The Grainline Alder Shirtdress, it’s more ‘me’

I like the fit across my back and shoulders. Grainlien Alder Dress

The latest shirtdress…

This year I’ve suffered from bouts of obsessional sewing. I’ve made three Hollys, three drop-waist dress (one still to be blogged), three draped singlet dresses and now three shirtdresses (sewing buttons on the third). I’ve really enjoyed taking a pattern, idea or something/anything and exploring it. That’s my favourite part of sewing, blogging and reading blogs – exploring variations. I also love sewing some patterns more than once if it triggers a burst of inspiration together – perhaps there is a miser hiding somewhere inside me (just not when it comes to fabric LOL).

While I love the idea of McCalls 6696 and I do like the shape on me… it just doesn’t feel like ‘me’. However I couldn’t give up the idea of a shirtdress.

I’m the first to confess I didn’t leap out of my skin when the Grainline Alder came out. However I just kept coming back to it after I finished the McCalls dress. Then I saw Cut Cut Sew’s version which I loved and I decided to take the plunge.

I had considered McCalls 6885 as made by Lori of Girls in the Garden, however there were no pattern sales locally, making the McCalls option quite expensive. I got out my Archer, tried it on and that sold me.

Why not just amend the Archer pattern if I had it? Excellent question and I wondered that myself when Alder was released. However the Archer has been drafted differently, as a sleeved shirt with the shoulders slightly oversized – there is a variation in the Alder sewalong if that’s what you want to do.

Anyway enough navel gazing and onto my make…

I spent last Friday sewing, at home by myself. It was heaven – decadent but work has been so overwhelming I needed a mental break. I sewed from about 9 to 4 – with a button-buying break around 2pm – thanks Lizzie for putting up with all my texted photos during the ‘audition process’ – and totally enabling the Alder sewing process!

Alder Dress Variations

Grainline Alder Dress – I made View A – the plain version on the right-hand side

The gathered skirt version appears to have been quite popular but the simplicity of the plainer version appealed to me.

Most of these pictures were taken by my husband while we were at the beach on Sunday morning with the kids, surfboards and Banjo. I didn’t even know he had taken most of them. The surf was rough, our favourite beach is unpatrolled (but it’s one of only two the dog can go to) meaning intense supervision is required when the kids go into the water.

Alder, view A - back view. I sense this will be worn A LOT this summer.

Alder, view A – back view. I sense this will be worn A LOT this summer. A very windy morning and rough surf – I was watching the kids like a hawk.

I confess I am not a massive fan of polka dots… I know I am not a very cool blogger. However they seemed just right for this dress and it’s such a gorgeous shade of blue.

Front view, this is very 'my lifestyle', simple, loosely fitted and casual.

Front view, this is very ‘my lifestyle’, simple, loosely fitted and casual.

Ok, my McCalls 6696 has a great shape… but I really do love the Alder. I like the fit across my shoulders and upper chest. There are also bust darts to add some shape. I like the curved hem that gives it that ‘boyfriend’ shirt look and that it’s not oversized. I like the back – without any gathers, pleats or added fullness. I love that it’s so simple and waist-less. It’s really very ‘me’ and my lifestyle.


After my contrast disaster shirtdress I opted for streamlined simplicity with this make, white top-stitching & white buttons.

Yoke: sewn using the Burrito method – not outlined in the instructions but you can watch the online video from the Archer sewalong.

I like the fit across my back and shoulders. Grainlien Alder Dress

I like the fit across my back and shoulders.

Collar: attached using the Four Square Walls method, read about it here. I’m really starting to enjoy sewing shirts and want to prove my skills.

I did have trouble with my top stitching with this fabric, I ended up using my heavy duty Singer for most of the collar band - it's a plodder of a machine but great for some jobs.

I did have trouble with my top stitching with this fabric, I ended up using my heavy duty Singer for most of the collar band – it’s a plodder of a machine but great for some jobs.

Armholes: I folded my binding in half (wrong sides together), placed the raw edges to the raw edges of the armhole, stitched and understitched, then turned it over to the inside, then top stitched it in place. I really hate folding the second raw edge of self-made bias binding under after I’ve sewn one edge to the armhole, it’s so fiddly and I have little patience – especially when it comes to ironing on a hot day! This fabric is rayon so this technique worked for me, perhaps on a heavier fabric it would add too much bulk.
Pockets: I’d move them up about 1/4 inch or so on my next version
Buttons: I am so glad I went with something that just ‘disappears’, it gives me the freedom to wear this dress plain or dress it up with whatever accessories and shoes I like. I wish I hadn’t added the last button near the hem. Oh well, I know for next time. Is there a next time? Oh yes… I’ve nearly finished it!
Length: I’m 5 foot 4, I did not alter the length at all.

Verdict? I do like this pattern and I’d recommend it. I found that it went together beautifully (not seamlessly – as there is a lot of seams LOL). I like it on me – it’s not as ‘shapely’ as the McCalls but that doesn’t mean it’s shapeless. I’ve really enjoyed wearing this.

