Sew Over It Vintage Shirtdress

I was talking to someone recently who is a pattern first lady. She always struggles to get the fabric she wants for the pattern she possesses & wants to make next. She also finds it difficult to imagine the pattern in fabric other than that which is shown on the marketing / envelope, even if other fabric types are listed. We are all different aren’t we? I am a fabric first girl. What about you?

vintage shirtdress

Being a fabric first girl means I am always tempted when in fabric shops, especially by fabric sales & special offers. I buy fabric knowing approximately what I will make from it, so buy a reasonable length to make ‘a dress’ or ‘a skirt’ or ‘a shirt’ – but will not usually commit to detail until the commitment to make it into something starts.

vintage shirtdress

But the volumes of fabric that are on shelves as a result of sprees and splurges I have had over the years. Just when I think I am making a good dent on my fabric stash, I accidentally stumble into a fabric shop & come away with a few more pieces … I am trying to be more rational with my choices & not fall for pattern as I have done in the past. I am trying to buy fabric with the express purpose for making something for the coming season that will integrate into my current wardrobe…

vinatge shirtdress

But not so with this fabric that I bought in the John Lewis sale in January. This was definitely an emotional purchase. A poplin with stripes of vintage florals in muted colours. Well, more muted than my usual (until, that is, I see photos of me wearing it.  Maybe it’s not as muted as I originally thought!) . It was always going to be a dress, and not just any dress, but a Sew Over It, Vintage Shirtdress.

vintage shirtdress

I have made the vintage shirtdress before when it came out- & it was my most worn dress last summer. A sleeveless elephantine delight. Every time I wear it I get compliments from men/ women, no distinction. It was appropriate for wearing to the office (a little bit of fun knowing my dress was striped with ellies too) & for wearing at the weekend. I LOVE the vintage shirtdress and because this fabric was more muted I thought it would make a nice spring dress with sleeves.

vintage shirtdress

I cut it out carefully to try to match the horizontal floral stripes where I could. I even cut out the fronts one at a time so that I could mirror them in the pattern, and I also did this with the sleeves as well so that they turned out the same.

I adore the rounded collar

I adore the rounded collar

Relatively speaking this is a pretty speedy dress to make I think, despite the collar it seems to come together quickly. It might just be a misperception, but that’s how it seems to me.

Check out a little cheeky button action as well as those cute waist tucks

Check out a little cheeky button action as well as those cute waist tucks

No darts but waist tucks in both the skirt & the bodice (LOVE! So flattering ) I love that the collar has rounded corners…& this time the sleeves. Cute turn up cuffs, all part of the sleeve piece.

vintage shirtdress

Simple. Rewind to cutting out stage – One thing to bear in mind – there are different cutting lines on the bodice armsyce for the sleeved & sleeveless version of the dress. Something to do with how the shoulders would stick up too much when there are no sleeves to accommodate. I saved these extra shavings of pattern piece from the first time I made the dress & taped them back onto the bodice 😉

vintage shirtdress

Luckily I had buttons in my stash – but I was one short so made the top button deliberately different with a feature grey flower button.

vintage shirtdress

So when this dress was coming together I could not believe how this fabric could be made into anything that wasn’t a vintage type dress. It seemed so ‘right’, so obvious. And I am delighted with it. One worth getting the iron out for. And that means a lot coming from the lazy ironer that I am.

But back to the beginning, are you a fabric or pattern first person?  And if you are a fabric first person does it follow that you’re always going to have a greater fabric stash than the pattern first crew?  I’m curious (& it does help me to explain why my shelves are cascading fabric ……!!)

27 thoughts on “Sew Over It Vintage Shirtdress

  1. Caroline

    Such a fabulous floral frock! Excellent fabric choice for the patter.
    I am definitely in the fabric first camp. I have way too much fabric versus my patterns / ideas do do with the fabric. I am going to a pattern / fabric swap on the 3rd June to hopefully balance out my little ‘problem’!

    Reply
  2. Caz

    I’m with you on the fabric first! Can’t resist a beautiful fabric, just buy enough so if you change your mind on your first thought!! My stash is also getting bigger although I keep making

    Reply
  3. Frankie carsaon

    I’m both if I’m going to a fabric shop I always write a list of what I’d like an the quantities, but after a while of searching “the haze” tends to come over me and then I just look for things I like or catch my eye . last time I was convinced I wanted some black suiting for a pencil skirt and then I was like why? This is boring? I want fun fabric!!!

