Sunday, 29 December 2013

Sugar Plum

I've finished my Sugar Plum dress from Lolita patterns!

I love this pattern. First up here are some pictures.

What I like about the design is that it's so different. A dress that look's like a skirt and top? I don't know why that should be so appealing. Probably because it's so darn different. The pattern also provides a bit of a challenge for the more experienced sewer. The button loops and modesty shield for example - so cute!

Amity, the designer, is lovely and ever so professional. Whenever I became stuck or wanted more information about the design I just emailed her and she responded straightaway.

I only wish I was able to finish in time for the Sugar Plum contest. Despite starting my muslin on 2 November 2013 I was miles away by 2 December 2013, the contest deadline. I finished putting the last button on today. In my last post I said I wouldn't finish this dress in 2013 so I've surprised myself by finishing it now!

Here are the details.


I used a wool knit fabric for the skirt (I can't remember the mix). I was all set to use a polka dot black and white fabric for the bodice when I remembered this lovely peach fabric I bought from the old lady. This close up of the fabric on the dress form will give you an idea of what it's like. It has an oriental feel.

First muslin

I traced and cut the pattern in a size 12. I was really happy with the style. My changes were to lengthen the bodice and remove some width from the hips and side seams. I emailed Amity and she said the waist line should fall on the lower seam of the waist band.

I lengthened the skirt pieces as I didn't want it any shorter than the un-hemmed muslin.

Sleeve Changes

I didn't like the original sleeves on me. It was more gathered than I would like at the top. I then added the vertical gathers at the sleeve hem to see if that improved things. It didn't. The sleeve was too big and stood up too much at the sleeve head. I wanted it to lay flat.

I had a go at removing all the excess fabric in the gathered sleeve head. I simply made a large dart at the shoulder seam and removed all the excess. I sewed the dart and tried it on to see what it looked like. Despite the less than professional technique I deployed this was a vast improvement.

I removed the sleeve and set about making up a new pattern piece. This was really hard to figure out. What I should have done was open up the patternmaking book I bought to see if it could offer any help. I'm a bit short on sewing time so that wasn't going to happen. I carried on winging it. All credit to the indie pattern makers (who do get a hard press from some snobbish quarters). This stuff is hard.

Where was I? Oh yes. I tried to alter the flat pattern but I couldn't figure out how to get it to lie flat. I then took my fabric sleeve piece, complete with dart, pressed it flat and traced around that, transferring all the markings. (Gingermakes – is this how they did it on your FIT course? Ha ha!)

I then made a further muslin from my new pattern piece. There was still a bit of gathering around the sleeve head but it was much more to my liking. I moved the notch for the shoulder seam to where it should correctly lay with the new cut.

The sleeve hem circumference was too big for my arm. Instead of just taking in the sleeve side seam I noticed there was a lot of excess fabric at the bottom of the sleeve at the back. I took about 2 cm out of that area by placing a dart at the sleeve hem. I sewed the dart to see what it looked like and it was much better. I then transferred my alteration to my pattern piece. Instead of taking out the 2 cm in one area, I distributed the amount to be removed by making small tucks which together added up to the 2 cm needed to be removed. The pattern piece now looked vastly different at the back (and downright odd!).

I changed the sleeve attachment method. The pattern has you make up the sleeve and lining and then set into the bodice, right sides together. This would leave you with a seam on the inside. I didn't want this seam and I like my lining to look clean on the inside with all the seams enclosed. Having made the Minoru jacket twice I know how easy it is to join the hem of a lined sleeve after the sleeve is attached so that's what I did.

Collar Changes

I muslined the neck ruffle to see what it looked like. It looked alright but a bit ruffley for my liking and not in keeping with the clean lines elsewhere. I then shortened the collar piece to make a stand collar. I preferred this style on me and I thought it was in keeping with the Japanese influence of the pattern.

The pattern calls for a single layer of fabric which is serged to prevent fraying. I preferred to make up the collar with two pattern pieces with enclosed seams.

I may make some further changes when I do the pattern again. I will interface the collar stand as it is a bit limp in this drapey fabric. I will also change the collar stand piece so that it is more vertical at the centre front rather than at a 45 degree angle.

Button Loops

The button loops nearly defeated me trying to turn them through. The pattern called for one long spaghetti strap, turned through, and cut into loop lengths.

