Sew Sarah smith

A ‘Black Tie’ McCalls 7119

Sew Sarah smith


It feels like I’ve had this dress germinating in the back of my mind since time immemorial. I originally got my hands on a sample of this Prada satin backed crepe – in red – an age ago. Whilst I loved it, I had no immediate ideas for it. Then, back in the summer, I sewed up a floral version of M7119 (see here) which was my favourite make of the summer. I knew straight away that I wanted to put a spin on the pattern; using the contrasting textures of the fabric to turn it into a Black Tie evening dress version of the tuxedo.

I cut the dress out intending to wear it to a friends 40th birthday bash – a weekend long affair – earlier this month. But unfortunately Sod invited Law to the party too; the dress lay unsewn for quite some time whilst I succumbed to the lurgy. Gah.

McCalls 7119

Anyhoo, my friend forgave me for not attending his birthday ‘do’ and the dress eventually got sewn. I’m now counting on some Christmas party invitations in order to y’know, actually get to wear it.

The dress is this months’ make for the Minerva Craft Blogger Network; the full post including my thoughts on working with this double sided designer fabric can be found HERE.

Since sewing this dress, I’ve filled an online cart in Ikea and I’m quite ridiculously excited waiting for my order to be delivered! Apart from some pattern testing this last week, I’ve finally ‘thrown in the towel’ with sewing on the dining table. Fed up with unpacking and packing everything away at the start and end of each session, I’ve decided to set up a designated spot where I can leave my stuff permanently set up. Although it will be a relatively small area – and I’ll still need to use the dining table for cutting out – I’m hoping it will be a well thought out enough space to mean I can really sew my heart out anytime I want.  Ok, let me rephrase that…to sew half as much as I want to but twice as much as I’m currently able to! 

So here’s looking forward to Holiday party invitations and sewing in peace!

Until next time, stay well sewing friends x




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Sew Sarah Smith

The Va Va Voom Wrap Dress! McCalls M6884

Ah, c’mon, how gorgeous is this claret jersey fabric!? I’d had 3m in my stash for a few months but kept dithering about what to sew with it. But Autumn rolled in and I found myself debating whether to turn on the heating and light a fire, taking up knitting and…Christmas. Then bingo! What I needed was a warm dress – something with sleeves – in a seasonal colour – a wrap dress; y’know, to ‘wrap up’ warm in 😉

Sew Sarah Smith

McCalls 6884 seemed to fit the bill. I’ve sewn knit wrap dresses before (see New Look 6301 here and here) but I wanted something different with a few more design variations. I like the line drawings of 6884 – in a lighter weight jersey, the clean lines of View A with its short sleeves would make a lovely dress for Spring/Summer too. Perhaps in a lovely print.



However, for this make I wanted the longer sleeves and side gathers of View C – it makes for a sexier, more ‘va va voom’ silhouette don’t you think? And I thought a solid colour fabric would show off those gathers beautifully. Decision made!

I made this dress as this month’s make for the Minerva Crafts Blogger Network you can read my full post – including my thoughts on fit – and access links to all the products they sent me to make it HERE.

Sew Sarah Smith

I’ll be back very soon with some more jersey sewing. In the meantime, I hope you ‘wrap up’ warm too; I’m off to make another hot water bottle … brrr!




McCalls sewing patterns dress

My Favourite Ever Summer Dress: McCall’s M7119

McCalls M7119 Sew Sarah Smith

Well the title kind of gives it away doesn’t it – I love this dress! McCall’s 7119 (see HERE) was the last item I sewed before packing for the Stateside summer jaunt to join family. It’s everything I wanted in a dress; floaty and  breathable with an interesting neckline; exposed shoulders, a high-low hem and can be dressed up or down. It also takes up hardly any suitcase space and we all know what that means! (More space for bringing back new fabrics ;-))

I made mine in this awesome viscose print (see HERE) and it was a joy to work with. It comes in three colourways and although still relatively inexpensive, was a little more pricey than some. Granted, I’m getting more confident working with drapey lightweight and shifty fabrics having used them a lot recently but I also think this particular viscose seemed more stable and cooperative than some I’ve used, but with no compromise to its fluidity – a fantastic fabric! And again it’s a statement floral. Who am I and what have I done with my former self?! That said, I feel surprisingly myself in it. I’m sure I’ll sober down again as Autumn draws near but for now I’m really enjoying this change!

