Princess Elsa ‘ Frozen ‘ – McCalls M7000

Pretty much the only things that kept me going with this make were how much my little Poppet wanted to dress-up as Elsa and that its my first White Tree Fabrics blog team make.

I’m hoping the results speak from themselves!




This dress, I have to say, is not for a beginner.

Firstly, the choice of fabrics means that you can be dealing with things slipping and sliding all over the place. I’m not sure I made life particularly easy for myself as the contrast sequined fabric had a slight stretch to it. Pair that with some slidey chiffon and slinky satin, both in wovens and well, it takes a lot of precision in both cutting and sewing to get everything to line up.

The fabrics from White Tree were beautiful and I particularly enjoyed working with the satin. I deliberately chose fabrics that would make a cost effective dress.

Light blue satin / White chiffon / Light blue sequin knit

There are a lot of pattern pieces – 12 in total. That’s a lot of tracing, pining and cutting.

The instructions are a bit on the sparse side.

Now this is generally something that I have come to expect from the Big Four patterns, so I can’t say I was surprised. I largely ignored them and did my own thing. For example, would it not be sensible to suggest that seams are sewn with a french seam on sheer fabrics? The pattern suggested using a ‘double seam’.


Yep, I had to look it up too. It suggests, sewing one seam and then another close to it to create two seams, you then trim close to the second seam. I didn’t bother!! Had I engaged my brain before starting, I’d have worked my construction to that I could use french seams, but I didn’t, so in the end I used my overlocker and I’m largely happy with the results. This is after all a dressing up costume, not a couture piece of evening wear!

I was also somewhat puzzled by the lack of instruction to sew a rolled hem on both the chiffon and satin. Instead it suggested sewing a ‘narrow hem’. I checked their definition and nope, they didn’t mean rolled hem. So I ignored that and out came the rolled hem foot!!

I also mostly ignored the construction order, as well it wasn’t particularly time efficient.

I did however manage to impress myself by setting the sleeves in without a single gather or pucker (this was especially impressive as my seam allowances were all over the place – I’d messed up on the bodice and a touch of unpicking was needed).

And I feel I surpassed myself with my sewn button loop!


One thing I did discover when setting in the sleeves was that there were a lot of layers to match up – the sequin bodice, the bodice lining and the chiffon overlay. So I basted everything together and then pinned and basted the sleeve head in place.

Any helpful guidance from the instructions on this point? Not a sausage!

I used the fabrics suggested by the pattern and if I’m honest, whilst it makes a fabulous replica Elsa dress, it isn’t overly practical for an exuberant 4 year old. I mean, who in their right mind puts a zip in a dressing up costume?

I had intended replacing the zip with some velcro to make it a bit more child friendly and had amended the pattern slightly but realised once I’d cut it all out that my fabric just didn’t have enough strength or structure to cope with the velcro. If I were going to venture down this route again, it would need a separate placket and plenty of interfacing.

Alternatively, whilst this pattern is neither written for nor suggests using knits, I’d use knit fabric and just size down!

My little girl loves her dress. So all the time taken to make it is forgotten.

I’ll leave you with some of the finer details.



From maxi-skirt to cape – sewing to order

As I was reading my friend Jo’s blog (Three Stories High) the other day, I realised that a lot of the clothes, accessories etc that I make are very much to order. When I’m sewing for the girls, it just makes sense to sew what they want and get them involved in pattern and fabric choices. As Honey is 8, she’s pretty clear about what she’d like although often has difficulty visualising what things will look like (I’m sure this isn’t only with 8 year olds!!).

Today Honey has taken part in her class assembly where they put on a performance of Julia Donaldson’s ‘The Highway Rat’. It was a fabulous take on a children’s classic and she really looked the part as a ‘highway rat/robber’.

Last week, I was told they needed a ‘costume’ (my heart always sinks a little at this point, as I know I’ll no doubt have to cram some swift refashioning into an already busy schedule). I’m sure there are some amongst you who think ‘why not head to the shops?’ but (a) that’s not very practical for me as it means dragging a 4 year old on the bus and around quite a few shops with no guarantee of success; and (b) why buy new, when really, you can probably ‘make do’?

