How to make a reversible shift dress

Recently, I have been making stretchy shift dresses. A lot of them. At some point I realised I needed heavier fabrics, in part because the weather is getting colder, and in part because: undergarment-lines!

But heavy stretchy fabrics are impossibly hard to find. So I settled on a double-layer dress. 

As I pondered making it, it occurred to me that if I am making two layers, and my dress is of incredibly simple construction, then I should be able to make it  reversible!!

Except I wasn’t sure. 

When I googled reversible dress, I found nothing useful. Maybe everyone knows how to do this? Maybe it’s impossible? Or maybe nobody has thought that a shift dress made of simple jersey is something you’d want a two-layered two-in-one of!

So I had to make a prototype. Naturally, the articulated mattel doll came out.    

My pattern making was rudimentary. (In fact I did not leave enough room for her head!)

And it was easy to cut four layers of fabric in one shot. It was a barbie-sized proof-of-concept! 

This is where the secret is. The order of the seams!!! I did them by hand because the dress was so tiny.

First, good-side-to-good-side of the front pieces (one of each colour).

Stitch  the neck and arm openings. 

Do the same to the good-side-to-good side of the back pieces.

Then stitch the side seams of a colour’s front and back pieces, good-side-to-good side. And then do it for the other colour too. 

You end up with a silly-looking tube. 

If you wiggle the tube at the shoulder seams, you can also stitch those down (good-side-to-good-side of each colour). It gets a bit tight, but not too much.

Then you’re ready to flip the dress like a sock!

And there we go. A double-sided dress.   
Shame she didn’t fit in it. But it’s ok. Because in exactly that way (plus several dozen pins) I made me a life-size one!!

The only difference: my front and back pieces are a different shape. So I made myself two pattern pieces of the full front and full back, and cut two fabrics (one of each colour) from each pattern piece. 

I pinned EVERYTHING like a madwoman. Thin jersey dances around like a jitterbug if given half a chance. It’s thin, slippery and stretchy! 

I did all of my pinning of the arm and neck openings first. 

Then stitched them veeeeeery carefully, progressively pulling out the pins. Notice I set the pins perpendicular to the seam line, in case I needed to sew over them. 

Then I also stitched the long side-seams and shoulder…. Which I completely forgot to photograph!

After the dress was flipped, I had to puzzle out the hem. The one thing I could not be bothered to check on the doll!

Firstly, I let it hang for a few days. ALWAYS do this before hemming to allow the fabric to take its preferred position with respect to gravity. 

I have seen dresses retailing at £500 whose creators forgot to do that, and whose hems were crooked by the time I tried them on!!!

After it had rested sufficiently, I pinned it, folding excess fabric inwards and creating a folded flat seam. 

I then let it hang a bit longer. 

Eventually, I took it down and stitched the hem down with one neat zig-zag seam. I used black overlocking thread which is incredibly thin, so my stitch is near-invisible. 

I wore it last night to work and then out for the evening! But I don’t have any photos. There will be some later!! 

I am currently working on a lined dress with pockets using the same pattern and principle! Except the “lining” is very thin, and therefore I will never reverse the dress. 

two-piece two-seam jersey dress

This is a two-seam dress IF you have the guts to leave the armholes, neckline and hem unfinished. Some jersey materials lend themselves wonderfully to that sort of look. I personally wanted my dresses to be worn at the office as well, so I finished them carefully.

I cut the fabric on the floor because that was going to be easier than anything else.

The pattern is one I lifted from a knit dress I already own. I wasn’t sure if it would work in a jersey, but it did!

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I cut it very carefully to be sure the stripes would line up when I assembled it.

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The tools. Bernina B330, Guterman red thread (100% Polyester) and Prym metal bobbins.

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Being a bit OCD about lining up the stripes. The machine still made them slip around, annoyingly enough so it’s not flawless. But it’s damn close!

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I was supremely lazy with the armholes and neckline and quickly just rolled them inwards. I did use pins though, to make sure it was nice and neat.

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Ta daa… Easy jersey dress. Two pieces, 4 seams (2 sides & two shoulders) with 3 “holes” (arms & neck) and one invisible hem.

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I liked the dress so much, I have made two more like it. Here is another one, in jersey I bought at Liberty. Yes, it’s a liberty print!!


Wearing it the next day.


