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Category: pattern reviews

one dress, three ways: mccall’s 6886

Right off the bat, let me say the following: this dress is magical and I love it. That statement makes me laugh because if I only knew a long time ago what I know now, you better believe I’d have more than just four versions of this dress. (See the first one here.) I have had this pattern – and genuinely wanted to make it – for a really long time. Longer than I’d like to admit, because I consider myself a pretty fearless seamstress, one who normally doesn’t let the “what if it doesn’t fit/look right/flatter me” mentality get in the way of a project or new idea. This dress, however, is different.

We all know the feeling of a failed or disappointing project. It stings, and the only thing worse than trying on something unflattering or unattractive or what-have-you is trying on something that is any of those things, except . . . you made it. Right?! It’s such a waste! And it happens to all of us, so that concern was always in the back of my mind about this dress until, one day, I decided to get over it and just make it. Fast forward a couple of months, and I have three new versions. I made two small fitting adjustments (swayback and grading down a size at the waist), and it’s one of the easiest things I’ve ever sewn. Easy to sew and quick to sew – and all the positive reviews you’ve seen for it are true. Somehow, this dress looks good on everyone. This pattern is a versatile design that translates into a lot of different, wearable looks, which we sewists can appreciate.

I wanted something work-appropriate, a version that was a little more casual/everyday, and a special occasion dress in a knockout fabric. The navy super stretch denim, navy floral scuba knit, and the white super stretch denim (used as the underlining for the sequin mesh) all came from JoAnn. The cracked ice sequin mesh came from Fabrics World last year. And no, the fabric suggestions on the pattern envelope don’t mention the super stretch denim or sequin mesh or scuba knit that I used, but all of them can work for this dress. The denim has a backing on it which makes it as stretchy as a knit, and the scuba is a stable knit with just enough stretch to work for this design.

We all need pieces in our closet that are appropriate for the office – and even better if they work for after-hours cocktails, right? This dress will work well for me year-round for countless different events, and I am absolutely over the moon about this fabric. I saw it at JoAnn a few weeks ago and knew it had to come home with me. It’s a lot of my favorite things in one fabric: navy blue, shimmer, florals, stretch. It’s just so pretty! (I don’t think it’s available online, but check your local store in case it’s still in stock.)

Construction of this dress was incredibly easy. I serged all the seams and went with a blind hem stitch to hem the skirt and sleeves. The neckline is turned under, turned under again, and stitched.

The denim version is my new go-to dress for running errands or traveling. It’s stretchy and comfortable, and it’s easy to toss in the wash. I combined the neckline from view E with with sleeves from view C for this version. All three of these dresses are the length from view E, simply because I like that length on me (a couple of inches below my knee). Attaching the neck band is pretty straightforward, but I did find that I had to clip the neckline at center front before sewing the band to the neckline, which is opposite the typical order of operations.

Last fall, I made Butterick 6244 in this creamy double wool, and it’s a nice outerwear piece with this dress. Here in Texas, we’re lucky to get a couple months of super cold weather, so it’s all about smart layers for the days when it’s too warm for a coat but too chilly to wear a dress on its own.

Now, for the showstopper. I can’t tell you how long I’ve been dreaming about this dress. When I bought this fabric over a year ago I knew exactly what I was going to do with it: a sequin skirt and this very dress. The skirt happened earlier this year and now, finally, the dress is a reality too. I make a lot of things, and I make a lot of things that I love, but this dress is pretty incredible. It’s classic and simple, but special and beautiful.

In order to hide seams and hems, I used the sequin mesh as the outer layer and the super stretch denim as the underlining. Basically, it’s the same concept I used to create the skirt in this fabric earlier this year. In place of hems that you turn up and stitch, I went with hem facings using the stretch denim. This does two things: it keeps the hem neat and clean and keeps the sequins off your skin. I wanted a prettier seam finish on the inside of the dress, so each seam is bias bound, and the hem facings (sleeve, skirt, neckline) are all sewn down with a hidden catch stitch.

To get a more personalized fit, I graded down a size at the waist and made a swayback adjustment to the back pattern pieces. This is an adjustment I have to make to most of my patterns, but it’s not always needed in knit garments. When I made this dress for the first time I didn’t make this adjustment and I should have. It’s probably not obvious to anyone but us seamstresses, but I wanted to take out some of that excess fabric before making these versions. Put simply, all “swayback” really means is that you’re curvy and there’s not enough of your back to fill out all that fabric.

Here, you can see the fabric that is pooling at my lower back in the first version of this dress:

To eliminate the excess fabric, you simply pinch it out, pin the excess so you know how much to remove from the pattern, and transfer that to your pattern piece. The adjustment starts at the side seam, but be sure to not lengthen or shorten that seam at all. We’re only interested in removing the fabric from the back.

