Simple Sew Bardot Dress – tips for adding a broderie anglaise overlay




It’s quite incredible to me that I managed to sew anything this month in between all my obsessive Olympics-watching, gasping and cheering. Sometimes I wish the Olympics was on ALL the time, and other times I’m so grateful on behalf of my productivity that it’s not. Anyway, in the productivity versus watching-all-the-cycling battle I’m pleased to say productivity just about came out on top and this beaut of a dress is the result. It’s my first make as part of the Simple Sew blogging team (woop!). The Bardot Dress really is a simple sew, so of course I had to complicate matters with a broderie anglaise overlay. The broderie anglaise came courtesy of the wonderful White Tree fabrics, and I used a Paul Smith navy poplin from Fabrics Galore for the base fabric. I did spend a bit of time figuring the ins and outs of adding this overlay, so thought I would share my tips and tricks with you below.

First things first, when cutting – should you wish to use the scalloped edge of your broderie anglaise for the hem of the skirt you can simply align the skirt pieces to the bottom and omit the upwards curve of the hemline by continuing the side seam to the scallops. (Beware: this works because the Bardot skirt loses a lot of its flare once pleated; it wouldn’t work on a more flared skirt.) Don’t forget if you’re doing this to check in advance the length you wish the skirt to be; you can see I’ve ignored the hem allowance of the skirt pattern piece with this placement as I wanted a slightly longer skirt length, but you may want to remove the hem allowance from your pattern piece before cutting.

I’d like to say that the uneven lay of the fabric along the bottom edge was a deliberate attempt to show you both layers, but that would be a lie. Oops.
The Bardot dress comes with two sleeve options: cap or mid-length. The cap would be impossible to cut with a scalloped edge, but the mid-length sleeve has a straight hemline which is just begging for scallops (now there’s an odd phrase). You can use the full length of the pattern piece or do as I did and shorten it like so:


I cut the pieces identically out of the navy poplin, with the exception of the sleeves as I wanted those to be a single layer only. I cut the poplin skirt to the same length as the broderie anglaise even though I knew I wanted it shorter, so I could adjust the difference at the hemming stage. Once you have cut your pieces it’s time to tackle those pleats and darts. You’ll want to treat the two fabrics as one at this point, so no seam allowance shows through your outer layer. The trick to this is pins, pins, pins (you could even run lines of long tacking stitches at criss-crosses across the pieces if your fabrics are particularly shifty).

Your darts and pleats should come out looking like this:

Stitch the sleeve pieces to the bodice and press the seams to the inside of the bodice, out of sight.

It’s helpful to adjust the construction order of the dress at this point to accommodate your overlay. Instead of stitching the skirt panels to the bodice panels and then doing the long side seams, stitch the bodice sides and the skirt sides separately. This enables you to finish the skirt pieces as two separate layers, which gives the skirt more movement and frees up the underskirt for hemming. The outer and under skirt pieces are already attached at the pleats, so you just need to keep them separate as you sew up the independent side seams. Don’t forget you want both seams (underskirt and overlay) facing the same direction, so right sides together in both cases. Use the pleats to guide you if things get confusing!

Pinning the underskirt side seam, with the overlay well out of the way.

Pinning the overlay side seam, with the already-pinned underskirt seam well out of the way.
After finishing and pressing your seams, it’s helpful to do a basting stitch all along the skirt waistline to hold the two skirts together, being sure to match the seams. Then you are ready to pin the skirt to the bodice, matching the darts to the pleats and side seam to side seam. You’ll be sewing through four layers of fabric here, and even more at the darts etc.

All that’s remains to do now is insert the zip and hem the underskirt! You’ll once again treat the two fabrics as one when it comes to the zip insertion. If you wish to add a ribbon waistband as I did, stitch this on before you insert your zip so the ends are sealed inside.

I added a grosgrain ribbon to accentuate the waistband, with a little hand-stitched bow at the centre front. 
Below the zip you can then return to independent seams for the under and outer skirts. Finally, I hemmed my navy underskirt a good few inches higher than the hem of the broderie anglaise.

