The St Clements Cambie Dress

Oranges and lemons

Say the bells of St Clements

You owe me five farthings

Say the bells of St Martins

Summer arrives in England, and so the UK blogger pulls out her seasonal cotton. My goodness, there had better be more than a few days of sunshine left to us for making lemonade!

I arrived home from the US to find that I’d brought the sunshine with me. As I waited for my wool outfit to decompress from the suitcase, it felt only right and proper to delve into the new package that had arrived from Sewaholic. The Cambie Dress, as blogged about by Scruffy Badger and Dolly Clackett.

Unlike both of my beloved blogging friends, I was not able to sew this up straight out of the packet! By now in my sewing career, I know my own body well enough to understand that bodice fitting doesn’t just fall out of a jiffy bag for me. I cut a size 12, but the waist line needed expanding and the upper chest needed significant shrinking. Go, figure! My boobs are smaller than my waist. Hmmm…

That’s an over simplification, obviously, but it was nevertheless reassuring recently to hear my new sewing teacher, Beth, confirm that my upper chest is weirdly narrow. Oh, and I have one shoulder lower than the other. All of which confirms the genius of the Cambie dress. See those shoulder straps? Adjust as you see fit to the weirdneositoy of YOUR body!

I bought this fabric last year from a seller on Etsy. At the time, I wanted to chase the trend of Stella McCartney’s Spring 2011 citrus-themed line of clothes. The only problem was that I totally lost any energy for making dresses in 2011. I just wasn’t interested, and so this cotton stayed in the stash box. Until now. Another blogger commented recently that the right fabric will find the right pattern … eventually. Amen, sister!

So what should I tell you about the Cambie dress?

If you have concerns about fitting, I would urge a full toile. Why? The construction of this dress makes it very difficult to try it on in stages during the make. You have to cross your fingers and toes. If you’re not confident about your digits’ abilities to bring you luck, make a toile.

There’s a clever, new technique for sewing the lining down to the inside of the zip.

As if you didn’t already know, this pattern confirms Tasia’s deep understanding and empathy with the female form. It’s flattering – feminine yet modest, a dress that straddles the decades to be wearable at any age. For that, I am deeply grateful. The modesty of Sewaholic’s blogging, combined with the genius of her pattern drafting make her someone I want to thank again and again.

Thoughts moving forwards? There are some tweaks I’d make on future makes, yet even as I type this I know on some deep level that my favourite Cambie will be my first make, even with its little fitting flaws. A parent loves all their babies, non?

On which note…

I just finished reading a novel. It’s aimed at the Young Adult market, but if Harry Potter taught us anything, it’s never to age bracket a work of fiction and dismiss it. The book’s called ‘Wonder’ by the author RJ Palacio. It lives up to its name – it’s truly wonderful. Heartwarming, funny, humbling, true. And it has an awesome quote:

Shall we make a new rule of life? Always to try to be a little kinder than is necessary.


Kinder than is necessary… Not a bad rule to live life by.

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46 Responses to The St Clements Cambie Dress

  1. Elizabeth says:

    Oh I love your new dress. It suits you to a T! Beautiful!

  2. Ann says:

    I loved that book too! It made me all teary several times.
    And I love your dress, as well!

  3. Amy says:

    Oranges, lemons, and limes are perfect for a summer dress. And, I like that message: be kinder than is necessary. As you say, not a bad rule to live by.

  4. Sarah says:

    OH, this is just glorious!!! What a stunning dress!! Where, oh, where did you find this fabric? I must have some!

  5. Super cute dress!!!! It’s both a floral and a fruit print, I like that. Looks great on you. And did I really use the phrase “weirdly narrow” to describe your fitting issues? eek. must rethink my phraseology. although you survived and went away with better understanding of fit so that is all to the good. Glad you are having some nice weather, to wear your new dress.

  6. LLBB says:

    Feminine yet modest- love this about Tasia’s line!! Great print for your cambie!!

  7. Nothy Lane says:

    You look fabulous in that dress! It is really a flattering dress. I am always amazed at how my women friends magnify every “flaw” they have yet my men friends seem oblivious to having any…

  8. gingermakes says:

    Oooh! Love this dress! It’s so tropical and fun, but completely chic! Bravo! And I must check out that book– the line you excerpted is lovely!

  9. Cynthia says:

    I love this print, it’s perfect for summer

  10. gmariesews says:

    Beautiful dress and a stunning quote. I shall aim for that. g

  11. superheidi says:

    Wow, I really like your version, it suits you very well.

  12. I’m replying sitting in my a line cambie!! Loving how different fabrics create different impressions, and adore the fruitiness, It’s the carmen Miranda ( sorry if misspelt!) Of dresses!

  13. Bold Sewist says:

    This is stunning – my favourite Cambie so far, by far! I’ve been lusting after citrus prints for the past year without success (or too much effort, to be fair)-I love this one. So summery!

  14. Joanne says:

    A beautiful dress – but it makes me crave a G&T at 9.30 in the morning! I’m intrigued by the lining/zipper method. I do like this dress but have yet to make the leap to purchase as I generally don’t make sleeveless dresses. But oooh tis tempting!