The brief was a white shirt (preferably frilly), dark trousers & cape. Now I decided that I really didn’t have the energy to go adding frills to a school shirt but we did need to find something that would work as a cape. A root through the lower confines of my wardrobe unearthed a navy sarong which showed promise but after a bit of fiddling I realised that Honey was going to spend all her time making sure that it didn’t slide off her shoulders. I didn’t think her teacher would thank me for that.

Then I discovered a discarded maxi-skirt. I plonked it over Honey’s head…. and hey presto… the beginnings of a cape were born.

It was a very straightforward transformation.

All I did was to cut it up the middle and finish both sides with my overlocker (in fact I didn’t even cut it first, I just went straight in with the overlocker). If you don’t have an overlocker, you could use pinking shears as a no sew option, finish the edges with a zig-zag stitch or for a fully finished approach sew a narrow hem along the edges.

The skirt had some belt loops, so I removed these and used one as a button loop. Other options would be a piece of elastic or piece of bias binding folded and stitched.

To add the button loop, I folder the waistband in half to the inside (so its inside out) and tucked the button loop ends into the seam allowance on the inside (so when you fold it the right side out, it’s on the outside). I then simply overlocked the seam. I created the same seam on the other end of the waist band and turned it the right way out.

I realised that the ribbing of the waistband was going to curl a lot and not stay put. So to put that right, I simply folded it in half, pressed and used a narrow zigzag stitch along the loose edge to keep in place as a double waistband.

Finally, I dug deep into the button tin and found a perfect match!

Et VOILA – from maxi-skirt to highway robber’s cape in less than 40 minutes!!

Now that’s what I call success.

Next on order, I’m afraid it’s a round of school uniform.

How about you? Do you sew to order?

Flowers (or is that weeds?) in the garden – Oliver & S Roller Skate Dress

I am a huge fan of the Oliver & S patterns. They are classic shapes and styles that you can make time after time regardless of how old your child gets; the instructions are beautifully clear and well I’ve yet to have even the slightest hint of a head scratching moment and their pdf patterns tape together perfectly with no hassle whatsoever – which in my mind if a huge bonus!!

As with all my makes, there comes a bit of a story. Each year I make Honey a summer dress for school. The past 3 years, I have been revising and redrafting a self-drafted pattern. This year I felt like doing something different (read, I really didn’t have the energy to re-draft again, oh and fix last years mistakes!).

Last years self-drafted red gingham dress on a perfectly happy & year old!

Last years self-drafted red gingham dress on a perfectly happy & 7 year old!

I had thought that the Roller Skate dress would be a really easy pull-on style dress that would take some of the hassle out of getting changed for PE and maybe speed up the getting ready in the morning process (I can but dream?!). But Honey wasn’t convinced and suggested that maybe I could make her a dress in this fabric that she’d seen in my cupboard and had had her eye on for some time?

Yes – well every mother is a sucker for that routine aren’t they? So here it is, the ‘flowers in the garden’ version of the Roller Skate dress.

It is a seriously quick and rapid make and is fully lined! I took a few measurements first and decided to cut size age 5 for the width and size age 8 for the length and I couldn’t have asked for a better fit.


And the acid test, does my daughter like it? She loves it. Every time it reappears in her wardrobe fresh from the never-ending laundry cycle, it’s back on her again.

I’m sure you’ll all now want to see the school version that I’ve made, won’t you? …. well, ahem … I haven’t quite got that far and last years dress still fits!!!!


and yes, Mummy, there are LOTS of dandelions in the garden!



Crafting never stops…

Catching up on makes

Phew!! It’s been a while. And I have to say that the sewing, knitting and general crafting doesn’t halt but the blogging about it often gets sidelined.

Christmas was a busy time. I must have churned out some 11 handmade items, some of which are featured above. And not one for me 😦 So it’s time to play catch up!

1. Not really a Christmas make, but one that has never been shared. You may remember I made the Oliver & S School Days coat for Honey and that I had a Burda pattern (View C of  9676) in the making for Poppet. Well it proved so popular that I couldn’t get it off her long enough to take any decent pictures. That and it being in the wash rather often – permanent black marker (I nearly cried, until I discovered hairspray – yes, folks it gets black marker out of clothes) and a good share of mud. She loves it and even with us now being in winter still wants to wear it. I have a feeling it might not be big enough this summer.

2. A little fishes key ring (free gift kit from Mollie Makes issue 29) – one of those little gifts that takes far longer than you want it to! I found as it was so dainty and fiddly that the sewing machine really didn’t work and had to sew it by hand (as per the instructions). I didn’t used the supplied fabric but instead scraps left over from the fabulous bundle from M is for Make.

