Queen Elizabeth I

Over the last couple of years I have had the honor of creating a reproduction Queen Elizabeth I gown for a private client. I can honestly say it has been made with blood, sweat, and probably tears (may have blocked that bit out. haha.) I worked on it off and on in between other projects and goings-on at my shop. The client has been doing presentations at the local high school as her royal highness, and we have been adding trims and bits and baubles along the way. I only have two pieces left to make to complete the ensemble.

  1. Standing Ruff (There’s one on there now, but it is not standing properly. It is missing a supportesse.) I will be using this pattern that I found on Etsy.
  2. Whisk. This is the part I am having a very difficult time researching. I’m not even 100% positive that’s what it’s called. I am talking about the piece above her shoulders in back that is shaped like the top of a heart, with a grid-like pattern.

My go-to image of reference for the gown has been The Ditchley Portrait. (See below.)

NPG 2561; Queen Elizabeth I ('The Ditchley portrait') by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger

Wish me luck as I try to complete Her Majesty!


Barcelona Balcony Copycat: Intro

Barcelona Balcony Dress


Fabric: Lined dress with crinkle chiffon overlay. Yoke, bodice back, and waistband are of black cotton knit. Close-up photo below.

BB dress close up

Bodice: Front: Lined with gathered chiffon overlay; cotton knit yoke creates triangle cut-out. Back: cotton knit with curved v-neckline.

Sleeves: Sleeveless

Skirt: Knee length, full, lots of gathers at waist; waistband piece

Closure: CB invisible zipper

Special Details: Triangle cutout, and mix of fabrics keeps it interesting.


I love the color! I believe Modcloth calls it “chili red”.  The thought behind this frock was that it would be a good date dress for Valentine’s Day. Usually hubby and I go out to dinner. This year we will be going to see Les Miserables in Raleigh, NC. Out of town trip, yay! Given that I now have a specific event for this dress, I did have a fleeting thought of somehow making it more formal. Upping the ante, so to speak. Maybe making it one of those trendy hi-low hems? I’m still waiting for that fad to die out, but it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. If I wanted it knee length later, it would be easy enough to make a shorter even hem. Maybe I just make it floor length? When was the last time I wore a floor length dress? Oh yeah, my wedding! I’m a strictly cocktail length woman. Would floor length be too dressy?  What do you guys think?


I’ve been looking at fabrics online, of course erring toward the side of cheap. I really like the idea of using a black eyelet in place of the black knit. I’m going to use a red, lightweight satin as my lining/base fabric, and a red chiffon for the overlay. It won’t be the crinkle kind that I believe was in the original dress, but I will have the eyelet to give some texture variation.

I have sourced commercial patterns that would be viable to work from to create this look.

Patterns that are similar in style:

Butterick B5491, Simplicity 1803, Vogue 8574, New Look 6224

Patterns that can be modified: 

McCalls M6893, Simplicity 2215, New Look 6143


  • McCalls M6893 (See above for other pattern options.)
  • 2 yds of Satin/Lining Fabric
  • 2 yds Chiffon
  • 1/2 yd Black Eyelet Fabric
  • Size 10 machine needles
  • Matching serger thread (If you choose to to a rolled hem.)
  • Black invisible zipper

I will be creating a tutorial on how to make this dress using the McCall’s pattern M6893. Feel free to sew along with me!

Barcelona Balcony Dress: Issue 1 (What You Need to Get Started.)

Barcelona Balcony Dress: Issue 2 (Determining Your Pattern Size; Tracing Patterns.)

Barcelona Balcony Dress: Issue 3 (Dart Manipulation; Slash and Spread.)

Barcelona Balcony Dress: Issue 4 (Yoke Front and Bodice Front Lining.)

Happy Sewing!


Barcelona Balcony Copycat: Issue 5

In this post, we will be using the bodice lining pattern you created in Issue 4.

