Closet Case Patterns: Kalle Shirt/Shirt Dress Sewing Pattern Review
Ooh, I do love a good shirt dress. Depending on the style and fabric you choose, they are perfect for any occasion. So far I've made a Tilly and the Buttons Rosa dress from a lightweight printed denim, which is just perfect for wearing day to day, and also a Deer & Doe Bluet dress from Atelier Brunette lawn, which is fab for going out for a meal or drinks. Next up, I wanted to give the Kalle shirt dress a go after seeing all the lovely results on Instagram and I thought it would be perfectamundo for our upcoming summer holidays - a Mediterranean cruise. (I know, you're well jel, right?!) We have just got in the shop some really nice John Louden embroidered seersucker, which I thought would work perfectly for making an oh-so-casual shirt dress that I can wear either really easily on its own or throw over a vest top and shorts for a bit of sun protection. (If you've never met me, you will not know that I am a true English rose and have to wear SPF 50 at the first glimpse of sunlight, so a cover-up is a necessity in my holiday wardrobe!)
With this pattern, you get umpteen choices of what you want to make; three lengths of shirt/shirt dress, two different collars, two different pleats for the back yoke, and three different plackets. Who knew there were even three different plackets in the world to choose from?! ;-) As I wanted to slip mine easily on and off and maybe just fasten it with a button or two in the middle, I decided to go with the full length placket with EVERYTHING on show (woah, woah, woah, I mean the buttons...I'm not some kind of exhibitionist. I just meant I didn't want to sew the hidden placket to hide the buttons!!!) I also went with the standard shirt collar - I've never been a huge fan of the band collar personally and felt in this fabric it might have turned my shirt dress into the nightgown worn by Grandpa Joe in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (the Gene Wilder version, obvs). I like it when a pattern gives you so much choice; it means you can make it again and again in different ways and it will look like a completely different garment each time and I personally feel I get better value for money if I know I can make different things using the same pattern.
Anyway, on to the make! The instructions were very easy to follow and for those bits that were a bit testing, Closet Case Patterns have a fab sew-along on their website for all the different stages. I have to admit, I got myself into a tizzy over the "fabric burrito". (If you've not done this, just wait and see - it's IMMENSE!) I kept getting into a flap over which yoke piece to sew to the shoulders, so ended up unpicking this about three times, but it all worked out well in the end and the burrito is soooooooo clever! Who even thinks of these things in the first place?! GENIUS!
I did make a conscious effort with this garment to make it as neat on the inside as on the outside. I didn't want to use my overlocker for this (quelle surprise!!) which meant that I had to sew flat-felled seams to keep them tidy and to make sure nothing frayed (I didn't want to risk zig zagging the edges with the fabric being quite lightweight). I have to say, these and my topstitching were all bang on point! There was no hiding with the topstitching either as I chose blue thread, which obviously stands out against a fabric with quite a lot of white in it.
An added bonus with this pattern is that it features short kimono sleeves which means they are part of the bodice and therefore, no sleeve wrestling is required - hallelujah! The sleeves are finished with a shallow cuff, which adds a nice touch.
I have to admit, I did have an ulterior motive for wanting to do all the millions and millions of buttonholes on this - I wanted to try my new buttonhole cutter!! Weirdly, I have always been more fond of the old-school machine buttonhole where you have to measure each one out and do each step individually, rather than using the automatic buttonhole maker on my machine, which stitches one to the size of the button I place in the buttonhole foot. I can't get on board with the automatic one - I can never seem to get them lined up straight, so I always use one of the basic sewing machines we have for our workshops to do my buttonholes rather than my fancy schmancy Janome at home! Even though the sewing of buttonholes has never really been a huge problem for me, the unpicking of the centre of them has! I'm completely heavy-handed with the majority of things I do. I often slam doors at home when I mean to gently close them (much to the annoyance of the husb) and poor Brother Joel has a massive scar on his head from the "gentle shove" I gave him as a kid which sent him flying into a dining room chair, so being able to gently ease out the threads from inside a small buttonhole has always posed a problem for me. My hacking with a seam ripper is like something you would find in a horror movie, which just ruins the work gone into stitching them nicely in the first place. Therefore I could not believe it when I came across such a thing as a buttonhole cutter! All my Christmases had come at once, and I also look like a proper workman when I use it as it's shaped like a chisel! You literally just place the end along the length of the inside of the buttonhole and press and it creates a clean sharp cut. We'll ignore the fact that I went through the table on my first one (as I said, heavy-handed) but once I'd put a cutting mat underneath, I was well away!
As the fabric was so lightweight, I tried to do as the pattern suggested and just turn the hem underneath rather than use the bias binding that you make from the same fabric. However, I struggled to get a good finish, probably because of the curves on the hem and I really didn't want to spoil the dress at the last minute, so I succumbed to using the bias binding after all. I'm so glad I did as it makes it look so professional and finishes the dress off nicely.
All in all, the making of this dress wasn't nearly as difficult as I thought it was going to be. I think because the style is so relaxed and you don't have to worry too much about the fit makes it an ideal first shirt/shirt dress if you've never tried one before. Normally I have to cut out the pattern over three different sizes for my out-of-proportion body shape, so this was a welcome change for me only having to cut to one size. The pattern suggests just cutting to the size of your bust measurement, however as my hips are bigger, I went for that size instead.
This pattern will definitely be taking a spot on my "Old Faithfuls" shelf, as I can see me making a couple more of these, armed with my trusty buttonhole cutter!
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