Giving the Cold Shoulder: How to

Make your own cold shoulder inserts
My last post was all about a 'cold shoulder' hack of the By Hand London Flora dress, and as I mentioned there, I thought it might be useful to write up a more detailed post of how I did it. The best thing about the cold shoulder inserts is that they're not a Flora-exclusive hack - they can be paired with pretty much any sleeveless bodice, or could even be used to update an old top or dress to make it bang on trend.

How to give the cold shoulder!
The look is still going strong in the shops/on Instagram/pretty much everywhere, but here's a bit more inspiration should you need it:

Images from Pinterest, including garments from Finery, Topshop and Whistles
Make your own
  • Measure around your arm - preferably wearing your bodice or a muslin of your bodice if you have one. You want to measure edge of your dress on the front, to the edge of the arm hole on the back.
  • My cold shoulder inserts are close fitting, so I cut the basic arm band out at 10.5" long x 4" deep (this includes a seam allowance).
  • You need to cut out a second, longer piece that will be gathered into the arm band. Mine is 16" long x 4" deep (including seam allowance) but this length can be adjusted depending on how much gathering you want. 
  • Gather the longer piece using your preferred gathering technique - I like to sew 3 rows of long stitches within a 1.5cm seam allowance (no back stitching at the beginning or end) and pull the end threads to gather.
  • *Note* For my own project, I folded the longer piece in half depth-ways before gathering. This creates slightly more structured gathers/ruffles and avoids any hemming, but can be a bit bulky depending on your fabric. For the purpose of this tutorial, I haven't folded the gathered piece and it has a bit more 'flow' and drape. If you choose not to fold them, you will need to decide how deep you want your inserts to fall, and hem the bottom of them before adding them to your garment. 
  • Gather the piece until it is the same length as the arm band insert.
  • Even up the gathers, and pin the gathered section to your arm band, right sides together.
Gather and pin
  • Machine stitch in place, trim or grade your seam allowances to reduce bulk, open the seam out and press lightly.
Machine stitch in place
  • On the other side of the arm band, fold and press 1.5cm towards the wrong side.
Folding a seam allowance under
  • Fold the arm band in half, so that the folded edge you've just created meets the seam where your gathered piece has been stitched in place.
  • With all seam allowances folded up towards the arm band, press and pin (all the raw edges will now be concealed).
Finishing your inserts
  • Hand stitch in place. I love to slip stitch, but Sew Essential have created a bunch of really helpful video tutorials on all the different ways of hand finishing - find your favourite here.
  • Hem the bottom of your insert if required.
Now make another!
Once you have both your inserts, you just have to join them to your dress or top of choice. 

Working out your positioning with a muslin
If your garment is lined like the Flora bodice, then you can sandwich the insert between the bodice outer and lining (it's helpful to baste them in place and check the positioning first!). With the Flora, you do this in the same manner as inserting the straps (see below). *Note*  I lowered the Flora neckline by 1" so the inserts could be lined up with it, so you might want to consider whether your bodice needs any adjusting!

Joining inserts as you would join straps
If your garment is unlined, or you're using your inserts to update an already-finished garment, I'd recommend finishing the ends of your inserts. This could be with an overlocker or zig zag stitch, or if your fabric isn't too bulky, you may be able to hem the ends. Finish the arm hole of your garment if you haven't already done so. Baste the inserts in place and check the positioning. Then stitch them in place by either neatly machining, or hand stitching if you don't  want too much visible stitching on the outside of your garment.

And hopefully you'll end up with a beautiful finished cold shoulder dress or top!
If you try it out I'd love to see the results! You can find me/get in touch using the links below, or email me at magnificent.thread[at]

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By Hand London Flora: Cold shoulder hack

Despite mainly sewing my clothes, I still visit the high street regularly and keep up with what's in store, and I can't help but notice that cold shoulder tops and dresses are everywhere. A lot of these garments are quite loose fitting, which is not a style I can get away with too easily, but I sort of wanted in on the trend too. So I decided to make my own version, using the tried and tested By Hand London Flora bodice.
By Hand London Flora bodice hack
I'd already tackled the fit adjustments for the the Flora bodice for a culotte/jumpsuit hack, so that made it an obvious choice for experimenting with shoulder inserts. I hung onto my muslin - it's a pretty rare occasion that I'd even make one, so this was lucky - and made use of some scraps to do a bit of testing. I ended up with what's essentially a gathered arm band insert that I was pretty happy with - I'm thinking of putting this together in a more detailed fashion in the near future as a bit of a how-to if anyone's interested!