Bodice Front Overlay Pattern

  1. Trace the bodice lining pattern onto a new sheet of paper.
  2. We are going to be adding fullness to the top and bottom of this piece using the slash and spread method. First, we are going to shift the dart evenly from top to bottom. If we leave the dart as-is, before slashing and spreading, the gathering at the bottom of this piece would be significantly more than what is on top. Draw a dot half an inch up from the point of your dart. Draw a line straight up from this point. (Ignore the blue vertical line in the image. I got a little ahead of myself, and I will explain it later.)Phone Dump 3-3-14 128
  3. Cut all the way to, but not through this dot, along the line you drew. Cut up to the dot from the point of your dart. You should now be able to “swing” the pieces back and forth.
  4. Shift your pieces so that there is an equal gap/”dart” ot the top and bottom. Tape in place.Phone Dump 3-3-14 129
  5. If you notice in the image, the gathering of the overlay does not continue across the entire piece. See images below. In the first image, you can see that to the left of the blue line, the bodice piece is flat (no gathering). In the second image, you can see that everything to the right of the blue line on the bodice piece is flat (no gathering). I cropped the image on the right to end at the center front so it mimics the pattern piece you are working with.  (Man, that would have come in handy when trying to draw that triangle cut out earlier!) Mark these lines on your pattern piece. Mine are marked in blue. If you are plus size, it is best to think about this divide proportionally, as oppossed to measurements. THINK: Proportionally you are dividing the piece into [almost] thirds, with the middle (gathered area) being slightly more. INSTEAD OF: It looks like that line starts one inch in from the center front, so that’s where I will draw my line.
  6. Time to slash and spread! We are only slashing and spreading the area between our two blue lines, as this is the only part that will be gathered on the bodice piece. Draw a horizontal reference line, so we don’t get “shifty” when we put this pieces back in order. Draw 4 vertical lines so that we will have 5 strips to spread apart. Number your pieces (mine are circled.)Phone Dump 3-3-14 133
  7. I wanted to create double the width of this area, to allow for the gathering. (I may decide it needs more after the first fitting, but this is a good place to start.) I measured the distance between the blue lines on top and bottom (omitting darts). And made a note of what that amount would be doubled.
  8. On a separate sheet of paper, draw a reference line. Cut apart the strips along the lines that you drew, and spread them out on the new paper, matching up the reference line.
  9. Spread apart your strips the appropriate amount (I wrote that double my top would be around 13″, and double my bottom would be 10 1/2″, I ended up spreading the piece for a total of a little over 11″, I figured that was at least a good place to start.) Pin or tape the strips in place, then trace around your entire piece. Make sure you notate where your gathering is supposed to start and stop on both the top and the bottom.

    Drawing a tic mark for where the gathering starts.

    Drawing a tic mark for where the gathering starts.

  10. Sketch in a dashed line, then use your french curve to connect any “wobbly” lines. Phone Dump 3-3-14 136
  11. Label your piece. Ta-Da! That wasn’t so bad, was it?Phone Dump 3-3-14 141

You are now ready for Issue 6.

Happy Patterning!


Marfy 2014-2015

I just ordered the Marfy 2014/15 catalog!!! It comes with 20 free patterns, which was just too tempting to pass up, considering just one of their patterns can cost around $15.

I’ve never sewn anything from a Marfy pattern before, but I have at least heard of them. A friend mentioned them to me when I was CONSIDERING making my wedding dress. Very glad I didn’t go that route, as there were just too many other things going on. McCalls now sells Marfy patterns through their website here.

After reading their description, I have decided that Marfy patterns are the most hard-core of all the patterns. They are designed by hand in Italy, are pre-cut with no seam allowances, and do not include a pattern layout or instructions. CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!!! I can’t wait to try one out!

Here are the free patterns that will be included with my catalog purchase. Which one would you try first?

marfy 1 marfy 2 marfy 3


Happy Sewing!


Barcelona Balcony Copycat: Issue 4

Patterning the Bodice Front

We will be starting with the bodice front piece you made in your size from the previous post, Issue 3. I traced a fresh copy of mine for this tutorial. During this process, I frequently referred to both the image on the pattern envelope and the photo of the actual Barcelona Balcony dress, so you may want to have them handy.

