Sewing with bravado: Introducing Judy

Judy blog topper sewing with bravado

Getting a kick out of our kits!

We’ve been thrilled with the response to our kits over the last few months. We’ve done three now – and although there’s more work involved than we’d anticipated (no, really!?) we think their reception more than justifies the effort. Thank you to everyone who’s given us feedback and encouraged us along the way! We can’t tell you how much we’ve appreciated your support.

There’ve been lots of comments and we’ve tried to take account of as many as we can. The Sew-along for our latest Summer Shirt Dress Kit was one idea – and we hope it helps those of you embarking on that project.

Of all the comments we’ve had, the one we’ve heard repeated most is how reassuring it is to see how a particular fabric works for a particular pattern design. Although we can’t sew up a sample for every fabric selected for a kit, we try to do at least a couple. It’s often the case that different fabrics give quite different results – all equally pleasing but in different ways – and we’ve tried to reflect that.

This week’s post tells the story of how I enlisted a bit of assistance in that department.

The importance of shape and size

We’re keen to be as inclusive as we can be with our kits and the feedback we’ve received has reinforced that approach. Style Arc’s standard 4 – 30 size range was an important part of our decision to select one of their patterns for our Summer Shirt Dress.

Individual body shape matters as well as size. It was seeing my bargain from Whistles worn by so many different people that prompted us to consider it as a design that might have a broad appeal.

I’ve mentioned my swimmer’s shoulders in various posts; likewise my bottom which seems to be disappearing underneath my wider upper hips. A customer wrote to me last month, saying her bust ‘resembles the foothills of the Alps’. In the world of ‘boobs as landscape’ mine are more like the Fenland fields where I live (albeit rather less muddy, I’d like to think).

As I wore my purple bargain over the winter, first one friend, then another, pointed at my dress in recognition:

“Oh – you’ve got my Whistles dress – I have it in [insert colour of choice]”.

It didn’t bother me in the least since we all have quite different styles and would have worn our respective versions quite differently. What was noteworthy however, was that each person who spotted me wearing ‘their’ dress had a very different body shape to me; busts, waists, hips – everything, really.

Of course one of the many joys of sewing our own clothes is that we’re in the privileged (if hard-won) position of being able to adjust our garments to fit. Having a pattern that’s the right size, is a good starting point. But although my friends’ comments didn’t add up to an exhaustive poll, they suggested that here was a design which might work across different body shapes too.

Meet Judy

Many of you will know Judy from emails about orders you’ve placed and samples you’ve requested. Judy’s responsible for cutting and packing most of your orders and her bookkeeping skills keep our accountant happy. She’s a fabulous sounding board and helps us keep an even keel amid the inevitably choppy waters of a small business.

Will you stop it with that camera!
Will you stop it with that camera!

In real life, Judy knits up a storm – but she also sews. Fabric deliveries are always fun but I’ve learned to spot (and even predict) the goodies that will see her raise her eyebrows and elicit an “Ooooh” which translated, usually means “I wonder if there’ll be a couple of metres of that to spare…?”

Which is precisely what happened when we had a delivery of our lovely linens and other fabrics destined for our Summer Shirt Dress Kit.

“You like those?” I enquired innocently

“Ooooh, yes” Judy enthused.

“Why don’t you pick one to make up a version of our new kit?” I ventured, setting the trap.

“Hmm – I don’t know. This linen perhaps” she mused, fingering our ‘Solana’ paprika linen. “Or maybe this one. For a summer dress.” She eyed up the ‘Summer Haze’ cotton. “Yes. This one. Might that be OK?”.

“Yes of course. We could do a picture if it works – would that be OK?”

“Oh. Mmm. Well. OK then…”

Selfie suspicions

I know. It was heartless of me. I know only too well what it’s taken to build up the confidence to take pictures of myself and post them in my blogs. It’s still a source of stress but I cope by acting as carefree as I can, on the basis that if I fake it, eventually I’ll make it. Plus so many of you share your pictures with us, I feel it’s only fair. The world of selfies will never be my comfort zone. But I do feel strongly about doing my bit to populate this corner of the internet with images of people who don’t necessarily conform to media norms of age, shape, size or appearance – but who nevertheless, look damned fine in the clothes they’ve created.

It helps to know I’m not alone. On Instagram there are hashtags that highlight people over fifty who make their clothes (#sewover50) and last month the #sewbravesewcialists tag had its moment in the spotlight. This was created by the inclusive Sewcialists site to showcase anyone braving a new fabric, technique, garment or style that pushed them out of their comfort zone. Despite our selfie suspicions, Judy and I both love the motivation behind these tags.

So this week, Judy’s being brave. #SewBrave month might have finished but who says we can’t be brave in June, too?

