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GBSB: Cotton Fabrics for 1950’s Dresses

On the last episode of The Great British Sewing Bee the order of the day was vintage. The first challenge was to make the 1950’s ‘Walk away’ dress. During the patterns peak, Butterick stopped production of all other patterns and printed only this one, to clear all the back orders for it as it had become that popular. It was called ‘the walk away dress’ because you could start it after breakfast and walk away to luncheon wearing it. Unless you were one of the Sewing Bee contestants. When they entered the sewing room they were confronted with a scene nobody could have expected: gone were the normal sewing machines, in their place 1950’s sewing machines. Although the machines baffled a few contestants at first (here’s looking at you Ryan) all of them eventually managed to get on with making the dress.

Great British Sewing Bee Walkaway Dress Challenge



The beauty of this pattern was that women in the post-war era could use almost any fabrics they could get their hands on. Back in Croft Mill on Friday morning, we were all feeling inspired. A few of the team members decided that if they were to make the dress, they would use a pima cotton lawn. The pima cotton lawns are soft enough to fall elegantly whilst still being easy to sew. If you are making the dress, I’ll have it in our Cherry Pop Pima Lawn, please. Pima Cotton Lawn GBSB 1950s Dress   Other team members however, argued that they would go traditional with a good old chambray. We currently have a pale pink, a blue and a cotton rich blue chambray. Using one of these would make the dress a lot quicker to make as there would be no need to worry about pattern matching; you could simply cut the pieces, sew them together and off you go.

Cotton Chambray Great British Sewing Bee 1950s dress

Pink Chambray

If you did want a pattern, there is always our Crafty Spot range of cotton poplins. The poplins are high quality and easy to sew, so perfect if you are in a rush or if this is your first attempt at a vintage pattern. Our range comes in a variety of colours so in all likelihood you will be able to find a bias binding to match, or even to contrast if that is your style.

Great British Sewing Bee Cotton Poplins 1950s dress

The Crafty Spots – part of our cotton poplins range

Our Crafty Spot range, is admittedly a bit bright, but don’t let that put you off. Paul has made colourful creations all throughout the series and this challenge was no different. When we first saw him choose the fabric, I wasn’t overly keen. Once it had been made up however, the dress turned out to be a little ray of sunshine.  Side note, how amazing is that bias binding.

Great British Sewing Bee Walkaway Dress Challenge - Pauls Dress


For a modern twist on the pattern, you could use our denim shirting fabric. We are due to get more of this in stock, and it is a good traditional colour denim. The hint of lycra means that if your buttons are a bit tight, or even if you’ve just had a big lunch, it will still feel comfortable. I’m thinking of using this fabric and teaming the dress with a classic 1950’s red lipstick.

Great British Sewing Bee Denim Fabric 1950s dress

Denim Shirting – part of our denim collection

If you are feeling brave, you could even use a crepe for this dress. Our crepes are a bit heavier than the other fabrics we’ve mentioned, however we think they would make up beautifully. As an added bonus, they are lovely and swishy; if you were to twirl in this dress made out of crepe, you are almost certain to feel ladylike.

Crepe Dress Fabrics - Croft Mill - group 2


One of the great things about this challenge, was that it incorporated lots of the basics of sewing. Sewing curves, bias binding and button holes and loops. There was some lovely button work featured on this dress.

Great British Sewing Bee Walkaway Dress Challenge - nice button loop work


Although Lorna didn’t excel in making this dress, she did go on to win garment of the week for her stunning creation – well done Lorna!


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  • Reply
    Lisa Weeks
    25/02/2015 at 4:00 PM

    Making the dress as we speak, however I am ‘re-naming it the week away dress as its going to take me a week to make as its the very first pattern and dress I have ever made!

    • Reply
      25/02/2015 at 4:49 PM

      I’ve got to admit, I think it would take me longer to make it than they say too! Oh how exciting, what made you choose this pattern to start with? 🙂

  • Reply
    Ann Charles
    25/02/2015 at 5:30 PM

    are you selling the walk away dress pattern fro the GBSB and if so how much and the code number to order one.Rebecca I will make you one as well if you send your size and some fabric. xx

    • Reply
      26/02/2015 at 9:46 AM

      Hi Ann, unfortunately we are not selling the pattern – thanks for the offer though 🙂 xx

  • Reply
    angela foster
    08/03/2015 at 7:56 PM

    I have purchased the pattern, but cannot decide on the fabric yet. I also bought a binding foot for my sewing machine, i need to practise a bit with it first – not used one for years!
    before I do anything else though I am shopping tomorrow for new storage units, hopefully then I will be able to find things easily!

    • Reply
      09/03/2015 at 10:51 AM

      Are you thinking of patterned or plain fabrics?

      A binding foot sounds like an excellent idea, I’ve not used one though, so you will have to let me know how you get on. I hope you manage to find some nice units, getting all the fabric and scraps sorted is always rewarding!

  • Reply
    Ann Charles
    09/03/2015 at 5:52 PM

    Angela I think the croft mill dotty cotton would look fab.I have used a binding foot and my advice would be take it slowly but it worked well

  • Reply
    - Get Craftii with the Croft Mill Fabrics Blog
    17/09/2015 at 12:56 PM

    […] The 1950’s are often thought of as being the golden hour of sewing in America (and indeed most other western countries) people were sewing – not out of necessity caused by war, but to create dresses and outfits that were the height of fashion. The 1950’s are known for their sewing patterns – if you’re thinking about trying one, you can read our roundup of favourite patterns here, and what fabrics to use here. […]

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