McCalls 6696 Shirtdress: Ding Ding Round 2 – it’s a knockout!

Sew Sarah Smith

Ah McCalls 6696, what a bout we’ve had! You may recall that I documented Round One with this dress? It ended with me, well, losing … resulting, as it did, with a garment that was more tent than dress. However, I wasn’t ready to throw in the towel just yet – I really wanted to go the distance with this pattern; to put into practice all I felt I’d learned and so … here we are, Ding Ding: Round 2!

Firstly, to give myself a bit of distance from the pattern I sewed up a couple of other things, so that when I came back to it I didn’t feel jaded. It wasn’t just the fit of the dress that had me on the ropes, I decided, but the styling of it too. I felt a bit wishywashy in my original, I wanted something that packed a bit more of a punch. And that’s where the fabric comes in. I love this poplin! I feel it’s bold yet understated; I love that it’s polka dots but it’s also flowers and that it’s stable but also soft. Perfect! (It comes in three colourways, you can find it HERE).

Sew Together For Summer

Once I’d found the perfect fabric, it was easier to think about the style changes I wanted to make; I decided to replace the full collar with a mandarin one (by simply using only the collar stand pieces) and to add short sleeves. I feel this ‘toughens up’ the dress, preventing it from being overly girly, especially since I decided I wanted to keep the full skirt. I made View B, with belt loops.

McCall m6696 review

I decided to muslin the bodice again, going down a size and using the C cup pattern piece this time to get rid of the excess ease. (For comparison purposes, bear in mind I’m 5.3″, fairly petite but with a longer waistline). This told me that I still needed to:

  • do a small narrow shoulder adjustment (taking 0.25″ from each shoulder piece)
  • raise the armhole (and the underarm of the sleeve) by 0.5″ because the forward rotation of my arms felt a bit restricted
  • lower the side bust dart by 0.5″
  • take 2″ out of centre back. This took out all the gathers at the top of the bodice and left just a smidge of ease at the lower
  • do a 0.5″ sway back adjustment – meaning I took out 0.5″ out horizontally at bodice CB, tapering to nothing at the side seams. This also helped remove any residual pouffiness from the back bodice. I don’t think the gathers are solely to blame for the excessive pouff; I’m sure the length of the back bodice contributes.
  • as before, I did not shorten the skirt.
Fit adjustments
For illustration purposes only! Taken from ‘Fit for Real People’ by Palmer / Alto

And because I was pulling no punches, I decided to put all that into yet another toile. Together they added up to more fit/pattern alterations than I’d ever before attempted in one garment and I was a bit unsure of myself. But the next toile came out perfect and I proceeded to dance a circuit of my imaginary boxing ring, fist pumping! In reality I was dancing around the dining table like a loon but…well, let’s not dwell on that image!

So I cut into my fabric and got sewing! It was a joy. As you can imagine, I was so familiar with it by this stage, that I could just plough through the instructions. Though the only thing I did differently to them, I think, was to sew the sleeves in the flat and hem them that way – it’s just easier isn’t it. I also added an extra couple of belt loops, as before. As for the collar, I incorporated everything relevant from the Sewing Collars : 10 Tips ‘n’ Tricks! post, namely trimming the inner stand a smidge, interfacing the outer stand only within the seam lines and to sew the two pieces onto the neckline of the dress one at a time; rather than construct the collar and then attach it. I cannot tell you how happy I was with the way it turned out!

McCalls 6696 Shirtdress

I like how I can wear it buttoned up to the neck, all ‘prim and proper like’ or have it open and more relaxed. The same with the skirt, button it the whole way down or to mid thigh for a flash of leg, hehe!

Fabric buttons

I again self-covered my buttons so that I have more freedom in terms of what colour accessories I can wear with the dress, i.e a tan belt like here, or a white one or a navy one. Gotta have options, right?!

And let me tell you, I’m so happy that I didn’t concede defeat with this pattern. I’m a bit pleased with it! And by ‘a bit’, I really mean a lot! It is the thing I’m most proud of sewing ever. Try as I might to find fault with it, I find myself only loving it. I don’t think I’ve been this happy in a ‘proper’ dress since I wore my wedding dress (which I most certainly did not make!) My confidence with tackling fit, whilst still not sky high, is definitely on the up. That was my #MMMay17 pledge to myself and ultimately the basis of the #sewtogetherforsummer Challenge. I know it seems like a lot of effort for one dress. But it’s not all for one dress; the things I’ve learned and put into practice here, and the confidence I’ve gained, are all transferable. That said, I do want another 6696 at some point! It’s a win-win!

Next up, fitting skinny pants!!! Wish me luck!

Until next time, thanks for reading

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Sew together for summer shirtdress

McCalls 6696 Shirtdress – Ding Ding: Round One!

