Going for a Test Drive: Sewaholic Cambie

Last month I was on a top-secret sewing mission. Not as rigorously top-secret as Sidney Bristow going undercover in a Balkan mob but I can dream. (In college I harbored fantasies of working for the CIA… I think I read Harriet the Spy too many times as a kid.) It was a fun mission nonetheless–I had the pleasure of being a super spy tester for Sewaholic’s new pattern, the Cambie dress.

So far I’ve only made the Lonsdale dress, but it fit so well that I’ve really looked forward to trying other Sewaholic patterns, and I leapt at the chance to try this out.

My first impulse was to get all rocknroll on the dress, possibly contrast with all the femininity in some kind of animal print. Then Derek talked me into the hat. I HAD to design the dress around the hat.

It was the week before Easter, and I was reminiscing over all the wonderful Easter Sunday church clothes my mother made for us girls. And dreaming of sipping mint juleps on a lovely Sunday afternoon in the garden.

My friend Stephanie and I decided to make a day of playing dress-up and took off to the East Side to catch some light and street shots. “Everyone dresses pretty funky over there, no one will really think we’re out of place,” she assured me.

Hehe, we were not exactly invisible. There is something about girls in their summer clothes… That and the fact that we were running around with all this camera equipment. I think our waiter at the restaurant afterward thought we were doing a magazine editorial, because he asked for credit. (Thank you, Paul!) A lovely elderly gentleman stopped us while we were sitting on a bench and exclaimed, “You young ladies are so pretty. Y’all remind me of summers in Mississippi. Those dresses… those dresses are like the ones the ladies and my mama all wore on Sunday afternoons. Takes me back. Brings a smile to my face.” (Insert a big fat Texas drawl in there, and you will hear the essence of Southern graciousness.)

Just so Y’ALL can see what she was wearing.

It was so much fun to have a friend behind the camera because, gee, I’m actually laughing and dancing in most of them! She’d just seen a flamenco performance the night before so I was taking cues.

So, details, details. This dress is actually my second version! I made another out of a simple cotton jacquard so that I could give honest tester feedback by following the testing instructions, with one of the recommended fabrics. I put some photos up on Flickr so you can get an idea of what it looks like with the waistband and in a more structured fabric.

Fabric: Absolutely delicious, couldn’t-stop-stalking cotton/silk voile with a delicate watercolor floral. So soft to the touch. Despite this being a sheer fabric, the voile was actually a dream to sew. It unravelled like a beast, though, so I needed to work fast to finish the seams. The lining is a nude silk habotai.

(I should probably mention that Tasia didn’t recommend sheer fabrics for the a-line version… but I didn’t mind a bit of pocket show-through. It sorta blends.)

Pattern & Fit Changes: My muslin fit almost perfectly, but I wanted to take out some of the width around the hips. On both front and back pieces I took redrew the side seams about 1/2″ in from hem up to the hipline, and graded back out to 0 the waist. This took out 2 inches total from the hip and hem width. Some of you may notice that the pockets of the a-line skirt version and the waistband are almost identical to those on the Lonsdale. I almost took the waistband out of the Lonsdale and wanted to try doing so on this dress. This was actually a very simple modification. To keep the length and the waistline in the right spot, I lengthened both the bodice and skirt waistline by 1/2″, re-shaped the darts, and walked the pieces together to be sure the waist seams matched.

Anyone thinking of making this? I’m convinced this pattern will make a lot of happy dresses and makers, especially for those of you who like a bit of frou. I’m pretty happy because I think I’ve just found myself a good starting block, tnt, what have you… I’m already dreaming of a strapless version with a few bodice changes….


  1. Tanit-Isis says:

    ZOMG every version of this dress makes me want it more. Jonesing *hard*, can we say? I think I need a whole flock of full-skirted sundresses this summer. Or perhaps I’m just in heavy-duty denial mode. Regardless, the pre-order is already placed. /sigh.

    So jealous you have one, and I have to wait! 😉

    • Amy says:

      Oh you will love making this–so much Tanit potential! I’m so surprised you weren’t a tester, too! I kinda thought I might see you… (I shocked myself by actually hitting the deadline.)