McCalls 7119

M7119 is part of McCalls ‘Misses’ range, which I like since I’m only 5.3”. I cut View B and decided to make only minimal changes to the pattern before cutting out; sizing down, lowering the bust darts and raising the armscye by 0.5” – which tends to be the basic standard alterations I do with McCalls patterns. There are lengthen/shorten lines on the skirt pieces but I decided if I needed to take off any length I’d do it later and simply remove it from the hem. Here’s the line drawings and envelope:




I cut out on the single fold, carefully, so as not to warp the fabric and immediately staystitched all the pieces. It’s an easy sew and comes together really quickly – the only I time I had to concentrate was with the construction of the faced front band and shoulder pieces – which are sewn together. They’re not difficult to do; it’s just a case of following the instructions to the letter, even if you’re not quite sure where they’re taking you. That was my experience anyway!

McCalls 7119 Floral Print

Actually, no, don’t follow the instructions quite to the letter, as there is a slight mistake with the front bands at Step 13. It says “Stitch outer edge. Understitch facing”. It should say “Stitch inner edge…” it’s clear enough from the illustrations but thought it worth mentioning. You will part stitch the outer edge at Step 14 (turning through the entire band and ties through the gaps later). Here’s the notes I scribbled on the instructions when I first read them through before starting – something I always do (i.e. attempting to stitch the garment together in my head before I start). However certain parts of this process only made total sense to me in the actual doing! Also make sure your circle and square markings are clearly, err, marked –  your stitching needs to be pretty accurate here.

McCalls 7119

Once I tried the dress on, I felt that the skirt crossed over at the perfect point at the front to avoid accidentally flashing underwear (which was good because I’d already narrow hemmed the pieces!) but … that it was far too long at the back. I do think it’s designed to be worn with heels but quite frankly I needed the option of wearing it with flip-flops. I ended up taking out 3” from the centre back (by folding the back skirt in half, marking the 3” point at the centre fold and then tapering to nothing at the side seam so that the curve of the back skirt met the front skirt exactly at the side seams. It worked out great. I then turned up a narrow folded hem and it was done!

One of my favourite parts of the dress is actually the back neckline – it looks like it’s going to be a straightforward halterneck affair from the front but it’s not – look! It’s a high neck with pretty gathers. For someone like me, who is narrower in the shoulder, this gives a lovely strength and balance to the dress.


In retrospect I half wish I’d added side seam pockets because *awkward flapping hands* I’ve not had an issue with accidentally revealing more cleavage than intended; the ties are good and long and it all feels pretty secure for a wrap dress. I guess you could widen the front bands if you wanted more coverage there.

McCalls sewing patterns dress

This dress got the total seal of approval from my husband and a few “no way!”responses when I confirmed I’d made the dress, which has been really nice. I’m absolutely going to make it again – I’m considering a satin backed crepe to make a Black Tie version for the Christmas period. Always thinking ahead! So far I’ve worn this dress three times – twice out to dinner and once … just because. I’m also planning to wear it to the Rodeo next week and you bet I’m going to try it on with cowboy boots!

What do you think?

Until next time,






Sundress sewing pattern

McCall’s M7116 Sundress : So good I had to make it twice!



Hi again!

