Your thoughts from The Dressmakers Ball

Wow! We have had so much lovely feedback about the Ball – thanks everyone, it really made all the hard work worth it!

We though it would be nice to bring together a little round up of a selection of Bloggers and Vloggers sharing their experiences of the Ball…

Emily from Self Assembly Required tells us more about her fabulous royal blue jumpsuit



Helen from Stitch my Style shares her winning make and how she made it


Sian from Kittenish Behaviour shares her experiences in the run up to and at the ball!


Diane from Dreamcutsew shares details about making her fabulous gold ball gown


Bianca from Sleepless in Bavaria shares her beautiful pink sequin dress…


And a lovely bag tutorial – why not start getting ready for next year super early!

(… Yes, I did say next year…!)

bow bag

A huge thanks to our wonderful photographer for the evening Tara Lydon. Find more of her work at TKL Photography.

Thanks for all your wonderful support, please do keep sharing your fantastic experiences at The Dressmakers Ball. We can’t wait to see you at future sewing events.

Happy sewing!

Sarah and the team at Crafty Sew&So x

Girl with a Sewing Machine by Jenniffer Taylor – book review 

Jenniffer Taylor is best known as a contestant on The Great British Sewing Bee.

Since staring in the show, Jenny has been taking her #FashionRevolution message around the country and we had a great day when she visited Crafty Sew&So for a refreshing dayShe very kindly gave us the first ever signed copy of her new book, “Girl with a sewing machine”, to give away as a raffle prize at The Dressmakers Ball! 

I decided to take a look at the book before we gave it away and I really wish I could keep it as it has some fantastic projects and ideas for beginners and established stitchers alike. 
She begins by running through all the sewing room essentials you might need with a charming photograph of her sewing room and detailed descriptions of each tool and what they can be used for. Watch out for some surprising and innovative uses for everyday items! 

Most of the projects use up-cycled and recycled clothing and fabrics. Making this book a unique, interesting and very relevant read. I’m sure you have bits of old fabric or garments that have passed their useful life as they are or you have simply got bored of in their current form, Jenny encourages us to look at these items in a new light. 

She also touches on ideas for embellishing and mending your clothes. I particularly like the use lace doilies as embellishments on clothing – she has even used beautiful embroidered vintage handkerchiefs and table covers to make a whole top!

She includes some lovely ideas for adding embroidery to garments which is very on trend. 

She includes a body measuring guide which is detailed and easy to follow. 

My favourite project is the snood and mittens set, I definitely want to try making these for autumn. 

I think I’ll have a go at the wraparound trousers too, they look so comfy and I love the green linen she’s made them in. 

You can get hold of a copy of Jenniffer Taylors book from 31st May at all good bookshops. 

The Eve Appeal

It’s the last day of ticket sales for The Dressmakers Ball- if you haven’t got your ticket yet, don’t delay!

We’re working with McCalls and Vogue Patterns and The Cocktail Hour to raise money for The Eve Appeal at the Ball.  The Eve Appeal is the only UK national charity raising awareness and funding research in the five gynaecological cancers – ovarian, womb, cervical, vaginal and vulval.

McCalls have organised ‘The Cocktail Hour’ to raise money, which fits so perfectly with The Dressmakers Ball we had to get involved too-

The latest promotion, ‘The Cocktail Hour’, sees 20 designs chosen from the Vogue Patterns range for a new social sew-along. Both new and experienced sewists are invited to choose a pattern – a donation is made to The Eve Appeal for every pattern sold – and sew a wonderful outfit as part of the sew-along, and if they choose, throw a cocktail party to show off their creation. We’ve even created an Eve cocktail recipe! – The Eve Appeal Website

To help raise money we are donating all the money taken from the sale of tickets for entry in to the prize draw we are running on the evening and £1 from each ‘The Dressmaker’ Cocktail sold on the evening.  To wet your appetite for the the prize draw, I’ve got a sneak peak of some of the amazing prizes our lovey sponsors have provided for the event-

The lovely Jenniffer Taylor is giving us the very first signed copy of her brand new book, Girl with a Sewing Machine!  This isn’t going to be officially published until the end of May so the winner will be a lucky sewer indeed!

