Friday, October 1, 2021

Linen Cottagecore Dress with Pockets!


A few weeks back on a particularly warm weekend, I decided I needed more linen clothes ASAP that aren’t historical (18th century shifts are not particularly practical to wear outdoors as-is, though they do make great night gowns). I digress. I was fabric shopping for an upcoming historical fashion project, when I found the most beautiful medium weight lavender linen. For me, linen for modern wear needs to be not too sheer to avoid linings, but still soft enough for a lovely drape. This hit the mark.

Shirred cottagecore dresses have been gaining popularity over the last year, from Hill House to Daily Sleeper to By Hand London’s Shirred Dress Tutorial, so my idea is by no means completely original. Since none of the ones I found had the aspects I was looking for: in-seam pockets, no tiered skirt, opaque, and versatility (more on this later), I did what we sewists do: made my own!

Main Dress:

Cut two rectangles with the dimensions:

o   Width: 0.5 x 1.5 x your bust circumference – shirring shrinks your fabric by about 1/3 and this pattern has seams on each side

o   Length: however long you want your dress to be + about 1” total top and bottom hem allowance

On one piece, mark about where your knee hits and cut a slit from the bottom edge to that mark. Hand sew a narrow hem to finish the raw edges. When you to the top of the slit, stop the narrow hem and tightly whipstitch a “U” shape to reinforce the slit and prevent it from tearing. Since this dress doesn’t have tiers that gradually get wider, you’ll need this slit for ease of walking.

Use a narrow hem foot to hem the top and bottom edges of both pieces. I hemmed them first since we’ll be French seaming the sides and the bulk will make it very challenging to roll hem. You can skip this if you plan on hand hemming after the pieces are sewn together.

On to the shirring!

I originally started the shirring with Dritz elastic thread and despite multiple tension adjustments, couldn’t get my fabric to shirr. I then tested on a scrap of cotton muslin, which did shirr, but not as much as I wanted. I realized the elastic was too weak, so I bought Gutermann elastic thread, which is thicker and stronger, and did shirr my linen fabric. René of @strawberryrp shared a tip to steam the shirring to make it shrink fully!

You’ll want to hand wind your bobbin with the elastic thread. I tried both adding tension while winding and without, and preferred without since otherwise, the elastic tended to really bounce back into the machine below.

I started sewing my shirring rows with a little extra room at the top for a small ruffled look, but that’s personal preference. When you get to the end of a row, use a lock stitch to secure the threads, but do not cut. You’ll want to keep the elastic continuous to reduce waste and to minimize loose ends. 1) Keeping the needle down, raise the presser foot. 2) Rotate the fabric 45 degrees, hold it still, life the needle, and 3) move the fabric up however far you want your shirring rows spaced, then lower the needle to secure the position, 4) rotate your fabric another 45 degrees, lower the presser foot, and continue to sew. It’s important to hold the fabric taught when adjust the needle position since the elastic bobbin thread will want to pull back.

Sew shirring rows until about your natural waist (or higher or lower depending on personal preference). Keep an eye out on your elastic bobbin thread, you definitely do not want to run out mid-row here. My Janome Skyline S9 low bobbin sensor is great at reminding me to check on it and you can adjust how sensitive you want it to be. (I turned it off once and guess what happened? I sewed thin air for a bit… so now I trust my Janome and keep it on).

For my pocket pieces, I used a self drafted pattern from an older project and added extra seam allowance for a larger pocket. Note for my future self: add even more/draft a new, larger pocket. This pocket turned out large enough to fit my iPhone XS, but barely). Then I followed In The Fold’s tutorial for sewing French seamed pockets linked here

Tube tops have never been my friends, so while it would be cute to wear the dress as-is, I needed something on my shoulders to keep the dress up.

To make matching shirred ruffled straps: measure how long you need the straps to be – mine were around 14”. Multiply that by 1.5 for the length (I forgot, hence the oddly short piece in the photo below) and pick a width, and then add hem allowance on all sides. Use the roll hem foot to hem the long sides. Starting about ½” from the side, start sewing shirring rows using the method above. Since these are straps, I made the rows a little closer together. I sewed shirring until just past half the width of the strap. You’ll now see how this creates a natural ruffled edge! Finish the short edges by folding ¼” twice and sewing down to encase the elastic ends. Position and attach to the top edge of your dress!

Now go frolic or picnic while living your best cottage core life!

Disclosures: This post and project are sponsored as a part of the Janome Maker program. I sewed this on the Janome Skyline S9.

Sunday, July 4, 2021

Bridgerton and Emma inspired Regency Star Sequin Tulle Overdress

Star princess meets Regency aesthetics. Royalty core meets cottage core. This Regency Star Sequin Tulle Overdress is a perfect blend of the two, with minimal sewing too!

I’ve been planning on making a new Regency wardrobe for a few years now *stares at the silk in my stash I bought 4 years ago* from the inside out starting with a shift and stays, but of course, the shiny sparkly projects seem to catch my attention faster.

When Vivien of Fresh Frippery was destashing some star sequined tulle, I bought the yardage like a magpie, figuring I would use it to 1) overcome my fear of sewing with sequined fabric and 2) be sparkly in some era or world.

Fast forward a month or so, my local costuming guild announced that our Bridgerton-themed picnic would be happening and I knew this would be the perfect opportunity to update my existing Regency wardrobe and use this new-to-me fabric. I was inspired by the sheer overdress with metallic embroidery Emma wears to the first ball in the 2020 film adaption designed by Alexandra Byrne and the over the top sparkliness of all the costumes in Bridgerton designed by Ellen Mirojnick.