Eh, voila! Adding an overlay to a dress is as simple as that! The Bardot Dress is perfect for showcasing such dainty fabric and I feel positively Kate Middleton-esque in the white and navy combo. (Except I’m not sure Kate Middleton flashes quite so much shoulder!) Anyhoo I even created a little garden tea party on our terrace in this dress’s honour, because who needs to go out to dress up…


I just wasn’t supposed to start eating until the photos were done…

When your photographer catches you sneaking a bite of one of the ‘props’…
As always, I hope you’ve found this useful/inspiring and if you have any questions or comments would love to hear from you below! x

Sew Over It Carrie Trousers

Happy Friday, sewing squad!

Just a quick post today to show off my current favourite thing to wear – my Sew Over It Carrie Trousers! This pattern was released as part of SOI’s online trouser-making course; I love me an e-course and have been having all sorts of fun with trouser slopers lately so this was right up my street. I whipped these up a couple of weeks ago the day before going to Wilderness; my friend got us some free tickets just days before the start of the festival and of course I felt I had nothing to wear so some manic making was a must.

This was my first ever festival, and I don’t mind telling you I got myself in a pretty flap about what to wear. In my head, people at festivals were all about hotpants and Hunters, sporting more on their heads than on their bottoms (I’m such an old person inside). And yes, admittedly there were people at Wilderness that made me feel like a nun (sartorially and occasionally morally), but it turned out that for the most part when it comes to camping, portaloos and basically living outdoors for three days solid, most people like to look fairly ‘normal’, even if normal in this case involves extraordinary quantities of body glitter.

So I felt supremely at ease in my Carrie trousers and have barely been persuaded to wear anything else since. They are most definitely in the secret pyjama category of clothing. Plus they have pockets, and as you can see from these photos, these are where my hands now permanently reside. But thanks to this gorgeous viscose from Fabrics Galore, I don’t feel like a complete slob. Comfortable but not slobby! I’m living the dream!

Construction is very straightforward and anyway the course comes with video tutorials from Lisa so even the new-to-me waistband construction was a cinch. It’s actually a very clever waistband by the by, which enables you to fit it to your body perfectly. Just to explain, in case anyone is unclear about the design of Carrie (which I was until after enrolling on the course) the waistband is flat across the very front and elasticated from roundabout your pelvic bones all the way across the back. The elastic means the trousers feel like pyjamas; the flat front means they don’t look it. Paired with my SOI silk cami I feel really quite swish!

I also made a self-drafted jersey maxi for the festival which frankly took comfort to a whole other level and which I’ll share in another blog post. In the meantime I just need to now decide on my all-important outfit for the Sewing Weekender! Now where are my Carries… x

Rosie pattern giveaway – winner!


Thank you so much to everyone who entered my Rosie pattern giveaway! I really appreciated reading your comments; I probably don’t say enough how every comment I receive on this blog (even those that are prize-motivated!) means a lot to me.

The winner of the free pattern, chosen by random number generator, is Sewelle! Sewelle, I’ll be in touch shortly about sending you your Rosie dress pattern :) 

Happy sewing, all you lovelies! x

Big Vintage Sew-along – in an English country garden…


I was absolutely thrilled to be asked to participate in the Big Vintage Sew-along this year. What a line-up I am lucky enough to be part of! And all for a good cause!

In case you haven’t heard about this, the Big Vintage Sew-along started back in March, runs until October, and sees 20 bloggers featuring vintage makes from a selection of 20 re-released or ‘new-vintage’ patterns. But it’s not just for bloggers; during the sew-along, any pattern purchased from the selection will see a donation go to the Eve Appeal, a charity researching and responding to gynaecological cancers. As if sewing didn’t already give us enough warm and fuzzy feelings…🙂

It’s been great seeing everyone’s makes so far (#bvsewalong). I chose to make Vogue 9000. Unsurprisingly I wasn’t the only one – check out the gorgeous versions also made by Amy of Almond Rock and Lisa Comfort of Sew Over It. Funnily enough neither of them mentioned a secret urge to dress up as an Agatha Christie heroine (or villainess, I’m not fussy), so I guess that’s just me. The important thing is I feel straight out of The Secret of Chimneys in this one.