Sketches and plans
Scraps and muslin practice
The fit of my Flora remained almost the same, but I took an extra inch off the front neckline to open it up a little. I also shaved 0.5cm off the centre back, to get a slightly closer fit. I used a mid-weight crepe from the grab bins at Abakhan, which could have only cost me about £5, if not less! The fabric may look plain, but it has such an expensive feel and drape to it - the sort that you might find in Whistles or Cos.

Side view
The only thing I would do differently if I made something similar would to be line up the neckline with the shoulder inserts a little better, and lower the back neckline 1" to match the front. I'm just slightly out with these, which makes the neckline look a little disjointed rather than creating a clean line across, but oh well, practice makes perfect!

From the back!
I made the bodice without too much consideration of what the skirt would look like. I think I'd sort of envisaged a straight, just-below-the-knee-length darted style, but to be perfectly honest, I got lazy, and couldn't be bothered to draft, adjust, or find a pattern to match. My gathered skirt wasn't on a complete whim though - I tried the bodice on with an old self drafted gathered skirt to get an idea of the shape, and it just sort of worked. I used all the fabric I had left so I could make it as long as possible, and I think the gathers hang really nicely in the fabric. There's no visible stitching on the outside of the dress so I decided to go all out and finish the hem by hand too.

A long gathered skirt to off set a slim bodice
I'm really pleased with the results, and massively proud that I managed to translate what I saw in the shops, into something that's much more wearable for me. It's actually turned out quite a lot posher than I imagined, and I'm wearing it at a wedding in these pictures - who says you can't wear black to a wedding eh? I think I'd like to try it again in a print fabric, or maybe as just a top version eventually, but I do have quite a lot on my list at the moment - imminent Autumn sewing is calling! - so we'll see!

A Polaroid of me and Chris at the wedding :)
As a side note, and speaking of the Flora bodice, my culotte/Flora hybrid made it in print! Thanks Megan of Pigeon Wishes for recommending my project as her favourite pattern hack. Check out Megan's own (amazing) pattern hack and article in the latest Sew Style mag.

I'm in Sew Style!
Can anyone think of or recommend any other Flora hacks for me to try?! I've definitely got the bug now!
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No Patterns Needed - Deep V Tunic

I've been sitting on my copy of Rosie Martin's No Patterns Needed for quite a while now. I mean this metaphorically of course, but there are a couple of reasons why, including making for other people, a work trip away (to Chile - how lucky am I?!) and just general slow sewing progress. The book is by far one of the most aesthetically pleasing and well-styled collection of patterns I've ever had the pleasure of owning, and it was the stylish Deep V Tunic that I chose to pull me out of my sewing rut.
No Patterns Needed Deep V Tunic
I bought fabric from the Abakhan grab bins - a shade of pale blue and a shade of grey-blue, inspired by one of the variations Rosie offers. I'm not really sure what sort of fabric it is, I only know that they were lumped in with the satin, but they're not satin. Whatever they are, they're both soft, mid-weight and have a decent drape.

My favourite variation of the tunic and fabric choices
I always lack motivation with tracing patterns and cutting out fabric, preferring that actual 'make' by far, so the book provided a really refreshing take on that whole part of the process. Taking the measurements needed and using these as the basis to form the pattern pieces - rather than fitting in with a size chart - meant that I felt a lot more 'involved' in the make from the very start, if that makes sense.
My workings out, based on my measurements
All of the patterns in the book are based around the concept of either a triangle, rectangle or circle. If you hadn't already guessed it from the above drawing, the Deep V Tunic is in the rectangle section and is made up of just that, with the exception of the back neck facing, which is made using a guide garment. Its cool to see the top come together from the just simple rectangles to form a really interestingly shaped garment. Also, check out this one from &Other Stories which is very similar in design - but with a fairly hefty £65 price tag. I think the neck/collar detail would be pretty easy to replicate using No Patterns Needed too.

Similar styles in the shops - this one's from &Other Stories
The only bit I had difficulty with was getting the placket to sit neatly at the bottom, but other than that, it's really straightforward. The instructions are thorough and the illustrations and pictures are really helpful.

The whole challenge to make things a bit differently was what made the project so fun - you don't have to cut all your pattern pieces out at the start, or do things in the prescribed 'way'. Its not quite my usual style, but I'm really enjoying wearing it - tucked in more often than not, which is a bit of a shame as I love the front seam opening. I'm not ready to abandon patterns just yet, but I'm definitely looking forward to trying out other projects from No Patterns Needed!

Has anyone else had success with No Patterns Needed? I've been eyeing up the Four Slice Sweater, the Drip Drape Skirt and the Insert Skirt from the cover too...

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