Saturday, July 9, 2016

McCall's 6696 Shirtdress Sew Along Part 3

I have been having so much fun with this shirtdress sew along that I had to keep going.  This is McCall's 6696, a very popular pattern right now.  There are quite a few of them in the sew along and even more if you do an image search online.  The cool thing about this pattern is that pretty much every single one you find looks great on the wearer, no matter which view they made or what fabric they used.  I challenge you- go take a look!

I had to get in on the fun, so I picked this pattern up a few weeks ago when JoAnn's had it on sale.  I love that it has a waist band with tiny belt loops, and a button band.  And pockets- love the pockets!  The pattern includes sleeve variations and two skirt options, as well as a slip if you want to make your shirtdress out of sheer or semi-sheer fabric.
 You can't see the back unless you look at the line drawings, but this pattern also has a back bodice yoke, which I love, and the back is gathered to the yoke and the waist band for some pretty, feminine detailing.

My dress is made up in a flamingo print cotton from Hobby Lobby.  It's been really hot here lately and muggy, too.  I saw this fabric and instantly decided that a crisp white cotton shirtdress would be a great thing to have for the summer.  That it's covered in pink flamingos is just icing on the shirtdress cake.  I tried to punch up the wow factor just a teeny tiny bit by using buttons with rhinestones.  You can just see them in the photo below.

Oops!  I missed a button!  I think I need to go ahead and add a button above the one at the bust line and another to the collar stand.  I will have to go back to the store and get more first.

I did not make a muslin, but cut my standard 14 shoulder, 16 everywhere else, which would have been great except that I decided to use the pattern piece for the C-cup bust.  I should have just used the A/B-cup piece or the 14 with the c-cup.  My bodice turned out a little too big through the bust.  It's time to reassess my size requirements (and start making proper muslins again!)  I also forgot to make a sway back adjustment and my back bodice is a little too long and poofy.

The pattern is drafted well and everything went together fine.  I ran into some issues with my pleats on the skirt front, but I'm pretty sure it was user error.  I ended up with one pleat narrower than the rest and the ones closest to CF are off, but no one will know but me.  (And you.)  The pattern calls for purchased binding for the armholes.  I didn't have a suitable color in stash so I made my own using pink gingham.  I should have gotten a photo because it looks really nice inside.  I also added a hook to the inside of the button band at the waist to prevent any gaping.

This project seemed to take a very long time.  My first two shirt dresses seemed to go right together, but this one dragged during construction.  There were extra steps and more pieces- the waistband, button band, and the collar with stand.  I also fell a little out of love with it during the process and then trying it on and realizing the bodice is too big didn't help.  But seeing the pictures, I'm starting to feel warm and fuzzy toward it again.

I just might make this again, with some changes:  smaller bodice, sway back adjustment, higher armhole (or maybe a short sleeve.)  It really is a great pattern.  Just ask any of the many others who have made it and look great in it!

I may take a break from shirt dresses for a little while.  I'm helping the Princess with her 4H sewing project this weekend and I have a couple of Burda patterns that are whispering to me.  But I still have a couple of shirtdress patterns that are speaking to me and I would really like to make another M5024 in a fabulous print.  We'll have to see what happens

Monday, June 20, 2016

McCall's 5378 Shirtdress Sew Along Part 2

This McCall's 5378 View C, the second shirtdress from the McCall Pattern Blog Shirtdress Sew Along.

When I decided to participate in the sew along and I was choosing a pattern, this one was the first runner up.  I ended up choosing M5024 for some of it's design features, but I kept this one pulled out and handy.

The cover dress really is ugly- plain brown with a black scarf tied around the waist, but the drawings are cute.  The short dress appears to be seersucker and the long, black and white version looks lean and cool.  I just happened to purchase this black and white stretch twill a couple of weeks ago at the Hancock's clearance, having no idea what I would do with it.  I had just enough for this pattern.  It seemed like it was meant to be.

This pattern is much easier than the last one (M5024.)  There are fewer pieces since the facings are cut on and the collar is pretty much a straight piece attached to the neckline- no inset corners!    The only thing I didn't like is that this pattern has no pockets!  I decided to use the pocket pieces from M5024 and add them to the side seams.  It worked beautifully.

