Final Trapeze Dress

It’s been a little while since I finished the toile for my Trapeze dress and I’m so glad I made it in nice fabric because I’ve gotten a lot of wear out of it!

I started the final dress straight away, but then it sat on the back-burner for a while because I got really excited about making the Alder dress… and I really needed to make a start on my wedding top!

But there’s nothing like a deadline to help you get something finished. And I was spurred on by the start of Me Made May and the fact that we were going to a wedding reception on Thursday… and I had nothing to wear.

Trapeze dress | Jem Weston blog

I love it! I adore this Anna Maria Horner fabric and it’s the perfect style of dress to not break up the pattern. I made a slightly better job of sewing this than I did with the toile and made the neckline slightly lower, so it’s lovely and comfortable.

Despite being exactly the same fabric, it feels a bit stiffer than the toile. This might be because I’ve washed and worn that a few times now – so I’m hoping this one will soften a bit over time.

Expect to see this dress popping up on Instagram a few times during Me Made May!



Alder Shirtdress Toile

I was in the middle of making my final Trapeze dress in Anna Maria Horner fabric…but I was so excited about making a shirtdress that I abandoned it and made an Alder shirtdress!

As I had enough Anna Maria Horner fabric to make the Trapeze dress plus another- I decided to use that for the toile and I have some lightweight denim for the final dress.

It’s very much a summer dress and as we don’t have anywhere at home to take pictures of me wearing it… and it’s still too cold to venture out without sleeves and thick tights – I’m afraid you’ll have to wait a while before seeing pictures of me wearing it!

Alder Shirtdress front - Jem Weston blog

Based on the size guide I should have been making US size 6 for the top and size 10 for the hips. As it’s loose around the hips I opted for size 6. And it’s huge! It’s supposed to be a loose fitting style so I was expecting that, but I’m not sure whether to use my denim for this or maybe choose a more fitted style.

Alder shirtdress collar - Jem Weston blog

It will be perfect for me in the summer. Whenever we have a heatwave I always struggle to find something to wear! A lot of my dresses are man-made fibres so not breathable and all the cotton dresses I have are strappy beach dresses…not always appropriate. This dress is 100% cotton and loose-fitting so will be perfect and cool during a heatwave and will also look good with jeggings on a more typical British summer day.

I made the back section in one piece rather than two separate pieces with a yoke so that I wasn’t breaking up the pattern – and for the same reason I omitted the breast pockets.

Alder shirtdress back - Jem Weston blog

The collar was the most complicated thing I’ve done! I managed to put the collar stand the wrong way round which doesn’t matter too much – and also put the button band on the wrong side so it does up like a man’s dress!

Alder shirtdress collar - Jem Weston blog

Overall I’m pretty happy with it and can’t believe I managed a collar and fairly okay button holes! I really want to make a striped version like this one

That would definitely test my pattern matching skills – and would be the perfect summer dress!

Trapeze Dress Toile

I’m really enjoying my weekly sewing classes at All Things Creative! Working at home can be isolating – so it’s great to have a few hours each week to spend time with creative people, learning new skills and doing a bit of selfish making.

For those not familiar with the term toile – it is a sort of practice garment made from the pattern so you can check the fit and make any alterations before cutting into the final fabric. I’m taking the dressmaking slow and steady and learning how to do things properly – so making a toile is really important.

I want to make the final Trapeze dress in some gorgeous Anna Maria Horner fabric which I’ve had in my stash for years and I adore!

Toiles are often made in calico, but I wanted to check my fabric wasn’t too heavy for the dress style – so I decided to use some Denyse Schmidt fabric I had which is exactly the same weight. My hope was that the toile would be wearable and I would have two trapeze dresses!

I made a few alterations to the pattern before starting. I used the long sleeve pattern but made them narrower and shorter and I made the overall length shorter so it would sit above the knee.

Jem Westob blog | Merchant & Mills Trapeze Dress

I also made it a size smaller than the pattern recommended for my measurements so that it would be more fitted at the top. And of course I added pockets… essential!

I did my usual trick of cutting along the wrong line on the pattern so I made a size 8 with a size 18 neckline!

Because the neckline is quite high I actually think that making it wider was a happy accident. For the final dress I’m planning to make the neckline slightly deeper at the front because it’s not super comfortable.

