Liesl + Co: Cinema Dress

I’m getting ready to speak in public for the first time in .. oh many years – and realised I have nothing currently wearable that is not just a bit too comfortable (scruffy) and full of holes. My style is pretty laid back, necessarily so until I release this extra 50lbs, so I was looking for something feminine, modest, sewable in linen and with possible areas for embellishment – well, I do have an awesome embroidery machine. I wanted something not too obviously tent like but so that I can still sit on the floor, garden or (if needed) prostrations in church.


Pattern: Style & Inspiration

Enter the Liesl + Co Cinema Dress. (not an affiliate link!) – you can see how it fits all of the above almost perfectly.


The first version here has a contrast yoke and back yoke facing, which I think I will borrow – it gives a secret ‘pop’ and as the instructions are helpful about slightly rolling the facing under so that when top-stitched there won’t be any lining showing, it will be my own secret 🙂cinema2The main official image shows a lovely terracotta linen, view B (the longer length), on a very pretty model.



I had a quick look a the Very Kerry Berry blog post and she used a beautiful vintage contrast print for the front and back yoke and sleeve cuffs, which finish off the sleeves beautifully – however, she is a very slender sewer and I was beginning to get anxious that no-one over a UK 14 had tried making it.

I found another beautiful print example over at Ivy Arch blog with a great use of print and colour – i love her confident mixing.


It wouldn’t suit me at the moment but it’s something to think of for the future!

So to summarise: we have an a-line skirted, princess seamed dress with a decent length skirt and cuffed sleeves that are shown at 3/4 length. It buttons up the back and seems to be quite flattering but have only seen examples on slim bloggers so far, which is kind of odd as it goes up to US size 20 – so it’s decent in range and the actual garment sizes are generous, it’s not mean to be fitted. It has pockets (of course) although they are placed on the front panel seam, rather than the sides: I’m kind of conflicted about that, as it could make my belly look bigger (as opposed to side pockets which do the same for the hips – so can I win? no? but pockets are essential).  Plus: It has a matching child’s pattern, the Hide and Seek Girl’s Dress, so I can (with enough material) make a matching one for Miss K! Right now, it’s a good fit for what I’m looking for.

Pattern printing and Changes to the pattern:

  • FBA: Liesl says the pattern is drafted for a B and if you have 2 inches difference between full bust and rib cage, you will need to make an adjustment. I have done it (unsuccessfully) before but this time, I’ve followed the instructions given. It took a while because I was being careful and tired, but it worked really well. Now I know what I’m doing I feel really confident about how to alter similar styles of dress.
  • Blend sizes: for the upper bust measurement I used a US 10, blended out to a 16 from the waist. It wasn’t difficult at all, although I added too much on the front sides of the princess seamed panels that meet the yoke instead of at the sides… I will adjust that in the final dress. With too much it just looks a bit maternity – handy for that post-Friday-night-curry-bloat?
  • Lengthen skirt and sleeves: I HATE 3/4 sleeves that sit just below the elbow. I have long-ish arms yes but I just don’t get why the 3/4 are so popular. I’ve added 2 inches already but will add more, so they sit just above my wrists (hey, no fat wrists yet! FTW!). The skirt needs, for me, about 5 inches. I like my dresses long enough so that I can be pretty undignified and it won’t show my knees. It’s a modesty thing (and a lazy thing). I think longer dresses are more practical and since I don’t wear trousers unless I am desperate, they need to be quite sturdy.
  • Widen sleeves and adjust armholes: a personal choice. I need about an extra inch of width at the bicep right now, to be comfortable. This was easy to do with a cut and slash tutorial plus I looked at this one, adding movement in a fitted sleeve – it isn’t bad, compared to lots of patterns, but it does still lift up when you try to move your arms high. I am not stressing about it right now. I’ve added width on the bicep, slightly lengthened and raised the ‘wings’ of the sleeves – this tutorial shows why/how and my goodness, it’s good to know I’m not the only one who goes into a meltdown when the sleeves are too tight – which of course necessitates adding a little just at the top of the bodice side seams (blended down into the waist)

I decided against doing a forward shoulder adjustment on this – the toile definitely didn’t need one – and the sleeves turned out very well. Mark of a good pattern drafter – the front of the sleeves is a different shape from the back and there is more space behind the top of the shoulder point (where it meets the shoulder bodice seams) than the front. WE ARE NOT EQUAL SHAPES PEOPLE – especially not after years of computer use and painting hunched over a desk.

