Vintage Simplicity 5059 – aka – Fall Dress #1

As much as I hate to see summer leave, fall is just about my favourite season to sew for, the colours are just the best! Case in point:


I never get to do as much of it as I’d like (proper fall weather here lasts about 2-4 weeks) but I’m managing to do a little more every year.

Today’s make is my favourite piece of fall sewing this year!

I’d had this wonderful piece of sheer cotton for a while now. It’s another treasure-like find from the thrift store (which I pronounce Va-loo Villahge to make it sound hoity-toity). I’ve wanted to use it every fall since I got it, but wasn’t sure for what or how. It’s such an autumnal colour palette, but so lightweight I thought it wouldn’t work for fall weather.

Happily, I was wrong!

(full disclosure: these photos were taken over Thanksgiving weekend – that’s early October here in Canada – and it wasn’t quite mild enough to go around in short sleeves, I took my coat off for the photos)

(on another note: it’s kinda surreal posting these photos now considering there’s a blizzard going on outside as I write this)


This is the pattern I used for this dress:

Simplicity 5059 -front

I think one of my favourite things about making this dress was how reminiscent my fabric is of the pattern envelope art. Not the same, but they have a similar feel, don’t they? I think that’s super-fun! So much so that it’s contributed to an idea for some of my other vintage patterns – matching my make with fabric/colour of the envelope art! I initially got the idea about a year ago when I discovered that I have a fabric nearly identical to one on the envelope of another pattern. I wanted to make it last winter, but then Tree took over my life. (seriously.) I’m determined to make it this winter and possibly turn this idea into a little series-on-the-side thingy, just for fun!

Hm. If it’s a series it needs a name. What’s a good name for that sort of thing? Envelope imitations? Illustration knock-offs? Help me out here!


Anyhoo. I made a couple of modifications to this dress compared with the pattern. The main one, construction-wise, was to turn it from a side opening dress to a front opening dress. I dislike wearing side zippers and I like installing them even less. I’ve also always thought it odd to have a button-up bodice but actual fastening at the side. So how did I do this? It’s pretty simple, really (especially with a gathered skirt), just takes a little wrapping your head around it. Basically, I made the buttoned bodice front functional, cut a slit into the skirt front, sewed a wee little placket to it and aligned the edges with the bodice edges. Because the bodice overlaps so does the skirt, thus hiding the opening. With the skirt being gathered and this busy pattern it’s pretty much invisible!

I don’t know if this photo is going to help much seeing what I did, but here’s a close-up of the opening, with the edges outlined in the red:


The more minor alteration was to the collar. I wanted it more open, but didn’t think to change the pattern at all. So it didn’t lie properly if I left the top of the neckline open. My solution? Make a tuck in the collar itself and put a button on it to show that it’s not an accident, but a “design decision”. Ha. Fortunately I had lots of these wee buttons. You can see it on the right-hand side of the collar in the photo below:


Here’s a close-up of it:


To deal with the fabric’s sheerness I self-lined the bodice – as you probably already noticed – this also helped use up my yardage so I didn’t have an awkwardly sized piece of fabric left over too small to really use but too big to be useless.  Fortunately, the fabric’s pattern doesn’t come through noticeably.  On the bottom half I wear my black slip made from bemberg lining.  Hmm … note to self: I have some olive green/brown bemberg I should probably make another slip from to match this and other fall dresses better.


I made very few changes to the fit of the dress since the pattern was already in my size. I did find it pretty roomy through the waist once I was done, so I’ll just always wear it with a belt – which I was intending to do anyway. I think the only size alteration I made was to shorten the bodice by about 1″ – my usual modification for my short-waist-ed-ness.


This dress is super comfortable and needs only the belt to look smart and put together. I do love easy-to-wear pieces!




Getting Knitty

I’m not really one for New Year’s resolutions, but this year (well, technically late 2013) I thought to start something resolution-like. I decided 2014 would be the year I (finally) become a (proper) knitter.