Although this pattern is pretty plain, it does have a back yoke and front shoulder yokes.  I really like those features, even though they are kind of hard to see with this print.

I didn't make a muslin for this.  I just made the same adjustments that I made for M5024 (graded to a size 14 at the shoulders and neckline and cut size 16 from bust down, 1.25" of length added to the bodice, 1/4" sway back adjustment) and crossed my fingers.  They worked.

This dress is long.  I briefly considered shortening the skirt pattern pieces, but decided against it.  I figured I could always hem it shorter if I needed to.  I didn't.  It's almost a maxi dress, but I love how dramatic it is.  The skirt moves beautifully and it's very comfortable.  I wore it to work today and it wore very well and got compliments, too.

I could see making this again.  It might be nice to have another long shirtdress in a solid color- maybe a vivid red or cobalt blue.  I also like view A with the puffed sleeves.  In the meantime, I have really gone off the shirtdress deep end because I've started a 3rd one.  More on that in a future post!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

McCall's 5024 Shirtdress Sew Along Part 1

When the McCall Pattern Blog recently announced a shirtdress sew along, I thought it sounded like fun and a great motivator to make a shirtdress, something I haven't done in a long time.  I love the style so I don't know why I didn't already have one of these in my closet.

I knew I had at least a few patterns in my stash and I wanted to use one of them, preferably along with stash fabric.  I chose M5024.  It is a very traditional looking style with a darted bodice and an a-line skirt.  I liked the way it looked on the model with the close fitting bodice and squared shoulders.  The sleeve bands and the button band cinched the decision for me.

After doing a little internet research, I found that M5024 is the stitch 'n save version of M4769, which has been released with various cover photos.  You may recognize this one:

For my fabric, I chose a turquoise seersucker from stash.  It wasn't my first choice.  I wanted to use a novelty print from stash but I didn't have quite enough of it to cut all my pieces out with the print running in the right direction.  The pattern does not have a "with nap" layout so the fabric requirements listed are not enough for directional prints.  I figure I needed about 1/2 yard more of my 45" fabric to make the pattern work.

I ended up going with the seersucker because I had it on hand, there was plenty of it, and I love seersucker.  It's very cool and comfortable on a hot day.  And it was very hot and muggy when these photos were taken.  The dress, however, was quite crisp and comfortable.

The pattern envelope I had included sizes 16 to 22.  I had to grade the neck and shoulders down to a size 14 and I cut a 16 everywhere else.  I added 1.25" of length to the bodice pieces, my standard adjustment for my long torso.

The pattern went together easily.  The directions were good and the pieces, for the most part, were well drafted.  I can't speak for M4769, but with M5024 I did find that some of the notches did not match up correctly.  You can see in the photo above that the bodice side seam notches are slightly off.  It was not a big deal- the seams themselves lined up perfectly.

The only problem I found was the sleeve bands which are too short.  You can see above where I have the size 16 sleeve cut out and the sleeve band below it.  I cut the band on the size 16 line on one end and the size 22 on the other end.  If I had used the size 16 lines on both ends, my bands would have been too short to attach to the sleeve.  I checked the pattern pieces and the instructions to see if smaller seam allowances were indicated for the bands, but no.  (You can also see the notches don't line up.)  Luckily for me I noticed this before cutting out the bands.  I've adjusted the pattern piece so that if I make this again it won't be a problem.

The dress went together very well.  There are quite a few pieces to this pattern.  More than you might think because the facings are all separate, and there are sleeve bands and a button band.  Most of the sewing is pretty straight forward, although there is an inset corner where the collar attaches to the neckline, so that requires some precision sewing.  I also love that the dress has pockets in the side seams.

I went a little large on the buttons using 1" instead of the 5/8" called for.  I adjusted the spacing to account for my length adjustment and because I knew I would wear a belt with this dress.  I added a hook and eye inside the button band right at the waist to keep it from gaping.

