My Grainline Alder Shirtdress

The next instalment of my sleeveless summer dress sewing is the Grainline Alder Shirtdress. I’ve sewn many Grainline patterns but I was a bit on the fence when the Alder was released. I think it was the line drawing that deterred me, the illustration looks like it was drafted for someone tall and willowy and I struggled to see whether this would work for me (being the polar opposite of tall and willowy) The dropped waist also had the potential to hit at an unflattering level, possibly adding unwanted bulk to the hips. It’s been out for nearly a year now and the many lovely versions I’ve seen online have swayed my initial apprehension. I had a sleeveless shirtdress hole in my wardrobe so I thought I’d give it a chance to fill it.

Alder is a loosely fitted sleeveless shirt dress with two options. View A falls into an A-Line at the waist and features a curved hem, bust darts and two breast pockets. View B features the same bodice as View A but with a gathered skirt at the sides and back of the garment resulting in an incredibly flattering and fun silhouette. The Alder Shirtdress is a perfect breezy option to keep cool while looking great all spring and summer long or throw on a cardigan or blazer and you’re all set for fall and winter!’


I used more of my Fabworks Mill fabric, this time a Swiss dot shirting. Mine is light blue with a navy dot which they don’t seem to have anymore but there’s blue with a grey dot still available. I went for view B with the gathered skirt, cutting a size 16 which matched my measurements exactly (42-35-42) but I cut the length to a size 0 (too lazy to use the lengthen/shorten line!) I think I used just over 2 meters of fabric. After measuring the bodice I was surprised to find it wasn’t as long as the illustration suggests so I only shortened it by an inch.

The construction is pretty much the same as the Archer shirt to start off. I used Jen’s Burrito method for attaching the yoke and Andrea’s (amazingly easy) method for attaching the stand and collar. I finished the armholes with some readymade 13mm bias binding. I bought it from Plush Addict and I’m really impressed, it’s soft and malleable but sturdy enough to hold the shape of the finished openings. I also added in seam pockets along with the patch pockets on the bust, I really need somewhere to put my hands!



I was a little unsure about the high low hem but as I’d shortened the skirt when cutting had to go with it. The hem is very shirt like, raising up from the front (quite significantly) at the sides before dipping down at the back (which isn’t shown on the envelope) To finish it off (and following an Instagram referendum) I went with some navy Czech glass buttons which I think I bought from eBay.







I’m pleasantly surprised by the finished dress and I think it may have tamed my prejudice of hi-lo hems. It was enjoyable to sew and everything fitted together nicely. The finished measurements are given on the pattern and they were true to the finished garment. If anything I could maybe have done with an inch or two of a full bust adjustment. The proof of the pudding is wearability and it has been getting a fair bit of wear, perfect for sunny days when you need something light that allows the air to circulate! The sew along provides variations for a Mandarin collar, V neck and the option to add sleeves by combining it with the Archer so plenty of opportunity to play around with it. I think I need to be looking towards fabrics for the cooler weather though, maybe something I can wear through early Autumn and then layer up with a long sleeved tee and cardigan.

And speaking of fabric there is a new app out specifically for fabric hoarders:

‘Cora is an iPhone, iPad and iPod app that helps you sew your fabric stash.  With Cora, whether you’re out and about shopping for patterns or planning a project in bed, your fabric stash is always with you! Sort and search to sew up treasures you already have.’

I spent the whole of last Sunday logging my main stash (I’ve not ventured into the loft or bathroom cupboard yet) and so far I am up to 147 metres. It’s free to try for the first five fabrics and £4.49 for the full version (I must state I have no affiliation with the maker, I just think it’s brilliant!) The only problem I have is the urge to buy more fabric just so I have something new to add, like the fabric equivalent of Pokemon Go. I’m desperate to catch some Double Gauze for a Deer and Doe Datura but Cora tells me I already have 37 metres of suitable fabric!

My Marilla Walker Bennett Dress

Now the wedding is over I’m starting to get back into a routine. I’ve managed to squeeze in a few hours sewing time throughout the week and I’m pleased to say these hours have been very productive (and incredibly enjoyable). Since getting back I’ve been on a mission to sew some sleeveless dresses. This was the one big hole in my wardrobe highlighted by Me Made May, the weather was glorious while we were at the Lakes and my one solitary sleeveless number was my Southport dress.

First in the queue was Marilla Walker’s Bennett dress:

‘This dress is a lovely summer shift with flattering front princess seams, a large pocket and a choice of waist ties, front panel and hem length. View A finishes below the knee with waist ties, shaped shirt style hem and v-back neck. Ideal fabrics are soft, lightweight and drape well. The gathering at the waist is best suited to finer fabrics to reduce bulk. View B finishes above the knee with button front fastening on the centre front panel, loose A-line shape, straight hem and v-back neck. Fabrics can be selected according to your preferred silhouette. Soft lightweight fabrics for a nice floaty feel or fabrics with more body to emphasise the shape of the dress.’

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I was attracted to the loose silhouette and the ability to loosen the ties (which is the main thing I like about the Southport dress) One of the Sample garments Marilla made used a stripy fabric which contrasted the direction of the stripes on the bib section. I decided to blatantly copy her. The fabric was from my Fabworks Millshop giveaway, a denim blue stripe check cotton, available here. The finished garment measurements are stated instead of arbitrary sizing, I wish every pattern company did this as I find it so much easier to choose a size. The sizing is quite broad, going up to a 52 inch bust, 54 inch waist and 59inch hip. From the given measurements I cut a size 41 inch shoulders and high bust before blending to a 43 through the bust (adding 2 inches) and then blending back into a size 42/47 for the waist and hips. I chose view A with the straight hemmed skirt of view B.

It all came together very easily, I did make a couple of errors due to my slapdash approach at the time. I forgot to interface the facings, only realising as I had finished the dress. This hasn’t been a problem though as the fabric has enough body to hold their shape. I also ignored the instruction to baste the bib in place before sewing, which led to having an extra centimetre of width and some sheepish unpicking.


I made a couple of changes, swapping the patch pocket for in seam ones. I shortened the bodice by an inch as a standard adjustment for being short waisted. I also raised the armscye an inch as I found it a little too low on me, so it may be worth checking before cutting if you are on the short side too. I think next time I will also size down a bit for a more fitted look in the bodice.  I bound the hem with some yellow gingham bias binding.








I’ve worn this dress a lot, although mostly with a cardigan (the Sun seems to have disappeared since embarking on my summer dress sewing extravaganza). I like the nautical feel and the effect of the stripe direction which gives the impression of little capped sleeves. The fabric is wonderful, it doesn’t crease too badly so I can wear it all day and still look presentable if I get chance to escape for a quick pint in the pub in the evening. I’m pondering about using the pattern for the colder months, I think it would work well in a lightweight wool paired with tights and a long sleeved tee underneath, but I really shouldn’t be thinking about winter sewing plans, we’ve not had Summer yet!