Essential sewing keeping me clothed and sane


Indies 3 – Four Square

I’m back to work after a wonderfully long and relaxing summer – one week in and I feel like I haven’t been off at all. The start of the new academic year is always quite stressful and tiring: enrolling new students, advising on best course choices, sorting out sensible timetables etc etc etc. But you don’t want to hear about that, you want to hear about sewing…..

I would have loved to show you photos of me, slimline and elegant, wafting around in my Four Square dress from the Centre for Pattern Design but it’s not to be.

CfPD draft patterns based on classic designs such as Chanel, Balenciagga and in this case Vinnonet. Many of the patterns are cut on the bias which makes them a little more awkward to work with than straight cut and Sandra, who is the designer, recommends that the patterns are not for beginners. Usually, the paper patterns come in three sizes, small, medium and large and with the bias element it is a bit of guesswork as to which size actually fits. Instructions are minimal, there’s no line drawing of the finished garment just mannequin photos as a guide as to what your finished item should resemble. The pattern is printed on A2/A1 printer paper, so it’s heavy duty. Once again, if anyone is listening, trace off from this master copy onto tissue for malleability and cutting ease. It will also make life easier if you have to make alterations. I ran out of tracing tissue recently and as it was 8.00 on a Tuesday evening all the sewing supply shops were closed, so I went to the supermarket and bought a couple of paper tablecloths. Thin enough to see through and trace, and large enough to take a complete pattern piece, and at £1 each, much much cheaper than tissue. Just treat with care as they do stretch.

I’ve made a few of CfPD patterns before: the MV bias top, the CC skirt, CB Spiral blouse. And I’ve made each one way more than once only. Construction does become easier and quicker with practice and once the fitting issues are sorted. They are some of my most favourite patterns.


I am a great fan of CfPD: the simplicity of the pattern pieces that transform into a garment that drapes beautifully and is totally unique. With the patterns I’ve previously made there are usually only two, three, maybe four, seams. But do not let that lull you into  ‘quick’ make mode. The fit and fabric choice is all important.

So the Four Square Dress…….

Four_Square_Blu2_grande Four_Square_Dress_3_grande

It has cut-in-one sleeves with gussets and a full circle skirt of squares. The neck is a stand-up close to the body. There is no closure since the bias cut adjusts itself to figure contours as it drops over the head like a T-shirt.  What’s not to like?

I had snagged some linen/cotton at a ridiculously low price of £4/m. The colours are rather dull but thought it would make an ideal test fabric for the dress and a good transitional garment for autumn. You need LOTS of fabric – being cut on the bias. There’s ONE pattern piece – cut four times. Fabric recommendations are for a drapey fabric, rayon, viscose, silk or wool crepe – but no jersey!

The sizing on the pattern reads: SM = 36″ (91.4 cm), MD = 38″ (96.5 cm), LG = 41″ (104.1 cm)

On my previous makes I have altered between med and large mostly for my hips, but the bust sizes made me go straight for the medium for the dress. I usually cut a Vogue 14 if that’s a guide for you and sizing and I wear a 34/36 bra. I made no alterations to the pattern, just cut and sewed. The instructions do state that there might be a bit of dinky-doing (my words) at the shoulder seam for a better fit and you can see below how I had to alter the seam for a better fit. I also interfaced the stand up collar with a fusible thinking that would help the shape.



I sewed up the main construction seams. Then I tried it on. No pics, definitely no pics! I have a tonne of adjustments to make.

The sleeves are too narrow, I couldn’t close the inside seam over my biceps, so they need widening by at least 2″. though I notice that Sandra has added a tip about this to her web page.

The fullness of the skirt started at my waist and I think they would look better starting at hip level, so the bodice needs lengthening by about 5″.

Overall, the dress was too fitted and the bias drape was non-existant as I filled the entire thing, so the whole dress needs enlarging by 2″ all round. Should have cut the Large!

And to top it all off, I’m not convinced I look good in this style. Adds to the hips, lost the waist and I look like I’m standing on a slope. The irregular hemline is attractive but on me it looks like my robust rear is ‘lifting’ the back of the skirt up. As I’ve been wont this summer (here and here), I whacked off the bodice and made the dress into a skirt. What I have ended up with is something akin to Sham’s tablecloth skirt but she looks fab in hers while  mine does nothing for me.

OK, a few photos….just to prove it to you……


Nice roots! Here’s two of the four


Ok from this view: shame about the face!