  2. Heather Lou says:

    Amy! It’s so darling. Your Easter dress analogy couldn’t be more apt – it feels fresh, feminine and springy. I have a similar cotton silk I’ve been evening – maybe I should make the leap. Is there ANYTHING better to wear on a hot day? And I may have to follow your lead and take some photos with a friend. Self-timering is lonely and feels awkward…

    • Amy says:

      It *is* such perfect summer fabric! I hope I’m not too rough on it. And I so know the lonely self-timer thing, and most of the time that’s all I have time to do, but it was such a blast to have a friend who was game for a blog shoot. You should do it! It definitely helped me relax a lot and not just give the generic downward robot stare I seem to do on my own. (And told me when I had lipstick on my teeth, heh.)

  3. Sallie says:

    This is so pretty and dreamy!! Gawd! That fabric!! I’m dying… I could imagine this as a beautiful and sunshine-y strapless dress – perfect for summer. And I think that same elderly gentleman just stopped me on the street the other day to tell me I looked nice!

    • Amy says:

      Heehee, maybe he’s an angel. I was truly flattered! I almost thought I’d do strapless for this and something like that is on my radar. Just gotta learn how to do some elasticating in the back, methinks…

  4. Stephanie says:

    Ok – LOOOOOVE your hat. That is fabulous. I could use one of those.

    I thought this dress was a little too sweet when I saw the pattern envelope, but your version is beautiful. You look gorgeous! I love these pictures and accompanying story.

    • Amy says:

      Thanks! I’m so in love with this hat. I’ve love big brims and floppies but sometimes they feel in the way, you know? This one just fits so perfectly and I even like it for gardening… I know what you mean by too sweet–I don’t have a lot of this kind of style in my wardrobe. I’m glad it challenged me to try something I probably wouldn’t have. It’s crazy how sewing seems to bring out the dresses and I hardly owned any two years ago!

  5. This is beautiful! Love the color and lightness of the fabric. And I’m definitely digging the softness of the viole. It almost makes the skirt look like it’s cut on the bias (wait, is it?). I hope you wore this to a Derby party, or will in the future. It’d be perfect!!

    • Amy says:

      No, it’s not on the bias. I think it’s the effect of the silk content, which adds a lot more to the drape and softness than just a normal cotton voile. A Derby party would be such a blast! I’m working on my mint juleps. 😉

  6. emily says:

    This is stunning! Perfect fabric and fit and I like it without the waistband too. Seriously lovely work 🙂

  7. maddie says:

    Oh it looks so lovely. I remember as a child my mom would dress me in matching Laura Ashley ensembles. This reminds me of those dresses and those days but not as korny and tacky. Well done!

    • Amy says:

      Hehe, somehow I escaped the Laura Ashley phenomenon. I always wanted to look way more grown-up than I was. It was fun to just jump off the diving board into total pretty on this one!

  8. Lavender says:

    A stunner! No wonder you got chatted up by a sweet southern gent. And a perfect Easter ensemble. As a wee thing, Easter was the one holiday I really looked forward to. I loved getting a new dress, coat and hat, even though I wasn’t into really girly things overall.

  9. Amy says:

    Yes! And the new shoes! I wasn’t so much into the girly either, but it was funny how Easter bought out all the fancy. My mom loved sewing all those outfits for us, even staying up all night to finish.

  10. Tia Dia says:

    Love this dress! What a smash hit of a pattern – every single one I’ve seen made up around the web has made me want this. I love this sweet voile version. It is so so pretty!

  11. Erin says:

    Wow! Sewaholic did a good job signing you up for the secret mission. . . I just ordered the pattern. You and the dress are both beautiful!! I think that is the prettiest fabric I have ever seen. I live in MT, my fabric options are limited (Joann and one other small store in my town) and ordering online is frequently a disappointment. But I am searching for something similar to yours. Not trying to be a copycat, just inspired! Thank you.

    • Amy says:

      I don’t mind copying–I copy all the time! I got my fabric at EmmaOneSock. Although more on the expensive side, I’ve never been disappointed with what I receive from her (I think she has great taste in what she selects) and she ships very quickly. You are right, though–printed voiles aren’t easy to come by, and especially in a silk blend. I had to grab this the minute I saw it!

      • Erin says:

        Thank you; you’re so sweet for taking the time to answer. As a fairly new sewer, I wish I wasn’t so drawn to silks and jerseys and slinky stuff; I just made a pair of short yesterday out of cotton and they cut and sewed up so wonderfully without any bunching or sliding. . . and minimal cursing and seam ripping!! I’ll check out EmmaOneSock. Thanks again,

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