Girl with a Sewing Machine Cover3.indd

photo credit- Search Press

Girl Charlee are donating a tote bag full of yummy fabrics and a selection of their sewing badges for one lucky winner.

Girl Charlee prize

Minerva Crafts have donated beautiful sewing box, perfect for storing your sewing bits and pieces.

minerva crafts prize

Love Sewing Magazine are donating not one, but three 6 month subscriptions to their lovely magazine.

love sewing May 2017

Photo credit- Love Sewing

Fabric Godmother are giving away a gift voucher for their online shop.

fabric godmother

Craft Stash have donated a £50 voucher for their shop- you can buy a lovely range of dressmaking patterns from their webshop.


McCalls have sent us a selection of The Cocktail Hour patterns and a signed pattern by the iconic Zandra Rhodes!

mccalls prize

And saving the best for last- Brother are giving one lucky ticket holder a Sewing Machine! The Innov-is 15 is a computerised sewing machine, ideal for Dressmaking, quilting and crafts!  We’ve used this machine in our workshops at Crafty Sew&So and think its the bee-knees!

 brother-innov-is-15-sewing-machine Sale of tickets to The Dressmakers Ball close TONIGHT! Head over to our website to book yours now and avoid missing out on the dressmaking event of the season.

The Dressmakers Ball- Who’s Sponsoring?

We’ve had a lot of fun organising The Dressmakers Ball, including working with other sewing shops and companies to put together an amazing selection of goodies for everyone who is attending!  Sponsors are all contributing to the goodie bags, which every ticket gets free, and many are also providing an amazing prize to the Prize Draw happening on the evening, raising money for The Eve Appeal.


So, first up, of course, is us!  Crafty Sew&So is a fabric shop and sewing studio in the heart of Leicester City Centre. We sell quality fabrics and haberdashery, and run workshops for all abilities.

We’re giving every attendee a ‘Start as you mean to sew on!’ cotton tote bag, which we’re stuffing with goodies from the other sponsors and a Crafty Sew & So pen!


Minerva Crafts is a family run business born out of a love for sewing! We have over 100,000 products in stock and specialise in dressmaking fabrics, sewing patterns and haberdashery.

Minerva Crafts are including a fabric bundle in each goodie bag and providing a voucher for the prize draw!


Girl Charlee are an online specialist retailer for knit fabrics offering high quality, exclusive prints you wont find anywhere else.  take a look at the wide selection of beautiful fabrics at

Girl Charlee has given us a fun badge for the goodie bags and a tote bag full of fabrics for the prize draw!


Prym is Germany’s oldest family owned business, with a reputation for high-quality metal products, and today, we offer an even wider range of products: from press fasteners to high-tech microelectronic components.

Prym have provided a small gift for the goodie bags.


Sew is the UK’s best-selling and most fashionable sewing magazine, providing inspiration for you, your home and the little ones.

Sew Magazine are giving us a copy of the latest addition of the magazine for each goodie bag- hot off the press that day!


Abakhan are sponsoring the cocktail of the night! Enjoy a Dressmaker Cocktail from the bar.

BrotherlogoBrother are providing a brand new Innov-is 15 sewing machine for The Eve Appeal prize draw!  We’re big fans of this machine at Crafty Sew & So, and one lucky winner will be taking one home with them on the evening!


Vogue patterns ‘The Cocktail Hour’ are also sponsoring the the ball and we’re supporting their fundraising for The Eve Appeal.  Vogue have provided a cope of Sew Today magazine for the goodie bags and copies of a selection of The Cocktail Hour vogue patterns for the prize draw!


You’ll also receive discounts and flyers from The Sewmance Festival, CocoWawa Patterns Jenniffer Taylors NEW book, and By Hand London! I can’t wait!!!

