Toying with Yoyo

When there’s a dress shape I like, testing it for a good fit is worth the effort. Testing also tells me if the design actually suits me.

Papercut patterns Yoyo dress/skirt is a fitted dress style I love. What’s clever about it is you can easily grade the pieces to suit your sizing, or my ‘ever-changing’ sizing. The bodice and skirt pieces are separate and the shaping is minimal so there’s definitely room to adjust this pattern as you go.

The skirt lent itself to adding pockets as you can see from the adjusted skirt pattern above.

The front open ended zipper can be a challenge to find if you appreciate matching zippers to fabrics. These days, it’s more on trend to have an exposed zipper in a contrasting colour, to add interest to dresses, skirts, jackets etc. This helps when you limited zipper options.

The easiest option for making this version was to use this black on white all over print by JohnKaldor and use a black zipper. It’s a lovely suiting and it’s not heaving as a suiting.
The pattern provides all in one facings for a clean finish. I planned to fully line this dress because I like fully lined dresses. Ok, I love fully lined dresses.
My test dresses used the facings from the pattern and they’re good but I’m biased towards fully lined dresses. The cotton lining is soft and smooth so this is perfect for lining Summer dresses.

The first test version was totally medium sized and through some carefully checking, I soon found that I am small at the bust and have a medium sized waist.

I also removed 5cm from the skirt length. I took this length out horizontally from across the middle of the skirt. Removing the length from the middle of the skirt doesn’t interrupt the hem shaping.

Be aware that taking any length off this dress will affect the zipper length you use. I still used a 60cm zipper for this dress. I was just able to use the zipper so I know I can use a 55cm zipper in future.

The John Kaldor fabric has good body for this dress and the cotton lining helps the dress shaping stable.
Before cutting out the dress I marked the 1cm seam allowances on the pattern pieces. I learnt that marking the seam allowances makes pattern matching more accurate.

What I realised is that for this fabric, pattern matching is great for beginners as the print is dark and doesn’t have an obvious repeat.

Ok enough of the technical talk.

On the test versions I hand basted the zippers before machine stitching them. This keeps the zipper in place as you machine sew the zipper into the dress. This also allowed me to check the dress fit.

Machine sewing in the zipper isn’t something I can do in one go, so this also allowed me to sew the zipper into the dress in a couple of stages.

One thing I did learn from the test dresses is to leave the centre front facing loose until the zipper is sewn into the dress, for a sharper finish.

Yoyo is now my key Aussie Summer piece I can easily throw on when I have somewhere to go and it’s boiling hot outside. Having the dress fully lined means I’ll be a touch more comfortable in this heat that started before Christmas.

Cheers everyone and thanks again to Minerva Crafts for providing everything for this dress.

Why piping works

Piping is a useful technique when you’re drawing attention to a feature point.

Showing off Miz Mozelle’s design is what I wanted to do on this John Kaldor teal print from Minerva Crafts.

The colours in this fabric are very different to what I usually but I loved them.

This print also comes in a navy colourway.

The turquoise piping was premade. Choosing the right colour was easy to do from the range available at Minerva Crafts.

I was happy with this colour and the quality of the fabric used.
From the work in progress photo above, you can see how I used the piping.
The turquoise contrast was worth taking the time to do.

Another cute feature is the self cover button.

I used Prym 22mm cover buttons and they were easy to create.

The packaging provides a fabric template and images to show you what to do so Prym have thought of everything to make self cover buttons easy to make.

What you might realise from this photo is the collar isn’t the same as the pattern.

When I started making this dress, the collar pattern somehow left my sewing space, so I grabbed a basic peter pan collar pattern as my substitute.

From this wip photo, the back neckline still looks ok but I will try to redraft this collar into one full piece.
Here’s the work in progress photo for adding the piping to the colour. The turquoise matches the Prym Love pins I used.

These pins are come with their own magnetic pin cushion. They have a glass head so they take any heat your iron can muster, without melting.
The key pattern change I made was the to hem of the sleeve.

I raised the hem by 2cm because it seemed to stop at the thickest part of my arm. This was the sleeve looks a bit softer.

I’m really happy with this dress and I hope to make more with some soft fabrics.

Thanks Minerva Crafts and Prym.

