There is no question about it: Rachel Turner is the queen of the Upton Dress. If you’ve spent any time browsing me-mades on social media, you’ve likely seen Rachel twirling in a new Upton in a bright print, or watched her weekly timelapse video where she cuts out her next make. And somehow she finds the time to quilt, too!
Rachel’s currently working away at her Rainbow of Cashmerette project, and if you’ve been wondering what exactly that is, then you’ve come to the right place!
Rachel lives in Brisbane, Queensland, on the eastern coast of Australia and works in business development for a large international infrastructure firm. She learned to sew as a child from her mom and grandmother; in fact, until Rachel was a teenager, most of the clothes she wore had been made by her mother. But it wasn’t until she was graduated from a Master’s program in 2015 that she picked it back up again, replacing hours spent studying with hours spent sewing. (Way to trade up!)
The following year, Rachel left a job where she wore a uniform to one where she could wear what she wanted. Suddenly, she found she had big gaps in her closet, and the solution was obvious: sew a me-made wardrobe!
Rachel in an Upton Dress with her red Australian terrier, Aliyah.
Since then, Rachel’s wardrobe has taken on a life of its own, and is marveled over in sewing communities the world over. We noticed Rachel’s dresses featuring colorful prints soon after she started sharing them—each week seems to bring a bright new Upton or Lenox Shirtdress into Rachel’s wardrobe from a stash that seems never ending! We’ve been dying to know more about what Rachel has up her sleeve for her Rainbow of Cashmerette project, so we chatted with her and asked her about a million questions. And here’s what she told us:
When did you make your first Upton Dress?
I made my first Upton in May 2017. I bought the pattern while I was away on a business trip—shopping to unwind is dangerously expensive. At the time I’d seen the pattern on Instagram and knew of it from the Curvy Sewing Collective and I’d heard good things about the cup sizing options. I’d made many Emery Dresses by that stage and was looking for a woven sleeveless dress pattern to add to my stable of pattern options.
The fit on my wearable muslin was remarkable—although adding the skirt before deciding whether the bodice was a good fit or not was important advice! I made a couple of minor adjustments to the bodice before making the muslin based on how the Emery bodice pattern piece looked compared with the Upton, and since then I’ve tweaked the shoulder fit a little, but I knew from that first dress that there was going to be many more of them in my future!
I made 2 in 2017, 5 in 2018 and in 2019 I gave in to the addiction and made 24!!
What is the Rainbow of Cashmerette, and how did it come to be?
At the start of 2019 people, were posting their make nines and other plans for the year. I knew work was going to be super busy in 2019, and I wouldn’t have time to experiment much with my sewing, so I’d already decided I was going to stick with patterns I knew worked, but I still wanted some kind of challenge to sew towards for the year and to do something that would make a dent (albeit not very noticeable in the end) in my extensive stash! I realised I had enough fabric to do a rainbow of Upton Dresses and Lenox Dresses—and I pulled red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, pink, grey, white and black—a few more colours than the traditional rainbow but I had the fabrics in my stash and it made a neat 10 of each!
I’m up to making the pink dresses, so am more than halfway done on the project. I won’t stop making Uptons or Lenoxes, but once the 20 dresses in the rainbow are done I’ll probably call an end to the project—although I could just keep going through in rainbow order indefinitely!
I thought about adding Concords to the rainbow. I don’t wear skirts and t-shirts like I thought I would, so decided against it—all dresses all the time now!
I love all colours—red is my absolute favourite colour, but there’s surprisingly little of it in my stash and wardrobe compared with blue. Yellow and orange are the least represented colours in my wardrobe and stash. I gravitate to bolder, larger scale prints—and I can’t go past a good novelty print—JETSONS!!!
Why the Upton Dress?
A big part of why the Upton Dress works for me is how I feel when I wear them. Ready-to-wear dresses never made me feel as comfortable as I do in my Uptons, they just fit so well!
