Altering The Alder, Part 1: Adding Darts

Our guest blogger today is Kelly Walsh, the Director of Engineering at Spoonflower and an avid seamstress who loves a good hack. Over the next week, in two parts, she will explain how to alter the very popular Alder Shirtdress from Grainline Studio to add sleeves and bodice darts.


If you’re like me, you got into sewing clothing because you’re never quite satisfied with the options you’re given. You always want to change a garment in some way, just to make it different, make it yours. It might be the fit you want to tweak, or maybe it’s the color or design on the fabric, or maybe it’s those small details to add flare. Whatever it is, the whole point of sewing your own clothing is that you can do whatever you want!

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The original 3D model on Sprout and my finished alteration!

I love the concept for Sprout Patterns, but whenever I tell friends about it, I usually hear the same thing: “That sounds so cool! But I’m not just one size, I grade between sizes. They can’t do that (yet!)” Or “That’s nice, but I always like tweaking the patterns I get. If it’s printed on the fabric, I can’t do that.”

Well, I’m here to say that yes, you absolutely can alter a Sprout Patterns garment. You have to get a little creative about it, and you have to plan ahead, but I’m convinced that 9 out of 10 alterations are possible on a Sprout Patterns project. You might have to play with the seam allowances, you might have to get creative with scrap fabric, you might even have to re-draft the bodice. But you’d be doing those things with a normal pattern anyways!

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To prove it to you, I’m going to show you the alterations I did on the Alder Shirtdress (View B) by Grainline Studio. I love florals, so I picked a beautiful vintage-ish design called Royal Garden by Oksana Pasishnychenko. Now, everyone I’ve talked to has either loved or hated the “B” option for the shirt dress. I don’t know what it is, but there is something about those gathers, or that line drawing which people either fall in love with, or are completely turned off by. Full confession: I was one of the people who swore I’d never sew it, it wasn’t for me. It’s not that it was a bad dress, just that I knew I’d look like I was wearing a bag. I love shirtdresses, but I’m all pear shaped, and I just didn’t “feel” that silhouette. So I gave myself a challenge: How would I use Sprout to turn the Alder Shirtdress B Variation into a dress that I loved and felt good in?

I made the bodice a bit more fitted and defined my waist by adding some darts, and I drafted some cute tulip sleeves. Here’s what the Alder looks like sewn up exactly as in the instructions.

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It’s not a bad dress by any means, but it just didn’t feel flattering. My hips are wide enough that I have to choose a larger size to fit them, and my bust is small enough that I lose all shaping between my shoulders and my hips. But once I added a couple of darts in both the front bodice and the back, I got a dress that looks like this:

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I already loved this alteration. I felt like I had a waist again! I could have stopped here and been perfectly pleased with myself, but that was almost too easy. I wanted a challenge to see what else I could do to change this dress just a bit more. I decided that I wanted something to balance the fullness of the skirt, and give the dress a bit more construction. I’m always more of a sleeves girl than a sleeveless girl, so I played with a couple of options and eventually decided on tulip sleeves. After all my alterations and playing, here’s the dress I finally ended up with:

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How to: Shaping up and adding darts

There’s a whole lot of ways you can change the shape of a bodice. Some of them are more dramatic than others, and some of them definitely take more effort than others. When considering doing so with Sprout, there are some important considerations to think about. If you’re going to attempt something a little more complicated, like a full bust adjustment, do the math ahead of time and make sure it will work.

Sprout does include a seam allowance in the printed area, which considering that is on every side of every pattern piece, does add up to a lot of “flex” room in how far you can shift a pattern piece before you reach the edge. You can also increase your “margins” by ordering up a size. You’ll have to do some drafting to get it back “down” to your size in certain areas, but it adds some possibilities. I’d definitely recommend checking out the “finished garment” dimensions if you’re planning anything complicated as that will help you plan out how the fabric pieces will match with your body, and how much room you have to shift things. And remember, the darts aren’t actually printed on the fabric for sprout, so you have all that fabric to play with too.

Personally though, I’m usually too lazy to go about doing the math to draft up a whole new bodice draft full bust adjustment craziness. With something that has a relaxed fit, like the Alder Shirtdress, I’m much more likely to simply drape any alterations right on my body or on the dressform.

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The Alder only has two horizontal bust darts that come in from the side seams. This is great for creating a subtle shape with a relaxed fit through the waist. However, I have a fairly small bust, and larger hips, and since I had to order the size that would fit my hips, it means the bodice is fairly large for me, and my waist gets utterly lost. According to the Alder size chart, my bust is a size 6, while my waist is a size 10, and my hips are a size 12. I ordered my dress as a size 12, and sewed it exactly according to the instructions, but I wasn’t a big fan of the results.

My goal was to re-emphasize the waist and find some definition around the bust area. The easiest way to do this was to follow classic bodice traditions and add in two vertical darts going from the waist up. I also added slightly smaller darts in the back as well.