    Frankie

    http://knitwits-owls.blogspot.co.uk

    Reply
  4. Belinda

    Fabric first, usually… And then there is the nightmare realization: this fabric is Not OK for this pattern,……

    Love your shirt dress. Love the fun you have wearing it.
    Many thanks.

    Reply
  5. Elisabeth

    Now you’re making me want that dress pattern! And I didn’t think I like shirt dresses.

    I agree, the fabric isn’t very muted, but it is pretty, and the dress suits you.

    Reply
  6. Chris

    I was thinking about this recently. When I was younger (I am now over 70!) and my mother made most of my clothes, we would pour over pattern books, choose a pattern, and then buy the fabric usually from one of the many market stalls that sold fabric then. How things have changed. Since I started sewing for myself again since I retired I have accumulated quite a lot of fabric and many patterns, though I still have some of my mother’s patterns including the Vogue pattern for my wedding dress in 1963, and several patterns I sewed from in the 50s and 60s.

    Reply
  7. Tina Briggs

    Absolutely fantastic fabric! and the vintage shirt dress is a great match.
    I usually get the fabric first. Like you I have a vague plan. But often I buy enough so it gives me room to change my mind, and make a dress instead of a top…
    I have however also started stashing patterns with no particular fabric in mind. But I’m pretty sure, that I would find a suitable fabric in my stash for any of the patterns I own. I just have to get around to making all these wonderful garments…

    Reply
  8. Demented Fairy

    Cute dress! I’m a totally random ‘see it want it need it buy it’ kind of girl. I have a heap of patterns weeping softly for their fabric, and a heap of fabric squealing for the perfect pattern. And every so often, serendipity! I’ve just realised that the beautiful piece of fabric with huge green cabbage roses that IO bought last summer, has met its mate: oddly enough, a shirt dress. Now for the button hunt…green rose buttons anyone?

    Reply
  9. sarah Watkins

    definitely a fabric first person. I have loads of ideas and become completely overwhelmed when i see new fabric. my poor husband may need to move out to make room for my stash!

    Reply
  10. Julie Brewster

    I am exactly the same as the person you have described above, I buy patterns then really struggle to find fabric which suits them. I also have the same problem visualizing other fabrics than what is on the pattern packet. I think this also puts me off a lot of patterns because I can only see it how they have it on the pack (quite often very dated looks). I only have a couple of plain pieces in my ‘stash’ as I am hopeless at buying fabric and understanding weights and drape, especially when looking online. I feel better knowing I am not alone, everyone else seems to make such lovely things and always find just the right fabric so I am pleased to know someone else struggles like me!

    Reply
  11. TamsinW-P

    I am definatley a fabric first person. I normally see something, work out what I might wear in it, then work out a pattern when I get it home. I then usually change my mind umpteen times before I cut anything out, but thats another story! I’m trying really hard not to buy new fabric untill I have used some of what I have – which I have been doing slowly!

    Reply
  12. Jan Dathan

    Oh definitely a fabric first kind of sewer but that’s not to say I don’t splurge on patterns too. Like you Winnie, I see immediately what I want to make with a fabric then I go home, rummage through my patterns and my plans go out the window. I make something else and then the fabric spree starts all over again. The joys of being a dressmaker.

    Reply
  13. Nicky B

    Lovely dress. I can’t seem to stop buying fabric or patterns so it varies as to which comes first in a project but I do know it means my sewing room is bulging with patterns & fabrics…..I keep trying to match make what I have there and then another pattern sale starts or I visit I new fabric store and new additions jump into my arms!

    Reply
  14. Chloe

    So many fabric first sewers out there! I’m a pattern first person, and funnily enough I was thinking about this just yesterday! And once I decide to make something, I will hunt high and low for the perfect fabric to go with the lucky pattern. I do occassionaly buy fabric on spec, if I see something really great. But I usually have some idea of style as well as type of garment in mind.

    Love your fabric, though! And the top button.

    Reply
  15. LinB

    Hard to say. I’ve sewn for so many years (50 — gah!) that my stash of both fabric and patterns is insane. And lately I’ve found huge bundles of patterns in thrift stores … and friends donate their dead relatives’ fabric and pattern stashes to me … have not bought anything for years at a fabric store except notions and wear parts (machine needles, pins).