Judy’s brave make

Judy’s bravado manifests itself at a number of levels. For starters she describes herself as “Not a ‘dress’ person”; I can also testify to the fact that she’s anything but camera-hungry. However she entered into this project with fabulous good humour and. Here’s how she got on.

Photoshoot fun

We had a joint photoshoot for our Summer Shirt Dress makes. In an effort to make the photography process as pain-free as possible, since the sun had come out for the first time this year we decided to head out to the garden with a jug of pink lemonade.

How we spend our time at ClothSpot. (Not so much...)
How we spend our time at ClothSpot. (Not so much…)

To amuse and relax us, we played the latest instalment of one of my favourite podcasts: Fortunately… with Fi & Jane. BBC radio journalists Fi Glover and Jane Garvey sit in the piazza outside the BBC building in London and heckle people coming and going. It’s blunt, laden with innuendo and provides belly-laughs aplenty; just what we needed. Also Melton turned up for the occasion.

Melton getting in on the action
Melton getting in on the action

Our own episode of ‘Unfortunately… with Alice & Judy’ warmed us up for bit of full-frontal photography. Except not quite. Here’s Judy in her Shirt Dress. The colour and pattern do suit her very well, as does the relaxed shirt style.

Judy having a moment in the sun
Judy having a moment in the sun

And here’s that lovely back pleat.

Twirling that pleat
Twirling that pleat

However capturing an actual full frontal of Judy proved impossible since when she puts on her ‘I really don’t like this’ face, it gets quite scary. Since I’d quite like ClothSpot to survive beyond the end of the week, you’re not getting one of those. Instead you get this, which is what happens when two women of a certain age head out for lemonade on a hot afternoon to have their picture taken.

Judy I took my glasses off for the picture. Can you see in there? Is that a....?
Judy I took my glasses off for the picture. Can you see in there? Is that a….?

Our photoshoot revealed that Judy wasn’t completely sold on her dress so I thought I’d quiz her on how she found the project. Here’s what she had to say.

Why did you choose this fabric?

I loved the colours and texture of the ‘Summer Haze’.

How confident were you with the style of the pattern and whether it would work for you?

I was slightly uncertain about it as I don’t wear dresses and couldn’t be sure I’d suit a shirt dress.

How did you find the making process?

I was pleasantly surprised to find the pattern quite straightforward – I was very pleased with the collar when I made it – and was proudly showing my family “Look, it looks like a *real* collar!”. I’d got the back pleat slightly wrong, but that was before we devised our simplified instructions for it.

What do you think of the result?

I love the look of the dress when it’s on a hanger, but I don’t feel like me in it!

Finally, what would you have done differently?

I think, as someone not used to wearing a dress, I should have gone for a more substantial fabric – such as one of the linens – for my first attempt. I couldn’t get used to the lightweight lawn being my only body covering.

Judy’s make was incredibly helpful. Not only did it showcase our kit in another fabric, but her feedback from the making process informed our Sew-along by highlighting areas we needed to focus on. Not least that pleat!

Moving on swiftly…

However at a personal level, there was just too much floatiness in Judy’s dress for her to absolutely love it. Despite its undoubted potential for conversion into a summer shirt, I hated her being even a little disappointed, having put in the effort to create a garment that she wanted to love.

Judy thought she might prefer something with a more structured fabric and with a more defined shape. One option was this ‘Sydney’ Designer Dress pattern from Style Arc which she’d loved the look of since it appeared earlier this year.

Style Arc's 'Sydney' Designer Dress
Style Arc’s ‘Sydney’ Designer Dress

Although she might well come back to that, we discussed using a pattern with a set-in sleeve that might fit her narrow shoulders better. With that in mind, we clicked over to Tessuti Patterns and found their ‘Eva’ Dress pattern. This design has a semi-fitted bodice with a high waist and a lantern-shaped skirt. It runs up to Size 22 – not as great a size range as Style Arc’s but fortunately fine for Judy.

'Eva' Dress pattern from Tessuti
‘Eva’ Dress pattern from Tessuti

I despatched her with a length of our ‘Solana’ paprika linen – and look what she came back with!

Ta da!

Summer dress success!

I don’t think I’ve ever seen Judy look so confident in a garment – the look on her face when she modelled the finished result was a treat. Here’s another shot.


The structure in this dress is assisted with top-stitched seams (not quite felled, but they’re similar).

Structure is added with top-stitched seams with the seam allowance sewn down.
Structure is added with top-stitched seams with the seam allowance sewn down.

Judy even made her own binding from the linen in order to finish the neckline and sleeve hems

Bound neckline using bias binding created from the linen
Bound neckline using bias binding created from the linen

Here’s what she has to say about it.

What is it about this pattern that you like?

