Hot! The “Kitten” Dress | Debi Fry



The Facts

Fabric: 3 metres tweed fabric from Croft Mill £15, 2 metres brown wool and cotton blend lightweight fabric for underlining £3
Pattern: Butterick 2181 from Stitches and Loops
Year: c.  late 50’s/early 60’s
Notions: zipper £0.05 part of a large lot found at a charity shop, button: free (gift from Sofia) 

Time to complete: 20 hours!!! WHAT?

Wear again? Yes, though I definitely want to make the matching jacket

Total Cost: ~£18

Fabulous inspiration check. First time using a vintage Butterick pattern  check.  First time spending 20 hours on a dress  check.  First time sewing with super tricky fabric  check.   First time trying to fit a dress with tricky fabric  check.  First pleat check. First wiggle dress  check.

My inspiration for this week’s challenge comes from a photo of my mom in 1963:

Picture 39
OMG. pink suit, matching shoes, hat and bag!!! We are definitely related :)  I love this picture so much.  My mom tells the story of how she saved up ages for the shoes and matching bag that were italian.  Very exciting.  I believe this is her graduation dress.  So chic.

Picture 40
So when I stumbled across Butterick 2181 in my usual online pattern scavenger hunt, I was thrilled.  There’s some thing about a wiggle dress with a cool jacket that I really love.  Perhaps I’ve been influenced by Joan’s character but I’ve been wanting to make a wiggle dress for some time!

Me and Butterick 2181–a match made in heaven.  Enter the ‘Autumn Tweed’ fabric from Croft Mill.

Picture 44
It’s a loose woven tweed made from 70% Acrylic 15% Wool and 15% Polyester.  Key words are ‘loose woven’.  This fabric is heavenly–it feels like butter.  So, so, so soft and lovely.  When I got it in the mail, I turned around and ordered more.  That was before I started sewing with it of course.

So last Friday I started in on the pattern.  I made up the skirt in no time and thought ‘finally, here is my very own 3 hour dress’.  Almost directly after thinking this wonderful thought, I started to get a bit worried about the super loose weave.  I did a post on my blog about how excited I was to start the project. Thank god for other bloggers.  Pin Queen ever so kindly inquired if I was inter/underlining the dress because if the weave is open you’ll end up with a “seat” in your dress where your bottom pushes the weave out of shape when you sit down.  Oh dear, that sounds serious and I could exactly picture what she was talking about.  Of course, underlining–doh! I had just underlined my previous sew weekly dress.  Why didn’t I think of that?

So back to the pattern to cut out all the interlining in nice, lightweight cotton/wool blend fabric I had in my stash.  That seemed to take ages–then sewing all the pattern pieces together:

Picture 41
This pattern was super straightforward and easy to sew but it took ages!  This fabric is shifty and likes to try and catch on things in the sewing room (that I keep ever so tidy).  I definitely had to take it slow! Picture 43
I love the collar on this dress.  The front is held together with one buttons and several invisible snaps.  I also got to try my very first pleated skirt.  So fun!  I love it as a detail!  The skirt also has gathers at the front sides where it attaches to the bodice front.

I had plans to take photos outside but I was literally sewing this until this morning (sorry Mena!!)  CRAZY dress.  I did, however, manage to get some shots with a hat:

And pictures with our cat:

Though in retrospect that probably wasn’t the best idea.  Kitty and loose weave fabric that I’ve just spent 20 hours making???  I don’t think so.

So, what’s the longest time you’ve spent making something that you thought would be easy and/or quick?  Please make me feel better :)

Oh and I’ve got to pull a Mena and make an entire dress in one day (actually today–since it’s Friday here) for our super fabulous London meet-up tomorrow!!  woohooo!  I promise it will not include underlining!!



Debi from My Happy Sewing Place

Debi Fry LOVES vintage patterns. She started sewing in 2009 and has been going since. In 2011, she participated in the Sew Weekly challenge and looks forward to the new challenges that lie in store!


Comments are closed.

  1. judy roberson

    Debi, this dress is beautiful..It may have taken you 18 hours..but it was worth it..I love it… Your mom looked beautiful in the picture. Loved her outfit.

  2. Wow- that is a smasher :) Your mother was SO classy at her graduation! And you definitely captured her look! Well done :)

  3. debi! you look AMAZING! color. fabric. fit. facial expression. well worth twenty hours of work. godsakes woman, put some cat paws on the feline. (our black one wears red tips.)
    this post cracked me up with all of your checks. (and it’s not the bottle of malbec i just finished, either!) i hope you get your three hour dress for tomorrow, i am insanely jealous… (and, erm, i had a dress that took three years to make. but you! you got something amazingly awesome out of it.)