3. A dachshund pencil case. This kind of thing is great for practicing inserting zips without you being too worried about the finish and is somewhere super cute to keep your pens and pencils!

4. Elephant pyjama bottoms in a super cosy cotton flannel (now out of stock) for Honey. The pattern (#40) is from Ottobre which Jo from Three Stories High has lent me. It’s a plus-size pattern so I had to alter it somewhat to get it to a sensible size. I also made a t-shirt style pyjama top (#38) from the same magazine in the same knit fabric as the tie. They have been a big hit!

5. The eagle eyed amongst you will already have spotted that this is a Cooper from Colette’s Walden collection. It’s a fabulous pattern which comes together beautifully. I used waxed cotton and some waterproof fabric left over from Honey’s coat for the lining. My husband was very impressed with it and despite knowing and seeing my makes was really blown away by the fact that I’d made it. Luckily, I used a bag that had seen better days to reclaim the hardware. I WILL be making one of these for me – maybe with slightly adjusted proportions – probably in some Cath Kidston inspired oilcloth.

6. Meet Little Red Riding Hood and Mr. Wolf! Cute aren’t they? They’re crocheted amigurumi from issue 10 of Simply Crochet. Now I don’t normally crochet but when I saw the magazine I couldn’t resist especially as a certain little person has a real thing for Little Red. I’m very touched that she often asks for her at bedtime. This is a real honour as neither of my children have ever shown any interest in taking soft toys or anything else to bed.

7. Two makes in one. The scarf really was a Labour of Love, knitted in Debbie Bliss Angel (so close to Rowan Kidsilk Haze you wouldn’t notice the difference) this is the Olivia Mohair scarf with bobbles. For saying it was just a scarf it probably took some 7 days of pretty consistent knitting to finish it – I was in panic mode. It has a beautiful pattern and I love how it turned out but I shan’t be knitting it again!

And the dress is Figgy’s Sunki in purple Ponte di Roma. Not a suggested fabric as the dress is intended for wovens but nevertheless a pretty successful make. One thing I need to remember in future is that I need to take a chunk out at centre back and front to get a better fit. It’s a shame that you can’t see the design lines in this fabric clearly. The dress I think has a real sixties vibe to it and I think would work well as a colour blocked design.

There you have it – a small collection of my recent makes. Stay tuned to see what pops up next ….. I may just have sewn jeans.

Ghostly goings on – sew your own Halloween ghost costume

I’m normally a bit ‘bah humbug’ about the whole Halloween thing and have been known to put up one of those ‘No trick or treaters’ posters!

But then I had children who went to school and along came the Halloween disco…

Halloween ghost

Now, every year I let Honey decide what she’d like to dress up as and get my creative head on and design a costume. Previous years have seen me refashion a tunic top as a witches costume and get creative with a long drapey skirt and a coat hanger to make bat wings.

This year the request was for a ghost.

OK, so I could have gone for a sheet, plonked it over her head cut a couple of holes for the eyes and said “off you go!” but that would have been too easy.

This was a pretty straightforward make and everything except the face paints and tights I already had.

Want to make your own? Here are some brief instructions to create the look.

Fabric choices – something light weight as it will give a better drape. I used white polycotton sheeting for the main fabric. I also added an underskirt as I knew otherwise I’d not hear the end of the tight sticking issues – I used some standard (ish – it has a bit of a crinkle effect going on) white lining fabric

Ghostly going's on

1. I cut a large rectangle, folded at the head end that was long enough to reach the ground and went a bit further than each outstretched arm. To do this, I just got Honey to lie down on top of the fabric. You could be more accurate and take measurements.

2. Cut a head opening in the middle. Fold your doubled rectangle in half and cut out a curved shape at the corner – try using a plate/saucer. Don’t worry if it ends up too big – you can always sew it up a bit.

3. Make a vertical cut at the centre front from the head opening down – approx 20 cms long so that your child can get their head in!

4. Mark the ‘dress’ shape on your fabric after having folded it in half along the centre front and in half across the neck edge. If your fabric has a right and a wrong side, do this right sides together.

kimono shape

5. Cut along the lines and then stitch using your chosen seam allowance

6. Finish the edges (you will need to clip under the arms making sure you don’t clip your stitching). I just used the pinking shears everywhere.

