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…..