Sound Circle Staple Brumby

Megan Nielsen Brumby skirt and April Rhodes Staple dress hack

Took these pictures while visiting home in Sydney…now back in freezing Korea, and dreaming of sunnier times!

This dress is a mix of the April Rhodes Staple Dress and the Megan Nielsen Brumby Skirt. I made it from Nani Iro double gauze (the print name is “Sound Circle”) which I bought from my favourite online fabric store, Miss Matatabi.

I absolutely love the Brumby Skirt (those pockets!), and I’ve been wanting to use it in a dress. Originally, I had planned to use the Papercut Patterns Clover Blouse for the top, but after two muslins I was unhappy with the fit. I think that I was being too fussy, and the main problem was just that with my bust the Clover Blouse requires something drapier. I’m planning to give Clover another go with a rayon and lace soon. I then considered using the Grainline Studio Scout Tee, but I had my heart set on trying out a split sleeve detail (inspired by a RTW top I have and love), and it wouldn’t work with set in sleeves. Kimono sleeves, however, are perfect for this detail, and that’s how I decided to use the Staple Dress for the top.


The armhole is too big… when I hold my arms out, you can look right up it and see my bra!

Honestly, I should have skipped the split sleeves and used the Scout Tee instead, and I’m really kicking myself that I didn’t. The double gauze just isn’t drapey enough and the split sticks out awkwardly when I slouch. I’m keen to try split sleeves again, but I’d only do it in rayon.

I’m not super happy with the fit of the Staple Dress- the neckline and upper chest gape a lot, and just don’t sit nicely. This is a problem which I have with my two previously made Staple Dresses (Sen Ritsu and Mountain View) as well. Given the fit problems, this wasn’t a well thought out pattern choice… I guess I assumed the problem would just magically go away. Imagine my sarcastic shock when it didn’t. Vigorous eye-rolling ensued.

Right or wrong (plenty of wrong), here’s how I did things. I cut the Staple Dress pattern off roughly at the waist, using my traced and altered pattern pieces from previous Staples. I swore profusely when I noticed I’d somehow managed to cut two backs, then calmed down somewhat when I realised it was an easy fix because the only difference between the front and the back was the neckline (no wonder it doesn’t work well on my shape!).


Two backs….ruh roh. They look like different sizes but it’s just the angle.

To make the split sleeve, I removed the seam allowance along the shoulder seams, and bound each shoulder seam separately with exposed self bias tape. I then sewed up the bodice side seams, and bound the neckline and sleeve hems with more exposed self bias tape, with the bound shoulders zigzagged up against each other, so that the neck and hem bindings held them together. I’m now thinking that I probably didn’t remove any seam allowance at the neck to account for the exposed bias finish, and maybe that could be contributing to the gaping neckline? I don’t remember, and unfortunately an unplanned phone sync wiped all my notes.


Neck and Sleeve binding in progress

With the bodice done, I assembled the Brumby Skirt (size XL) according to directions, but cut the back piece on the fold to omit the seam and zipper, and left out the waistband. I closed the side seams, then gathered the skirt directly to the bodice. I used shirring for the gathering– it’s my favourite way to do it, so much easier and quicker than the normal thread pulling method! I just did a line of shirring on either side of the seam allowance,  stretched and pinned the skirt to the bodice, stitched them together, then removed the shirring. This skips the drama of gathering the skirt to the exact right length, and it ensures that the gathers are even.

I was originally planning to elasticize the waistline, but when I tried the dress on, I had second thoughts. The sack shape doesn’t look so great on me, but it feels so free… and it’s a very Japanese silhouette, which seems to go well with the Japanese fabric. I asked for advice on instagram and most people suggested I just leave it loose, so I figured I would follow that advice, and try out this new look, at least for a while.