Over the last few weeks I have learnt that I’m not very good at putting in sleeves… it’s really difficult! I’m definitely improving though and I can see a big difference between the sleeves in this toile.

It’s a bit difficult to see in a photo – but on the right side the fabric is pulling a bit across the front of my shoulder and the neckline is poking up. I think this is because of my poor sleeve insertion skills!

I spent much longer doing the left sleeve and it sits much better.

Overall – a very wearable toile! Although I do think the shape will suit the bigger bolder print of the Anna Maria Horner fabric better. What do you think?

Scout Tee

I’m three weeks into my All Things Creative dressmaking course with the fantastic Deirdre Robbins…and I’ve finished the Scout Tee! (Apologies for the slightly blurry photo – we didn’t get around to pics at the weekend so I had to do the selfie stick thing).I’ve sewn quite a lot of clothes in the past and even attended other dressmaking and pattern cutting courses. But a lot of what I’d learnt I’ve forgotten or just didn’t take in properly at the time – so I often end up ‘bodging’ things together.

This is the first thing I’ve made where I’m actually proud to show you the inside!

I learnt how to do french seams (properly!) and Deidre talked me through how to do a ‘faux french seam’ for the sleeve head. It’s not quite as beautiful as the french seam but it’s pretty nice and neat.

The Scout Tee pattern is really simple and easy to follow. I made the toile (practice version to check the fit) in a quilting cotton and it was too thick. This final version is a fairly light and very soft cotton from The Eternal Maker.

A cotton lawn would work beautifully so I’ll be keeping my eye out because I want to make more!

I’m really excited about making the Alder Shirtdress but I’m going to tackle the Trapeze Dress first. Wish me luck!

Making (slow) Progress


I’ve got a busy weekend of Woolfest ahead so I’m writing and scheduling this in advance. If you went to Woolfest – I hope you had a lovely time! I’m sure next Sunday’s blog will be Woolfest themed.

I realised that it’s been a while since I updated you on what I’m making outside of work…the reason being that I haven’t had much time outside of work!

I’m still sticking to the one project per category rule that I set myself in a blog at the beginning of the year and seem to be halfway through lots of projects at the moment.


My Jamie cardigan is getting there. I’m only finding a couple of hours a week to work on this so it’s slow progress – but I’ve finished the back and reached the armhole shaping on the fronts. I’m very excited about the pockets!


I started a chevron blanket at the Frank & Olive Crochet retreat – but it wasn’t working for me so I started again and now it’s more of a ripple than a chevron. This is a lovely project to dip in and out of so it’s perfect for knit group and destined to be a baby blanket for my friend’s new baby.


I traced and cut out the pattern in brown paper for my Merchant and Mills coat. And now I’ve sort of abandoned it! The sewing bee is getting me all fired up to do some sewing! I just need a bit of time to concentrate.


I really want to make a hexi patchwork quilt – so I thought I would start with a cushion to practice the paper piecing. I definitely needed the practice! It’s nearly done and I’m hoping a good iron will sort out the lumpy bits.


I’ve been busy with day to day gardening jobs and have even managed to encourage a hedgehog into the garden! The big job for this summer was to build some steps to create a seating area – and that is currently on hold. Unfortunately my dad hurt his hip so we won’t be bricklaying for a while – but it’s not really been the weather for sitting out in the garden anyway! I’ve made temporary steps from wobbly piles of bricks so that I can get to the garden bench – and the cats are enjoying the mound of soil!

I hope all your WIPs are going well! x

Granny Square Cushion

cushioncurtainI had hoped that writing my blog about unfinished projects would spur me on to finish some. It worked!

One of the projects I found was a granny square which was originally going to be an arm cover for my sofa. One of my cats is pretty well behaved because I’ve had her since she was a kitten and managed to train her not to scratch the sofa or chase yarn. Noodle on the other hand – I adopted as a teenager and he has destroyed the arms of my sofa!

A granny square cover would’ve looked lovely, but I quite quickly came to my senses and scrapped the idea because Noodle would still have scratched – and it wouldn’t take long to destroy a granny square! So plan B was to buy some wool blankets to match my curtains, cut them up and sew them to shape as arm covers. They’re not perfect – but a lot better than the mess underneath them and easy to replace. Strangely enough – Noodle has left them alone so far!

