New dress: Irma shirtdress by I AM Patterns

So…yes… now for a definite bit of Covid frosting and some much needed distraction from current affairs! If you don’t know what “frosting” is in terms of sewing (or “icing” for us Brits), it’s the type of frivolous, exuberant sewing that doesn’t necessarily encompass the most practical, everyday of garments, but is sewing for the fun of it, using a striking pattern or perhaps some flamboyant fabric. And as you can see, I decided to combat the approaching winter blues by going for optimum frosting with colourful choices for both pattern and fabric. Ha!

I saw the I AM Patterns Irma dress a couple of weeks ago, when it came out as part of their new collection “I AM Magic” and, truth be told, I really like all the patterns in the collection. They’re a little different, a little fashion-forward, and I’m feeling interesting patterns right now. I would definitely have snapped up the I AM Merlin coat pattern, except that I do have some that are similar already, but it looks cool.

Of all of them, the Irma was the one I plumped for. I like both the shirt and dress views and I really liked the fabrics that I AM Patterns used for their samples. As you can see above, there are two different sleeve options: regular with pleats and bishop. I went for the regular sleeve here as there’s already plenty going on, but would probably try out the bishop with a shirt version. All versions of dress and shirt have concealed button plackets, a box pleat in the back, a two-piece collar and the dress has a rather dramatic high-low hem.

I’m not necessarily a massive fan of a high-low hem in normal circumstances, but the contrast between the tailored top half collar and cuffs and the bottom half flamenco resortwear is right up my sartorial alley. I do love a bit of a clothing contradiction, me.

Fabric

I had actually intended to use a completely different fabric for this project, which was still quite striking, but a little more dark and graphic (more like the sample fabric tbh), but I didn’t have enough. The patterns pieces for the dress are really quite wide, so if you don’t have a 60″ wide piece, it’s worth noting you’ll need quite a lot of length.

I’m trying very hard (again and not always successfully) to stick to stash and I bought this turquoise crepe a couple of years ago in London. I bought it with no specific plan in mind and hadn’t used it yet as I felt the design and hand could very easily turn into “richer expat lady muumuu”. My hope was that the traditional collar, cuffs and yoke of the upper part of the design would take it from floating socialite to contemporary woman. I don’t know if I succeeded or not, but I haven’t had so much fun trying on a work-in-progress in agggeessss.

I used 3m and was pretty intentional with my placement. I kept the front mostly flora, matching the fronded palms loosely across the front. I didn’t want to decapitate a bird if I could avoid it and used one large, glorious one down at the bottom and also got a full one in at the top of one sleeve. I could let loose on the back, as it’s cut on the fold, so there are a few winged wonders hanging out there too.

Of course, one of the principal attractions of the fabric and design is the way it moves in real life. You don’t get any sense of that in my mobile phone pics, so here’s my attempt to upload a slightly awkward video of me walking in a vaguely straight line to give you an idea. I haven’t tried this in WordPress before, so hopefully it works!

Sorry if it’s super grainy

Sizing

It’s always tricky, deciding which size to go for when you make a pattern from a new company. This garment was basically my wearable muslin, so I used it as my test dummy. After scrutinising all the numbers for a while, I decided to make the bold move of going for a straight 46. This corresponds to my high bust measurement and so I would normally trace this size, make a full bust adjustment and then grade out whatever is still needed in the waist and hips.

However, there is a lot of ease built into this dress. That is the intended shape, of course, but I still had a good 6 to 8 inches of ease throughout the dress, even at the 46, so decided to roll with it. And the result? Well, you can see for yourself that it actually looks pretty good. In fact, the main issue I have is that the shoulder and armhole are slightly too big still. Making it again, I’d probably start from the 44 and grade out a little. It’s very wearable though and not a big problem. I think it was a good starting point.

The one other change I made was to shorten the sleeves 2 inches, which is a normal adjustment for me, and one I estimated by comparing my sleeve length with the measurement on the pattern. It also seems about right. One note: there were no shorten/lengthen lines on the sleeve piece, so I just went with a guesstimate.

Construction

The pattern pdf went together nicely and I liked the thoughtful layout. No weird blank spaces, which was refreshing. Looking at the pattern I thought it would be 70 pages or so, but was pleasantly surprised it was only around 40 because of clever placement, so top marks from this sewist.

The instructions are very concise but you definitely have everything you need. They remind me of the Deer and Doe instructions in terms of style, which I also happen to like. Here are a few notes I made:

  • One error I did spot: on the back when you’re forming the box pleat use the yoke notches and not the pleat notches as I think they’re mislabelled. If you match the pleat markings, the yoke will be too short. At least that’s how it worked out for me.
  • Binding the sleeve placket: I have never bound a placket before in this way, but it was rather neat! It took me a little while to puzzle the configuration out as it seems a little strange at first, so I took a couple of pictures for anyone else in the same position.

Pic 1: Once you cut the slit into your sleeve, you open the slit up, so it runs in almost a straight line – it’s actually a “V” as you can see here. You then pin your binding right sides together in a straight line and sew at the seam allowance. This was the hard bit for me to visualise, but because the sleeve slit is a V and the binding is straight, the seam allowance will get narrower as you reach the middle and then grow again as you pass it. You can see that in my line of stitching.

