Tuesday, 15 January 2013

An Oldie but a Goodie

(That's if you call 2011 old)
We were planning a holiday on a remote Scottish Island two years ago. I didn't blog then, but thought you might like to read this. The cottage we had booked was an ancient drover's cottage positioned on a rocky point of the island.  It used to be a port for cattle to be rounded up towards, and they were then tethered up and swam to the next island, walked across that one, then swam to the mainland, ready for a long walk towards the highland cattle markets!  The cottage only has a bath and no shower, the water is brown as it comes from pipelines on the island, there were minimal conveniences - no phone or TV or wifi - just electricity for cooking, heating and lighting and a lovely log burning fire.
We loved it! The remoteness, the rustic living, and the simple basics.
We had planned to do some walks and some drives on the island as well as some fishing.  I had planned to be all domestic and do knitting by the fireside, read, play board games and do all the cooking myself! It's not often that I can spend all day fiddling over the evening meal, and I had built up a collection of "Want to Try One Rainy Day" recipes that would be perfect for Autumn cottage living.
So, apart from all this, there was something else I wanted to do....ssshhh.....come closer......it's my guilty little secret that I don't tell any of my real friends but feel safe in sharing with my online friends....here it is....
I wish I lived in the past. I wish I could wear period costumes in the day time.  I wish I could go for walks and do the cooking in a hoop skirt.
And so I decided that I would!  We would be so secluded that nobody would see.  So I bought a sewing pattern online, went to the fabric shop and chose some lovely material, and I began a massive sewing task! My Mr thought I was a bit silly but I didn't mind.

Simplicity 3727

Here is some of the review that I've written onto the Pattern Review website.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?
My sleeves don't appear as gathered as the ones on the envelope, they are definitely pleats, but I don't mind, I really like the sharp look they give. But I did iron them in, you could probably just not press them.
Were the instructions easy to follow?
Yes, very easy to follow.  Lots of details too.
What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
I liked everything about it.  There was a lot of hand sewing involved though, but I guess it is trying to be as authentic as possible, which is probably a good idea.  The skirt pleats took ages but they do look amazing and I can't imagine them working as well done any other way.
Fabric Used:
A shiny, jacquard curtain fabric from Dunelm Mill.  I tried hard to match the patterns on the bodice and sleeves.
Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:
I didn't add the trim at all, as I felt that the dress was pretty impressive as it is, and didn't need any embellishments on me.  I did buy brown velvet ribbon but decided not to use it here.
These are the  only change I made: First on the white sleeves.  Instead of attaching them to the dress, I put elastic in the hem and wear them snug around my upper arm. This way they are unattached and can be easily washed.  I also didn't attach the collar, but instead just tuck it in and it stays quite well.
Second was the opening at the front. It gaped a little where the hook and eye closures were, so I hand stitched a length of the brown velvet ribbon to the inside of the hooks so that if you do get a peek, at least you aren't seeing the corset underneath, just the brown velvet instead.
Third change was the pillow bustle.  I did make this, but when I wore it, I didn't think it was flattering at all, so it's in the cupboard.  I am fairly well endowed in the hip and bottom area so was able to get away with just emphasising the thin waist and relied on the hoop petticoat I got from ebay to give it all the sticky-outy-ness it needed.
Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
I'd like to do the bodice again but without the high neck or sleeves.  If I made just the bodice and small bell sleeves, then it could be worn with the skirt as an evening gown.  That way I'd get more wear out of it.
Love it! Loved making it and more than that, I love wearing it.

So finally, here are some photos of me on the Isle of Mull, Scotland.  Please scroll down, as there are a quite a few.


  1. Nessa - that vacation sounds absolutely wonderful! I think I'm a bit jealous. Did you wear the dress the entire time? You look lovely and relaxed and quite at home in the dress and those surroundings. g

    1. Thank you so much! No, I didn't wear the dress every day. But I wish I could have! Some days we went on long walks so I had to wear sensible wet-weather clothes. But I did get to wear it on the days when our walking clothes were drying off and we were staying in the cottage whilst reading, knitting, cooking. Maybe 4 out of 7 days!!!

  2. Gosh that is fabulous, you look like you can be in a movie of a Victorian novel. fantastic and what fun. Perfect for the setting. I think you have a future in doing other period dress.

    1. Thanks so much for your lovely comment Beth! I really wish I was in a novel actually - it was great getting to wear it for no other reason than for my own enjoyment. I think we should all do things like that more often.

  3. I found your blog through Pattern Review (to the M6503 dresses you made). I thought you seemed pretty cool. Now I see this and I kind of adore you. :) What a rad idea this is! Oh, and now I want to go on vacation with you.

    1. Aww, thanks for your fun message Meg! This blogging malarky is a powerful medium to bring Kindred Spirits together! Hope you get to do the same thing too one day!

  4. Wow Nessa, this is amazing! How did you manage the hoop (especially through doorways) and was the skirt drafty in those cool Scottish winds? It makes me want to get out of my boring jeans and dress with more thought and effort.

    1. Ha ha! The draftiness was avoided by wearing leggings underneath, and the hoops are pretty bendable so doorways were ok. The cottage was pretty small so not too many doors to navigate through. Thanks for your kind comments Michelle.

  5. Hi Nessa! I found you also through Pattern Review for Butterick 5747 (very pretty dress btw. Thanks for the review)...

    This sounds like the best vacation ever. What a brilliant idea, if you don't mind, I may have to shamelessly copy you. :) Thank you!

  6. This is an amazing idea. The dress is gorgeous, and fits in with the look of the cottage so well. Have you worn it since? I was a little kid in the 1950's, and I remember some of the older girls getting on the school bus with those big 1950 skirts; some were wearing hoops underneath to hold the skirt out. Always interesting to watch them maneuver! My mom just put about 10 crinolines and petticoats under my dress to get the same effect. Worked, but boy, were they scratchy. (I just found your blog this morning, so I have a lot of catching up to do!)

  7. I love this! I knew we were kindred spirits. I secretly always wanted to live in the past as well. (More of an upstairs in downton abby type haha) What a great Idea. You are so talented! You looked amazing like rightout of a Jane Austin novel.


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