crafts · finished objects · Sewing

McCall’s 6518: lessons in pattern matching

Pattern: McCall’s 6518, Phoebe Couture design

Fabric: Rayon/Poly/Lycra suiting from Joann’s (last year)


Well, I haven’t accomplished much this week, as I’ve spent the entire thing at home with what appears to be the flu, but I did finish this dress!  Thanks to everyone who voted on this dress – I confess that the amount of plaid was daunting, and I might never have made it otherwise.  And that would have been sad, because I love the end result!

I’ve made quite a few dresses and tops in plaid, as it’s one of my favorite patterns.  It can be rather intimidating, but I think it’s doable for anyone if you remember one tip – you cannot be super OCD about plaid.  If you have more than two pieces, or any shaping in the form of darts/pleats etc you will have to choose your battles.

In this case I chose to match from the center out.  Therefore the waistband, center bodice, and skirt front all line up in the center.  As you move away from the center the match isn’t exact, as I have princess lines and pleats to deal with, but that’s not as noticeable as a plaid mismatch in the center would have been.  I chose to cut the ruffles on the bias, and I didn’t even attempt to match the plaid on the bodice right front (it is covered almost entirely with the ruffles.  I would not ordinarily use a pattern with princess seams for a plaid, as you cannot match them, but in this case the ruffles made it ok.   I also bound the neck and armhole edges in self bias binding, which ties in nicely with the ruffle and avoids the lining called for in the pattern (I do not do lining in the summer unless the fabric is sheer… there is nothing worse than sticky lining in the southern humidity!

The back presented a difficulty – the seam is shaped rather than straight, making lining up the skirt impossible.  In this case I chose to match the horizontal lines (a mismatch would be obvious) and let the center seam make a diagonal.  The back bodice pieces I was able to match exactly.  The back waistband is the only mismatch, and on a remake I might choose to cut it on the bias – darts in the top and bottom made lining things up tricky.  It doesn’t bother me though – I can’t see it when I wear it!

I was able to leave out the zipper entirely, so if I made this again I would likely remove the back seam.

The pattern was well drafted overall.  It went together pretty easily, and I really like the ruffles.  Here are my alterations:

1. I used my serger to create a rolled hem for the ruffles rather than hemming them individually.  I always do this for ruffles and I think it gives a nice ready-to-wear look.

2. I shortened the armhole depth by 2 inches total (1 in front, one in back) by taking up the straps and redrawing the neckline at the end.  I can’t tell whether the dress is supposed to be an empire waist or regular, but for me it was lingering in the middle which wasn’t flattering, so I shortened it to make it an empire line.

3. I took in the side seams from the armhole to the waist by 2 inches total.  I can’t tell whether this is because the pattern runs big, or because I chose to cut too large a size.  I tend to err on the side of larger cutting, so it’s probably that.

4. When I shortened the straps it made the dress shorter, so I took a narrow hem.  It would have been really short with the hem called for in the pattern!

5. No zipper (my fabric has stretch) and no lining.  I used bias strips to finish the armholes, and they are perhaps a tad large – I’m never sure of how long to cut them!

I didn’t really use the instructions.  I can say that it was a little difficult sewing on the ruffles!  I recommend finishing the edge of the ruffles before sewing them in place.  Mark the top and bottom placement, and then fit the ruffles in the middle as close as you can – mine aren’t exact and they look fine.

I highly recommend the pattern.  I’m pleased with how close I got to my inspiration!

crafts · Sewing

Weekend update and review of Simplicity 1871

I’ve fallen victim to my usual March allergy/sinus problems.  This year they came early – the downside to a mild winter!  I have a lot of difficulty convincing myself that I need to take a break, particularly if I already had plans.  As a result, I had a busy (and great!) weekend, but not a lot of rest.  I’m taking a few days off work to recover.  I’ve started on McCall’s 6518, and I’m catching up on my reading.   My current read is Bill Bryson’s At Home, which I highly recommend to anyone interested in the evolution of private homes (specifically British and American.)  I adore Bryson’s style – he seems to be as enamored of random knowledge as I am, and the negative reviews on Amazon (which mostly focus on his tendency to go off on tangents) are precisely why I love him!

One of the things I was doing this weekend while I was not resting was pretty exciting – I was teaching one of my friends to sew!  My friend M had a sewing machine (a gift from her husband) but needed some help getting started.  I invited her to bring her machine over on Sunday, and we tackled Simplicity 1871, an “It’s so easy it’s Simplicity” pattern.