I'm happy with the finished dress and I can see myself making this pattern again if the right fabric came along.  I would still like to make it in a print.  I had such a good time making this and I like it so much, I made a second shirtdress for the sew along.  More on that in the next post.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Burda Style 05-2016-115 A Zigzag Dress

I am so happy to have this dress finished.  I cut it out weeks ago, but couldn't sew it until last weekend because I didn't have the right needles for the fabric.  Now, I've stocked up and I'll be sewing some knits again.

Anyway, this is dress #115 from the May issue of Burda Style.  I loved it when I first saw it and knew I would be making it.  Burda showed theirs in a  solid, which is quite lovely, but I wondered how it would look in a print.

The dress is really quite simple.  It has side seams, small darts at the shoulders, and a neckband.  The front and back overlap at the shoulders and really, there isn't much sewing to it.

I think I cut a 42 through the top and eased out to a 44 at the hip.  It was several weeks ago and my memory is foggy now.

My fabric is a chevron print jersey from Hancock's.  I bought it "on spec" a year or two ago and I decided to just go ahead and use it.  The colors are very nice- blues, greens, and purples with a little bit of black.  The scale is nice, too, and I think it worked well for this pattern.

The dress went together very easily.  In the photo below you can see a close-up of the arm opening.  I was worried about coverage- flashing the bra band under the arm.  If the front and back fall open like the model photo- the armhole gets bigger.

The key is keeping the front and back overlapped, so I hand stitched the edge of the back down.  That keeps it in place and keeps the opening pretty well closed.

The neckband was a little tricky.  It is simple enough to attach, but I ended up trimming 3 inches off the length and I still feel it could be smaller.  My fabric is pretty stretchy, so that probably was a factor.  If I make this again, and I might because I think I'd like to have the top version, I will take another inch or two off the length of the neckband strip.

This would have been a very quick project if I'd had the right needle on hand and could have sewn it up right after I cut it out.  I'm happy it's done, though, and I look forward to road testing it this week.  This will be another loose, comfortable dress for the hot summer months.

Happy sewing, and may you never run out of needles!

Saturday, June 4, 2016

MCCall's 5621 A Shift Dress

Hello, 2008 called.  They want their neckline back...

So a few weeks ago I was puttering around my sewing room just itching to sew something.  I had a jersey dress all cut out and ready to go, but no needles to sew it.  I had some ponte to work on, too, but... no needles.  On the other hand I had plenty of universal needles and plenty of cotton prints, and a hefty pattern stash...

I ended up pulling M5621 out.  I love a shift dress and I love this "key hole" neckline, too, even if it was trendy 8 years ago!  I never got around to making it then, and I still wanted to try it.  Besides, the pattern looked simple, it only called for 2 yards of 45" fabric, and I just happened to have...

 ...this flamingo print marinating in my fabric stash along with this coral linen that I apparently bought a whole bolt of at some point because I have a ton of it.

I was going for a Lilly Pulitzer-esque look with all the turquoise and coral and the flamingos.  I don't think I quite got it.

For this dress, I cut a 14 through the neck and shoulders and a 16 from the bust down.  There are no darts in this pattern, and very minimal side seam shaping.  The only adjustment I made was an extra inch of length at the waist.  That extra inch almost caused me to not have enough fabric.  The pattern just barely fit on my 2 yd cut of fabric.  Of course, the print is directional, so I had to cut it with the pattern running the right way.

Check out those awesome flamingos!

Of course the best part of this dress is the dramatic neckline.  I love the look- it shows quite a bit of skin, but isn't scandalous at all.  I feel very comfortable in this.

The neck pieces are cut from linen with the outer pieces interfaced.  It did take some precision sewing- you have to put in stabilizing stitches and clip into the corners.  And of course the endless curves all have to be graded and clipped so that everything lies flat.  But it wasn't too terribly difficult and I spent a relaxing afternoon working on it.

The print is cut to the full pattern length, which I felt was too short for me.  To bring the hem to mid knee, I added a simple band of linen approximately 4" wide.  I just measured the bottom of the pattern and then used my rotary cutter to cut strips the width of the pattern and twice the length of the hem band plus allowances.  I folded the band up and hand stitched it to the inside of the dress so all the raw edges are enclosed.

