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The Pirate Cambie returns!

January 21, 2014

Folks: I hate alterations.  Even really simple stuff.  I mean, it’s so boring, right?!  Seriously, I’m with Marie when she says ‘once a make is done, it’s done!’.  Like Marie, I would rather make something again from scratch than faff around with unpicking it and trying to sort it out.

But here is one exception: my Sewaholic Pirate Cambie dress, made last year.  Man, I love this dress.  The fabric, the style…everything about it.  Apart from the fact it’s too big!  I just couldn’t bear to see it hanging in my wardrobe, unwearable, and I wasn’t about to try and fatten up in order to wear it!

I knew I had to do something with it, but I also knew it wouldn’t just be as simple as taking it in a bit at the side seams, so, one weekend when Julia was here, I got her to pin it where it needed taking in, and let’s see….well….it needed taking in at the shoulders, at the side, at the top, at the back, under the bust…erm just about everywhere!

I was faced with the nightmarish prospect of a) unpicking the whole dress b) having to alter not only the main fabric but the full lining as well.  I wasn’t exactly thrilled.  Julia offered to help me unpick the dress, which was very kind, especially seeing as most of the seams were overlocked as well as stitched.  That is a LOT of unpicking!  At the time, I only had one seam ripper, so we took it in turns to unpick as much as we could stand to in one go!

We didn’t get it all unpicked that weekend, but eventually over the next few weeks I forced myself to get the lining and main dress completely detached, the skirt/waistband and skirt/waistband lining removed from the bodice, the zip unpicked, and the bodice and its lining completely taken to pieces, even with the darts unpicked.  It then stayed like that in a plastic bag for a few months whilst I built up the willpower to tackle it.

Bodice and lining and zip all unpicked.

Bodice and lining and zip all unpicked.

The alterations I needed to make were too numerous, so I decided to trace a size smaller from the original pattern and use the existing pre-cut pieces, and re-sew them up a size smaller.

To ensure I could do this accurately, I used a trick learned from my pattern cutting class: I traced the new size, removed the seam allowance, and then thread traced around the pattern piece onto the fabric.  This way I could see exactly where I would need to match up the seams, and I wouldn’t have to worry about seam allowance.  It was also a very convenient way of marking the darts (I did have to adapt the front pattern piece to a single layer however, rather than on-the-fold).

Front pattern piece with seam allowance removed

Front pattern piece with seam allowance removed

Seam lines and darts thread traced onto the fabric for guidance

Seam lines and darts thread traced onto the fabric for guidance

I really struggled to keep motivated with this alteration.  I resented having to spend hours and hours working on a dress I already made last year.  I spent longer on this alteration than I did making the damn thing in the first place!  I kept having to force myself to work on it, and I procrastinated a lot by finding other things to do instead…but eventually, at long, long last, I finished it.  My first words to the husband as I emerged from the sewing room were: “I’ve f*cking done it!”, followed shortly after by a tweet to Julia saying ‘Thank f*cking f*ck, I’ve finally finished my alterations!’  Can you tell I was relieved?!

The finished dress!

The finished dress!

But was it worth it?  YES! TOTALLY YES!  The fact that I did keep on with it is testament to how much I love this dress.  The fit is better – not perfect, mind, because I used the straight-out-of-the-packet size – but most importantly, I can wear it again!  I wore it the very next day in fact, and received many compliments on it!



How do you other sewists feel about alterations?  Love them or hate them?

  1. January 21, 2014 4:09 pm

    I hate alterations! Well done on getting round to tackling the alterations needed for this dress, it would have been a shame to let such great fabric go unworn.

    • tabathatweedie permalink*
      January 22, 2014 12:54 am

      It definitely would. It was a drag to do it but I’m so pleased I did!

  2. January 21, 2014 4:12 pm

    Wow! I am impressed with your commitment to making this work! I couldn’t have mustered up the enthusiasm for all that unpicking! Totally worth it though, it looks great on you

    • tabathatweedie permalink*
      January 22, 2014 12:55 am

      Thanks. It was a labour of love!

  3. January 21, 2014 4:29 pm

    This dress was definately worth all the effort, it looks fab and what’s not to love about pirate fabric! I so hear you re alterations, they suck my will to live. I recently turned up a pair of trousers that had been lying for a year – I think it took about 20 minutes!

    • tabathatweedie permalink*
      January 22, 2014 12:56 am

      It’s weird isn’t it? We can sew but we all seem to hate alterations!

  4. January 21, 2014 5:10 pm

    I have a few knit tops that I made too large and really need to sit and DEAL with, so I completely understand your pain. All of your hard work was definitely worth it. Thanks for talking us through the process. I’m sure it will inspire a ton of us!!
    You look gorgeous in your pirate dress!!

    • tabathatweedie permalink*
      January 22, 2014 12:57 am

      Thanks! Hope you get round to sorting your tops out soon!