Freya x

INSPIRATION FOR THE DRESSMAKERS BALL- Rach at Rach against the Machine

In the run up to The Dressmakers Ball, we’re bringing you some inspiration and advice on making yourself the ball gown of your dreams!  You can go as complicated or as simple as you like for the ball- dresses in simple shapes offer the chance to really show off a fabulous fabric, while more complicated patterns offer a fun challenge to more confident sewers.  Whatever you chose to make and wear, we cant wait to see you in it!

Today we have Rachel Wain, who blogs at Rach Against The Sewing Machine, has sewn the Colette Rue dress.

This is a lovely dress that has some really interesting design details.  The front seams can be joined as normal, you could insert piping to break up your fabric pattern, or just to make things more interesting if you think your fabric is a bit plain.

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I recommend making a toile just to make sure the design lines of the bodice hit you in the right place.  It is possible to grade between sizes even though there are seams on the front.  I graded from an 8 from my bust through to a 12 for my waist and hips.
Construction is really simple; just make sure you pay attention to getting your pleats even at the front.  The instructions for inserting the full lining are really detailed; it’s the first time I’ve fully lined anything and I found it really easy.


As with anything, my main tip is to take your time and make sure you’re doing things properly; especially if you’re wearing it for a special occasion! I hand stitched the hem because I thought it deserved that extra bit of time and care.
The only place I deviated from the pattern was to top stitch around the neckline to keep everything tucked in and neat.   Bonus feature about the pattern… in seam pockets!

Suitable fabrics:
You could make Rue in a crepe de chine, which would drape and give it a real “swish” factor:

This spotty fabric will be beautiful as a swishy dress.



Or go classic with this gorgeous rose printed Liberty cotton!





In the run up to The Dressmakers Ball, we’re bringing you some inspiration and advice on making yourself the ball gown of your dreams!  You can go as complicated or as simple as you like for the ball- dresses in simple shapes offer the chance to really show off a fabulous fabric, while more complicated patterns offer a fun challenge to more confident sewers.  Whatever you chose to make and wear, we cant wait to see you in it!

Our very own Sarah made this dress from 8113 by Cynthia Rowley for Simplicity for our trip to Monaco last September!

I made this dress for a work trip to Monaco which included a Gala dinner event. I wanted to create a dress which was comfortable as we’d be sitting down to eat dinner, and cool, but most of all really stunning!

I chose “view A” which I thought had a hint of Grecian styling to it.

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I used purple crepe which was beautiful to work with and held it’s shape really well with very few creases after being transported in hand luggage. The dress had a fairly gathered skirt and the weight of the crepe helped the gathers hang and drape rather than bulge.

I used gold satin for the waistband and yoke which extends to the front of the shoulders of the dress. I wasn’t sure if I might end up looking a bit like a bar of dairy milk, but I love the finished result!

I embroidered the waistband on our Brother Innovis V5 sewing and embroidery machine. I used 2 shades of purple thread and a design from Urban Threads. They have really great designs for modern embroideries.

Photo 13-01-2017, 17 02 10 (1).jpg

I hemmed the bottom by first stitching around the hem 0.7cm from the raw edge then turning the hem up once, then I trimmed the raw edge to a few millimetres then turned the hem again to create a beautiful neat finish which I am really happy with.

Instead of using the facings provided in the pattern, I decided to fully line the bodice in self fabric instead of using the facing provided, this created a lovely smooth finish with no lumpy bits.  I also opted not to put pockets to keep the skirt smooth.


Our luxury triple crepe is perfect for this pattern, as it has a little weight to it and drapes beautifully!  We have a few different colours avalible of this on our website.

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We have this gorgeous crepe-backed satin in four different colours on our website!

blue crepe

Sew Your Accessories: Bow Belt

The Dressmakers Ball is an opportunity for you to show off your sewing skills, but if you don’t feel confident enough to sew a whole dress, why not stitch yourself a beautiful accessory or two instead?  I’m going to be heavily pregnant at the ball, so I’m avoiding making a dress which may not fit.  Instead I’ve made myself a couple of fun accessories to go with a beautiful RTW maternity dress- including this simple bow belt.  Adding DIY accessories is a quick way to add a handmade touch to any outfit.