The pic I used for my little instagram poll

My feelings about this dress are mixed– the neckline gaping, and the way the split sleeves stick out as I move/slouch, really bug me. The lack of waistline definition feels unflattering, and the bodice feels far too wide. It doesn’t sit nicely around the underarms, and I feel like maybe I need to take it in. Yet despite all these complaints, I haven’t done anything about it- partly because I’m not sure exactly what to do, and partly because it just feels so good. Because it’s oversized and unfitted, It’s super comfortable, and I feel like the fabric (which I love) is interesting enough to compensate somewhat for the unattractive shape. I particularly enjoyed wearing it with leggings on the long plane trip to Australia over Christmas. I made this dress nearly two months ago, and although I’m not sure I really like it, it’s actually gotten quite a lot of wear.

I’ll to continue to think about about how I might be able to improve it (Elasticising the waist, re-doing the neckline, taking in the sides, stitching closed the split? Suggestions welcome!), and deliberating whether it would even be worth it. Perhaps it’s good for me to have one sack dress, for those days when a waistline is just too much of a struggle. I actually kind of want to make another loose (but not SO loose!) waistline dress, this time using rayon, and either combining the Scout Tee and Brumby Skirt, or a Southport Dress bodice and a simple gathered rectangle skirt, patch pockets, and waist ties.

In the meantime, however, I’ll keep wearing and enjoying this one!




Volcanism Southport

True Bias Southport dresses in Liberty Tana Lawn

My first and second Southport dresses

I made this True Bias Southport dress immediately after I made the last one. All the  (intentional) modifications are the same, except that I created a narrower hem to add more length (I had shortened the pattern 1″). This time, I turned it up 1/4″ and then 1/4″ again. This makes it just 1/4″ shorter than the pattern as drafted. Honestly, I shouldn’t have shortened the pattern…If you’re tall, you may even want to consider adding length! This time, I managed to french seam the bodice correctly without messing it up.
Like my last Southport, the fabric is Liberty Tana Lawn. It’s such a great fabric for this pattern. The print is called Volcanism, and I ordered it from Shaukat at the same time as the Matt Madison print from that last one. I ordered 3 meters of Matt Madison, and 2 meters of Volcanism, because I thought I would like the former better. Wrong. I do like the Matt Maddison, but I absolutely LOVE the Volcanism print. Purples and blues with a gentle splash of yellow– it’s perfect for me and completely my style. Fortunately, because of the wide width I managed to squeeze this dress out of less than 120 cm of fabric, so I have enough fabric left over for a top of some sort. Shaukat is sold out of this fabric, but it has the same print in a different colorway, if you’re interested.

LIberty Tana Lawn Volcanism

A closeup on the Volcanism Liberty print

Speaking of fabric usage, I had a bit of a head scratching moment when cutting this out. By tracing off the bodice pieces so that they are full sized (rather half-sized pieces cut on the fold), I managed to squeeze them in side-by-side on the past Southport. Only barely, but still. Then, when I laid out the pattern pieces on this one, I was pretty perplexed to find that they didn’t fit. How could this be?
Well, I hadn’t ironed the fabric yet. The fabric didn’t look very wrinkled at all, so I was going to be naughty and skip that step. However, it turned out that ironing was key– once that was done, the pieces fit.  That was a relief, because I really wanted to save as much fabric as possible. I’ve learned my lesson– always iron the fabric before cutting, even if it doesn’t seem like it will make much difference.

Before and after ironing. In the bottom picture, you can see that the two bodice pieces fit alongside each other after ironing, but with no room to spare!

I also managed to squeeze in the skirt pieces alongside each other, like last time, by folding the selvedges in towards the center to create two folds.

The pockets are cut from a light navy blue cotton, and the armholes, neckline, and drawstring are done with navy blue bias tape. I really need to just suck it up and make my own bias tape, because this store bought stuff is a bit too stiff for the lawn.

Excuse the wrinkles, I’d been wearing it all day. This is its natural, unpressed state!

After wearing this and my previous Southport a lot, there are just two little fitting issues I’ve noticed– the bust darts are a little high, and the bodice is a bit too short at the front. These are minor problems. My Volcanism Southport has  become the most worn item in my closet– at least of the clothes which aren’t work appropriate. It’s the perfect casual warm-weather dress.

Matt Maddison Southport Dress

True Bias Southport dress in Matt Maddison Liberty Tana Lawn

Busting out of my sewing slump! This here is the Southport Dress by True Bias. I originally picked up this pattern after a fitting fail with the By Hand London Kim dress– I had a trip to California rapidly approaching, and I really needed a win. This casual, summery, and loosely fitted dress seemed perfect.