I looked through all the pattern catalogs trying to decide on a good starter project.  I didn’t want anything that had to be fitted, as I feel like the issues inherent with fitting are best saved for a second or third lesson (I’m very glad I started with quilting and straight line sewing, let me tell you!)  I wanted her to be able to finish something in one session, so that she would feel she had accomplished something (I have learned from music teaching that it’s very important for a student to successfully do something at the very first lesson, as it gives an immediate sense of competency and a base to build on later.)

Knowing that M loves scarves, I picked up this pattern.  I suggested view A, pictured in pink above, as the other view has button loops is double sided.  It’s not super obvious from the photo, but the scarf in view A is made of two rectangles joined in the middle with a french seam, and the ruffles are supposed to also be french seamed into place.    I made a few alterations in the interest of keeping things simple.  We made the french seam in the middle (it’s good practice figuring out where the seam marks on her machine were) but I did not have her make the french seams for the ruffles.  Instead we used my serger to make a rolled hem on the long ends of the ruffle and the ends of the main scarf.  We made a narrow hem at the ruffle sides, and then I serged around the outside of the scarf to give a finished edge without the 9 yards of narrow hemming it called for.  She sewed one ruffle onto each end (no french seam, as the edges were already finished) and left off the second layer of ruffles, as we both felt they were a little much.  A little ruffle goes a long way in my estimation!

I helped her to pick a linen/cotton blend from Joann’s for the scarf (above, it can be found here.)  This fabric worked really well for the pattern – it’s slightly sheer, but crisp enough to give the ruffles some body.  In addition, it was super easy to sew and work with, and didn’t fray too quickly around the edges.

She picked up on everything really quickly, and wore her finished scarf home!  A scarf is a great first project in this situation because there are two of everything, enabling me to demo everything once before she gave it a try.  The only negative is that using my serger probably convinced her that she needs one, and that’s only a negative depending on how you look at things.  Personally, I wouldn’t be without one again, as I use it on every project.

I failed to get a finished photo, but I can assure you that the pattern is good and the results are very cute!  I’m looking forward to helping her tackle clothing projects later this month.  I’ve never taught someone sewing before, and I was surprised by how easy it was for me to explain things (I have taught knitting, and I think I’m lousy at it!)  It’s given me the idea that in the future I could offer sewing lessons, if I decide I need to supplement my income (as though my taxes weren’t complicated enough, with my own business and all the freelancing I do!)  I come from a long line of teachers – every member of my Dad’s family teaches – but I never thought I would be one of them.  How things change (and I’m glad they have!)

Teaching M also brought home to me the importance of hands on instruction.  I taught myself to sew, using videos online and books, and it was really hard.  I’m a pretty determined person, and I hate to be defeated by anything, so I carried on, but I know that’s not true for everyone.  There are so few places to learn sewing now – home economics classes seem dead, and many local sewing/fabric stores have died off.  We have a few stores offering quilting and heirlooms sewing lessons, but almost nothing on sewing clothes, never mind fitting!  Hmm… many ideas!  Leon the cat, by the way, enjoyed the lessons.  He spent a good 3 hours curled up inside this sewing machine case!

So that’s the exciting part of my weekend, but we did do other things.  On Friday we took a trip to Cincinnati and visited Jungle Jim’s with Marc’s Mom.  Jungle Jim’s is an enormous grocery store with a huge natural and international section.  It’s also notable for the whimsical decor – the bathrooms look to be port-o-lets from the outside, but open to a nice normal bathroom, but instance, and the store is decorated all over with animatronic figures rescued from abandoned theme restaurants and the local amusement park (King’s Island.)


(Yes, that is a monkey dressed as Elvis… obviously!)  We didn’t buy too much, but I was able to buy some Biscoff spread.  It’s basically gingerbread cookies in spreadable form, and it’s as awesome as that sounds.  I’ve since found out that Trader Joe’s carries a version of the spread called Speculoos, so I’m happy to have a local source – I’ve eaten in for breakfast on a bagel the past 3 days!  We stayed in Cincinnati through Saturday night, and I made dinner for Marc’s parents (lime peanut noodles, which I’ve made three times because they are so good!  I leave out the unsalted peanuts and add tofu.)

I’m planning to take tomorrow off as well – in the future I will try to remember that I get well faster when I rest.  Ah well – it was worth it to have a great weekend!


crafts · finished objects · Sewing

Simplicity 1877

Pattern: Simplicity 1877 (Leanne Marshall design)

Fabric: Linen/rayon blend from Joann’s, current season


This was easily my favorite of the new Simplicity designs.  I’m a huge Project Runway fan (though not so much lately – it used to be better!)  I loved Leanne’s designs during her season, and I’ve wondered why we haven’t seen more of her.  She uses a lot of pleating and sculpted ruffles in her designs, yet they aren’t over the top girly.  This dress is a great example of her style.  I made version B, the more simple of the two (I plan to make the other as well, but I’m still looking for a fabric.)