I spent about two hours doing the pattern adjustments, onto a pattern paper, then traced the whole lot onto swedish tracing paper (so I can adjust again), then made a toile from plain calico (£4 per metre). I know this seems like an *awful* Faff but in the past I have wasted a lot of money on fabric and time on patterns that just look *shocking* – I have about four dresses hidden away right now that need to be adjusted before they are wearable. I am a perfectionist, true, but why shouldn’t we be when we are making the clothes for ourselves?

No photos as I managed to fit in assembling it while DD and I played during a quiet home day of school holidays – she made glitter masks (yay) and sequin signs (double yay) and I ignored the mess to stitch it together.


I’d say these are very clearly written by an experienced sewer who understands the ‘whuck’ moments we all have when dealing with things like bodice and back yoke facings, welts for in-seam pockets and cuffs on set-in sleeves. All of these are clearly illustrated by line drawings – no photographs – and rather than print them out, I used my trusty chromebook next to the sewing machine. NB: Pattern printing requires many, many A4 sheets. I chose to use my local copy shop which luckily had an extra-wide plotter printer, and I think the two sheets were about £5 each? Moral of the story: BUY THE PAPER PATTERN it will be easier and cheaper in the long run, if you are like me and happy to trace off the pieces. If you don’t mind taping 50 sheets of paper together to trace, then get on with your bad self and tape away..


The assembly is straightforward: I liked the almost flat construction, with set-in sleeves. It is intuitive and easy to follow, logically steering you through the pattern.  Take your time and don’t try to rush too much – this is a dress that needs your attention, but not because it’s hard to follow: it expects a certain level of experience I think, for techniques that make it look handmade, not homemade.

Initial fit

I didn’t fit pockets into the toile because, you know, time. I DID choose to fit two sleeves – I know some people will think “it’s a toile, why fit two sleeves?” Answer: because there will be two sleeves on the finished garment and it will hang/fit/drag differently, if there are equal forces on each side of the bodice. Plus I hate the binding sleeve thing (see above). I also omitted the yoke facing and back facing, to save time and make adjustments easier.

I was amazed: it actually fitted me through the shoulders. I have relatively narrow shoulders and a neat upper chest, compared to everything else, and this dress is the first to have fitted me properly ever. Yes, you read that, ever. The width was absolutely spot on for me, so happy happy day. The adjusted sleeves fitted in nicely, no obvious gathers at the easing. Over the FBA princess seams, I preferred the seam on the side where I didn’t snip into the seam allowance – it seemed to hold it better, but bear in mind there was no facing on this toile so that might change things. The length of the sleeves even with an additional 4cm was irritating – personal peeve – so I will add more. The length of the skirt was fine, with my extra 5″ (10cm) and the side seams on the bodice from armscye to waist were hanging straight.

The only changes I plan on making are at the front yoke beneath the bust – I will blend out the additional fabric I put in by about 1/2 inch, maximum, so it swings in under the curve a little instead of hanging so straight down. At the side seams, there was a ton of extra fabric – I suspect that might be because of the calico I used being stiffer than linen but all the same, I think about 1/2 maximum either side from waist to hem should fix that for my first go.

Next Stage

I will be cutting this out of a fabric from my hoard first, I’ll see if I can find something bland or neutral, or perhaps I will just go mad and use some linen.. I want to decorate the yoke with embroidery from the Urban Threads Las Flores Collection


Or perhaps their Folklorico, although the designs are a bit more limited and rectangular – but they do have some pretty birds that I already used to customise my denim jacket.