So I taped together a copy of the pdf and cut it out in the size 18. That’s a 44.5″ bust, on the size chart, but there’s plenty of ease included so I was pretty confident it would fit around my 46″ chest. And it did. That wasn’t the problem…. those armholes! Gap city. There was some serious gaping going on…. to my dismay, and despite the gazillion people on the internet who’ve whipped this up without problems, it was quickly apparent that this would not be the easy success I’d been hoping for. After a few attempts to bring this unruly project to order, I ended up chucking it aside in a huff and abandoning it until after my vacation.

Fortunately, once I got back, I was able to get it sorted, with some advice from some helpful sewists on the Curvy Sewing Collective forum. Someone pointed out that the issue could be related to my height– I’m a bit under 5’3– and perhaps I need a petite adjustment. That gave me the idea to cut a smaller size at the shoulders, which seemed to be the key. I won’t bore you with the gazillion specific steps between disaster and success, and just tell you how I got this pattern to work for me in the end. Here are my fitting alterations:

–Cut a size 14 shoulders/neckline, and a size 16 everywhere else. The 14 meets the 16 at the side of the armholes.

–Did a 1.5″ full bust adjustment (fba) for a total of 3″ added to the bust

–Split the now-too-large-and-pointy bust dart into two smaller darts, according to this handy tutorial. It’s for a waist dart, but the principle is the same.

–Added a waist dart to remove the width added by the fba to the waistline


Straightened out the bottom of the back bodice

-Trimmed the back bodice piece so that the waistline is a straight right angle to the center back, to remove some excess length that was causing a bit off puffiness on the back. In the picture below, I cut along the yellow highlighted line.

— Removed the button band, because I don’t know how to do buttonholes nobody got time for that.

–Shortened the skirt by 1″ along the lengthen/shorten line, because I’m short and was trying to skimp on fabric.

Here’s what this little pattern monster looked like when I was through with it:


The altered pattern pieces

After all that, I decided to make a wearable muslin, but the seersucker fabric I was using turned out not to be entirely cotton when my iron melted a hole in the bodice as I tried to iron down the darts. Gah. Oh well, I didn’t like the fabric much anyways– it looked disturbingly like my high school uniform. I never would have actually worn it, so making it up properly would have been a waste of time– and at least it showed me that I finally had a decent fit!

Next time round, I dived in to making up a proper dress in Liberty Tana Lawn. Most expensive fabric I’ve ever sewn with, although the price definitely could have been worse– I bought mine online from an amazing British store called Shaukat. That store is amazing, so many Liberty prints at seriously discounted prices. Mine was only 14.25 pounds (Err…. how do I do a pounds symbol??) per meter!!! Here’s a link to the fabric, it’s still available. Given the prices that Liberty lawn usually sells for, I will definitely be going back to buy more from this store. Don’t let the dodgy, faded pics fool you– the colors are vibrant, this fabric is the real deal. I won’t rant on about how much I love Liberty lawn, because that topic has been well covered by other sewing enthusiasts. But know that it is PERFECT for the Southport Dress, and I’ve already started cutting out another Liberty Southport.Matt Maddison Liberty Lawn True Bias Southport Dress

Construction was going very smoothly, until I totally screwed up my attempt at french seams. The shoulders were fine, but when I got to the bodice side seams, it all went wrong– First, on one side I trimmed off the part I was supposed to topstitch down. Then on the other side, when trimming the part that was actually supposed to be trimmed, I accidentally snipped into the bodice itself…. witness the horrors:


So, I took some deep breaths, went to find a drink (But just one! Alcohol and sewing don’t go particularly well together), came back and unpicked everything then took it in to cover my mistakes. Fortunately, the damage was done close to the seams. I trimmed the sides, then sewed them back up with a mere 1/8″ seam allowance (and abandoned any attempts at french seaming). This little detour shrunk the bodice by 1/8″ on each front side, and 3/8″ on each back side. The end result is a bit snugger than I’d like, but luckily still looks fine! I’m interested to see how sewing it up correctly on the next one will affect the fit.