Sew together for summer shirtdress

You’d be forgiven for thinking, as a co-host of #sewtogetherforsummer, that I’ve  sewn a dozen shirtdresses before but…no. The Challenge was very much designed around the idea of encouraging us to dig deep into our pattern stashes and surface with a project kept on a back-burner for far too long. I’m certainly no exception – the closest thing I’d even sewn to a shirt, prior to this, was the top of the Carolyn Pajamas !

McCall 6696 mccalls

McCalls 6696 was one of my #2017MakeNine picks – as a pattern, it’s achieved almost iconic status. I know so many of you have it too. I like its classic design, with its full or straight skirt, back yoke and gathers, several sleeve options and, thanks be to the McCall pattern drafting gods, pockets too! However, my predominant reason for choosing this pattern was the fact that there are several front bodice pieces, each drafted for a different cup size. Although I’ve just about got to grips with doing Full Bust Adjustments, it’s great when the work is done for you. Unless that is, as I later discovered, you make a total boob of a mistake, as I did!

I duly took and noted down my measurements as instructed, deducting my High Bust measurement from my Full Bust measurement to determine which bodice piece I needed to trace. I also studiously noted down that I needed pattern bodice piece 2, drafted for a C cup. I then proceeded to cut out bodice piece No. 3 drafted for a ‘D’ cup. Because I’m ‘clever’ like that. I understand why I did so, the boobs have shrunk a bit recently – and whilst I thought I knew this, clearly my subconscious has not yet read the memo.

Sew together for summer shirtdress
I’m breathing IN trying to expand to fill the dress!! Hahaha!

I’d been sewing merrily away (I used this Swiss Dot fabric), blithely unaware and throughly enjoying myself, sewing most of the dress together before trying it on. And then I stood in front of the mirror, mouth no doubt agape, just taking stock of its…vastness! It took me a while to figure out exactly what had happened because the whole dress felt big not just the bodice front – that just felt especially big. Later that evening, after pondering put me at risk of a sleepless night, I got up and compared my traced pattern pieces to the originals, whereupon I finally clocked my mistake.

I tried it on again the next morning. Cutting out the wrong bodice piece alone clearly didn’t account for all the extra fabric I was swathed in. Let me take off the (too narrow) belt to fully show you…

Sew together for summersew Sarah smith

I altered the bust darts retrospectively in an, only moderately successful, attempt to take out some of the excess, but the armhole is at approximately 0.75″ too low (hello bra!) and I can pinch out well over 3” at the side seams. Even taking out a 1.5” wedge from the centre back prior to starting in order to reduce the risk of the gathers pouffing, has still left me with issues there.

Sew together for summer

How to determine size

Now all this might seem a bit doom and gloom but … not really! Y’see I really feel like I’ve learned something about fit with this dress. First of all, I’ve got to start thinking of myself as the size I am now (subconscious: read the memo!), cutting out patterns based on the finished measurements that I want. I confess, I couldn’t find the finished measurement information on the envelope or the instructions, plainly missing the little icon/chart on the pattern pieces themselves!

And/or I’ll measure the flat pattern pieces (e.g. to get the bust measurement I would measure front and back bodice pieces at the bust point, add them together and then deduct all seam allowances to get the finished measurement). Looking at the pattern pieces for this dress I can clearly see now where I was only partially sighted before… that the bust circumference on my traced pattern pieces for this dress resulted in 5.5” of excess. Even after taking away an allowance for ease, that’s still a whopping 3.5” more fabric than I’d wanted!

So I’m not at all sorry that my first 6696 is more akin to a tent than a dress! The mistakes were mine but so are the lessons learned. I’m happy!

As for the pattern itself, I love it! It’s got a slightly 90s retro vibe. I like how the knife pleats are drafted, so that they’re wider at the side seams and centre back so the skirt lays flatter at those points. I love the back yoke and the gather details. The instructions are clear but not handy-holdy. Oh, I did lengthen the carriers (belt loops) piece so as to make 6 loops not 4.

I didn’t attempt the ‘burrito method’ of stitching together the yoke pieces which resulted in a bit of hand sewing; in fact there’s quite a lot of slipstitching involved with this dress, to the point mine had seriously improved by the end!

The collar and collar stand are not difficult to construct although I am keen to try other methods and I’ll certainly topstitch at least the collar stand next time. If collars bother you, we do have a specific collar post HERE.

I had a lot of fun self-covering my buttons using my new little Prym gadget and putting all I learned from our Sewing Buttonholes : Tips n Tricks post to get a lovely finish to my buttonholes. This dress needs another button at the top but I’m done with it now!

So, whilst the dress is a fail in itself, it has been a great sewing experience and I am itching to put into practice all that I’ve learned for Round Two! (EDIT: I did it! See here)

Tell me, what is your best fitting tip?

Until next time,

Sew Sarah smith

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