I wear a 20G/H with only two minor modifications to the fit—one at the shoulders, and the other to lengthen the bodice so the waistband sits under my bust. From start to finish it takes about 6 hours to make an Upton. I don’t include my cutting out time in that, but that does include making the bias binding, and putting the pockets in using French seams!
I don’t really hack the pattern, I make a few little tweaks to the finishing techniques to include the bias tape, but I haven’t made changes to the base pattern. At some point there is will be a maxi-dress version, but that’s probably as ‘hacked’ as I’d go.
My favourite step in the process, besides the ‘ta-da’ of trying it on at the end, would have to be attaching the skirt—it’s finally a dress! I also have a little dance party every time I manage to line up the waistband across the invisible zip.
My favourite fabric is definitely quilting cotton. It’s perfect for the pleats, comes in all the bright colours and prints that appeal to my tastes, and is a natural fibre so it’s comfortable in my hot and humid climate. I’ve made ones in taffeta, barkcloth and linen, but keep coming back to the quilting cotton.
Tell us about your stash. Where do you get all your gorgeous prints?
My stash is huge. It’s not quite beyond life expectancy, but there’s a good few years’ worth of projects in it. I source my fabrics from all over the place: my local fabric clearance centre, destash pages on Facebook, Fabric.com, smaller online quilt shops around Australia, preorders from a few select suppliers… basically I’m always on the lookout for interesting fabrics and when I find something that I like, I’ll buy it. Probably about 2/3 of my stash are earmarked to become Cashmerette patterns—mostly the Upton, but there’s quite a few Lenoxes in there too.
I use a small pin board and post it notes to keep track of my immediate sewing plans. It’s divided into sections and I use the sections to keep track of what’s cut, what’s in the ‘up next queue’ and what quilts I’ve got on the go.
Tell us about your sewing space.
I have a dedicated sewing space—I turned what was the study when I was doing my Masters into my sewing room when I finished my Masters. Being able to leave everything set up, machines, ironing board, current project out ready for the next sewing session is a big timesaver for me.
Rachel’s sewing space
Rachel’s immaculately organized stash. Major sewing goals!
The cutting table is technically in the lounge room, and with fabric storage in the spare room, it’s safe to say that my sewing stuff has well and truly taken over the house! Getting the adjustable height cutting table (which doesn’t really get adjusted—it just stays at my cutting height) was absolutely the best investment I’ve made, and I use it for so much more than just cutting out.
Do you have a favorite make?
I have so many favourite dresses. Topping the list would have to be the Christmas Upton, Avocado Upton, Night Swimmers Upton, Jetsons Upton, Clover Upton and probably the Coffee Upton although it’s soooooo hard to decide!
Do your coworkers comment on your dresses?
My coworkers most definitely comment on my dresses. I’ve been told that people wait to see what I’ll wearing every day, and apparently it makes it easier for people to find me in the office, I’m often described as ‘the lady who only wears the bright dresses’. The avocado dress always gets commented on, although the Jetsons dress, and the chemistry dresses get their fair share as well.
Okay, so we know you’re into the Upton and Lenox Dresses. Have you tried any other Cashmerette patterns?
I’ve made the Concord, Holyoke and Montrose. The Concord fit straight of the packet was fantastic, I’d never had a t-shirt fit so well! It’s just a pity I only really wear dresses anymore these days, meaning my Concords don’t really get the wear they deserve. I’ve also made the Holyoke Dress, and have another one right at the very top of the ‘next to sew queue’. I have the Ames, Appleton, Ipswich and Rivermont patterns in my stash, and will probably add the Alcott and the Fuller to the stash at some point soon…
I’m very very excited to see the new blazer pattern that’s coming, but otherwise my sewing plans for this year a pretty flexible—mainly lots and lots of dresses, and hopefully a heap of quilts.
A big thanks to Rachel for telling us all about her Rainbow of Cashmerette project (and much more!) and for sharing these photos, taken by her lovely sister Bess. If you don’t want to miss a single one of Rachel’s makes, be sure to follow her over on Instagram at @therltproject.