A great resource for fitting patterns is a book called The Complete Photo Guide to Perfect Fitting, and it walks you through each step of this process really well. I’m on my own when I make adjustments like this (and yes, it’s a bit of a challenge), but I would recommend enlisting the help of a sewing buddy to help you with this if possible.

It’s an easy but significant adjustment to make. This is what the back of this dress looks like now:

Sewing your own clothes is a rewarding endeavor by itself, but adding pieces to your closet that are well made, flattering, and wearable is an exceptionally satisfying feeling. Love these dresses!

Special thank you to the McCall Pattern Company for sponsoring this post. 

wrapped up: mccall’s 7627

I made my own patterns for a long time. I drafted and tweaked and tested and revised patterns for everything you can imagine (pants, coats, dresses, tops, skirts – all of it) for longer than I’ve not been doing it. Patternmaking is a tedious, long process that I actually really enjoy. I still draft my own patterns from time to time when I need to – and knowing how to alter commercial patterns is a skill I’m not only grateful to have but one that has definitely come in handy – but I’m less inclined to draft from scratch these days. The convenience of well designed patterns neatly folded in an envelop available for a reasonable price is too much to resist.  The work is already done for us! So now that I’m all about those patterns, I watch with eager anticipation for each new season’s collection. Vogue is my favorite brand and never disappoints me, and I probably use those patterns more than any other, but McCall’s and Butterick aren’t too far behind. The last time I used a Simplicity pattern was sometime in 2016, but one of their recent releases caught my eye so you’ll see that skirt soon.

 This fall, McCall’s released a pattern for a wrap dress that had my name all over it, and I scooped it up as soon as I could. I thought it was so pretty, and it had lots of potential to become something I could make into a few versions. And the blouse? Stop it, it’s too darling!

My fabric is a floral cotton sateen I got a few months back from Fashion Fabrics Club. It’s sold out now, but I like to search “sateen print” every couple of weeks to make sure I keep an eye on their inventory of that fabric. I cannot tell you how many sateens I’ve ordered from them over the years, and the prices are unbeatable. (I’m not an ambassador for them or compensated in any way to say that. Just passing along helpful information!)

Right off the bat, I want to say that this is a lot of dress. The skirt is a full circle and the sleeves are quite wide, so thank goodness for the cinched in waist to give it all some definition. I initially wanted to make view C without sleeves, but I let my “it should be a fall garment with sleeves” mentality get the best of me and used the sleeves from the blouse in view A. Of the three sleeves, that one is my favorite because it’s subtle and not too in-your-face.

This pattern fits well and is incredibly easy to sew, and I will happily make it again in the spring. Gingham, maybe? Denim and poplin are also good options, and I also really like the idea of this in yellow cotton. I made it in one day, just hemming it the following day after letting it hang overnight to let the bias settle. (See more about leveling a hem here.) The only change I made to the pattern was to narrow the sash belt. I was short on fabric, and I also didn’t want to see the wrong side of the sateen. (Per the instructions, the ties are gathered and attached to the bodice as a single layer, no lining, and the edged are hemmed – so the wrong side of the fabric shows.) I thought this would be distracting, so I’d planned to cut two of the ties, but had to make an adjustment when I nearly ran out of fabric. (We’ve all been there, right?!) So I made the ties narrower and cut out two in my self fabric and two in black cotton.

You know how I’m always going on about “breaking up” a print in an interesting way to avoid being overwhelmed and distracted by it? Well, you’d think that thought had never crossed my mind when you look at this dress. The waist ties should be solid black, to interrupt the print a little but also define the waistline better. (Come on, Emily.) I’m going to replace the ties with solid black, and I will cut them using the original pattern piece, because I do like how wide it is. It gives the dress a little more character.

Putting the bodice together was fun, and I really liked the look of the sleeves at that point. After I finished the dress, though, I completely changed my mind. I think the combination of the big sleeves and the busy print of the fabric are too much. It’s almost robe-like, and I had a huge flub over the summer with a dress that looked like a robe, so I’d very much like to not make the same mistake twice. Eliminating the sleeves does make it easier to wear this with a cardigan or jacket, so I definitely appreciate the uptick in versatility. Without the sleeves, it’s a little more predictable and less special – but I’m okay with that. I can wear predictable, but I can’t wear robes or things I don’t feel good in or that aren’t flattering.

This will be much better:

The sleeves and sash belt don’t take away from my love for this pattern, however. It’s a good one! It’s true to size and flattering, and fit adjustments should be minimal. I think it would really shine in a solid color, and the blouse version with the flirty peplum is simply adorable.

