Essential sewing keeping me clothed and sane

Not Sewing, Engineering!


Well hello there! Let’s hope the long wait for a new post was worth it…….

Firstly, you are going to try and follow A Train of Thought.

I have a wedding to go to in May and I have about one hundred dresses that I could wear. I checked through this blog for some existing candidates: I am also quite sure that when my S/S clothes come out of the attic there will be a few others to choose from that I have forgotten about!


Each one is perfectly acceptable with a pair of high heels and a bit of lipstick. But it’s always nice to make a new one, isn’t it, especially for a grand occasion like a wedding?

And so the hunt began…….style, fabric, impact, era, comfort factor etc etc etc.


I should add that the wedding ceremony will take place in Mussenden Temple, part of the National Trust property at Bishop’s Gate, followed by a reception in a restaurant on the beach. One half of the day is exclusive – the other half is surfer-dude.

After hours of arduous, but pleasantly so, researching I finally managed to narrow the selections down.

These are the shortlisted styles:

Slide2These are the shortlisted fabrics:


There is a common thread (ha ha) in my chosen styles – asymmetrical, vintage looking, fitted bodice and straight-ish skirts with volume. Put all that together and you end up in Vivienne Westwood land.


So now, we move on to actual making of the dress. No commercial patterns are available that resemble anything like these frocks [unless you can tell me differently and if you do I’ll really appreciate it] but what do I have in my book shelves, only the complete art of draping? (pic on right).9781780670935.in11

Hurrah! With a tonne of marking to do and the Easter holidays approaching, I ignored the marking, went to Asda and bought some flat white sheets as muslin for a couple of quid and studiously set to work finding grainlines, draping on Doris and having fun.

The Train of Thought has now reached a conclusion and turning that into a real thing now begins. The ‘muslin’ was going to be my pattern. I needed fabric for a toile. I found some cheap but very wide poly taffeta on My Fabrics, ordered 4m and twiddled my thumbs for a few days until it arrived. On our, now monthly, sewing away days, I packed up Doris, the ‘muslin’, the fabric, two pairs of sharp scissors and three million pins and headed to Castleward for a fab day of cutting and pinning and feedback and ideas, all accompanied with buns, cake and lots of chatter.


There were a few issues: enough fabric for only one sleeve and no back! One sewing pal did point out that a back might be more important than sleeves. Having considered this, I do have to agree with her. The other major issue was that although pinning bits of fabric to a doll might produce ‘a dress’, as a real live person I cannot have pins in my tummy. This dress had to be constructed as a garment that could be put on and taken off. Hence, the engineering………

I’ll cut a very long story short; this project was quickly becoming an epic. With the little scraps left over, I did manage to cut two backs and pieced together enough to make another sleeve. There’s an invisible zip at centre back and that’s the entrance and egress.

This is probably not making any sense to you right now and I can fully understand that because it didn’t make any sense to me and I was there! The dress is actually two pieces because for the life of me I couldn’t figure out a way to join the very full, balloon hemmed side skirt to the rest of the dress.


The principle dress has a half-circle skirt to one side, fitted back pieces with a zip, two (!) tucked 3/4 length sleeves, a large wrap bodice with lots of gathers that buttons all the way around the waist for a bit of figure enhancement and an added scarf-like collar.


There was a lot of hand sewing too – a true couture dress. A one-off.


Please don’t be concerned about the bandages on Doris – she is very old and needs a little patching now and again.

I had a test drive in it the other night to see if it would stand up to the rigours of eating and moving and to see if I could actually wear it instead of just standing still and upright. It passed all the tests. I do need a second pair of hands to get me into the dress which turned out to be not so much fun when I staggered home after midnight and couldn’t get out of it! In actual fact, this dress has a numerical set of instructions on how to get it on and you just reverse these to get out.

We had fun with shoes on the night though including a couple of pairs of VW’s. How appropriate.

OK, enough waffling, here’s the reason you came here today……..


It was definitely an evolutionary project: the final version bears a remote resemblance to the original draping but has become a new creature in its own right.

Extra bustle options are still available


The neckline might need a bit of extra work …

I might be wearing a pretty pink floral dress but this took a lot of brain power; 3D mental rotation and all that stuff late at night; design principles that I didn’t even know existed; many, many, many pin punctures in my hands, fingers and other body parts so don’t mess with me! This dress feels like armour.


At this stage, I’ve spent so much of my time and effort planning and thinking and figuring and sewing and sewing that I don’t think I’ll be making a ‘real’ one. While this was supposed to be a test dress, it is perfectly serviceable, wearable and doesn’t wrinkle much. It also makes a luxurious swoosh sound as it moves.


I might or might not wear this to the wedding. I might just pick one from last year, then again, there’s another month to go before the actual event – time enough yet……

51 thoughts on “Not Sewing, Engineering!

  1. It’s wonderful. You are one brave and adventuresome sewist.! Just for fun, if you get a chance check out sewing patterns on pinterest, they have a lot of diagrams illustrating how to do draped effects. I printed out a few of them because I would like to incorporate some of them into some garments I want to make. Keep up the lovely work Ruth!

