The Aztec Zone dress

We all have days where we just can’t be bothered to get up, get dressed and go out into the world pretending to be an adult. You just want to stay at home in your stretchy clothes and unicorn slippers, not brush your hair or wash, and watch re-runs of The Crystal Maze. The thought of having to not only be within twenty feet of other living beings that are not your cat/dog but also be expected to take part in sensible mature conversations with them is enough to bring on the sweats.

It’s on those days that fussy or uncomfortable clothing is a definite no-no. No restrictive fabric, no muffin-top inducing waistbands, no zips, no tiny buttons, no tight shirts that you have to safety-pin to avoid button gape, no tops that you have to keep tucking in, or trousers you have to keep pulling up. I want a one-piece, roomy-so-we-don’t-have-to-worry-about-eating-too-much, over-the-head-and-we’re-done outfit. The Catarina ticks all those boxes.

The pattern is produced by Seamwork, and it’s the first one of their patterns I’ve made. If you’re not familiar with Seamwork it’s a subscription-based online magazine from the same people who run Colette Patterns. As a non-member you can buy the patterns outright off the website for $10-$12 each, or for $6 per month you can get a subscription where you get two free patterns of your choice every month plus you receive an online magazine. I had a referral link for my first month at $3, so I chose the subscription offer and picked out my Catarina pattern and one other. I figured you can’t really complain at $1.50 for a pattern, given how much they usually cost in the UK – those of you over the pond in the US get absolute BARGAINS on patterns sometimes! I mean, $1.99 sales?! YES PLEASE! We sometimes have to give up a month’s salary here just to buy patterns, and I don’t even understand why. It’s not like they are printed on gold or anything.

The only downside for me on the Seamwork patterns is that they are pdfs rather than old-school printed patterns.

I’m not usually a fan of pdf patterns… I prefer ready printed ones that I can just trace and get going with. Which you can interpret as ‘I really can’t be bothered to stick four million pieces of paper together EXACTLY STRAIGHT’. Recently though I’ve seen some amazing patterns that I just have to have in my life which are only available as downloads, so I’ve been (grudgingly) joining the cut-and-stick brigade. And not whinging about it at all while those little matchy-matchy symbols drain my life force page by page.

Now I might be a bad person for doing this, but I actually use my rotary cutter and metal ruler to slice off those edges of the paper. Yes I (sometimes) have to replace the blade afterwards, but It gets done much quicker than with scissors and I’m not so reliant on holding together a few sheets of paper perfectly in line. They always, *always* fan out as I approach the other side of the paper with scissors and then I have to go along and trim these little slivers while contemplating my quality of life. And no matter how well I think I line all the pages up when I’m sticking them together, they always fall out of line somewhere. I swear they don’t actually print them straight and therefore it’s actually impossible to get a perfect grid.

I (obviously) survived the mental trauma of joining up all these pages with sticky tape – which somehow managed to get at least one strand of dog hair stuck on each piece, my thanks go to the furkids for their apparent inability to keep their hair attached to their skin – and brought the Catarina to life with some aztec viscose I got from eBay.

The Catarina is made up of a fully lined bodice, adjustable straps, and a midi length elasticated gathered skirt with a tie belt. If you’re short on fabric you can line the bodice with a different fabric – mine is lined in a black cotton as I didn’t really see the point of using the good stuff on the inside. The skirt isn’t lined though, so bear this in mind if you’re thinking about a nice light summer fabric. However it is super easy to add a lining – just cut the skirt pieces out again from your lining fabric of choice and treat the main fabric and lining fabric as one. You’ve got no zips or anything to work around, just an extra hem to do.


This version of the dress was actually my practice run – I bought some uber-special silk that was shipped over from the US that I wanted to make this dress from, but having never used this pattern before I wasn’t sure on the fit/look and definitely did NOT want to steam straight in and waste my silk on something that was going to look like a maternity dress. I needn’t have worried – the fit is good and I’m pretty sure that I’ve dodged the pregnancy look. No one has (yet) offered me their seat on the train while I’ve been wearing it and that’s my benchmark. Winning.

Yep, the pattern matching on the side seams of the skirt is pretty shocking. I only had two metres of fabric – the pattern requirements state over 3 yards for all sizes (I like to live dangerously) – so something had to be sacrifced and this was it. I’m only a couple of inches out though – if I had thought about it, I could have shortened the skirt by a little bit to get both pieces on at the same level, but, meh. I’ve seen worse pattern matching in actual stores (Primark, I’m looking at you) so I’m not going to cry over it.