The dress is very comfortable and I figure it will get some wear during the hottest part of the summer when a cool cotton dress can be a life saver.  I could see wearing it to work with a cardigan.  I just don't know, though.  I don't get that LP shift vibe from it... I get more of a fancy hospital gown vibe... a fancy maternity hospital gown.  Maybe its the colors.  I thought the turquoise and coral would be more pronounced.  Instead I see pink and blue.  Baby pink and baby blue.

It's okay though, because I like the dress enough to try again.  Although I'm thinking of making the next version in a rayon challis- the drapier fabric will be more flattering- and I'm also thinking of cutting it off at the hip to make a top.  A cool challis top to wear with jeans on casual Fridays will get a lot of wear this summer.

In other news, I've been participating in the McCall's Shirtdress Sew-Along and my first shirtdress is almost done.

Here it is laid out so I could play with button placement.  I'll have it finished up and ready to share soon.

Happy Sewing!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

McCall's 6959 A Summer Wrap Dress in Black and White

This little wrap dress came out of my sewing room last weekend.

This is McCall's 6959 View C:
 When I bought this pattern, it was for the dramatic View A with the full, swingy skirt and the contrast binding.  I still plan to make that one when I find the right fabric.  But View C immediately intrigued me and every time I've picked this pattern up while going through my stash, my mind has gone to that one.  Last weekend I was scrounging around through my patterns, looking for something to make up a glorious flamingo novelty print and I pulled out this pattern.  My eyes then went to the black and white stretch twill folded up on a nearby shelf, and I remembered I had some black cotton linen blend left from another recent project, and on impulse I decided to make this dress.

And here it is.  View C, a wrap dress with fitted bodice, inside ties, collar, and semi fitted skirt.  I briefly considered adding one of the sleeve variations, but decided I like the sleeveless view.  I can always add a cardigan at work for warmth.

The fabric is a stretch twill from Hancock's, one of my last purchases before they announced they were going out of business.  I originally bought it thinking I would make some slim pants, but once I mentally paired it with this pattern I decided I can always get something else for pants.  The collar is a linen/cotton blend from stash.

I cut a 14 through the shoulders and a 16 from bust to hip, grading out to an 18 at the hip point.  I added 1" of length to the bodice right above the waist at the marked adjustment line and I shaved 1/4" off of the back bodice at the waist between the darts, tapering to nothing at the sides- a small sway back adjustment.  I love that McCall's added a matching adjustment line to the front facing piece so I was able to adjust that easily without distorting it.  I cut the front bodice pieces using the center front line as my grain line to keep the print running straight up and down like the skirt.

I like the finished dress, but it still needs a few tweaks to make it wearable:

I added a plastic snap to keep the front closed.  The snap is next to useless.  No, it is useless.  I had to use a safety pin for the photos.  I will replace that snap with a metal snap ASAP.

I need to go back and hand stitch the entire facing down- the skirt and the neckline.  It wants to flap around even though I topstitched it under the collar and hand tacked it to the shoulder seam allowances.

The front gapes.  I tried adding a snap there, but it didn't work.  The facing just wanted to roll out.  I think hand stitching it down will help and I might try the snap again after that.  The front is pinned in the photos.  I may just have to wear it that way.  No big deal- I have several other dresses that I have to pin for security!

I also need to add a snap to the skirt.  A small gust of wind blew the skirt open right before the photos were taken.  Lucky for me I always wear a slip!

I also want a narrower belt, more like the one in the pattern illustration.  I think the proportion will look better.  I could try experimenting with a color, too.  Maybe red?

Overall, I'm pleased, and I think once I make my tweaks I will get a lot of wear out of this dress.  I love the straight, simple shape and the wide, solid collar.  This is a super easy dress to make (it says so on the pattern envelope!) and only took me a day including the muslin.  I'll wear it like this during the heat of the summer, and I'll dress it up with a colored cardigan for the office.