I’m currently in the midst of a sewing frenzy; with less than two weeks to go before we head off on our summer holidays, I’m frantically trying to sew enough things to pack! Given the lack of time, I was looking for patterns that met certain criteria;

  • they need to be relatively quick to sew;
  • a flattering shape but not restrictive in any way;
  • can preferably be made up in lightweight breathable fabrics and
  • are easy care once made – i.e. can be washed, dried and put back on again in next to no time – ideally without having to meet an iron.

I was able to choose two McCalls patterns as a prize from the lovely Kate at The Foldline for my M6696 Shirtdress a little while back and thinking of my summer wardrobe, I snatched up M7116 and M7119 – both looked relatively simple and needed lightweight wovens.

I decided to sew View A of M7116 first – the spaghetti strap version – it’s essentially a semi-fitted pullover dress with a side seam zip.  I chose a lovely floral viscose print. Let me say that again in case you weren’t paying attention… a floral print! A print that is floral! Flowers on fabric. As unradical a choice that may sound to you, let me make it clear that it was something of a departure for me. Purging my wardrobe earlier in the year has allowed me to rethink and I find myself choosing things I’d previously been wary of; whether this is a sign of increased confidence or simply Middle Aged Madnesss I’m not sure. I’m pretty sure I don’t care either way!

So back to the fabric…it’s a gorgeously soft viscose; the first with purple flowers on a dark navy background and the second with bright pink ones (see here). Both are opaque enough to not need lining. The flowers themselves are just the right size, not big enough to be screaming in your face nor small enough to fall into the chintz category. I set about tracing out the pattern. I wasn’t going to bother making a toile – time’s short and quite frankly I’m all toiled out – I’d rather stick pins in my eyeballs at the moment. I cut out based on the finished measurements (i.e sized down) and took in the underarm seams by a further 0.25″ each as well as raising the armscye by 0.5″, which I’ve found I had to do on previous McCalls patterns. It worked out great. I then graded down at the hip (a standard alteration for me).

M7116 mccalls
Armhole facing

The bodice of this dress is essentially a gathered bra-let type affair with the remaining dress being cut on the bias and semi-fitted. As a precaution, I cut out on the single fold and edgestitched all my pieces straight away to stop seams stretching out during construction and handling. Apart from that, it’s a super quick sew.

The armholes are finished with a bias cut strip of fabric which, since it’s simply pressed in half and sewn with raw edges aligned, makes for a quick, clean finish.

McCalls sewing patterns
Elastic casing at the neckline

The neckline is finished with a simple fold-over elastic casing. The instructions ask you to cut out two specific lengths of elastic and insert those. Don’t do that. Mark the required length on a longer piece and feed that through, pinning at the marked end points. Then adjust to fit. I ended up taking out about 1.5″ from the back piece to get it to fit flush with my back. Since I knew I’d be wearing these dresses with a regular bra, I used the width of the straps of that as my guide.

The instructions then say to adjust your strap lengths, which are already sewn in at the back, and sew them in to meet the front neckline. I waited until I’d sewn the skirt on as this gave me a much better idea of how it sat.

7116 mccalls
Easy regular zip insertion

The way McCalls have you insert the side zip is also fantastically easy. You could, of course, insert an invisible zip here but I wanted to try this method out. Simply place your zip face down on a basted together seam and sew in.  Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy. It produces a much neater enclosed finish than I was expecting. Bonus.

Sundress sewing pattern

I was so pleased with the finished dress, which I pretty much put together in one sitting. The bias skirt is gorgeous, it adds a lovely touch to such a simple dress; the fabric skims the body beautifully without being clingy.  In fact, I liked it so much I immediately sewed another, its pink twin.

Looking up to the left again – what’s there I wonder?! Cobwebs, probably!

I want to sew another in yellow. Yes, yellow. I’ve never worn yellow in my life – unless it was something knitted by my Mum was I was young enough not to object. But yellow I want!! I also want to do View D when I get back from holiday…I can see that transitioning nicely into Autumn.

Hope you’ve all got a great summer planned! Me? I’m cutting out M7119!

Until next time sewing friends,IMG_4554









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