Warning – many, MANY photos ahead!
I was so thrilled to be selected as a pattern tester for the gorgeous Nora Shirtdress from The Snacky Seamstress. I had seen her lovely versions of this pattern on Instagram and applied right when I saw she was looking for volunteers to sew it up!
I have never tested a pattern before so I wasn’t sure if I would get picked. I was nervous to apply, but I had to give it a go because this pattern ticks all of my style boxes – fitted bodice, full skirt, and retro flair!
I knew if I didn’t get picked I was going to buy this pattern once it was released – so either way this dress was in my future 🙂
When I got the email confirming I was among the girls selected, I was so excited! We had three weeks to sew it up and provide feedback on the pattern. But before I could even think about sewing, I had to choose the right fabric!
I had picked up this amazing Tula Pink fabric from Sewfisticated Fabrics about a year and a half ago. It was only $2.99 a yard, so I grabbed four yards. Then, it sat in my stash just waiting for the perfect project – and this was it!
The print has birds, ships, stars, and moons. Honestly, not the fabric I typically go for! But it was so unique and I just adored the color combo.
I knew this was going to require specific pattern placement to get a professional result. I’m still new to pattern matching, so I definitely needed to do some careful planning!
I chose to focus on the placement of the back piece as well as the center front, ignoring the side seams (that area will be hidden by my arms most of the time anyway!). On my front bodice piece, I drew a dotted line 5/8″ away from the edge to account for my seam allowance. This line was then matched up with the area that I wanted to be my center front. You can see where I am pointing below – this is the center of the print, so it is where I have placed that dotted line.
To get a perfect match on the other half of the bodice, I flipped the first piece over and lined it up on the fabric, making sure the print matched in all areas before cutting it out.
The center back was a lot easier since there is no back seam. I folded my fabric along the center of the design, and lined it up with the edge of the back pattern piece. I did the same for the top yoke and the collar:
The bodice was easy to sew with one exception – attaching the sleeves to the front and back pieces! There is a pretty sharp corner that you have to sew and it is quite awkward. Although the directions were clear, I found myself advancing one stitch at a time on my machine so I wouldn’t screw it up. That corner was definitely quite fiddly!
When I finished, I had a bit of pucker on the sleeve in that area (see image below). I wasn’t really sure how to fix that (Did I have to re-distribute the sleeve fabric along the vertical seam? Or maybe round the corner?), so I emailed Sarah – the girl who designed the pattern. She assured me that once I clipped the seam and pressed that corner the pucker would be gone – and she was right! Crisis averted!
To match the front and back seams on the skirt, I did the same thing as on the bodice – first marking the seam allowance, then lining that up with the center of the print.
It was SOOOO satisfying to iron this part because the seam allowance matched up so perfectly on the inside. (I can’t believe I just said that, because I usually hate ironing while sewing!)
The pattern matching didn’t stop there – surprisingly, I was also able to match up each panel of the skirt to the pocket! I did have to take in the width of the pocket by about one inch to make it work, but it was worth it. The pattern is drafted with large pockets anyway, so it wasn’t a big deal to lose that inch.
I know that I am the ONLY one who will ever know (well, now you guys too), since it is not really noticeable – even when I have my hands are in my pockets.
I wish I had just another few inches of fabric so I could plan out the waistband better, but it was either that or shorten the skirt a bit. I was already at the verrrrry edge of my yardage with only a centimeter to spare! I opted for the longer skirt and just did what I could for the waistband.
My only other hurdle I had to overcome (in addition to that darn corner and all of the print matching) was the zipper. I have sewn many dresses over the years, but have only used invisible zippers. This dress pattern, however, called for a lapped zip. I considered just going for an invisible zipper anyway, but since I was testing the pattern I figured it was only fair to sew it up as intended.
I read the instructions like 5 times (which were VERY well explained, by the way), and watched a few tutorials on YouTube. I tried on the dress before installing the zipper, and for some reason I panicked thinking that it was going to be too tight. I decided to use a 1/2″ seam allowance instead of 5/8″ to be on the safe side. When I finished the zipper I was SO happy with how it came out (my first one, yay!) and ignored the fact that the change in seam allowance caused the print to shift slightly in the center.
But then I tried it on and it was slightly too big! Augh! I could have gone with the 5/8″ allowance after all and would have had everything perfectly aligned. Plus it would’ve fit me better.
There was NO WAY that I was going to rip out that beautifully installed zipper to do it again, so I will just have to live with it. No big deal 🙂
The collar/lapel has a facing that goes all the way down to the waist seam, so everything inside is neat and tidy:
Overall, I adore the Nora Shirtdress pattern! I already went shopping for fabric so I can make more – including two for my gal Sara from In a Nutshell!
If you sew, I definitely recommend trying out this pattern. You will be so happy you did!