I love the design of the dress – it’s very cleverly constructed to form that lantern shape. It also it has a sleeve option which can be extended – I made mine slightly longer.

What were the trickiest aspects of putting it together?

It was all quite straightforward, until I found I’d attached the bias binding for the lower hem to the upper edge of the lower panel by mistake. I had to remake a long length of binding to redo it properly. This meant I had to lose an inch or so from each of the lower panels, but the dress was long enough to cope with this!

How does it make you feel?

I love it – I feel like I’m in a sort of cocoon when I’m wearing it, and the linen feels wonderfully cool. You never know, I might even become a proper dress-wearer!

That amazing skirt shape from the side
That amazing skirt shape from the side

Mission accomplished!

I absolutely adore Judy’s linen dress and I’m completely thrilled that despite a hiccup en route, she has a beautiful summer frock in which she looks and feels fabulous. If that’s not a great payoff for a bit of bravado, I don’t know what is.

Do you have garments that make you feel brave and confident? What pushed you to make the leap? We’d love to hear if there’s a garment that nudged you so far out of your comfort zone that you never went back.

I’m so excited that Judy’s stepped out from behind the cutting table – and hopefully you won’t have seen the last of her. Next post though, I’ll be back with my own ‘brave moment’. Thank you for dropping by!

See? It's fun really, isn't it?
See? It’s fun really, isn’t it?

8 thoughts on “Sewing with bravado: Introducing Judy

  1. Jan says:

    Hello Judy lovely to meet you. Having had several comments from you on my orders it is good to finally see/meet you. Your body language does suggest you feel much more at home in the linen version of the Tessuti Eva dress – it does look good on you. Even go-ordinating the nail polish your toes! Although if you had made the Alhambra version of the Style Arc dress you might have found that style also to your liking. Alice, you ask about favourite dresses. Like Judy it is only recently that I have tried to convert myself to dresses and, again like Judy, it has taken me some time to find a style I feel comfortable wearing. I feel more relaxed in a dress made of a fabric with a ‘bit of weight’, as odd as that might sound. A fitted waist is a no no, I prefer comfortable with movement in a pattern. Although not being large in other parts, as the proud possessor of ‘the Alps’ I find light floaty fabrics make me feel more akin to a lumbering tank! Why I don’t know. I can make the same dress in two different fabrics and much prefer one to another. I have made two Tessuti dresses (the pattern with the pleats down the front) in two fabrics recently and absolutely love the yellow one with navy birds on it – the other makes me feel like my Grandmother. However I will put my hands up to one serious error. I am long in the body so need to add at least 2” in old money between the Alps and my waist which isn’t the slimmest on record. But guess who forgot to adjust the position of the pockets in the side seams. Do you ever think pockets at knee level will catch on?!? Having seen the Eva dress it will become one I will try perhaps in the crepe fabric recently purchased from you lovely ladies. I really like the look of the Style Arc pattern and have been tangling with a shirt style dress for the last couple of months. One ended in the bin, the other now sits in the drawer of items requiring adjustment, the third I took on holiday last week but his nibs commented ‘just how big do you think you are?’ – it fitted well on my shoulders the rest of the dress required a sat nav to connect with my body. Do you or the other lovely Clothspot customers think the Tessuti Eva dress would look good in a crepe with 3/4 length sleeves for winter? Alice – love your garden, a severe dose of garden envy going on here and your cat. Have a good weekend.

    • Judy Kaye says:

      Hello Jan! Yes, I was definitely more at home in the Tessuti, but as you say, I think that had a lot to do with the weight of the fabric, rather than just the design of the dress. I know exactly what you mean about light floaty fabrics – lumbering indeed! I don’t mind floatiness in a blouse or shirt though, it only seems to apply when the fabric extends below the hips. (By the way, very gratified to see that someone noticed my co-ordinating nail polish!!)

  2. Christina Ivett says:

    Loved the blog!!! Great to see Judy being featured. Tessuti and Style arc are my two favourite independent pattern companies. Love the Eva dress too. I made the tessuti milendra dress and it was fab. (That’s the one with pleats down the front). Now tempted to try the Eva. Love Melrose. I used to have a black cat. Now I just have a white dog, who thinks he is a prince, as he lays down on my fabric with a carefully chosen toy in the name of ‘helping mum’. Always delicious fabrics from clothspot. Friday nights are clothspot email nights. Yey!!!

    • Judy Kaye says:

      Hello Christina, glad you liked the blog! I think the Milendra was the other one on my shortlist – I really like the look of that one – especially as Style Arc illustrate it with a linen very much like the ‘Solana’ which I used. Maybe I’ll have to try that one next if I really get into this dress-wearing thing!