One thing I haven’t quite figured out yet is why there is a centre back seam on the skirt. There’s no vent, and it’s cut on a straight line. There isn’t (at least to me anyway) an obvious need to have this there. I am, quite honestly, well confused over the whole thing. I’ll be cutting the back piece as a whole on future versions unless the reason behind it suddenly becomes clear to me. (Kudos to me for getting the pattern matching considerably better on the back than on the side seam. I’ve even impressed myself with this one 💪🏼💪🏼💪🏼).

The waist is fitted by way of 1/2 inch elastic sewn with a zig-zag stitch onto the seam allowance of the bodice-skirt join. Use the absolute widest zig zag your machine will do for this (mine was 5mm by 5mm) and stretch the elastic as you sew – otherwise, your elastic won’t stretch, and that kind of defeats the whole point of it.

You also get to make a skinny waist tie for the dress, just to finish it off with that little something. The print of this fabric is just so loud and crazy though that you can’t hardly see my belt through the chaos – but it definitely helps with a bit of waist definition and avoids the ‘shapeless bin liner’ look. Don’t forget – if unexpected large-scale eating happens, you can always loosen that belt a little. Or, just remove it completely if you really hit bad times.

Words of wisdom: If you’ve got a loop turner for the straps and belt it will make your life a whole lot easier.

The pattern instructions are very thorough and clear, and the dress is a pretty quick easy sew. I would definitely be willing to try another Seamwork/Colette pattern based on this experience, and I’ve also got my eye on the new Penny shirtdress from Colette – it’s the perfect pattern for some silk that I picked up for the absolutely scandalous price of £2 per metre recently at the Cloth House warehouse sale. I’ll be buying the printed pattern though, not the pdf 😝

You could totally make the Catarina out of a whole range of fabrics to get different looks – my viscose print makes for a casual summer day dress, but you could make a light floaty silk one for a wedding or even a velvet one for a posh evening do or night out. So long as you don’t choose anything that’s too heavy for the gathers at the waist you could pretty much go for whatever you wanted, and you could alter the length of the skirt too.

I’m totally happy with how my first attempt has come out, and I didn’t even make any adjustments to the pattern. I can now cut into the silk with the confidence that I am not heading towards a very expensive balls-up.

If you’re interested in joining Seamwork, you can do what I did and get your first month for just $3 by going here πŸ™‚

Coming up next week on the Wanderstitch blog… my Deer and Doe Datura blouse in a burgundy cotton lawn 😍 

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  1. July 30, 2017 / 12:47 pm

    I think this dress is beautiful and totally get where you’re coming from re pdf patterns! Urgh..finding enough floor space is enough of a challenge in itself in my house! I follow a company on instagram that will turn your pdf’s into one pattern…have you ever tried this? I subscribe to Seamwork and have yet to try any of their patterns but have a few in my library I’d like to try, just that print your open pattern pieces puts me off!

    • Sarah
      July 30, 2017 / 6:10 pm

      Ahh thank you! Ooh, what’s the name of the company that you follow? I know there are some printing companies out there that will print them on large paper for you, but I kind of grudge the extra cost when I’ve already shelled out for the pattern :/ I guess there isn’t really a solution other than making friends with the scissors and sellotape!!!

      • August 2, 2017 / 5:11 pm

        Not sure what kind of large format printing you looked at, but have you checked the price of simple engineering prints? Many I know were turned off of the large format printing of patterns because of the price, but I found they were often looking at the price for poster prints.

        Engineering prints are usually priced by area. At the business supply store near me I can get an engineering print for a PDF pattern for $2.50-$7.00. But at print shops that specialize in drawings for architects and engineering firms, they are often less than half of that price. Or many places give a significant discount if you are willing to have 24 or 48 hr turnaround. I’ve come to the conclusion a few extra dollars is worth it for me to not deal with taping hell!

        I hear you on the pattern pricing – in Toronto we have one store that very occasionally has Butterick or McCalls for $5, but no $1.99 for us either sadly. But I checked out Minerva Crafts you mentioned on Insta the other day – you guys have such cheap fabric! And oddly, shipping here from the UK is cheaper than shipping from stores in the US!