I still want to make View A in a bold cotton print with the contrast binding.  And View B looks nice too.  I could see making it up in a pretty challis to get extra swish from the skirt.  Since the bodice is already fitted, it will be no big deal to make another view.  I'll be putting this pattern in my TNT box!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Burda Style 04-2016-119 A Summer Sheath in Fuchsia

 Last weekend I completed this Burda Style sheath dress and it feels like I've been reunited with an old and dear friend.  I haven't made a Burda project in a little while and I was really missing it.  Making this dress was a reconnection for me, and hopefully the start of higher productivity.

This is the Asymmetric Shift Dress from the April issue.  I'd say it's more of a sheath than a shift since it's a more fitted dress, especially through the waist and hips, but that's a minor quibble.  I fell in love with it at first sight, but then I'm usually a sucker for the projects with unusual seaming.

My version of the dress looks very similar to the model version, even though I'm twice her age, twice her weight, and half her height, because I used a similar color.  My fabric is a fuchsia ponte knit purchased last year from  I don't know if they have this particular fabric any more, but they do have an extensive color selection and always seem to have something exciting to offer.

This pattern is offered in sizes 34 to 42.  I traced and cut a 42.  I was too lazy to actually grade all the pieces up to a 44, and I knew I'd need little extra room at the hip, so I added 3/4" seam allowances to all of the pieces at the side seams and saved the side seams for last during construction so I could fit the dress to me.  It worked.  I ended up using 3/8" of those seam allowances at the hips so I added about 1.5" to the circumference- approximately a size 44.  I also added 1" of length to the bodice pieces right above the waist seam, a standard adjustment for my long waist.

The dress was very easy to construct.  There are a few pieces to trace and you have to cut some on single thickness, but the pattern is extremely well drafted and goes together perfectly.  In the ponte knit, the curved seams went together like a charm.  I didn't really use the instructions other than to read through them before starting.  I used their suggestion to interface the curved edges to prevent stretching, but other than that the construction is very intuitive.  One change I made was to assemble the front and the back and then attach at the shoulders and then use the "edge to edge" method of attaching the facings so that I got a nice neat finish at the neckline and armholes with no hand sewing.

Speaking of facings, I like that this dress has one piece front and back facings with armholes and neckline included.  Everything lays nice and smooth inside and having it all one piece prevents it from wanting to flip out to the outside of the dress.  

I don't know how I did it, but I forgot to make my standard petite adjustment above the bust.  When I tried the dress on the low point of the neckline revealed a flash of bra so I took the shoulders up 3/8".  Perfect.  I will make that adjustment to the pattern for the future.

All my seams are serged inside for neatness except the center back seam which I left unserged so I could press it open.

I was worried about bulk where the darts come together at CB, but pressing the seam open helped everything to lay flat.  I was also worried about the darts themselves because I have problems sewing darts in knits sometimes, but these turned out nearly perfect.  I'm quite proud of them.

I really like the finished dress.  I might make it again- I love the striped version with it's optical illusion effect.
It would be so cute for summer.  I just need to find the right striped fabric...

I'm very happy with this project.  The dress turned out great and has already been road tested and passed.  I can see a tiny bit of rippling at the high hip on the sides- I think I need to shave a bit off of the curve there.  The asymmetrical neckline is one of the key features of this dress and it is certainly not as daring as some Burda necklines I've encountered, but be careful- the low point on the left just barely covers my favorite bra.  It does, however, cover the cleavage completely so I feel comfortable anyway.  I did wear a black cardigan over it for work both to increase the modesty and to cover my arms and prevent freezing in my meat locker office.  The photos were taken after work, hence the boring office pumps.  When I wear this out somewhere other than work I plan to wear strappy sandals.

Overall this is a fabulous dress and a surprisingly easy project.  Don't let the extra seams fool you.  An adventurous beginner could make this with great results.  I love it and I plan to get a ton of wear out of it this summer.  I may be sharing an update with a striped version later...

I'm off to my sewing room.   I already have a project from the May Burda cut out and ready to assemble.  What's on your sewing table?

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

McCall's 4394 Spring Sewing Has Begun

My sewing productivity has declined in recent months.  Wintertime, with its cold, dark, short days, makes me want to hibernate, not sew.  And in the last year, my sewing stuff has been pushed around the house into corners, cabinets, and out of the way places making everything disorganized and cluttered, which also leads to a loss of mojo.  Needless to say, I haven't made much in a while.

