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I am a mother, a new grandmother, and a teacher. But whatever happens in my life, I keep sewing. I have worked as a political communicator and now as a teacher in my formal life. I have also written extensively on sewing. I have been a frequent contributor and contributing editor of Threads magazine and the Australian magazine Dressmaking with Stitches. My first book Sew.. the garment-making book of knowledge will be published in May 2018 and is available for pre-order from Amazon


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Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Alder shirt dress

Before I start talking about this pattern I want to say a few things about indie pattern designers.

The www and .pdf patterns have created a new environment where anyone with an idea can connect with customers as an independent pattern designer.

Almost entirely I think this is a marvellous development that has given me, as a sewer, so much more access to so many more great designers with terrific ideas and wonderful patterns.

There are of course a few that do not deliver exactly all that they promise, but lets be honest, raise your hands if you have ever sewn a pattern from the big four that was less than stellar, or even a real lemon? 

My point exactly.

I was reminded of that this week when I was shown a skirt pattern from a blogger turned pattern designer and author that I could tell would not sew up as well as it could. It was for an A line skirt, a wide one, with the straight of grain along centre front rather than down the centre of the panel. What this means, and I know because I ran into this once with a big four pattern, is that the sides will stick out at the hem like big triangles rather than falling evenly around (does this make sense?)

I think what happened it is that the pieces looked like you would think an A line skirt piece would look like, as if you just drew it, but of course pattern pieces, good ones, think about more than shapes, they also consider what the fabric wants to do on its own - like hang with the grain.

So maybe not everyone who thinks they are a pattern maker is quite there yet, I know I am not and never would be.

But with all that said I have to say that the vast, vast majority of indie patterns I have tried have been exceptional and reflect a very thoughtful approach to garment making that incorporates some intelligent fixing of common problems.

Take Sewaholic for example. 

The cowl on the Renfrew top is amazing, two shaped pieces that really give a beautiful drape that is simply not possible in the usual large rectangles you see for cowl pieces in most patterns.

I have been similarly impressed with Grainline's patterns to date, and if I weren't currently on the DL you would be looking at an Archer shirt right now.

Instead here is an Alder dress I finished this week.

I added 4" to length because I am tall but apart from that this was made right out of the envelope. What was surprising to me was how loose it was, which I liked, as this makes it an incredibly comfortable and wearable dress. I will be making multiples with this pattern, with variations, just you wait:


maris olsen said...

CUTE! Love your use of stripes, and you found the perfect buttons. I am a big fan of Jen's patterns as well, and have made many an Archer. I am anxious to try the Alder, too.

Kathie said...

Really, really nice!

Judi Pinkham said...

Gosh, I'm sorry that you're confined to barracks this weekend!!!
The (few) indie patterns I have made have been great except for one that didn't go together right, but that was possibly my fault.

Rainpatter said...

Totally agree with what you said abut indies and Big 4s. I love Sewaholic and my Archer, though the Alder is not for me.

Anonymous said...

I am really intrigued by your comment about the grainline on the a-line skirt. Could you further explain why the placement of the grainline makes such a difference in how it hangs? Isn't it all parallel? I understand this is a big request so if you could point me to a reference book or something so I can read more about it I'd really appreciate it. That sentence made me question if I know anything about grainline!

The dress is lovely -- I love the fabric flip on the placket.

Barbara said...

Ok here we go on grainline. The straight of grain, which is essentially the strongest thread in a weave needs to carry the weight of the garment perpendicular to the floor - unless you are going to do something fancy like a bias cut. The garment will always try to hang on the grain and unless it is lined up this way will pull a bit when worn. If you have an A line skirt and the centre front is on the straight of grain then so will the pointy sides of the A line which will therefore stick straight out - generally not all that flattering. You see this sometimes in A line skirts that are cut on the fold, not so bad if the angle of the A is not pronounced, worse if it is. For this reason it is best to have the front and back of the A line cut in panels, with a centre front and centre back seam, which allows the straight of grain run right down the middle of each piece and allows both the centre of the skirt and sides, which will then be slightly on the bias to hang in soft folds rather than sticking out. Does this make any sense?