  4. I just went through a similar experience! I didn’t have class this week and I wanted to put together a quick, fun, and relaxing project during my time off. So I drafted a flared 8-gore skirt for some striped seersucker I had lying around. I spent the entire three days on cutting and sewing this skirt. The real kicker? I’m beginning to suspect that my seersucker was in fact plisse because I ironed the seams and the texture didn’t come back in the wash. So my skirt looks a little confused.
    But you! You got a beautiful garment out of your hours of labor. It looks amazing on you and I love the inspiration behind the project.

  5. I really love this! The fabric, the cut, it all just works so well! You look stunning (as does your mum!)and I imagine it’d take me something like 20hours to make this as well! I’m so glad to hear I’m not the only one taking forever on things that seem simple! I’m just taking a break now from a skirt that I told myself could be done in 2 hours.. just get in and do it. (of course I made it harder by deciding to line it too!) Well it’s been three hours now… and it’s not finished. drat. Now I’m having a glass of wine.

  6. 20 hours is probably pretty standard for me. I just wish I had your results after 20 hours! Lovely colour – very flattering and a great pattern. (worth the 20 hours). Look forward to seeing the jacket too when it is made.

  7. Wow – What a bombshell! you look ace in that outfit – amazing job and the fabric is so perfect for it.

  8. margueritedesigns

    That’s great – you suit the 50’s too!

  9. That is my favorite of your pieces so far!

  10. The dress looks gorgeous on you! Love the fabric, too, even if it’s demanding, I think the trouble has been well worth it. As for time… I’m always wondering at the speed of other people. I’m rather slow. At the moment I’m trying to fit a jeans pattern and have put at least 6 houres into that till now without a satisfying result so far.

  11. I love it! Its very flattering and stylish. I love a wiggle dress. Every-time I try and make something I either massively under or over estimate the time involved, particularly if I am messing around with a new fabric!

  12. Oh Debi, this is stunning work! I love this dress! It’s definitely one of my favorites of your dresses and looks like it cost 100Xs more in a store! I love the look of tweed but always thought it might be too warm for the weather here. Bravo!

  13. Totally amazing! You look lovely and the pattern is perfect. I love the photo of your mom. It’s fun to think of her saving and than buying the matching shoes and purse. Have a super fun weekend!

  14. Even though it took a long time it is soo cute! I really like it.

  15. I am pretty sure almost everything I make takes at least 20 hours! I’m so slow at sewing. Anyways, I’m speechless! The dress is GORGEOUS and it looks amazing on you. Good luck for tomorrow!

  16. Absolutely gorgeous- wonderful work!! I know what you mean about these kind of fabrics, so worth it in the end, though!

  17. Oh lord this is amazing. I just bought my first wiggle dress pattern, also a vintage pattern, but I’m in no way daring enough to attempt a loose weave. I’m going to find the tightest weave wool I possibly can and just pray.
    Honestly, I usually spend about 20 hours on a dress, especially if it’s lined. The sad thing is, 5-7 of those hours are usually spent A. cutting fabric and B. reading and re-reading directions. I hear about these 3 hour affairs and I dream of them, I do, I dream such beautiful dreams….
    Excuse me, I must go back to my 17 hour blouse. Ciao.

  18. Debi, This is the WOW dress! Everything is amazing about it including the fabric. You know they say good things take time, but they are so worth it and this one is well worth the effort. And it fits you perfectly, so sophisticated! Well done!

  19. I agree a dress that beautiful must have been worth the time. The fabric is lovely. Your Mom looks beautiful too.

  20. 20 hours, you poor thing! But it is absolutely gorgeous, and what a great staple to have in your wardrobe. Also, I love the pic of your mum in her matching pinks- too cute.

  21. This fits you so well, Debi! It usually takes me more than 20 hours on a dress because I start daydreaming. The fabric worked out so nicely and the color is great. For a second I thought your mom was posing in The Village Green in LA, but I don’t think it is!
    And your cat is so cute! I tried sewing AND cat-sitting 3 cats the other day and it didn’t work, but they’re very entertaining :)

  22. Gorgeous! I love everything about this–the collar, the fabric, the belt, the hat! Well done.

  23. Debi – this is beautiful! Love the fabric and the homage to such a lovely lady and her suit!

  24. Holy wow, Debi!! You really rock the wiggle dress and the colour is fantastic on you. I love, love the photo of your mom – pink shoes!!!

  25. Debi, you look FANTASTIC! Love the color, love the style, and love the pic of your mom. It’s all so delightful! Well done, my friend!

