Essential sewing keeping me clothed and sane


The Adventures of the Six Napoleons

“It’s the Napoleon bust business again,” said Lestrade. “You seemed interested last night, Mr. Holmes, so I thought perhaps you would be glad to be present now that the affair has taken a very much graver turn.”

It’s the finale of the Six Napoleon dress challenge, set by (used to be sewing friend) Marianna of Sew2Pro. About six of us intrepid and quite possibly over-confident sewers decided to take on Sew2Pro’s challenge to make a Six Napoleon dress. None of us challengers met the first deadline of Bastille Day and I have to admit that I was one of those who requested an extension. But here it is, in all it’s Great British Sewing Bee scrappy state – my interpretation and version of Dogstar’s Six Napoleon dress……

It might look OK but truly believe me, the insides and the finish is crap (that’s an official technical sewing term just in case you are unaware of it).


The bodice is Alabama Chanin’d down one side only with reverse applique. The skirt is 4m of a fine jersey mesh pleated and sewn to the bodice. There’s a white half circle underskirt  which I left on show at the shortest part of the skirt. All fabrics are from Fabworks.

Styling accessories include opera length fingerless gloves and a plaited neckband with intertwined pearls. My nod to the black pearl of the Borgias.

DSCN6538 The hem of the skirt is faced with a 4″ band of red jersey and (lazy girl) just serged the edge. The red peeks out as the skirt drapes and moves.


The good news, I suppose, is that I can actually get into the dress and it fits well. I am not proud of this dress – well maybe just a wee bit pleased that I got it started, figured out, finished and worn.


This challenge turned out to be much more difficult than any of us thought. A little bit of tedium was creeping in.



When did I wear this dress?



In the kitchen of course! I made a chicken curry for dinner although I did remove the gloves for that part. Then reclined on the sofa to watch the Olympic weightlifting on TV. A totally fascinating sport – a mix of strength, concentration, psychological mind games and sheer impressiveness.


And Marianna – maybe the next time you set a challenge it could be a shift dress………….?


“Well, well, we can’t expect to have it all our own way, Watson,” he said, at last. “We must come back in the afternoon if Mr. Harding will not be here until then. I am, as you have no doubt surmised, endeavouring to trace these busts to their source, in order to find if there is not something peculiar which may account for their remarkable fate.”

The Adventures of the Six Napoleons by Arthur Conan Doyle




6Nap – The Skirt Plot

d7c25edc67374953149e8e261cd02e96“There are no limits to the possibilities of monomania,” I answered. “There is the condition which the modern French psychologists have called the ‘idee fixe ´ ,’ which may be trifling in character, and accompanied by complete sanity in every other way. A man who had read deeply about Napoleon, or who had possibly received some hereditary family injury through the great war, might conceivably form such an idee fixe ´ and under its influence be capable of any fantastic outrage.”

The skirt is mega….it really doesn’t matter what your preferred design is or your gathering/pleating method but if your cutting table, floor space or other substrate is not big enough, then move to one that is.

DSCN6380DSCN6374I did some really hard maths from my Storm Trooper skirt and it measured out as a ratio of 1.7 from short drop to pointy bit drop and the actual golden scale is 1.6 – so I consider this an achievement. I scaled it up to my measurements and went to the largest flat cutting table I have readily available- the lawn (I use that term advisedly – no croquet played here).




I marked the five crucial points with tacks and patches, then placed my metre rule as close to the desired angle and – cut! For a size guide, the top edge is in the region of 2m; as it’s doubled, there’s close on 4m of fabric at waist.



I kept the fold so only side seam needed.

This not-skirt-yet needed something to be draped upon. I quickly made Paco Peralta’s half circle skirt in the lightweight burnout cotton. Sewed up both side seams – no zip needed. This is the underskirt, partly for structure and partly for modesty.


Off we go… pleats are turning into gathers and the weight of the top skirt is dragging the underskirt down. My fabric is a stretchy mesh so the not-so-precise pleats and folds are somewhat arbitrary. I was never going to achieve crisp pleats like the original using this fabric.


