99 Hot Air Balloons

I recently completed my first Singer Australia/New Zealand Blog post – I’d love it if you popped over and read that post here, maybe leave a comment 🙂

You might remember seeing me cut this dress out when I reviewed my new Singer scissors.

I’m sharing it here too (because blog) but in the interests of not repeating myself entirely and this being my first Pauline Alice make I thought I’d make this post more of a pattern review.

The Cami Dress has a fitted bodice with front and back waist darts, a classic shirt collar and buttons on the front from the waist up. The high-waisted full skirt is gathered and has inseam pockets and a side zipper (“for comfort”?).

My pattern was bought some time ago and I noticed that the line art on the front page of the instructions pdf incorrectly shows a view of the dress with a waistband.

It’s cute with a waistband, so perhaps my next version will have one…

I bought my pattern as a pdf and the nice thing about this particular pdf pattern is that you only have to print and assemble the bodice, sleeves and collar. The skirt is a simple drindle rectangle gathered to the width of the bodice. The dimensions for this are given in the instructions for the overall size and where to place the notches for the CF, pockets and zipper placement.

It’s great that we don’t have to waste a heap of paper printing a simple rectangle (Burda I’m looking at you!) and, although it’s a simple thing, I appreciate that I can be trusted with some measurements and then left to get on with it.

Instructions are given for both regular and invisible zipper insertion. I made version A with the short sleeves and I used an invisible zipper.

I was expecting the suggested skirt length will be a little short on me and I always need a bit more over my bottom. To get the longest possible skirt out of my fabric I cut out all my patterned pieces first and then I divided the left over fabric length in half. This was 140cm so I ended up with two 70cm tall rectangles instead of the suggested 55cm. When I hemmed the dress I cut off 9cm so next time I know I’ll need to cut the skirt rectangle 61cm long.

In general the instructions are quite thorough with good diagrams except for when we get to the collar where they become confused and a little convoluted while including the dubious suggestion to clip all the way around the neckline.

It had been a while since I’d sewn this type of collar so I decided to ignore the instructions and consulted my Reader Digest Complete Book of Sewing instead. It’s not the first time I’ve resorted to this page while sewing a collar using Indie pattern directions…

If you’re looking for a general sewing book to supplement your sewing knowledge this is my number one recommendation. I bought my older copy second-hand but you can also still buy this book brand new, it’s all the same great content in a new dust jacket.

There is also some confusion around button placement. One image shows the buttons on the left, then later they are shown on the right. Even the finished garment photos on the website show dresses with buttons on differing sides.

I’ve accidentally sewn buttons on to the “wrong” side of a blouse before and my brain did not like it. So I made sure to place mine on the traditional side and while it might not matter to some once the buttons are done up I find this dress tricky to get on and off unless I undo the buttons as well as the zipper.

Speaking of buttons, mine are abalone with a brass surround and I think they were a Fabric-a-Brac find. I’ve been dying to use these so I’m very happy that they suit this fabric. I tried out several top-stitching colours (yellow, dark green, coral and orange) before I settled on the light green.

This dress was stitched 95% on my 1946 Singer 99k – the remaining 5% is these buttons and their respective button holes.

I couldn’t get my vintage button-hole attachment to work correctly so I used my modern Elna instead and while I was at it I stitched the buttons on too because I hate hand stitching and I’ve not lost a machine stitched button yet.

So that’s it!

I really like my finished dress, there are a few modifications I would make if I did sew it again (the pockets feel a tad low, it’s a bit tight across the ladies), but I wore it to work last week with a belt and got several unsolicited compliments. Yay.

Contrast pockets!


Pattern – Pauline Alice Cami Dress, size 42 graded to 44 at the waist.

Fabric – Spoonflower Hot Air Balloons

Other notions – Invisible zipper, interfacing

Next time I will lengthen the bodice by 2 – 3cms, do an FBA, insert the pockets a little higher and make them slightly deeper. The skirt needs to be cut 61cm in length.


16 thoughts on “99 Hot Air Balloons

  1. Hi, I love your version of this dress! I’m making this pattern now (after purchasing long ago) and find that some details are lacking… Do you know what size buttons you used? The pattern just says 6 “small buttons” and the markings on the pattern pieces suggest that the collar button should be approx. 1/2″ and the body buttons appear to be 3/4″ (which doesn’t seem “small” to me).

    • Hi Kim, thanks for stopping by. I think the buttons I used were about 15mm (5/8″) but to be honest I never follow the instructions when it comes to button size or number. I either play with whats in my button stash or take the garment to the shops and try out different options and just select the size and number that look right to me.

  2. This dress is gorgeous! I love the fabric, I’ve been on the lookout for some hot air balloon fabric for dressmaking, ever since I covered some drawers in some upholstery fabric with balloons on!

  3. Beautiful dress and thank you for such a detailed and helpful post! I love your vintage machines and laughed when you said we’d have to get to know each other better before you would reveal THAT number 🙂 I have an elna too but I haven’t tried that machine sewing ON a button – I’m still nervous about that but watching your short video on how the machine was doing that was encouraging 🙂

    • It is super easy and so much faster than hand sewing. Just adjust your stitch length to 0 and select the zig-zag stitch. Adjust the zig-zag width so that the needle will pass through each button hole with the handwheel, then once you know the needle will clear both button holes you can hit the gas! 🙂

  4. Seriously, how good is the Reader’s Digest book? It’s never let me down and I still adore it for teaching me how to do perfect lapped zippers.

    I love that you sewed this on a classic machine, although it’s a shame the buttonholer wouldn’t work. It just goes to prove that you don’t need a fancy new machine to sew something fabulous!

    And now I need to go and stare at that hot air balloon fabric and try to come up with even one reason why I shouldn’t go nuts and buy it.

  5. Yay for the hot air balloons dress!! 😊❤️

    This is so darn lovely on you. And I am once again in awe of your making-photos-super-awesome skills! 😊

  6. So adorable! I have the Readers Digest Needlework book, and I have the Vogue Sewing Book. I temporarily lost the instructions to my favourite shirt pattern for a while and it was awesome to have that to refer to. I also have Pants for Real People which I am Pentecostal about recommending – but you know, only for pants making, not so many general tips 😉love your dress and great choice of fabric.

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