Screenshot by Bianca Hernandez-Knight / Bookhoarding's Facebook Group Emma 2020 Costume Appreciation
Screenshot by Bianca Hernandez-Knight / Bookhoarding's Facebook Group Bridgerton-inspired Costuming

Working with sequined and patterned fabric posed a fun challenge for me. I’m used to mostly solids and non-directional fabrics that allow me easily maximize fabric utilization. I was determined to do so with this project again, so please note that depending on what fabric you use, you may want to adapt this tutorial slightly. 


My fabric was 2 yards 17” long and 62” wide, but the cut edges were uneven and the two selvage edges had about 6 inches of plain tulle. After referencing a few books with patterns and notes on extants, I decided I would drape on a dress form, rather than flat pattern this piece. You don’t need a dress form as I’ll share my rough pattern and tips to fit on yourself. If you’re making this to wear over a Regency dress, then you should make the dress first so that you can use that as a fit guide. Or your stays, so you know where your underbust/empire waist line is.

Since I’ve only ever made one Regency dress before, I automatically started draping the fabric lengthwise as a separate skirt and bodice, but then realized I might not have enough fabric that way. So I switched the fabric orientation such that the width ran the length of my body. Remember the plain tulle? I would use that to my advantage for the shoulder seams so I wouldn’t have to worry about sequins there.

I played around with the draping, pleating, pinning for a while and what I eventually landed on was this. Front: shoulder pleats angled down and in towards the center of the bust into pleats at the empire waist line. Smooth the fabric around the sides towards the back. Back: should pleats (total width should match the front shoulder pleats) angled down and in towards the center of the back, with pleats at the empire waist line.

If you’re working with a dress form, then have your Regency dress and stays on there so you can use that as a guide for where your underbust pleats should go and how wide your shoulder pleats are in relation do your dress. If you don’t have a dress form, then you’ll want to hold up the overdress against your body in stays to check the underbust alignment. Don’t worry too much about making the pleats match perfectly, you’re going for an organic, Grecian revival look of the Regency.

TIP: To try and stay somewhat even with my fabric usage, I folded the fabric in half at the back and pinned the center in place so I would have an even amount of fabric to work with on either side.

Again, I draped this, but it should roughly flat pattern into this.

Variation options: gather instead of pleat, especially if you have fabric with a softer drape. My tulle, while not stiff, wasn’t a soft drape, so I chose to pleat.

Once you’re happy with your shoulder and waist line pleats, it’s time to sew!

Take a length of ribbon or tape longer than your underbust and pin it at the underbust/Empire waistline where all your pleats are. I used the Dual Feed Foot (walking foot) on my Janome Skyline S9 with a straight stitch to attach the ribbon. This was my first time sewing with sequins and I’ve heard all sorts of stories about how finnicky it can be to work with and to remove sequins at seams. Since this wasn’t a seam, I didn’t want to remove sequins in a line across my dress. I started sewing slowly to make sure my needle would go through the sequins (if you have extra fabric, do a test!). My Skyline S9 sewed through the sequins like a breeze. Do remember to replace your sewing needle if yours is older.

Variation options: I sewed a neutral/almost matching color ribbon to the inside of my dress so that I would more easily cover it with other ribbons on the outside in the future to switch up my look. If you have don’t plan to switch up your ribbon, then you can sew it on the outside.

The armscyes. With my overdress on the dress form and my dress underneath, I tuck the dress sleeves in so the tulle lays relatively smooth and flat on both sides. The shoulder seams are roughly pinned together right now. Now I cut into the tulle starting at the top of the shoulder seam and follow the armscye of my dress but a little wider. That’s it. If you’re doing this without a dress form, cut a slit down the middle of what would be the armscye so you can slip your arm through. With the overdress on, use something (pins, water soluble marker etc) to mark where the armscye of your dress is on the overdress. Take it off and cut out the armscye.

At this point, if the front edges of your overdress aren’t to your liking, now is the time to adjust or trim before sewing the shoulders down. My fabric came with some jagged edges so I used a rotary cutter and smoothed them out.

Next, you’ll want to sew the shoulder pleats down on all four sides. This will secure the pleats and allow you to remove the pins and check the shoulder seam before sewing that together. I used the Dual Feed Foot again for this.

Fit the shoulders. Remember, this overdress is a drapey fit, so it doesn’t have to be perfect. If you’re using a dress form, put the overdress on inside out, pull the shoulder seams together so that the empire waist line aligns with your dress and pin the seams, right sides together. Sew using the Dual Feed Foot. Trim the excess tulle to about ¾” from the seam. Fold the seam towards the back and top stitch ½” from the first seam. This will keep the tulle flat against your shoulder.

With the shoulders secured, cut away the “v” shape excess fabric at the back. I did this with the overdress on the dress form. Then finish the hem by cutting off excess plain tulle. If you’re doing this on yourself, then mark an approximate hem with pins, try on the dress and look in a mirror to check where if the pins need to move up or down. Repeat until you’re happy, and cut away!

I had a little blank tulle space at the back so I cut out a star sequin applique from some of the scraps and hand tacked it on, careful to only catch the top pleats so I wouldn’t prevent the pleats from flowing.

To close the overdress, you can tie it into a bow or use a brooch to secure the ribbons. If tying, make sure to use enough ribbon.

Here I am wearing the finished overdress with a swiss dot cotton dress to the GBACG Bridgerton picnic. Photo credit Lori Fisher.

Disclosures: This post and project are sponsored as a part of the Janome Maker program. I sewed this on the Janome Skyline S9.