A cowboy long-sleeved Kalle shirt dress

Here is my winter Kalle shirt dress, sewn using the sleeve expansion back from Closet Case patterns and made out of babycord from Merchant and Mills

While I was sewing this long-sleeved Kalle shirt dress, it vaguely reminded me of something. But I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

Then one evening my husband turned to me and said “so you haven’t shown me that cowboy shirt you’ve been working on yet”.

Yep. Nail. Head. Hit. I’ve unintentionally sewn myself a cowboy shirt.

Oh well, the Kalle shirt dress pattern is so damn awesome that it can pull it off!

I do love to colour block but sometimes I can’t always clearly envision in advance whether there may be any unexpected connotations of a blocking exercise. I once sewed a colour-blocked black and white dress which accidentally came out looking exactly like a French maid costume. Luckily, no photos exist of that disaster!

Sleeve expansion alert

I’m not sure I’ve ever been so excited about a pattern as when I heard that Closet Case were releasing a sleeve expansion to accompany their Kalle shirt and dress.

I love my first Kalle shirt dress, but the weather isn’t particularly warm in my neck of the woods. And, short sleeved, combined with a length well above the knees … It just isn’t a combination I get to wear for more than a couple of weeks a year.

So this one shot instantly to the front of my sewing queue as soon as it came out.

A chance to extend the wearability of a favourite pattern?

Yes, please!

Here is my winter Kalle shirt dress, sewn using the sleeve expansion back from Closet Case patterns and made out of babycord from Merchant and Mills

Pattern expansions: Yeah or Nay?

Before jumping into all the details, a bit of random sewing musing.

What’s your position on expansions to patterns?

By way of background, while I am an unashamed pattern nerd, my husband is a board game nerd. And, I must say, that I consistently ridicule him every time he purchases an expansion pack to a board game.

“You’re being ripped off”! “It’s a total con”

But, when it came to a pattern expansion, I happily gobbled it up up without question.

On closer reflection, I think that pattern expansions in the sewing world can’t really be compared to expansions in other contexts. First, in my experience, they are actually pretty rare. This rarity indicates that it’s not a marketing ploy used systemically, but a response to a genuine demand which has arisen. In addition, in many cases (although not this one), a sewing expansion increases the number of garments you can sew (e.g. a dress expansion added to a top pattern).

The other thing that I always keep in mind is that so many indie designers make so many wonderful free sewing resources available to us. Given their generosity with sewing know-how and inspiration, I can’t really begrudge them charging for a pattern expansion. They spend a long time developing this stuff, of course they can charge for it!

Finally, I just wanted a sleeve for my Kalle shirt dress so much that I didn’t care! Of course, I was going to buy it!!

Indies vs. Big 4

The other thing that gave me pause to reflect on this is that I recently read Diane’s post over on the Sewcialist blog which argued that there is a generational gap in sewing that is typified by the indie vs. big 4 divide. One of things she mentions is getting a whole outfit in a Big 4 pattern for the same price as one indie pattern garment.

This got me to thinking a little about why I have no qualms about paying for a sleeve …

I am steadfastly loyal to indie pattern designers. I have never sewn a big 4 pattern. Indie patterns inspired me to sew and taught me how to do it. I would never have discovered my passion for sewing were it not for indie patterns. So, while that isn’t necessarily a reason to stick with them exclusively until the day I die, it strongly motivates my pattern purchases.

There are also more practical aspects. First, in Europe, I definitely get the impression that Big 4 patterns are nowhere near as cheaply available as they are in North America, so the “price gap” isn’t as significant.

But the main reason I stick with indies is that I am already overwhelmed by all the lovely things to sew in the indie world alone. At any given point in time, I have at least a year’s worth of projects running around in my head – waiting excitedly to come into existence.

If I were to open myself up to the Big 4 as well, it would become unmanageable!! I would become totally overwhelmed.  Sticking to indies enables me to keep my OCD-tendencies constrained within a manageable confine, as well as satisfying my sense of loyalty.

