I had the privilege of pattern testing for Cris Wood Sews for the Envelope Dress Variations Packet. The Envelope Dress has been making the rounds with sewers since it was released, and I had purchased the PDF pattern in the summer, but didn’t get the chance to sew it up.
When Cris requested for testers for the Dress Variation Pack on Instagram, I jumped at the chance. It would give me that push to finally give the pattern a go, and at the same time, I would be able to add sleeves to the caftan-style dress. It would also give me the opportunity to take a peek into a designer’s process. That’s killing 3 birds with a single stone! And I’m so glad I did it, and squeezed myself into a pattern-testing spot. Thanks for having me at the testing party, Cris! And all the best for the pattern launch!
The Envelope Dress is a zero-waste pattern, which means that it uses all of the fabric used with no fabric waste. When it is used with the sleeve variations, it becomes a little-waste pattern. I guess it is possible to figure out cutting the rectangular pattern pieces in a way that it does become truly no-waste, but my brain hurt just thinking about the jigsaw-puzzling involved.
Anyway, I didn’t feel so bad about it since the fabric that I used was from someone else’s scrap bin. It was handed down to me by a family friend, a seamstress who specialises in making curtains. She had a bin full of large scraps that she was going to throw out, and I offered to give them a home. I saved these fabrics from eternal damnation at the landfill. Now I am hoarding yards of adopted fabric, waiting for new life to be breathed into them.
From this hand-me-down fabric haul, I chose a 100% polyester with autumnal leaves set against a cream background. I hadn’t noticed the bare tree behind my balcony, which fittingly provided a nice backdrop to this photo shoot because it looks like the leaves have fallen out of the bare branches onto my dress. Even though it’s made out of evil polyester, the fabric feels smooth on the skin and has a fabulous drape. It has a nice sheen and feels slinky – perfect for an Envelope Dress.
What I love about this zero-waste pattern is that it is zero-waste for paper as well. The pattern comes as a set of instructions to draft your pattern pieces on the fabric directly. All the pieces are rectangles that form a caftan. The Dress Variation Packet expands the Envelope Dress to have options for 3 kinds of sleeves – straight, gathered and puff. There are also options for a front slit, side slits and a sash.
I chose to make an Envelope Dress with straight sleeves and side slits. The sewing is a straightforward project, and it is perfect for beginners. It is basically joining up seams together, and hemming it up, then voila! … you have yourself a great dress. It was very satisfying for me to have this completed in a couple hours. The simplicity of it and its effortlessness yields maximum impact in a dress that is casual, relaxed and classy at the same time. With the straight sleeves, the dress looks like a closed version of a kimono robe.
The experience of pattern testing for a designer was an eye-opener. Literally, it involved looking at the pattern and instructions with sharp, open eyes to help Cris out in identifying mistakes and potential problems. I also made sure I provided positive affirmations wherever possible. It was very cool to connect with Cris in this small way and to make my humble contributions in support of her process. In exchange, I get to receive the completed pattern when it is released. Amazing! I would love to continue pattern testing for other designers, and I highly recommend it you if you are thinking about it as well.
The Envelope Dress pattern is also one of the best gifts to sew up for family and friends. There is a one-size pattern that requires only 1.5 yards or metres of fabric, and it takes no time at all to sew one up. I think it’s a versatile outfit. It can be worn as a beach coverup, as pandemic loungewear, and it can also be relaxed, classy party or dinner wear. That neckline is perfect for Zoom meetings. Also, it can be worn on its own or over a top for the colder months. So if you are in a rush to make more gifts for the holiday season, here’s a great project to make any gift-receiver happy.