After that little sewing horror story, everything else was fine. I used store bought black bias tape for the drawstring, neckline and armscyes (and discovered that I’ve been using bias tape wrong…) and black cotton lining for the pockets.

I used a different fabric on the pockets to save fabric. Actually, when I cut the pattern out, I used full-sized traced copies of the bodice pattern, so that I wouldn’t have to cut it on the fold– in this way, I was just able to squeeze the front and back bodice alongside each other. And I seriously mean JUST. One size bigger, and they wouldn’t have fit. And likewise with the skirt pieces– I squished them in alongside each other, but one size bigger and it wouldn’t have worked. This made a HUGE difference in how much fabric I used– in the end, I only used 110 cm of this 135 cm wide fabric. Take a look at this seriously strategic pattern placement:


I think that’s what I’m most proud of for this dress.

I wore this dress all day today– it was really comfortable, perfect or the summer heat. The only problems are that it pulls a bit across my chest when I move (obviously my unintentional alteration is to blame there), and is a bit too short (also my fault, because I did shorten the skirt by 1″). I think next time, rather than lengthening the skirt back down to the original length, I’ll just use a narrower hem. I’m debating whether to re-do the hem on this one but…. eh. I’ll probably leave it. Overall, I love my new dress!

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Mochi Staple Scout

April Rhodes Staple Dress + Grainline Studios Scout Tee mash-up, in Cotton and Steel Mochi Lawn

I’m not pregnant… the dress just tends to puff out at the belly a little. The effect isn’t so bad in real life!

Confession: I finished this dress about two months ago. I took the photos about a month ago. Oops.

I’m wearing it today, and that’s what reminded me to finally put this up.

The dress is another “Staple Scout”– a mashup of the April Rhodes Staple Dress and the Grainline Studio Scout Tee. I won’t say too much about it, because construction-wise it’s exactly the same as my first Staple Scout, so you can read up about it here if you’d like more information. I love my two Staple Scouts– they make a perfect go-to summer work dress. Super comfortable with their shirred waistlines, and made of cool, comfortable cotton lawn, pull one on and I’m ready to go. I really should make more, because I have to keep reminding myself not to wear them TOO often! On my own time, I definitely prefer dresses which let me feel the sun on my shoulders and upper chest. However, my job as an elementary school English teacher in Korea requires me to cover all that up– and these dresses are a good way to do it.


The only difference between this and the last one is the fabric. It’s called Mochi Floral Lawn in teal, by Cotton and Steel. I bought mine from, it’s temporarily out of stock but they’re due to get more in. I definitely recommend it. Compared to the Kaufman lawn I used for the last dress, it’s not quite as soft, and it’s smoother. It seems to wrinkle a bit more.  But these differences are very slight, the fabric really does seem to wash and wear well. If this is the standard quality for Cotton and Steel lawn, I’m definitely going to be keeping an eye out for more in a different print!

I’m cheap with my fabric, and always want to use as little as possible of it so that I might be able to squeeze another project out of the leftovers. I recently made pj shorts from the leftovers of my other Staple Scout, so I’m expecting to do the same with the leftovers from this one, as both were 3 yard cuts. For that reason, I used a fat quarter of quilting cotton for the pockets– a kind of pale sea green (the colors are a bit off in the pic below, and I’m terrible with color names anyways, maybe that’s not the right thing to call it) which I had lying around. I think it goes really well with the colors in the dress.

The pictures were taken by my friend Anna, who was visiting me from Canada, as we walked around the Naksan Art Village in Seoul. I had another friend come visit me literally two days after she left, so all up I had visitors staying with me for about a month– had a really great time, but didn’t leave any time for sewing!  Now I’m visitor-less for the next three weeks or so and trying to get myself in gear to get some sewing done in this window of opportunity, because after that I’ll be busy for a month with two visitors and a trip to California!


Sen Ritsu Staple Dress


Finally, a new pattern!  After three hazel dresses, it seemed time to try something else… and I’m glad I did.

