Last month I got to experience a first for me as a sewist: testing a new pattern! I occasionally see calls for pattern testers on Instagram and the timing hadn’t ever really been right for me to delve in to sewing something with a deadline. After summer wound down and I saw that Gabriela from Chalk + Notch was releasing a new dress pattern, I decided to apply to be a tester, and now here we are… standing in front of an ivy wall with a beautiful new dress.
The Orchid Midi Dress is actually part of a collaboration between Gabriela and Celina of Ensemble Patterns. The Parasol Trousers and Jumpsuit by Ensemble Patterns can be mixed and matched with the bodice of the Orchid to create endless combinations of jumpsuits. After cruising the #orchidxparasol hashtag on Instagram I have serious jumpsuit envy! I’m pretty set now on making a formal jumpsuit that I can wear to my husband’s holiday party in December…
The dress features a wrap bodice and midi-length (duh) skirt with a slit in front. I like this style because you get the flirtiness of a wrap dress without the possibility of the skirt accidentally unwrapping and flying open. (Is this a fear anyone else has, or just me?) It includes two sleeve options: flutter sleeve, or long sleeved with an elasticized wrist. I opted to test the long sleeved option since I was sewing in September and looking ahead to fall sewing. The rayon crepe that I chose to test with is definitely a summer weight but it’s still 80 degrees here in the Bay Area so it’s still comfortable to wear. I’m envisioning wearing this in cooler weather with tights… should that cooler weather ever arrive. Do you hear me, “fall”??!
I bought the fabric from Jo-Ann with a coupon so it was a good deal for how many yards a dress requires. I was a little unsure about the funky pattern at first (I have like three patterned items in my closet) but it gives off a vintage vibe with this dress silhouette and I really like how my vision came through. The final product is how I always envisioned I looked when I thrifted vintage (read: 80s) dresses when I was in college, except that the reality was that those dresses were boxy, polyester, and 95% of the time included shoulder pads.
I only made one slight alteration to the dress, which was adding an inch to the length of the skirt above the slit so that the slit wouldn’t come up so high on my thigh. The pattern is drafted for someone who is 5’7″ and I’m 5’9″ so I only went an inch shorter than my usual alterations. I actually usually add length to the bodice since I have a long torso, but this silhouette is so blousy on top I figured it would be fine as is. Also, I have the chest of a teenage boy (thank you hidden snap for helping me with that) so I knew I wouldn’t have to compensate for a fuller bust by adding fabric to the top. If that makes sense.
Which reminds me… this would be an excellent pattern for someone who is nursing! The snap makes boob access a breeze.
Pattern testing was so fun for me. I’m sure it’s a different process for every pattern designer, but Gabriela is communicative and thorough in responding to questions. I liked the challenge of sewing for a deadline and I really liked seeing the other testers’ creative processes throughout the testing phases. I also got to connect with new sewists on their Instagram accounts, which is a huge perk of being involved in the sewing community. I remember hearing on the “Up Your Sewing Game” episode of the Love to Sew podcast that one way to improve your sewing skills is through testing and I definitely found that to be true when I was trying out new to me techniques like mitered corners (oh MAN the mitered corners on this hem are awesome). I’m definitely going to be seeking out more testing opportunities in the future!
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P A T T E R N : Orchid Midi Dress by Chalk + Notch
F A B R I C : Geometric Rayon Crepe from from Jo-Ann
M O D I F I C A T I O N S : Added 1″ to the skirt length above the slit
O V E R A L L : Gabriela’s instructions are detailed and thorough which would make this attemptable for even a confident beginner (the pattern level is listed at intermediate); I love the mix and match option with the Parasol Jumpsuit/Trousers by Ensemble Patterns; great pattern for all seasons and occasions (casual to formal)