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