There’s a great Instagram sewing challenge happening right now called #sewtogetherforsummer and it’s all about the Shirtdress. Being new to IG I thought I would throw myself into this challenge even though a shirtdress isn’t something that features in my wardrobe, being on a dressmaking journey is all about discovering new styles and trying to move beyond my usual comfort zone of skinny jeans paired with a top of some sort! So I thought I would do this and set about looking for a suitable pattern and came across Issue 27 of Simply Sewing. Now I don’t buy many sewing magazines, a handful a year maybe, I find they are quite samey in their content and with the wealth of information and blogs available on the web you can pick and choose what you read, free of charge! Having said that I saw Simply Sewing were giving away a free shirtdress pattern by Cotton & Chalk and the style looked like something I might wear so I thought I’d give it a go.
I had this pink and blue floral fabric that had been curtains in my daughter’s bedroom and they became surplus to requirements when she had her room decorated last year but I loved the print so held onto them thinking I might make something out of them – I wasn’t intending for it to be for me but in the spirit of moving beyond my comfort zone I thought why not, it’s not like I have to wear it when it’s finished!
The skill level is 4 out of 5 so not for the beginner dressmaker unless you really want a challenge and have a good handle on stress control! Before I even cut out the pattern I was struggling with sizing as according to their sizing chart I was XS at bust, M at waist and S at hips (yes I like my coffee and cake on a daily basis!). In the end I cut the pattern at a S and graded out to M at the waist on the side panels only. I also shortened the bodice by 2cm to bring the waist higher and took 9cm off the length as I like my hemline on skirts and dresses to be above the knee and I’m only 5′ 4″.
With my fabric all cut out and marked up the first step after interfacing was princess seams. The pattern showed matching two pieces and sewing them together however it doesn’t happen as easily as that and the whole process of constructing princess seams is missed out – I guess this is why it’s a Level 4 pattern and assumes a level of knowledge that in this case I did not have! So after much trawling through the internet, I found a great blog post by Megan Nielson Princess seams tutorial and they were done. It involved stay stitching, clipping into the curves and lots of pinning, but I actually really like the way they fit, they give great shaping.
The dress sewed together quite quickly after the princess seams until it was collar time. My last few makes have all had collars and I need the practice. I understand the construction and how to do it but it’s perfecting them that’s the issue. There’s a fab blog tutorial that I’ve had bookmarked for years from Four Square Walls Collar tutorial.
My sewing was still off even using the template but I figured my hair would hide any obvious imperfections!
See the left hand collar isn’t quite perfect where it joins and the facing is rolling to the outside but I am pedantic and like things to be as perfect as possible!
Once the dress was all constructed with armhole facings I tried it on and it was huge at the waistline so my efforts in grading to a medium I needn’t have bothered with. I am confused by how these patterns work in this respect, my waist size is a medium so it shouldn’t have been as gaping as it was? I ended up taking the side seams in by an inch which took me pretty much back to an XS at the waist! I ended up taking in lots of the seams again, not around the bust but everywhere else, even the back centre seam I graded in at the waist to add shaping.
When it came to hemming I worked out I had 2.5m to do, so I invested in a great little sewing gadget from Dritz called the Ezy-Hem. It was great as it has a curved edge too for dealing with curved hems and measurements in both metric and imperial. It was £12.75 inc p&p and I ordered mine from The Village Haberdashery. It has been used lots since and the hem turned out pretty even I think!
Overall, it was a straightforward sew and the instructions were clear. Not sure if I would sew it again as the skirt is quite floaty for me and I prefer a slimmer fit but I plan on wearing it to Speech Day at school and my eldest daughter is horrified. She thinks, and to quote her,”it looks like a dinner ladies apron, please don’t wear that mum!” and just for that I will wear it (along with a hairnet just to upset her!).