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After some serious toile-led alarm (an excess of excess) I ended up cutting a size 12 around the waist graded to a size 8 in the upper bodice, and taking a full 1.5″ out of the bodice length. I also, no surprises here, took a good few inches off the skirt length – I don’t buy into those stats that say we’re all getting taller, because these ’50s women certainly had a height advantage on me!

The actual construction was pleasingly straightforward. Apart from omitting the shoulder pads I stuck to the original instructions; however, if I were to make this again I wouldn’t use facings on the kimono sleeves as (especially in lightweight fabric) these aren’t that keen on staying inside. Bias binding all the way!

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Doing my best 1950s heroine impression…

I tried to curl my hair for the photos in an attempt at comprehensive vintage styling, but unfortunately it all went a bit wrong and the end look was rather more gypsy living in a hedge than I’d intended. At least I managed to find some flowers to match the colour accents in my fabric. Which is, in case you hadn’t already guessed, a lovely Liberty lawn – subtly patterned with flowers, tiny deer, horses, swans and owls. A veritable English country garden, and so that’s exactly where I am in these pics. I loved posing in my new dress so much we took photos all over the place… But I can only apologise for the inconsistency of the lighting; English sunsets are so temperamental!

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Thanks to McCall Pattern Company for organising this fab Sew-along, and to The Foldline for getting me involved! I do hope you’ve enjoyed the Big Vintage Sew-along so far and perhaps even been inspired to join in! Keep checking out the upcoming blog posts for more inspiration and vintage pattern delight:

Friday 19th August: Charlotte Powell, English Girl at Home

Friday 26th August: Gabby Young, Gabberdashery

Friday 2nd September: Rachel Pinheiro, House of Pinheiro

Friday 9th September: Elena Rose Brown, Randomly Happy

Friday 16th September: Wendy Gardiner, Butterick

Friday 23rd September: Winnie Longhurst, Scruffy Badger Time

Friday 30th September: Rachel Walker, The Foldline

Oh, and whilst you’re here, don’t forget there’s still three days to enter my Rosie dress pattern giveaway! x

Rosie in the Rainforest – and a Sew Over It giveaway!

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Ah, Sew Over It. I frequently feel as though they’re designing patterns specifically for me, and this latest has done nothing to break that particular delusion. The Rosie Dress is a 1950s-inspired summer dress of dreams, perfect for pretending you’re on a Roman Holiday, or helping Miss Marple solve a riddle of a crime (those are the kinds of daydreams I have). It features a fitted, boned and lined bodice and a twirly, girly pleated skirt (that can also be made as a garment in its own right), two strap and two neckline variations. And of course once you’ve exhausted all the featured options, it would also be a marvellous pattern to adapt – you could swap the pleated skirt for a gathered or circle option, play around with contrast fabrics, or make the skirt up in a lined wool for winter. Options: endless.

I was lucky enough to be asked to be a pattern tester again – and if you’re reading this you’re lucky enough to be in with a chance of winning a free copy of the Rosie pattern!

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These pics were taken on a Sunday family outing to the Barbican Conservatory. Hands up if you had no idea that such a place existed – I certainly didn’t! But it is in fact London’s second-largest hothouse (after Kew), a lush and unexpected oasis in the midst of the famously brutalist estate. I had been determined to find the right backdrop for this gorgeous parrot fabric (a lightweight lawn from SOI), and a tropical combo seemed moreover the perfect little nod to Rio – I’m an Olympics addict🙂

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I made an initial attempt at pattern-matching the parrots, but the six bodice pieces of Rosie ultimately defeated me and I’ve ended up sporting the odd headless parrot. Something to be aware of if you’re using a very distinctly patterned fabric. I also made a simple muslin petticoat as the lawn was rather transparent; it gives my dress a fuller skirt than it would naturally have. And one more thing – the tester pattern had straps way too long (now corrected) so I criss-crossed mine over the back – that’s another easy hack right there!

