A Celestial Summer Dress: the Seamwork Catarina

The March 2016 issue of Seamwork Magazine was themed “Celebration” and featured two dress patterns that I can imagine someone wearing to a graduation or warm-weather wedding:

the Catarina

and the Kenedy

These patterns came out around the time I was thinking a lot about my body and my sewing and how my feelings about my body affected my sewing and the garment silhouettes I preferred. And I felt certain that neither of these dresses were for me, for different reasons.

Months later, in a more introspective state of mind, I see these dresses with new eyes and new potential. Looking at them now, they both evoke a simple and classic romantic style. In fact I’ve since pinned a few items similar to these dresses in my Romantic Historian Pinterest Style Board. In the spirit of curiosity, I am happy to give them a try.

This is the 3rd Seamwork Pattern I’ve worked with. As with the other two garments β€” the Akita blouse and the Adelaide Dress β€” the process took me much longer than the suggested project time. Some of this was overthinking, some of legit problem solving, and some was due to correcting mistakes. Nevertheless, it was a satisfying project using just the right combination of new and old skills.

New Skills

Bra strap rings and sliders – 

Why was I was so fearful of sewing adjustable straps? Installing these bra strap rings and sliders is SUPER easy. The instructions that Seamwork produced were clear and easy to follow. The hardest part was finding the recommended size (1/2″) (apparently Joann’s only carries the larger size) and choosing the color.

I ultimately decided on the gold rings. 

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The next time I make narrow straps I can trust myself to make them even narrower.
I purchased my sliders from Tailor Made. This site has an assortment of bra and lingerie supplies and kits.

Rolled hem with a machine –

Hems are unfortunately an afterthought when I sew. I will complete a garment and suddenly remember I still have to hem it. I usually opt for a fold over hem because it was all I knew how to do. I caught myself hesitating when I read the instructions to complete a rolled hem for Catarina.

For about 5 minutes I had two voices in my head debating what to do. The voice that suggested I embrace the learning-by-doing philosophy of Seamwork and Colette won. This was the first rolled hem I tried with my rolled hem foot (#69 on my Bernina). I ran into some issues – literally ran into – with the french seams I used for the skirt side seams. That is too much fabric to go through the rolled hem foot. So don’t try it. πŸ™‚

To work around this, I stopped sewing at the french seam and picked up on the other side of it, then went back and stitched the seam down using my regular presser foot. It is couture-level perfection? Hell no. But it is secure and looks good from a distance.

Clear elastic –

I have three outstanding projects that call for clear elastic. I have seen it in many RTW clothes but never really known why one uses it instead of regular elastic.

It is more squirrelly than regular elastic. After two tries I got the elastic in place – I used the wonder clips instead of pins to prevent too many puncture holes.

Construction Notes

I didn’t have enough for the full bodice lining, but I did have enough for a yoke facing…barely. Here are some interior shots of the dress.

img_6403img_6402

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French seams for the win.
I could follow the same instructions to attach the facing to the straps and outer fabric.

If you end up using a facing instead of a full lining, stitch in the ditch at the side seams to prevent the facing from flipping up. I’m still expriencing some flipping on the front neckline, so I will tweak this a bit.

Sizing and Fit

I sewed a straight size 2, correctly assuming that the full skirt would have plenty of room even though I usually grade up a size or two at the hips. For comparison, I sewed the Adelaide in a size 2 at the bust and a size 6 at the hips. The cotton I used gives the skirt more fullness than the sample dress in the Seamwork issue. I prefer this with a bit more drape, since my hips come with built-in fullness. πŸ™‚

I think am shorter than this pattern is made for. I look at the dress on the model and now realize how tall she is. The length is ok. it looks better from the side than from the front. I think I should shorten it about 4-6 inches so it would hit just below my knee and would look better on my body.

My shorter stature is not just in my overall height. I think my shoulder to bust point length is shorter than average. (Is that a real measurement?) I often have to take the shoulder seams at least twice the seam allowance. With these adjustable straps, I could easily take 3 inches off the strap lengths to make the bodice gape less at my bust. I never like seeing the bra strap slides in the front, but that is the only way it will fit. Because I had to make facings instead of a second layer, I may be able to  get into the strap attachment and possibly make changes.

BONUS – I realized that the bodice makes for a cute crop top. Stay tuned… πŸ™‚

How I Will Wear It

I added the Catarina to my sewing list after I saw this combination with the Seamwork Astoria sweater:

I loved the smooth and soft knit fabric contrasted with the gathered skirt (also the knit contrasted with shiny fabric). I plan to make a dark gray Astoria soon, but for now I am pairing this dress with my gray knit blazer.


The fabric is a thin cotton, given to my by a former coworker. The dress will remind me of our time working together.  The print is playful and make me think of Ms. Frizzle, albeit milder. πŸ™‚ The tiny moons, stars, and planets are well-timed for the Perseid meteor shower this week.

Final thoughts

I am very satisfied with the experience and the final product. I learned new skills. I enjoy wearing this dress β€” it is very comfortable.

I will easily make another one some day with a more sleek and drapey fabric.

For now, I have a good summer dress to for the last month of summer.

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15 thoughts on “A Celestial Summer Dress: the Seamwork Catarina

  1. That dress turned out really well. I like that it seems to be multi-use. Also, you should make that bodice as crop top; that’s really cute. πŸ™‚

    I hear you on the shortness in places other than over all height. I’m very short waisted and that has made fitting my knitting a little interesting sometimes. I haven’t really gotten around to fixing in it sewing yet, but I have a vest pattern on deck that may stretch my (nearly non-existent) tailoring ability.

  2. I like it! I’d love to see a close-up of the fabric too. : ) I downloaded this pattern but haven’t sewn it yet. And yeah – EVERYTHING is a measurement. I made my first bra recently and it was a flop but it was so illuminating in fitting the chest and above (always my problem area).

  3. This is so cute! I just downloaded the pattern and am excited to try it. How tall are you? I’m 5’4″ and am wondering whether to make it shorter from the start. Would you recommend making shorter straps, too? Thanks! πŸ™‚

      1. Thanks! I think we have similar body types. I am a pear shape with a small bust, so it’s great to hear that the size 2 worked.

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