Grainline Studio’s Alder Dress: My Work in Progress

Ollie's New Shirt


After making my son’s second dress shirt, I felt ready to make one for myself. I found the construction to be fun and great to do spread out over a few days. And the Alder dress pattern proved to be fun to sew, even when I had no clue as to what I was doing (hello, collar stand!). There was something about this pattern that made me put a stop to everything else I’ve been trying to make. The dress, to me, says classic, comfortable, and put-together. Everything I want to add to my mom wardrobe.


I applied the following changes to the pattern pieces:

  • 1.75 inch Full Bust Adjust, 1/2 inch off the shoulders and scooped out a bit at the armscyes
  • added 1/4 inch of width to the yoke and back bodice
  • reduced the yoke using a Rounded Back Adjustment

The dress is made from a quilting cotton I had in abundance. I’m saving the good stuff for when I get the fit *just right*. In regards to fitting, I initially started with a 1.5 inch FBA. At the last minute I second guessed myself and increased it to 1.75. I should have believed in my initial measurements and gone with them because I ended up with excess fabric above the pockets (at least, that’s what I’m guessing is causing it. If not, let me know!).



I also noticed that I can do with reducing the shoulders and armscyes a bit more.


But I loved the width of the dress. I was afraid the FBA was adding way too much width at the waist and below, but in the end I love it.  When I sit the dress doesn’t gape over my belly. HUGE PLUS! I believe there’s still a bit of excess fabric in the back yoke but it’s nothing I am going to worry too much about.


I thought I followed the collar construction down to a T, but when it came down to stitching the collar stand ends I was lost, no matter how many videos I saw, or various explanations I read. I would replicate the technique and the end result was completely wrong. So in the end I just topstitched it down and called it a day. I’m going to blame late-night sewing. My brain was quite tired by then.


But overall I’m pretty proud of that collar: straight topstitching and no puckering. Hoozah!


Another time I wish I had listened to the voice in my head was when I noticed that the right button band was cut off grain. I had already topstitched it in and after five tries of trying to get the fabric flatter I gave up. I contemplated cutting up another button band and re-doing it but I was so over my seam ripper at that point. I just sucked it up and told myself, “It’s a test garment, keep going!” But a nice button band would make this dress look a wee bit more polished. Oh well. I still like it a lot and plan on wearing it.


It has already survived a trip to the playground. I’ve already made some changes to the pattern and I’m planning to add a few of these dresses to my mom wardrobe. Jen announced some lovely variations she will be going over in the sew along. Making a shirt version will allow me to use the initial stripe fabric I wanted to use (it’s not wide enough for a dress, boo!). This pattern is going to get a lot of use. I’m pumped!



Note: This dress made me do crazy things. My arms are out! No cardigan! BIG fecking deal for me! Eeek! 

52 thoughts on “Grainline Studio’s Alder Dress: My Work in Progress

  1. This looks so good on you! Beautiful pics, too…And all those little things you changed – on RTW, I bet you’d never care, right?


  2. Looks great! I’ve been looking at your bust-shoulder wrinkles in my Singer ‘The Perfect Fit’ book. And, on your photo of your side-on view (of your head and your left-hand side) it looks like the dart is not pointing towards the fullest part of your bust, so you may need to raise the location of the dart (see pages 74-75 in the book if you have a copy – if not I can send you a scan?). Tweet me @clairesews for quickest reply if do want the scanned pages 🙂


  3. This looks great on you! It’s such an easy dress to wear, isn’t it? It just feels so no fuss! Have you seen this collar/collar stand tutorial? It’s a different construction order, but it makes it really easy to put things together, in my opinion. Also, when you mentioned your nice collar topstitching, I realized that I completely forgot to do that on my last Alder version. Whoops!


  4. Oh, I love this so much! This is just the perfect dress for you I think! Also, re: the front placket: you can call it a design feature – I watched a video on blue-jeans manufacturing some time ago where they purposely skewed the hems to give them that wrinkled, weathered look. After a few washings, your dress might look like that and you can say you did it on purpose, LOL! But it doesn’t look as bad as you think it does – I probably wouldn’t have noticed it you hadn’t pointed it out!