Yoke and Lining

  1. Draw in the “stitching lines” by measuring 5/8″ around every edge. We are going to be drawing style lines, and this gives you a better visual representation of what your piece will look like once it is sewn together.Phone Dump 3-3-14 096
  2. NECKLINE:  I think it is very comparable to that of the Barcelona Balcony dress as-is. I made no changes to the neckline, but you could always adjust to your personal preference.
  3. SHOULDER SEAM: I noticed that on the pattern envelope (in the photo of the live model) it looks like the shoulder seam goes all the way to the edge of the shoulder. As pictured on the Modcloth website, the Barcelona Balcony shoulder seam does not go all the way to the shoulder edge. To cut it in a little more, sketch in a dashed line starting at the shoulder seam, then smoothly connect back into the armscye curve. Connect your dashed line with a solid line using the french curve. Add 5/8″ seam allowance to your new line, and trim away the excess paper.
  4. YOKE PLACEMENT: This is a tentative step, more for reference than anything, so don’t make any super dark lines yet. I made a mark indicating where I “think” the yoke style line will be (2 1/2″ down), on the center front of the bodice pattern piece. Once we determine our triangle cut-out shape, this may change, but I found it helpful.Phone Dump 3-3-14 101
  5. CUT-OUT Placement: So, remember how I said we were going to use Pattern Piece #8 for reference only? Now is the time! This piece creates the sweetheart neckline in the commercial pattern, so I thought it would be a good starting point in determining how low we want this triangle cut out to be, going toward the decolletage. Place Pattern Piece #8 on top of your bodice front pattern piece, matching up the center front lines, and waist lines. Place a dot at the “v” of the neckline. (I traced around it just a bit, instead of drawing a dot, but the “v” was a little distracting.) I visually liked where this point was, so I did not move it. You may want it to start higher (more modest) or lower (more inner boob), according to personal preference. You can always change it later.  Keep in mind that your bust point (nice way of saying “nipple”) is approximately a half an inch directly above your dart.
  6. TRIANGLE CUT-OUT: Maybe it’s just me, but when I’m looking at only half of a pattern piece, sometimes I can be thrown when it comes to “shapes”. It’s like when you’re a kid making those little construction paper hearts, by folding your paper in half. Trying to visualize what half a heart looks like can be tricky, and when you open it up, it might just look like a butt. All of that to say, when it comes to cut-out shapes, I think it’s always best to visualize it as a whole before fully committing. So let’s draw out this triangle on a piece of paper first. Be sure to give it a vertical center line, so we can match it up to our bodice piece.

    Now that you have a triangle to reference, place it on your pattern piece matching up the center lines. Now try visualize the center front of your bodice pattern as a whole. How does your triangle piece look proportionally to your bodice? Does it need to be taller? Wider? I liked the size of my triangle, but there was a significant gap between the top of the triangle, and where I “thought” the bottom of the yoke would be (See Step 4, above.) I decided to split the difference.

    So my triangle got a little taller, and the style line of my yoke dropped a little. We will see how it looks in the first fitting and take it from there. If your triangle was perfect the first time, 1) I’m jealous, and 2) Just trace it and move on to Step 7.

  7. YOKE PLACEMENT (FOR REAL THIS TIME): Once your triangle has been drawn in, draw a horizontal line straight across, connecting the top of your triangle to the armscye of your bodice. You have now drawn in the styleline for the yoke. Cut along this line. You can also cut out the triangle from you bodice piece.
  8. You should have two pieces that look something like this:Phone Dump 3-3-14 119
  9. Add 5/8″ seam allowance to the bottom of the yoke piece, the top of your bodice piece, and to the triangle cut-out.
  10. Label your pieces, and draw in Center Front grain lines.
  11. Phone Dump 3-3-14 125Phone Dump 3-3-14 126CONGRATS! You have successfully patterned your front yoke, and bodice front lining!

