A Cora dress: more than the sum of its parts

Megan, (meggipeg) and Katherine (sewblooms) and I meet up from time to time and we like to have a joint sewing project to keep us interested. Katherine had a book, Fashion Pattern Cutting by Zarida Zaman, which she lent us to get some inspiration and which led to each of us creating a garment with some interesting pattern cutting.

book cover showing the title and a blouse.

I really liked the idea of a simple rectangle inserted into the body of a top or jacket.

page from book showing a top with a rectangle insert.

I had a play with this idea when I was at our holiday place. I used a piece of leftover sheeting from my Zero Waste Playsuit and used the free Pattern Union Maisie pattern because it’s a really simple shape and doesn’t have darts, making my life so much easier.

I used my Kindle to determine the shape of the insert

pattern piece with a kindle laid on it as a template

Having drawn round the kindle on the pattern, I then put in several notches and numbered them on both sides so that I’d be able to add the insert back in easily.

pattern pieces showing a top front with an insert

The pattern piece looked a bit like this – all I had to do now was add a seam allowance in to both the cutout and the insert, snipping the notches, of course.

spotted fabric showing insert decorated with red running stitch in a cross hatch design. Red running stitch round hems

I decided to do some simple running stitches in red embroidery floss just to add some interest. I am beginning to find such hand stitching really therapeutic.

woman wearing top from spotted fabric with insert inset. Red running stitch decorating insert and hems

Once I tried the top on I realised that my insert was perhaps too small to be effective, but I now had a good idea about what I wanted to do.

woman wearing top with insert

I began to plan the next one and decided I would have two inserts, both of which would be placed across the side seams. I also wanted to use my beloved Pattern Union Cora pattern, which has darts which would need to be rotated out.

I was going to see Sarah of Pattern Union fame about something else but had a basket full of contrasting and coordinating fabrics. We went through them all and found three which we thought would be perfect for my new Cora. It needs to be said here that Sarah did a course with Shingo Sato, the famous designer behind the Transformational Reconstruction Technique and we’d often talked about her teaching me some of the principles, so it seemed as though the time was nigh!

First we needed a design. I talked Sarah through what I wanted (angles, pattern across the seams) and she added a few ideas and we finished up with this – slightly more complex than my initial ideas!

line drawing of proposed dress, front and back view

A Cora dress was then made from calico and I put it on so that Sarah could transfer our design to it.

There are a few things to notice here – we added a pocket (red lines), all those notches and we had to go back in and choose which fabrics were going to be used where and mark the fabric accordingly – this was rather critical.

The calico dress was cut up and used as the pattern. The F on the pattern pieces here do not denote “front”, but rather “flowers”. Each of these seam lines needs to have seam allowances added, which I find quite tedious as I don’t trust myself to do it by eye.

The sleeves use a striped border print and look very similar but they aren’t.

sleeves with pattern pieces on them, showing shape of the shoulders

and the last piece of fabric is a beautiful blue chambray.

blue chambray with shapes cut out

It all looks like a hot mess, but Sarah calmly guided me through it, although I had some real head scratching moments.

I wasn’t that calm though as this little video of several photos shows – my hysteria mounted! Sarah entertained herself by taking a series of photos. I look like I’m laughing, but trust me, I was crying inside!

I managed to get the dress finished, adding a band of the border from the brown striped fabric to the sleeves and bottom of the dress. I can’t tell you how much I love it, how much I learned and how much I almost enjoyed the process!

At the beginning I said that Katherine had suggested that she, Megan and I complete a garment using Katherine’s book as inspiration, so we had a meetup coffee and did a photo shoot. Here are the results. Megan used the Pauline Alice Xerea dress, cleverly inserting shapes around the style lines, and Katherine used the Style Arc Rosie top, making the top from contrasting linen and sewing a circle in the centre, which I really love.

We took the photos in Kings Park, above the city and it was a most magnificent day, with views that rather eclipsed our makes!