Judi Pinkham said...

Oh thank you for explaining grainlines/A-lined skirts!!! I even read what you said to a friend of mine...neither one of us knew and we both have sewn for years. I always line up the grainline, but I sort of think there was a time recently when I decided to cut the pattern pieces on the fold...not noticing the slight difference in the grainline distance from the side from top to bottom. Wow, does that sound confusing. I know what I mean. Anyway, thank you!

Sewcat said...

Maybe you could do a roundup of your favorite indie patterns. I am hesitant to try some of them for the reasons you mention about the grain.

Janet said...

The Alder dress is definitely your style. It will look amazing on you. However, will be taking a pass, and taking a pass on the Archer. I agree with you about the Renfrew. A terrific pattern. I agree with you that you have as much luck with the big 4. I generally like the Indies because there is more support with the directions, sew-a-longs, tutorials, videos, lots of examples of different fabric choices. BTW your fabric choice for the Alder is lovely.

carolinascallin said...

Love your dress! It looks effortless - great job! Love the fabric choice, too :) I have yet to try a shirtdress...but have a couple patterns waiting hopefully in the wings :)

Mrs. Smith said...

What a great, thoughtful post!!!

I spent a lot of time questioning why things weren't cut on the fold. I finally started to figure it out.

Barbara's explanation helps so much!

Anonymous said...

The grainline on A-line skirts: in my face brilliant!
I've been admiring all the Alders. And yours is no exception! Makes sense to make it a TNT and make many.


SuzieB said...

I hope the foot is feeling much better now. What a weird kitchen injury! Love your version of the Alder. This may be my first indie foray.

Now I'm begging: you once made McCalls 6885, a pattern similar to the Alder (sleeveless, collar, shirttail hem, etc. but no back yoke or full front opening. Would you consider doing a "compare & contrast" post? (Love your writing!)

Anonymous said...

I sort of thought I knew about grain/cutting out, but this is an extremely helpful clarification AND it is warning me away from a grain deviation I was contemplating on my current project.

Hope the foot continues to heal; I have found alternating those warm in the microwave rice bags with Ice to be comforting; at least it gives you something to do, as long as you have a bed-side microwave......

Love to Miss D.


Carol in Denver said...

I remember seeing photos of an assortment of a-line skirts, each of them of the same fabric and same pattern, but cut with the straight of grain in different positions. I think they were prepared by Sandra Betzina. They illustrated the different effects of different grainlines. Straight of grain down the center of each panel was clearly the most attractive.

Also, many, many years ago a highly-esteemed Denver dressmaker showed our class that cutting the waist hole on full skirts in an octagon (rather than approximately circular) will cause the skirt to flare out at each point of the octagon. I've never used that info but it sounds intriguing.

SimpleFibreLife said...

Hope your feeling better. Great dress, totally your style. Thanks for the warning about grainlines :-)

Anonymous said...

New reader here... I know that A line skirt.

I agree with you that the entrance of the indie pattern companies/designers to the sewing market is a positive change. The hip, young designers have attracted many younger women to the sewing machine and that is a great thing.

I do find it disappointing when I sense that some of the designers do not know their craft and are jumping on the pattern-making/selling bandwagon without training and experience. While I appreciate their enthusiasm and ambition, it seems they (and we) could benefit from further study of the art and craft of clothes making.

All the more reason why blogs like your's are so very important. Not only do you dispense technical information but your meditations on life are inspiring. Age wise I'm in between you and the young newbie sewists. I am pleased that sewing is bringing together women of multiple generations as it had in the past. I appreciate your humor, knowledge and generosity of spirit. Please, continue to write!

-A new fan in Cali

patsijean said...

I first encountered the A-line grainline information in one of Sandra Betzina's POWER SEWING books. She recommended a center front seamline and folding the pattern piece meeting side seam to center seam (don't forget to add seam allowance if you had to cut the pattern) and using that crease/fold line as the grain line. That way the garment hangs evenly all the way around.