    • Well, yes, the perfect accessory would be a gin and tonic. Why do you think I just happened to have lemons in the house? (Though feeling slightly queasy typing this at half nine in the morning!)

  15. This is gorgeous, Karen – I love the print! I too was blown away by the zipper instructions – so clear and easy and effortless! I plan to get cracking on the a-line version of this sometime over the long weekend… I’m currently torn between making it in plain green cotton (but like a bright Kelly green) or in fat red gingham. Hhhmmmm.

  16. Marie says:

    I love the summery nature of this dress, you look a picture in it Karen! And thanks for the fitting tips, I’ll definitely be making a a muslin for sure ;o)

  17. Kerry says:

    Fantastic combination of fabric and pattern. There’s something about the print that looks expensive too, I’d have believed the dress came from a high end shop, for definite. Hope you get lots of wear out of it!

  18. Steph says:

    I fell in love with that book. I received many odd looks when I turned the last page on the tube and made an audible sign of satisfaction, and disappointment that it ws finished.

    A gorgeous version of the Cambie – I really need to get started on mine. I definitely need to make a dress with fruit on it. No way around it.

  19. Roobeedoo says:

    It is so fresh-looking! I really love how it has an air of the vintage about it (maybe the print) and yet is modern at the same time. And really shows off your tan! 😀

  20. Gorgeous dress, Karen! It just screams summer, picnics and spiked lemonade!

  21. Inflation has caught up with the bells of St Martin’s, the amount owed was two farthings when I was a kid! But oh, what lovely summery fabric. Sigh. Can’t imagine finding anything like that in this part of the world (certainly not at affordable prices).

  22. LinB says:

    How fresh and spring-like you look in your new frock! I like the fruit — gives the impression of a floral without being too … old-fashioned? Grandma-ish? Sofa fabric-y? You know what I mean. And, young adult fiction is my favorite category of fiction lately. I worked for 4-5 years at the information desk in a public library in Beloit, Wisconsin. My favorite assignments were at the Children’s Desk. I find that YA fiction feature mature story lines without the distraction of clinical descriptions of sex, and with far less violence than much adult fiction. They are often a quick read, but writers of children’s literature (as a rule) distill the essence of a story into a concentrated form that is both profound and easily accessible to readers of many ages. I haven’t yet read “Wonder.” I’ll look it out.

  23. The more versions of Cambie I see the more I think it should be in my collection too. I love that print, something that would not have caught my eye but seeing it finished reminds me I should step out of my comfort zone now and again because that’s beautiful and so much fun.

  24. redsilvia says:

    Love! So cute in that fabric. A perfect combo. Now I’m hungry for lemon bars or a lemon drop…

  25. Sunni says:

    Oh I do love it so! You look absolutely fabulous in this and the print is just to die for. Wonderful job. Makes me want to toss out my tailored jacket and whip up a Cambie! So summery!
    xoxo, Sunni

  26. That citrusy fabric is so lovely! A truly beautiful, summery make. I just posted about my narrow bodice fitting woes here: Maybe you’ll have some insight. If only Cambie had existed when I made this dress! Adjustable straps might have made all the difference.

  27. ooobop! says:

    Fabulous as ever Karen. And I totally agree with holding out for the right pattern for the right fabric 😉 It is indeed a fabulous design. Interested to know about the new zipper technique. And oh… I recognize that cover! Not one of mine, unfortunately! 🙂

  28. Rachel says:

    Gorgeous dress! Thanks for the book recommendation; as a non-teenage fan of younger literature (good old HP, Hunger Games, etc.), I’m loading up my kindle right now.

  29. Elisalex says:

    Karen it was such a pleasure to meet you last night! Yourself, and your dress, were both charming and beautiful.

  30. Michelle says:

    Wow – I think this might be my favourite dress of yours yet! Absolutely stunning.

  31. Gorgeous dress. I do want to mention that the technique for inserting the lining isn’t unique or new – it’s the way that linings have been inserted into garments by the sewing industry for a very long time. It’s the way I have been inserting linings (and facings) for about five years – after reading a tutorial on Kathleen Fasanella’s blog.

  32. symondezyn says:

    Love the dress, and thank you for your honesty and openness in sharing your fitting tweaks – I think it’s easy for us to imagine that everyone sews right out of the packet except for us; it’s comforting to know I’m not the only sewist who knows she has to make adjustments before she even unwraps the pattern ^___^

    All that aside, the dress is lovely, fits you wonderfully, and is so sweetly summery – oranges are definitely the most cheerful fruit, I say – who can resist the colour orange?? It just begs you to laugh and be happy! 🙂

  33. Jinx Marlowe says:

    Love the dress. Love the fabric. You look smashing!

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  35. Just love it! It’s SO flattering on you, and I absolutely adore it with the citrus print. Could anything be more summery than that?!

  36. Sassy T says:

    That is the kind of fabric, you can’t help but smile at. So bright, cheerful and uplifting.

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