This month’s Mood Sewing Network project was all about cosy fabrics for me! The temperatures have dropped here in London over the last couple of weeks and all I want to wear is lots of soft and warm layers. I actually ordered this Blue Plaid Soft Cotton Flannel (unfortunately now sold out but there’s still a little left in red!) back in February as part of my very first MSN order but haven’t found the perfect use for it until now. I spotted the dress below on Pinterest a little while back and knew my plaid was destined to be my own version of it. This discovery also coincided with the release of Grainline Studio’s Alder Shirtdress…match made in heaven!
I’ve wanted to sew something plaid for a while now but have been a bit daunted by the task of matching it. That was my real challenge with this garment, considering there are so many pattern pieces in a shirtdress and I thought a bold check like this (plus no sleeves!) would be a good place to start. I took on board a lot of Lauren’s tips from her plaid matching post and cut the yoke and pockets on the bias so I didn’t have to worry about matching them. I love the effect of the bias cut yoke in this chunky check. I considered cutting the button placket on the bias too but I liked the simplicity of the unbroken line across the front and didn’t want it to look too busy.
I cut absolutely everything on the flat which I really recommend. It’s really difficult to make sure that the bottom layer you can’t see is lined up as exactly as a plaid needs to be before cutting. The brushed surface of this fabric also means that the two layers have a tendency to grip together, which is great for sewing it up but when laying it out on the fold if you try and pull one layer into line some areas stay stuck together and things end up more off grain than they were before. To cut any ‘on the fold’ pieces like the back, I traced them onto paper so I could cut them flat. To cut any pieces which I needed two of like the front, I cut one then used that piece as the pattern piece to cut the second. This made it really easy to check that the plaid was a perfect mirror. You can see below that is almost disappears into the fabric beneath!
When cutting the front and back pieces I was mostly concerned with getting the horizontal stripe to run continuously around the body, matching at front fastening and side seams. I’m really pleased with how that worked out. I also wanted the spread of vertical stripes to be symmetrical either side of the centre front. Despite spending quite some time working on this I made a bit of an error with the placket as I forgot that this pattern uses a 1cm seam allowance rather than 1.5cm. Thankfully it still ended up looking fairly even, just not exactly as I had first intended! The button placket is actually the one aspect of this garment that I’m not entirely happy with construction wise. I’m not sure what went wrong, perhaps I was getting distracted by trying to match the plaid but the width of the right and left plackets wasn’t equal unless I turned under a tiny seam allowance which has made the finishing inside a little sloppy. I’ll be paying more attention to that part next time!
The flannel is lovely to sew with, both my machine and overlocker loved it and the layers stay put as you feed them through which helps with the matching. To be on the safe side I still pinned quite excessively at the top and bottom of each stripe to make sure everything lined up at the stitching line.
The Alder is as well drafted as I have come to expect Jen’s patterns to be and has the same classic yet contemporary aesthetic. I cut a straight size 4 as I usually do with Grainline patterns and the fit is pretty good with not too much ease. I used the View A as I thought the gathered ‘skirt’ of view B looked a bit too voluminous for the windy British winter. I’ll definitely be making that up in a lovely voile or viscose for summer though.
I actually didn’t follow the instructions all that closely to assemble this as I’d just made a man’s shirt and was feeling pretty confident about the techniques involved. I take a look through the instructions for the collar assembly but found them quite confusing compared to the way I had been doing collars so I went back to my favourite method using Andrea’s tutorial. It’s not failed me yet! The way the pattern comes together basically means that all the raw edges are concealed and finished neatly. I chose to overlock the side seams together then press them towards the back and topstitch so from the outside it looks a bit like a traditional flat felled seam.
It was the first time that I’ve ever had any real success with a bias tape finishing. It turned out so well on the armholes of this which was largely down to the fact that the flannel responded really well to heat and steam. The instructions for this are also really great and have you under stitch the bias tape to the seam allowances once you have attached the first side which makes the rest of the process so much easier. Hopefully adopting this technique will help next time I try it in silk! Despite the neat finishing the armholes gape a bit at the back which is either a fitting issue or due to things getting stretched out during assembly…I might try pinching out just a little next time and stay stitching the armscye once the yoke is attached to the back.
When it got to the point of hemming as well as feeling too long I felt the dip of the hem was quite extreme on my 5ft 3″ stature. The dress has some shaping but as you can see is still a very loose fit which is not a particularly common silhouette for me so to compensate for that I felt it needed shortening. I removed 2″ at the centre front and back, curving out to nothing at the side seams. It still has a slight dip in the style of a men’s shirt but I feel much more comfortable in it. I was planning to use a bias facing on the hem but as the curve was now more subtle it turned an pressed nice and flat.
I’ve had a lot of wear out of this dress already and bonus…I like it belted too!