Green Swirly Dress – Old Project

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Old Project Review – Full Skirted Dress, British Sewing Bee Book

As summer is on the way I’ve been switching round my wardrobe this weekend.  I dug around the back of my closet and pulled out all my summer clothes including this; my green swirly dress!

Green Swirly Dress

This dress has a real special place in my heart – not only is it made out of this fabulous fabric – it is in fact the second full dress I made and the first item of clothing I felt brave enough to wear out.

I made it just two years ago (spring 2016), which was about 4 months after I bought my first ever sewing machine.  I was still very new to sewing; following instructions line by line and watching youtube tutorials for everything.

So let’s talk about it.

The Pattern

The pattern comes from The Great British Sewing Bee- Sew your own wardrobe book.  This is the second book attached to the bbc series – I’ll write a full review later.  It was the first book that came with paper pattern sheets that you could trace off. The first book came with downloadable, print-and-assemble patterns – which just added pointless hours of work and meant the sizing was really iffy.

Being a new sewer I choose a very easy pattern.  I had first tackled princess seams and invisible zip in the project before this; so I was pretty confident.

The pattern is for a light and girly summer dress; princess seamed bodice, capped sleeves and a very full skirt(not quite a full circle skirt but pretty wide).

The Fabric

Karakusa Fabric

I love this pattern! The bright colours, the graduation affect, the size of the swirls – it really stand out.  According to this blog, the name for it is karakusa, 唐草, or “Chinese Grass”, it depicts intertwined vines and symbolises eternity and a family’s legacy. …

…Although that’s not what my students said when they first saw it.  In Japan burglars are often depicted carrying away their loot in cloth bags with this pattern – always in green!  It’s like I’m wearing black on white stripes or written swag all over myself. I guess that’s the danger of appropriating a culture you don’t really understand – sometimes you just look like a twit!

Oh well!

The fabric is made of that quite tough, hard-wearing cotton used for summer kimonos.  So it was a nice stable fabric for a learner like me but also good for summer here. I also got to try my hand at pattern matching with the colour stripes through the bodice and skirt – and did a pretty good job if I do say so myself.

The only negative was this fabric is just a little too stiff for this pattern.  In the original picture the little cap sleeves drape neatly over the shoulders – but mine kind of stick straight out


This book was very easy to follow.  Here are some pictures from the construction.  For some reason I decided to use whisky and a drill for pattern weights.  

I made this dress before I bought my overlocker or realised the importance of neatening my seams – and while the fabric is fraying somewhat the cotton is holding up rather well.


For the hem and arm opening I made my own bias binding – and hated it so much! It was so fidderly, mostly because I didn’t really know how to attach it properly.  However I do think it’s probably the best technique for a wide skirt such as this.

Most blogs recommend the fold-up method for hemming skirts, but unless it’s basically a straight skirt that means you’re going to be trying to fold a wider length into a narrower one.  That leads to bunching up and folding which can usually be hidden but it just doesn’t look very neat. One day I’ll find a better way to do it.


I do really like this dress.  While I’ve improved a lot since I made it and could knit-pick mistakes in it all day it was a real milestone for me as a home sewer.  If/when I ever leave Japan I’ll certainly be taking it with me.

Would I make it again?

This was a very simple pattern that fits beautifully.  I’ve moved onto bigger and better things but I would definitely recommend this to someone just starting out.


1 comments on “Green Swirly Dress – Old Project”

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