I had enough fabric left from two blankets to make a cover for the cushion pad on my Ercol armchair and to cover one side of a cushion for the back of the armchair. This was obviously meant to be so my Ercol has now been swapped with Grandad’s old rocking chair, and relocated to the living room.

I’d completely forgotten about the granny square until I wrote my WIP’s blog! It’s perfect because I had planned the colours to work in the living room and it was almost the right size for the cushion pad (I took back a few rounds). It’s one of those projects that’s been going on for a while and suddenly everything came together and worked perfectly!

I really must dig out my unfinished projects more often!

Sew Scared!

I have a confession to make – I’m scared of sewing buttonholes and zips!

I seem to have slipped into the habit of buying fabric and patterns but then not actually making them. There’s always an excuse – normally a lack of time or the fact that I’d rather be knitting. But the truth of the matter is – I’m just not good at zips and buttonholes and I don’t want to ruin my beautiful fabric!

In my ‘unmade’ collection I have the Hawthorn shirt dress pattern by Collette and some Denyse Schmidt fabric to make it up. This scares me because of the buttonholes and the collar. I think I can get away with not pattern matching though – because it’s a fairly random pattern?

The one I’m most excited about is the Betty dress by Sew Over It, which I plan to make in an Anna Maria Horner fabric. I love the fabric so much! It’s a big print though, so that scares me. And of course the invisible zip!

Because the above projects have been unmade for so long I decided to try something simpler and bought the Peony dress by Colette (which is for beginners!) and some spotty Amy Butler fabric which definitely doesn’t need pattern matching. That was back in August and I haven’t touched it. Guess why? It might be simple but it still has a zip!!

At the Knitting and Stitching show last week, I decided that the only solution to this problem is to buy more patterns and fabric. I’m sure you agree?!

I discovered Merchant & Mills and love the relaxed style of their garments and the fact that they very rarely use zips! If I start really simple and get back into the sewing zone, I’m hoping that I can overcome my fear of zips and button holes and tackle the lovely dresses that I want to make.

I bought the Trapeze Dress pattern with some denim. Lovely, plain and simple with no pattern matching to worry about. I think I will do a short sleeved version. I also bought The Workbook, which contains the Haremere Jacket pattern. I’m planning to make a belted version with no buttons in Donegal Tweed.

Have you got any projects that you’re scared of starting or finishing? Join me in tackling them – we can do it!

Festival of Quilts

I love working with the team from Coats/Rowan and have been spoilt over the last couple of weeks, with a workshop tutor meeting in Holmfirth and a couple of days at Festival of Quilts.

I was helping on the Lady Sew and Sew stand with the lovely Emma Osmond – new author of The Crochet Workshop, and we had the pleasure of meeting the one and only Zandra Rhodes who was signing books whilst we sold her fabric on our stand.

I love working at Festival – it’s always busy, exciting and inspiring. People travel from all over the world to come to the show, see the exhibition of quilts, take workshops and shop! I managed to resist spending too much as I have a stash of lovely Anna Maria Horner and Denyse Schmidt fabric waiting to be used. I bought a simple Colette dress pattern from Eternal Maker and I’m definitely in the mood for sewing!

Crafty Plans

Now that dad’s renovated my lovely Ercol armchair and the strapping is done, I’m desperate to make the cushions so that I can actually sit in it!

This might be a slow process because I have an awful lot of knitting to do (still secret – sorry). But I love planning a project as much as I love the making process.

If I’m feeling a bit down, nothing cheers me up as much as looking through my knitting books and shade cards. I love emptying a box of yarn or fabric onto the floor and playing around with colours and patterns. I find thinking about and planning projects almost meditative. It’s very difficult to do nothing and even more difficult to think about nothing! But planning a new project forces me to focus my mind on one thing, which is easier than completely switching off, but better than a busy brain.

So – I’ve got the foam ready for the seat pad, a squishy cushion for the back of the chair and a pile of beautiful Parson Gray fabrics.

The armchair lives in my workroom, which also doubles up as my boyfriend’s gaming room. Luckily we have similar tastes and I chose greys and greens for the room. A patchwork of Parson Gray fabrics will fit in beautifully!

What projects are you planning at the moment?