Alder (or, A-line shirt dress with gathered skirt and snap closures)

Collar and placket and yoke, oh my! Yes, I sewed a shirtdress and I liked it. And so, coincidentally, did the judge of my local country show’s handicrafts section!

One of the things that’s been tricky in the search for nursing-friendly clothes is finding the right silhouette for me. I’m not sure quite why this has been so hard; with a (pre-baby) wardrobe full of fit-and-flare and fitted sheath dresses I obviously know what I like. But translating this into sewing patterns that open at the front without too much faffing around to adjust has proven difficult.


If you’re looking for something that opens easily, a shirtdress is the obvious answer. I’ve admired the Grainline Alder for some time but never been quite sure the loose-fitting A-line shape is for me. I’m still not completely convinced by the shape but it sure makes a lovely breezy summer dress.

This is a size 18 based on my bust measurement (while the pattern lists waist and hip measurements, the huge ease in the shape means you can basically ignore them). The only alteration I made was to add three inches to the length since most of the Alders I’ve seen have been a bit on the short side and my life is about to involve a whole lot of crawling on the floor.


Tip for new players: if you add length to the dress front, skirt front and skirt back, don’t forget to add it to the placket too even though there’s no shorten/lengthen line. Preferably before you cut it out (I caught my mistake *just* in time…).

I like where this hits the knee at the front with the added length. The shirttail hem in the back is a bit longer than I’m used to wearing and it feels a little odd when it brushes against my leg. But that’s something I’m sure you get used to.


Oh, and I added in-seam pockets too because a dress without pockets just isn’t worth making – although I did I omit the breast pockets for a less fussy front and to not draw attention to the chest more than necessary.

160208alder9 The pocket bags are a floral cotton lawn I used for a Colette Crepe dress shortly after I started sewing that I eventually decided just wasn’t for me. I went looking for scraps of the fabric and found the whole dress in my stash cupboard so I unpicked the pockets and used them instead of having to cut and sew new ones. It was interesting to see how far my sewing’s advanced since then – there was some dodgy work there!


The main dress fabric is a tencel chambray from Spotlight. It drapes nicely and is fantastically soft to wear but was a bit of a shifty bugger to cut. And I forgot that I should have been thinking about pattern matching (or at least patterns being in a straight line) until after cutting out half the pieces. Nevertheless I’m pleased with how it turned out. For the contrast placket and collar the reverse of the fabric is used.


Construction-wise I have little to add to the many other blogs I’ve read. Along with the rest of the world (it seems) I used Jen’s burrito method for the yoke (which always confuses me when I read descriptions but somehow just works in reality) and Andrea’s collar construction order. Doing the topstitching convinced me I should get an edge-stitching foot (birthday fairy?) but it turned out ok by going very slowly. I used pearl snaps instead of buttons because 1) easy access, 2) excessive consumption of Nashville and 3) buttonholes still make me nervous.


So, first item from my sewing plan completed and I think it’s one that will get a lot of wear. I found it interesting when sewing this up that having less time to get in front of the machine actually made me take more care with each part of the dress, instead of rushing to get things done. That patience has paid off with a dress I’m really proud of.

** Adding to the pattern resources for nursing mothers, I have discovered Jalie has a few patterns, including this crossover top which I think I’ll try, and 5 Out Of 4 have a knot-front top or dress with a nursing modification included.


Planning day

In the interests of keeping my sewing brain from skit-skatting around and actually shopping the stash this year (never mind that many of these fabrics were bought in the past month…) I’ve been thinking ahead about what to make and what to make it in. Herewith my plans as they stand right now; perhaps making them public will keep me accountable. Or perhaps not. 


Already on the cutting table is a Grainline Alder shirtdress in this tencel chambray. I’m going to make view B and am contemplating whether to use the wrong side of the fabric as accents in the button band, collar and possibly pockets. Having held the pattern pieces up against me, I also think I’ll add a couple of inches in length. 

I couldn’t resist this fleece at Spotlight the other day and bought a couple of metres (and nearly-matching green ribbing) with the intention of making a zip-up hoodie. I could modify the Thread Theory one I’ve made a bunch of times but the shape of the Jamie Christina Sol is exactly what I’m after without any extra work.

I bought the True Bias Sutton blouse as part of a pattern bundle (I think) and have been intending to give it a go for ages. Hopefully this orange/blue/cream peach skin polyester fabric from Girl Charlee won’t prove as scary to sew as I’ve been fearing. 

I bought this metallic polka dot French terry from Miss Matatabi with the intention of turning it into a relaxed Grainline Morris blazer to wear with jeans. Then it got hot and those plans got put on ice. So here’s to getting it done by autumn!

 These two I want to turn into more nursing dresses using my hack of McCall’s 6886. The floral is an Art Gallery knit from Addicted to Fabric and the brown/mustard is a double knit from Girl Charlee that was a birthday present last year. I’m intending to show off bothsides of the latter with a further, colour blocking modification to the pattern. Still trying to decide whether the stripes or teeny dots should make up the majority of the dress. 

