a ham and humility

This Vogue pattern was marked easy. Did I find it easy? No. But that’s because I’ve come to the conclusion that my definition of easy is sewing a straight line and this pattern is ALL about the curves. And that’s where my new piece of sewing kit, courtesy of @lauraterkuile over on Instagram proved invaluable. A tailor’s ham – don’t even bother attempting this pattern without one.

I went on a bit of a journey with this one and as usual when I go adventuring, I contemplate jumping ship at various points. I was at a disadvantage from the the off and I can’t even pretend I was uninformed. Whilst I love the colour mustard with a passion, it does absolutely nothing for my complexion. Did I know this? Yes. But I went ahead and bought the fabric anyhow … because the model on the pattern envelope is wearing mustard and looks stunning (we have completely different colouring) … because it was late at night and I’d spent hours trawling through Ebay looking for the perfect barkcloth … and because the pattern and mixture of hues are so beautiful, I convinced myself – against all evidence to the contrary – that I could make it work.

I was particularly interested in fashioning this Marcy Tilton Vogue Patterns V9112 out of barkcloth, as I thought the weight would emphasise the structural design features. So, I was a bit deflated when the fabric arrived, as it’s so much lighter than the barkcloth I’ve used previously – a reminder of the perils of buying on-line. Not only is it lightweight, it frays to touch so it was a bugger to handle but more on that later.

I’d previously made a toile out of an old bedsheet and learnt that labelling all the pattern pieces helps construction enormously. I knew the sticking points were going to be the collar and gathering – two key elements of the dress. Controversially I ended up abandoning the collar, as I became increasingly certain of the fact that I do not suit yellow. I decided that I needed as much distance from the colour and my face as possible and ditching the collar meant I could easily layer it with a darker top and leggings and take the whole festival of mustard down a notch or five.

To finish the neckline, I traced the curve and made a front and back facing. Whilst this solution was by no means rocket science, it was a first for me and I’m pretty pleased with the result. It’s not perfect but it involved a bit of creative thinking and is something I wouldn’t have had a clue how to approach a year ago. And whilst I feel that I’ve cheated a bit by leaving out the collar, I’m convinced it was the right decision in this instance.

The most challenging aspect of this make for me was gathering the lower side front and the lower left side. And I’ve come to a conclusion – life is way to short to dwell on puckers. According to my sewing teacher, puckers have no place on a gathered piece but there was no way in the world I was going to achieve a pucker free finish. With the material’s tenancy to fray, I had to keep handling to a minimum.  Thankfully the patterned fabric hides my ineptitude and my second attempt was vastly improved by heeding some top tips from May Martin.  I can’t explain as eloquently as she did at the The Big Simplicity Bloggers Meet but it involved shaping the fabric over my hand to get a curve and bubbling between pins to allow ease.

I cut the pattern pieces on a M/M based on my bust measurement and made no adjustments, even though my waist and hips take me into the L/G. And that’s the beauty of these tent/trapeze dresses – no need for pattern adjustments to accommodate my bottom heavy figure. In retrospect I wonder if I should have scaled it down a tad as it’s super roomy but I figured that was the design and went with it.

There is an instruction NOTE, to finish seam allowances using a serger after stitching seams. Unlike other patterns I’ve followed, there aren’t step by step guides on finishing – probably because this is Vogue and a bit of common sewing sense is assumed. Inserting the seam pockets into the dress before serging was a faux pas I couldn’t remedy, as unpicking this delicate fabric was not an option. In the past, an error of this kind has sent me down a well of self flagellation but I’m glad to say I’m getting more pragmatic these days – it is after all a mere adornment. So I serged the pockets afterwards and judiciously applied a bit of fray check on the parts I couldn’t reach.

So here she is – Marcy Tilton’s Cirque Dress.

Despite a few obstacles, I think I’ve pulled it off and it will definitely see some wear teamed with darker separates. What I love most about this project is the fact that it’s creation was possible due to the kindness of others. Laura made herself a ham using sawdust from her beautifully crafted threadboards and she very kindly sent me a prototype to test drive. Having used it extensively I feel qualified to say it’s a resounding success.