Now, yes, you could get out your ruler, and do the math, and draw on your fabric, and if you’re like me get utterly confused. OR you could simply put the dress on inside out and pinch and pin the extra fabric around this area until you like the shape it creates on your body. Let’s be real, no one’s body is exactly symmetrical, no one’s body follows a set of generic math rules. You can draw all the straight lines you want, but I have yet to find a single straight line in my body. I find it so much easier to just map the fabric to my body while it’s on my body.

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It’s easiest to do this technique if most of the major seams (especially the shoulders and side seams) in the bodice are already sewn, even if they’re only basted together. I didn’t plan overly well, and so I had done everything on my dress, down to even finishing the interior seams, before I decided to add these darts. That’s probably going too far, as you never know if you’ll want to let out a side seam to make the front dart larger, but it ended up working out in the end.

Here’s me with the dress on inside out, and where and how I ended up positioning the darts. They’re not perfectly even, that’s because my stomach isn’t perfectly flat. Maybe yours is, you lucky duck! There’s not identical, because one side of my body is actually a slightly different shape than the other. This isn’t unusual either, most people are slightly asymmetrical.

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IMPORTANT: Definitely double check yourself on this one. Put the dress on and off and on and off again, inside out and right side out, look and see if the fabric is puckering anywhere. Shift things around. Realize you liked it better the other way and shift it back again. Take in the side seams, let them out again. Make sure the dress is hanging off your shoulders straight, and you’re not slouching. Wear the bra that you’re most like to want to wear with this dress. Don’t drape a dress on your body while wearing a bra that you won’t want to wear with the dress, it changes your body, and therefore will change the shape of the dress!

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Once you feel good about where your darts are pinned, bast them. Then triple check yourself one last time. Then stitch them, and press them towards the center, just like always. And presto! You’ve made a bodice that fits your body, and fits how you want, better than any pattern could ever guess. All without any math at all.

Here’s some inside out photos of my darts, front and back.

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The front darts taper off at the top and the bottom, because of how the front panels of the Alder work. The top of the dart rests just below the point of my bust, and the bottom dips just under my natural waist. The back darts end at their widest point at the waist line. Remember that you’ll have to compensate with the gathers here, since you’re effectively removing fabric from the waistline, your gathers in the back skirt will have to be slightly denser to match lengths.

This one simple change was easy to do and changed this dress for me. And it doesn’t require any extra fabric, any math or drafting skills. I’ll say it again, you can alter sprout patterns projects! It’s okay if your entire body is not just the one size. You can get great results by simply adding some darts and shaping the fabric to your body.

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Tune in next week for Part 2: DRAFTING SLEEVES!


KellyBiopic.jpgKelly Walsh attended the NC School of Science and Mathematics and graduated from UNC Chapel Hill with a degree in Philosophy. She spends most of her free time reading, sewing the most elaborate Halloween costumes she can envision (and the occasional everyday outfit), and learning to weave on her 1900s Leclerc floor loom. Her favorite Sprout Pattern of the moment is the Archer Button Up. She joined the Spoonflower team in 2011 as a printer operator, and is currently the Director of Site Engineering.

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Sprout x Berlin Fashion Show Recap

Sprout Patterns Creative Director Caroline gives us the low down about the fashion show in Berlin that happened on September 7th at the Spoonflower European headquarters.


Ok, TRUTH? I now have a new appreciation for all runway shows. Let me tell you a secret – it’s A LOT of WORK! Is it fun? YES YES YES! But the coordination, the hair, makeup, models – it’s just a huge puzzle that you seem to be putting together on the fly, even if you’ve organized and rehearsed!

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Yes, that’s me, doing hair for the show, THANK GOODNESS for hairspray!

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Essentials – makeup, hairspray and chocolate – not pictured.

Since this is a “behind the scenes” look at the show, I wanted to also share how beautiful our models were without any special hair or makeup – naturally gorgeous!

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Jasmine and Martha – natural beauties!

We had a lot of help from the Spoonflower office dog, Ben. He made sure everyone got their daily dose of snuggles, petting, and canine slobber.

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Ben says all that snuggling is hard work!

I also got to meet with some of the designers before the show, like Mele de la Yglesia. I can honestly say that I’ve never seen anyone so excited about seeing their art on fabric. I loved Mele’s enthusiasm and it was AMAZING to share in her pure joy!

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Mele trying on a Kielo dress with her design

One of the BEST things about this show was that we hired a professional photographer, Benni Janzen. He is AMAZING, and sweet and super easy to work with. Seriously, if you’re in Europe and need a photographer, HIRE HIM! But of course, since I’m stubborn, I had to take my own iPhone photos, like these:

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Juliana models for Benni and Sophie tries on her Inari dress.

I think the models had a good time and made some new friends. They were all a lot of fun and made me wish I could stay in Berlin longer to hang out with them!

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Martha has some serious attitude – LOVE IT!

We held the show at the Spoonflower office in Berlin – which is in a really cool industrial section of Neukölln. The room we used has great light, but we rigged up some LED’s since the event was at night. Here’s the space BEFORE the magic happened. ;o)

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The other thing about having a photographer is that they sometimes catch you at certain “moments” like me absolutely FAWNING over designer Cristóbal Schmal. Not too obvious at all, RIGHT? HAHAHA!!!

