Pattern Review: Chalk and Notch “Cascade”

This review is dedicated to the critics who say that I am too hard on indie pattern-makers. My goal is to be as objective as possible. As always, I receive no compensation in any way, and I have no personal connection to any designer.  If this review seems more “glowing” than others, it is purely due to a superior product.

In my quest for boho looks, last September I purchased the “Cascade” maxi-dress from Chalk and Notch (girls sizes 2 through 12). I’d never heard of this designer, however every tester photo looked great.  No gaping, tugging, pulling….and I don’t even personally like high-low hems!

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What I found intriguing about this design is that it could not have been flat-pattern-drafted from measurements…because of the bias-cut and the hi-low hem, it had to be designed by draping a muslin on a dressform first and then transferring the results to paper (or computer) pattern.  This indicates a level of professionalism not always found in pdf-world. Sadly the pattern went into the “some day” pile. Yesterday I finally pulled it out.

The Cascade pattern print-out itself is daunting. 70 pieces of paper. SEVENTY.  If you are accustomed to adult patterns maybe that’s typical, but in kids-wear that is a LOT.  So your first step is to head of to the office-supply shop. Just kidding, but you do need a stack of paper and a supply of glue sticks.  I highly recommend better-quality glue-sticks, not the student grade.  Also a trick I learned is to glue both sides of the paper before sticking together, it makes a big difference. If you only glue one side, it slightly dries before you can attach it, so the bond to the other side isn’t great.  Also the act of applying the glue presses it into the paper, so if only one side gets that action, again not a good bond.

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It’s a good thing that the sheets are marked at every corner  AND numbered  (it’s impossible to make a mistake putting it together) because gluing this thing is a process. Put on a movie or some good music. Clear a big table space if you can. Be sure you have enough glue! I went through one and a half sticks….

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This pattern is engineered to be practically perfect. It is beautifully walked and trued, the grading is spot-on, the garment pieces match up like a dream.  I felt confident to skip making a muslin, and proceeded to make a mini-version: a tunic length.  Although this is sold as a maxi-style, I think it would work well as a regular dress, and as a tunic top. So I drew in lines on the pattern for dress length and tunic length, and cut into a piece of vintage cotton:

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Stitching the fabric pieces together was like using a factory pattern. By that I mean there is no fabric manipulation needed, the pieces all match up easily and fall right into place.  You could sew this style without using pins*. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t use pins, but rather that you won’t need many.

*Fun fact: they rarely use pins in apparel factory production lines. (They ARE used in the design and  sample rooms.)  In mass-manufacturing, there’s no time to put in pins and pull them out while sewing. The seamstresses line up the fabric pieces and stitch away, so the pieces had better line up!  Also dropped pins can be dangerous as  the workers often are barefoot.  When a machine needle breaks, the seamstress must bring both pieces to the manager for a replacement, to make sure there are no pieces left on the floor that could get stepped on.

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Sure, it’s a simple design, but so well thought out that it is a pleasure to use. You could argue “Well there are only four pattern pieces”.  Fair enough, but a pattern I reviewed a couple of weeks ago had only two pieces, and they didn’t match at the side seams. So if you are accustomed to patterns where you are required to squoosh pieces together to get them to line up, or stretch fabric to make it work, or clip off weird excesses, try this pattern to see how a pattern should be drafted.

The Cascade pattern instructions are clear, professional, and direct. Every step is explained with a line-drawing illustration. A simplified step-by-step chart is added for when you make this garment the second (third, fourth) time and only need a quick refresher.  I get it, many sewists prefer more chatty instructions, and/or photos for each step, so this is purely personal preference.

What do you think of the results? I’m excited to send this off to my little model! (Note to self: ivory straps don’t photograph well on an ivory dressform….)

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Next I made a maxi length version, as the original design was meant. This was trickier to cut out, as it requires unfolding the fabric and cutting each piece separately, especially if using 44″ fabric, however the instruction include explanations for doing this. Again, the time spent cutting is saved in sewing, as it goes together FAST with zero fiddling.

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Bottom line: “Cascade” is a beautifully designed pattern in every way. Obviously it’s a great choice if you don’t like putting in zippers or making buttonholes! Very quick to sew… a trade-off for the time needed to put the pattern together.  The only downside is that it takes a lot of fabric.  This is not a skimpy maxi (like you’d find at retail) that restricts a child’s movement, it is a flowy dreamy run-in-the-fields dress. If you sew-to-sell, hopefully you have a clientele who understands the value of such a garment.  If you sew for the love of it, this makes up a simple-but-elegant dress for a lucky child.

Would I change anything?  Possibly raise the back hem an inch….it’s just me, I’d worry that the “train” would get dirty if it was worn outdoors.  How about this: for an “event” dress, for portraits,  it is dramatic and elegant…for everyday wear, I’d shorten it a bit. Easy enough: trim off an inch all around. As one reader commented, a big benefit of the higher front hem is that kids are far less likely to trip!

