Megan Nielsen Dove Dress

After my sewing slump at the end of 2016, I wanted to kick off 2017 with a completely new-to-me project that would require a bit of commitment and concentration. I decided the Megan Nielsen Dove blouse to dress hack would be a great project to start with.

So yes, I made and finished this dress weeks ago – I’ve even worn it out – I just hadn’t gotten any pictures of me wearing it until this past weekend.


Honestly, I thought this would be a pretty straight forward modification given that the designer has a superb tutorial walking you through the steps of turning her pattern into a dress.  And that part was easy, but it was just the beginning for me.  This dress is the reason I make muslins of just about every project I sew.  It was huge on me.


Practice dress in vintage red wool suiting. Sadly, this fabric was in rough shape – faded and stained in spots – when I acquired it.  Otherwise, I’d never have used it for muslining.

In retrospect, I should have started with a smaller size.  When I used the measurements chart on the instructions my bust fell in the x-small range while my waist and hips were small and medium (no surprises there; this is pretty common for me).  So I split the difference and cut the small.  However, when hacking this pattern from blouse to dress you can easily adjust for your waist measurement and you use your own hip measurement, so my initial size choice was not the best place to start for this hack. But rather than print, tape, and cut a new pattern, I decided to work with what I had, which was not the most efficient way to proceed.


That said, the necessary modifications went slowly, but very smoothly.  I started by pulling 1.25″ from the center front. I normally do not like to do this, but there was just way too much fabric and this change did not bring my side seams forward noticeably. It also helped bring up the V-neck slightly, which I was hoping for. Next, I increased the side seams at the waist (fading to nothing at the armholes) and from the hips to the hem.  These changes eliminated the need for front darts which you see pinned in the pic above. Then, I added double-ended darts for shaping in the back.


The final changes were smaller and easier: I straightened the hem (personal preference), narrowed the shoulders slightly, narrowed the sleeves where they meet the flounce and narrowed the top of the flounce accordingly, and shortened the flounce on each sleeve by half.  I like my sleeves at bracelet length (any longer and I keep pushing them up),and the original sleeves were just far too 70’s for me. Whether I did any of these adjustments in the correct order or if they were not the correct adjustments to make to fix this fit – I do not know.  But they worked for me. There is still a small bit of pulling at the front armhole seam when I move my arms behind my back, but, well, I just won’t do that.

After I made all of these changes on my red wool muslin dress, I adjusted my pattern – since chances are I will make at least one more of these – and sewed up my dress, which was a breeze. The only issue I had was with the hem. I did not use the hem facing provided with the pattern since I was doing a straight hem rather than the original split shirt hem.  But this wool blend did not take a traditional turn-under-twice hem well.  When I put the dress on, the hem looked all choppy no matter how diligently I pressed it.  So I unpicked it, added a loop of interfacing and re-hemmed it.  That helped, but it’s still not fully to my liking.


At this point, I must admit, I was feeling pretty proud of myself. I have almost always had somebody available to help me with pattern modifications,even if it is just to help me with pinning out excess fabric. I did these adjustments myself with dozens of trips between my sewing room and my only full-length mirror upstairs. They were straightforward, but time consuming.  Had I attempted this project in the end of 2016, I have no doubt I would have just tossed the muslin and moved on.


I wore this dress, the night I finished it, to an inaugural celebration for Richmond’s new mayor. It is not the most flattering or unique dress I own — I admit, this initially bothered me a bit, but then I reminded myself that not all custom-made items need to scream one-of-a-kind — but it was a good dress for a reception after work hours when I had no idea what the dress code would be. It will be a good dress to wear to an office (if I ever go back to work in an office).  And there is an added bonus: it is one of my few handmade dresses that does not have a fitted waist! This means this will hold a regular spot in my dress rotation at events where food and beverages will be available.

Here are a couple pictures on my dress form:


And as always with me, while it may be a bit dull and conservative on the outside, the inside practically glows.


I should have put the dress on inside out for one shot in front of the mural. The colors would have been perfect!

Here’s one shot of this mural without me “posing” – if you can call it that – in front of it.