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Anyway, if you would like to win a copy of the Rosie pattern, all you have to do is leave a comment below! The competition runs until midnight GMT next Sunday, 14 August, and I’ll announce the randomly chosen winner on Monday. Easy peasy, right? And, to boot I’ll also enter anyone who follows my blog (either via WordPress or Bloglovin) over the next week into the draw, so should you be so keen as to want a double entry you can boost your chances! Good luck and good sewjo!

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Oh, and in the meantime stay tuned for this Friday, which will see the reveal of my Butterick Big Vintage Sewalong make!


Easy off-the-shoulder top tutorial

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Today I’m sharing with you a tutorial on how to turn a man’s shirt into this season’s most on-trend top! This super easy refashion is my absolute favourite thing to wear right now, as anyone who’s seen me in the last week can testify, and it only takes a couple of hours to whip up. Off-the-shoulder tops are everywhere right now; check out these for inspiration…

Cotton poplin top, £235, Milly
Poplin top, £29.99, Zara
Warehouse, Cotton Off The Shoulder Top Neutral Stripe 1
Cotton top, £32.00, Warehouse

To make your own fab version (for a fraction of the cost), you’ll need the following:

  • A man’s long-sleeved shirt (the larger the size, the more volume your top will have – mine was XL) – I got mine from a charity shop🙂
  • 1-inch wide elastic, sufficient to reach around your body where you want the ‘neckline’ to sit, including your arms – I used 1 metre/39″ plus a little extra for overlapping
  • A ruler, and a way to mark your fabric (I used biro as this is simply for marking the cutting line, but if you want to play it safe, a soluble marker would be better)
  • Matching thread, scissors, pins and a safety pin (to pull through the elastic)

1. Firstly, decide if you want to retain the button placket or not. If not, do up the buttons, fold it to the inside and sew so the placket disappears into seam allowance.

2. Try on your shirt. Pull it up at the shoulders so the bottom of the armscye sits where you’d like it to in the finished top, and pin those shoulders to hold this fit in place. Then place pins to mark the height of your desired neckline. Don’t worry about the sleeves at this point, just mark the level across your front. (Sorry I don’t have any photos of this; my hands were busy with the pins!)

3. Remove the  shirt and place more pins (or use a pen) to mark a straight line right across the front at your desired neckline level. Measure the height of the neckline from the bottom of the armscye and use this measurement to ascertain the position of the back neckline (also straight across).


4. Mark a line 1.5″ up from your line of pins. This will be the cutting line. When you reach the sleeves, carry the line on at a right angle to the sleeve grainline. If you’re using stripes, this is especially easy!

5. Cut all along the marked cutting line. Now is the time to stitch your button plackets together if they remain. Then press under a narrow 1/4″ hem and stitch in place.

I made the hem slightly deeper at the button plackets for ease of sewing through all those layers.

6. Press over another 1 1/4″ to form the channel for the elastic. Stitch in place, leaving a 2″ gap for elastic insertion. When you reach the sleeves, because they get wider towards the top, you’ll find you have excess fabric gathering; this is absolutely fine and you should sew right over the gathers, trying to spread them as evenly as possible. The gathers will disappear into the overall gathering once you’ve inserted the elastic.

You can see the sleeve gathering in this pic.

7. Insert the elastic through the gap you’ve left using a safety pin. When the elastic is all the way through, pin the two ends together and try on your top. Adjust the elastic for your desired fit and stitch the ends together accordingly.

8. Stitch over the gap where the elastic was inserted. You can now decide on the length of your top, and trim and hem accordingly (I did an enclosed hem by turning up 1/4″ and then turning it up again).

