I’m so excited that Autumn is almost here. It’s the season with the best colours and fabrics – burnt orange corduroy, rich purple wools, green coatings. Sandals are swapped for boots and the cosy jumpers and cardigans come out to play. If I was a season, I would be autumn. It’s all my favourite colours and I just can’t get enough of seeing the leaves turn on the trees. My sewing is now moving away from warmer weather items and charging at full speed towards autumnal cozyness. The boots I’m wearing in these pictures are my ‘autumn boots’ and now they’ve been worn, I consider summer to be officially over.
This cotton lawn fabric that you see here (made by Cotton and Steel, part of the Tokyo Train Ride collection) is rarer than hen’s teeth. Especially in this colourway. The print run of it was several years ago now, and I’ve seen it kicking about in pink, blue, and also a beige colour – but let’s face it, the teal is the best. The quilting cotton weight is slightly easier to find than the lawn, but this print really comes alive on the lightweight fabric. You’ve just got to find it.
I’ve been to Tokyo a couple of times, and totally love the city. If I had the opportunity to go and live there I absolutely would (so long as the furkids could come with me too. And the husband, I suppose). It seems fitting then that I would be drawn to the fabric that’s called ‘Tokyo train ride’ – it’s funny how names can draw us in, isn’t it? I do wonder why it’s called that though… I don’t recall seeing many octopi out the windows of the trains. I didn’t even get to see Mount Fuji because it was too cloudy. There is such a mash of old and new architecture in the city, one minute you’re looking at modern skyscrapers and then around the next corner is this beauty. Ah, take me back.
I half-heartedly searched for this fabric now and then on eBay, Etsy and weird foreign websites that I had to use Google Translate for. I turned up nothing for a very long time. Then one day, the fabric odds were in my favour – an eBay search returned one result. A 2.5 metre piece of the cotton lawn was being destashed, at a not-too-unreasonable price. Several days remained on the auction, so I placed the first bid and began to mentally warn off other potential bidders. I waited. And watched. And waited some more. And then I got the email to say that I’d won the auction.
The fabric was just as beautiful in real life as I thought it would be. I had already planned to make a shirt dress with it, and as I had this pattern kicking around (and ready traced) I decided that I may as well go for this one. I’ve seen several people make shirt dresses with this same fabric – there seems to be something about this print that just screams ‘shirt dress’!
If you haven’t come across this pattern before, the Cami Dress is a gathered waist shirt dress with a functioning placket that stops at the waist, and an invisible side zip. I added a little bit of length to the skirt of mine as it’s just a *smidge* too short for my liking as it is. (I’ll apologise now for my ironing standards – yes, they are rubbish and I think there’s more creases post-ironing than there was pre-ironing. Just look at the pretty octopus legs instead.)
There was an issue with the first cami dress I made that seems to have repeated itself in this second one – the collar, when fastened at the top button, almost chokes me. It’s so tight at the front yet there is loads of room at the back – it’s almost like the neck hole sits too far towards the back and needs to be shunted forward. I’m pretty sure that I have a correctly placed neck on my shoulders, as I haven’t experienced this with any other shirt collars. So I’m not sure what gives. Now that it’s happened twice it’s kind of put me off making another dress from this pattern – I *could* lower the front neck opening and raise the back, but I’ve never had to make this adjustment with any other shirt collar so it kind of makes me go ‘meh’ and want to move on to another pattern instead. I wasn’t sure whether the first time was due to sloppy cutting on my part, but as it’s happened again I’m now assuming it is the pattern and my cutting skills are in fact on point.
On both versions of my Cami Dress I have taken in the side seams to get a closer fit at the waist, but I feel like maybe I should have given myself a little more room at the bust because I can NEVER get a shirt that doesn’t give me button strain at the boobs! WHYYY? I don’t want a shirt hanging off me like a sack just so that the buttons sit right. Perhaps this is something I’ll add to my 2018 sewing resolutions – figure out what I need to do to have a shirt that fits well in all the right places. I’m thinking a full bust adjustment might be in order… guess I’ll have to bite the bullet and figure out how to do them. Or exclusively wear loose-fitting clothing from now on.