I would be surprised if I do not make another one of these dresses this year.  It is a fun pattern that, for most, will come together pretty quickly. Don’t let my lazy size-choosing mistake deter you.

PatternMegan Nielsen Dove Blouse (turned into a dress), size small
Fabric: Black & grey small checked wool blend (I should totally burn test it for fiber content); lined in vintage Si Bonne cotton rayon blend in bright turquoise.
Modifications: Followed steps laid out on Megan Nielsen’s website to convert pattern from a blouse to a dress.  Then took 1.25″ from center front, increased the side seams by varying amounts from the armhole to the hem, added back double-ended darts, narrowed the shoulders slightly, narrowed the sleeves at the bottom and flounce at the top, shortened sleeve flounces by 4″, straightened the hem.
Mural: Owl by Jeff Soto, painted in April 2012 at the James River Power Plant Building and Floodwall, as part of the 2012 Richmond Virginia Street Art Festival. This is quite possibly my favorite mural in Richmond.  The owl in it’s original colors can be seen here.
Thank you to Brian, who kindly took two rounds of photos of me in this dress.

Kielo wrap dress: The hippie chick

I had to – er, I mean, got to – give this beauty away today.  The hem needed to be shortened just a bit, but otherwise, it looked like a perfect fit.


There is not much left to say about this dress – I mean, it is the *sixth* one I’ve made. Here are the first, second, third and fifth (the fourth, done in a deep navy cotton/linen blend, was a gift and un-blogged).


If I did not love the recipient of this dress as much as I do, I would have considered shortening the hem and moving it into my closet. The colors are even perfect as we move closer to autumn.


Unfortunately, I did not have enough fabric to match the pattern down the back center seam, but I was able to make sure the edges of the medallion lined up in the back.


All I have left are the tiniest of scraps – just maybe enough to make pockets for my next pair of Ginger jeans…

Pattern: Named Kielo Wrap Dress, size 4
Modifications: Facing for the neckline only, rather than the combination facing I had drafted for earlier versions, and shortened the hem to knee length
Fabric: 100% Indian cotton tapestry in navy with orange, turquoise, green and red

Kielo wrap dress: In the sun

This beauty isn’t for me; it’s for a friend – my very first friend who I met when I was about 4 years old – who kindly asked me to make it for her.


Sewing for others is incredibly stressful for me.  When sewing for myself, I know what sort of “imperfections”, i.e., visible hand stitches, under stitching that is not perfectly straight, etc…, can be expected and can decide if I am okay with how something turned out or go back and try to fix it.  When sewing for others, I do not allow myself any wiggle room,  and often find myself dreading that I agreed to make something for somebody else.  That said, I know very well, that when somebody makes something for me, I never think it is anything but a generous gift made with kindness.  I suppose the best thing I can do is to keep sewing for others and hope I get over it, eventually.

Pattern: Named Kielo wrap dress, size 10
Modifications: Self-drafted combination facing, shortened length, narrowed “wings” for better fit at the waist, lengthened ties for wrapping
Fabric: Nicole Miller “In the sun – multi” twill, 97% poly 3% spandex



Kielo wrap dress: Step one…

… is admitting you have a problem, right? Well, that’s done. Whether I’m willing to stop making these dresses is another matter. I’ve been tinkering with the pattern and this variation is pretty close to perfect for me. It is made from purple linen that I picked up at Mood almost three years ago.


If you are interested in having a custom version of one of these dresses, please send me a private message. Sewing for others is stressful for me, but I appreciate people’s interest and am willing to give it a try. Turnaround time depends on how many dozens of you want one 🙂

Kielo wrap dress: Quilting cotton fireworks

Leave it to me to make a pretty simple dress more complicated the second time around. However, thanks to some re-engineering on the inside, in the form of a drafted combination facing, this one should hold up a bit better over time.


I’ve had this vintage quilting cotton in my stash for a couple years now.  I’ve been itching to use it and felt the pattern on the fabric would look great on this dress — which it does.  However, the drape of the fabric made it a red decision, so to speak. It’s too stiff, causing it to ride up around my legs when I walk.  But I’m hoping a few trips through the washer and dryer will soften it up a bit.