Whilst I consistently purchase more indie patterns than I will ever be able to sew, I know without doubt that the money I spend is a very small price to pay for the amazing gift of discovering my passion for sewing.

So for me, it’s indies all the way!

Winter Kalle shirt dress fabric

Once I decided I was sewing a winter Kalle shirt dress, I started imagining all kinds of lovely winter fabrics that could rock the shape! Flannel, lightweight wool. Then, all of a sudden, I thought “what about corduroy”?

Coming from Australia, I often kind of suck when it comes to winter fabrics. My recent velvet skirt was my first time ever wearing velvet. And I think I had one pair of cord pants when I was a teenager (90s fashion!), but that’s it.

Then I saw this luscious baby cord from Merchant and Mills. And the vision of a colour-blocked winter Kalle started to take shape…

The corduroy itself is lovely. The colour and texture is extremely rich. The cord is very fine, so it doesn’t look too much like licorice.

It was mostly enjoyable to sew with, although I had never realised that corduroy was actually a somewhat delicate fabric. As I had always associated it with winter, I just kind of assumed it was thick and tough. But, this fabric showed needle holes pretty visibly and is a pain to unpick. You don’t want to make too many errors because it would be pretty easy to destroy this fabric.

Here is my winter Kalle shirt dress, sewn using the sleeve expansion back from Closet Case patterns and made out of babycord from Merchant and Mills

Topstitiching shenanigans

Trust me, I know! I ended up with a bit of unpicking to do!

You see, on my last Kalle shirt dress, I thought, “screw visible top stitiching, who has time for that? “. Then I regretted it and really wished I’d made the effort.

In the meantime, I had also had a bit more top stitiching experience while making my Ginger Jeans, so my confidence was up.

So this time, I started out determined to do some hardcore beautiful contrasting top stitching.

My first difficulty was that my local fabric store didn’t sell top stitching thread. One of the joys of living in a country when you don’t speak the language is you have to trust sales assistants a lot. I asked which thread was for top stitching. They pointed me towards the “extra sterk” thread. I knew this wasn’t the same top stitching thread I used in my Gingers, which had come in much smaller rolls, but I had no choice, it was all they had.

It turns out that this “Extra Strong” thread simply did not gel with my machine. It hated it. I couldn’t get the tension right. I had thread nests everywhere. And, even when I managed to sew a line, it disappeared into the cord.

My vision of beautifully defined feature top stitching was abandoned. And I will never again ever buy Guttermann “Extra Sterk” thread!

My Kalle shirt dress modifications

After my first Kalle, I modified the pattern a bit, to give it a bit more shaping at the waist, as per my personal preference.

This time around, I also lengthened the front by about 1.5 inches and narrowed the dress a little bit at the bottom.

I love the way that these modifications look and I think I have now just about arrived at my ideal Kalle permutation.

That drop-shoulder sleeve!

Gush alert!

Here is my winter Kalle shirt dress, sewn using the sleeve expansion back from Closet Case patterns and made out of babycord from Merchant and Mills

I really adore the sleeve expansion. The dropped shoulder is super comfortable to wear and really fits with the vibe of the Kalle shirt dress. Not to mention that it means no retracing any pattern pieces!

The oversized cuff is also really cool. And all these little pieces  just happened to provide some great opportunities for colour-blocking.

The sleeves came together really easily. Since I had sewn the popover version of the dress, the popovers on the sleeves were really easy – just  miniature versions. I’m not sure if it was a human error, but for me, my sleeves did not line up entirely neatly against the edge of my dress.  I had some “corners” which seemed to be excess, so I just trimmed them off and this doesn’t seem to have had any long-term consequences.

Here is the step of attaching the sleeve to the Kalle shirt dress

I still haven’t added a button into my sleeve popover. It’s definitely necessary but I have trouble finding small buttons that I actually like. And it breaks my heart to put an uninteresting button on a me-made. So I will go without until the right button crosses my path.

Instruct instruct instruct

I thought that the instructions on the sleeve expansion could have been a little clearer about how the sleeve expansion instructions interact with the original Kalle shirt dress instructions.

