Finished! Summer Dress Butterick 5603


Tadaah from the side:
Nice fit eh? Perhaps still a bit too much fabric in the back but it follows the small of my back nicely. It is quite comfortable too!

From the back, also Tadaaah:

For a first dress this is a very nice one. I am glad!

Let’s dance!
trali! trala!


Sewing the Dress: French Seams

The try-out of the French seams in cotton looked very good. Not too bulky.

So handy I did a try-out first because it took a bit of practice to figure out the relation between how wide the seam will be and where to sew.

The gap between the edge of the fabric and my green tape sewing guide is how wide the actual seam is going to be. I will have to cut the fabric even a little smaller than this gap, before folding it.

I started sewing the real fabric! As this is a batic fabric it took a lot of looking and flipping over to determine the right side from the wrong side. But I figured it out. And promptly sewed the left front panel to the right side of the center front panel…
not a darning tool in sight!

So I chose to sew the back panels first, get some more practice at French seams, while my husband picked up a darning tool as he was in the city anyway.

Sewed the first seam of the back panel. Pressed the seam to one side and cut the fabric close to the seam. Scary!
(what a blessing sharp scissors are!)

I then pressed it again and tried to make a neat fold to stitch along. Stitching, using the memory of how narrow the seam is supposed to be:

End result seen from the right side:
it’s a French seam!
I like it. I liked making it and I like the look of it. It’s very neat on the inside. No fraying! (I’m already thinking silk and chiffon and pongé)

I did make a beginners mistake: you see some fraying from the raw egde peeping through. I did not make the seam wide enough at that place or -more probable- I didn’t dare to cut the fabric away so close to the seam.

For the next seam I did not press the seam before cutting the fabric. I found it easier to sew the wrong sides together and then trim directly. Getting more courageous by the minute:
I folded the fabric over and used the darning tool that had by now arrived at my house to make a line in the fabric along it would fold easily:
you see the left side which has already had received a stern pressing with the tip. On the right the seam as is, straight after trimming.
It folded over beautifully, with a crisp fold. I did not use my iron, I just pressed with my fingers.

I took apart the two wrong sewed panels and attached the left one on the left side. For the width of the final seam on the other side of the front panel I laid the dress top close by to get an idea how broad I should make the seam.

you can see the holes that remain from the wrong stitching. It serves as a guide. The finished seam needs to be a little broader so the first stitching of the seam needs to be a little closer to the raw edge. Also: only at the very top needs this line to be so precise in order to match the lines of the bodice.

I stitched it by eye. Now front and back of the skirt are in possession of French seams!

(I forgot to take a final picture of the lining up of the lines -I’m not even sure they do!- I just cut the threads and went to have a sit down and blog about it. By now you have probably figured out that I’m working with brain fog many a day, what with all the silly mistakes I make and things I forget. You’d be correct. It is caused by Adrenal Fatigue and sleep depravation. It’s OK. I’m a stumble bumble bee but I get there eventually)

Sewing the Practice Dress

I’m on my way!


I set the stitch width from 2 to 1mm. I cut the fabric very precise. Now I am sewing the seams of the skirt, with 1,5cm seam allowance. You see the metal device guiding the 1,5 cm.

Right now I am sewing the side panels of the skirt to the front panel and to the back panel. I have not sewn the darts yet, I will match them with the lines of the bodice first.

But first I will fit the skirt to see if the skirt has indeed the right dimensions. Then I will secure the darts and finish the seams: press them open and stitch both sides to the fabric.

When fitting I will take especially care to see if/how the vertical seams line up with the seams and darts of the bodice.
I have altered the bodice and given it wider bust darts:

I cut plenty of extra fabric on the lower side so I can fold and match before cutting it definitely.

I also cut lining but I have changed my mind: I will attach this bodice to the skirt with a stitch width of 2mm, just like with a toile. When I have determined the definite shape of the bodice parts and have tried them on, on the skirt, I will detach them from the skirt and use them as a template for another fabric. The pink flowery one. I will use the lining for that.
The fabric I am sewing right now, I rather have with a different top. View A of this dress (Butterick 5603). I will cut new fabric for this other top, including lining.

No matter what top this dress will eventually have, I will have the skirt part finished like a real dress. With 1mm stitching and proper seam treatment.

PS. the other day I went out to get a zipper for that pink flowery fabric for the Real Dress and I fell over some silk in a nice colour. Only 5 euros per meter. That would be 15 euro in fabric for another Practice Dress. Practicing this pattern some more, practising with silk.
You do agree with me, don’t you, that it was very wise of me to buy it?
a girl needs practice. And some press on interfacing. And an invisible zipper. And owl measurement tapes. Always.

A plan hatched: I’m going to sew a dress.

This is a copy of the post on my other blog that started all this. I decided to set up this blog to keep all my snippets in one place.

“I’m starting a new project: sewing a dress. There’s a sewing bug going around. It’s buzzing on knitting site It’s busy on the BBC in the competition The Sewing Bee. And face it, modern women have been stung by it for years now. We love to make something that flatters us. We feel craftsy and creative. And wearing a dress brings a special kind of festivity to life.

why do they look so gloomy and serious? They must be malnourised.

pic by Bartek Ambrozik

It is so very satisfactory to make something with your own hands, using your wit. Loving the materials and your own skills. If you can make it fit your own body than you’re feeling like a hero! Taking victory over all the clothes in stores that only flatter store models, not real people. Blowing a raspberry to all advertisements and childhood insecurities they sparked. This is real people, people!

