Pattern hack: The Afternoon Bolero

What do you wear to a wedding? The age old question for us sewists is do I make a dress? We were invited to a wedding at the end of July and I didn't have time to create a new dress. Thankfully I had a few lovely RTW ones that I could pull out. Still, I wanted to have something handmade and I was missing a suitable jacket. 

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I had come across a beautiful 1950s bolero on Pinterest. It had kimono sleeves and buttoned up at the front with a round neckline. Sound familiar? 

Of course, it is exactly like the rounded neckline Afternoon Blouse.

I pulled out the pattern and began a very simple hack. To fix the gapping neckline I had on my previous versions (here and here) I went down a size at the shoulders. To get the desired shape of the bolero, I drew a straight line from the end of the curve on the neckline to the lengthen/shorten line. For the back, I used the lengthen/shorten line as the hemline. I then trued the side seams to ensure they were the same length. 

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The fabric is white crepe which was part of a large fabric stash I was given a few months ago. It was great to work with, and is stable although there were a few indentations from the iron when I pressed it with a too hot an iron. These were covered fully with silver bias binding. I really wanted to get robin egg blue or mint binding but couldn't find them in a satin finish locally. It had to be satin to smarten it up! 

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The bolero is self-lined, meaning I cut two sets of the front pieces and the back. This allows the pattern to be reversible, providing your happy to restitch the button or find another way to close it. The button is wooden button with a pink flower. The whole project took a few hours to finish and was very satisfying to make. 

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The photos were taken recently as unfortunately I didn't get any photos at the wedding where I matched the bolero with a peach 50s style dress with a full skirt. It was overcast with a little rain in the morning and by the time it brightened up, we were having so much fun I completely forgot to get the camera out. It was definitely one of the best weddings I have been to! 

Pattern Hack: The Allie top

It is no secret that us sewing bloggers are busy people, especially those who have taken the plunge and released patterns. I have enjoying watching the all the recent new ones. Today I want to talk about one in particular: the Allie dress from Hannah at Made With Hugs and Kisses. Inspired by the Notebook, Hannah created Allie and being the generous soul she is, she has made her freely available for anyone to sew! Now, we all love free patterns don't we?!


Before we get onto my version (which the eagled eyed will notice is not a dress!), I need to start with a confession. When I first saw Allie I was delighted for Hannah and thought the dress was extremely cute and full of lovely details - shirring at the back, halter neck, gathering at the front of the bodice, patch pockets for the skirt and no end of potential colour combinations. And there's where my interest stopped. While this dress would be fun to plan and make, I just couldn't think of a time when I would wear it as it isn't my style. My interest was piqued again when Hannah contacted me to see if I would be interested in sewing the dress. I downloaded the pattern to take a look at the pieces. The gathering at the front really appealed to me and before I knew it, a summer top had formed in my mind. I asked Hannah if she would mind a pattern hack and was told to "go wild". Wild this may not be, but here is my Allie top. 


Starting with a toile of the original bodice, I realised I needed to make a few changes. Luckily it fitted perfectly at the bust. I removed a centimetre from the front waistband before extending it to finish at my hips. On the back, I removed about 5cm from the shirring panel and extended the waistband to finish at the same length as the front. Determined to practice some of my newly learnt pattern cutting skills, I drafted a front and back yoke. The back was relatively simple with the main decisions being how wide I wanted the shoulder seam to be and how low the neckline should be. The front took a little longer to draft and I discovered that I shouldn't try pattern drafting when very tired as I make the same silly mistakes over and over again especially over the shape of the neckline and where to place the centre front. However, I eventually got there and remembered to start the centre front of the yoke at the top notch marking the gathering on the bodice. I even remembered to true my seam lines before cutting out.


As this top is meant to fill a gap in my summer wardrobe, I chose a cotton batik and a poly sheer fabric, both from A One Fabrics on Goldhawk Road. I love the moody background of the batik and the contrast of the bright pattern which repeats throughout. I decided to go with a sheer fabric for the yoke to break up the mass of colour - even using a solid colour would have been too much.  The sheer fabric is a bit of a surprise. It is very forgiving with snags disappearing almost as quickly as they were pulled.  


The construction of the bodice is quick and simple. Hannah's instructions for the dress are clear and follow a logical order. Obviously I didn't include the shirring which will add some time and I can't speak for attaching the skirt but I'm sure the process is just as simple and clear. I took my time attaching the front yoke to the gathers as it gets a little tricky here - it is too easy to end up with a gap in your stitches and that is not a flattering look! The majority of seams are overlocked, except the shoulders which are French seams. Can we talk about baby hems for a moment please? I was stumped for a while on how to finish the neckline and arm holes in this sheer fabric. After some quick research I decided on baby hems. I used a very narrow zigzag stitch (width: 2, length: 0.7) on my machine as I haven't fully worked out how to use my overlocker for hemming. I folded the fabric at the stitching line and then put it slowly through the machine to ensure an even hem. This took forever but it was worth it. I love how neat and delicate they look. Trimming the excess fabric very close to the stitching is slightly terrifying though! I took a short cut on the narrow 6mm hem, deciding to machine stitch it. 


I'm pretty pleased with how this tops fits, it is easy to pull on and off without the need for any closures. However, I haven't quite got the front yoke right. There is a little too much fabric there and it ripples obviously at times. If I decide to make this top again, I'll need to revisit that part. The baby hems are a little rough on the skin but a couple of washes should soften them.

This is my first real attempt at a pattern hack and I enjoyed the process. I've already been looking for others that I can tweak. Do you often see the potential for a pattern hack? And have you popped over to Hannah's blog to take a more in depth look at Allie as she was originally designed?