Don’t forget to use ‘maria’ to get 10% off any Prym purchases from Minerva Crafts.

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Which way it the right way to use a large border print? This month I experimented with a large border John Kaldor print from Minerva Crafts on Sew Over It Eve dress.

The fun was strategically cutting out the pieces with this border print. I love this print.

I used to get ‘hung up’ on figuring out what the ‘right way’ to use a border print.

Rules are a great guide but sometimes I’ve been hampered by them.

Which way is up or where should the border print be placed.

I’m not tall so my options are limited on how I can use any print.

Internally I used French seams where possible. The fabric is light and soft so overlocking the seams made them feel thick and clunky.

The skirt is soft and flowy so French seams didn’t weigh down this dress.

I used Prym Microtextil sharps needle. The 70/10 size from the mixed pack sewed through this fabric very smoothly.
The neckline finish uses Prym plain cotton tape (no facing) so again there’s no bulk at the neckline. I chose the cotton tape and the tape weave is very sturdy so I was able to ease in the neckline across the bust.
The neckline across the bust hugs against me so I didn’t need to do an adjustment, like I have with other neckline.

Now to pair this dress with my work jackets.

This is an easy dress to make for work if you can’t find a thing to wear.

Thanks again Minerva Crafts. 

Don’t forget to use ‘maria’ to get 10% off any Prym purchases from Minerva Crafts.


Couture sewing part one

Last November I saw Susan Khalje was coming to run her couture workshops in Australia. I booked into the 6-day couture workshop in Sydney and created this strapless dress using Minerva Crafts John Kaldor Floral Print Slinky Satin Dress Fabric.

I have sewn enough now to want to raise my sewing skill and I couldn’t pass up this opportunity to learn from Susan.

Minerva Crafts were happy to supply me with all the couture sewing fabrics and notions to learn couture sewing and make up a fully structured strapless dress. This made me realise how enabling Minerva Crafts is with their range of fabrics and notions and I’ve seen inside Minerva’s amazing warehouse too!

Susan Khalje has worked in a New York couture house and she passes on her couture sewing knowledge through her workshops in Baltimore and now through Craftsy courses.

The dress
Vogue 1174 is a classic strapless dress and reviews of this pattern show it does have its challenges so it made sense to get Susan’s expertise on fit, design balance and construction to come up with this cocktail dress. 

For me, the end result is I can use the outer dress and lining patterns for up to four strapless dress variations.

Susan maintains all patterns are a starting point. When you have that philosophy, it becomes easy to make the adjustments you need to have well-fitted clothes.

The fabric
This fabric has a silky feel and it acts like silk even though it’s a polyester fibre. The weave and feel really is silky. I picked this silky feel fabric for this workshop to build my fabric handling skills. I looked at all of the John Kaldor prints on Minerva Crafts website and this classic print was available. Bingo. Choice made!

The lining is a similar weight to the fashion fabric so again, the fabrics I needed were all available through their website.

Foundation bodice
The dress pattern suggests horse hair canvas for the foundation bodice but this felt really harsh against my skin so I used calico to build the foundation bodice. 

Calico is easy to get in various weights and this medium-weight calico gave me a firm and seamless structure to the dress bodice.

Once I finalised the foundation bodice, I overlayed the dress fashion fabric and lining to better structure the dress fit. It took 4 fittings to get the bodice shape right.

Couture techniques
Setting up a toile wasn’t my idea of fun but it’s actually worth doing for a great finished product. I’ll normally make a wearable toile but making a toile that you use as your ‘laboratory’ is so much better for a great fitting garment. Putting the time in beforehand pays off.

Thread tracing seam lines and using 2.5cm seam allowances are essential when you are aiming for a great fit too.

Warning:  This pattern has 27 pieces. Just remember that when you’re using an old tracing wheel to trace out your pattern. Do yourself a favour and buy the Prym Tracing wheel. It’s ergonomically designed so your wrist doesn’t get fatigued.

I’ve taken advantage of the Prym products I’ve been given and the ergonomically designed tools are worth treating yourself once you step into couture sewing. The glass head pin, shears, tracing wheel and measuring tools have made a difference to my sewing and I can sew for a long time and not get any muscular strains.

Each fashion fabric piece is interlined with silk organza and I’ve thread-traced every stitching line. The 2.5cm seams act as facings so no pattern facings were included.

