So I made a shift dress in linen. Not something I would have expected to put on my to-do list since a) I’ve always suited a more nipped-in garment, even when I was 19 and student-thin and b) have never been able to wear linen – I tried linen clothes many times when I was younger, but we just didn’t get on. And then there’s the grey. I chose this because I felt I hadn’t made anything grey forever and have since realised that almost every item of clothing I have been working on recently is, in fact, grey. I don’t know what’s up with my head but I definitely don’t need any more grey. Seattle is grey enough right now!
So why on earth did I decide to make the Seamwork Sonya dress I hear you ask? Okay, well, hands up, I was definitely swayed by their versions (note: they were not grey). I liked the colour blocking and also the big pockets, which seemed a neat contemporary detail. I also liked the fact they recommended medium-weight fabrics, because I have a TON of those and not too many apparel patterns that use them.
Finally, I also thought it might be time to give the old shift dress another go, the point this time being that I have more to hide under the rectangle shape than to emphasise. This is obviously the reason for it being a perennial favourite of the over-60s crowd – and fair enough, too. The linen is not super stiff and is probably a good weight for a shift dress. I’m surely it will soften a little with further washing too.
And what did I end up with? Well, I think you’ll agree that I navigated that fine line between munitions factory worker and bishop’s assistant with aplomb and have ended up with a fine garment that somehow highlights the best in both styles. It’s not the look I was going for, but it is a look. I have tried to lighten the mood by adding a pixel Link badge and octopus earrings to my outfit, but I don’t think you can even see them.
In all seriousness though, when I saw the photos I thought, you know, it’s really not that bad. The dress was a lot of fun to make, the darts (bust and back) keep it from being a complete rectangle and the greyness is really just a matter of my rather poor choice in fabrics. The dotty C&S cotton rather overwhelms the RK grey linen with those big generous pockets, so I probably should have restrained my choice to just a contrast stripe down the middle. Oh well, you live and learn!
The dress itself is actually very comfortable. I wore it out to take Joe to the playpark with some trainers and it was great, actually. The main fit issue I have is that the shoulders are just too wide and it’s a shame really, as the facing and neckline depth I like very much in this design. Colette/Seamwork patterns do have a tendency towards wide shoulders, so it’s my own fault for not making a muslin. I’ll know for next time and it’s certainly not unwearable. I made Version 2 in a Size 14 for reference.
I must say it was nice to work on a woven garment again too. It seems like I’ve made quite a few knit pieces recently and I also got to try a few new things with Sonya, such as putting in an invisible zip and of course, the colour blocking. A few notes for anyone else tempted by this make:
- The instructions are very thorough and clear. I used the Baste & Gather guide for inserting an invisible zip with a normal zipper foot, however, and it seemed to go rather well! Oh, apart from the part when I realized I had put the zip on the bottom of the dress. Yes, I did. Doh.
- There are some cool cuff variations available, both in the main pattern and as a free download if you subscribe to Seamwork magazine. I didn’t use them here, but the petal cuff in particular looks very enticing. However, I couldn’t for the life of me find the recommended sleeve hem allowance in the instructions if you don’t use a cuff. Maybe I couldn’t see the words for the sleeves (ho ho ho), but for your reference I used a 1/4″ followed by a 1″ hem turn – the same as recommended for the dress bottom hem.
- I interfaced the cotton pockets as recommended, but I really don’t think it’s necessary if you use a stiffer fabric (I used quilting cotton). They stand away from the body a little bit now and would have been better without the interfacing. Construction wise I used the sewing machine for everything and finished the edges with the serger.
- I mentioned that I made a size 14. Made according to the pattern, the shoulders were wide for me (maybe an inch), and it turned out a little longer than it mentions in the instructions. However, making it any shorter would have completely unbalanced the cross design, so I left it as is. The bust darts ended up perfect, which is not always the case for me – I often have to lower them an inch or so because of size (I’m a DD), so this was a nice surprise.
- The facing/neckline also fits nicely and is smooth. It did require a little easing into the main fabric. I staystitched the pieces as directed, but not immediately, so it’s possible the neckline stretched a little. I still find easing with wovens a bit tricky, but it was second time lucky.
Well, that’s it for now. Overall, if you’re into shifts, then this is a solid pattern. And it’s fun!