I don’t have a lot of time to sew purely for myself. A lot of my business is sewing for other reasons: making items to sell or creating pieces for exhibitions. A few weekends ago, I ended up with some free time and nothing pressing on my agenda. I wandered up to Knit & Bolt, my neighborhood fabric store, and I bought a copy of the Wiksten Shift Dress pattern.

I’d been seeing this one all over Instagram and the craft blogs. It’s a super simple shape and I could have probably drafted the pattern myself, but I like to support indie pattern designers and I honestly didn’t want to think that hard. I just wanted to spend an afternoon making a simple dress.

I had a perfect piece of fabric: a blue/green woven that I had bought to make a dress for my sister’s wedding. I ended up not having enough fabric for the dress I wanted to make for that event, so I used something else and this green went in the stash. It’s a cool weave that has blue threads in the warp and green threads in the weft so it changes color a little as it moves and it is super soft.

The pattern has a yoke on the back and I thought it would be fun to use a contrasting fabric for that and I found a scrap of this print that I designed and printed at Spoonflower on some cotton sateen. The colors were perfect together.

Since this was a new-to-me pattern designer, I remeasured myself and checked their size chart and decided based on my measurements that I should make a size 10. So I got it all sewn together and I thought to myself that it was looking a little roomy, but it’s supposed to be a relaxed kind of boxy silhouette (something I don’t sew for myself often) so I just kept working.

And then, my dear readers, I tried it on.

It looks like I am wearing a green trash bag. In the third photo I grabbed the extra fabric and pulled it back so you can see just how much extra there is. Now I realize that I am neither 5’11” or a size 0 like the model is in the picture, but seriously. This looks nothing like the pattern envelope.

I thought I was losing my marbles. How could it be this wrong? I googled and looked at some other versions people had made and I noticed a comment on someone’s post about sizing down according to the pattern instructions. Huh? Then I glanced back at the pattern booklet and saw this note: Sizes: US Women’s sizes 0-22.  Model is 5’11” tall and a size 4 and is wearing a 4 in the top and a 0 in the dress (dress has more ease than top).  The oversized fit makes it possible to size down, but the bicep needs at least 3″ ease for comfort. 

I’ve never seen this in a pattern before, but basically this is saying if you want yours to fit like the one on the model, you need to go at least two sizes down from your measurements, otherwise you will look like you are wearing a trash bag. I completely missed that when I was reading the instructions the first time and it’s not mentioned anywhere else. So if you don’t see it and make it in your size like you would normally do, you might be in for a surprise.

So there is no way I was going to wear this thing.

I put it in a time-out for a few days so I could think how to rescue it. My first brainstorm was to use elastic thread to ruche or shirr the underbust/waist area to give it a defined waistline. Made by Rae has a great tutorial about how to do that. I didn’t take a photo. Let’s just say it wasn’t successful. I had trouble with bobbin tension and the thread breaking and I lost patience with that. I have used this technique in the past with great success, but that was on my older sewing machine and I wasn’t patient enough to figure out the tension on this newer machine. Rae says that it is totally worth buying a better quality elastic thread than you get at the Joann’s and I think that was part of my issue. The elastic thread I had was not great. I didn’t want to bother to track down better stuff.

After chatting with someone else online with the same fit problem, I decided that the only thing to do was to try recutting it. So I left the neckline and shoulder seams, ripped out the side seams and pinned and recut the pieces down to a size 0. That might seem dramatic, but when I measured how much ease that I had, I realized that I could go down 5 sizes and still have plenty of room.

You will notice there is no picture here. It was definitely better with all of that fabric taken out. Waaaaay closer to the fit you see on the model in the photo. But unfortunately still just mediocre. I cut the short length on mine because I am 5’4″ and the pattern piece for the long version was all the way to my ankles. I don’t think the longer length would have been good either.

So why am I posting this? Nobody ever posts photos of their flops. If I had made this as a beginning seamstress, I would have blamed it all on myself and figured the reason that it didn’t look like the one in the picture was because I didn’t know what I was doing. And that’s totally not true. I am not saying this is a bad pattern, but I am going to say that this is a bad beginner pattern. Although it’s super simple to sew, it is deceptive. It’s only going to look cool like the pattern envelope in a very special set of circumstances. I was excited to sew something, I jumped in and I didn’t listen to my wiser self.

  • You have to realize that the pattern is telling you to ignore what you know about picking a size and size down 2-5 sizes. I am really not sure why they didn’t just re-size the pattern if the way they were going to represent the pattern in photos was to show someone wearing the “wrong” size.
  • It needs the right fabric. Mine was a mid-weight woven. I think something lighter/gauzier/drapier might have made mine look less trash-bag-like.
  • Boxy is just not a silhouette I like. I knew this dress was that shape and I made it anyway.
  • When you are 5’4″, the dress length is not designed for you. I think most commercial patterns are designed for someone 5’6″, I couldn’t find that info about Wiksten, but I suspect it might be slightly taller. I think a slightly longer length in this one might have been better proportioned for me.

Have you made a Wiksten Shift? What was your experience?