And it’s happened! And I’m totally addicted! lol

I’ve tried knitting a couple of times in the past but it somehow never really drew me. Not until the last couple of years that is. As I got into reading sewing blogs I saw that several of the authors were also knitters. Furthermore, I saw that they were knitting really cute stuff! Add to this a sort of crystallization, if you will, of my personal style sense being largely vintage-inspired dresses with fitted bodices and skirts of varying fullness (read moderately full to hella-voluminous!) paired with cute little cardigans. Realizing this is the sort of thing I like wearing best made be realize that I NEED ALL THE CARDIGANS – the cute little ones, that is. I started seeing all kinds of adorable knitted cardis all over the place and I wanted in on the fun!

Inspired by knitting sewists like Tasia at Sewaholic, Lauren at Lladybird, Marrie at Purls & Pleats and my friend Jill (for whom I made the navy & copper garrison ball dress in exchange for a hand-knitted cardi) I dove in.

However, while some folks are brave enough to start their knitting journey by jumping right into a CLC (cute-little-cardi) – major props to JuliaBobbin! – I took a more dipping-my-toes-in approach and started with the standard scarf. This went along pretty easily. So since I had yarn left over, I decided right away to move onto a matching hat:


And learn how to make a pom-pom along the way!


It was initially pretty blobby, I later decided to experiment and put both hat and scarf in the dryer one day for the purpose shrinking and felting them a little. It worked, lol! Anyway, although the hat came out blobby I so proud of myself for tackling knitting in the round, dpn’s and decreases!

Feeling pretty confident I swiftly moved onto this capelet and fingerless mitts set:


The patterns didn’t come as a set, but worked in the same yarn I think they go really well together. And I think making this capelet started the love affair I’ve already identified with lace knitting.


I was really pleased with how the set turned out. I had tackled more new skills – short rows, lace, a buttonhole (very badly done, mind you, lol) and learned the magic loop method of knitting to get out of using dpn’s. I was even more tickled to find I got to use the capelet and mitts more than I anticipated. Turns out they’re perfect for those spring days that are cool in the morning but warm up later and then cool down in the evening again. Capelets FTW!!! New Gap campaign idea: Everyone in Capelets!

I also knit this pretty beret to round out the set, I just forgot to get pictures of all of them together.



Finally I decided I was ready to knit a sweater!

This did not go quite as smoothly as I’d hoped, though.

After lots of humming and ha-ing I went with a lovely cotton/cashmere blend DK-weight yarn in ivory and this pattern:

Sublime Delphine/Dominique (the version pictured here is Delphine, I used Dominique, which has long sleeves – I’ll use Delphine’s sleeves if/when I try this again in future)

My intention was to make it waist-length with 3/4 length sleeves. This pattern is knit in pieces from the bottom up. It’s also got no built-in shaping to it. Sooooo……..I got through knitting most of the pieces and was starting to seam them together when I realized it was not going to be fitted through the waist like I wanted. Also, the sleeves weren’t going to fit properly at the cuffs either. I couldn’t just shorten the length of the pattern, I’d also have to add some shaping. So I got to have my first major frogging experience! Yay!(not) I decided this pattern required too much math for my first sweater.

I switched gears entirely and went with Andie Satterlund’s Miette cardigan instead:




SO MUCH BETTER. I know you can’t compare because I didn’t take any pics of my first-try sweater, but trust me on this. A perfect pattern for your first sweater. Really easy to follow, pretty quick to knit and a great result. The only issue with it is that Andie’s gauge for it seems a little off – or so I was told at the local yarn stores.

Hot on the heels of my Miette I knit this little cutie:


A modified Peggy Sue. I chose this one to get my feet wet with cabling. I don’t think cabling is going to be my favouritest technique ever, but it’s a lot less scary than I envisioned.


I kind of made the sweater and the dress to go together for this past summer’s Outfit Along hosted by


I have a couple more finished cardigans – one of which is my absolute favourite so far – but this post has already taken too long to put together, so I’ll leave it here for now. Upcoming will be what I decided to do with the ivory yarn from my first cardi attempt and a fall-inspired one.

Online Sewing-Stuff Yardsale Extravaganza!!

