I made my first Alder a couple of years ago now out of some buffalo plaid flannel and have worn it to absolute death with dark tights over the last couple of winters. Two of my favourite things about it are how well it fits across the shoulders and the perfect proportions of those little pockets. It's a great cut and a summer version has been on my list for a while now. This time around I used this black linen from Sew Over It. You might think what's summery about black but I have admitted to myself that despite all the prints in my wardrobe I do resort to wearing it an awful lot; it must be working in the theatre that's done it to me! Unfortunately being black a lot of the details of the dress don't show up well in the pictures of it on me so I've taken lots of flat shots to show you the sewing.
I haven't really worked with linen before so when it arrived it was a little heavier and stiffer than I expected straight off the bolt. A good hot prewash softened it up considerably and each time I wash it it's getting better and better and developing a lovely 'worn in' look. It does give an entirely different result to the flannel of my first version as the skirt definitely sticks out away from the body. It's always going to have a crisp element to its drape so if you're looking for something for a pair of wide legged trousers or a fluted skirt I wouldn't recommend it, you'll want something with more drape. But if you want to emphasise the shape of your garment this is perfect. Whilst I'm really pleased with this one it has made me want to make yet another version in a delicate silk/cotton or rayon as I think it would hang completely differently again.
I've not had a lot of linen in my wardrobe as it's always seemed like such a lot of hassle to deal with how easily it wrinkles. My life in London would see me looking a crumpled mess by the end of the day. For some reason I couldn't get the idea of a linen Alder out of my head though and when I had a browse of the colours available on the Sew Over It site I thought the black might be quite forgiving when it came to creases. I'm now a total linen convert as even on the hottest of hot days on the oven that is the Central line I could bear the heat. Honestly this dress has been so SO comfortable whatever the weather. Next summer it's going to be linen all the way. I reckon pick the right linen for the right garment and the rumpled look can be quite beautiful!
This particular linen has a lovely rustic texture to it but the weave of it, as with many linens, means it can be quite see-through when worn in the sun. Rather than wear the extra layer of a slip which would undo the benefits of having a breezy, breathable summer dress for the hot weather, I decided to underline in a lightweight cotton lawn. I just did this for the dress front and back and simply hand basted the lawn to the linen and treated them as one throughout the construction process. It's worked out really well and the extra benefit of it is having the soft lawn next to the skin rather than linen which may be a little coarse.
I cut the exact same size as last time (size 4) as I was so happy with the fit and just about squeezed it out of a metre and a half. Last time I shortened it quite a bit as I preferred the proportions on me with tights but this time I kept the length of the pattern as I knew I'd be wearing it with bare legs. I'm not 100% sold on the shirttail hem and if I make another would probably level it off a bit by lengthening the sides. Although I've been wearing my first version almost exclusively unbelted with this I've been wearing a belt more often than not (Though on super hot days the breezy a-line silhouette has been a godsend!). I think I'm more comfortable with the loose trapeze shape when it's shorter.
It's such a fun garment to make as there are some nice fiddly bits to get your teeth into. Plus a lot of topstitching which is one of my favourite things to do! The accuracy needed requires your concentration which is exactly what I like when I sew. It really helps me to switch off from work or whatever other thoughts are buzzing around my head because all I have room to think about is the task at hand. Sure, sometimes I want to sew something a bit mindlessly to switch off but getting lost in a challenge can be very soothing.
I'm so pleased with how neat I've managed to get some of those trickier aspects and how the details look on the inside with the linen against the cotton lawn. The fact that the linen presses so well and holds a fold or crease really helped get a clean finish but it's the instructions themselves that are the star of the show. The sew-along over on the Grainline Studio blog is also fab. I particularly love Jen's instructions for finishing the armholes with bias tape. This and my previous Alder are definitely the best results I've ever had with bias and I think it's to do with the extra step of under-stitching the seam allowance to the bias before folding it under.
The only thing I did differently to the instructions was to use the burrito method for the yoke. I chose the burrito method as my favourite skill for Day 2 of #sewphotohop on Instagram the other day because it's such a great technique! If you want to try it out it's covered in this post in the Alder sew-along but can be applied to any shirt. I usually follow Andrea's collar tutorial for all my shirts and dresses but this time I decided to try something new as I was having such success by following the rest of the instructions to the letter. I found it a little fiddly this way around but it might have just been the unknown causing me to feel uncertain. The tidy result speaks for itself.
Does anyone else find there is always one little thing about a sewing project which doesn't turn out quite right and so no one garment is ever quite the perfect thing your were aiming for? I actually quite like this as one of the amazing things about making your own clothes is the story behind it and that it's personal and unique to you. I was so so proud of how this dress was turning out; possibly my best collar yet and super neat binding. So so close to being perfect. And then I came to mark the buttonholes and realised my mistake. Some of you may have spotted it already! I attached the placket to the wrong side of the dress so it now buttons like a man's shirt with left over right! Ah well no one will notice. Just me as it feels a little odd to button up!
All in all a big success and one that I'm sure is going to see a lot more wear. I've got to the point where I feel like I'm wearing handmade much more than I'm wearing RTW and it's such a good feeling! Being able to say 'thanks I made it' never gets old!