Elfish Sewing: Stylish Dress Book 1 - Dress E

Stylish Dress Book 1: Dress E made by Ivy Arch

Sometimes the best homemade dresses are the ones that take the least time to make. Dress E from Yoshiko Tsukiori's Stylish Dress Book: Wear with Freedom fits this description. It's a simple pull-over-the-head tunic with neat front pleats and two patch pockets – a gift for beginners and seasoned dressmakers alike. 

Dress with front pleats: Stylish Dress Book 1 illustration

I've made it twice before, first in a plaid suiting fabric and again in blue cotton paisley. The shape is flattering, it's comfortable and easy to wear.

Two versions of Dress E in blue paisley cotton (left), and plaid suiting (right)

With two metres of Poppy Europe bird print corduroy and half a metre of emerald green needlecord, I was raring to go. As before I lengthened the sleeves to three quarter length but this time also lengthened the hem to fall just below the knee to make it less of a tunic and more of a folk dress.

Dress E: Stylish Dress Book 1

I experimented with cutting out the upper back panel in green, then trimmed the pockets and added cuffs to the sleeves to match. 

Dress E: back view

The combination of brown brightly printed fabric trimmed with emerald green reminds me of the classic 1960s/70s Ladybird book The Elves and The Shoemaker. It's a book I read dozens of times as a child and spent hours studying the hand drawn illustrations (by Robert Lumley). I no longer have a copy but remember details on every page. The cover has two elves in patched clothes sewing and hammering a huge pair of emerald green shoes, and on the final pages the elves (wearing bright green suits made for them by the shoemaker's wife) are shown skipping out into daylight. I'm on the hunt for an affordable replacement copy of the book, but in the meantime will channel that good elf feeling in my new corduroy dress.

Dress E, Stylish Dress Book 1

Make It Perfect Poppy Tunic – with modifications

Poppy Tunic in Soft Cactus Lasting Leaves, made by Ivy Arch

Since I made this tunic at the start of the month the weather has turned a tad chillier and so I've only had occasion to wear it once. I really should have chosen more seasonally appropriate fabrics but found an unexpected bolt end of Soft Cactus Lasting Leaves combed cotton in a local fabric shop and couldn't wait until spring to use it!

Make It Perfect Poppy Tunic with modified yoke

The dress is a modified version of Make It Perfect's Poppy Tunic. It's a simple sleeveless design available as an instant PDF download, which is a cinch to assemble as it has essentially just four pattern pieces. There are some beautiful versions of the Poppy Tunic on the web, especially by Jane at Lempo Bee and Laura at Craftstorming

Back yoke detail - laborious but lovely

I love the contrast yoke but felt that it looked too small and short in the original design to suit my pear-shaped proportions so I lengthened the yoke on the front and back pattern pieces, then widened the hemline border panel to balance out the dress. For yoke and border I used the left over lining fabric from my Uptown Coat. I added pockets into the side seam – my default side seam pocket pattern piece for these situations is from Simplicity 2363, the shape is just right.

Front yoke.

The Poppy Tunic is a beginner's sewing pattern but I found attaching the home-made bias binding to the front and back yoke panels very fiddly to do and this part took me ages (the written instructions are clear but it was a process I found tricky). However, the end result definitely justifies the swearing and sighing involved and it does make the tunic look lovely. I may have to make a knit or corduroy version to see me through the winter but know that come spring this one will really come into its own.

Make It Perfect: Poppy Tunic

Checking In, Checking Out: Stylish Dress Book 1 – Dress V

Stylish Dress Book 1: dress V by Ivy Arch

Returning to Stylish Dress Book: Wear With Freedom – the mother of all Japanese dressmaking books – I found there are still a good number of dresses in it that I haven't made, so turned my attention to tartan shirt-dress V. I like the loose shape of this design and the gathered lower front panel. The shirt collar looks great on the twenty-something Japanese model pictured, but experience tells me that wearing a sharp shirt-collar with my own short grey hair and middle-aged face is a dispiritingly dowdy look. Instead, I redrafted the neckline with a simple scoop shaped front, drafted a facing, and took out the centre front button panel replacing it with a centre front seam. 