Looks perfect, doesn’t it?


A la Vogue – front, back and sides – badddddd


There’s sway back for you if you didn’t know what it was or what it looked like

I’ve been looking at the skirt too to see if I can salvage any fabric for something else. I hate wasting fabric. Check your measurements against the pattern before cutting and in the perfect world buy some cheap fabric and make a muslin – yeah, yeah I know….. Do as I say and not as I do.

These are not cheap and cheerful patterns – they are very carefully thought out, designed and drafted and only come in the paper versions. They are expensive and added to the cost of the pattern, is shipping from America and in this case, the tax man caught me and I had to pay import duty and some outrageous administration charge that brought the total cost of the pattern to over £40. An expensive trial that I lost.

Have I given up? I don’t know. I really do love this dress design but maybe it’s just not for me. Maybe I just have to accept the fact that full skirts just don’t suit me – they add volume where I need it least although I’m still a sucker for a skinny mannequin in a beautiful dress……..


Coco’s Garden and Other Stories

I’m beginning to think that life is just a series of coincidences – one event/decision/action leads to an apparently unrelated event/decision/action, which leads to another and so on, until all those little things add up to one big thing. Here’s how my recent series is connected:

For nearly a year I have been reading Coco’s Loft. A fabulous and talented lady who makes the most outstanding clothes and has really defined her style. Many of her photo shoots are in her garden. My fingers are definitely NOT green, I can kill weeds, but Coco’s garden is tropical, lush and very, very green. Every time I see it I tend to look at the plants and not the dress (sorry Coco).

Then Elizabeth, from Sewn, was fixated for a while on a Burda batwing top and made some beautiful versions, each a little different from the last. I actually have this pattern too, being one of the few that I managed to trace off and know her addiction well. I also made 3 or 4. It’s an easy pattern, front and back cut on the fold with a bit of bias or other finishing technique around the neck, sleeves and hem. Recently she also posted about hating to cut out, have I got a treat for her!

Next, I set a puzzle pattern piece for you to guess what it would morph into. I inadvertently posted a photo of the pattern and The Centre for Pattern Design told me off, in case some unscrupulous sewer copied the design from my blog. I promptly removed the image and for my efforts, CPD very, very kindly gifted another pattern. I also suspect that they received considerably more orders for patterns that week.

I’ve also been reading around the blog-o-sphere of Fearless February. A personal challenge to settle down and tackle those sewing related things that you ‘need a bit more practice‘ at. While not officially signing up, the challenge did spark something in me. So things I’m really crap at – sewing in a straight line; applying bias binding without wrinkles; sewing an even distance from the edge; good top stitching, and stitch-in-the-ditch. Ironically, I used most of these techniques in the recently completed raincoat but I’ve seen it up close and believe me, there’s lots of room for improvement.

Bear with me, we’re getting there………that’s four stories so far.

While in town the other day, the one and only fabric shop had a table set up with a selection of cottons at half price. Most were end of rolls but generally 1 -2m in length. All sorts of colours and patterns but I was drawn to a grey/green leaf design.

My immediate thought was – Coco’s garden!

Then the pattern arrived in the post (air mail no less), MV bias cut top. Wait for it… piece!

My immediate thought was – Elizabeth would love this: batwing style and easy to cut out!

And so, we are now at the point of culmination of all these coincidences to proudly present the Centre for Pattern Design’s Madeleine Vinonnet’s inspired bias cut top-

And so we come to then end (so far) of this series of fortunate events…or do you have any to add?

I’ve practiced my top stitching and stitching in the ditches, attaching bias binding in lots of different ways, and discovered a top that has one pattern piece that is cut on the bias with only 2 seams (count them, two!), drapes beautifully to the body without being clingy and can be made in almost any fabric.

The pattern comes in small, medium and large but without SAs. I started with the L but have added 1cm on every subsequent cut. The fit on Number 2 and 3 is much better than the Number 1 satin. Just check the width of the bottom of the sleeves – too tight and you’ll end up with a T-shirt like me! You’ll need about 1.5m of fabric and the wider the better, especially of you want longer sleeves. The excess fabric at the end can be used very productively for making the bias binding.

Most batwing tops are difficult to wear under a cardigan or jacket without the sleeves all bunching up but this top has narrower sleeves and easily fits comfortably underneath a cardi.

Do you have any strange coincidence stories,  or a train of events that led you to where you are now?