The pattern is the Staple Dress by April Rhodes, made up in a Nani Iro double gauze. I’m obsessed with Nani Iro fabrics, and this dress is made from one of the two pieces I’ve had set aside for months. I actually bought this fabric with the Staple Dress in mind (after seeing this identical fabric and pattern combination here). I think the simple, relaxed silhouette of the pattern makes them a great match.

Actually, despite buying the pattern– and fabric to use with the pattern– quite a long time ago, I was pretty unconvinced about the staple dress. I didn’t like the puffiness at the sides of the bust which you can see on a lot of peoples’ versions of this dress (including on mine!). I thought maybe I could avoid this by skipping the shirring and just using a belt (Um. Ok. So I was also nervous about shirring.). But when the dress was all but done, and I tried it with a belt, I just wasn’t happy with it. It bunched up under the belt unevenly, and pulled up every time I raised my arms (one of the problems with kimono sleeves!) so that I had to re-tuck it down. Besides, I don’t really like wearing belts– and as I was making this dress with the intention of wearing it at work (I’m a teacher), I wanted it to be really comfortable!

So, I took a breath, bought some shirring elastic, and gave shirring a go. I ended up doing five rows of shirring. Verdict: Although my stitches are kind of wonky, it was no where near as hard as I expected, and it definitely improved my satisfaction with the dress.


close-up on the waistline shirring

I wasn’t totally in love with this dress– being bigger, for a long time I shied away from attention-grabbing prints, and a style like this is never going to be the most “slimming”– but after finding myself reaching for it several times over the last few weeks as I rushed to get ready for work, I can now say that I’m totally sold on it. I’m getting used to the print (I felt a bit too much like I was wearing art, at first!) and the double gauze is so incredibly snuggly… combine that with the super comfortable shirred waistline, and I feel like I’m wearing a nightgown. In the best way. There’s another one in my near future!


Here’s some of the important details:

Pattern: Staple Dress by April Rhodes, bought as a printed copy from Stitch 56 (along with a bunch of other patterns), and forwarded on to me by my mother in Australia because they don’t ship to Korea. It would have been way cheaper to buy a PDF, but I HATE cutting and taping those things together!

Fabric: Nani Iro double gauze in 2014 Sen Ritsu, view D. I bought mine from Miss Matatabi. Doesn’t seem to be available at this shop any more, but there are lots of other gorgeous Nani Iro prints!

Size: XXL bust graded to XL at the waist/hips.

Modifications: None, except that I shortened it a bit at hemming (I’m 5’2.5 ish)

Like: Super comfortable and practical (pockets!)

Dislike: Not incredibly flattering, neckline feels a bit big… maybe I should have cut a straight XL with a full bust adjustment? But I didn’t want to mess around with that. I’ll probably just make the next one the same way.

Notes: STAY STITCH! So important to stay stitch the neckline and sleeves of this dress, for any hope of the facings matching them later!

Also, I cut the pockets out of a plain navy blue quilting cotton… the fabric was too gorgeous to waste on something that won’t be seen much. I did cut the facing strips out of the main fabric, however, but I’m not doing that on the next one… without facings and pockets, I think there’d be enough fabric left over for pajama shorts 😀

I’ll leave you with some more awkward pictures (Oh, how I hate having my photo taken!).



Florascape Hazel


Yet another Hazel Dress by Colette Patterns…. I’m not going to say too much about it, because this is the third I’ve made so far! Promise my next dress will be a different pattern!

I tried mixing it up a bit by altering it to have a sweetheart  neckline… it’s not very obvious in these pictures, but it’s there.

altering the center front bodice piece of the Hazel dress for a sweetheart neckline

altering the center front bodice piece of the Hazel dress for a sweetheart neckline


Here’s some details:

Pattern: Hazel dress by Colette Patterns.

Fabric: Florascape in Moonstone by Leah Duncan for Art Gallery Fabrics.

Size: 16

Modifications: shortened on the pattern by 2 or 3 inches, neckline raised by 3 cm (?), then altered to a sweetheart neckline.

Okay that’s enough. I’ll leave you with some other awkwardly posed pictures of the dress…


With my lovely photographer :D

With my lovely photographer 😀

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