Thursday, May 16, 2019

Globes, Ships, and Fluttery Sleeves - The Orchid Midi Dress

I enjoy testing PDF patterns. I really do. I appreciate the deadlines (I'm definitely someone who works best with a deadline), I like trying out new patterns and styles, and every once in a while pattern testing gives me an excuse to go fabric shopping. I am fond of fabric shopping. But you know what the best thing is? Signing up to test a pattern and realizing you already have the perfect fabric in your stash for it. As much as I love fabric shopping, stash busting is much more satisfying.

A few weeks ago, I applied to test an update for the Orchid Midi dress pattern by Chalk and Notch Patterns. The pattern size range was being extended and bust cup options were being added - I'm a huge fan of bust cup options on patterns! I've followed Chalk and Notch on Instagram for a while now, and admired their designs. I've applied to test a few patterns for them in the past, but never been selected as a tester. Thus, I was totally surprised when I was actually selected to test this pattern a couple days after I'd applied! Suddenly the thought "that would be a fun dress to make" turned into "time to find a fabric to make this dress!"

The Orchid Midi dress features a cross over bodice, beautifully large pockets, and the most fluttery of flutter sleeves. To be properly fluttery, these lovely flutter sleeves require the dress to be made from a fabric with a lot of drape to it, such as a rayon challis or a cotton lawn. A quilting cotton, poplin, or gingham would be too stiff. With this need for drape in my mind, I began shifting through my fabric stash to find 3-4 yards of a suitable material.

In my mind, I would be making this dress from a lovely large floral print material. Nothing in my fabric stash quite met that expectation however. Instead,  I found a fabulous, much more memorable, fabric with just the right amount of drape in a recently acquired section of my fabric stash.

A friend of my aunt had a mother who was an amazing, very prolific, seamstress. She sewed for her entire life and built up a wonderful fabric stash in the process. As she was cleaning out her parents' house after her mother's passing, my aunt's friend invited my grandma (who is a wonderful quilter) and me to come and go through the fabric and notions stash - selecting anything and everything we thought we might want to take home and use. She wanted the materials to go to people who would appreciate and use them. I came home with a lot of fabric, probably a lifetime supply of zippers, and some fantastic ironing tools such as tailor's hams and a clapper. 

It was in this collection of fabric that I found 4 yards of rayon challis for my Orchid Midi. When I was going through the original fabric stash, I almost didn't choose to bring this piece home with me. From a distance all I saw was a red and brown material, and that's not a color pallet I usually wear. Then, as I was picking up the fabric so I could see what was beneath it in the box, I too a closer look at it, and realized the print was ships and globes! This caught my interest immediately, as the fabric reminded me of  my map dress. In addition to that, the hand and drape of the fabric was just amazing. It feels like a rayon challis, but a much higher quality rayon challis than what can be found at Joann's today. I knew I'd find just the right project for this wonderfully soft travel themed fabric eventually, so I happily added the cut of material to my fabric stash.

It was about a month later, sooner than I'd expected, that I found the perfect project for the fabric in the form of the Orchid Midi. The rayon has the right drape for the flutter sleeves to lay perfectly.

The fabric is light enough to gather nicely at the drawstring waist, rather than being bulky.

And it's substantial enough to support the large pockets - very important since I will use those large pockets!

The Orchid Midi update test was a joy to be a part of. It was run a little differently than any other Facebook group pattern test I've done, and I really appreciated the way it was handled.

My measurements put me squarely in a size 6 with a C/D bust cup for this pattern. Before the pattern update, the Orchid Midi was only drafted for an A/B cup size and my bust measurement was a full two sizes larger than any of my other measurements. I would have had to do a full bust adjustment if I'd wanted to make this dress and have it fit perfectly. I don't like having to do full bust adjustments (FBAs). I generally avoid doing them if I can help it. Thus, any pattern featuring different cup sizes makes me very happy! All women are shaped a bit differently, and it's wonderful when patterns reflect that!

The only adjustment I had to do for this pattern to fit me perfectly, was a slight broad back adjustment.  This is way less involved than a FBA, and I really don't mind to broad back adjustments at all, so that was no problem.

Fluttery sleeves, bust cup options, a perfect fit, and unique travel-themed fabric gives me a comfortable, pretty, new dress that I enjoy wearing. Just for the irony of it, I had to photograph this dress with the dead end sign at the end of my road.

As much as I enjoy making garments of all varieties, I'm really a dressmaker at heart. It's been a couple months since I made a modern dress for myself, and this was just the pattern to scratch that dress-making itch - while doing some stash busting at the same time! It's a modern design, but the skirt length and flutter sleeves gives it a slight 1930's feel to me, which I really like. Quite the satisfying project.

With the new update, the Orchid Midi dress is for sale on the Chalk and Notch website, 20% off through next Wednesday (5/22/19) with the code "orchid20".

*I received this pattern free of charge in exchange for testing it and giving my feedback. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this blog post are my own, and I was not required to write or share anything about this pattern.


  1. Thank you so much for sharing your experience! I enjoyed working with you! XO

    1. Thank you for having me test! I had a great time!