Pattern: Grainline Alder Shirtdress, purchased by me. There is an Alder Sewalong on the Grainline blog with lots of tips and variations if you are interested.
Fabric: Printed Rayon from Spotlight, Australia (sold out in my local store). Purchased by me at a 30% fabric sale, usually about $12 a metre. I used about 2m. I’m tossing up whether to make a self-fabric belt for this as I like Cut Cut Sew’s one… but it’s so tempting to squeeze a little summer top out of the scraps instead. This is lovely fabric to wear and doesnlt seem to crush as badly as other rayons.

Also see: Little Betty Sews | Tiff Toffee | Ginger Made | Pincushion Treats | Sew Unravelled | Holly Anna Bella | Justina Sews | just google image Grainline Alder Shirtdress there are quite a few out there!

39 thoughts on “The Grainline Alder Shirtdress, it’s more ‘me’

  1. Even though I do really like your McCalls 6696 shirt dress, I’m in total agreement that this dress is much more ‘you’ in style. I love the background blue of the fabric and the shape suits you perfectly, it’s lovely! x

    • I agree the McCalls 6696 is a lovely dress, it’s a fabulous pattern… but I feel like I’m playing dress-ups. It might be boring of me… but I’d rather be me, even if that’s not ‘fancy’. And you are right – such a pretty blue. Why isn’t there more gorgeous blue fabric in the world?

  2. This looks great on you! I found this so easy to wear and wore one of my three about every other day throughout the summer! You look perfectly pulled-together, but relaxed. Awesome!

    • It’s simply an amazing simple summer dress, a wonderful combination of loose but fitted where it needs to be. I think I will be wearing mine lots as well… in fact I already have!

  3. I’m loving this dress on you! Sadly, I’ve only made one Alder dress, but I know I’ll be sewing up many more. I honestly never considered using a rayon for this version, but I really like how it looks. I’m also in love with your photo backdrop… so gorgeous!

    • You must make one in rayon, I think the texture & drape of rayon is well suited to the plainer Alder. I think it needs a good weight rayon, not those airy fairy types. I’m tempted to try the gather skirt version but I’m not sold yet, I think I’m more tempted by the gathered back Archer.

  4. Definitely more you, even in polkadots! It fits so beautifully around the shoulders and back that the looser shape looks intentional rather than too big. Weird thing to say maybe but, to me, it makes such a difference in this sort of style. And quite frankly my lovely, you’ve nailed it!

    • I agree with you, I think most oversized garments need somewhere to some degree otherwise they just swamp a body in fabric – which in most cases is rarely flattering.
      I was so surprised, I think I expected the Alder to be less flattering due to the lack of waist, but I think the shoulder & upper chest fit, gentle shaping & the hemline which shows a little leg is just magic 🙂

    • Thanks Debbie! That’s the thing I find fascinating about blogs & the sharing that goes on in social media, sometimes I see a pattern & think ‘I don’t get it, I don’t get it…’ Which every version I see… and then I see one and think… ‘Yessss’ and the possibilities suddenly start flying!

  5. Lizzy you know I love this. It looks fab on you and I ban you from making the self-fabric belt. Use those scraps for something else 🙂 I’m also not a dots girl, but this really does work for you. Can’t wait to see your next. How did that silk twill behave??

    • I’ve been a good girl & made a little top with my leftover but of rayon!
      I’m still mulling over my silk twill… I’m more tempted to make an Archer with the gathered back… I’ve always loved that version.

    • I think the pattern is suited to a nice weight rayon, it gives the shape some drape which softens the silhouette, making it more feminine. I’ve worn it quite a bit in its short life already which is a good sign.

    • Yup, when I look at this I think it’s a friendship dress. Inspired & encouraged by you, in polka dots (totally you) and text messaged to death in the making! It’s a happy dress – thank you.

  6. I am really coming round to this pattern and your dress is particularly enabling! I am with you on the spots although in such a simple grown up style they look fantastic.

    • Thanks Andrea, I think you would really enjoy making & wearing this. It’s perfect for steamy days – just make sure you choose something with some drape otherwise I suspect it could be a little tentlike.

  7. Pingback: Oh Linden Sweatshirt, where have you been all my sewing life? | the creative counselor

    • Thanks Shirley. I often find that with a pattern, I see several that are lovely but then I see one & I think ‘aha, now I can imagine making that for myself!’ I find it lovely to wear & it was an enjoyable make as well.

  8. Pingback: Top 5 Hits – 2014 (or perhaps 4) | Sew Busy Lizzy

  9. Pingback: GRAINLINE ALDER and a WHIPPET… | Sew Busy Lizzy

  10. Pingback: Simplicity 1589 – a happy little polka dot top! | Sew Busy Lizzy

  11. Pingback: Grainline Alder in vintage rayon | Sew Busy Lizzy

  12. Pingback: A double take… Morris Blazer Grainline Studio | Sew Busy Lizzy

  13. Pingback: Grainline Studio Alder Shirtdress aka my leap of faith dress | saturday night stitch

  14. Pingback: The Happy Days maxi(mum) summer shirtdress, McCalls 7242 | Sew Busy Lizzy

  15. Pingback: Papercut Adrift Dress – a birthday dress | Sew Busy Lizzy

Leave a Reply to Shirley Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.