Balloon dress planning

Bottega Veneta balloon dress
I have always really liked this Bottega Veneta balloon dress from 2006. Excuse the terrible picture quality! There’s a better picture here on

The only thing I don’t like about it is the colour. I see this in bright orange (yes, I’m probably mad. But I have resolved to sew only what I really want to wear and right now it seems to be the weather balloon look).

I spent some time wondering what type of fabric would work. It needs to be not too drapey but not too stiff either. I found some orange cotton poplin in John Lewis which I thought would make a good lining with some body, and then spent a while looking for a fabric for the top layer with no success at all. I considered silk and chiffon but didn’t find anything I liked that didn’t cost an arm and a leg. In the end I decided to go with the poplin for both the fashion fabric and the lining.

I didn’t want to try to draft a pattern from scratch. Burda had a suitable pattern in the May 2010 issue but the neckline’s different, it has an empire line seam, and there are no shoulder yokes:

I considered trying to eliminate the empire seam but decided that was far too much like hard work, so my version’s not quite the same shape as the original.

When I traced the pattern I altered the neckline and added extra seam lines to make shoulder yokes by laying the pattern pieces for Vogue 8319 over the top of the Burda pattern and drawing new lines in roughly the right places. Not scientific but it seems to work.

So that’s the planning and preparation done. Next up, some very orange pictures of the finished dress.

The Doctor Who dress


This is McCall’s 5799 which is one of my favourite patterns. It’s easy – only two pattern pieces – and very adaptable. I think this is the 4th time I’ve made it. On this one I added inseam pockets using this tutorial.


The fabric is white cotton drill with what looks like gold paint on it, although I noticed it was described as ‘gold foil print’ on MacCulloch and Wallis’s online fabric store. It was very difficult to photograph in the bright sunlight we’ve got at the moment. This indoor shot is about the best one I’ve got.


One very nice thing about this project is that other than the fashion fabric everything I used was already in my stash – the lining and zip were originally bought for the pleated dress but didn’t get used because I found ones that were a better match. I think this is the first time that’s happened to me!

As I said last week, at the age of nine or so I was convinced that one day I’d be on Doctor Who and I’d wear something like this. However I also thought it would look good with trainers. Definitely changed my mind on that, although I’m now not quite sure what would look good with the dress (hence the bare feet in the pictures). Whatever shoes I go with will clearly have to be flat for running away from Daleks.

Or possibly Dalek-shaped compost bins. Not quite as menacing.


Possibly NSFW


Thanks for all the nice comments! Here’s the Burda 105-05-2010 jersey dress. It’s very quick to make – I sewed it up in a single evening. However when I tried it on I didn’t like the length and cut six inches off without measuring very carefully. This proved to be rather more than I intended. I think I forgot to allow for turning the hem up after I’d trimmed it. Consequently this dress isn’t going to be wearable for work. More pictures here.

I do like the flower, although I think it would have been better placed a bit further to the side – in the pictures I’ve pulled the top to one side to get the right effect. I don’t think it would have been possible to cut it that way with the amount of fabric I had though. I’m claiming the wonky shoulders are fashionable asymmetry.

This dress is much more in the style I like to imagine myself having than the pleated one I finished the other week. In fact it very much reminds me of some of the things Tegan Jovanka wore in Doctor Who. (Why yes, my taste does owe a lot to 1980s BBC science fiction.) I think Tegan usually wore flats though, and this style does seem to work OK with my favourite red plastic shoes:


This is a good thing as I can’t wear heels for any length of time, never mind walk in them gracefully.

Tegan had one very brightly coloured outfit that I loved. There were surprisingly few pictures of it to be found on the Internet but I do still have an old poster from Radio Times of the character wearing it:

This one is definitely on the list of things to be copied when I find the right fabric.

Next up is the dress that, at the age of about nine, I imagined I’d be wearing when (as was clearly only a matter of time) I became a Doctor Who companion. It’s not entirely sensible but probably wearable for work, at least on days when I only have to do software rather than hardware. It’s made out of the white and gold fabric I got last month. Twenty six years on and no Doctor so far, but once it’s finished I’ll be ready if he does turn up!

Cutting splashy prints

Last month I bought a very large, bold print to make Burda 015-05-2010, a simple pullover knit dress.

I knew I’d have to be careful about how I placed the print so I bought a bit of extra yardage – 2m instead of the 1.5 the pattern called for. My first thought was to place the centre of the flowers on my top half, offset to one side (but hopefully avoiding the bust point!) but I wondered if other ways could work. Here are some variations I found on Polyvore

The ones with the motif at waist level appeal but probably wouldn’t work with the waist seam on this pattern, so I decided to stick with my original idea. Let’s hope it works out.

I wanted to keep the skirt of the dress fairly plain to contrast with the top. After a bit of fiddling I came up with this layout

I’m using the stripes in the pattern at the top of the skirt piece but the bottom is plain navy blue. There is enough room to cut the skirt piece out twice like that. The two top pieces obviously have to be cut on the fold so I shall be cutting it like this:

I’m currently letting the fabric relax before getting the shears out. I haven’t tried that before, but it’s recommended in a book on sewing with knits I got recently and it certainly can’t hurt. I’ve been caught before by knits shrinking after cutting. How much this one will manage to relax when laid on carpet remains to be seen.

I can’t start sewing today because I haven’t got the right notions yet. As ever with Burda the pattern calls for something called Vilene Bias Tape which I have never seen in a shop. I’m hoping that strips of iron-on knit interfacing will do instead, but I do need to buy some elastic for the waist, so there will have to be a trip to the John Lewis haberdashery department next week. Such hardship!

finished at last


I finally finished my pleated dress. It’s been a real slog. I washed the fabric on May 6th so it’s taken a month, and it wasn’t even a new pattern – I made it up once before in wool. Admittedly I’ve been ill and also been on holiday since I started, but it’s still gone surprisingly slowly.

Here’s the back view of the new version:


I do like the fit on this pattern. I adjusted it slightly from the last time I made it up. The previous version looks good while standing up but the bodice tends to ride up as soon as I sit down because it’s a little tight on the chest. I did a tiny addition to the FBA I’d previously done on the pattern and the new one doesn’t have this problem.

I’m pleased with the zip. I ought to be as it took three goes to get in. Normally I have no problems with lining up invisible zips, but I could not get the waist seam to match on this one no matter what I did. It’s still not quite matched but it’s not bad enough to be noticeable.

What I have managed to get right for once is the finish at the top of the zip. I did this slightly differently from previous attempts and it seems to have helped.

I sewed the lining and body together at the neck and arms with the side and back seams open and turned them through the shoulders in the usual way. I trimmed a tiny amount – maybe 3mm – off the top of the zip tape and inserted the zip with the new top of the tape even with the neck seam. Then I turned it partly inside out and machined the lining to the zip tape using a regular zipper foot, keeping close to the teeth. That produced a nice neat finish at the top.

When I sewed on the hook and eye I sewed over the ‘bar’ of the hook and up the sides of the eye to hold them close in to the fabric. This stopped it from showing as much as it usually does on my creations. I normally get a gap at the top of the zip.

I always thought you were only supposed to sew round the ‘loops’ on a hook and eye because the illustrations in pattern instructions look like that. However I’ve checked my sewing books and apparently sewing over the bar is the correct way. Good to know it’s not my lack of hand sewing skills that was causing the gaps.

All the pictures of both versions of the dress are at

Next up is another Burda using the very bold floral jersey I bought a couple of weeks ago, but I have to trace it first. Hoping to get that started this week. That should be a much faster project which will make a nice change.