I’ve been at the “let’s see if that works” point in this dress’s construction since the beginning. I joined the party late and didn’t really plan and plot. I can put the corset top on and I can pull the skirt on without any zips  (benefits of using stretch jersey) but I’m not 100% sure when I attach the two together that I’ll be able to wiggle and squirm my way in. This may well be a Hanger Dress only.

The corset top is now attached and the skirt hem is faced with red jersey for weight and body.


Almost finished. Only a few little hand sewing and tidying up things to do and then see if I can get into it…..



Oh look – snap!

When our visitor had disappeared Sherlock Holmes’s movements were such as to rivet our attention. He began by taking a clean white cloth from a drawer and laying it over the table. Then he placed his newly-acquired bust in the centre of the cloth. Finally, he picked up his hunting-crop 8 and struck Napoleon a sharp blow on the top of the head. The figure broke into fragments, and Holmes bent eagerly over the shattered remains.

Next instant, with a loud shout of triumph, he held up one splinter, in which a round, dark object was fixed like a plum in a pudding. “Gentlemen,” he cried, “let me introduce you to the famous black pearl of the Borgias.”

Click to access sixn.pdf







6Nap -Chapter 2

“Madness, anyhow. And a queer madness too! You wouldn’t think there was anyone living at this time of day who had such a hatred of Napoleon the First that he would break any image of him that he could see.”

My Chapter 1 (the corset) is still a work in progress – a bit of editing is needed before it’s ready for publication so I’m making a start on chapter 2 – the skirt.


Ideas and tutorials on how to re-create the skirt are thankfully fast becoming available on the Interweb:

Ernie K – double box pleat, godet pleat, single pleat, bias end pleat. All wonderfully origami’d from butcher’s paper

Sew2Pro has enlisted the very welcome assistance of Anita from Studio Faro for skirt analysis and drafting. Anita will be providing three methods of drafting the skirt. The first is available on Sew2Pro’s blog now.

Pattern Pandemonium has overtaken us all with this.

Even Dogstar, the original designers, are in on the act but keeping the skirt’s secret close to their chests. Facebook here

Screen Shot 2016-07-17 at 11.52.39


Let’s look at the skirt and its major features: this image is of a Dogstar skirt that has been colour adjusted not the actual Six Napoleon dress but it’s kinda the same.

253904d94770d247fac6d8fc60fc80d9 (1)

  • d7c25edc67374953149e8e261cd02e96one long pointy bit off-centre front (assume same at back): connects at centre-side seam on corset: inverted pleat
  • higher hemline at sides: mix of small inverted pleats and single pleats/folds
  • at least 4″ hem for weight
  • has appearance of a gathered flared skirt, so narrower at waist than hemline?
  • follows line of corset: longest point of corset is shortest length on skirt: inverted pleat
  • double layered skirt







In the twilight of just-before-sleep-thoughts I came up with this:


So I tested it. I don’t have professional drafting paraphernalia like a quarter sized mannequin but I do have a (rather dusty) Storm Trooper.


Pointy bit is too long. Scissors out and trimmed a bit off.


Better. Drape is way off as this was knocked up in a bit of cotton jersey but I think the essence is there. Do you?

Un-skirted the Storm Trooper, unpicked the tacks and this is the shape


I’m sure there’s some sort of geometrical formula at work here between side seam length and long pointy bit (technical term!), and the waist width and size of pleats. All I have to do is figure it out. Or I could just make version one and whack a bit off. Works for me………

“Thank you!” said Holmes. “Thank you!” and as he turned away it seemed to me that he was more nearly moved by the softer human emotions than I had ever seen him. A moment later he was the cold and practical thinker once more. “Put the pearl in the safe, Watson,” said he, “and get out the papers of the Conk-Singleton forgery case. Goodbye, Lestrade. If any little problem comes your way I shall be happy, if I can, to give you a hint or two as to its solution.”

The Adventure of the Six Napoleons by Arthur Conan Doyle





6Nap: The Plot

optimized-maxW950-The-Adventure-of-the-Six-NapoleonsOnce upon a time there were six identical porcelain busts of Napoleon and inside one of them was a black pearl that belonged to the Borgias. The busts were stolen from their owners, one by one, and smashed as the thief attempted to find the priceless pearl.

