For my latest make I decided to have a go at Bettine, a scoop necked, elasticated waist casual dress.

I have to say I wasn’t at all sure about this design in the beginning, and I’m not 100% sure why I bought the pattern!  I absolutely love tulip skirts, but I’m no fan of elasticated waists and I found this design feature really offputting, so much so that I tried (and failed) to hack it to add a flat fronted waistband with the gathering at the back. Ah well.

The pattern:

Bettine by Tilly and the Buttons


The fabric:

Jade green printed polycotton print, £2.49 a metre from Cheap Fabrics Online. Just a quick insight into my views on this fabric – the shop name says it all!

Sewing level:

Beginner – very little to fox anyone here. Unless you’re me.

Were the instructions clear?

Definitely. Tilly is wonderful at pitching the instructions at a level that’s simple without being patronising.

How was it for you?

Really bloody annoying! I lost the will to live several times in the sewing process, due to absolutely no fault of the pattern. First of all, the fabric was awful. Cheap Fabrics Online is a real mixed bag – I’ve had some absolutely gorgeous bargains from there but equally I’ve had some poorly dyed, blotchy, fraying messes that are no good for anything but toiles. I have no problem with buying from cheaper-end fabric shops but some of the stuff they’re selling is really substandard quality. If they were selling it for £1 a metre or advertising it as seconds then maybe I wouldn’t be as cross…nah I still would be.

I really loved the retro style of this green print and the feel and drape was really nice. But that’s where my love affair ended. It was just a really cheap and nasty fabric, and it behaved like it. It showed pin holes, it laddered and ran and if you had to unpick a seam (as I did, many times) the fabric became really compromised. I wouldn’t have minded if it had been silk or something which you know to be tricksy, but I didn’t expect it from polycotton.

Fabric aside, Bettine should have been a nice simple and quick make. Even as a total newbie I probably could have made it up in a day or so, although I sew a lot slower than this, doing a few hours every day rather than one long binge-sew. But something went awry with my process, and the last few stages of the construction – which should have taken a couple of hours – ended up taking a couple of days.

What have you learned?

Not to go off-piste with spontaneous alterations. After joining the shoulder seams and trying on the bodice, I had a last minute panic that the dress would be way too short. So I cobbled together all my leftover scraps of fabric into a 5cm waistband, interfacing the front and elasticising the back.

It looked pretty smart until the garment was completed and I tried it on (lord knows why I didn’t try it on before that 😳) The shape of the dress with my hacked waistband looked ridiculous and sat way too low, so it had to come out again. I think this was the beginning of the downward spiral. I had to go back a few steps in the instructions and change the dress to hold the elastic waistband casing, and for some reason I kept on sewing the pieces together incorrectly. I did it time after time after time – four times to be exact. You would think I’d learn huh?!? Especially when I joined them with a really complex overlock stitch that was hell to unpick.

Then I joined the bodice and skirt (finally) correctly, only to find that OF COURSE my size 4 waist will not fit on my size 5 skirt. I absolutely hate easing in at the best of times, and it seemed almost impossible to get the gathers to sit flat and the sizes matching. Even now the skirt is slightly off-centre, which is really annoying.

Although they’re not on the pattern, I decided that the front would look so cute with two little buttons at the neckline (and would also keep the flappy facing in place). But as with everything last week, it didn’t quite go to plan.

Even though I’d just practiced three perfect buttonholes, my machine chose to go completely wrong right in the middle of my bodice front – one buttonhole sewed half up one way and then went in a different direction, and the other one went wonky and tried to chew up my dress. Thankfully the print covers a multitude of sins – I hope!

On the positive side, I think my yellow pockets work well, and I was so proud of the understitching on them I would happily have framed it!

I also skipped the tabs but put another button/buttonhole on the sleeve cuff, which thankfully went fine and does look really cute. I love those damn yellow buttons!

How did it fit?

Surprisingly well. I graded between a 5 (bust) 4  (waist) and 5 (hips). I did a lot of research as to if it was worth doing an FBA given the loose style of the pattern, and in the end I didn’t bother. The only fit problem that caused is it possibly made the dress a little short – but then again, I’d shortened the skirt and bodice by 2cm each in order to squeeze the pattern onto 2m of 45″ fabric! So that was more my fault.

The other thing I’m unsure about is the neckline – scoop necks should be good with my figure but I feel Bettine’s isn’t scooped far enough, so it doesn’t quite sit correctly.


Did you hack it?

No, but it hacked me off.

Would you make it again, and if so what would you do differently?

Hmmmmm, I don’t think I would – I like it but I don’t love it.

And finally…will you wear it out?

I have, and the act of wearing it actually made me come to like it a lot more. The pockets are so nice and also really flattering design-wise, and the loose fit made it really comfy on a hot day.

Have you had any sews that went wildly awry? Can you beat my epic four-times f**k up?!? I’d love to hear from you, it would make me feel so much less alone!!


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One thought on “Bettine: Something of a Bête Noir

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