Three dresses in three days: sew-insanity

Several Fridays ago, i took my sewing machine to my partner’s flat. His flatmate was on holiday for two weeks, and in this narrow timeframe I am allowed to commandeer half of the dining room table for the machine and its little collection of gadgets.

I am insanely grateful for this because i have been wanting to make dresses for months, but my flat gets too hot for it. Temperatures reach 29C in my room (normal temperature in the summer in there is 27C, 3 to 7 degrees warmer than outside), the side effect of which is that the second i walk in, instead of digging for fabric, i remove hot clothes, lie on the bed, and launch netflix while trying to move as little as possible…. “Unbearable” is a word that comes to mind. I avoid staying at home these days. And am planning to move out, ahead of contract end, in march next year. I do hope that goes all right. That place is not liveable from June to September, and does not deserve the nearly £1000 of rent (all bills excluded) i pay for one of two rooms. Ok. So flat-hate rant over (it is impairing my productivity!!!!) let’s go back to dresses.

So what’s been going on?

Saturday, I made a dress.
Sunday, I made a dress.
Monday, I made a dress.
Tuesday, I wore Monday’s dress to work and then to meet friends for dinner.

On Wednesday, I was going to dinner with colleagues, ostensibly to talk about work and taking over the world. So no sewing. And no new dress.

The fun thing is that for two of the three dresses, i made a pattern from scratch. The Sunday dress, i used an old faithful i love. And i didn’t finish it, i am still missing the zipper and hem…

For the Saturday dress, a bamboo jersey maxi dress with a button placket (that was the dumbest idea…), i measured myself and plotted the basic half-torso pattern pieces. One for the front, one for the back. (The back one is 10cm narrower in the bodice part, and 4cm longer in the skirt part)





There are no photos of the finished dress…. It aggravated me too much.

Turns out bamboo jersey is like liquid mercury! A slithering little devil that tries to break your machine! I don’t think I have a single straight stitch on the entire dress! It was very difficult to work with, kept snagging, breaking threads, warping, wiggling, moving at different speeds under the foot….
I got super angry. But then two days later i wore the dress around the house….

So I will try again with two changes to my strategy:
One: teflon sewing foot so things glide nicely.
Two: masking tape! Apparently one way to make sure slithering fabric stays straight is to put tape next to where your seam will be! I’ll be trying that.
I already have jersey needles. What i might do is buy some thinner thread. Maybe my plain cotton one wasn’t right for the uber-lightweight stretchy fabric.

About sewing feet. DO NOT BUY THEM ON AMAZON IF YOU OWN A BERNINA 330. I bought 4 sewing feet compatible with my type of machine. Except one nearly broke my machine when the needle hit the foot, and on all the others, the needle also hits the foot, it doesn’t go through the hole. That would be a good £35 i have thrown away. And i still cannot apply bias tape or put in an invisible zipper. More money needs to be spent. Don’t make that mistake!!

Sunday dress was a pleasure to work with. I had bought the fabric in the winter, a lovely half cotton half viscose blend, with a brushed side that felt soooooo soft! (The other was a bit shiny) I bought it in two colours, and worked with the pink one this time. Stitches were perfect. Thread was perfect, everything just worked. One of the perks of working from a pattern and with fabric that resembles muslin (imagine lightweigt bedsheet fabric).




And here is the dress I wore to work and then to dinner. It was fairly quick to make. Just one evening.


Many many months ago, I bought a most excellent book about draping. I almost immediately started plotting a pattern on my dressmaker’s doll… Where it stayed until last night. It must have been a solid 6 months on that doll. So long, in fact, that some of the green Sharpie marks I had made on the baking paper (who needs specialised pattern paper?) have begun to wash out from light exposure. The thing to learn, clearly, is that green sharpies are not lightfast.




I took the marked pieces off the doll, laid them out on top of 2-way stretch jersey, and cut. With my new fiskars tool! Think pizza cutter, but with a razor-sharp disc, which cuts through layerS (the capitalisation is intentional) of fabric.

I have assembled nothing yet. I only cut the fabric last night! Curious to see what will come of it.

Meanwhile, I did use the rolling cutter to make my traditional shift dress, in turquoise this time. It was SO much easier to follow the curves than it is wi scissors!! I wish I had known about these cutters earlier, they are a godsend.


I have no photos to post of the finished dress. Messed up there. And it’s in the laundry by now.

How about some changing room selfies that i will be using for inspiration in my (very near) future projects?