Even the skirt pocket pieces are interlined.

Did I say that we basically sewed 10 hours days for this 6-day workshop? The first three days I still did my usual 6am gym workouts before the workshop but by day 4, I needed my energy to get through the final 3 days the gym didn’t happen for the rest of the week. I did use this energy for homework or dinners/breakfasts with some of the ladies who came to Sydney from other parts of Australia.

While I didn’t sew in a hand-picked zipper , Susan demonstrated this and a few other techniques to the class throughout the 6 days.

Final pattern pieces
They look something like this…

As you can see, the pattern pieces are on the calico. They’ll remain here for now and I’ll use these again for future strapless dresses.

There are separate pattern pieces for the lining dress and outer dress. This means I can make up to 4 different strapless dresses from these pieces.

After the course
After such an intensive workshop, I found it difficult to come back to reality. I sewed some cozzies and felt more grounded.

However I still needed to finish off the bodice and hems. In a way, sewing cozzies was a way to practice sewing with swimwear elastic for a closer dress bodice fit.

There were 2 issues that needed ‘fixing’ along the top of the bodice.

1 The top of the bodice while keeping me in shape, the bodice was keenly pointing to the sky but not hugging my body.
2 I used calico for the foundation layer and the calico edge was peeking out at the top of the dress bodice.

Solution to issue 1: I machine sewed swimwear elastic across the front of the bodice. This meant I had to unpick my hand stitching; machine sew on the elastic; re-hand stitch the foundation to the bodice while pulling it taunt.

Solution to issue 2: I hand-stitched self made bias using the John Kaldor fabric. This has resulted is a really lovely internal finish as well as resolving issue 2. If the foundation layer peeks above the dress, you’ll only see more of the fashion fabric. I’m happy with this result.
Watching Netflix helped me stay focused while hand stitching the bias to the top of the bodice.

Issue 3: There was one other issue…hooking up the foundation layer…by Mr V. I used pliers to adjust the hooks so Mr V can help me dress. So you could say, there’s a reality aspect to this dress aside from couture sewing I had to resolve.

Having an organza layer under the fashion fabric is really useful. I hand sewed the hem onto the organza layer. This also keep the shape of dress skirt. The lining is hemmed separately.

Wrapping it up

My initial idea was to play a velvet trim somewhere on the dress for some definition. Susan placed the trim on the waist and fashioned a bow for me. I’ve now hand sewn this on the dress.

There are faux straps that I’ve also prepared for a different feel to the dress. These faux bra straps are made from the fashion fabric and give the dress a subtle change.

This wider fashion fabric ribbon gives this dress a ‘50s vibe to it.

So this same dress, with the same shoes can be worn at least three different ways.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the first part of my couture sewing journey. Thanks to Susan for travelling to Australia and running these workshops.

A big thank you to Vicki and the team at Minerva Crafts for providing me with all the fabrics and notions for this workshop. The name of everyone who packs each online order is on the label of your purchase.

Also a big shout out to Prym products for providing me with all their ergonomic sewing tools that have made this workshop more enjoyable. Remember there’s a 10% discount on all Prym products when you apply the discount code ‘maria’.

Next month, I’ll be making the couture lace skirt in Susan’s class and sharing what I learnt with you. You’ll love the fabrics I’ve chosen too!

January sewing kit winner

Andrea of Fabric Epiphanies was drawn from the random number generator for this month’s giveaway kit courtesy of Minerva Crafts.

Thank you to everyone who left a comment on the Minerva Crafts blog post. I hope Andrea has as much fun using this kit as I did. I enjoyed working with John Kaldor fabric again. 

Next month there will be one last sewing kit giveaway. 

Well, I think it’s the last one. There may be more giveaways this year.

A bright start

It’s 2017 and I’ve welcomed the New Year with this bright floral Nicola dress by Victory patterns from Minerva Crafts UK.

I’ve been wanting to use this John Kaldor fabric for a while so I decided to pair this together with Nicola, hence a bright 2017 start.

blue/coral colourway

This is certainly a large floral and you know I love a John Kaldor when it’s available. This blue/coral print is reorderable ie, it’s always available as is the purple/orange version.