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I hope his GF doesn’t see this photo! ;o)

Then the magic started happening. Pablo forgot that he was shy and rocked the runway.

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Laura from Named Clothing remembered that she got up at 4am to fly to Berlin and see the show. THANK YOU for coming all that way, Saara and Laura!!!

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I got to meet some very cool German bloggers and patternmakers and talked to them about Spoonflower and Sprout.

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The show was so much fun and I LOVED meeting everyone! I wore a Named Kielo Dress I’d sewn by designer Alexandra Bordallo of Spain. Little did I know that everyone was going to wear their favorite Kielo! Model Juliana won the battle (I’m totally serious, there was almost a fight!) over the show sample from Pete Corrie, then Laura and Saara wore the Kielos they’d ordered from Sprout. This is definitely one of my favorite photos from the show, and no we’re not terribly short, Juliana was just rocking monster heels.

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And the Kielo prize goes to…..

In conclusion: Berlin was awesome. The fashion show KICKED ASS. All I want to know is when the next one will be. Someone want to volunteer their city? LET ME KNOW! ;o) Tschuss!

p.s. If you saw a dress / shirt / top you liked, it’s probably here on Sprout.

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Matching for Grownups, featuring Sprout Patterns

What’s the secret to dressing your man for a special occasion? Guest blogger Gina seems to have figured it out! Read below to get her scoop on matching your date in an elegant and modern way.


Working at Spoonflower has turned me into someone not unlike Miss Frizzle – I tend to want to dress to match the occasion, especially if there’s a theme involved. This gets complicated at events like weddings, where I have a date to drag along that I’m supposed to match. My tendency toward cats and space and llamas makes it kind of hard for a guy to wear a dignified bow tie and look like he belongs with me simultaneously. But I’m here to tell you, it’s totally possible to make yourself a unique dress and coordinate with your man, with only minor complaining on his part, thanks to Sprout Patterns.

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I’d been looking forward to my friend and fellow Spoonflower team member Jennifer’s wedding for months. (You can read her post about DIY bridesmaid gifts with Sprout Patterns here!) She chose a beautiful mountainous venue in Asheville, NC, so naturally – see what I did there – I wanted to make a nature-inspired dress to wear!

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Look at all of the nature, y’all!

I also decided that since this is the first and only wedding of the year that neither my boyfriend, Kenton, or I are in, it would be the perfect opportunity to make him something to wear, too. I’ve been dying to try a bow tie for awhile now, and the Jaxon Bow Tie by Natty Neckware seemed pretty achievable.

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My half of the equation was simple: I’m in LOVE with the Kielo Wrap Dress from Named Clothing because I made myself one to wear on my birthday this year and got a million compliments. I decided that a shortened version would be perfect for Jennifer’s wedding, and picked out a sweet wood and leaf inspired design by Ottomanbrim. I chose Performance Pique for my base fabric, and this dress is the comfiest. Seriously, go make one immediately. And then make ten more, because it’s a really quick project.

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Just a little matchy-matchy 😉

So, here’s where it gets complicated. Kenton is very picky about his bow ties, so he was somewhat apprehensive about letting me choose his outfit for the day. He initially wanted me to make him a Doctor Who themed bow tie, which I vetoed immediately. When I finally settled on a design I deemed worthy, I excitedly called him to let him know. The conversation went something like this:

Me: “So, I picked out your bow tie design today! I think you’re going to like it a lot.”

Kenton: “Yeah? What is it?”

Me: “It’s cool! It’s a wood grain design!”

Kenton: “… it’s not like, camouflage is it?”

He has no faith in me whatsoever.

However, when he finally saw what I picked, he admitted the design, Beached Drift Wood Woodgrain by Joan McLemore, was pretty cool. It also went really well with the design I chose for my dress (though he was definitely glad I did not make his bow tie out of the same thing.)

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The Jaxon was a surprisingly quick project! I did skip adding the adjustable section because Kenton knew what size he needed, which made finishing the bow tie even easier.

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And, he looked pretty darn dapper, IMHO.

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Adorable matching couple outfits achieved!

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I also had enough extra printed fabric to make our new pup Riley a bow tie, too! He didn’t argue with me about the design at all. What a good boy.

Riley.jpgRiley doesn’t really hold still, so this is the best evidence I could capture of his affection for his new bow tie.

If you want to make your pooch a bow to match your fella too, here’s the tutorial I used! Just add a smaller piece of elastic to the bow to fit around a collar.

The moral of this story? Make yourself a Kielo dress, and make your man a Jaxon bow tie. He will love it. Or, if he loves you, he’ll at least wear it with only minor complaining. Don’t listen to him if he says otherwise.

Oh, and adopt a dog, because they will gladly wear anything you put on them.


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Gina is a printer operator at Spoonflower (or as she likes to call her position, “Slayer of Ink Beasts”) and a summer intern with Sprout. When she’s not having audible conversations with machinery, she can be found sharing facts about pigeons or Wonder Woman or old buildings with anyone who will listen. Her hobbies include fabric hoarding, wrestling her sewing projects away from her poly-dactyl cat Oz, dressing her new pup Riley, and aimlessly wandering with coffee in one hand and her Polaroid in the other.

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