You are now ready for Issue 5.

Happy Patterning!


Barcelona Balcony Copycat: Issue 3

Dart Manipulation

After you have traced your bodice front, as explained in Issue 2, it is time to make your piece the correct size and shape. The first step is to get rid of that pesky bust dart. We will be using the most basic of “dart manipulation” to achieve this.

  1. Draw a dot just above (approx 1/2″) the tip of the waist dart.
  2. Draw a line connecting the upper leg of the bust dart to the dot.

    Cut-out pattern piece.

    Cut-out pattern piece.

  3. Cut along this line. Also cut up from the point of the waist dart just to (but not through) the dot. (I didn’t draw a line for this, since it was such a short distance.)
  4. You should now be able to “swing” this pattern piece wedge back and forth. Shift it over to the left, just enough to close up the side dart. Tape in place.IMG_1854
  5. Draw a new, straight line for the side seam so it doesn’t have that little “bump”. Cut away the extra paper. Ta-da! No more bust dart.IMG_1855

I Need to Make My Piece Bigger!

Now is a good time to take a couple of measurements. First take your full bust measurement (the circumference of your bust around the fullest point.) Next, take your “across bust front” measurement. Do this by starting the tape measure right underneath your armpit at the side seam of your shirt, across the fullest part of your bust to the same point under your arm on the opposite side. Sound tricky? It was more difficult to type that sentence and take the following photo than it is to actually do it. haha. Hope the photo helps! Now, why would you need this measurement? Think about it this way…a slim woman with a D cup, and a bigger girl with a B cup could possible have the same full bust measurement, right? So knowing how much of the full bust measurement is proportioned to the front only, lets you know you are leaving enough room for “the girls”. (I’m actually a plus size with a proportionally *smaller* bust, so this keeps me from making things too big in the bust.)


Ok, now that we have our measurements written down, lets get to work on sizing up that bodice front pattern piece. I often write my measurements, and do math problems on my pattern pieces, so you will probably see it scribbled on them in the photos throughout the tutorial.

  1. Draw in a dashed line to represent the “bust line” on the pattern piece. I held the pattern piece up to my body in a mirror to make sure it was close. Your line should cross through. or come close to the “dot” you drew in above the waist dart. (Note: Now that I’m looking back at the photo above, you can see that my tape measure is about 2″ below my armpit, so my “bust line” should start in about the same place on the pattern piece at the side seam. As you can see I drew mine in a little too high, but do as I say, not as I do. As long as you guess fairly close, you should be okay.)IMG_1856
  2. As I’m sure you know already, most modern commercial patterns already include 5/8″ seam allowance. Draw in the stitching line at 5/8″ in on the side seam so your measurements will be correct for the following. (I started this step in the above photo.)IMG_1857
  3. Measure from the line you just drew along the “bust line” all the way to the edge of your pattern piece. (There is not 5/8″ allowed on that side, since it would be cut on the fold.) I cut out the size 22 on my pattern, and I measured 12.5″ across my pattern piece’s bust line. IMG_1858
  4. Lets talk just a moment about ease. If we made the pattern piece match our bust measurement exactly, we would barely be able to breathe (and certainly struggle with that zipper.) Adding a few extra inches (I usually add 3″ total in the bust) allows a comfortable amount of room in the bust of your dress.
  5. Time to MATH! My across bust front is 28″. We are only working with half the piece we are making, since it is cut on the fold. 28 divided by two, is 14. If we stopped there, we would be at the “I can barely breathe” point. We want 3″ total of ease in the bust, which is 1.5″ extra allowed to each front and back. We are only working with half of the front. That is 3/4″ that we need to add to 14 for a total of 14.75″. Subtract what the pattern piece measured, 12.5″… so I need to add a total of 2.25″ to my pattern piece in order to fit.


Across bust measurement: _____

Divide above by two: ______

Add 3/4 inch to allow for ease:______

Above is what you need your piece to measure across your bust line.