This past June I had occasion to do a pretty significant purge of my sewing paraphernalia. For the past several years I’d been renting a room in back of a sewing machine sale & repair shop as my sewing “studio” (more like windowless-hole-in-the-wall, but it did the trick at the time!). However, the building was sold this spring, I knew I wouldn’t be able to find another such arrangement and I was already tired of travelling to sew anyway. Thus, everything was “repatriated” to our condo. It’s not a bad-sized condo, but it’s not a house either. While I knew I’d never be able to make the sewing stuff invisible, I was determined it should be as unobtrusive as possible. This meant a serious purge was needed – something I think is a good and healthy thing to do periodically anyhow and I was overdue.

Long story short, my loss may be your gain!

There hasn’t been much crappy stuff in my stash for years now, so I felt that what’s been purged was too good to go right into the donation bin. I wanted to try and find good homes for as much of it as possible and also try to recoup a small fraction of what I’d spent on it over the years accumulating it. I have an old etsy storefront, so I’m using for an online yard sale, and you can go check it out here.

There’s different kinds of treasures, such as:

Vintage Patterns

HOLD  Vintage early 1960s sewing pattern McCalls 6670 sz 14 - 34 bust

listing for this one here

Burda Magazine back issues

Burda sewing magazine June 2008. In English


Black and purple jaquard fabric yardage

listing for this one here

A few notions and trims

Button assortment!

listing for these guys here

And I still have some unused modern Vogue patterns to list and a few pieces of me-made & vintage clothing.

Go check it out – and tell your friends!

I’m not keeping the listings up until everything sells, only for a month or so – I need this stuff outta here. Whatever doesn’t sell will be donated, so if you see something that catches your eye, don’t wait too long on it.

Happy treasure hunting!

Tree Gown in Action + Another James-Inspired Dress

It only took about 6 months, but here’s my reproduction Tree Gown in action!


Photos were taken by my long sufferingly-devoted friend Stephan at the Royal York Hotel in Toronto – Thanks Steph! ;o)

Not the most inspiring backdrop for these two, but the lighting caught the details of the draping well.



Now that’s classy.

Carolyn 01


The MAC artist who did my make-up deliberately matched my lipstick to the colour of the dress! lol

Carolyn 02b


There were a lot of silly photos along the way. I call this face “Mrph”. You know, like the sound villagers in Minecraft make, lol.




Sooo…… not only did I take on the insane challenge of reproducing a Charles James gown, but I did another one for my friend, Jill!

Her’s is very loosely based on this James gown:

~Rose Clover dress c1953. Designer: Charles James  1906-1978  Medium: Pink silk taffeta, silk satin, and boning~

Jillian 01




I made her a little capelet with the leftover fabrics too.




Jill had some pretty great expressions during picture-taking. I hope she doesn’t mind me posting these, heehee. Hey Jill, lemme know if these are too undignified for you.


I love this pic of her so much.



You can get a sense of the “swoosh” of the Tree gown in these. I’d intended to get some video of its movement, but completely forgot.








I really wish this one was in focus, oh well, the movement still looks cool.









Jill captured wonderfully during a phone conversation, lol.





And then there was the random lime saga. See the lime beside Jill’s hand in the photo above? We noticed it shortly after taking this photo – see below.







Yeah, okay, enough with the lime.








We didn’t get many photos from the ball itself, it’s easy to forget once you get there.

But here’s a photo of my husband, Andrew, and myself taken for the Globe & Mail (I knew my big pink dress was going to clash with Andrew’s dress uniform. I didn’t care) – we got onto the society page! lol

Unfortunately, there are no pictures with my superhero cape :o( There was a little snafu and it didn’t make it to the hotel in time for the photos. I did have it for the evening, but like I said, it’s really easy to forget taking pictures once you’re there.

I guess this means I’ll need another occasion to wear this!

More Summer Dresses!

Whoopsie-doodle, looks like I took an unintended summer break from blogging – but not from sewing!

It’s technically still summer until Sept 20/21, so I’m not too late to post these….right?