First up, a Roland Mouret dress.


A bit of Dior (the dress) and Chanel (the bag), which i may also attempt to make variations of. I’m a big fan, with a small budget than i would like, and an appetite for craft!



better t shirts please!

Not enough t shirts with wide necklines.

I used to laugh at my grandmother who would chide me “cover yourself up, I can see your stomach” when I was playing on the floor with toys. Then I grew up. The chiding (and my peeking stomach) didn’t quite stop. Then I grew up some more. Moved to the UK. Crossed into my thirties. And realised, all of a sudden, that despite having survived temperatures in the negative 30s (yes, I’ve breathed minus 39C air. It hurts.), I was cold.

t shirt in kelly dress Of all places, I was cold in London! Why? I think it’s the humidity. So I took to wearing a tee shirt under everything in the winter. This is excellent practice as it protects jumpers, dresses, etc… from being sweat into. However, unless you’ve got a very closed collar, you end up having an ungraceful and unprofessional tee shirt neckline peek out.

When I’m wearing a very rare, 1950s Grace Kelly-esque vintage woollen dress with silk ribbon edging, I do _not_ want my Primark tee shirt to peek out from inside. I do want it to act as a barrier between my skin and the wool (in both directions, wool itches), but I don’t want anyone to know I’m wearing it.

This is a call to all t shirt manufacturers to think about how their t shirts are worn – most often under another garment – and make them easier to hide. Wider necklines. Soft fabrics. Long enough to tuck into low trousers or skirts. The closest I’ve found are the tees from Primark, but given that sometimes the people assembling them miss a seam… or the neckline trim is quite thick (and not something you want to show off in an office), I use them sparingly. And patiently wait for another company (perhaps H&M? The Gap? – the Gap has always had amazing jersey) to step in and do t shirts right.

As for my belly, it’s fairly toned, and still peeking. Except now, 30+ years on, I know why. I’m long-waisted. My waist is 1 to 2 inches lower than what most companies design for. This means I can’t shop for tailored dresses anywhere… (except at McQueen – which I can’t afford – or REISS) and it is the reason why this blog, and my sewing hobby, are kept alive.

Reiss dress

Reiss dresses do fit me properly

Glamorous grey gown

Today I spent about five hours at Old Spitalfields market. I love the place. I adore it. Walking around, seeing the designers, the shoes, the clothes, the bric-à-brac, the fabrics, the beads, the metals, the prints… everything is such a joy, a feast for the senses and spirit! It is a great market, with a huge emphasis on fashion and creative endeavours in personal expression and quality. I could easily say it’s my favourite market in London! So there I was, walking around for hours, looping around again and again and again, seeing, touching, examining stitches, reading labels… It was an excellent afternoon! The only catch is, of course, I left inspired. That, and I had a coffee with my partner this morning and another coffee with a friend in the afternoon. I only started drinking coffee nine years ago, and the boiled bean’s effects are still very strongly felt on my system. So… when I got home… I couldn’t sit still. A good thing, given I’ve been going completely and absolutely stir crazy with the work-at-home requirement of the past three weeks. First week was nice, I was at my partner’s flat. The past two weeks, however, were torture, as my flat is oddly inhuman. I lacked colour, light, sound, texture, smell, and most of all human contact. So spending the afternoon in Spitalfields market was bliss. (window) Shopping yesterday was great too!

And when I got home, I had to make something. I simply couldn’t not make something. I popped some frozen things in the oven (expedient dinner), and dug into my fabric box for something stripy and pink I knew was lurking in there. And I came across this loooovely dark grey jersey! Which I decided to play with instead of the stripy pink (that was meant to be for practice anyway). And this is what I made, just pinned on the doll.


Why am I writing this post? To give my fingers a short break from rolling edges and hand-stitching. My sewing machine, much as I love it, is form 1919 and can’t, for the life of it (or me), roll an edge in a coherent manner, despite me having the correct little foot for that feature. It just doesn’t work. And I’m rather good with my hands. That attachment just isn’t made for jersey. Shame about that, as I love wearing jersey, and working with it as a dressmaking fabric. Comfortable, versatile… Anyway. I’ll need to invest in a machine that can work with jersey and roll edges for me.

So my fingers are done taking a short break. Time to go back to more hand-stitching now. With another episode of the West Wing. Took me a while to discover that show properly!