8. Finish the edges of the centre front opening (that you created at 3) using bias binding folded in half.

7. Using your tape measure on its edge measure your desired neck opening. You are going to need this measurement to construct a hood.

8. Add seam allowances – one for creating a hem on the hood and another for joining the two halves together

9. Draw a hood shape. The bottom edge will be half your total measurement calculated at 8.

10. Cut out two hood shapes. Join down the curved edge. Finish the front edge of the hood.

11. Attach the hood to the neck edge. You may need to ease (I added a small pleat at the back!) or clip some of the curved edges to get it to fit.

12. Fold two approx 20 cms lengths of bias binding in half and stitch along the edge. These will make your ties. Attach ties to the top of the centre front opening on either side just below the hood.

Hurrah! You have now finished the main ghost costume.

Next up, add you finishing touches. I used my pinking shears and cut leaf shapes all the way round the bottom edge and around the end of the sleeves. As I knew the costume would be worn with tights I also made an underskirt. I used Tasia’s wonderful tutorial reducing the ease slightly as this is for a 7 year old. I added the same leaf shapes using my pinking shears to the underskirt too.

Little Miss Ghostie

Finally, I used Snazaroo face paints to add the ghostly make up and found some white eyeball covered tights!

Honey was unrecognisable!!

Back to school – Oliver & S School Days Jacket


Is it that time already? Of course it isn’t!! This was meant to be a spring/summer jacket for Honey but I’m running somewhat behind so it’s going to be an autumn jacket instead and perfect for back to school. It has felt rather odd though sewing a jacket in the midst of a heatwave!

I bought the fabric for this back in May and had planned to make view C of  Burda 9676, however the toile that I made, whilst fitting well on Honey, was really only going to be big enough for this year. As I was running behind with getting this started, I was hesitating even more and then I decided I’d see what other patterns were out there.

I turned straight way to Oliver & S and found the School Days jacket on digital download. Bingo!!

Some 70 pages of printing later, a spot of cutting and some sticking (I found masking tape worked really well, as it’s re-positionable), I had a pattern.  There were a fair few pieces. I cut a straight size 7. I find these patterns are pretty true to size and whilst generally being a little wide on my children are a good fit.

Fabric wise, I used a waterproof coated polycotton (no longer in stock) for the main fabric and a printed brushed cotton (again out of stock) for the lining for a little warmth. The coated cotton was surprisingly easy to sew – which is fortunate as the pins left holes (as expected) so it meant pinning only within the seam allowances.


This pattern is marked as intermediate mostly because there are a lot of pieces but I confess that setting the sleeves in with a laminated fabric would be a nightmare! I did do some hand basting to make sure things went together perfectly as I found that my fabric didn’t really respond to steam or any kind of pressing to get it to conform. I should really have basted the lining to the main fabric before sewing but it came together OK (although not perfectly) all the same. You don’t really have the luxury of unpicking with this fabric as every stitch leaves marks.

There are lots of really nice construction details such as the topstitching – I used topstitching thread  – and the way the lining is purposefully larger than the outer of the jacket to allow for wearing ease.


I am incredibly pleased with this jacket. I think it looks professional and well constructed with the brushed cotton giving it some body and will definitely fit next year (unless Honey has some unprecedented growth spurt)!!

Another resounding success from Oliver & S. In fact, I’ve just taken advantage of the discount on the Roller Skate dress and it’s waiting to be pieced together – less than 30 pages this time – phew.

I have one more jacket to finish sewing (of course Poppet needed one too) and then I’m hoping to get onto something for me.

But what to sew? Such a dilemma……

Sewing Summer dresses – Clothkits review

clothkits-dressesYou’d be hard pressed to miss the glorious summer that we’re having in the UK at the moment – but it really does highlight gaps in your wardrobe!

My girls do seem to be a bit lacking on the summer dress front, so when I saw these Clothkits dresses on sale I just couldn’t resist. Now they only had two age 4-6 dresses left and I have a 3 and a 7 year old so I did have a bit of peak in the box to see if adjustments would be possible.

Clothkits have been around for many years although they were relaunched in 2008 after a period of dormancy. They are based in Sussex and according to their website all their printing is done right here in the UK. The concept is, that you receive everything you need to make your chosen garment, the fabric (including pre-printed cutting lines), thread, buttons and any other haberdashery you may need. All you need to do is cut it out and sew it together – simple right?

