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