I have a friend, we’ll call her Leah (because that is, in fact her name), who is an advanced beginning sewer (meaning she knows her way around a sewing machine, straight seams and has lots of basic practice) took a shine to Sewaholic’s Cambie Dress. It’s understandable, since the dress is completely adorable (Gertie made two!), and it appeals to her style sensibilities, but also stretches her fashion boundaries. A winning combination indeed!
So, given her eagerness to learn, and my budding blog, she became the first participant in my online tutorials! We chose fabrics (at Houston’s premier fabric store, High Fashion Fabrics), decided on the version (both of us opted for the fuller skirt for better twirling), and went through the entire process of sewing together.
First, which (of the many glorious options) fabrics do you choose?? Something from the 50% off table, obvs, but which one?
Something trendy? A fabric that looks like everything else you own? Or do you opt for something new and bright?!
It’s always fun to see what other (crazy) options are out there, too. Just in case you want a theme dress, or if you’re tentatively planning to make another version, they’re going to need to look pretty different!
I had some fabric from my (glorious) days working at Sew Crafty, Houston, that I’d been holding on to, for lack of a better project, and had just enough to make a green dress with a uniquely adorable lining!
Now, home to actually begin the process! Honestly, I love sewing, fabrics, and the perfectly fitted, totally unique item you end up with at the end, BUT “sewing” is really more like “washing, ironing, cutting, pinning, sewing, ironing, pinning, ripping, ironing” and so on forever! I kid, kind of, but if you’re a seamstress you know this, and take some amount of either delight, or relaxing zen time, during the process, so it’s ok!
This was an especially fun because it was a co-project!
Also, we went the extra mile and made muslins! (Leah is a changed woman because of it.) I am usually pretty bad about this “step,” and I know it is hotly debated in sewing circles (ha!), but I decided that because it was our first time using a Sewaholic pattern and we both have such unique (and beautiful) body shapes, it would be a good idea.
It definitely turned out to be, since the pattern only goes up to a size 16, and Leah and I are both petite ladies. Also, since we were each making our own version of the dress, having the bodice muslin helped create pattern pieces for each of us!
In every pattern I use, and therefore, every dress I make, I take an inch off the length of the bodice because I am technically a “petite” size, and my waist is fairly high. (“Pro” tip: stand up straight and lean your upper body/shoulder to the right and/or left, and where your body naturally bends is your true waist!) Leah had never made a dress before, and so wasn’t sure about whether or not to adjust likewise. So, we cut out her pattern pieces normally, but once they were placed on her body, it was clear she also needed to cut off an inch. No problem! We just pinched that inch right out of the “adjustment” line, and cut off the excess at the bottom.
After basting together and pinning the bodice for proper fitting, we also ended up taking some of the fullness out of the center back toward the top. Leah and I are both busty ladies, which accounts for some of the reason we are each sized 16; this size, as some of you may already know, suggests to designers (for whatever reason), that we are shaped akin to linebackers, and have outrageously wide shoulders. Since that is decidedly not the case, sometimes it requires a reduction in the center back of tops/dresses. Again, not a huge adjustment, just pin where the seam line should be and adjust (leaving a seam allowance, of course) by cutting the excess. You definitely don’t want to have to put in a zipper, only to realize you’ve got to adjust the back of the dress, then rip it out and start again.
Now that our muslins for the bodices were cut and fitted, we were able to cut out the pattern pieces from the “real” fabric with total confidence that this dress would fit like a sexy, sexy glove.
Ok, so this dress included several techniques that were new to Leah, including: darts and gathering. (Spoiler: She accomplished both beautifully!)
I won’t go into super details about these techniques in this post, but could do tutorials for those separately. (Yes?? No? You let me know.)
Not being a fan of invisible zippers (I’m old timey like that), I opted for the center-lapped zipper, which altered the sewing steps a bit, but not the actual dress. Since a lapped zipper requires the back of the dress to be basted together (in order to create the seam), we needed to attach the center “belt” piece to the bodice, and then the top to the bottom of the dress. Unlike the pattern’s instructions, then, we simply sewed the top to bottom in a circle instead of straight across, and then attached the zipper.
After the zipper went in, all that was left was to attach the lining to the outside of the dress at the shoulders and around the sleeves and hemming! These sleeves are uniquely cute because they are gathered and then lovingly stuffed into the bodice to attach. Note: Save this step for almost last, since you really need to fit the sleeves while you’re wearing the dress. I cut off an inch per sleeve before inserting into the bodice (lol, how often do you get to say that?). I decided to take a two-inch hem because I’m a shorty, and a hem that’s right above my knee tends be more flattering.
Here are the lovely results of our shared efforts!
We also had help from our respective kitties:
This pattern is simple, but requires some steps that beginning sewers may not be familiar with. If you’re looking to learn a few techniques, though, this dress is perfect. The gathered skirt is cute, and allows for some ease in sizing (always good), and the bodice is universally flattering. I think Leah and I are both extremely happy with our results, and are considering sewing the alternative version as well!
What do you think? Will you buy/make the Cambie anytime soon? Have you already? (If so, please share photos!)