You will need:

  • 1/4m of your chosen fabric
  • 1/4m of lightweight fusable interfacing if using a soft material (like I have)
  • Snap Fastening
  • Basic Sewing Kit
  • Sewing Machine


Step 1: Make the Belt

Measure your waist (or your empire line/ under bust of you’re also pregnant) over a light t-shirt and add 2″.  Cut out a strip of your chosen fabric that length by 5″ wide and the same of your interfacing.

Fuse your interfacing to the wrong side of your fabric.


Fold your fabric in half, with the long sides together and sew along that side to create a tube.  Use a 1/4 seam allowance (lining up the edge of the fabric with the edge of your foot and the needle to the far left.)


Turn one end of the tube through a couple of inches and stitch in one side of the snap fastening to the right side of the fabric, aprox 1″ away from the raw edge.  Sew it to the side of the tube with a seam running down it- not how it is in the photo!  Sew up the end and turn the tube right way out using a long stick or thick knitting needle.  you might need to trim off any excess length at this point.



Wrap the belt around your waist and use the snap fastening, now on the outside, to mark where the other side needs to sit- aprox 1″ from the other end.  Fold over the open end of the belt twice, using 1/4″ each time and sew closed.  This is going to sit underneath the other end, so it wont be visible once finished.

Step 2: Make the Bow

Cut a piece of both fabric and interfacing 6″ x 10″, fuse together to the wrong side of the fabric and sew in half along the long edge.  Turn right side out then iron Flat with the seam in the centre.


Sew the two raw ends together in to a loop, with the seam from the previous step on the outside, then turn all seams to the inside, centring the new seam and press flat.

Step 3: Sew the Middle Band

Cut a piece of fabric and interfacing 3″ x4.5″.  Fuse then fold in half and sew along the longer edge again.  Turn this little tube right sides out, pressing the seam in to the centre.

Wrap this middle band around the belt at the centre point, pinch it in tight enough to fit one finger in between it and the belt.  Sew the loop closed, trim excess fabric and turn so the seam in on the inside.

Push the bow through this loop and even up both sides.



All done- perfect for dressing up an old dress for the Ball!


Freya x

Inspiration for The Dressmakers Ball- Elle at Sew Positivity.

In the run up to The Dressmakers Ball, we’re bringing you some inspiration and advice on making yourself the ball gown of your dreams!  You can go as complicated or as simple as you like for the ball- dresses in simple shapes offer the chance to really show off a fabulous fabric, while more complicated patterns offer a fun challenge to more confident sewers.  Whatever you chose to make and wear, we cant wait to see you in it!

Today we have Elle, from Sew Positivity sharing with us a dress review which she made recently for a wedding-


If you are looking for that illusive pattern that can be sewn up for casual day wear but adapted to make you look like Cinderella for partying in, then the Cambie is the holy grail. With its fitted bodice, beautiful sweetheart neckline, and flattering cap sleeves it will have your prince (or princess) charming completely blown away. It also has pockets in both views so you can stash your mobile so you don’t miss your pumpkin carriage.

Although the construction is fully lined don’t let this put you off if you are new to the technique. There is picture rich sewalong available of the Sewaholic blog to hold your hand, and you can always skip the skirt lining if you are using an opaque fabric. I personally love that the finished dress is as beautiful inside as out, which if you are sneaky like me can be worn as a reversible dress giving you the chance to do a quick outfit change mid party.

I have made 3 Cambie dresses with my Liberty lawn bodice and Stoff and Stil tulle skirt being my favourite. To create the lining I used view A and modified the pattern to remove the pockets and sewed it up in some beautiful molten silver satin. It is important to remember that the lining needed its right side facing outwards in this scenario as tulle is sheer and you don’t want visible seam lines.