The problem was my fabric. It was too delicate to turn through and frayed really easily at the edges. I ended up making up a couple of smaller length straps to practise on. I finished the seam with a zig zag stitch to stop it fraying and I pressed the seam allowance to one side. I used the hair clip method used in the Saltspring sew along. This worked well but I had to do it really slowly and pull the clip through carefully adjusting as I went along. If I yanked too hard the clip would break through the loop snipped at the top.

I also left off the top loop as I liked the look without. Next time I will put small strips of interfacing on the centre front edges to give more body to that area as it flops back slightly.


After finishing the seams and topstitching the waistband I decided to topstitch all the skirt princess seams. This was to try and reduce the “hanging” of the jersey fabric between the stitched panels. I'm not sure what the ruched effect was all about. I thought it may be because I didn't have the skirt quite as fitted as the design intends.

The pattern only has lining up to the waistband. As I need to be able to wear things easily with tights, I continued the lining to the skirt. My waistband facing pieces are in lining fabric rather than shell fabric as in the pattern.

I was disappointed with the skirt when I had finished because the princess seams still gave a ruched effect. Turns out all it needed was a good press, while slightly stretching the princess seams lengthwise. The ruching disappeared and I was happy once again!


I attached the invisible zip, and the zip to the lining, using my usual method (details and links can be found in this post if you're interested. (If you follow the links, I link to two step by step tutorials, the second of which does it exactly the way I do my zips and lining. I do my zippers and lining slightly different to the Sewaholic Cambie and Sunni Craftsy methods which I know a lot of sewers use).

I have a new way of matching waistband seams at the zipper tape. After stitching one side I close the zip and then line up the other centre back waist seams. I pin the zipper tape to mark where the waistband seams should go. I do small hand tacking stitches to mark these points rather than faffing around with my blunt and mostly useless chalk. I then do hand and then machine basting stitches to attach the waistband part only to the zipper tape, sewing between the two hand tacked stitches. I then close the zip and make sure the two waistband seams match. If they do then I complete the upper and lower parts of the zip.

I found that the top of the zipper tape finished about 3 mm further away from the top neck edge than on the other side. My bodice piece must have been slightly bigger. No problem because I just sewed the top neck edge 3 mm lower on that side so that it matched the other side.

Here are some pictures of the finished lining, front and back. I didn't use red lining because I thought it would go well with the peach fabric (ha ha!). It was because although the white lining (used for the bodice and waistband) was nice and soft, I didn't want to have white lining under a black skirt. The red fabric was the only lining I had that was as soft as the white lining.


I spent a good hour yesterday trying to find suitable buttons from my button stash. There was nothing suitable so I headed down to John Lewis today to buy these white pearl like buttons. (I was the only person in the Haberdashery! I love John Lewis by the way – such great customer service).

The pattern intends the buttons to be sewn on through the lining. I didn't want messy button stitching to interfere with the clean finish of the lining. I attached my buttons to the outer shell only but after adding a strip of interfacing to the wrong side. Next time I will add this strip of interfacing at the cutting stage as it was a faff to attach after the event.

I'm really pleased with the buttons and the little loops. Such a cute detail. The buttons are not the main closure which is just as well as they are fiddly to open and one of my loops came out too short.


I really like this pattern and there will definitly be another one. I might make it next even though I have a mountain of other exciting patterns I am anxious to start on!

With my reduced amount of sewing time (I work and live in London during the week and my sewing machine is in Norfolk) I have been consoling myself with buying patterns. I now have every possible Indie pattern I could ever want. I've also been slightly addicted to ebay pattern buying and I've bought a vintage Diane von Furstenberg wrap dress pattern!

Well that's it now for my completed makes for 2013!

I still hope to be back with some top 5 posts.

See you soon.



  1. Wow, this dress is really fun! It looks so professional and you look very crisp and fancy! Hahaha, as far as the sleeve goes, usually you would measure how much excess you need to remove, then slash the sleeve piece evenly in maybe 4 or 5 places and overlap it the desired amount. But sleeves are really tricky and confusing, so I'm sure there would be some chaos involved if I needed to do this on my own!

    1. Thank you so much for answering! I knew you would know. That's really useful to know - slashing multiple times seems to be the key. Thanks for your comment - I feel a bit fancy in this. This may even be the first hand made dress I wear to work!

  2. looking lovely as ever. I like the oriental element to this dress :D

    1. Ah thanks Hannah. I think this would be a good dress for you to make for your teaching career!