In fact this will look really pretty over a very fine linen or lawn petticoat or bloomers, like the ones from Sew Tina Givens, which could make it look a lot more relaxed when I’m not pretending to be a grown up.




Pattern Review: Ruby Jean’s Closet “Fashion Play Take-Along”


This Post is full of photographs which are upside down: viz –20140804-192602-69962683.jpg

This is a pattern by Ruby Jean’s Closet, a digital download, for a folder that is designed to allow young and not so young fashion and sewing fans to keep their tools, projects and inspirations all in one place. I have to confess that I made it a year ago for Wee Bear’s 6th birthday present – a brand new Janome 9020 sewing machine. You can use a UK lever arch file, easily bought in a stationary shop (go for something plain and light colour if you are using a light colour fabric print!) without too much fiddling, in spite of US folders being a different shape.20140804-192604-69964299.jpgAbove you can see the little pockets that are there for (left to right) pencils, glue stick and scissors – I didn’t bother buying special fabric scissors. Below, you can see the clear plastic fronted fabric zip pockets – these are GENIUS and so easy to make. I bought the ‘plastic fabric’ on ebay, and used normal quilting weight cotton and zips from John Lewis. I know, I am so frustrated at the lack of decent patchwork fabric in Edinburgh it’s crazy.20140804-192605-69965885.jpg

Here is Wee Bear concentrating VERY HARD on her first sewing lesson – we are in the amazing David Drummond Sewing Machine shop at Haymarket, Edinburgh. His staff are very kind and knowledgeable about the machines. She was shown how to thread the machine, do stitches in a straight line and stop at the beginning and end of the lines.20140804-192641-70001848.jpg


I used my new embroidery machine (also from David Drummond!) a Brother V3, to edit and make a little patch for her front pocket, so that it meant i could use my new toy too.20140804-192637-69997888.jpgI’m tempted to make another for myself – they are incredibly handy for small projects and great to keep bits and pieces together – I can imagine that if you were taking a patchwork or similar technique class then they would make life easy AND have tons of scope for customisation. I liked the techniques and didn’t have any false starts, as I would expect from Ruby Jean’s Closet, whose patterns are clearly written and easy to follow. Recommended.

It’s a little bit funny

this feeling insii-ii–ii-ide.

Or not. (especially as I am NOT a fan of Elton John).

Most blogs start with an apology for being absent but sod that, I’m busy and so are you. I post here because I want to and I will not, repeat not, add another ‘should’ onto my shoulders. [NB. never noticed similarity of should and shoulders – could be significant, at least in terms of where we feel the weight of those unwanted demands.] Neither will I try to trammel the wanderings of my mind into a “sewing blog” or a “home ed” blog (especially as Wee Bear is now at school, sniff). Real life, for most women my age, is way more messy and complicated than that.

Since we went to the ballet last year, we’ve had a confirmed “official” diagnosis of ASD for Wee Bear. ASD – the new DSM-IV guidelines have smooshed together everyone from a nonverbal, totally uncommunicative child with learning disability to the Aspie end of the spectrum which is not entirely helpful outside the non-NT (NeuroTypical) circles – or Autism Spectrum Disorder, but also with a complex presentation (i.e. she’s a girl). Let’s say it’s been a bumpy few years. And I am still at the stage of blaming myself. Did I eat the wrong thing? Was it being an older mum? Was it nursing for 2 years? Was it mixed-feeding? Was it the antibiotics that saved her life at 7 days old? Was it my insistence of wearing her in a sling for most of 2 years and rocking her to sleep for those few hours when she stopped demanding interaction? Should I have noticed that she didn’t put things in her mouth? Should I have taken her to the GP when she didn’t crawl, even though she walked at 12 months? Should I have gotten worried at 18 months when she stopped eating more and more things, when she refused to wear short sleeves, at the tantrums at the sound of the hoover or my violin? (that’s understandable I suppose)… So many tiny signs that my darling girl found the world a confusing, overwhelming, scary place.

