Grainline Alder: Reaching my Goal!

I set myself the minimum of sewing goals this year. That’s not to say I wasn’t going to sew as much, but that there were other areas of life worthy of goals too: namely do less, enjoy it more, get fitter, be happier (the yoga practice is working well in all areas!). So setting fewer sewing goals was part of my master plan.

I had two sewing goals. The first was to focus more on silhouette/structure and sew more items in solids. This would bring my handmade wardrobe more into line with my taste. I’ll write more about that next time.

My second goal was to sew some shirt-dresses with all the requisite pattern alterations required by my shape (FBA every time!). I had in mind a range of Grainline Alder variations, and the ubiquitous McCalls M6696. My goal-setting took place in the heart of the Festive season, so naturally it included some plaid aspirations.

I started well early in the year with a couple of Alder version B dresses in cotton chambray and one in Cotton and Steel shirting (pictured below; never blogged). Both dresses involved moving the bust apex northward by 1.5″ and adding a 1″ FBA.

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So by mid-October it was time to move onto my Northern Hemisphere winter aspirations. I had wanted to tackle Grainline’s Alder-Archer hack, whereby the shoulder section of the Alder shirt dress is altered to accommodate the Archer shirt sleeves. I had even bought the brushed cotton plaid on Goldhawk Road back in January! I followed the instructions to a tee, apart from only adding 1/2″ to the shoulder, rather than the full 1″ suggested by the instructions. I found that my Archer shirt falls slightly off the shoulder and I wanted my shoulder seams to sit on top of my shoulder.

I moved the bust apex up, pivoting on the existing dart legs, and added the FBA to the existing Version A, before altering the shoulders to take the sleeves. I really like the fitted shape of the bodice before it flows out to an A line. Belatedly I found that Grainline had also published instructions for an Archer-Alder variation, where the start-point is the Archer shirt bodice, extended to Alder proportions. This is undoubtedly an easier hack as it’s only the bodice length that is altered. I am pleased with the shape of the Alder-Archer, so it was worth the work!

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As usual, there were a few silly mistakes: I wasn’t sure how best to align the two front pieces, so cut with the centre front lined up on the vertical stripe. When I sewed the bodice together the mismatch in horizontal stripes was impossible to ignore. So I unpicked and re-cut, aligning the armscye on the pattern. I also used the Four Square Walls tutorial for attaching the collar in a different order. This made eminently more sense to me, and I have used it on every collar.

It’s funny wearing brushed cotton in this climate – even being on the balcony in the shade for 10 minutes taking photos was enough to overheat. I also look strange wearing my more usual Northern European palette here. And I don’t think I’ll be able to wear this dress with bare legs for looking like Wee Willie Winkie!

Deep breath….. it’s surely time to tackle M6696…..

Me Made May 16: I did. Did you?

Hello (sheepish whisper). It’s been quite a while. i honestly didn’t know if I’d come back to writing this blog. Which is a shame. It was an absolute lifeline when I was at home in London with two very small children. Being in touch with the sewing community kept me on the right side of sane. Just. A year into life in Malaysia and with a full-time job, I have a lot less desire to spend my evenings in front of a computer screen, but I am still sewing and I do stay in touch with my favourite bloggers even if it tends to be on Instagram!

I answered the call to Me Made May with a pledge to wear something handmade every day, which I more or less do most of the time these days. I got to the end of the month with no repeat outfits and learned a couple of things to boot.

Although I wear my handmade clothes almost every day, I really missed my favourite Muji linen dresses. They are so comfy and loose-fitting but after this week’s new Inari Tee Dress even they may become obsolete. FYI: I think this just may be the most versatile and flattering dress ever!

Over the course of this year I have been consciously making clothes in solid dark colours and in jersey to redress the balance of my wardrobe and to reflect my fashion preferences. MMM was reminder that my early handmade clothes were often inspired by my love of colour and print. As I reached for my favourite black Moneta, I realised I wanted to look more sleek and elegant than ‘colourful art teacher’ chic. We all had one, didn’t we?! There’s still a fair bit of colour in these photos, but some solids too.

The month also revealed my pattern company loyalties. When I like something, I want it in every colour and texture. Chances are I will buy all of your patterns. Witness my numerous Colette Patterns outfits (Wren, Moneta, Laurel), and multiple Tilly and the Buttons numbers (Mathilde, Agnes, Bettine), not to mention ALL the Grainline Studio patterns! There was a profusion of indie patterns, and according to these photos, only a couple of big pattern companies (the floral scuba McCalls M6886, Simplicity 2444, and the Big Purple One – Simplicity 2406).

Being ‘coerced’ into wearing all the handmade clothes I could lay my hands on meant that I rediscovered a few gems that have been languishing at the back of the wardrobe. I kicked off Day 1 with my first ever Tilly Mathilde (not pictured here). It was like a reunion with a dear friend. Why was I not wearing this every week like I used to? Is there such a thing as too many handmade clothes??

The daily selfie-taking did me in eventually. The light in the tropics is unforgiving and harsh. If I didn’t get my photo taken pre-school run it wasn’t possible. Lord knows there’s enough pressure in my life getting myself and two small people out of the house by 7.45am without a blog-worthy photo shoot thrown into the mix. My five year old did me proud and snapped a few of these – clever girl. The downside is that her school photo came this week. There she is with hand on hip and giving good ‘right leg’ while the other kids stand up straight. They say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree…!

I’ll sign off (for another 3 months!) with one of my two new garments from May – a black Colette Wren (the other was the Grainline Alder at the top of this post). It’s a winner and ticks all the boxes for dark, solid colours in a flattering, work-friendly jersey dress. It’s been lovely to catch up. Take care all. x

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