the long-destined cambie


I’ve been drawn to Sewaholic’s Cambie dress since I first started sewing about a year and a half ago. It’s the OG of indie dress patterns, it’s designed for pears like me, it’s versatile, I love cap sleeves, it looks great on pretty much everyone.

I bought the pattern, but something always held me back — was it too froufy? Too vintage? Too sweet? A few times I planned to sew it, but changed my mind at the last minute.

So what changed? I needed a bridesmaid dress, and I needed it quick. After a Frankenpattern muslin disaster, I turned to the sewing world’s collective TNT pattern instead.

Of course, it’s impossible for me to make up a pattern as written. I love gathered skirts on other people, but not particularly on me. I really dig the A-line skirt variation on the Cambie pattern, but my fabric is thin and drapey, and I didn’t think it would do well as a darted, fitted skirt. I wanted the swing and swish of a gathered skirt without, you know, gathers.

So I succumbed to my long-held love for pleats.


Rectangle skirts are super easy, but I wanted the shape of an A-line skirt. I drafted an A-line pattern using this tutorial, then added 12 inches to the center of the front and back pieces to leave room for the pleats. (I ignored the darts for now, but I’m intrigued about using this pattern later to make an actual skirt.) Then I free-handed three pleats on each side of the front/back pieces, lining them up with the bodice darts.

I thought the gathered sleeve up top would look a bit wrong with a pleated skirt down below, so I swapped in pleats there, too.


I considered sewing pennies in the hem — I’ve never done it before; it sounds so fun — but this fabric has plenty of swishy swing on its own.


The bodice is lined with silk broadcloth that I purchased for some misbegotten Christmas gift idea. I don’t much like the color, but I wanted to hoard it for more linings (mmmm, silk) so I used a plain old poly lining for the skirt.

I forgot to staystitch the neckline, which is totally uncharacteristic. Usually I staystitch after I’ve traced the pattern on the fabric and before I’ve even cut out the pieces. To make up for it, and to counter the gaping that seems to be a pretty common (and reasonable) problem on this pattern, I stitched some shortened twill tape to the neckline seam allowance to draw it in a little. It’s something I learned when I was making my wedding dress; there’s a description of it on Gertie’s New Blog for Better Sewing. Unfortunately, it left me with teeeeeny tiny ripples at the top edge of the neckline, which you can see at certain angles.


I sewed up a straight size 6 for the bodice, only shortening the bodice by 1/2 inch,  and it fit remarkably well! I got a little discouraged early in my sewing when I sewed a Sewaholic garment in a size 4, blithely assuming there’d be plenty of ease, and it was too damn small.

On my muslin, I did have some gaping at the back of the sleeves. But I pored over Rosie Wednesday’s play-by-play on fitting her Cambie, and it was immensely helpful. I hadn’t even realized that I needed a forward shoulder adjustment, but my shoulder seam was rotated all the way to the back of my shoulder. I probably went a hair too far on that adjustment; there is not a ton of room in those sleeves.


Side note: It’s crazy that the indie patterns I discovered when I first started sewing, early in 2013, are now going out of print. The Sewaholic Lonsdale and Colette Chantilly were among the first indie patterns I bought — they were all the rage! — and now they’re both going PDF-only as the designers move on to new things. I believe the Cambie was Sewaholic’s first pattern, and I’m guessing it’d be going PDF-only if it weren’t so popular.

[Speaking of the Chantilly, I’ve never actually made it — but the Frankenpattern muslin disaster referenced above was an attempt to remove the Chantilly’s gathered front bodice and attach its yoke and back bodice piece to the front bodice piece of my TNT Simplicity 1873. That’s how far I will go to avoid gathers. Calling it a disaster is an understatement. Sometimes you need to leave this pattern stuff to the professionals.]


All in all, I don’t love this dress. After all of it, I think this shape is just … a bit … dowdy on me. I like it on everyone else. Don’t know what my problem is.

But all qualms aside, this is pretty much the perfect bridesmaid dress for an outdoor wedding in November. My back and shoulders are covered for a bit of warmth, and the design is flattering without being attention-getting. And I’ve managed to get more GREEN in my wardrobe!

Pattern: Sewaholic Cambie, size 6, with pleated A-line skirt and pleats in the sleeves.
Fabric: About 2 yards of 61″ woven (65% rayon, 35% polyester) from Mood Fabrics, about $16. For bodice lining, less than a yard of silk broadcloth from my stash, from Fabric Mart’s Pennsylvania store. For skirt lining, less than a yard of poly lining, also from Fabric Mart’s store, about $2.


3 thoughts on “the long-destined cambie

  1. Pingback: staple sewing: the pencil skirt | root branch bole

  2. Pingback: me-mades in the wild (year-end roundup) | root branch bole

  3. Pingback: sometimes you just need a [expletive] sundress | root branch bole

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