Anyway, for me it’s a distraction from having to lay down on the couch more than usual (health reason) and wanting a puzzle to solve. I like to wrap my brain around something! I’ve got enzyme pathways to study, knitting patterns to figure out. But right now I would like to learn more about how to sew a dress.

I purchased two patterns.

Patterns purchased: Butterick 6582 and Butterick 5603:

pics by Butterick

now don’t get distracted by the colour, the models or their bridal tendencies. The trick to patterns is to look for the lines they are sewn with. The long lines. The short lines. Where and how they decrease fabric to suggest a waist or hip. How the neckline falls. Where the lines are to make the flat fabric round a curve.

Me, I am a short, curvy person. Fairly petite were it not for a set of big boobs and broad shoulders to support them. I have no waist, no hips, no buttocks. I would look ridiculous in any poofy ball gown you can imagine. Or in ruffles. Or in Grease-type Rock and Roll skirts.

pic by Sarah Lewis

I will look good in slender long lines that elongate me. I’m “a goblet”. I need ‘prinsess lines’. They run from the top into the skirt. A V-shaped neck will elongate. A skirt that flares below (like a mermaids tail) looks fab on me.

So I did not purchase the patterns for the dresses above. I purchased the line in their patterns:

pattern and pics by

Now you see the lines: long ones. No poofy skirts. No ruffles. Each dress has three variants.

My size: a mystery.

Size converters on the internet throw me off because in the Netherlands I’m a 36, a Small (providing I get a bit of extra room for ‘the ladies’). The converter says that a (German) 36 is a US 8, Medium. A Medium? That sounds big. A US Small is a German 34 however which is way too small for me. Than there’s vanity sizing where clothes companies suddenly called an M an S or the other way around. Has to do with making the customer feel they are smaller than they are? Or guilting them into buying more? I don’t know, I never shop anymore, I’m a hermit in a sheep’s fleece.

pic by Markus Biehal

From knitting I do know a bit about sizing. Size is all about the frame. Your garment has to fit the back of your shoulders and the waist should be about the height of your waist. But you can amend the position of the waist easily (I think). You cannot amend shoulder width easily. Your shoulders is where the garment hangs from, get that size right.

So: I’ll base my ‘size’ for sewing patterns on my frame and plan to adjust the rest. I measured my upperbust and I think for Butterick I’m a 16 with hips going to 14.

(Converter says a US16 is an Xtra Large and a German 44. They are mad. I’d swim in a 44!) Yay, Butterick and Vogue don’t do vanity sizing, they are consistent in their measurements. I’m a 16 in sewing patterns and an 8 when buying of the rack. Mystery solved.

Just let me jot down some numbers here, so I can find them again. A blog is so much more convenient than scribbling on the inside of the carton wrappers of chocolate tablets! It’s Lindt 85% though, so I’ll keep bringing them into the house and scribble away.

pic from

my measurements:

upperbust: 92 cm/ 36″

bust: 97 cm/ 38″

waist: 76 cm/30″

hip: 96 cm/ nearly 38″

neck to waist: 40 cm/ 15,75″

bra: 70FF (don’t get me started on bra size converters!)

at 1.61cm/ 5′ 4″ I’m a Miss Petite to Vogue and Butterick patterns. Waist to hip is standard 18 cm/ 7″ in their patterns.

pic by Ariel da Silva Parreira

Things I do not know yet:

Lining. It is important. I believe this is a separate dress you make from the same pattern. You ‘hang’ it in the dress and you attach it to it. It is there to give the outer dress some stability and prevent seeing through and make the outer dress swirl around your body and not cling to it. I think.

O no! I have to learn about ease all over again! knitting stretches and I’ve got a basic of understanding knitting ease now. But sewing!

And seams! There will be seams!

and fabric…. which has bias. And grain. I can’t have grain, I don’t like gluten.

so much more to learn.

A few things to remember:

– make a dummy dress first. This is called a twirl or a voile I believe. Or a toile?

– my sewing machine is a vintage foot treadle. It goes to and fro. No fancy stitches. No fraying fabric. Just keep it simple.

– there’s a lot of hand sewing involved in sewing a garment. That machine is a workhorse. The fine print is done by hand.

– this is a multiple day project (think weeks). Make sure to put your stuff away in an orderly fashion (with notes would be splendid) so you know where to pick it up again. No need to invent the wheel every time you get out the project. A box of its own would be perfect.

– I plan to perfect one pattern, fit it perfectly to my body measurements. Than use that for future dresses.

It will be fun. And for once I showed up on time to participate in a trend!

pic by Zsuzsanna Kilian

Now for fun: go google some pictures of the patterns (try one and try two, not sure these links work), it’s amazing what different dresses these patterns yield. Dresses on real people! I’m already learning so much! and and many more sewing platforms have a lot to offer. So many women generously share their knowledge and experience. I love it and feel part of it, while reposing and reclusing.”