I suppose the thing is that I do too. So it all made sense to me (and other family members).

Yet because of her great ability to communicate and to verbalise and to mimic and mask, her skill at drawing, singing, copying, it was all fine. Except it wasn’t. That awful cliche of “you just know” and even the classic “no one knows your child like you” is certainly true but it’s made a lot, lot more difficult if your ASD kid is a girl, is very “high functioning” (shudderful phrase) and you yourself are non-NT. I’m not diagnosed, no, but I tick most of the adult female Aspie boxes, although with the caveat that I tend to overdo empathic feeling until it overwhelms me and I run and hide from people until the spoon drawer is full again. That can take quite a time. For some people, it just never gets full again and I will admit that I do sometimes just have to lose contact with people because it’s just too much. If that happens, it’s truly me, not you. Truly. Sometimes I feel like a dog who can see the emotions of people like hazes of colour or smell (which fits with my inability to tolerate perfume of any kind) and to be honest, I can’t stand it. [Ponders the phrase “you are too emotionally smelly for me to tolerate”].

Right now, I’m being distracted by a mouse that runs back and forth across the steps to our garden. It’s super fast but my “notice everything eyes” pick it up and I go off for a second.

Back to diagnosis, ASD, girls and the question of my undiagnosis. Do I want to get tested? Partly, because I’m a geek and I like psychology and the brain and neurological difference is one of the potentially most exciting things that scientists are looking at these days. Potentially. Will I get tested? I doubt it. The waiting list for the only adult ADHD clinic in Scotland is massively long. I don’t even know if they have an adult ASD one. Most of my NHS psychological support has been in the form of CBT or counselling, not assessments. Women do face challenges as they get older that make a diagnosis a useful hook to hang our difficulties on: it’s not “us” that are failures, it’s a real difference in our brain. Not blaming ourselves for being different, for needing time to be alone and quiet, for needing the physical stimulus of walking for miles and miles, for having SPD traits that affect our lives… the boundaries between Aspergers, ASD, social phobia, clinical depression, OCD, they’re all blurring together, in academic research and finally, finally, it’s catching up and being talked about and wonderful women are saying “me too”. I might not be one of them but my daughter is. I want her to avoid the “side effect” disorders that seem to be comorbid with ASD: self-harm, depression, etc. If we can explain to her now about her difference, in a way that doesn’t use the word “disorder” in it’s description thank you, perhaps she will grow up into the full knowledge and awareness of her super powers and her amazing potential.

Meantime, I’m off under my rock to do more drawing and sewing. First up is finishing a smocked dress for Wee Bear that is probably too young for her but too pretty to leave unfinished.

p.s. do you like my fringe? I’m still getting used to it.

The Nutcracker; or, How to do Theatre with non-NT family.

When I was 6, I had already been attending ballet classes for three years. I don’t think I saw a ‘real’ live ballet for several years but a small troupe from Scottish Ballet did visit our local community centre & I was thrilled. Their power and grace had me hooked and I studied seriously until I was about 12 and suddenly too tall and self-conscious to even think of going on stage. Given the hours of practice and four classes every Saturday – in addition to weekly sessions – you can imagine that it was rather a wrench.

Wee Bear also enjoys ballet but thankfully shows no signs of my obsessional, over serious personality. Her non-NT (neuro typical) attitude saves her from many pitfalls and this is one. However, it means she can’t really manage normal theatre performances – well, I can’t with her. The talking, questions, constant need for motion, etc make it very hard for me to relax & let’s face it, other people don’t pay to have a curly haired child bobbing up & down in front of them for two hours.


The Festival Theatre here in Edinburgh don’t do autism friendly performances of this show but they super kindly offered to put us in one of their boxes, so nobody would be disturbed by our antics.

We started our outing with eggs benedict for daddy & chips for Wee Bear & I. I hadn’t been to the City Cafe for years & they were very friendly and relaxed, plus they have a splendid view from the first floor down the Bridges to Register House.