Pattern: Named Kielo wrap dress, size 6
Modifications: Self-drafted combination facing, shortened length, narrowed “wings” for better fit at the waist, lengthened ties for wrapping
Fabric: Vintage quilting cotton


Kielo Wrap: My outdoor market dress

This is my *perfect* summer dress.  It also just happens to be made out of a tapestry I bought in the late 80’s/early 90’s, that was later used as a paint drop cloth (and there are green splatters of paint on this dress to prove it).

This was not intended to be a wearable dress; it was a practice run for a dress pattern by a designer I have never worn before. I had no idea I’d turn out loving it this much. The added bonus – it was super quick to put together. I can see myself making more of these for sure.


My only concern with this dress pattern is that neckline and armholes are finished by simply turning under the fabric and stitching.  If I do make more of these dresses, I’ll likely draft facings instead.  I think they’ll hold their shape a bit better over time. Plus then there will be no visible stitching besides the hem.

Pattern: Named Kielo wrap dress, size 6
Modifications: Shortened to knee length
Fabric: Light cotton tapestry/former paint drop cloth

Simplicity 3559: Holey hot mess

Holey (not to be confused with holy): defined as having holes.

Hot mess: defined as a person or thing that is spectacularly unsuccessful or disordered, but maintains an attractiveness.

This holey hot mess of green Irish linen is my second version of Simplicity 3559. It could have been a simple and quick make if I’d: (1) kept notes on fitting the first time around and (2) paid attention when overlocking the edges so as to not cut a hole in the fabric.

Oh well. You win some, you lose some.  It’ll definitely get worn this summer regardless.

Pattern: Simplicity 3559
Modifications: Removed sleeves, turned under fabric on armholes to finish, shortened for length (as always)
Fabric: Vintage pure Irish linen in emerald green

My first version of this dress is below.  Thankfully this new one fits a bit better.


Vogue 7642: Looks can be deceiving

I was tempted to spend 2016 making only pajamas, but I have a wedding to attend later this month that requires a semi-formal dress. While I’m sure I have something suitable to wear in my closet, I wanted to use one of my fancier vintage patterns. Then, almost as if on cue, my lovely and generous friend, Jane, gave me this stunning dupioni silk in deep iridescent turquoise.

It turns out that Vogue 7642 was not the best pattern for this fabric (the gathers along the entire waist would be best with a drapier fabric) but I made some adjustments and am pretty happy with how this turned out.


It looks like a pretty straight-forward and simple make. This is a classic case of looks being deceiving. I used 5 different fabrics when making this dress.


I eliminated the gathers along the hips and back and replaced them with large box pleats. Not ideal, nor perfectly executed, but a huge improvement.


I inserted bra cups since this is very very low cut.


Fully-lined in grass-green Si Bonne lining. Silky smooth against my skin. Stitched in mostly by hand.


Satin-lined pockets hidden in the front seams.


I’ll likely wear it with this pin since I am not a huge fan of necklaces.

Pattern: Vintage Vogue 7642
Modifications: Took up by 1″ at shoulders, shortened waist band height, shortened skirt length, replaced gathers along waist/skirt seams on sides and back with large box pleats
Fabrics: Dupioni silk gifted to e by my friend, Jane, the upper bodice and skirt are underlined with organza, the waist band is underlined with cotton organdy for additional stiffness, pockets are in satin

McCall’s 7279: Post Camp Workroom Social work

Just an ordinary dress for work on the outside; not so much on the inside.


Perfect for a job in financial services…


My first dress collar, I think.


A close to perfectly inserted invisible zipper. I’m loving my Bernina foot 25.


A burst of color

McCall’s 7279 (by Palmer/Pletsch) in grey herringbone wool with a black cotton collar. I have no idea what the lining fabric is made of. And frankly, with colors and a pattern like that, I don’t care.

I spent a weekend earlier this month at Workroom Social sewing camp learning a new-to-me fitting method. (You modify the tissue pattern to fit your body and then skip the muslin phase.)  It worked quite well for this dress, which fits better than many other dresses I’ve made. Added bonus, I was fitted by the lovely Melissa Watson, one of the women who designed the pattern.