  3. Sarah Skinner says:

    Hello Judy,
    How lovely to see/meet you and your makes. They both look wonderful and I can clearly see why you went for both these colours as they really suit you. It is always hard to try a new shape or style and I think these are both successful and suit you. Ultimately, you have to to feel comfortable in them though, despite what everyone says, and then the confidence shines through which it clearly does with the Tesutti dress. I love the lantern shape and seaming detail. The style arc dress might feel more comfortable layered over a t shirt and a slim legged pant – with the way Summer is going at the moment ( apart from your photo shoot ) it might be the only way you get to wear it now ! I think the blue would work well with denim as well. I know the idea of loose dress is meant to be exactly that, but it can all feel a bit too loose and floaty so I understand what you are saying. I often like another underlayer as well. I have underlined with a fine voile in the past as well and this provides just a slightly bit more structure and body. It seems an odd thing to do with summer wear ( and more work ) but I found it a good compromise and stopped that feeling of wearing a nightie ?
    Beautiful photo shoot and it looks like a late afternoon sun ? It adds a beautiful softness, especially broken up by the lushness of the foliage. And good to see Melton as well !
    All in all, two very successful makes, I would say.

    • Judy Kaye says:

      Hello Sarah – thank you for your kind words. Yes I really did feel more comfortable (and therefore confident) in the Tessuti dress, but it would be nice to have another go at wearing the shirt dress – I was actually wearing it with leggings (my knees are FAR too white to be exposed this early in the year!) but maybe I should try a t-shirt underneath too (or perhaps some thermals, with the turn the weather has taken this week ????). But you were spot on with ‘nightie’ – I’m pretty sure that’s how I described it to Alice when I first tried it on! I’m also considering converting it to a shirt, though as I’m a bit of a novice sewer I’m not sure how that would go…

  4. Marion George says:

    I made a comment last week and just as I posted it I think your site went down. Well it’s lovely to see you back and l am looking forward to this week’s offering. Judy, what can I say? I wish my binding looked like that, you should do a masterclass on it! Speaking of which, the Sewalong is a great help but how about as a video? Just a thought. I have made up the Summer Shirt Dress kit in the grey slate and the jury is out on it a bit. It was my first try at Style Arc and I thought the instructions must have been written in Australian. My husband suggest that the dress would turn out upside down with the my legs through the arm holes. Yes he’s a comedian.
    As to the dress I thought the pleat at the back was a bit bulky and pulled the back down. Needless to say I stitched the wrong way round but I put that to my left handessness. But who is going to notice, really? I share the opinion that the lantern shape isn’t for everyone as I prefer something more sleek. Narrow shoulders, an embonpoint which is bon and appears to be getting closer to my waist as years pass and a big bum. To boot I’m tall so I lengthened the dress to mid knee. Just managed to eke out the fabric but just as well I had decided to give the pockets a miss. I also only used the collar stand to make a mandarine collar, I find a collar makes me hot. Once I finished the dress I wasn’t keen on the open pleat at the front so stitched it down to hip level. Now it might sound as if I don’t like the dress, but I do, the material makes it a bit clerical looking, i might need a dog collar, but brighten it up with some snazzy beads and it will be fine. Yes I will make it again, with some changes and I have a piece on crepe de chine which is calling me. Sorry this is a long one, Alice have you thought of putting a Review facility on the kits?

    • aliceclothspot says:

      Hello Marion – thank you so much for sticking with us despite the trauma of the last few days! It’s really interesting to get your feedback on the design of the Summer Shirt Dress Kit – and indeed there is already a review function on all our products. You just need to click on ‘Reviews’ right underneath the thumbnail images of any product and the existing reviews will appear – plus a box for you to review and rate the product yourself. Shout if you can’t see it – we’ll send over a screenshot.

      The Style Arc instructions are indeed a little ‘terse’ hence our Sew-along – I’m glad it was useful. (You can always roll up the instructions to bat your comedian husband with) Video is something we do of course think about – but I suspect it might be one of the things we do in our ‘next step-up’ as a company as right now we just don’t have the set-up/skills/time to do it well. We did the little clip of the pleat construction and we understand that’s been helpful so if there are specific processes that would benefit from video, then we’ll certainly do that again. However a full-on video sew-along is probably out of our reach just at the moment.

      Thank you very much indeed though, for explaining the tweaks you made to the design to make it work for you. You’re right – that back pleat does pull down the dress at the back – we observed that here – but decided we quite like the way that it sits on the shoulders as a result. However we do know that not everyone will be comfortable with a design that’s as unfitted as this. Our holy grail is a design that’s nicely-fitted but one which is easy for people to adjust the fit of to suit their body shape. Suggestions welcome! Meanwhile I do like the idea of ‘pimping up’ your Scree linen version with some beads – it’ll make the perfect backdrop for a gutsy pop of colour! We’ll look forward to pictures ????

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