Tartan shirt dress V, Stylish Dress Book

I used two and a half metres of a checked suiting fabricanother £4 a metre bargain from Worthing's Wednesday market. The book suggests you use 2.8 metres but I managed to match the checks at the side seams and had some fabric left over, so consider their estimate generous. I shortened the front hem so that the hem line dips lower at the back, it makes the shape of it feel a bit more sprightly in this heavy fabric.

Stylish Dress Book 1: dress V

Gathering and stitching the front panel was fiddly but not impossible and the rest of the dress was not problematic until I burnt a small hole in the centre front when pressing it with a too-hot iron. Curses! I repaired the hole but decided to sew the front pocket over it dungaree-style for peace of mind. The pocket has since come into its own as a handy place to transport my mobile phone. I added a second small pocket the back of the dress, consistent with the improvised dungaree pocket on the front, and finished the pockets and hem with some embroidered braid.

Back view, dress V

The dress has been such a hit that I have worn in three days in a row - unprecedented behaviour from someone who is not averse to changing outfits twice in one day.

Hitchcock film poster lavender bags in the Ivy Arch shop

New in my shop this evening are a batch of Alfred Hitchcock film poster lavender bags. They're made using material from Robert Kaufman's novelty Classic Horror Film collection. The Cinema Series depicts posters from Hitchcock's films with sharp graphics and good quality printing on 100% cotton fabric. I've backed them with black and white polka dot cotton fabric and stuffed them with super fragrant dried lavender flowers from Provence. 

Hitchcock lavender bags in the Ivy Arch shop

My favourite has to be Saul Bass's iconic Vertigo poster lavender bag with its iconic hand-cut lettering against a bright orange background and stylised figures spiralling into a white vortex. I can assure you that any anxiety and disorientation induced by this image will soon be soothed by the fragrant notes of lavender within!

Saul Bass's Vertigo poster - as a lavender bag

Ivy Arch Hitchcock lavender bags include Psycho, The Birds, Rope and North by Northwest. All are available to buy now in my Etsy shop.

Stashbuster Patchwork Cushions

Stashbuster Patchwork Cushion by Ivy Arch

Patchwork is ideal for using up scraps of fabric left over from other projects. I can just about bear binning the overlocking offcuts and fraying cracklings snipped away while dressmaking, but feel uneasy throwing any other pieces of material away when there is the possibility they could be used for something else one day. At the end of each project all my fabric scraps get chucked into clear plastic sandwich bags and are stored in a big box along with the hundreds of other small bagged up remnants I've collected.

Patchworked pieces from dressmaking offcuts

I decided to start putting those leftovers to use and make some new cushion covers. I whiled away two evenings selecting fabrics from my remnant stash and carefully cutting out three score and four squares. For backing I used the remaining pieces of Gudrun Sjödén's organic eco cotton (which had been patiently waiting for their moment since I made these ukulele gig bags) and some beige polka dot cotton left over from making my daughter's Hello Tokyo quilt. I made simple envelope backs so that the covers can be easily removed for washing.

Ivy Arch patchwork cushion
Patchwork from remnants, colourful and cheery!
The cushions are backed with Gudrun Sjöden remnants and leftover crafting cotton.

Measuring and cutting out the squares is a meditative process but for me the great pleasure of machining patchwork is seeing how quickly the finished pieces come together when you do start sewing. The colourful finished cushions are designed to bring cheer to even the coldest, greyest November day.

Patchwork pileup

November ukulele appliqué bags handmade by Ivy Arch

Applique ukulele bags by Ivy Arch

I've been sewing a new batch of appliqué ukulele tote bags. They're all made from a combination of vintage furnishing fabrics with different front/back panels and have a contrasting appliquéd ukulele on the front. 

Ukulele tote bags in vintage fabrics - made by Ivy Arch
Appliqué details by Ivy Arch

They're the perfect size for carrying A4 books or magazines and are ideal for transporting your ukulele songbooks. There are five new bags in total, all available to buy now from my Etsy shop. 

November's bags, grand finale! All handmade by Ivy Arch