Subtract from what your pattern currently measures across the bust line: ________

Above is the amount you need to add to your pattern piece.

Slash and Spread

Here is a great little article on Craftsy that explains the gist of what we will be doing with our bodice pattern to size it up. I will refer to this method as “slash and spread”.

  1. Draw a horizontal line across your pattern piece, perpendicular to the center front edge. (Abbreviated CF on my piece.) If your bust reference line is a straight line, you can certainly use this line instead. This will act as a reference line to keep all your pieces in order after we cut them apart.
  2. I’ve heard the “perfect” amount of pieces you want for “slash and spread” is 5. Sometimes I use more, sometimes less, but this is a good guideline. Draw 4 lines (mine are in red) perpendicular to your reference line. Number the “pieces” you have created (my numbers are circled in the photo), so that you make sure you place them in the right order later.IMG_1866
  3. Cut along your vertical lines to create 5 pieces/strips of paper.IMG_1868
  4. Draw a reference line on a new sheet of paper. IMG_1870
  5. Place your pieces in order on the new sheet of paper, matching up the reference lines. I used short strips of tape, that I only lightly pressed onto the paper, so I could reposition them. Leave gaps between each pieces, to equal the amount you need to add to your pattern piece. Example: I needed to add 2.25″, and since there are four gaps between my pieces, I know that each space should be just a little over half an inch. Measure across the bustline once more to confirm that when doubled, it equals your “across bust front” measurement. IMG_1901
  6. Trace around your pattern piece, and don’t forget the dart! Remove strips of paper to reveal your new pattern shape.IMG_1902
  7. I’m sure you noticed that some of our straight lines aren’t so straight anymore! For the shoulder seam just connect the two end points. For the neckline, I just drew in a dashed line for a neck curve that I thought looked reasonable somewhere between the lines I traced. Connect the dashes with your french curve. IMG_1903
  8. Re-drawing the dart: Hopefully you noticed that the bottom legs of your dart have moved, to create a larger dart which will allow for your larger bust. Draw in a new dot for the top point of the dart, and draw new legs connecting to the dot. new dart
  9. Now we need to draw in that little “v” underneath the dart. Fold the dart on your paper in the direction you would press your dart on the fabric. Example: I typically press my darts toward center back, so I folded along the left line of the dart to meet the line on the right. Your paper will start to “bubble”, forming a bust shape. IMG_1908
  10. Right now the waistline is forming a not-so-pretty divet toward the bottom of the dart, lets smooth that out by drawing a new line.IMG_1910
  11. With your paper still folded, forming a “sewn dart”, trace over the new line you just drew with your pounce wheel.IMG_1911
  12. When you open up your paper (I realized I didn’t quite have enough paper, so I had to tape a scrap to the bottom and trace again) you will see the little bumps/impressions from your wheel. Trace over these lines with your writing utensil, and now you will have the fabric needed to form the dart when you sew your bodice. 🙂IMG_1913
  13. Almost done! Now you need to check your waist measurement. Measure your waist, and try really hard not to make it too tight, you will only regret it later. Mine is 46.  Add 1/2″ for ease. That would be 46.5″. Divide by 4. That equals 11.625″. Here is a handy conversion chart. You can see that 0.625 equals 5/8. Measure the waistline of your pattern piece (leave out that 5/8″ seam allowance and the dart!!!) How much more (or less) do you need to equal your waistline? Add (or subtract) this to the side seam, then re-draw the side seam by connecting it to the underarm point.



Your waist measurement: ________

Waist measurement of your pattern piece (leave out the 5/8″ seam allowance and the dart!!!) ______

Subtract your pattern piece waist measurement from your waist measurement: _______

Add or subtract the above amount to the waistline of your pattern piece at the side seam.

Cut out your piece, and then do a happy dance! You have made the bodice front piece in your size! Congrats! After you are finished dancing, trace an extra copy of this piece to keep on file. If it fits you well, you can use it again to design more garments for yourself.


You are now ready for Barcelona Balcony Copycat: Issue 4

Happy Patterning!