Pic 2: Flip the sleeve and you will have your free binding end facing. Fold over and press the seam allowance in.

Pic 3: Flip back and fold the edges wrong sides together, making sure you cover the seam from Step 1.

Pic 4: Pin very well. Flip over and topstitch from the right side, then sew the triangle as per the instructions, to end up with the below.

  • I used the burrito method with the yoke – my crepe was very thin so I knew I’d be able to roll it up into a burrito and I much prefer it to faffing around turning under seam allowances and so on. It worked a treat. The crepe was surprisingly well-behaved I must say.
  • I really like how the instructions tell you where to put the buttonhole in the cuff relative to the finished cuff: i.e. centre it and place 3/8″ from the edge. Nice! I always wonder how you’re supposed to still read notches when you’ve sewn and rolled some pieces and this is a practical method of placement. Having said that, this was my one main error with this garment. I put the buttons and holes on the wrong sides of the cuffs. Doh! Perhaps you spotted it. I’m still unsure as to whether I can be bothered trying to fix it.

  • Interestingly, this is the first time I’ve ever seen instructions to ease a sleeve in on the flat. I’ve eased plenty of set-in sleeves and I’ve also sewn plenty of sleeves on the flat, but never the two together! I’ve always been led to believe that sewing it in the round is the “better” way for shape, but I’m always game to try something new, even if it’s only to say “Well! I’m NEVER trying that again!! (swearword swearword)”.
  • You perform it exactly as you would think. First, the instructions have you sew one line of easing stitches at 5/16″ (I did just over the quarter-inch mark) from the edge between the notches. The picture sort of makes it look like you’re laying the sleeve on top of the armhole piece, but actually you’re attaching upside-down as if in a knit garment. You pin the edges, all the way up to the notches (no ease here) and the top middle notch point, and then pull on the gathering stitches until the sleeve cap is the same length as the armhole length. Make sure the ease is distributed evenly, pin and sew it in place.
  • It worked very nicely actually, and I think that’s possibly because there really isn’t much ease to gather. I pulled the gathers a little on the first sleeve and it was already way too gathered. When I sewed the ease stitches, my machine very slightly gathered the sleevehead automatically, just from putting in the stitches and it turned out this was enough.
  • I liked the collar instructions and I actually took the time to baste my collar band closed at the end of the process. This resulted in my best collar finish EVA (yippee), so I will definitely be doing that again.

Overall, I enjoyed this sew a lot and it has certainly made me keen to try other I AM Patterns offerings. I have noticed some of their patterns before, but never quite got round to making one. They’ll be on my radar going forward! It was great to sew something fun and frivolous – 2020 doesn’t half need a bit of that and it helped my mood immensely. Hopefully you will find something that makes you feel lighthearted in your own sewing or craftwork too over coming days and weeks. Bye for now!

20 thoughts on “New dress: Irma shirtdress by I AM Patterns

  1. I love it! Covid frosting indeed 😁, it’s just the kind of cheerful fluff that’s a delight to see, and sorely needed these days. Great video too, the movement in this is amazing. Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Helen – yes, it definitely does expose your knees, no doubt about that. Actually, if you raise your arms, it exposes a little more, haha, but nothing indecent. I quite like the width, although I think in a stiffer fabric it might be a bit much.

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  2. Thanks for introducing me to these patterns.
    As a beginner sewist I really enjoy your detailed posts, I’m sure they must be a lot of work for you, so I just wanted to say thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, you are so welcome! I’m glad they’re useful for you. I always found this kind of thing useful when I was starting off and, to be honest, it’s a great way for me to keep notes on my projects too! What are you working on?

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      1. I have just cut out a Seamwork Bristol to try. I have lengthened it, because like Helen in the above comment I need to hide my knees!!!
        Anyway, thanks again for your all your detail. It has definitely helped me tackle some patterns that were probably above my capabilities.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Ooh, I wasn’t familiar with that one, so I went and checked it out. That’s an interesting skirt design! I like the front pocket (?) detail. I think it’s a pocket. Will keep it in mind – thanks!

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  3. This is a beautiful dress. I think you did an excellent job using this fabric for this pattern. I learned something new-frosting. Enjoy wearing this lovely dress and I appreciate all the details.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much – it worked out! I *think* it was Heather from Closet Core Patterns that started the frosting thing up – at least that’s where I first heard it. She had a Sew Frosting challenge last year and maybe the year before? I’ve lost all sense of time this year! Haha.

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  4. I love everything about this! I really love shirt dresses and also the aesthetic of I Am Patterns, so even though I have *ahem* enough *ahem* shirt dress patterns in my stash, I might have to try this one out, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh man, me too! Which ones are on your list? I already have the Named Reeta and Marilla Walker Isca shirtdresses printed out from the copyshop from earlier this year and they have been on my to-do list for months. I also have a ton of other ones – this one just jumped the queue in that sparkly magpie kind of way. I do love a good shirtdress! I guess my Kalle test was a shirtdress too, of course, and I also want to make more of those.

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