Hot! The “2 Nations Joined By A Common Thread” Dress

The Facts

Fabric: 1.5 mtrs Union Jack cotton fabric £7.49, 1.5 mtrs Stars & Stripes cotton fabric £7.49
Pattern: Butterick 4443 (but adapted)
Year: 2009-present
Notions: Zip $2.28
Time to complete: 4.5 days (see why below)
First worn: 8th January 2012
Wear again? Yes, especially on St. George’s Day and 4th July

Total price: £16.46 ($25.38)


The challenge: “This week we draw inspiration from an accessory — be it a pair of shoes, jewelry, bag or hat. Anything goes.”

I have a confession to make. I have a bit of a thing for flags. And 2 flags in particular – my homeland’s Union Jack (yes, I know all my fellow Brits who watch QI are shouting “it’s the Union Flag, it’s only called the Union Jack when it’s flown at sea!”) and the Star Spangled Banner of my new adopted country.

Not only do I have both of these flags all around my house as curtains (drapes), cushions and wall art, I also have quite a few red, white and blue ‘flaggy’ accessories.

But the accessory of choice to inspire my sewing was this handbag (purse) I bought in a charity shop (thrift store):

I never was a punk. I always wanted to be one and this handbag reminds me not only of home but the Sex Pistols badges on it give me a taste of fashion rebellion. I have a couple of Union Jack t-shirts but this handbag needed something a little bit dressier and a lot more quirky. So this challenge was perfect. I would make a ‘flaggy’ dress to match my handbag!

What do you think? Now you understand why it’s called the “2 Nations Joined By A Common Thread” dress too (a pun on Sir Winston Churchill’s comment about the UK and USA being “2 Nations Divided By a Common Language”).

I have another confession to make…I bought the material a while back. In fact, 3 years ago in January 2009 when I first found out I was moving to the United States. I knew that I’d have a couple of send-off parties and wanted something suitable to wear. The only problem was I’d only ever sewn one thing before this and my plans to make a dress that would be half UK and half USA were, I discovered after cutting out some of the pattern pieces, considerably out of my league as a novice seamstress.

So the handbag, the pattern, the assorted cut pieces and remaining fabric have sat languishing in a wardrobe for 3 years.

Until now! Thank you Mena and Sew Weekly!

And why did it take me 4 and a half days to make a dress designated as ‘Easy’ on the pattern? Because I had to go and make it difficult for myself! I’d been slightly clever in buying more material than I wanted so that I could cut the pieces out to have the best bits of the flag in the centre of each. As you can see from the front of the dress (and the same applies to the back), I wanted to alternate the UK and USA and rotate the directions of the flags so that a portrait/vertical flag would lie next to its neighbour’s landscape/horizontal position. Does that make sense?

You also have to remember that I said that this started out as my 2nd ever sewing project….and wow did I make some classic newbie mistakes 3 years ago that needing working around this last week. No notches cut AT ALL on the 4 centre bodice pieces, not realising that the seam allowance was incorporated INTO the pattern piece already so cutting 6 pieces with an EXTRA 2.5cm all around and even sewing the left side front bodice piece onto the front bodice UPSIDE DOWN.

Then there was me being finickity about some of the angles of some of the flag pieces – in my 1st attempt on the original bodice, all flag pieces lined up straight. Believe me, trying to cut the pieces and sew them to get lines matching up was difficult enough. But when I tried the bodice on, having the horizontal lines all level wasn’t in the slightest bit flattering. So I recut both bodice side front panels so that the flags were more diagonal, still with the important lines matching up but with the main lines sloping downwards. And this ended up looking so much better.

I also adapted the pattern to include straps. I started out making view A of Butterick 4443, the strapless dress. But as I was sewing it I thought it would be a fun dress to wear into school (where I volunteer) on St. George’s Day (England’s patron saint and sort of our national day each April 23rd). To comply with school dress code, shoulders need to be ‘covered’ by a strap at least 3 fingers wide.

Then there’s the fact that I’m still learning how to get around my 42-45-51 measurements (not exactly Marilyn Monroe). I’m learning how to reduce side panels and dart from the top down rather the usual waistline up….and even with adjustments I think I could have made the bodice a little more fitted with practice. Ah well, this is why I signed up for 52 weeks of sewing – I want to LEARN!

Oh and on Thursday night my entry level Brother sewing machine I bought the first week I was in America (on discovering my lovely UK Singer wouldn’t work on the USA’s smaller electrical voltage), it decided it could take no more intensive sewing and popped it’s clogs (stop working/died). I’d been thinking about upgrading (and moving back to Singer) for a while now, so this is what I did on Friday….slowing me down a little by having to teach myself to use a new machine.

I know, excuses, excuses. But anyway, now I have a FABULOUS new dress that really is a one of a kind and I FINALLY have something that matches the quirkiness of my punky Union Jack handbag! Happy Tempest!



Tempest Devyne is a Brit who loves rain. She was therefore exiled to the deserts of Arizona. She started tentatively sewing about 3 years ago to make her own burlesque costumes. She'd now like to make pretty clothes for herself that don't rely on velcro and poppers to stay on. She's self-taught with help from the internet and lots of books from the library.


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  1. Awesome! Love reading the story behind the project.

  2. That is so cool! What a funky and fun dress. I love your interpretation of this challenge.

  3. This dress looks soo fun! :)

  4. Oh cool! Hooray for being able to achieve your long-held sewing vision! :) I bet you stop traffic in that dress. Love it.

  5. Fantastic! This dress is so bright and happy! Well done!

  6. Wow! Like you, I hope to learn to fit my body much much better over 52 weeks of sewing.

  7. That dress certainly rocks that bag! A very individual dress – cool cool

  8. Holy cow, that dress is FANTASTIC! I love how you were able to look at such a plain simple demure pattern like that and come out with something so wild and bold. Love love love.

  9. I LOVE this dress! So much fun to read the process behind it! And fabulous photos!

  10. I love the pattern matching and the detail you put in to the orientation of the flags. I would hate to look at one of my first projects and find the mistakes eek!

  11. That would go perfect with my Colette bloomers! (see photo from last year) Great dress!

  12. You are so much fun. love it.

  13. Absolutely great! The pattern is perfect for such a wild fabric. I have a lot of stuff with the Union Jack (or Union Flag), too. My shirts are starting to fall apart though…I’ll have to stock up soon again. Not sure whether I’ll be able to get hold of such cool fabric.

  14. Oh, and those shoes are super cute!

  15. So fun!!! And interesting about the Union Jack/Flag difference… never knew.

  16. Wow, that is quite the odyssey you and that went on! I bet you can hardly wait for St. George’s Day and July 4th.

  17. Amazing dress! Love the concept, and the result. That’s the sort of dress that makes every day a happy day when you wear it – so bright and cheerful. :-)