I’ve been overwhelmed by the generosity of other makers in the blogosphere and over on Instagram. I recently asked if anyone had a source for the coveted Lisette 2245 Portfolio Dress and was humbled by the response. Numerous tips, two offers to trace it off and a larger sized pattern gifted to me for free by @annmariemakes – despite me pointing out she could sell it for a song. And that’s what I love most about sewing – the fact that’s it allows me to feel part of something much bigger than my introverted, slightly wonky self.


15 thoughts on “a ham and humility

    1. Thank you Jenny – that’s lovely of you to say and for me to read. It’s such a great feeling to know I am able to connect with other people through this hobby. It’s a great pattern and not too hard if you have patience for gathering! 🙂 x


    1. I wasn’t sure about leaving off the collar as it’s a great feature of the dress but I think it was the right move for me as the end result works better with my style of wearing tops and leggings. I imagine you would suit mustard more than I with your dark hair. Part of me wishes I had made it in a different colour but it’s never a waste of time. I learned new things and I’m definitely sure now that dark colours suit me best! Thank you for stopping by and reading – it means a lot to me 🙂 x


  1. Its lovely, and well done for persevering, I checked out the original pattern and can totally see why you went with that fabric. I am not too sure where those puckers are and I know its likely only you can see them! Sewing those curved pieces……I am surprised you still have your sanity! there is a lot of work, but it also looks so rewarding. Seeing the drawing of the pattern is good, and I would love to see it plain colour it would show the beautiful shapes…. personally I would be tempted to make it in a navy or denim, with one of the circles in a black and the other a pop of orange and the collar with an inside of orange? or am I losing the run of myself. It really has such a modern quality…… and mixing it with a patrick heron painting is what comes to mind…..although I have a rather long list of sewing here but it is a very tempting pattern…… Fine sewing as always Aimee – take a bow!

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  2. You are so kind and encouraging with my sewing endeavours Eimear – thank you! I was totally influenced by the pattern envelope even though I knew deep down it wouldn’t work! I was a little disheartened with the colour at the end but I think your suggestions are spot on. Love the idea of it in denim and a pop of colour on the inside collar – genius idea! The puckers are on the gathered sections and would definitely show up in a plain version so I would have to hone those skills if I were to attempt one. Just looked up Patrick Heron – very nice!! I’ve taken a leaf out of your book and just made a sewing plan for the next few months – no more impulsive fabric/pattern buys. I’m getting focused 🙂

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    1. well mine are a case that all plans are subject to change. I think you will figure a way with gathers and puckers, using your hand as you said to create the round helps, and if I find a pucker in a sleeve, I will rip a few stitches out in the area and pull it a bit smoother then re-sew the area….pucker gone. the other thing could be to top stitch the piece over, which would mean snipping v-shapes in the seam allowance of the curve, and ironing a hem, place the insert and top stitch it on? that pattern is so ‘you’ so I do think you should try again, equally looked up the simplicity, v nice indeed……

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  3. At the second attempt the gathering was much improved, so I’m sure it’s something I could get better at – it was difficult as the material was fraying all over the shop. Thanks for your tips – really useful. I do think this deserves a re-vist after I’ve had chance to recover from the colour fail! I did enjoy planning out my next few makes – like you say, subject to change, but it’s nice to have a structure to hang things from. And it helps me focus instead of looking for better and brighter things. I have more than enough 🙂

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  4. What a beautiful dress. I love the barkcloth, the colours and the design, and disagree with you. I think that you look great in the mustard. Do you think that overlocking round the edge of each piece or even a wide zig-zag stitch in the seam allowance would have helped to stabilise it and lessen the fraying? I had a look at that lovely Lisette pattern and it reminded me of a smock top (Pattern No.5) in the Autumn/Winter issue of Ottobre magazine from 2014. It has the same sort of piecing. I don’t know if you have come across this magazine yet on your sewing travels but the website is https://www.ottobredesign.com. Xx

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    1. Wowzers – I’ve just had chance to look at the link you sent for Ottobre magazine and Pattern Number 5 is sooo similar. What a great reference – thank you for sending that – so much appreciated. And I reckon you are right – overlocking the edges of the pieces first would have helped stabilise and make them much easier to work with. My fault for slavishly following the instructions on the pattern (overlocking after construction) and not thinking outside the box! Really glad you stopped by and thank you so much for the tips and kind words about my sewing endevours 🙂 x


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