About three months ago I was in a say “yes” to everything mode. So, when I saw Sew Together for Summer appear on my Instagram I didn’t hesitate! Despite never having made a shirt or a shirt dress and being pretty bad at sewing to deadlines I went ahead anyway. A little while before I had printed out and stuck together the many many pages of the Sew Over It Alex shirt/dress from the City Break Capsule Wardrobe collection and I thought the challenge would be just the thing to motivate me to actually make one. The thought is as far as I got though. I didn’t have any fabric in my cupboard that I thought was suitable and I wasn’t really too sure that I would wear the style either. I looked for inspiration on the internet and found a couple I thought were ‘me’ but mostly found ones that weren’t.
I got a kickstart however after discovering five metres of check flannel in my nearest Goodwill store. Hooray. I think I only paid about $3 for it too. Double hooray! So, in unseasonably hot weather I set about cutting into it to make my first version of the Alex shirt. This fabric wasn’t really suitable either since the pattern calls for something more flowy and light but I went ahead anyway. After reading some reviews I sized down from the recommend size based on my measurements to account for the large amount of ease. I really enjoyed putting it together, matching the checks. Taking it slowly.
I have to confess to the pattern matching being part intention and part fluke. It turned out better than I thought it would! In my head I would look country girl casual but in reality the fact the pattern is more blouse than classic shirt meant that wasn’t to be. It was close but I was bothered by the flat collar and the bulk around the shoulders. I decided it would make a good pyjama top though, even if I would have to wait a few months to wear it given the summeresque temps that had already arrived by the time I finished it!
And so my ‘Marlex’ pyjamas were born after sewing up a pair of Margot Pyjamas from Love at First Stitch by Tilly and the Buttons with the remainder of the flannel. They are now put away in a cupboard until it’s cold again! I think they might make good Christmas pjs….
While I had good fun doing all this it didn’t end up getting me any closer to completing a shirt dress. I wasn’t feeling inspired by the Alex style to make a dress too and while all this had been going on I became obsessed by a version of the Style Arc Blaire shirt dress I’d seen on instagram (this one). I really loved it! As it happened, the day I trapped my littlest’s fingers in the car door coincided with a sale at the Style Arc Etsy shop so I bought it, and the Olivia dress, to cheer myself up (having already gone to great lengths to cheer up traumatised child first of course…) I was a little nervous to start as I had read that Style Arc instructions are somewhat sparse and I still consider myself novice level! I opted to size down again given the boxy style (and I still feel like I’m swimming in fabric in it) so committed to printing the size 10, the smallest of the bundle I purchased. I can’t emphasise the snail pace of all this. I was convinced that finishing by the sew together deadline was an impossibility but I carried on anyway, since I really wanted the dress!
I spent an evening cutting out my chosen fabric then panicking because I didn’t have quite enough! I hadn’t wanted a contrast collar or placket or pockets. But I really wanted to use the fabric for the dress so I hoped it would work out ok.
Before I new it I’d constructed the collar, stitched shoulder seams and then….got completely stuck on the sleeve cuffs! I couldn’t work out the instructions at all and had to ask for help from some friendly people on Instagram who told me what to do. I can just about reconcile what they told me with the instructions but really, its a stretch! Sparse indeed!
Maybe this might help you…
- Fold the cuff lengthways wrong sides together, press, open again
- Sew one raw edge of the cuff to the sleeve edge right sides together
- Press the seam allowance of the other raw edge of the cuff under
- Fold the cuff where previously pressed and sandwich the raw edges of the sleeve inside the cuff.
- Stitch in the ditch to catch the cuff on the inside of the sleeve
- Fold the cuff back again towards the outside of the dress and hand stitch in place to create the narrow cuff.
- Press press press!
I’m not sure if this makes sense either since I’m no instruction writer, but it’s the sort of thing I was looking for when I got stuck and couldn’t find anywhere! It’s how I attach bias binding too, I found thinking of it like that helpful. I should say, I asked Style Arc too, and they sent me some useful photo’s of their sample shirts but it was after I’d already completed it, such was my impatience.
Here’s what it looked like finished.
I carried on a little at a time. Maybe even getting a little hopeful of a finish by June 21! The pockets went well…
…I really like how the extended pocket bag peeks through the curved split hem. I was really liking how the contrast fabric was working out too. I liked my fabric choice but wasn’t too sure how it would look on me. It’s a vintage piece from my husbands late great aunt. My mother-in-law gave it to me. I really liked the idea of using old fabric with a modern pattern. I like to wonder what she might have had in mind for the fabric herself, or maybe there was a reason she never used it too. It turned out better than I imagined anyway.
With two days to go before the deadline I set about attaching the collar. Of course it didn’t go well! I think maybe I used the wrong seam allowance when attaching the placket since I couldn’t get the collar stand to fit at all. I ended up re-cutting the collar stand three times using less than accurate methods to make it larger. I also ended up using the Sew Sarah Smith blog post to attach the collar second time round and it worked out pretty well. There is some puckering here and there but it’s wearable for me. I hadn’t anticipated how much top-stitching is involved in shirt collars and I wished I’d used a thread that matched better but never mind!
Now I had one day left and still had all the buttonholes to sew! I’d been out earlier that day to find buttons which resulting in a napping almost three year old and therefore a late bedtime. I was in no state to sew the buttonholes that evening anyway and I really didn’t want to force it and regret it later for the sake of making the deadline. I consoled myself with working out the spacing for the buttonholes (which took ages!) instead in the hope I’d be able to finish off in the morning. Deadline day!
Thanks to childcare courtesy of Disney Cars and some wonderful encouragement by some fellow last minute sewists on IG I only went and did it!
I am so happy with it and already planning a shirt length version. There is much to improve upon but I had so much fun making it and being part of the sew together challenge. I’m waiting with anticipation to find out what we will be sewing together for winter….thanks to @sewsarahsmith, @sewing_in_spain and @rocco.sienna for coming up with the challenge, I just made my comfort zone a little bit bigger.