Of course, eating is one of our current challenges but chips are fairly safe.


Waiting to get to our box was a bit challenging but I could see her relax once we were safe inside. No pictures of the performance obviously although there are pictures on the Scottish Ballet website . At two hours long I would say it’s maybe 30 minutes more than we cope with and the performance does end with an actual bang, which I wish we had known about, although she coped very well (and was already sitting on my knee).


Nothing was too scary and the staff were very kind and caring when booking. I’d certainly go again and it’s definitely worth asking about if your child has challenges. I also found it overwhelming to be honest, when leaving: we haven’t dealt with such big crowds for a long time and it’s not entirely positive but her evaluation of the day was “brilliant”, which is all that counts.

An Open Letter to Sainsburys

I don’t go in for these sort of ‘open letter’ posts but I’m hoping I’m not the only parent who feels the same.


Dear Tu clothing at Sainsburys

I wonder if you could do me a huge favour. Please extend the range of your ‘toddlers/little girls’ clothing up to and including an 8. At least. I am asking because my daughter wears size 7 clothes and I’m not yet ready to see her turn into a 1D t-shirt wearing, hot-panted, monochrome wearing pre-teen.

I realise that your market research may tell you something different. I realise that there are lots  of young girls who watch Strictly and X-Factor and other shows where there are fashionably dressed women and they want to look like them and their teenage siblings or friends. I realise that there are plenty of parents who are happy to have their children wearing the baggy harem pants and sleeveless tops and bling-ed up belts and more mature looking clothes. That’s all fantastic, it’s their choice. But I’m asking for a choice.

You haven’t, as far as I know, ever given us the horrors of slogan T’s that demand girls are kissed or only interested in boys. Thankfully, it’s puppies and bears and the odd pop group or cartoon. No, you’ve not crossed that line.

What I’m begging for is the chance to keep my little girl looking her age for a bit longer. Or at least let me pretend that very soon I won’t have to face the horrors of Monster High type pouting and swaggering and posing and everything that goes with being a pre-teen because you know what, they don’t really exist if we don’t buy into that. And I won’t be buying into that. Not ever.

The reason I’m asking you is because your little girl clothes are truly gorgeous – the colours are perfect – bright but not gaudy, flattering to tiny faces but not too insipid. The styles are appropriate – no ‘bra type’ tops, all just right for the age, comfortable dresses, leggings, matching sets. This week I particularly fell in love with a soft jersey hoodie that was lined with fleece, trimmed with fur and had an adorable girl applique on the front. The biggest size was age 4-5 and yet there’s no reason a 8 year old girl wouldn’t wear that. Along with it was a range of co-ordinated printed cotton tops and leggings, which my LO lives in full-time when not at school. We bought the burgundy/black versions but you know what, it looks weird. She’s 6, not 16. Not even 11.

Please: you do the little one’s clothes SO DAMN WELL – won’t you consider extending the age range, to allow our girls to be girls, not “pre-teens” or “little women” for as long as they need to be?

Thank you.

p.s. Not all women are shaped like eggs on legs or want to wear dresses that show off their knees. Just so you know.


Edinburgh Festival: learning & fun outdoors – Day 4

One of the great – and I do mean great – things about living in Edinburgh is the annual August Festival. I love it. We don’t go to grown up shows any more but we do three or four children’s shows and I’m going to say without hesitation they are far better than any grown up performances I’ve seen in the past. Ever.  Wee Bear has been going to shows for about three years now and loves theatre and performance.

As a last ‘hoorah’ to our official homeschooling experience (for now), I’ve decided that I’ll use the festival as a learning time. We missed Friday (kick off) but on Day 2, she went to the Pleasance courtyard and spent a few hours colouring badges, making a t-shirt and handpuppet and befriending a five year old. Most – if not all – of the learning is about making friends and dealing with kids who are hopped up on being out with grown ups and sugar. She usually copes well, although today (Day 4) was hit and miss… we dealt with a girl who really *didn’t* want her to join in the gang but with admirable perseverance, she wouldn’t give in, even when she had to take a break for a minute or two… in the end though, with no ‘new friends’ in sight, we headed round the corner from the BBC Potterrow area to discover two fantastic free acts.