        I’m getting a bunch of stuff from Minerva – are there any other online UK fabric stores you would recommend? You’ve opened up a whole new world of fabric shopping for me!!:)

        • Sarah
          August 3, 2017 / 9:30 pm

          Ah, yes a lot of the copy shops I looked at wanted to print the patterns on fancy-pants paper that cost an insane amount of money per sheet :O I did find a couple of architect/technical drawing places which were cheaper, but minimum order was Β£5 (about USD6) and postage was the same on top of that, so you were looking at a minimum order of Β£10 to begin with. I’d be willing to wait the 48 hours turnaround and would probably agree it’s better than the taping hell!! But some patterns I have I don’t think come with a ‘copy shop’ version and you’re left with no choice but to print on A4 paper πŸ™

          You know what’s weird? Quilting cottons, especially licenced ones, are insane in the UK compared to the US, price-wise. A yard of licenced fabric over here in the UK costs USD15-20 PER YARD. If I’m buying those, I get them shipped to the UK from the US as it’s cheaper!! Woohoo glad you’re getting a nice fabric haul from Minerva – what have you gone for? and are along the same sort of lines, not that I want to be responsible for emptying your bank account haha!! I also use but they are in Hong Kong – fab selection of crazy prints though!!

    • Sarah
      July 30, 2017 / 6:11 pm

      Thank you Frankie! Not sure we will have much more summer for me to wear it though! πŸ™‚

  2. July 31, 2017 / 9:59 am

    It looks beautiful and the result of this dress will let you all forget about pdf sewing pattern frustrations I bet.

    • Sarah
      July 31, 2017 / 12:14 pm

      Thank you πŸ™‚ and yes, you are right – it makes all the cutting and sticking worth it!

  3. July 31, 2017 / 7:21 pm

    All I want to wear is simple summer dresses at the moment – you’ve maybe convinced me to sign up to Seamwork…πŸ€”πŸ˜˜

    • Sarah
      August 3, 2017 / 10:03 pm

      Ahhh! You’ll have to cut and stick if you want the Catarina… she makes you work for her! I’m not being held responsible for adding to your sewing queue though πŸ™‚

  4. Bluehairisnice
    August 19, 2017 / 10:17 pm

    Ack – forgot check the post notification box and didn’t see your response!

    That is a lot on top of already paying for the PDF pattern. I guess I should consider myself fortunate that the shops near me have no minimum, and I can pick up to avoid delivery charges.

    I’m curious about the shop Missfoxlove mentioned above. Assembling the multiple PDFs could be done quickly in Photoshop, but not everybody has the skills/software/inclination, so this would be a good service. Though it is kind of crazy that some patterns still don’t come with a large format version – they are really simple to produce.

    I checked more UK fabric prices after you mentioned it:

    For things like designer quilting and jersey prints we are in a similar insane ball park as you. Around $18-20 for quilting cotton, $24-30 for jersey. What I first saw (which just made me assume everything was cheaper) were your viscose challis prints. We have very little selection here, only a few of the trendy designer prints which are $$$ like yours too. But you do have some nice no-name prints that only end up at like $6-7 CAD, woohoo!! And Minerva’s shipping is way less than (the only other place I’ve found non-designer rayons) so I’m happy!

    I’m getting a couple of prints I think you’ve used, and two more that look promising. No bank account emptying thankfully – you’re saving me $$! Oh, and you helped me realize that I needed to search for “viscose” in overseas shops. We refer to every variation of rayon as just rayon here. So thanks!!:)

    • Sarah
      August 21, 2017 / 8:26 am

      I’ve checked out local print shops in London, but they all seem to want an extortionate price per sheet… I guess because I’m looking at the shops close to my work, which is right in the centre of the city, they charge higher prices as they have higher overheads to cover. I did see online a few days ago, that if you bought a pdf pattern and paid an extra Β£2.99 (maybe Β£3.99 I can’t quite remember) they would send you a printed version as well. Also on Instagram the other day I did see a service where you could upload your pdf patterns and they would scale and print them for you – I think for up to two sheets it was about Β£6 per pattern. Which still is a lot, if you’re already paying a fair amount for the pdf print – I tend to find that the pdfs aren’t really much cheaper than the printed ones.

      Yay! Glad you have found some fabrics that you like! Yes, we call it viscose over here, not many places will use the term rayon πŸ™‚ I have used before, but also do use Minerva on a regular basis – how much to they charge for shipping to you for an average parcel? It’s always exciting times when you find nice fabric at good prices – which prints have you bought? Can’t wait to see what you make with them!

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