Here’s some more of what I’ve been wearing this summer and a bit of where I’ve been, lol.

First up is yet another modified Macaron dress. Pity it’s so washed out in this photo as it was the best one of me. This is at a winery called “The Grange”. My husband and I did a little Prince Edward County winery tour one day. If you’re ever in eastern Ontario during the summer or early fall, I HIGHLY recommend doing this! It’s a spectacularly beautiful area, and a lot of the wine is really good! We came home with…….a goodly supply. ;o)


You can see the colours/patterns better in this shot of the back.


I do have some better photos of the front, but they’re kinda part of another post topic, possibly my next one – I started a new hobby this year ;o)

That behind me, in the photo below, is Chateau Laurier, which means we were in Ottawa. We spent a lovely quick visit to the city and some friends we hadn’t seen in a while. And I was able to re-stock on some tea at one of my favourite suppliers. They used to be in Kingston but closed a couple years ago (and there’s now a frozen yogurt place called “Menchies” – scowl-y face – in its stead).

You can’t tell from this photo, but……

2014-07-18 14.52.09

It’s a Belladone! Since last summer I’d wanted to try it out with a full skirt. Me likey! This is actually the second one I made like this, the first is down below – it got photographed later.

2014-07-18 14.52.19

Hey – who put the edge of that sidewalk there?

2014-07-18 14.51.24

A few weeks later I spent some time in Quebec City with my husband, Andrew. This is another modified Macaron, a la this Modcloth inspiration:

Puppies at Play Dress | Mod Retro Vintage Dresses |

I’ve made this  before, but wanted to try it with my go-to gathered skirt (which I actually do with my ruffler foot).


This dress represents one of those very very rare occasions when I purchased fabric specifically for it. I saw these two fabrics at Fabricland one day early in the summer and just KNEW they’d be perfect for this dress. And I was right! I really love this dress!


This is also Quebec City, but around about the suburb of Ste Foy. This specific little area is called Cap Rouge as it’s at the mouth of the Rouge River. It’s a really cute little heritage-y hamlet with a neat history. This was the site of an early French settlement – and I mean crazy early, like 1530s! Apparently it lasted only a few months.  They did one winter here and then left, I’m somehow not surprised by this.


This is the first full-skirted belladone I made. I used this great vintage or vintage-looking lightweight cotton that I found at Value Village. I didn’t buy it knowing I’d make this dress, but it was purchased the same day as the fabric for the previous dress. And I made this dress sometime in July, which means it was another super quick turn-around for me! Usually I make stuff from fabric I’ve had for years and years.


There are still a couple more dresses I made this summer that haven’t been photographed yet. Maybe I’ll try and get at least one done this weekend. Andrew may be home for the weekend, I can try and rope him into being photographer again – he loves that (that was sarcasm).

How was you summer for sewing? Does this tend to be a productive time for you, inspired by the weather to make sundresses, shorts, Tee’s, swimsuits, what-have-you? Or are you too busy having fun in the sun to get much done? (heehee, see what I did there? Now, no more rhymes now I mean it….anybody want a peanut?)

My MMM’14 Challenge Exception

In my first MeMadeMay post I mentioned that I’d allow myself one exception to the ‘sewing with only Indie patterns’ part of my personal challenge because I’d already planned & started it.

This post is about that dress.

Which was inspired by this dress I saw on Modcloth (probably one of my favourite places for idea shopping, I must confess)

Night Brunch Dress in Fern | Mod Retro Vintage Dresses |

I used this (OOP) Vogue pattern as a starting point for the bodice (how perfect, right!?)


And used a sleeve pattern piece from something I had kicking around.

I may reign in that bow somewhat, but overall I’m really pleased with it.


This was just about the only addition this year to my Canadian Spring wardrobe. I finished it early May and was able to wear it a couple of times during the month thanks to our late spring this year.

However, I was wearing this dress the first time I went bare-legged this year! I’d needed tights for the morning, but when out in the afternoon had to stop in at a coffee shop restroom to take them off because it was just. too. hot. with them on.