    • Thank you! I watched that video several times. I don’t know what I was doing wrong but it wouldn’t work. I’m still lost at where I went wrong. I’m blaming sewing before bedtime.


  5. Mom wardrobe — love it! I second Sonja on the Four Square Walls tutorial. Andrea’s order of construction makes the collar stand a breeze! Great dress, though, I’m sure it will get tons of wear!


    • I will definitely use Andrea’s tutorial next time. I just could not figure out where I went wrong in the order of construction that prevented me from sewing up the collar ends neatly. I was going to sleep thinking about it.


  6. I am taping my pdf together right now! I agree about it being a great mom dress. Thanks for listing all of you mods. I never attempted Archer so I’m curious how my first go around will fit.


    • The dress is super comfy. You will like it. I can’t wait to see your version!

      I have Archer waiting to be done but I figured this dress would be a nice warm up to it 🙂


    • Aw, thank you Mandy! It’s such a comfy and classic dress. I will definitely make it in various prints.

      Also, I miss you Mandy! You’ve popped in my thoughts and I keep forgetting to drop you a text. Okay. Gushing over 🙂


      • I miss you too! Ste and I are thinking of a Seattle to San Diego road trip next year so I’m hoping we can see you but yeah, it doesn’t make up for our coffee dates. 😦


  7. This dress is just perfect, you look fabulous! Put together but relaxed at the same time. Don’t worry about the button placket, just like Gail I didn’t notice untill you pointed it out. I’m curious to see the next versions you will make!


    • Thank you! Relaxed and fabulous is what I am craving these days. I’ve been living in T-shirts and jeans and not feeling myself. Hope this dress will be the start of a wardrobe upgrade 🙂


  8. Blue Alder just screams EFFORTLESS! This looks so good Mela, and hooray for sewing something for yourself! I’m so excited about this pattern but have been waiting patiently for the sewalong since I’m definitely NOT a dab hand at collar stands :p


    • Thank you! When I saw the Alder pattern I really wanted to make it, like, now. I put everything else I’ve been faffing about on and powered through. So glad I did. I finally fixed the last fitting issue and can’t wait to make a couple of more.


    • Thank you! I was really really surprised that I didn’t have to grade it and do a bunch of modifications.

      It’s such a comfy and stylish dress. It might be worth the effort of grading if you don’t have a shirt dress pattern in your stash already.


  9. So nice to see your finished result – looks like all your pattern modifications were spot on, and it looks really great! And the little Mr. looks pretty cute, too.


  10. This looks great – classic and comfortable! I love seeing everyone’s versions pop up these days. The color and subtle print you chose are perfect, even if it’s only a test version. 🙂


    • Thank you Heather. I am a sucker for snaps. Sometimes I have to be in good mindset in do buttonholes. But for snaps, I’m always in the mood to swing a hammer 🙂


  11. Such a lovely dress! You did a beautiful job and it looks great– truly a great blend of put-together-but-ready-to-play! I’m gonna have to jump on this Grainline Studio bandwagon here soon… so many great makes!


  12. GREAT job!! Not to get in your business (but I am lol), do you mind sharing which size you cut? I’ve been waiting for someone to FBA the heck out of this bad boy and you popped up on my google search (your version makes me so anxious to get started!


  13. I just found your blog through a link from Made by Meg. That got me to your boho chic dress, which I loved, so then I wanted to see your Alder. This looks so good on you! I’ve been wanting to make this dress for myself but was so unsure about how it would look in my size– not to mention the sizable FBA I’d have to do! This post is an inspiration. Thank you!

    PS– What brand are your sandals? I love the shot looking down the front of the dress towards them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Sarah! Thanks so much. I love the Alder so much. I still have a couple to sew up. Must get on that. But those sandals are Salt Water sandals. They are so comfy! I wore them all summer long last year.


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