The first were two performers from New Zealand, the Hoop Hooligans – in spite of a modern architectural gale blowing that meant we had to put our jackets on, we really enjoyed these guys. Thank you for making her smile!

Second – and only a few yards away – was a short excerpt from Brush (reviewed here) a Korean show involving a lot of paint, some very amusing clowning performances and a lovely looking piece of art. Wee Bear insists that we go tomorrow, so Fringe performers, take note: do a freebie show outside, you will definitely get more sales (if you are any good, and of course children’s shows are fantastic). If you’d like to buy tickets for Brush, always use the official Fringe website & have fun!20140804-191938-69578784.jpg

Online Learning – for grown ups! Creativity, Business Skills and more.

cellophaneSo this blog covers a wide range of subjects – a garden post later this week, an embroidery machine review after that – but it’s also about learning. Learning is something I really enjoy: I find it harder now than when I was in my twenties but I’m hoping to be one of those people getting into new things when I’ve silver haired and zipping about on a mobility scooter.

These days, the internet has revolutionised how we can learn – I’m a big fan of for instance, and hope to teach myself photoshop and illustrator using their courses – but I think Skillshare is awesome. THey have such a huge range of subjects and with some incredible teachers, notably Seth Godin, king of the entrepreneurs. At the moment they have a chance to win a lifetime of *FREE* courses – just click this link and enter for your chance!  Plus, if you click on the link, I get another entry 😀 Have a look around at their courses and I’m sure you’ll find something you want to learn. Here’s to learning for grown ups!

Movie-Inspired dress(es)

So this house, like many others, is fond of a film about two sisters, two boys and a snowman… Yes, Frozen has taken up home here too. I’d not say she was obsessed but we do know all the words to “Let it go”…

Finding costumes that fit and are play friendly is impossible, so I decided to make them!

20140605-093005.jpg the new embroidery machine means that it’s possible to recreate bodice and skirt designs that really look good (instead of faffing about with paint and stencils) and can cope with playtime!

20140605-093144.jpg I added an extra underskirt layer, complete with ruffled net, for extra foof, but if she was a real climber I might leave this off – it looks good without it too.

20140605-093321.jpg it comes with a peasant style, pull on cotton top, although I’m planning a stretchy jersey version too that looks a bit more like the film – anything for a bit of variety!

20140605-093514.jpg and in the back I put a serious zip! I know Velcro is easier for the little ones but isn’t it frustrating when it gets covered in fluff and won’t come off or fasten properly? Although yes, Velcro would be easier…

20140605-093711.jpg yes, one very happy little girl, no feeling guilty about buying something from a sweat shop in the Far East, something that fits.. I think it’s a win! Now to persuade her to let me take it to the Mayfield Salisbury Playgroup summer fair this weekend… And make a mannequin for it.. And and and. Can I have an extra day please?

Review: Pattern Emporium Flat front Gathered skirt. No photos!

Another super speedy, photograph-short review, mainly because a) this pattern is very, very easy and quick to make and b) the results were hideous on me.

The Pattern Emporium skirt looks cute: it is versatile, comfortable and the version I have includes an ingenious way to add pockets with either a straight or a curved top. It is speedy to sew and I cannot fault a single step – it’s clearly illustrated, very well written, and ideal for beginners or those wanting a really fast make.

However: I refuse to take photographs of how it looks on this very pronounced, overweight pear shaped woman. In fact, I’ve already removed the waist band and will be making it into something else. It was THAT unflattering. I should have bought the skater skirt, which would be much better for my shape I think.  If you are pear shaped, either buy this pattern if you don’t mind having the ‘bubble butt’ silhouette or are happy to only wear it at home. Or in the dark.

You can be sure that when I’ve shed this 50lbs, I will be making lots of them AND sharing the photographs x