Of course, the Cashmerette Appleton wrap dress. Still need to actually order the pattern, but I bought this polka dot jersey from Addicted to Fabric with it in mind. 

I can’t remember what I thought I was going to do with metres and metres of this eucalyptus-ish jersey (it’s more green in real life than the grey of this photo) but now I’m going to use a tiny bit to make either a bralette or top from the EYMM everyday essentials pattern. 

Finally, there’s this remnant of stripey jersey from Addicted to Fabric. If the EYMM pattern turns out well, I’ll use this to make the top, otherwise there’s a Lekala nursing crossover top I’ve got my eye on.

I don’t think this counts as a “capsule wardrobe” since nothing really goes together and, um, there are no bottom-half coverings. There are one or two other ideas knocking round in my brain too, such as a couple of cardigans in some lovely merino jerseys, but fabric and pattern haven’t quite come together for those yet. Hopefully these plans aren’t bigger than my sewing appetite! 

Have you had success in planning out your sewing? Or do good intentions get flung out the window when you *need* another party dress?

Growing Mossy


It hasn’t been by design, but I’ve done a whole lot of double sewing over the summer. I find sewing the same pattern twice in quick succession is very useful for consolidating in your mind the best way to make it and how to solve any tricky parts (I guess making a trial muslin does the same thing…). Mixed in with the double Dahlias I also worked on two version of Grainline Studio’s Moss skirt. I don’t know why it took me so long to try this pattern!


First up I used this medium-weight, slightly stretchy polka dot denim from Spotlight. I have a RTW plain denim mini skirt that I bought when at uni and have worn nearly to death and was looking for something to replace it as a summer wardrobe staple. This one certainly fits the bill.

I have sewn fly front zippers before but it was a very long time ago so I was grateful for Jen’s online tutorial with lots and lots of photos – and the pointer to it in the pattern instructions. The second time around was much easier but I still had to refer the the photos at one point when I forgot to sew the zipper to the skirt piece in the right order.


I’ve seen reference around the place to something odd happening with the Moss waistband, though not entirely sure what. Mine came out the right length on both versions but ended up different heights on the overlap both times. Not sure if this was my dodgy sewing, but I did try hard the second time around to make sure all the seam allowances were correct and sewn straight and it still came out wrong. The polka dot one was more pronounced so I unpicked the taller end of the waistband and resewed it so the height matched the other side (top stitching still a bit dodgy but not really noticeable when worn).


I was in between sizes so cut a size 14, the larger one, in the denim but ended up taking it in just over a centimetre on each side seam before attaching the waistband. Because of the sizing and the slight stretch in the fabric (and possibly because it’s not really the proper weight material for a skirt like this) it sits a bit lower on my hips than I’d really like. So for the second version I cut a size 12.


I also added three inches to the length of the skirt. I like the mini length in the denim but there’s a limit to how many short short skirts have a place in my wardrobe. I wasn’t sure how short it would turn out and did cut the hem band pieces int he polka dot denim to attach as per View B but ended up deciding they weren’t needed (I didn’t cut them in the faces fabric, just added length to the main skirt body). As it turns out, because of the smaller size and this fabric having no stretch whatsoever, the hem sits in about the same place. But the waist is higher so it feels quite different to wear.


This fabulous fabric is from – believe it or not – Ikea. In fact, they still sell it. A few years ago I found out Ikea sold fabric and made a special trip up the highway to check it out. At that point I was still rather clueless about what material was suitable for which garments, so I wound up with all these heavy-weight cottons, more properly suited to home dec stuff, and no idea what to do with them. I made a few cushion covers out of this (but then decided they didn’t go with the sofa so they’ve been retired) and felt slightly sad about not being able to find a clothes usage. Then a couple of weeks ago I saw a man at the shops wearing shorts in this exact print. Aha! Of course, it’s perfectly suited to become a hard-wearing skirt.

150117moss_faces9Because of the way the pattern repeats on the fabric and the fact I didn’t have a whole lot left there wasn’t much pattern matching opportunity. I cut the front and back panels nearly on the fold, so there’s only a bit of the pattern lost in the seam allowance, and much the same for the yokes. Similarly, there was little room to play around with pattern placement. I’m very happy with how it turned out though and it’s so much fun to wear – and hasn’t failed to attract comments yet.

150208mossdots7For both skirts I lined the waistband and pockets with remnant quilting cottons from the stash. The multicoloured spots is Very Hungry Caterpillar fabric I used to line a friend’s bag and the newspaper fabric was left over from a skirt made ages ago. I love having secretly exciting insides like this; they give me a thrill every time I pull the skirt out of the cupboard. Plus I think the newspaper/faces combination is perfect for me because I gather people’s stories and retell them. Oh, and I got clothes tags for a belated Christmas present! The faces Moss was the first thing I added a tag to and it makes me so proud.