My handmade wardrobe year – May

5 months of not buying any clothes, and yes I am still very happy to confirm that not even a glimmer of a purchase has occurred!

I did have one very special mission for the month of May and that was to make a dress for the first Sew Sociable event. This may sound like no mean feet. However I don’t have the kind of figure that means I can buy dresses off the peg, unless they are stretchy. I set the bar and was determined I would wear a dress.

I chose three patterns and fabric in the hope one of which would work and I would like enough to wear. I made toiles for all three and had to make dramatic changes to 2 of the patterns. I made three toiles for the dress I wore to the event. The end result was worth it, I was really happy with the dress.




The neckline has small pleats and the skirt has deep pleats that are stitched down to just above hip level.

The fabric for this dress is a heavy weight cotton with a small amount of stretch. I was careful how I cut the fabric once my pattern was amended because although it is quite a jumbled broken glass effect pattern it has a clear repeat when looked at as a large piece.

The dress is fully lined and has an invisible zip down the centre back. The hem is faced with a very deep lining facing, which according to the pattern should be decoratively hand stitched, however I chose to invisibly hand stitch.


I am really happy with this dress and have already cut out another one! I am feeling this pattern may get used several times….


This is the next version of the same dress.


I also made this wraparound dress, I made a toile and it needed virtually no adjustments, however when I made the real thing it just didn’t work out the same and I ended up making a lot of alteration to the shape before I was happy with it. This became the most time consuming and complex style of all three despite being labelled as a very easy pattern.  In theory it was a fairly easy dress to make but it became complicated when I had to make adjustments to the real thing. Once I had finally got the bodice fitted correctly the dart lines didn’t match with the skirt darts so I had to do more adjustments to make them match.



The dress is made from a medium weight cotton and fully lined, according to the instructions it should be top-stitched around the neck and front skirt edge. I decided against this and chose to under-stitch the neck edge. I generally prefer  not to see top stitching on lined garments.

I do think I will wear this dress but I don’t think I will make another one.


The third dress I made took a lot of re-working on the toile but then went together easily and quickly. I decided to stay with discreet hand stitch finish on this dress to. It was important to match the pattern on this dress as it has an obvious stripe effect. Luckily I decided to make the dress a fair bit shorter than the pattern, so I had plenty of fabric to match the pattern. There was a fair bit of waste because of pattern matching.

The quality of this fabric is the same as the first dress a fairly heavy cotton fabric with a slight stretch. This dress isn’t lined.


The skirt of this dress is really full and has an unusual wrap around cut. The bodice back wraps to the front and fastens at the front and the front bodice ties at the back.


The back has an apron effect. The skirt operates like a back and front apron. The skirt is so full and the overlay so deep it doesn’t feel like you are going to expose yourself.

I have already earmarked some fabric to make another version of this, the next fabric I would like to make this in is white based and slightly thinner so I am thinking I will line it. I would like to use a light weight cotton fabric to line it. I think this will make it a nice dress for summer.

My other plans included a scrap project, which I started….


I wanted to create an ombre effect using simple patchwork, I have to make more panels before I turn it into a garment. Already the panel as it stands has inspired more ideas. I think I will be working on more styles around this idea. I like this but I would like to use smaller squares next time.

Most of the fabrics in this panel are old garments, including some of my husbands old work shirts!! Cutting up your mans wardrobe takes on a whole new meaning!!….He was throwing out the ones I cut up, well at least I think he was!! 🙂


I finally got this top cut out but not quite managed to make it yet. I am really feeling the need for new tops so this is firmly on the agenda for the month ahead!

I had a re-think about my grey linen wrap back dress and I now want to rework the pattern. Hopefully I will get this worked out this month.

The month ahead, again I have a very important sewing job to do…..


I want to make a garment out of old polo shirts for Tamaras Sew Sociable challenge. I am not allowing any sewing teachers to enter the competition but we can still do the challenge for fun.

I struggled to find any polo shirts on my search in charity shops to start with and then bingo….Loros had loads so I bought 6 – enough to make my design twice or change my mind. My idea is quite simple as I fully intend to wear it even after the event. I can’t wait to see and hear about your challenge garments.


The other thing that has come onto the radar this month is my first independent pattern. I bought this Deer and Doe pattern to see how independent pattern makers compare to the somewhat wordy and confusing world of the usual commercial pattern brands. I’ve never used any independent pattern makers patterns before, I’m interested to find out if the instructions are clearer than those in commercial patterns. I’d love to hear your thoughts if you have used both!

With the change in weather I am really feeling the need for some new summery tops, I have a plan based round the liberty print top shown earlier in this post. Hopefully I will have some results to show you in my next post.

As usual I have lots to do and probably won’t achieve all my monthly ambitions but I will let you know next month how I get on.

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Julia Claridge

I was about 6 or 7 years old when I had my first go on a sewing machine, it was an old hand crank machine that my mum used with her patients, she was an occupational therapist. I still vividly remember watching with amazement as the tiny perfectly formed stitches were created as I turned the handle. I Grew up in the 70’s and 80’s when buying clothes was less affordable and dressmaking was an answer to updating your wardrobe more regularly. My own mother was a talented dressmaker who made most of my clothes and my sisters clothes as well as a many for herself. I soon got involved with making my clothes, I loved the whole experience of picking out fabrics, trims and a pattern to create a new outfit, then going home to make a new garment or outfit. When it came to leaving school I visited a careers advisor who asked what I wanted to do next. My answer was ..Sew! Read more...


  1. Sarah wadeysarah on June 6, 2014 at 7:48 am

    Hey Julia, great blog post! I like all the lovely dresses but I love the wrap around dress! Which pattern is this? X

    • juliaclaridge on June 6, 2014 at 8:24 am

      Yes the wrap around was a surprise to me – I didn’t realise it was wraparound when I ordered it, but I love the apron effect on a classic shape. I redesigned the neck to suit me, and its a lot shorter than the original pattern.The pattern number is V8788 x

  2. Gill Hutchinson on June 6, 2014 at 8:01 am

    Hi, I love the dresses, what patterns are you using. I have trouble getting patterns to fit, would you be up for helping me to do that (one to one tuition) which I would obviously pay you for?

    • juliaclaridge on June 6, 2014 at 8:21 am

      Hi Gill, I am running a dressmaking course starting 9th July which will cover fitting. All the patterns I used are shown in Aprils wardrobe post. I think they were all Vogue ones. I am happy to do one to one classes as well if you want to drop me an email or give me a call we can talk in more depth.

  3. Lisa on June 6, 2014 at 10:36 am

    I am IN LOVE with the second (wrap) dress. You mentioned the pattern number above but when i look it up it returns a vintage pattern. Could you tell Post a photo oft he pattern envelope so that i can find it? Its looks amazing BTW, the material is really well chosen. I am very envious!….

    • juliaclaridge on June 6, 2014 at 11:07 am

      Hi Lisa, thank you for your nice comments. If you have look at my April (Handmade wardrobe post) all the pictures of the patterns I used are there along with my plans and where the fabric came from etc. 🙂

  4. Amanda Doran on June 16, 2014 at 4:02 pm

    What was the challenge set by Tamara at your first Sew Sociable

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