The main fabric is a wool blend I got from a store on Queen St in Toronto. The charcoal accent is wool that was leftover from a Zinnia skirt that I’d started. I, um, haven’t finished the skirt because, um, it appears that I may have used the piece I cut for the waistband, um, for some part of this dress without, um, realizing it. I think that mistake deserves a chorus of *facepalm*headdesk*D’OH* I have some little bits of the charcoal wool left with which to piece a waistband, I just won’t feel like doing that now until fall.


But, hey, Pockets!


I do love me some pockets.  Anyway, I did a hand-picked zipper on this and not 100% how I feel about it. The dress is actually a little on the loose side and the zipper is still showing at the waistband, boo. It helps that I generally hardly see it.


I lined the bodice with white cotton and left the skirt unlined. It’s worn with a slip when I’m wearing tights under it. I’m really loving this slip idea! I actually just got some bemberg lining to make a couple of “nude” ones to wear under lighter coloured winter-weight pieces such as this one.


MMM’14 Weeks 3 & 4

Super late post, but I did fulfill my pledge for MeMadeMay’14, both in terms of wearing at least one make from an Indie pattern per week and sewing only with Indie patterns for the month. Now, to be fair/honest I sewed several duplicates of a few patterns. I need new summer dresses and making a couple from the same pattern in a weekend was the most efficient/effective way to achieve this with my available time and applicable Indie patterns.

I’ve combined weeks 3 & 4 because a) I’d be even later if I did a post for each and b) there was a lot of repeat items over these 2 weeks.  But, they were all new makes, so it’s still fun!  The weather’s been funny over the past couple of weeks – very up & down, one day sunny and hot, the next cold and rainy, or sunny but with a strong cool wind. So what ended up happening is that I’d wear a new make on a nice day, plan to wear an older Indie pattern make the next, but the weather wouldn’t co-operate, oh well.  New stuff is more fun to show anyway!

So here we go:

On Tuesday and Wednesday of week 3 I wore 2 modified Macarons I’d made the previous weekend, I then wore them again on Tuesday and Friday of week 4.

Here’s #1:



The floral fabric is a vintage bedsheet from Value Village, the buttons are also vintage that I picked up at a vintage sale somewhere, sometime.


I think the sheet was only a twin size, but that was still wide enough that two panels from selvedge to selvedge made for a very full skirt – which I love!


There have been a fair few exposed zippers sewn this month. They’re just so quick and easy, they really helped me get through dresses in a jiff.


There are pockets, of course.


Full-skirted Macaron #2 (and I have plans for a 3rd!):


I love it when one of my cardigans perfectly matches with a print – without trying.


The matching accent fabric was also a real score. I’d bought the solid years ago as a remnant piece along with some other stuff (again – somewhere, sometime, I don’t remember). It’s a really lovely cotton sateen. I got the vintage cotton print at last year’s More than a Yard Sale fundraiser at the Textile Museum of Canada.  It was a total fluke that these two matched so well – must have been meant to be! Oh! And the buttons are more of the same as on the dress above. I had 6 of them and wasn’t too keen on using only 3 for the first dress. But I was delighted to find they would work for this one as well, so no awkward number of buttons were left over.


Hmm, in person the shoes seem to match better than they do in these photos.


The pockets in this one are placed more towards the front because the skirt is actually made of 3 selvedge to selvedge panels of the fabric. Being a vintage cotton it was only about 35″ wide. So there’s a front piece and two side/back pieces. I rather like having the pockets somewhat forward like this.


This is the 2nd Elisalex dress I made. It was done the same weekend as the first one, but it had problems.  See, this cotton print has stretch to it. I didn’t have any lightweight stretch cotton I could use as a lining. But I wanted to both line the bodice and maintain the stretch factor for a little extra comfort.  My solution? cut the bodice lining (from light pink broadcloth) on the bias.


I’m just so very clever, aren’t I? What a great idea-not-so-much. While the bias-cut lining did have give to it, it still wasn’t as stretchy as the fabric and resulted in weird pulling at the back neckline. It took me a while to figure out what was causing it.