    • Thanks Susan. It was a bit of fun and sometimes the inspiration is toooooo much and makes me feel inadequate.
      I have a Craftsy class on draping as well as a couple of books but the style is maybe not just for everydat.

  2. Well it sounds like you had lots of fun making it, and even more fun taking it for a test run! Excellent dress!

  3. Gorgeous engineering! Pin pricks are necessary sacrifices to the sewing gods to guarantee a successful garment, so you made the sewing gods very happy with this one! I hope you wear this one to the wedding, it’s really beautiful.

  4. Oh my goodness, this has turned out brilliantly!

  5. Love love love

  6. Fabulous work! 🙂 I’m still a beginner when it comes to sewing, so I’ve yet to drape a garment, but I LOVE seeing what people are able to create when they do! You did such an awesome job and it’s such a fun dress! 🙂 Well done!

    • Thanks Emily. We were all beginners at one time but more and more sewing just moves you into the intermediate level. I believe will never achieve advanced level – I’m too slapdash.

      • Aw, thanks for your sweet reply! And I honestly think you will! 🙂 You’re already incredible, that’s for sure!!

  7. Spring is bursting out all over!

  8. Ooh the projects that get our problem-solving brains awake at night! The best kind of sick fun. Your dress looks difficult, raised to the third power. Impressive!

    I think of the wind at Mussenden Temple. Wind + billowy fabric = spectacular glowing in the PM sun, or, hazardous?

    Not that you’re asking anybody’s opinion, so please forgive me, but I’d just like to say how stunning is the black portrait neck dress on the top row. It would absolutely silence the room, worn with a pair of statement heels and earrings. Endless options for giving it a twist: a wide brim lacy hat, if you’re wearing one. Black or silver mesh gloves. A sparkly purse. Wild shoes. Endless options.

    And yet the pink hydrangea print tugs at the heart. So hopeful and wedding-y, so Westwood. It’s begging for a turn on the dance floor.

    Thumbs-up for whichever dress gives the most joy. If it’s the Westwood tribute dress, then awesome undergarments will solve any inadvertent wind reveals.

    Have fun and post pictures.

    • I never thought about the wind Sankati, so maybe nit such a good design for the location.
      I’m taking another look at the velvet dress but made in a spring-like floral fabric. Thanks so much.

  9. You ask for patterns for draped dresses like the ones you include pictures of. I was wondering if you know of this teacher and her blog:

    as she has over a good many years showed how to take a pattern and slash it to make amazing new garments many of which incorporate drapes some in areas where one wouldn’t think it possible to make a drape.

    I admire you for having a go at making a toile on your alter ego. Can’t wait to see what the final dress ends up looking like.

    • HI Maga, yes I looked at studiofaro but the actual drafting of a paper pattern was way beyond my patience and capabilities.
      Thanks for the link though and maybe one day I shall do this. Thank you.

  10. You really are my sewing hero!

  11. What a tour de force, Ruth. As always your fearlessness has paid off brilliantly, you’ll be the best dressed at that wedding. Enjoy your dress and thanks for sharing!

  12. Stunning! And sounds like it was a lot of fun to make too.

  13. Beautiful, chalk up another success.

    • Thanks Jay. It was a fun and absorbing project. Can you imagine this dress in ivory satin and wouldn’t it make a lovely wedding dress for the bride?

  14. Fierce! Actually loving that edgy neckline and the asymmetry with the fabric, gorgeous. You should wear that one.

  15. What more can I add, other than, the colours in the fabric are beautiful on you. I am in awe and admiration of your design and sewing talents Ruth.

    I am sure you will look stunning in whatever you finally choose to wear. Have a great day.

  16. WOW!!!!!!!!!!! Time well spent (and much better fun than marking)

  17. My mom always said that if you prick your finger with a pin while sewing then your garment is going to be perfect and well loved! Looks like you were very successful. This is beautiful!

  18. That’s a lot of posts in one! I really admire your bravery: I would need the security of a paper pattern to attempt such a project. It’s sumptuous and I do hope you wear it and that the sun shines.

  19. Wonderful! And if you can’t get out of it after too much champagne who cares 😉.

  20. I’m with Marianna, this kind of freestylin’ gives me hives. Kudos to you for being so brave Ruth, completely offroad and free range, what a stunning result! Enjoy your wedding, or another dress…

  21. Gorgeous! You look stunning. Well worth requiring help in and out.

    • The mark of aristocratic dresses Susanne is that the fastening is at the back because they had maids etc to help them in and out of the garments. Peasants’ frocks always buttoned at the front. I’m just hankering for an imagined past life – LOL.
      Thank you very much.

  22. What gorgeous fabric. And fun draping it! Love the dress.

  23. Ah – the evolution! And for muslin fabric – it’s gorgeous. I absolutely love asymmetry in dresses as well (and you do pull it off particularly well) and am a huge fan of that neckline. Very much agreeing with Sewniptuck – off road, free range, and loving it! Do let us know what you end up wearing to the wedding 🙂

  24. Just to let you know I have nominated you for a Mystery Blogger Award. Feel free to ignore if you prefer.

  25. Pingback: Is this the end or the beginning? | corecouture

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