Friday, 12 December 2014

Plaid Flannel Alder Shirtdress

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Grainline Alder Shirtdress in Mood Fabrics Plaid Flannel

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.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Grainline Alder Shirtdress in Mood Fabrics Plaid Flannel

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!


Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Grainline Alder Shirtdress in Mood Fabrics Plaid Flannel

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!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Grainline Alder Shirtdress in Mood Fabrics Plaid Flannel

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.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Grainline Alder Shirtdress in Mood Fabrics Plaid Flannel

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.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Grainline Alder Shirtdress in Mood Fabrics Plaid Flannel

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.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Grainline Alder Shirtdress in Mood Fabrics Plaid Flannel

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!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Grainline Alder Shirtdress in Mood Fabrics Plaid Flannel

32 comments:

  1. What a beautiful Alder Shirtdress! Very flattering on you, and your work(woman)ship is superb, as always. I'm itching to make this. I visited Mood Fabrics in NYC last week; what a wonderland!

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    1. It's fantastic isn't it?! I get so overwhelmed looking through the website and can't wait to get the chance to visit in person again! I'm finding the fiddly shirt details a little easier each time I do them so I'm glad the improvement shows!

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  2. This is one of the best winter Alders I have seen. Your plaid matching is impeccable. As for the styling, I do prefer your belted version, but both ways are so cool!

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    1. Thanks so much! I think I prefer it belted too and must admit that is how I've been wearing it most often. I'm really pleased with the plaid matching, it took quite some time!

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  3. This is really cute! You did a fantastic job lining everything up!

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    1. Thanks Shirley Ann, I spent so much time working it out that it was rather a relief when it all worked out!

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  4. Hey Fiona, this is a lovely super-cosy dress. You've made a really good job of matching up the checks. You should feel proud of a good job well done! I recently made a pair of lined wool trousers and, like you, decided to cut each pattern piece from a single layer so I could get the checks to match. It took absolutely aaaaaaaages, the best part of an afternoon, but it was worth the effort. I was glad to get started sewing!

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    1. Yes time absolutely vanished when I was trying to work out the plaid matching, I'd be scared to attempt it on a pair of trousers but they do sound lovely!

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  5. Love this. Probably my favorite Alder so far. Hmmm... I may need one this year after all!

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    1. O that's so lovely thank you! It absolutely works for winter all layered up with jumpers/cardigans, I hope you get round to making one!

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  6. What a great shirt dress and your attention to detail is mighty impressive! I haven't ever attempted plaids, but love the tip of cutting the pocket, etc on the grain :-)

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    1. I was always a bit wary of trying a plaid but it's really not all that bad, just time consuming! Definitely worth cutting some pieces on the bias to avoid too much headache!

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  7. Your pattern matching is on point! I haven't seen a plaid alder yet and I am loving the look. Perfect for winter and perfect on you.

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    1. Thanks so much Kat! This is one of those projects that just feels so right when it's done! It really suits my style and is practical for my lifestyle too. Plus yes I'm really proud of that plaid matching!

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  8. I think your version of a dress in blue plaid is much better than the one that inspired you in the first place. Thank you so much for all the helpful sewing tips. Your dedication to getting things right really shows

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    1. O that's such a lovely compliment! I'm so pleased. I think mine looks a little more structured which I like, plus I reckon it's a lot cosier! I really like researching new sewing techniques and taking the time to learn them so it means a lot to hear that that is noticeable

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  9. Another triumph, and it really suits you. I'm really liking patterns which allow you to make a beautiful finish!

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    1. Me too! And you hardly even have to try with this, it finishes itself beautifully by the way you are guided to assemble it. It's one of those dresses that I feel really 'me' in

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  10. this is so cute on you! perfect combo of fabric and pattern! and i LOVE the bias cut yoke too :)

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    1. That's my favourite part of the whole thing! I'm going to be using loads more plaid just so I can incorporate more bias cut elements haha! I was a little concerned that the flannel might be a bit hefty for the shape and drape of this pattern but I am super pleased with how it turned out!

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  11. Beautiful dress and the plaid matching you've done is superb! I am so intimidated by matching the patterns.

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    1. I am too, and still am if I'm honest even after making this! It takes a lot of time and patience I think but in this case was well worth it in the end!

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  12. Love it! This looks so warm & cozy - you did a great job on your plaid matching. I have a plaid flannel shirt dress on my cutting table right now & was wondering if it would look off as an Edith. After seeing yours I'm convinced it's a good thing & grabbing the scissors!

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    1. Yes go for it! I hope it's turned out well!

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  13. What a perfect dress for our cold temperatures and it looks great belted or unbelted. Great matching again too! I'm seeing a lot of Archer variations and wonder if I should try it next year.

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    1. I really recommend it Claire! I'm not usually drawn to this loose silhouette and must admit I have been wearing it mainly belted but it has got a subtle, flattering shape to it. I've been living in it over the last few weeks because it's so cosy!

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  14. That bold flannel is perfect for this dress! Love it with the belt and without. Nice plaid matching too! :)

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    1. Thanks Ami! I'm really pleased with how this one turned out!

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  15. This is super cute on you. Fantastic plaid matching - that is one of my aims this year to make a Grainline Archer (or Alder) in B&W large gingham x

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    1. Oo that sounds lovely Caroline! Thank you!

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I love hearing from readers of my blog so please feel free to leave a comment letting me know what you thought about this post/make! Any hints or tips to improve my sewing are always much appreciated too!