Sprout Hacks with the Alder Shirtdress

So the one big fear everyone has with Sprout Patterns is that since the pattern is directly printed on the fabric, you feel like you can’t make alterations, can’t fit it exactly, can’t sew “outside the lines” as it were. Dramatic alterations? Maybe not, but you can definitely get good sizing, and make modest alterations with sprout patterns. These dresses prove it!

Both of these dresses are made with Grainline Studio’s Alter Shirtdress patterns through sprout patterns. Now, the Alder Shirtdress is a very straight silhouette, almost smock-like. I, however, have lovely wide hips, and without a little definition around the waist, a dress like that would look like a tent on me. But I still loved the concept of the shirt dress, light and summery, and I thought it would be amazing in the poly crepe de chine. So I when I ordered in through sprout patterns, I ordered a size larger than my hips would normally dictate. After constructing the dress, I added four vertical darts in the bodice, two in the front and two in the back.

This added just enough definition around the waist that the dress curves with my curves that instead of hanging awkwardly and making me look wide, it looks like a lightly fitted shirt dress. Just what I wanted! The contrast fabric in the collar is perfect and adds that little detail that makes this feel like a custom made dress, not something I’d find in a store. And check out those buttons I found! (Fabric design byrochelle_new)

“Just added darts” you say?! That sounds hard! They’re not even in the pattern! How did you draft them? I didn’t. Does that sound wild? Its really not that crazy. I learned this method from a friend, and it is truly so obvious and easy. Want to add darts in any garment ever? Simply put it on inside out. Find where you feel like the dress has extra fabric, isn’t fitting right, or could do with some structure. Pinch that extra fabric between your fingers, move it around, shift until I feels right and then pin it together. (Sometimes its easier to do this WITH a friend, especially if you’re trying to add back darts.)

Once you’ve gotten enough pins in place, you’ve got effectively folds of fabric sticking away from the dress, but its not too tight and moves well, puts some basting stitches along those pins. Pull out the pins, and put the dress on right side out. Does it look like what you wanted? Excellent, sew along the basting stitches, you’ve now draped your own darts! Does it not look quite right? Back to inside out and shift-y pinching, draping fabric. Do it until you feel good.

“But how do you make both the darts exactly the same?!” I don’t. My body is not exactly symmetrical, why should my darts be? It takes a little practice to be sure, and sometimes my first try ends up with weird puckering, or a skewed dart. But in general, this method works GREAT for me for minor alterations, fitting well, and good structure.

This method worked so well for the first dress I made (the purple one) I had to have a second Alder dress. The first dress was out of poly crepe de chine, its flowy, its light, its a dramatic piece. But I felt like this dress could also be completely different. A different fabric, with a little more structure, a different design style, this could be a completely different dress. So I ordered it again, out of the cotton lawn, with an adorable design I’ve had my eye on for awhile with a crumpled paper texture and cute line-drawings of cities. (Fabric design by leighr)

I used the same method as the first time with adding darts to the front and back of the dress, and I liked it, but the dress was just missing that something different. I wanted this dress to have a bit more, structure than the first. With the fabric design, I almost wanted architecture. I decided, what I wanted was sleeves. Wait, the Alder Shirtdress pattern doesn’t come with sleeves! So? The armsyces are pretty basic normal armsyces. I’ve got a basic short sleeve pattern piece around here, yep, it looks like it’d work. Yep, there’s definitely enough printed scrap fabric included with the Sprout Patterns fabric, I can fit two short sleeve pieces out of the extra. Will it work? Let’s find out!

In the end, yes, I love it. The short sleeves add that just extra bit that makes this dress feel very different than the first. The cotton lawn has more body and the dress stands out and holds its own shape while still being soft and comfortable.

These dresses prove to me that you can still modify Sprout Patterns dresses and make them your own. You’re not stuck “sewing within the lines.” You can take a basic pattern and modify it in crazy different ways. It doesn’t take much to change the “attitude” of a dress.

I also wrote a review of this pattern here: Grainline Studio Alder Shirtdress ★★★★

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