The dresses have been a huge hit, my 3 year old looks cute in hers and my 7 year old looks so grown up, the dress is just perfect for her and the colour is amazing. She wore it to a party last week and the other children and mums were asking her where she got her dress!!

The results speak for themselves and I am really pleased with how they wash and wear. The fabric is a really good quality medium-weight linen / cotton.


Well, there had to be one didn’t there? Despite the really simple design, sewing these dresses was, for me, really painful.

clothkits-shift-dress-pinkFirst off, I sewed the smaller size in pink (I didn’t make any alterations to the age 4 and it fits my petite 3 year old pretty well). Now I became obsessed with french seams which I much prefer for finishing seams over using my overlocker/serger. As a result, I got myself in a bit of a mess with the instructions and just really didn’t think it through. If I’m honest the fabric is a little on the thick side for french seams but it does mean that the dress is really sturdy and because I sewed the sides of the dress and the lining together the lining stays nicely in place. It did however mean that to hem the lining I had to clip the fabric at the seams to release them.

Oh well, it was a lesson in thinking things through properly if you’re going to deviate from the provided instructions.

Next up, I started the larger one in purple. This time I decided I’d overlock the seams and follow the instructions. Hmmmm….

First off, I didn’t finish my seams before sewing as the instructions suggest. Yes – the fabric does fray quite a lot but I do find that fabric can stretch if you finish the seams first so I decided just to be careful and handful with care. I cut the dress a fraction longer than the printed cut line (as much as a fabric would allow) as I knew I could do with a little extra length. I had thought to gain a bit of extra width I could just reduce my seam allowances. However, because the fabric is pre-printed with the sizes if you cut the largest size, the lines for the smaller sizes are printed in your seam allowances. So if you don’t use your full seam allowance you see the printed lines down the seams of your dress. Luckily I didn’t need the extra width.

clothkits-shift-dress-purplI added the optional pocket to both dresses. I should point out that it isn’t very large and my 7 year old cannot get her hand inside. Perhaps it more of an adornment rather than being functional?

All went well until I came to the button placket. I’d already sewn one without any problems so what could possibly go wrong, right?

I must have unpicked and resewed at least 5 times . I’m really sorry Clothkits but your instructions are really not very clear and the pictures don’t help much (it being late at night didn’t help either, in fairness!). I did also watch some of the video available on their website (sorry, I got a bit bored) although admittedly they do kind of gloss over the placket positioning.

It’s important to note that when you join the back seam below the button placket, you need to move the button placket out of the way along with the lining. All you want to do at this stage is join the back seam (and only the back seam) and sew it up as far as the notches (where you finished your sewing when sewing the button placket in place). If you stitch the remainder of the button placket in with your back seam, it will end up on the right side of your dress rather than being on the inside. You will stitch the remainder of the placket with the lining.

Once you’ve sewn the back seam of the main fabric, you can then sew the remainder of the lining, sandwiching in the remaining section of the button placket. If it all goes well, you should see all of the button placket on the inside of the dress as below.

Button placket position

The button placket should be positioned on top of your lining.

There are a few other gaps in the information provided that I’d have liked to have seen included. I’m sure that for many of you the first thing you do when you get your fabric home is to put it in the washing machine and dry and iron it. There was nothing in the instructions about pre-washing the fabric or any indication as to any expected shrinkage. Finished garment measurements were also missing, whilst I notice that these are provided under the product on the website, there is no mention on the printed instructions. I just got my tape measure out!!

I don’t consider myself to be a beginner sewer, over the years I’ve sewn clothes from both Big 4 and Indie pattern companies and whilst I may have had a few ‘head scratching’ moments, I’ve always managed to work things out. I’m still not sure if I was just too tired to follow the instructions properly or if the instructions are a little lacking in certain places. I can normally read pattern instructions are get the gist of what I need to do but these instructions just didn’t speak to me at all. Or maybe I’m just too spoilt by the wonderful instructions from the likes of Colette, Megan Nielsen and  Oliver & S which are so clear and unambiguous.

Despite all that, the dresses are beautiful and I wouldn’t hesitate if I saw another in a sale!

Disclaimer: These are my own thoughts and interpretations on the Shift dress sold by Clothkits