Those of you with keen eyes will have spotted that my dress is sleeveless, and the pattern is not. I did actually cut the sleeves out (of my precious, PRECIOUS fabric no less) and attached one, and then promptly removed it because it was SO SMALL. I mean, it was like they were meant for arms that are the circumference of my wrist. Instead I decided that sleeveless was the way to go if I wanted to actually move my arms so I finished the armholes with 1/2″ bias tape. As the shape of the armhole opening was intended to attach sleeves to, I altered the curve ever so slightly before stitching my bias tape by trimming some of the fabric away. The sleeves would have been sewn at 5/8″ and I attached my bias tape with 1/4″ seam, so I needed to remove some anyway to get back to the same seamline.
This dress was intended to be a summer dress, but I dithered for so long on finding a watery location to photograph it that we’ve now slipped into autumn. Choices are few when you’re in a city like London and the main body of water you can think of is the manky, not-photogenic-at-all River Thames. And even if you can find a photogenic spot you can bet all the tourists with their selfie sticks have found it too so you need to go at 4am just to get a clear shot. No Thank You. I eventually chose my place in East London, a path I used to walk along at lunchtimes when I worked in the area. It’s kind of residential so the tourists don’t know about it… but the lunchtime joggers do. Now that I see the dress styled as sort of autumn-y, I feel like this has been it’s destiny all along – it goes well with my brown boots, and the teal green colour of the dress could definitely be classed as an autumnal shade. I’m now picturing it with a cozy, slouchy rich brown cardigan to keep the chill off as I go crunching through the autumn leaves.
My mission for the perfect shirt dress continues on. Although this Pauline Alice one ticks most of my boxes, there are a few things that it is still lacking:
- I want a shirt dress that I can attach both long AND short sleeves to, so I can get a good fit through the body and then adapt it for the changing seasons. The Pauline Alice cami comes with the option of short or elbow-length sleeves (and the point in those is what exactly? If it’s cold enough for sleeves, I want long sleeves), but when I’ve tried to attach the short sleeves they are so tight I can’t even move my arms so I’m clearly not going to even bother trying the longer sleeves. It’s really weird because my arms aren’t THAT big, I mean yeah who doesn’t have a little bit of bingo wings going on but these sleeves were tight. PROPER tight. Straining-at-the-seams-which-will-pop-if-you-raise-your-arm tight.
- I’d like a dress with a defined waistband, like the Penny by Colette. I’m really loving this pattern and have the perfect fabric that I want to make it from, but it seems that not many places in the UK have the printed pattern in stock yet, so I’ll just wait a while. It’s not like my sewing queue isn’t long enough anyway…
- I’d like to try a shirt dress with a different style of skirt, without the bulk of gathers at the waist. Perhaps a circle skirt? Or even a pencil skirt, to give a really fitted look – but then I’m wondering if there’s any point in having a matchy-matchy pencil-bottomed shirt dress when I could get more wear out of coordinating separates 🤔 I’ll ponder this one a little bit longer I think.
Despite the collar issues going on here, Pauline Alice do produce some really cool patterns and it hasn’t put me off trying other designs by them. The Rosari skirt is currently in my queue and I keep drooling over the military vibes of the Quart coat – but I’m not sure I’m feeling those pleated panels on the side. They might have to go.
If you have any recommendations for a long-sleeved shirt dress pattern, please let me know! And if you’ve made the Penny by Colette or this Cami Dress by Pauline Alice, I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences with it!
Coming up next week on the Wanderstitch blog… a fresh and funky shirt for the hubs from some awesome viscose I scored off eBay 😍 Subscribe below to make sure you don’t miss out!