The Alder Shirtdress Pattern by Grainline Studio is not my usual silhouette. As I’m sure you’ve noticed from reading about my projects for the Minerva Crafts Blogger Network or if you have popped over to my personal blog, fit and flare is my go-to style. But when I spotted this amazing fish print Fabric, for some reason I couldn’t get the idea of making an Alder dress with it out of my head! When a project calls my name so persistently, who am I to disagree?

I chose to make view A in a straight size 12. I did not do any full bust adjustment. The one change I did make was to add a good deal of length. I looked at the sample on the model and it was hitting her at about mid-thigh. I am 5’ 9” and I don’t wear many dresses that hit above the knee. Although I made a size 12, I used the size 18 length and then added an additional 2 inches at the lengthen/shorten line. If I make another Alder, I will probably add another inch. I don’t dislike how it looks now, but I think I would be more comfortable if it were a smidge longer.

I did find the instructions and illustrations in the pattern less than ideal. For the collar and collar stand, I kept having to flip back and forth, re-reading sections and trying to decipher exactly what was meant. I’d recommend using a tried and true technique for that section rather than following the pattern exactly. The rest of the instructions were okay, but I wouldn’t disagree with the intermediate difficulty rating.

I started sewing this dress while using a size 65/9 needle. (If you aren’t familiar with sewing machine needle sizing, that just means that it was a thinner needle.) It was already in my sewing machine and I didn’t want to bother taking it out. However, I wasn’t happy with the stitch tension. I played with the tension a bit and switched to a universal sewing machine needle, after which it went together smoothly. Sometimes tension problems can be completely resolved by re-threading and switching the needle. My sewing machine even behaved while sewing all 12 of the buttonholes and that was probably the part I was least looking forward to!

Okay, now let me tell you about the amazing fabric I used. As I mentioned before, once I spotted this fish print Cotton Poplin Fabric, I fell in love with it. A good novelty print is one of my favorite types of fabric, and the colorways of this particular one are amazing. The fabric is fairly lightweight with a slight stretch that makes the finished dress extra comfortable. It presses beautifully and is a dream to sew with.

So. What are my thoughts on the finished dress? I quite like it! It is different, but I love shirt dresses. They are extremely practical and I would wear one nearly everyday if I had enough. I do think this dress needs a belt. With my full bust and wide hips, it looks fairly sack-like without. And nobody wants that! I also think that the dress is designed to be even more loose and billowy but because I chose a size closer to my high bust than my full bust it ended up almost fitted. It is snugger over my hips than I would like so I’ll definitely tweak that next time.

Despite my struggle with the instructions, I did enjoy making this dress. I’ve worn the dress half a dozen times since I finished it (which explains the extra wrinkles across the front) and I think it will be in constant rotation this summer. If you have sewn a few garments before and made at least one proper shirtdress, I think you could easily make an Alder!

~Emily