    Reply
  16. Heidi

    I love this dress and the elephant version – it suits you perfectly! I agree that the details you don’t notice first are what make it perfect – the pleats instead of darts…inspired!!
    I am a pattern first gal – I have dozens that I just haven’t found the right fabric for yet! I don’t think I’d dare do it the other way round – I’d be addicted and have to move to a bigger house!!

    Reply
  17. gill

    I have that fabric! I bought enough for a top in that colourway, and a dress length in the pinky-grey version. Still folded up under a heap of other fabric – so much fabric, so little time!

    Reply
  18. Vicki Kate

    I’m a fabric first person as well. I always have an idea about what it’s likely to become so buy enough to fulfil whatever it is that seems to match it. But it is very seldom that I buy a fabric to match a pattern – I’m not sure that has ever actually happened!! Same with patterns; they’re never purchased to go with a specific piece of fabric. I buy them because I like them (or because I want to support a particular designer and file it in the ‘one day’ que) and then wait for some inspiration to strike for what to pair it with!
    The fabric is perfect for the pattern – I love your version and the long sleeves are the perfect length! Long enough to be warm, not so long that they get in the way!

    Reply
  19. Lynne

    This is gorgeous!! There is some fab print matching skills in there, and I love the one different button. I love the Vintage Shirt Dress too, and am planning another one for the summer.

    In answer to your question, I am a fabric first person too.

    Reply
  20. Elizabeth

    I was taught (and that is a very long bow to draw) to sew in terms of a project. So when I rediscovered sewing after a lot of years, I methodically bought a pattern, exactly the right length of fabric and all notions and stored them all together, waiting for the right day to make it up. Which rarely happened.
    I have discovered I’m very much a fabric girl. And with experience I can tell what a fabric is for, and how much I’ll need, so my stash now is pretty reasonable – all fabrics I know I’d use and in the right sort of lengths.
    Until someone gives me fabric…

    Reply
  21. Nelba Vercuil

    Mostly, I go for fabric first with a good idea of what I want to make. Sometimes I know that I want a certain style and then I’ll see if I haven’t got something in my stash. If not, I’ll go buy something. But those impulse buys I’ve also done and I hop from one idea to the next. Sometimes actually making something from those impulse buys takes years of constantly changing my mind!. I must say that the majority of stuff sitting in my stash is from my mom and other people giving me their leftovers. Most pieces require careful cutting to get something out. I’ve had a few wonderful fabric and pattern matches and mixing fabrics is often the way to go, but usually the mere idea just makes me so tired, that I just go out and buy a bigger piece of fabric.

    Reply
    1. LinB

      It is oddly freeing to restrict oneself to using only the fabrics you have on hand, isn’t it? Like having to stay within the parameters of a competition. I used to love the Threads magazine articles in which three famous designers were given some fabrics, some notions, and a scenario like “You’re going to deliver a big speech atop the Eiffel Tower, then be whisked by taxi to a picnic on the Seine. You have to change clothes in the taxi. Remember that there’ll be a wine-and-cheese party later — you must also construct a bag to hold the bottles of wine you’ll sneak back to the hotel later. ” So amusing, so inspirational.

      I’ve become quite adept at mixing patterns and color-blocking, to use up those odd half-yard or less scraps that were “too big” to throw away. And using patterns and fabric gifted to me by other people means that I try colors, prints, and combos that I would never have spent my own money for. I like to use those bits of other peoples’ left-over dreams … it keeps them alive, somehow, and certainly honors them … even if what I use the fabric and patterns for is not at all what they envisioned. Heck, sometimes the patterns and fabrics I bought for myself did not end up as what I originally envisioned!

      Reply
      1. scruffybadgertime Post author

        I love the idea of those sewing scenarios to challenge designers! Hilarious. I bet you’d come up with some entertaining scenarios….wouldn’t it be good if we could start it up again?

        Reply
  22. Liza Jane

    My pattern and fabric stash are both overflowing. So I’m not sure if I’m a pattern first or fabric first person. I’m determined to rein it in over the summer. So I say… Love the fabric you used! It’s perfect for a shirt dress.

    Reply
  23. Roni Arbel

    Tough question , I think I’m usually a fabric first lady. I mean… If I start with the pattern I would most likely have to buy only black and denim… Boring! This year I decided my stash was big enough to stop purchasing fabric. One thing that helps me is whenever I want new fabric I tell myself it will still be there once my stash is finished. I only miss one print that I didn’t buy…

    Reply
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