  5. January 21, 2014 6:29 pm

    Wahoooo congratulations!!! What a relief for you! It looks fantastic. I hate alterations too. I refuse to do them. I just try to not gain or lose weight so my clothes stay just right. How stubborn of me eh? Hehe

    • tabathatweedie permalink*
      January 22, 2014 12:58 am

      I think that’s a brilliant idea!

  6. January 21, 2014 6:35 pm

    I bow before your patience on reworking this awesomesauce dress! 🙂 I am firmly in the “hate alterations” camp…so firmly in fact, that I would have NEVER in a million years taken this on, regardless of how much I loved it.

    • tabathatweedie permalink*
      January 22, 2014 12:59 am

      I wouldn’t do it for any other dress. I just really, really love this one!

  7. January 21, 2014 10:22 pm

    Bravo my friend! This is such a feat, you deserve a huge pat on the back! I’e had to unpick overlocked seams before and just the thought of doing that for a whole dress makes me want to cry! But this shows just how worth it the extra effort can be sometimes…it’s such a beautiful dress and you’ll wear it so proudly now! You already know how I feel about alterations, but you’ve put me to shame now and I may have to rethink my collar ;o)

    • tabathatweedie permalink*
      January 22, 2014 1:02 am

      Haha. So good, I made it twice LOL! Maybe you can leave your top for a while and see how much you miss it. If you find yourself frequently lamenting its demise, maybe it’s worth mending!

  8. January 21, 2014 10:33 pm

    Well done, girl! I hate alterations too. You’ve inspired me to have a go of mine 🙂

    • tabathatweedie permalink*
      January 22, 2014 1:03 am

      Good luck!

  9. January 21, 2014 10:44 pm

    I loathe alterations. Major kudos for such a thorough and meticulous rebuilding though. I know I’d have just bought another length of fabric and started again!

    • tabathatweedie permalink*
      January 22, 2014 1:07 am

      Well, first of all, the place I got the fabric from doesn’t stock that print any more, and also, it was £13 per metre and I used 3.5m! I just couldn’t justify it! If I were richer though, I totally would try doing that 😉

      • January 23, 2014 2:44 pm

        Stoopid money! Wish I had an endless supply lol! Seriously though, definitely worth the effort and money saving. I never think of it that way. I definitely should!

      • tabathatweedie permalink*
        January 26, 2014 10:26 am


  10. January 22, 2014 2:07 am

    I hate alterations and won’t do them for myself, let alone all the people that keep asking! Well done for sticking with it, that is a cute dress!!

    • tabathatweedie permalink*
      January 26, 2014 10:22 am

      Thanks. My in laws often ask me to do alterations but I feel duty bound to do them. At least this one was for me!

      • January 27, 2014 10:58 am

        Tee hee, I told my MIL that I didn’t do alterations when she asked. Yep, not nice I know, but I really didn’t want to do them!

      • tabathatweedie permalink*
        January 27, 2014 10:44 pm

        Good for you! I have a blouse of my mother-in-law’s hanging in my sewing room right now awaiting alterations, but it will be a while before I prioritise it!

  11. January 22, 2014 12:38 pm

    The dress looks so good, well done for ticking through all that work. I am impressed Julia helped you unpick….surely a sign of a true friend! I am slow to do alterations especially with the lure of a new project instead.x

    • tabathatweedie permalink*
      January 26, 2014 10:23 am

      She is the best!

  12. Anne Carter permalink
    January 22, 2014 2:47 pm

    I also hate alterations and would rather start something new. Even with making quilts, I dislike anything that needs to be undone (or reverse sewing as it’s called in the U.S.A!)
    Well done with your project though and your hard work has certainly paid off.

    • tabathatweedie permalink*
      January 26, 2014 10:24 am

      Reverse sewing: I like that terminology!

  13. Carolyn permalink
    January 22, 2014 3:13 pm

    WOW, what an epic alteration!! I’m seriously impressed that you re-made the entire dress and didn’t give up. I don’t think I would have had the patience! The dress is totally adorable on you though, so well worth the effort. Congrats! (And yay for pirate dresses!)

    • tabathatweedie permalink*
      January 26, 2014 10:25 am

      Hehe, definitely epic!

  14. January 22, 2014 4:02 pm

    I’m totally with you on this. Even if I overhear the word “alteration” a tiny piece of my sewing mojo “poof” evaporates. The are the dementors of the crafting world. However, check you out … all done and dusted and I love, love this dress.

    • tabathatweedie permalink*
      January 26, 2014 10:25 am

      Hopefully I won’t have to do any more!

  15. January 27, 2014 2:55 pm

    I had the same problem with my cambie. I am hoping that I don’t need to remake the whole thing – but well done to you for redo-ing yours – it looks fab!

    • tabathatweedie permalink*
      January 27, 2014 10:47 pm

      Thanks. Hopefully your alterations will be simpler!

  16. February 3, 2014 11:13 am

    Alterations: what a stunningly boring chore.

    • tabathatweedie permalink*
      February 4, 2014 9:35 am



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