Sewaholic has released a new pattern, and I was lucky enough to be a pattern tester again! Can I just say that I love pattern testing? It forces me to make something that I might not otherwise try, and I end up learning new techniques and sewing things outside my comfort zone. And the Saltspring dress does fall a bit outside my comfort zone. First off, it’s a dress. While I can see the appeal of a dress, I hardly ever wear them. Something about feeling too dressed up. I have issues, obviously. The other thing is the blousing – it’s not a look I would normally bother with. However, the clever construction of this dress automatically blouses the top for you, with no fiddling or adjusting. Pretty smart idea, I think.
As to actually making the dress, in an effort to sew from my stash and find something suitably drapey, I came up with a couple fabric possibilities – georgette and silk. In hind sight, I should have picked the georgette. But, thinking how awesome a silk dress would be, I went with that fabric instead. Unfortunately, it was a nightmare to work with. The fabric is super slippery, and very challenging to cut. Plus, it starts to shred along the edges if you so much as look at it wrong. Sigh. And while it feels nice against the skin, it’s also got some incredible static cling, making a slip a necessity with the dress. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems weird to wear a slip with a sundress.
Fabric problems aside though, the pattern is great. The instructions are written in Tasia’s usual clear, concise style, and the dress was a breeze to put together. The zipper was the only challenging part, and I think my problems with that were entirely due to the fabric. The directions were certainly clear enough.
While my intent was to make the dress straight off the pattern with no changes, I did end up tweaking a few things. First, I ended up taking in the bodice side seams. I think it’s time to retake my measurements, because the size that I thought would fit my chest was clearly too big when I tried on the bodice for a fit check. Of course, my post-baby body is still changing enough that I swear my measurements shift from week to week (if not more often). I probably should have re-measured then, before going any farther with the dress, but no, I just assumed taking in the sides enough to grade the bodice down one size would be enough and I plowed on ahead. Once the dress was finished, it became apparent that I hadn’t taken in the sides quite enough (or my chest had shrunk in the intervening time, an entirely possible occurrence). So I just added three little pleats to the front neckline. It draws in the top enough that it doesn’t gap, and I actually like the way it turned out.
The other things I changed a bit are the straps and the skirt. For the skirt, I added a center seam in the front, but only because my fabric was too narrow to cut the skirt out on the fold. Also, not being sure of how long I wanted the dress, I added 7 inches to the shorter pattern length. I think I ended up cutting off between 2 and 4 inches for the final hem length. As to the straps, well, I have a baby who loves nothing more than to grab things. Spaghetti straps tied in bows would have stayed tied for all of 5 seconds once I picked up my son. So I initially tried to do something fancy with the straps coming over the shoulder from the front, feeding through loops at the back and then tying together in a bow at the center back.
In theory I thought it sounded great, but in practice it didn’t really work. The back ended up pulling together and gaping at the center back. So, scratch that idea. Instead, since I’d already sewn the loops into the back bodice, I threaded the front straps through the back loops, then brought the straps back to the front and attached them there. Does that make any sense at all? Hopefully it’s clear in the pictures.
One thing to note when making this dress is that until you put the elastic waist in, it doesn’t look so great on. I tried my dress on mid-construction to see how things were shaping up, and I was a little horrified at how it looked. But as soon as I put in the elastic, magic happened, and suddenly the dress looked really good. So just remember, if you try on your dress part way though construction, don’t panic, everything will be okay. And I know this isn’t just me, as I saw a similar comment over in Lauren’s post about her awesome Saltspring dress.
After looking at some of the posts by other pattern testers, and after seeing the pictures of my own dress, I’ve got some ideas of things to do differently next time. Aside from the obvious need for a different fabric choice, I really need to add a little bit of length to the bodice. I tend to forget that I have an unusually long torso, and it wasn’t until I saw the pictures of me wearing the dress that I realized the waist really isn’t sitting in the right place. It’s funny how I see things in a picture of me in the dress that I don’t see by just looking in the mirror. Also, I think I want to try making a knit Saltspring. Angela over at Sewmentalmama made two dresses for the pattern testing (both gorgeous), and the second was out of jersey. No need for a zipper thanks to the stretch fabric. And how comfortable would that be? I’m really liking that idea. I also think this pattern could be shortened to make a fun tunic length top. Lots of possibilities!