Purple/orange colourway

I chose the blue colourway to go with blue shoes or a blue jacket. To be honest, I just wanted see how this huge floral print would work on me. I’m so glad Minerva Crafts keeps these prints in stock.

This black floral version was the test dress.

I decided to use the size 10 for bust and waist but size 8 for the hips.

Pattern alterations
After the test version, I kept:

  • forward shoulder adjustment
  • shortened skirt
  • adjusted neckline to curve more.
  • shortened the bust darts by 2cm (gravity)
No sway back adjustment required

What I loved the best
No zipper required
Sleeve detailing
Summer styling
Lined skirt

Here’s a closer look at the sleeve finish.
The skirt is fully lined and I wore this dress on a humid night without feeling the heat.

The skirt follows your shape but doesn’t cling so I felt cool.

What I didn’t like

Not applicable.

I decided to use snaps, a hook eye and a button as the closures making this pattern very simple to make.

This John Kaldor floral print is my day wear version. 

Above is the black evening version I made for the Day and Night dress challenge.

You can see here where I tweaked the sleeves a bit

This month’s giveaway for Australian and New Zealand sewing peeps is the floral dress kit from Minerva Crafts UK.

You get this John Kaldor fabric, lining, thread, buttons, Victory Patterns Nicola dress pattern and enough Vliesaline H180 to interface your dress.

Leave a comment on the Minerva Crafts post for this month’s make and I’ll draw the winner out on Thursday 12 January.

Day and night dress challenge

If you’ve been blogging and or sewing for a while you may already know Elizabeth of Elizabeth made this.

Elizabeth really does sew anything that’s not nailed down and her Christmas cooking feats at the moment are quite impressive. She’s constantly creating and keeping her family looked after.

Elizabeth has developed and is hosting the Day and Night Dress Challenge. It’s really simple – make two dresses – one for the day and one for night.

As she explains: I’ve been wanting to get back into performing with my violin, and it’s been a number of years since I had a black dress in my closet.  Though I need a black dress that’s polished and appropriate for orchestra performances, the truth is that I seldom wear black. The idea of challenging myself to make a black dress became much more appealing when I thought about making an everyday dress at the same time” Read more about Elizabeth’s idea here.

Are you interested in joining the day and night dress challenge? There are two parts to it and some lovely sponsors that are providing two prizes to the winners and there’s also a random vote for another prize.


The challenge is to make 2 dresses for yourself:
  1. A dress with a day look: This can be anything!  Shirtdresses, knit dresses, sweater dresses, wrap dresses, the sky is the limit.  Sew up a dress that suits your life and expresses your own sense of style.  I want to see color, pattern, and texture here.
  2. A dress with a night look:  Night look dresses should be black, and they can be as fancy or as simple as you choose.  Think about a dress that could go to the opera or a cocktail party or anywhere else where you need to look effortlessly chic and sharp.
Dresses are to be made during the time of the challenge (January 8th-28th 2017 for the community challenge).  This is a contest for women’s garments only.


  • The blog tour will take place from Sunday, January 8th- Saturday, January 14th 2017.
  • Entries for the community challenge will open on Sunday, January 8th and will close on Saturday, January 28th 12 am MST.  There will be a link up available for entrants to post their dresses.  Feel free to chronicle your makes on social media #dayandnightdresschallenge on Instagram and Twitter or join the Facebook group here, but only entries posted to the link up will be considered for the prizes.
  • Voting will begin on January 29th and close on Saturday, February 4th.
  • There will be 2 winners of the Day and Night Dress Challenge as determined by vote.  Winners will each receive a prize package which will be detailed in a future post.

What’s my involvement?
There are two parts to this challenge and I’m involved in the blog tour to help get you inspired to make your two dresses.

I’m working Victory Patterns Nicola dress because it’s Summer and I love wrap dresses. 

When Elizabeth approached me to join in, I was already planning on making a new Summer dress for my next Minerva Crafts make so my day dress was already planned using this bold and large John Kaldor floral print

Now to sort out the evening version in black by diving into my fabric stash. I may need to lengthen my evening version. You’ll see the results of my test dress on instagram.

In the meantime I’ll be checking out all the sewing bloggers taking part to inspire your creations because they’ve all go their own styles.

Think about this challenge and if it inspires you, join in.