9. It’s also up to you what you do with the sleeves. I liked the puffy look of keeping all the fabric so simply cut off the cuffs, stitched the plackets together at the bottom and put in 1/4″ elastic to gather the new cuffs and enable me to push them up, creating a voluminous sleeve. But there are lots of options here!

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10. Wear your lovely new top with pride!

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Grainline Archer, and a Cambridge love story

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Just before the heatwave hit here, J’s Canadian cousins came to England for the first leg of their honeymoon, and the four of us spent a happy, drizzly day wandering around Cambridge, punting and pubbing. Fresh from my success at dressing for the weather in Canada, I thoughtfully layered up with a camisole and my new Grainline Studio Archer. Upon arrival however I realised quite quickly that Cambridge in July somehow still manages to be colder and wetter than the high slopes of the Rockies, and had to borrow a ‘rain jacket’ from the ever-weather-ready Canadians. It’s embarrassing when you’re less prepared for your country’s weather than two foreigners who don’t even own umbrellas.

However, in the bright moments in between showers we did manage to get some snaps of my first attempt at the Archer, amidst the cloisters of my old college. I said ‘my’, I should say ‘we’, because it’s where J and I met, over ten years ago. It makes me chuckle, looking back. We were corridor neighbours, and in spite of having almost nothing else in common, friends. After a cracking start in my gap year, I was determined to continue my misspent youth (sleep was for the old), whilst J was determined to pass his exams and learn Japanese on the side (sleep was for the successful). As such, he thought I was crazy, I thought he was a grown up, and we didn’t fancy each other one bit. It took eight years for that to change, eight years of my mother steadily brainwashing me after deciding (after a one-off, brief encounter on the day we moved in, no less) that J was the one for me. She probably cast a few spells to be on the safe side. I don’t know how she got to J too though.




Anyway, if you’d told me back then that ten years on I’d find myself the girlfriend of J, helping him show his Canadian cousins around our old haunts, I’d have laughed – a lot. The only bit that wouldn’t have surprised me was that I’d be wearing something home-sewn.

I’d been kind of ambivalent about the blogosphere’s favourite shirt pattern because loose and masculine aren’t words that sit comfortably with my usual style. I really like my FBA-ed Sewaholic Granville pattern. But then I was seduced by this Jack Wills shirt, came across the perfect fabric for it in Sew Over It, and as one of my favourite areas of sewing is recreating high street looks, I decided to give it a go.


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I cut a size 4, and it’s fairly roomy, but then without any bust shaping it would have to be on me. In such a light cotton, I don’t mind the looseness, but I’d be tempted to rethink the fit for a fabric with more body. It was lovely working with something so light when it came to the collar and cuffs, although I still feel my neatness here could be improved. One thing I have got down and dusted now however is turning my corners! I’ve learnt such a neat trick for this that I might try and film it and share on here, as it’s almost impossible to explain without visuals.

Anyhoo, I actually started the shirt way back before Canada, discovered I HATE flat-felling seams, and may have rather naughtily left it to one side in favour of my holiday makes. I picked it up the day before our Cambridge visit and gave myself ‘tomorrow’ as a motivating deadline. It worked – ish. I made myriad little mistakes on this shirt that scream to me ‘less haste more speed’ – my cuffs are both buttoning in the same direction rather than symmetrically, for example. The thing is though, if you want to wear something, you either have to redo it (sigh) or just quit obsessing, accept that most other people will never spot the flaws (I’m never wearing this to a sewing meet-up, however), and move on, celebrating the fact that at least your corners are proper pointy.

Do I love it, warts and all? Well, I like it, and can definitely see more Archers in my wardrobe, but I’ve realised that lately I’ve made a lot of practical items and my sew-jo yearns for something a little more me. To that end I’ve just cut out McCalls 6696 in some really fabulous Liberty lawn… x

P.S. Interesting fact: my surname, Chang, is derived from the Chinese for long-bowman, i.e. an archer!

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