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



McCalls m6886

McCalls 6886 : The Perfect ‘throw in your suitcase’ Dress!

Girl Charles stripe ponte

Way back in January when I was compiling my #2017MakeNine list, I talked about this fab stripe Ponte I’d sourced from Girl Charlee in order to try and replicate a Ready to Wear dress I’d seen on a random stranger and had instantly coveted! I’d planned to pair this fabric with New Look 6095 initially but in the end I fell upon McCall’s 6886. I’m going through something of a McCall’s phase it seems at the moment but this pattern really does offer up so much more potential with its various necklines and sleeve variations.

Sew Sarah smith

Its an incredibly simple pattern; it’s just three pieces – front, back and sleeve with the addition of a neckband if you opt for the V neck; the necklines on the other versions are simply turned under. I decided on View A but lengthened the skirt by 2 inches. (I’m 5.3) and took off about 1 cm from the shoulder.  Based on finished measurements and measuring the pattern pieces I graded out one size at the underarm (for more boob room) and graded down one size from hip to hem. I’m happy with the amount of ease this still gave but if you want something more fitted, size down.

The only challenge to making this dress then was matching the stripes! Looking at the fabric, I knew I wanted the widest black strip to hit my waistline, so that was my starting point. I pinned the dress matching at the underarm so that the stripes would match down the side seams; there was no way of getting them to match at the shoulder seams too but I knew I could live with that. I also pinned and cut the sleeves at the same underarm starting line. I cut out on the single layer too as I find this definitely helps with matching up.

The pattern instructs you to sew the shoulder seams together followed by the side seams and to set the sleeves in the round. I’ve no idea why. Anyhow, as I wanted to make sure all my lovely stripes did as they were told, I decided to largely ignore the instructions. Ooh, hark at me being all rebel-like! I sewed up the shoulders then attched the sleeves in the flat. It was a bit tricky getting the sleeve lines to match up with those on the front bodice where I really wanted them to but …. I had pins and I wasn’t afraid to use them!

Happy with that, I then proceeded to hem the sleeves whilst still flat, using a twin needle. I then turned under the neckline – again twin needle – before proceeding to the side and underarm seams. I used another gazillion pins and basted the sides in, so as to check the fit as well as the stripe matching. All was good, so I sewed them in properly and then finished all seams on the overlocker. I think it’s safe to say I was rather pleased with myself, posting my pattern-matching joy over on Instagram.

I hemmed the skirt and that’s it!! I think if you were to sew this dress without the added stripe matching complication, you really could sew it up in next to no time!

McCalls jersey dress

I love this fabric, it has such a smooth finish, a nice drape and is incredibly soft. I hope it holds up to repeated washing because I could see myself living in this. I’m not one for either colour or ‘loud’ prints usually but there is something about the pairing of this fabric with the simple lines of this pattern that just feels so right! As soon as I sewed it up I was on the hunt for more fabric but so far I haven’t scored. I even found myself contemplating a vivid Aztec stripe and wondering who the heck I’ve turned into! I need more of these for my holiday wardrobe; you can throw this into your luggage, it won’t crease, dries in no time and doesn’t need ironing; all ready to throw back on again!

McCalls m6886
Is it a bird? Is it a plane?

Until next time,

Sew Sarah smith


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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


Alice in Wonderland sewing pattern

Alice in Wonderland Costume : McCalls M4948

Alice in Wonderland sewing pattern

I was absolutely determined not to get caught out by World Book Day this year having had the expense of having a costume express shipped at the 11th hour last year. I asked my Pixie Princess who/what she wanted to be mid-February and she didn’t hesitate before answering ‘Alice!’ A quick Google search resulted in the purchase of my first ever McCall’s pattern, M4948; I ordered some plain cotton poplin from Minerva and having read through the instructions, decided it all looked straightforward and promptly left the project on the back burner for a bit.

Mccalls m4948 review fancy dress costume

Ah the perils of thinking you have the luxury of time! When the day arrived to start, I poured a coffee, yawned and stretched, got out my tracing paper and pen and cracked open the envelope…Yep, you guessed it, I’d ordered the wrong size; I ended up having to get the Kids size express shipped anyway. I’m sensing a theme here! Thankfully it turned up the next morning as promised. img_4492

I then looked at the size chart and realised my PP spanned three sizes, so I got busy tracing, grading and cutting. The pattern has a lined bodice, cuffed puff sleeves, zip at CB, a mock apron top which is attached to the bodice, a separate apron skirt and a full dress skirt.

For regular readers, you may recall back in my The Paola Turtleneck Tee post I’d described feeling low, wanting to kick the capsule wardrobe ethos kerbside and sew something frivolous instead? This certainly fit that bill! I enjoyed every second making this; I like McCall’s instructions…they’re clear without being wordy. In fact this is such a simple sew I found myself barely consulting the instructions at certain points and I certainly did my own thing with the apron skirt waistband/tie.

The pattern calls for you to cut one very long piece of wide ribbon for the waistband/apron tie piece. That wasn’t happening; I had enough of the white cotton fabric left to make it out of that. Because the pattern piece was so long I did have to cut two pieces, add on a small seam allowance and sew them together resulting in a little seam centre front. But who cares, right?! I turned up a small hem allowance top and bottom and then pressed it in half, sandwiched the top edge of the apron skirt in between – making sure it was aligned at centre front – and then used my edgestitching foot to stitch and enclose the whole length of the tie and the apron skirt within. I slipstitched the ends together.

In fact, the patterns calls for a fair bit of hand stitching – not my strongest point – and I certainly did it at the cuffs, enclosing the waist seam allowance in the bodice lining and at the zip. I was pretty pleased…

Exposed zip in a lined bodice

What I did not do, no Siree, was handstitch the skirt hem in place. Give me a break, there’s so much of it! I machine stitched and it looks just fine thank you all the same McCalls, haha!

All in all I’m absolutely chuffed with this make! I’m even glad I initially ordered the wrong size – I feel almost compelled to make myself an outfit for Halloween this year! Perhaps the Queen of Hearts? Or more likely, the Wicked Witch!!

And off went my PP to school, one very happy girl which makes me a very happy Mom!


 Until next time,

Sew Sarah smith