Dresscue Mission

Before the holidays I did a wearable muslin of the Marilla Walker Isca shirtdress. I had very high hopes—the reviews were good, the diagonal bodice line had me dreaming of stripey wonders, and, of course, pockets!

I made it up in some nice brushed blue/black check shirting (no idea where this fabric came from, I feel like I’ve had it forever). The directions were excellent, especially given the unusual shoulder construction, and the fit was pretty good. The only alteration I made was to change the pointed collar to a rounded one.

The only problem was the pockets were too shallow. I kept losing things out of them when I sat down. Now, I don’t have very many requirements for pockets, but one hard and fast rule I do have is that things need to stay in them until I take them out.

Obviously I could just fix it in round two, but I really didn’t want to give up on the muslin, which had turned out more on the ‘wearable’ side than the ‘muslin’ side. But I didn’t have enough fabric to recut the front skirt (nor did I have enough ‘want to do it’ to recut the front skirt).

I did, however, have enough fabric to cut a few bias bands and enough ‘want to do it’ to undo just enough of the waist and side seams to shove them in:

Isca shirtdress

The inner piping is where the original pocket edge ended; I sewed the new strip to the pocket edge (sewing in the ditch of the piping), then attached piping to the raw edge of the new strip. I used a strip of black hem facing tape to finish the inside of the bias strip (because I didn’t have enough of the check fabric to do so).

Here’s a closer view (the inner piping is fatter than the outer piping because, uh, things that are closer look bigger and also because I ran out of that size of piping cord):

Isca pocket (revised edition)

And one with an iPad mini in it, for scale:

Isca pocket (iPad mini for scale)

I also shortened the skirt by about three inches (did I unpick the original foldover hem and then redo it? Ha, no, I just folded it up and sewed it down, as my reserves of ‘want to do it’ were running quite low at this point).

The only other thing I wish I had enough fabric to change are the sleeves: I feel like that diagonal line of the bodice would be really cool if it extended to a little cap sleeve. I looked at a bunch of “draft a cap sleeve” instructions but … not enough fabric, and even my spiffy new LIGHT UP SEAM RIPPER didn’t inspire me to take off these (perfectly serviceable) set-in sleeves and see if I could recut them into caps.

Isca sleeve, unrescued

I have some (lol “some” I have ENORMOUS QUANTITIES) of stripey fabric that I think will be good for the next round. There are a couple more projects in the queue before I will get there, but in the meantime, I can now wear this one!

2023: year of the shirtdress, for real this time

Matilda shirtdress front

“Yes, Erin, we’ve heard this before,” you say, and you’d be right—I don’t want to go back and search, but I’m pretty sure I’ve declared several previous Years of the Shirtdress, and then made … one. If that.

This time, though … that above is my third Matilda shirtdress, and I’m planning on making quite a few more. I actually bought the original non-curve-sized Matilda pattern yonks ago, realized how much work it was going to be to curvenize it (that’s the technical term), and it promptly went to the bottom of the pile. So when the curve version came out I was pretty enthusiastic, and the pile got shuffled somewhat.

Matilda shirtdress back view

I’ve since made it three times; this is the latest iteration. I will post the other two anon, but I wanted to get this posted sooner, because … well, I like it!

It’s not perfect by any means; the collar is a bit wonky on the left-hand edge (I might be able to just re-press it tho):

Matilda shirtdress collar

I like lots of things about this pattern: first off, the pockets are a good size, and patch pockets so very easy. The sleeve bands are fun, too:

Matilda shirtdress sleeve band

I’m looking forward to really playing around with stripes and plaids next, because this pattern goes together really well.

There were some changes made: I had to raise the bust point a bit (but the pattern designer actually has a great tutorial for this). I think the collar stand is too tall, so I shortened it (and I might narrow the collar, too). I’d love to try this with a flat (Peter Pan) collar, but I haven’t wrapped my mind around that change yet. I also did the waistband buttonholes horizontally, instead of vertically, because that just feels better? Idk. Because this fabric is lightweight, I used hem binding instead of the ‘fold twice and sew’ method because I wanted a little extra weight. Next go-round I’m going to only use this (very good) fusible interfacing for the collar stand and front bands, and use organza for the waistband and the collar.

The pattern instructions want you to sew the bands to the front, flip them to the back, and then topstitch, but I am not nearly patient enough for that nonsense, so I did it the opposite way around. (This review has better instructions than that, search the page for ‘reverse method’.) With the reverse method you’re topstitching on the edge that needs to be sewn down, so you can focus on the topstitching bit, and not the “am I catching the loose edge on the side of the dress I can’t see” bit.

This fabric is (I think) Liberty Mark Tana lawn; I mean, it’s definitely the Mark pattern, I just can’t find a record of this colorway. I’m not usually a navy-blue person (I ended up using all my navy thread sewing this, and had to cheat with a little bit of a blue-purple in places). I figured this would be a good test run for whether this fabric works in Tana lawn, because I really like the print and it is SO BUSY that any little bobbles would be hidden, a kind of Where’s Waldo, but for sewing mistakes. It is also still kind of coldish here so I can wear this over a long-sleeved black tee and leggings. (Mixing navy and black is how you can tell the real fashion pros from the wannabees, right?)

On the easy-to-wear scale, where 10 is “pajamas you’ve had for >5 years” and 0 is “actual suit of armor” this is a solid 7. It hangs nicely, there’s good arm mobility with sleeve bands, the pockets are well-placed and ample, and the fit is trim without being constricting.

I won’t kid you—any shirtdress pattern is just going to be a lot of work. This one has a lot of pieces, and buttonholes, and interfacing, and a collar and and and … it’s definitely a “one bite at a time” pattern and not a “cut out Saturday morning, wear it Saturday night” pattern. I tried keeping track of how long it took me to complete each stage, and I’m pretty sure this was a 5-8 hour sew (for comparison, a dress like this is usually a 3-4 hour sew). Plus I generally like to approach buttonholes well-rested, after a light stretching session, and properly caffeinated ….

You might notice a new background to the pics—I’m now nicely settled in to my new sewing space! That’s a new dress form, too (her name is Dot, for obvious reasons). My previous dress form (RIP) was bought in the last century and succumbed to terminal foam-disintegration disease. That white drawer-thingy next to the dress in the first picture? That’s full of bias tape. Full, I tell you. (It’s not a problem, I’m sure I’ll use it all up before I die …)

Stay tuned for more Matildas, perhaps an Isca, and a vintage shirtdress! Really!