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Thanks for reading!  You can see what I’m sewing (almost) every day on my Instagram 

Happy weekend!

Janet

 

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20 Responses to Pattern Review: Chalk and Notch “Cascade”

  1. Karen Eubank says:

    Would you mind sharing the lengths for a tunic? This is just what I have been looking for.

  2. 7pinedesign@comcast.net says:

    Sure! Measuring from the shoulder to the lowest point of center-back-hem: size 2 = 17″, size 3 = 18″, size 4 = 20″, size 5 = 22″, size 6 = 24″, size 7 = 26″, size 8 = 28″, size 10 = 30″, size 12 = 32″. Please note I haven’t tested these lengths yet, I’m sending my fit sample out today to my little model.

  3. Ingrid says:

    Thank you Janet. As always I appreciate your honesty. Love your reviews! I must admit that sneakily I wish you’d tell me which Indie designers not to buy – or more positively which ones you can recommend!

  4. Towanda says:

    Thanks for the review. I was thinking about getting this pattern. After reading your review, I will make DGD very happy. She loves maxi dresses that twirl.

  5. 7pinedesign@comcast.net says:

    Hi Ingrid! I’m honestly very new to indie designers….I wish that I had time to try them all, and review everything! Aside from a few that I’ve given up on (and simply thrown in the trash), I am reviewing the ones I’ve bought but it’s a slow process.

  6. 7pinedesign@comcast.net says:

    I would highly recommend it. Like I said, I’m a bit concerned about the back length….wouldn’t want her to trip while twirling! But if it turns out to be hazardous, it’s an easy fix. Fun that you get to sew for her!

  7. I have tried a couple of Gabriela’s patterns and loved them! I am yet to try the Cascade :)

  8. Karen says:

    I don’t sew for children anymore and draft most of my own patterns, but I read your reviews just for the enormous amount of knowledge you share! Thanks!

  9. This week I made a Top Knot maxi dress by Chalk and Notch. I had the exact same experience. Everything matched up so perfectly. Clear instruction, perfect fit, clean finishings. It was a dream to work with the pattern. The kinda pattern that I might sew over and over again… As for wide maxi dresses for kids. It is definitely something for festive occasions. It made my girl feel very special. (and needed some help for toilet visits ;)…)As for the high low hem: I once made an Elsa/Frozen dress with high low hem. I was surprised how easy my girl could move around with it. As the front is higher, the risk of tripping is actually very low I found.

  10. Shelley says:

    Cool! They have two womens patterns. I do wonder how many pages it takes for the Waterfall raglan.

  11. 7pinedesign@comcast.net says:

    Hi Shelley..the kids Waterfall has 28 pattern pages….don’t know about womens, sorry!

  12. 7pinedesign@comcast.net says:

    Good point! If the front is higher that’s much less chance of tripping. Still worried about the back getting dirty if it’s worn outside. A friend of mine wore a gorgeous wedding dress to her outdoor wedding and I guess the train wasn’t bustled completely, and by the end of the night that hem was filthy!

    I can see how the little ones might need potty help…lol….worth it to feel like a princess!

  13. 7pinedesign@comcast.net says:

    Thanks Karen that’s so sweet! Right now I sew only to sell, and that’s why it’s all kids stuff….I really should try some “selfish sews” aka “me makes”…..

  14. 7pinedesign@comcast.net says:

    This was my first from her., and I could not be more impressed!

  15. Mina says:

    Those are some beautiful fabrics! These dresses make me want to locate a kid in my vicinity to start sewing for… So far, they’re all <12 months, so I'll just have to hang in there for a few years 😉

  16. 7pinedesign@comcast.net says:

    And I’ve got the opposite, my “baby” is now in college! I only sew for customers at this point…..there’s nothing more fun than dressing up little girls, sigh….

  17. JustGail says:

    It’s great to read about a company that has its act together on pattern drafting. As for the dresses you made – I love those fabrics.

  18. 7pinedesign@comcast.net says:

    Thanks Gail! I’m on a “fabric diet” so the fabrics are thrift shop finds. I’m super-impressed with this designer’s work!

  19. Dianne says:

    I read your review for this pattern and promptly purchased it. I immediately downloaded it and started the arduous process of taping it all together but my excitement quickly vanished as nothing was lining up correctly. Did you have any issue with the pieces lining up?
    I confirmed I printed it correctly (100%, no scaling,etc…) however, I printed all sizes as my granddaughters differ in age and size. I’m wondering if that could be the problem…??
    I did send an email to Chalk and Notch so hopefully I will hear from them soon but wanted to see if you experienced any of the same problem.

  20. 7pinedesign@comcast.net says:

    Hi Dianne, my Cascade print-out matched up with 99% accuracy (I’ve sent you an email with photos, as I can’t attach pics here) . That’s about the best I would expect from a home (Dell) printer, which is always ever-so-slightly off-skew. Please tale a look at the photos and let me know if your print-out looks like that, or is way off….there could be something else happening. (I also sent a message through the C&N site asking Gabriella to look for your email)

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