bodice pieces should look like this.

Step 7.  Now we will modify the back bodice pieces.

Step 8. Start with the side back pattern piece. Draw a horizontal line across the pattern at top of the side seam. Make sure the new line is perpendicular to the grain line.

Step 9. Place the center back piece on top of the side back piece like you were going to sew them together.  Match the princess line seam edges together until you reach the newly drawn line.  Mark the position of the side back line on the center back piece. This will keep both pattern pieces the same height so that they sew together after being altered.

Step 10. Draw a horizontal line across the center back at the marked point.

Step 11.  Cut the upper portions of the patterns off on both pieces.

Step 12. Finally we want to straighten out the bit of the armhole princess line seam that remains after cutting the pattern pieces down.

Step 13. On the center back, use the bottom part of the seam line as a guide to straighten the seam line. Cut off the extra bit at the top.

Step 14. On the side front, tape a little extra paper to the top part of the seam line so that the seam line can be added too.  Again use the bottom part of the seam line as a guide for the angle.

Step 15. The finished back pattern pieces look like this.

Step 16. You'll need to draft a rectangle for your faux waistband.  The length should be the same as the diameter of your bodice waist seam.  The width should be 5 1/8".

Optional Step 17.  For this look you'll want the waistline seam to hit at your natural waist. Depending on your figure you may need to lengthen the bodice on the lengthen/shorten line.  I lengthen my pattern 1.5".

Some Sewing Directions
1. You'll need to make 4 spaghetti straps for the bodice.  I cut 4 bias strips at 1.5" wide and used the BHL tutorial for sewing and turning them.

2. Just like the original Billie Jean bodice, this one is fully lined. Cut out the bodice pieces in both self fabric and lining.  On the front the spaghetti straps get basted into the "point" of the bodice and on the back they get basted on the side back/center back seam line.  Sandwich the spaghetti straps between the lining and self at those points and stitch the self and lining together at the neckline.

3. Before attaching the waistband, it's a good idea to fuse a little light weight interfacing onto the piece so that it doesn't crumple.  After fusing, fold the waistband in half and baste it to the bottom of the self bodice. Make sure not to catch the lining at this point.

4. Sew together the Billie Jean skirt as normal and attach it to the bottom of the self bodice.  You'll be sewing through the extra layers of the waistband as well. Make your stitch length a bit longer and go slow.

5. Insert a zipper as normal, but make sure to catch the raw edges of the waistband in the zipper. Because of the extra layers you'll need to trim down the bulk around this area as much as possible.

6. Now you can go back and sew down the lining around the zipper and at the waist seams.  Hem your dress and you're ready to strut your stuff.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Tutorial: How to Catch Stitch (On the Ava jacket)

 The 'Ava' jacket calls for quite a bit of Catch stitching throughout the construction process. Catch stitching is a hand stitch that looks like a series of X's on the wrong side of the fabric and parallel dashes on the right side. 

Take a seat and read about how to make Catch stitching your new friend.

It is an elastic stitch that keeps two layers flat against each other.  This makes it perfect for using on edges that curve around the body, like collars and cuffs. Or for edges that need to be flexible to give good movement, like skirt hems. The stitch is almost invisible on the right side of the fabric due to the small number of threads "caught" by the needle. Other uses for catch stitching are to tack down pleats, hold down arm and neck facings, or a pretty stitch to attach labels.

Sounds great right?  So let's break down the steps on how to do this particular hand stitch.

Prep - The top piece of fabric that is being catch stitched needs to have the seam allowance pressed under. A quick way to do this is to use your machine to run a line of basting 5/8" away from the cut edge.  Use the basting line as a folding guide when pressing down the seam allowance.  After the fabric has been pressed, remove the basting stitches. Now your fabric is ready to catch stitch.

Step 1 - Pin the two fabrics together. The top layer will be the fabric with the pressed under seam allowance.  Aligned the folded edge of the top layer with the seam line of the lower layer. Catch stitching is worked left to right, so start your thread accordingly.

Step 2 - With the needle pointing towards the left, pick up a few threads on the bottom layer of fabric, right above the edge of the top layer of fabric.

Step 3 - Pull the thread through so that it is taunt, but the fabric remains flat.

Step 4 - Move the needle diagonally further down from the fabric edge.  With the needle still pointed to the left pick up a few threads, this time going through both layers of fabric.

Step 5 - Again pull the thread taunt, but not too tight.

Step 6 - Continue repeating steps 2 and 4, trying to keep the stitches evenly spaced along the edge of the fabric. Tie off the thread when you reach the end of your seam.

Happy sewing Heather.

Friday, 4 July 2014

TUTORIAL: How to Mitre corners (On the 'Ava' jacket)

Ever noticed those clean and professional looking, neatly  folded corners on a skirt vent, quilt corners, jacket lapels and even place mats? 

Wondered what kind of sewing magic one must know to be able to do this?

Well wonder no more! Today's tutorial i'll be holding your hand showing you how to complete the sewing technique called ' Mitering corners' on the ' Ava' jacket which uses this technique on its front collar lapels.  

Just follow a few simple steps and you'll be on your way to lovely neat and professional corners on your sewing projects.

* If you are using this technique on other projects than the 'Ava' jacket you may want to finish the raw edges of the seam allowance before you Mitre the corners of you project. The 'Ava' jacket is lined so these raw edges don't show. 

Step 1:

Start on either side of the front collar shell pieces.

Fold the seam allowance  to the wrong side along the collar shell and the jacket hem leading up to the jacket front.

Press them well so you have clear visible crease lines.

Step 2:

For this step you can either press along this line or mark it on the actual fabric. In this post i have chosen to mark this line, but in the actual 'Ava' instructions i advise to press along this line. Either way works.

Mark a line across the point of the triangle on the wrong side of the fabric.

Step 3:

Right sides together fold the collar shell together, down the centre of this this corner. Match all of the creased pressed lines and edges of the collar edges. 

Step 4: 

Whichever method you chose to use (creased or marked line)  stitch along this marked line on the wrong side.

Trim the excess fabric just below this stitched line.

Step 4:

For the final step turn this corner right side out and press.

Corners from the right side.

Repeat on the opposite of the collar shell corner and then sit back and admire your lovely profesh corners!


Tuesday, 1 July 2014


vintage swing jacket, pencil skirt and cocktail hat. Great pose with umbrella.

Following on from last weeks inspirational post on how to rock the  Betsy pencil skirt , today its  Ava's turn. 

Ava is a classic swing jacket design that can be worn either in a contemporary styling, casual  as well as suiting the vintage style. Its a relaxed feminine design that looks in place paired with either a pencil skirt and heels or skinny jeans and flats. Either way you chose to wear the Ava jacket, she's guaranteed to add some effortless glam to your outfit. 

Swing Coat 1955
Image via Pinterest

Ava being a  fitting swing  jacket style needs a slim, svelte silhouette on the bottom to cap it off and divine the figure otherwise you'll be swamped.

I love how Melissa from Scavenger hunt blog teamed her Ava jacket with a belt.

Check out the  Pinterest page for more Ava inspiration!


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