Sew2pro has gathered together a small but talented team to find the gem by each one recreating their own priceless Six Napoleon dress.

There are few rules; one of them being that we have to at least show a bit of progress……I’m far behind the others of the crack detective squad who have sketches done, bodices fitted and made and are now draping their skirts. The original dress by Dogstar, Japanese fashion designer Masayo Yasuki’s brand is our inspiration (centre below): it has a black organza skirt with a black boned bodice.


Red, white and grey are my colours and all in stretch. The roses is a mesh fabric probably used for underwear and the red is a solid cotton jersey and the white is a burn out cotton jersey.

No time to learn how to bone a bodice right now but I do have Alabama Chanin’s jersey corset pattern. To shape the bottom hem I just cut the bodice longer and will mark the off-centre point later.


I found the muslin pattern from my Vivienne Westwood knock-off (another of Sew2Pro’s challenges).


Put the two together to get a dress.

Then I thought that if I’m using an Alabama Chanin pattern I may as well Alabama Chanin it too.


I’ve got a plot: red jersey bodice with roses underneath, roses skirt with a white underskirt. The bodice is half-way Alabama Chanin’d and should be completed this week. Then on to that 14m skirt………



SWAP A1 (again) & B2

I asked, you answered, I acted….

SWAP Combination A, first garment looked like this



I listened and contemplated your very appreciated comments (thank you), then I got to work……….

Method: Lob off a wack of fabric from the bottom and remove patch pockets.


Put on Doris and pin out two shaping darts at the back

and two fitting darts on the front – sew.

Fold over the big collar to narrow it and do some stuff with trims and topstitching along the hem, darts and other edges

Make a buttonhole and sew on an almost coordinating button found in stash. My little Janome’s buttonhole contraption won’t sew a hole for a button this big so I just cut a rectangle and small stitched in place for extra reinforcement. The fleece won’t fray.

So almost back to the original plan. I should have stuck to it the first place and not try to be smart.


Worn today with the first garment for SWAP combination B (slate greys).


The most delicious Italian finest fine wool in tiny herringbone bought from Joel & Sons in their end of year remnant sale. Made into Vogue 9162. I am planning on making all three items from this pattern for SWAP B. The pattern includes a loose-fitting, lined jacket with welt pockets, an oversized shirt and these wide-legged pants.

Slide3The wide legged trousers have in-seam side pockets and an elasticated waist (honestly, I really did type that and I made them and I wear them!).

Let’s have a word about elasticated waists – the good things are that you don’t need a matching zip, buttons, hooks and eyes to finish; easy to make; easy to fit; easy to pull on and off. The bad things are that it’s an elasticated waist! Gathering, bunching, I can’t help associating them with women of a certain age……and it feels like I’m not sewing a ‘real’ garment and taking an easy way out.


Anyway, the trousers are actually quite good. They are supposed to worn with loose shirts on the outside to hide the elastic, so nobody but you and me will ever know. Just in case I ever decide to wear a short top or tuck in a shirt I added belt loops and made a button belt for a more polished look.


The trousers are unlined so I always wear my trouser-petticoat to prevent bumming and kneeing in the fine wool. These are always excellent for extra warmth in wintery weather.

BTW – just look at the difference in my colouring when I wear just dark grey and how much warmer I am wearing the pink jacket, so I might now have to rethink the solid grey combination for SWAP combo B!


Only second garment in and once again a possible change of plans.


SWAP will have to be put on hold for a week or two while I go on safari for Jungle January. Actually, my contribution for 2016 is heralding from the frozen heights of the Himalayas rather than the heat of the savannah ….


As always I’m in two minds about wearing animal printed fabric. This is the 5th year of me joining in and every year so far my efforts are inside, under or otherwise somewhat discreet. This year I’ll either look devastatingly Parisian or else a very poor imitation of Cruella de Ville.

101 Dalmations - Live Action Remake.Copyright: Disney.

101 Dalmatians – Live Action Remake. Copyright: Disney.

Just for fun – spot the snow leopard