Sewing Summer dresses – Clothkits review

clothkits-dressesYou’d be hard pressed to miss the glorious summer that we’re having in the UK at the moment – but it really does highlight gaps in your wardrobe!

My girls do seem to be a bit lacking on the summer dress front, so when I saw these Clothkits dresses on sale I just couldn’t resist. Now they only had two age 4-6 dresses left and I have a 3 and a 7 year old so I did have a bit of peak in the box to see if adjustments would be possible.

Clothkits have been around for many years although they were relaunched in 2008 after a period of dormancy. They are based in Sussex and according to their website all their printing is done right here in the UK. The concept is, that you receive everything you need to make your chosen garment, the fabric (including pre-printed cutting lines), thread, buttons and any other haberdashery you may need. All you need to do is cut it out and sew it together – simple right?

The dresses have been a huge hit, my 3 year old looks cute in hers and my 7 year old looks so grown up, the dress is just perfect for her and the colour is amazing. She wore it to a party last week and the other children and mums were asking her where she got her dress!!

The results speak for themselves and I am really pleased with how they wash and wear. The fabric is a really good quality medium-weight linen / cotton.

But….

Well, there had to be one didn’t there? Despite the really simple design, sewing these dresses was, for me, really painful.

clothkits-shift-dress-pinkFirst off, I sewed the smaller size in pink (I didn’t make any alterations to the age 4 and it fits my petite 3 year old pretty well). Now I became obsessed with french seams which I much prefer for finishing seams over using my overlocker/serger. As a result, I got myself in a bit of a mess with the instructions and just really didn’t think it through. If I’m honest the fabric is a little on the thick side for french seams but it does mean that the dress is really sturdy and because I sewed the sides of the dress and the lining together the lining stays nicely in place. It did however mean that to hem the lining I had to clip the fabric at the seams to release them.

Oh well, it was a lesson in thinking things through properly if you’re going to deviate from the provided instructions.

Next up, I started the larger one in purple. This time I decided I’d overlock the seams and follow the instructions. Hmmmm….

First off, I didn’t finish my seams before sewing as the instructions suggest. Yes – the fabric does fray quite a lot but I do find that fabric can stretch if you finish the seams first so I decided just to be careful and handful with care. I cut the dress a fraction longer than the printed cut line (as much as a fabric would allow) as I knew I could do with a little extra length. I had thought to gain a bit of extra width I could just reduce my seam allowances. However, because the fabric is pre-printed with the sizes if you cut the largest size, the lines for the smaller sizes are printed in your seam allowances. So if you don’t use your full seam allowance you see the printed lines down the seams of your dress. Luckily I didn’t need the extra width.

clothkits-shift-dress-purplI added the optional pocket to both dresses. I should point out that it isn’t very large and my 7 year old cannot get her hand inside. Perhaps it more of an adornment rather than being functional?

All went well until I came to the button placket. I’d already sewn one without any problems so what could possibly go wrong, right?

I must have unpicked and resewed at least 5 times . I’m really sorry Clothkits but your instructions are really not very clear and the pictures don’t help much (it being late at night didn’t help either, in fairness!). I did also watch some of the video available on their website (sorry, I got a bit bored) although admittedly they do kind of gloss over the placket positioning.

It’s important to note that when you join the back seam below the button placket, you need to move the button placket out of the way along with the lining. All you want to do at this stage is join the back seam (and only the back seam) and sew it up as far as the notches (where you finished your sewing when sewing the button placket in place). If you stitch the remainder of the button placket in with your back seam, it will end up on the right side of your dress rather than being on the inside. You will stitch the remainder of the placket with the lining.

Once you’ve sewn the back seam of the main fabric, you can then sew the remainder of the lining, sandwiching in the remaining section of the button placket. If it all goes well, you should see all of the button placket on the inside of the dress as below.

Button placket position

The button placket should be positioned on top of your lining.

There are a few other gaps in the information provided that I’d have liked to have seen included. I’m sure that for many of you the first thing you do when you get your fabric home is to put it in the washing machine and dry and iron it. There was nothing in the instructions about pre-washing the fabric or any indication as to any expected shrinkage. Finished garment measurements were also missing, whilst I notice that these are provided under the product on the website, there is no mention on the printed instructions. I just got my tape measure out!!

I don’t consider myself to be a beginner sewer, over the years I’ve sewn clothes from both Big 4 and Indie pattern companies and whilst I may have had a few ‘head scratching’ moments, I’ve always managed to work things out. I’m still not sure if I was just too tired to follow the instructions properly or if the instructions are a little lacking in certain places. I can normally read pattern instructions are get the gist of what I need to do but these instructions just didn’t speak to me at all. Or maybe I’m just too spoilt by the wonderful instructions from the likes of Colette, Megan Nielsen and  Oliver & S which are so clear and unambiguous.

Despite all that, the dresses are beautiful and I wouldn’t hesitate if I saw another in a sale!

Disclaimer: These are my own thoughts and interpretations on the Shift dress sold by Clothkits

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