This dress is unlined, and there are neckline facings. I don’t mind facings at all, and I think they’re just the thing in unlined dresses sometimes. With facings, I have do have one suggestion: finish the edge. I see unfinished or serged-only edges all the time, and some big time sewists prefer that and encourage their followers to do the same. I happen to believe that the smallest, easiest details are what take your sewing from “I made this in our spare bedroom” to “I made this but you would think I bought at Saks.”

Whenever I have a facing with an edge that doesn’t attach to anything else, I like to serge it and then press it under and edgestitch it. Simply serging it (or zigzagging it or what have you) isn’t wrong. I just think it looks a little unfinished. And to press the edge under and stitch it only adds a few minutes of production time. It’s worth it.

I’m looking forward to making a couple of tweaks to this dress, and turning into something that I really, really love. That’s the beauty of sewing – everything is fixable!

Happy Sewing!

to the max: vogue 9104

I had big plans for maxi dresses this summer. I spent an entire morning one day on Instagram Stories going over my plans for at least three maxis, and I had a couple pages of notes and sketches in my journal with big ideas for these dresses. I even had cute blog titles for them like “great lengths” and “maxed out” and “floored” but this summer has flown by in a blink of an eye and I only got around to one maxi dress. I’m okay with that though, because it’s a pretty great dress. (I’m kind of bananas for it, really.)

Maxi dresses in the summer are one of those things that just make me laugh. It’s the hottest time of year and yet we’re intentionally searching for the longest dresses to wear? Isn’t there something ironic about that? I’ve had maxi dresses in the past, but besides the dress in this post I only have one or two store bought pieces in my closet now. I grew weary with the frumpy drape and cut of most of the ready-to-wear options, and I’m not someone who can wear low cut or spaghetti straps or something with lots of back exposure comfortably. So, I was always running to a styling issue of covering what I needed covered. “I can wear this if I put a necklace with it and if I throw on a cardigan too.” Not a great solution, but of course  I spent a couple years trying to force the issue – which just made me uncomfortable and sad.

My idea of the perfect maxi dress for me is something with a high enough neckline that it covers that scar on my neck I’m always complaining about and has full back coverage – but with enough flow and fullness that it doesn’t look like I’m a piece of sausage on sandals trying to walk around in a poorly cut full length dress in 100 degree Texas heat. I wanted something in a yummy rayon challis – lightweight enough to be comfortable but with enough drape and movement that it made a statement as you wore it. Why be boring when there are so many other options, right?

This fabric is another great find from Fashion Fabrics Club. (Not sure if it’s still in stock.) It’s a paint splatter print crinkle rayon, and it’s just really, really pretty. An unusual print for me, but I think it’s a perfect fabric/pattern match.

Like so many others I talk about on this blog, this pattern has been in my stash for a while but only when the right fabric came along did I finally get around to making it. It’s pretty clear to see why I like it so much, as it has all the design elements I need in a maxi dress. It also has a very interesting shaped hem with front and back slits. I appreciate this for air movement around your legs, but it’s also a very clever way to show off your shoes. (Virtually high-fives the fellow shoe lovers out there!)

I cut this dress out during my I-want-to-make-all-the-maxi-dresses day way back in June, but I got about halfway with it and decided to move on to something else. I’m so glad I rescued it from the unfinished pile because, my goodness, what a dress. Most of the things I make are comfortable, but this dress really deserves that adjective. I cut my normal size and didn’t make a single adjustment to the fit or design of the pattern. I will say that it runs a little big and that you can probably size down at least one size in it, and the hem was a little long on the sides, so I had to adjust that so that it didn’t drag on the ground. I omitted the armhole facings in favor of a bias tape finish, which I like much better.

The hem.

The back.

Thank you all for the kind messages about our recent home purchase and move. It’s been a whirlwind few weeks, but we’re so in love with our new house and feeling incredibly grateful and humbled to have it. I’m still working on the studio makeover, but the end is (finally) in sight. I decided that this move was the perfect opportunity to finally make this the studio of my dreams, but it’s a huge undertaking. It’s pretty big room with seven doors (four leading to attic storage, one to a regular walk in closet, and two entrances), three windows, two built-in window benches, and a bunch of angled walls. Every inch of the space is getting painted, along with all of my tabletops and a few other furniture pieces. This has been an enormous test of my patience and determination, but I’m happy to do it because I know what it will look like in the end.

These photos are from a few days ago, and the walls have since gotten a second coat of paint, tape has come down, the tabletop has been finished and reattached to the table, sewing tables have been painted and sealed, and the window benches and cabinet doors are almost finished. I’ll go into more detail about this room once it’s more finished, but if you’d like to follow along with the progress, find me on Instagram – I’m posting updates in Stories every day. Seeing it all come together is so much fun!

Window benches mid-sanding:

Window benches after sanding, two coats of primer, and two coats of paint. Much, much better.

Have a great weekend, and I’ll be back next week with new posts and the first TÉLIO garment!