Some closeups of my dress – that pocket slipped into the seam line is there, but it’s not at all obvious unless I have my hand in it!

A few more views. The inserts are asymmetrical so no two views of my dress are the same.

The last photo above shows the fabric best – flowers, stripes with gold embroidered border, and plain blue chambray. All fabric is from Woven Stories Textiles.

One of the things I found really confronting about this dress is that I used three big remnants, each of which would have made a garment on their own. However, as the title of this post states, this dress became more than the sum of its parts and it wouldn’t have been nearly as good had I tried to cut it out of scraps.

I’m also wearing my Shoe Camaraderie Astrid Sandals, which I think are my most worn sandals. They seem to go with everything!

Just showing the dress when I’m seated. It is wide enough that it doesn’t ride up my legs when I sit down, so it’s very easy and comfortable to wear.

dress shown seated

This dress ticks so many boxes for me, not least because it is going to be my entry into the SewOver50 Pattern Mixing challenge, as well as the Magamsewalong (make a garment a month) Multi March challenge. It is also going to be part of my March Makes for the Month. These are all Instagram challenges, and I do enjoy them.


22 thoughts on “A Cora dress: more than the sum of its parts

    1. It was not as hard as you might think. The underarm is the same, I just wrapped the top of the sleeve into the dress. If you look at it when I’m wearing the calico toile, you’ll see the pattern drawn on, and then it was cut out as a pattern piece. Does that make sense? basically the seam line was absorbed into the pattern piece.

  1. Beautifully done, Sue! The chambray is perfect with the floral fabric. I love how you “almost” enjoyed the process. It was all worth it in the end, though, because the result is really something to be proud of!

  2. Wow! What a process! Sarah certainly likes to keep you challenged!😂
    We all know that ‘it’s not wasted till it’s wasted’ so the rather greedy fabric consumption is fine; especially as you are so adept at using up leftovers.
    Is that a Frugal frock I spy too?…😉

  3. Hello Sue,
    Really great your new dress and the shirt with the dots.
    The bands on the sleeves and at the bottom of the dress are really nice.
    It is reminiscent of a sari.
    But also great looks the patchwork dress you wear in the video.

    1. Thank you Regina! The bands do look a bit sari like, and the fabric is Indian, so perhaps it’s part of a sari. The patchwork dress is yet to be revealed!

  4. OMG! I saw this post on IG this morning and WHY did I never realize you had a blog? I am dying right now LOL! I am in LOVE with this, I have been into chopping up patterns recently. Ive been dreaming of inserting large shapes, small shapes ALL the shapes! this is 100% where my current focus is. Ive started on a much smaller scale then what you’ve done here, but I have SO many ideas it is SO inspiring to see that they can be possible! Thank You! I find your creativity SO inspiring! Much Luv! now I need to go back and read the rest of this post lol, I got too excited and commented before reading its entirety!

  5. What a challenge, I would have been in tears and it is always interesting how we feel after such a challenge, excited and well deserved.

    This dress has so many wonderful angles and colours and can see you wearing it with a lot of joy.

  6. This looked like a labor of love, and it paid off beautifully! Both dresses are lovely, and the blue rectangle dress design is literally stunning. (I love the patchwork dress you are wearing while you work on it, too!)

    1. It was a labour of something! I am so pleased with this dress and can see that I will wear it a lot, it’s so easy. The patchwork dress can’t be revealed until 31 March!

    1. Thank you so much. I think there is a sari border – the fabric was striped cotton with this border on it and I had a remnant. I bought it at a shop that only sells Indian fabric (my favourite kind) so it’s possible that it was a sari.

  7. Sue, this is absolutely amazing! Wearable art, and so great to see the process to get to the finished dress. I love Megan and Katherine’s versions too.

  8. Hmm, I hadn’t thought about how wasteful (of fabric) this process would be. You’ll have to whip our some more zero waste projects to compensate!

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