But two things have happened lately which are making the sewing forecast look pretty good right now:  Spring has arrived with warm weather and the time change, and I now have my own dedicated sewing room to work in!

The first finished project for me (technically the first completed project was a pair of skinny jeans for the Princess, but it's hard to get her to model these days) is this sheath dress:

Say hello to McCall's 4394, a very OOP Palmer/Pletsch wardrobe pattern that has been marinating in my stash for years.

I remember buying the pattern for the dress and jacket.  At the time I wanted an outfit like the one in the center of the envelope.  Actually, I still do.

Anyway,  this is a very simple princess seamed sheath dress that can also be made in a shorter length as a top.  The jacket is also a very simple princess seamed style with two piece sleeves and a stand up collar.  A pair of pants with front and back darts is also included.

So far I've made just the sheath.  I love the Palmer/Pletsch patterns which come with lots of extra fitting information and adjustment lines marked on the pattern.  I don't particularly like their method of tissue fitting, which is hard to do by myself, so I opted for a muslin to check fit.

I cut a size 14 through the shoulders and a 16 from bust to hem.  The only adjustments I made were to add 1.25" of length at the waist, and I folded out the pre-printed swayback adjustment on the back pieces.   I was looking for a relaxed fit, and I think I almost got it.

My fabric is a large scale floral stretch twill from Hancock's.  I so wish I had bought the coordinating solid red for the coat.  I could kick myself for not getting it.  I just heard that Hancock's is going out of business and the clearance sales have begun.  I'm sure by the time I can get back to the store, that luscious red twill will be gone.  (And of course even more sad is the fact that Hancock's will soon be gone.  I will miss it greatly.)

Check out my pattern matching at center back!  That happened purely by accident.  I centered the center front panel, but just squeezed the rest of the pieces onto the 2 yards that I bought.  They just fit.  But I couldn't have done better on the back if I'd tried.

I love the print.   It's so bright and cheerful and ready for spring and summer.  It does, however, wrinkle like mad.  these pics were taken after work and I have creases across my lap from sitting at my desk most of the day.  Perhaps a lining will help on the next version.

The instructions for this dress are insanely easy.  It's very simple and intuitive to put together.  The pattern would have you sew all the vertical seams including the sides and then sew the facings to the front and back and then sew the shoulder seams, causing you to fiddle with sewing a narrow strip together in a small area and then wrestling with finishing the seams on the facings.  Instead, I sewed my shoulders, but left the sides and center back unseen.  I sewed the facings together at the shoulders and then attached them to the dress at the neckline and the armholes.  The final step was sewing the side seams from facing to hem, giving me a smooth, edge to edge finish.

I finished the facing edge with bias tape adding a little pop of color to the inside.  The back is finished with an invisible zipper and a hook and eye.  There is a slit at the back for walking ease.

All my seams are serged on the inside for neatness.  The pattern has a generous 2.25" hem which I am quite happy with.  Maybe it's because this pattern is a few years old, but I love the length on this dress which hits me right at the knee.

I'm pleased with the finished dress, but I think it turned out a tiny bit too big.  I'm not sure why since I made a muslin.  This fabric has a tiny bit of stretch to it, which could be a factor, but I'm thinking I might take in the side seams about 1/4" and see if that improves the fit.  It's also a little big around the armholes (which you can kind of see in the photo above) and the neckline is a tad too wide, leading to some gaping.  I probably missed that because I didn't finish the edges of the muslin.  Live and learn.

For my next version I will raise the armholes about 1/2" and I'll narrow the neckline.  I may even need to go down a size across the shoulders.  But there will be another version.  I plan to tweak this pattern until I have a TNT sheath dress.

In the meantime, I have sewing plans.  These are just a few of the fabrics in my queue right now.  On the left is a blue and white floral jacquard which will probably be version 2 of M4394.  Next to that is a black and white geometric knit which will be a shift of some sort.  The red fabric is the floral twill before I cut it out.  Next to that are three stretch denims which will be more skinny jeans for the Princess.  The blue has already been cut out and started on.

What's in your spring sewing queue?