Sew Over It Penny Dress (of joy)

When this fabric arrived at Oh Sew Ditsy I got a bit over-excited.  Or the appropriate amount of excited? Its a Merchant and Mills Indian hand-blocked cotton.  The pigment in the dye is so gorgeously rich, a lovely tomato ketchup red. There is probably a more poetic description of that colour.  The cotton is a summer weight, which makes it perfect for dresses and blouses.

I especially enjoy the way you can see the edges of each block, I think the slight irregularity is beautiful.  Here it is in indigo.

Merchant and Mills “Indigo Flight”

On a recent pilgrimage to Merchant and Mills in Rye I learned a little of the story of the fabric.  Its from Jaipur in India, where the traditional methods of using natural vegetable dyes and hand-carved wooden blocks are getting more and more popular.  Not all of the conditions for producing these are as wholesome as one may hope (synthetic dyes that are harsh on the workers’ skin, long hours, poorly lit workshops).  Thankfully there are responsible buyers who are funding new well-lit workshops, workers take breaks, work decent hours, and use the traditional natural vegetable dyes. Merchant and Mills personally visit their suppliers and forge good relationships.  

Then Sew Over It released the Penny Dress pattern – a no-brainer.  I love the combination of a 1950s vintage shape, with a geometric print.  And the cotton made it super-easy to sew.


This was my first shirt dress, and I highly recommend it as such.  The flat collar is a nice way to start a shirt-sewing journey, and the fit is very clever – its all in the simple shoulder gathers and elasticated waist.  So I could focus on two new skills – the button placket and the collar. I messed up the button placket, but it doesn’t show, hurrah! 

Love love love Sew Over It.  Their instructions are great and their aesthetic is a joy.  And I don’t mind telling you I am addicted to Lisa Comfort’s vlogs on YouTube.

I cut a size 12 and took in wodges from the bodice side seams and the sleeve length.  I can definitely go a whole size down next time.  

My measurements are: Bust: 37”; Waist: 29”; Hips: 38”; Height: 5’5” (in case you’re wondering about making one and we are a similar size).


So that’s why I am prancing around on the Isle of Wight in this glorious dress.  Bembridge Beach is so beautiful, we bothered the crabs for a while with our crab lines, but we felt sorry for them so oh so gently put them back, and let them eat the bacon bait (please don’t tell me this is bad for them.  Probably is, not exactly their natural diet). Then little Moo diligently watched over them chasing away the gulls which she feared were about to eat them. And the bacon.

I really enjoyed going slowly with this dress, it was the first time I’d sewn a collar or button placket.  The Sew Over It instructions were nice and clear.  I still got confused and made a bit of a mess on top part of the placket, but fortunately the bit that went wrong is hidden underneath the collar, hurrah!

Oooh the circle skirt is pure twirly joy!  I will either add interlining, or I’ll weight the hem next time as summer breezes = hello pants (knickers, not trousers, in case anyone American is reading).

Styled here with chocolate-covered child.


I made a clutch bag for my best friend out of the remnants, because I am not wasting a scrap of this delicious fabric!


Header photo by Camilla Turner

Pattern: Sew Over It Penny Dress

Fabric:Merchant and Mills blockprint cottons

Purchased from:Oh Sew Ditsy

Some time later…..

I cut the bodice of this pattern in a size 10 to squeeze out a shirt from a metre of fabric.  I may have defied some laws of physics but somehow I did it.  I treated myself to some fantastic £17/m Alexander Henry Frida Kahlo fabric and wanted to sew something a bit vintage-y.

So this!

Sew Over It Penny Dress
Sew Over It Penny Dress

And this!


I do wish I’d splashed out and bought another few centimetres though because its so short I hardly dare wear it.  I require the highest of waist trousers or skirt and proportionally it doesn’t look quite right.  The top itself though, I love.  I sewed on vintage red buttons because it deserved it.

4 thoughts on “Sew Over It Penny Dress (of joy)

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