I know, I know, I should read all the instructions in advance, all the way through. But, sometimes I just don’t. For something like this, I skim.

I took a glance, I thought, yep, straightforward, I’m familiar with all those techniques, I don’t need to read every sentence for now. And I forged ahead.

Where I almost came unstuck is that it says in the expansion instructions, on the page before the instructions proper begin, that you need to “sew until your collar is assembled, then switch to these instructions for sleeves and side seams”.

But this is a little unclear because in the original instructions, the side seams are sewn before the collar. So if you have a tendency to rush and focus on the first part of the sentence, you may just read “sew until your collar is assembled”. But if you did this, you would be in a bit of trouble (well, not really, you would just have to attach the sleeve in the round, which wouldn’t really be a big deal)

So be aware that there is a bit of back and forth necessary between the two sets of instructions. You need to sew from the original instructions up until you have your collar, remembering to skip the side seams (except for the one little step in that section where you stay-stitch the neckline). Then switch to the sleeve expansion instructions. Then back to the original Kalle instructions for hemming.


As mud, I’m sure.

Here is my winter Kalle shirt dress, sewn using the sleeve expansion back from Closet Case patterns and made out of babycord from Merchant and Mills

Always learning

So me and Kalle have kind of got a bit of a thing going on and this sleeve expansion is elevating my pattern crush to a whole new level.

This pattern actually represents something else that I’m noticing a bit in my sewing and dressing lately.

I am very thick waisted (something which I didn’t actually even realise until I started to sew!).

My waist size is  a good 2-3 sizes above that of my hips. But I love the feminine look of a cinched in waist. So, in terms of my preferred shapes to sew and wear, I have often tried to be as fitted as possible at the waist and then flare out to create some balance and disguise my thick waist.

But another approach, if I want to draw less attention to my  waist, is looser shapes. I often don’t like this approach because I feel that extra bulk is not necessarily the most flattering look for my body. But the Kalle shirt dress finds this unique blend of being loose and free flowing while still being super feminine. My husband’s layman description was “it’s kind of just like a big potato sack but it somehow looks sexy!”.

So beyond even the fact that I just love the Kalle shirt dress pattern, it’s also great to find new approaches to dressing the idiosyncrasies of my body shape!

6 thoughts on “A cowboy long-sleeved Kalle shirt dress

    1. It’s definitely a favourite of mine! I still have many other versions running through my head! Good luck finding the time for yours! Sometimes finding the time is half the challenge!

  1. This really suits you well, Beck, and I can see why you jumped at the expansion pack to make a pattern you love work in all seasons! I did try to post a comment here yesterday but it hasn’t come through and now I’ve forgotten all the (undoubtedly extremely wise and sage) things I said… so I shall just say you look lovely, and you suit the Closet Case Patterns really well, so why change a winning formula?!

    1. Thanks Helen! I’ve also experienced that same frustration when my highly insightful and considered comments somehow don’t post but have disappeared from my screen! Thanks for making the effort to come back and for your, as usual, kind words!

  2. I agree with the expansion pack thing. I think the thing is, as a gamer I often DO feel ripped off by game expansion packs that just feel like money makers and should have been included in the base game. But sewing expansion packs are often for things I could hack myself if I wanted – but with proper drafting skills and real thought put into it. Which is why I buy any patterns in the first place! If it’s a pattern company I trust and know drafts well, and it’s a thing I want to sew, I am happy to pay for it, because I know that I am paying for real work and effort, and getting real value. It also means if I don’t think I’m going to sew long sleeves on that pattern ever, I can save myself some $$

    I found this post by googling for this expansion pack to see if I wanted to buy it, and you’ve sold me! Although I might wait until it’s colder here again, we’re about to hit summer here. I love your cowboy shirt, it looks fantastic on you.

    1. Thanks! Glad to find someone else who ‘gets’ both board games and sewing! You make a great point. So many patterns are really things that we could draft ourselves if we were willing to put in a lot of time and trial and error. But instead we choose to pay to have someone put in that expert effort for us! Hope u enjoy your sleeves once the weather cools down – wish I was heading into a southern summer right now!

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