Grainline Studio Alder Shirtdress by Helen's Closet in Octopus Lawn

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Octopus Alder Shirtdress

Fabric stashes are not just made up of impulse purchases an 1/2 meter remnants.  In fact, I stash mostly fabric that I love too much to cut into.  I feel silly about this issue, and I think it encourages me to purchase more fabric because I am paralyzed by the thought of potentially ruining something I already have.  What is up with this?!  I bought it because I wanted to wear it, not stare at it.  I’m proud of myself this month for finally letting go of this fear and cutting into one of my most prized fabrics, this Cotton+Steel Mystery Food Lawn from the Tokyo Train Ride collection designed by Sarah Watts, or, in short, the octopus lawn.

Grainline Studio Alder Shirtdress by Helen's Closet in Octopus Lawn Grainline Studio Alder Shirtdress by Helen's Closet in Octopus Lawn

I am certainly not the only person to swoon for this design, and if you are feeling the love you can still get some here in the cream and blue colour-way!  They also have some left at Spool of Thread if you are in Vancouver (last time I checked). I chose this colour-way after seeing Kelli’s amazing Carolyn Pajamas, I love the combination of the soft teal and the bright pink.

Grainline Studio Alder Shirtdress by Helen's Closet in Octopus Lawn Grainline Studio Alder Shirtdress by Helen's Closet in Octopus Lawn

Because of my silly fear of messing up (is that FOMU instead of FOMO?), I decided to go with a tried and true pattern to avoid ending up with a garment that did not suit me or fit me quite right.  The Alder shirtdress is a perfect work dress for me.  It is an appropriate length while still being fun, a relaxed fit at the waist (not cutting off my ability to breathe when sitting at my desk all day), and I love the gathers and high-low swoop on the hem.  My first Alder was made in rayon, and it is my favourite me-made item!  I feel put together and stylish when I wear it, while still being very comfortable.  This version is not as drapey because the cotton lawn has a more crisp look, but it does show off the gathers nicely.  

Lawn cloth or lawn is a plain weave textile, originally of linen but now chiefly cotton. Lawn is designed using fine, high count yarns, which results in a silky, untextured feel. The fabric is made using either combed or carded yarns.

Grainline Studio Alder Shirtdress by Helen's Closet in Octopus Lawn Grainline Studio Alder Shirtdress by Helen's Closet in Octopus Lawn

I decided to challenge myself with this project by attempting to pattern match across the centre front placket.  I would have pattern matched elsewhere had I had enough fabric, but the repeat of this print is large, so the expense would have been quite high.  The centre front seam draws a lot of attention so it seemed the best place to prioritize, and I am pretty chuffed with the results.  It isn’t quite perfect, but I think I could get it perfect next time, so that is exciting.  Pattern matching across a placket is challenging because of all the seam allowances to consider.  It helps to be very familiar with placket construction, so you don’t forget about a seam allowance like I did (whoops, sorry little octopi!).

Grainline Studio Alder Shirtdress by Helen's Closet in Octopus LawnGrainline Studio Alder Shirtdress by Helen's Closet in Octopus Lawn

Another thing I decided to do was sew the front placket closed.  I did this on my first Alder, after the fact, because it kept popping open at the front (button holes were slightly too large) and it was easy to pull on overhead.  I like the ease of it and I hate button holes so… voila, fake buttons!  How do you guys feel about this? Does it make you cringe? I sewed the buttons on and then sewed the placket closed, so the buttons are on the side of the placket where the holes would normally be.  I left the top two buttons under, on the side the buttons would usually be, because it is open here.   I am considering making 2 buttonholes for the top buttons to complete the illusion, but I also don’t know that anyone would ever notice (except you guys of course).  I suppose if I did this I could button it to the neck (not a likely scenario though).  Not going to lie, I felt like I was cheating on a test when doing this, but also like I was getting away with it, haha.

Grainline Studio Alder Shirtdress by Helen's Closet in Octopus Lawn
Grainline Studio Alder Shirtdress by Helen's Closet in Octopus Lawn

Special thanks to Laurie Best for taking these lovely photos in my parents back yard!  She always encourages me to try new things with angles, lighting and framing, and the results are so fun!  


About the author


Helen Wilkinson is the designer and founder of Helen's Closet Patterns. She also co-hosts the Love to Sew Podcast! Helen is obsessed with all things sewing and strives to share her passion and knowledge with the sewing community.

8 Comments on “Octopus Alder Shirtdress”

  1. Such a beautiful colour combination on that fabric. I’m very impressed with your nice square corners on the front ruffles! I must say I struggled with mine (but also probably was too slap dash with the cutting out.). And I say yes, be fearless about cutting into your precious goodies. Life is too short.

  2. The second Alder I made last summer ended up a little bit tight at the bust (I don’t have a clue bc the first one was perfect), but I wore it anyway. One day in a store, the cashier kept looking intensely at me as I was paying. I thought she liked my beautiful dress, but when I got to my car, I realised the central button had popped open! So for the coming summer, I think I’ll use your trick to “seal” the button placket of this one. I love this octopus print – a perfect match for this kind of shirtdress.

  3. Every time I go to Spool I paw at the blue colourway with lust. Seeing this is making me want it even more – I think this is my favorite Alder yet. Just gorgeous!

  4. Love this one. Very impressed with the fabric matching and I laughed about the buttons. I have done the same with with pre-made shirts that have a wide opening but are tight around the chest – it works!

  5. This dress is gorgeous! The pattern matching alone is amazing. You’ve put some serious quality work into it 🙂 It also looks really good on you! Both the color of the fabric and the style, they seem to suit you really well.
    I would totally do the same thing with the buttons! May be it is cheating… but then I would never unbutton them anyways! I would just put the dress on without unbuttoning it.

    Also, I have the same feeling about my fabric stash! I keep my most precious fabrics in there that I don’t want to cut into (what if I mess up or don’t like it in the end??). So it ends up being a museum of sorts where I would take my fabrics out, pet them, hold them and reminisce on where I bought them, and then fold them up and put them back … My boyfriend thinks that’s weird. Beats me!

  6. I love this dress!! And that print is so awesome – I’m kicking myself for not buying it when it came out! The “fake” button holes don’t bother me at all – if it works for you, that’s all the matters!

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