  26. WOW! This dress is so incredibly stunning! It made me go straight to the internet to look for the pattern! The epic 20 hour battle of the fabric was definitely worth it. I’m in awe that you tackled so many “firsts” for this outfit and it came out so beautifully! I’ve spent well over 20 hours just working on pattern grading a bodice and about a billion muslins… and I still don’t have the fit right. I suspect it may become one of the great unfinished objects of my lifetime :)

  27. Beautiful! I love the entirety of this outfit. The jacket will be a lovely addition as well. Congrats, and enjoy your meet up tomorrow. (Also, I don’t keep track of the hours I spend sewing, which I think is a very good thing because I’d likely find that I spend well over 20 hours on some projects.)

  28. This is so beautiful Debbie!
    Your mum had great style back in the 60’s!!


    Forget about the dress your hair looks amazing….. oh and the dress looks amazing too!

  30. Looks amazing and all those hours paid off! It’s a great colour on you and your hair looks amazing!

  31. Fantastic Debi the dress is beautiful something Joan from Mad Men would wear, the hat sets it all off and phew!!! so glad you lined it nobody likes a baggy bum haha

  32. Thanks Judy! I really love my mum’s dress!
    Oh and thank you immensely for your package you sent for the UK meet-up! I ended up taking the lovely white trim home with me! yipppeee!!

  33. Thanks Rachel! I was super happy when I found the pattern! I think it’s such a great look! I look forward to finishing the jacket too!!

  34. Thanks Oona!!! What are cat paws? That is such a good idea. They are constantly tapping us for attention and sometimes their claws get stuck!!
    I loved your skirt this week too!!! your grandmum sounds amazing!

  35. oh no! I hate when that happens…especially when things change after ironing them! But the great thing is that you have a self-drafted 8 gore skirt…I bet that is amazing!

  36. Wine always helps! :) I’m like you in that I add extra things to simple projects too–but your skirt sounds like it will be great AND it will be lined too…yay!

  37. Thanks Jen! I really enjoyed making this and I can’t wait to see what the jacket looks like with the dress!

  38. Thanks Molly!!! The fabric is so soft and makes me feel great!

  39. Thanks Diane! I’ve been wanting to try this style for ages! I also want to try a shirtwaist 50’s dress too!

  40. Thanks Kate! Your comment really made my day!!

  41. I know what you mean Christina! I’m super impressed that you are doing jeans? Are you doing Peter’s sew-along? I’ve found that through the sew weekly, I’ve sped up quite a bit. Last year..this would have probably taken 40 hours over the course of two months!

  42. Thanks! I’m with you…I have HORRIBLE estimation skills…ehhehehehe

  43. Thanks so much Adey! I love the look of tweed too…but yes, I can imagine it’s not suitable for your climate…though I wonder if you could do a tropical weight wool? Loved your outfit this week too ;)

  44. Thanks Rebecca! I think it’s great that my mum can recount everything about this outfit even though it was 48 years ago!

  45. Thanks Lisette…I’m totally loving underlining too!

  46. Definitely worth it in the end! This fabric is sooooo lovely!

  47. Thanks Leah! I can’t wait to see your wiggle dress! I think my fabric next week will be a tight weave for sure :)

  48. Thanks Cathe! I love this dress too! I can’t wait to make the jacket!!

  49. Thanks Amber! Yes, I think this will definitely be a staple…especially with the jacket!

  50. Hi Amanda! I always daydream when making stuff too…and that usually goes onto me taking all my patterns out and looking at them AGAIN…hehehehehe. My mum’s photo was taken in Portland, OR…so not LA but still on the West Coast :)

  51. Thanks Alicia! I was super happy to find the belt and to have the matching hat!!

  52. Thanks Sarah! I absolutely love my mum’s suit!

  53. This dress is amazing! I love the fabric and agree that the color looks great on you, so glad you stuck with it.
    I also sat down to “quickly” sew up some knit summer pajamas for my daughter this week and ended up taking forever as my sewing machine was having fits. I guess some projects are like that.

  54. I know! How stylish was my mum? Pink italian shoes!! woah! I love her hair too!

  55. Thanks Meg!!! I loved your refashioned dress this week!

  56. Oh no! Sorry to hear about the grading nightmare! Definitely keep at it because I’m sure it will be fabulous! I was originally also going to try and do my first bound buttonhole with this project and then I just told myself ‘don’t be ridiculous’!! hahhhaa..loose weave and a bound buttonhole? Not going to happen :)

  57. Yeah…it’s always an estimate to count the hours sewing…because I often need breaks!!!

  58. Oh yes! She was stylin’! Thanks so much!!

  59. are awesome! Thank you!!!

  60. Thanks Veronica!! I had fun styling my hair :)

  61. hahahaha…I KNOW! I was definitely thinking of Joannie when I was making this!!

  62. Definitely!! Sorry to hear your sewing machine was having fits! I hate that!!! Though knit pajamas sound fantastic…I really need to make some more PJs!!