Using skirt view B as a guide and layering shorter and shorter layers of tulle created the ombre tulle skirt. I used 9 layers of this soft swishy tulle and it makes me feel super special wherever I wear it.

Although View A can be sewn up in a verity of more structured wovens such as quilting cotton or even baby cord I very much suggest using fabric with drapey qualities for the view B skirt such as viscose, tulle or a silky cotton lawn.

Recommendation of fabric to sew it up in:

Stoff and stil soft tulle (colours used heather, rose and powder) 

Liberty tana lawn (Kevin in grey) 

Blue Cosmo spotted viscose from Crafty Sew & So

This review was originally published in Sew Now Magazine and has been used with permission.

Inspiration for The Dressmakers Ball- Gabby at Gabberdashery.

In the run up to The Dressmakers Ball, we’re bringing you some inspiration and advice on making yourself the ball gown of your dreams!  You can go as complicated or as simple as you like for the ball- dresses in simple shapes offer the chance to really show off a fabulous fabric, while more complicated patterns offer a fun challenge to more confident sewers.  Whatever you chose to make and wear, we cant wait to see you in it!

Today we have Gabby, from  blog Gabberdashery and our entertainer at The Dressmakers Ball, sharing with us a  review of a dress pattern she has used many times!


I chose the Emery Dress by Christine Haynes as it’s such a versatile style and perfect to dance in for those of you looking for a more relaxed, shorter party dress. It is so easy to make and Christine’s amazing instructions make it very beginner friendly. The bodice is fully lined which is a great skill to learn to use in any similar dress.

I used a kids single duvet cover I picked up for £1 from a car boot sale and although pattern placement was challenging with such a big print it has such a big impact and has become one of my go-to stage dresses to perform in!

This pattern can be made to look really casual or super smart depending on the occasion and there are optional longer sleeves if you want too. There are so many things to love about this dress including hidden in seam pockets and I  didn’t have to alter the fit at all which is a huge bonus in my book!


The pattern recommends lightweight woven fabrics so my three picks for a party dress would be:
Red Broderie Anglaise from Minerva Crafts
Printed Cotton Twill from Fabric Godmother
Floral Cotton Lawn from Fabric Godmother

This review was originally published in Sew Now Magazine and has been used with permission.

What’s in Freya’s Sewing Box?

  • We thought it would be fun to share with you a peek inside our sewing tool boxes, mostly because we love being nosy, and thought you might be interested too.  Today, Freya is going to show you what she uses at home.

I found this beautiful wooden sewing box in a Nottingham vintage shop a couple of years ago, for the bargain price of £16, and happily clutched it to my chest the whole train ride home (I’m sure I looked like a loony).  Since then it has happily housed a large portion of my sewing equipment.  Confession- these photos were taken after I had cleaned and tidied my sewing box- there is no way my stuff is usually this tidy!


Lets take a look inside!


I try my hardest to use the different compartments to keep my bits organised.  In the photo above, you can see my miscellaneous section, it is at the top of the box and holds all the things I need relatively quick access too, like snip scissors, marking tool and different feet.  I got my walking foot for christmas two years ago and haven’t used it an awful lot, but it has come in handy when I was making blankets this Christmas, to stop the two fabrics slipping.

The next layer down in the above photo is my collection of buttons and buckles and fastening  off all types.


The large bottom layer holds my elastics and my bias binding- I bought a whole reel of black and white last year and its lasting me ages!  You can also find my old rotary cutter, Hogwarts badges, a pencil case, a spare pin cushion, frey stop and a heart shaped yo-yo maker.  You know, the essentials!


Both layers on the other side of my box holds my threads, including some I’ve inherited from my husband’s Grandmother, a stray hair bobble (they get everywhere!), old tailors chalks and my pressing cloth.

Things like fabric and patterns are kept on shelves in my front room, where I do the majority of my home sewing.  I’ve got a nice big dining table and space to spread out, usually accompanied by my cats and occasionally by my husband as he works on his MA.

Freya x