Once I did, I left the dress be for a while because I realized it meant re-doing a lot of the bodice lining seams and finishing. I needed some space from the dress before I fixed it, I took a week’s break.  I’m so glad I went back into it, though. It would have bugged me so much if I’d not fixed it and I wouldn’t have wanted to wear the dress. This would have been a shame because – this fabric! I love the print and colours of this fabric! I don’t know if this colouring totally suits my colouring, but I don’t care.


Instead of regular piping to trim the waist and neckline I did sort of a flat piping (I’m sure there’s a term for this, anyone know?) out of a co-ordinating stretch cotton sateen. The colour isn’t a perfect match, but you don’t really notice with the dress fabric being so busy.

Oh, so I wore this on Thursday or Friday of week 3 and Wednesday of week 4


I made this dress the last full weekend of May but wasn’t able to wear until the last day of May because it got chilly that last week.

I call this: The Mod-Maca-Thorn!


Ooh, indeed, Carolyn.

This dress is a hack of the Macaron combined with the skirt pieces from Colette’s Hawthorn pattern to re-create this dress from Modcloth:

Puppies at Play Dress | Mod Retro Vintage Dresses |


Not too shabby, if I do say so myself. And guess what – it’s another vintage bedsheet from Value Village! I’ve had these sheets a few years now and am so happy to finally start using them (they take up a lot of space on the fabric shelves).


I’m also very happy that the half circle/A-line skirt looks ok on me, I wasn’t completely sure it would, I’ve gotten so used to wearing gathered or box-pleated skirts. The skirt is modified from the pattern as well in that I cut the front on the fold at the centre front line.


There are a couple of issues with it, however.  Firstly, the straps are too far out on the shoulders (hello brastraps!). Fixing this means altering the pattern because the straps are cut in one with the upper band rather than being separate pieces. rather like a yoke. I like having made it that way, it just needs a wee adjustment.

The second issue, also with the straps, is that they’re too long and want to fall off my shoulders. Not difficult to alter on the pattern, however, and the dress itself is still wearable. If we get really hot weather this summer I can see this being worn quite a bit as it’s very lightweight.

And I’ve already got fabric lined up for a second one – hopefully my pattern revisions will do the trick!


This one is sort of a bonus piece. I haven’t actually worn it out yet and it wasn’t finished before the end of May. However, it was started before the end of the month and as (my 3rd) Cambie dress, is another Indie pattern make.


This is one of my absolute favourite patterns, I want so many of these!!!


Oh, and fun fact: apparently coral is the most universally flattering colour for clothing. It supposedly works for most if not all skin tones and colourings!  So this is my 2nd coral dress and I have one more piece of coral fabric (a stretch cotton pique) in the stash.  But I think I’ll leave it for another year.


I’ve started a full-skirted Belladone dress, but sewing’s got sluggish lately and I took my machine in for a check-up this past week, so was without it for a few days.

Now what did I learn/realize by participating in MeMadeMay’14?

1. I need to make an effort to use my Indie patterns more often throughout the year, they’re pretty great! I would have like to add to the collection this month, but really wanted to get use out ones I already had. The way I figure it, the more iterations of a pattern I make, the less the pattern cost for each one.

2. I’m seriously crazy about full-skirted dresses, but I’m ok with it. I love the way they look and find them so, so comfortable as you’ve got no restrictions on the legs whatsoever. Much better than pants, in my opinion. Hey – speaking of pants, have I mentioned that I recently realized I haven’t worn a pair of pants (not including shorts here) in over a year? And I don’t miss ‘em!

3. I came to the conscious realization that my favourite thing to wear is dresses. They really are my preferred garment – fun to make, so easy to wear, no mixing & matching separates. So I’ve made the deliberate decision to make the rest of this year the “Year of the Dress”. I’ve decided that I would really like to have a core collection of dresses for each season, so that will be my sewing focus over the next half-year. I apologize in advance (ok, not really) if that means show & tell on the blog gets repetitive-looking. These dresses will follow a basic formula of fitted bodice + full(ish) skirts.  We’ll see how much variety I come up with within those parameters!