I’ve had really good luck with the linen blends at Joann’s – they don’t wrinkle badly, they sew beautifully, and they hold up pretty well over time.  I thought this one looked like a stylized woodgrain, and the idea of using something so plain for a very feminine dress appealed to me!  The two most interesting bits of this pattern are the shoulders and front pleats, both of which you can see below:

Yes, I am so pale that I actually repel all light!  I would have used a different photo, but this one shows the details well.  As you can see, the shoulder treatment is usual.  There are no sleeves – the sleeve cap is wide and extends over the shoulder.  There is a double sided flounce sewn into the shoulder seams – it’s quite unusual, but I think I like it.  I did not interface the ruffles due to the weight of my favorite.  The shoulders and neckline are wide – I could have gone down a size in the bodice.  They do not slip off, and the neckline doesn’t gape badly or show anything it shouldn’t (but be aware – I am immune to cleavage on account of not having any, but this is quite a low neckline.  You may wish to raise it a bit if that is a concern.)

You can also see the pleating above.  There is a bit of chalk remaining on the stitching line – oops!  The pleats are unusual.  They are made of the inside, and I don’t think it’s terrible clear what you are to do – they are not like normal pleats.  After they are sewn (not basted, sewn permanently) you topstitch over them in a triangle pattern (the chalk line above.)  This is actually a great feature – it allows the front to lie flat and not pooch out, in spite of the volume of the skirt (seen below.)

The skirt is both pleated and gathered, but it is saved by the front.  It’s actually quite flattering!  Something else to note above: I did not install a zipper.  Due to the wide neckline (and the slightly large bodice) I was able to slip it over my head.  I love when I can get away with that!  You can see where the shoulders a touch wide, but it doesn’t bother me – to be honest, I wanted a looser modern fit for this project.  It’s just as well for one reason – my usual method of adjusting doesn’t work here.  The side seams on the skirt and bodice do not line up, so all adjustments must be made early on.  I tried on the bodice and determined it fit, but after all was said and done I might have taken it in an inch.  Ah well – I am not bothered!

About the instructions: the pattern was very well drafted, but as I mentioned above I feel that the instructions for ruffle application and pleating could have been more clear.  For that reason I wouldn’t recommend this to a beginner, but it should be fine if you have a little experience.

I shortened the dress by 1/2 inch and made a narrow machine hem.  I wore it today (with the belt in the first picture) and was very happy – it’s comfortable and easy to move in, and it barely wrinkled!

Yay for spring dresses (and spring weather – 80 degrees today!)  Thank you for your votes on my next project – I’m going to tackle the McCall’s, but it was close in votes – quite a lot of you loved the vogue.  I have a concert this weekend with orchestra dress rehearsal on Saturday so I don’t know how much time I will have, but hopefully I can get a start!



Don’t faint or anything, but I finished my dress!  No photos yet – I’m waiting for a day/night when my husband is home.  Now that the time has changed it stays light later, so hopefully I will be able to get them soon.  As I write this, it’s 73 degrees outside – spring is here!  This excites me, even if we didn’t have much winter.  Would you like to vote for my next project?  I’ll go with majority rules.  Otherwise I’ll spend a week dithering over what to start!  It’s between these two (I am in a suiting sort of mood)

McCall's 6518

McCall’s 6518:  This is springing up online already, with very nice reviews!
Vogue 8231 (oop)

Vogue 8231: From my lonely OOP patterns.  This has large buttons running up the back of the top, and is actually two pieces.  The fabric is washed and ready to cut!


Help me to choose!

crafts · Sewing


Well, true to my nature I’ve managed to deviate from my plan immediately – but with a good reason!  I got out my fabric for Simplicity 1877 and discovered a problem – the website says it is dry clean only.  I didn’t even check, as I assume any rayon/linen blend will be at least hand washable in the machine.  I decided to test out a swatch in the machine to see how it reacted.  The answer?  Poorly.  Very poorly.

Above you can see the sad mangled swatch (which was rather large prior to washing) atop the unwashed fabric.  Now, I could serge the edges to stop the crazy ravelling, but I also note that the color seems changed, and the sheen (presumably from the rayon) is gone.  So what should I do?  I don’t dryclean things more than once a year, so I try not to make dryclean only garments.  And if I did, could I use the fabric untreated without it shrinking at the first cleaning?  Because I refuse to pay to have fabric pretreated at the cleaners.  I know linen doesn’t shrink like wool, but I am uncertain.  Sigh.

I was at Joann’s, buying the new Butterick patterns for 99 cents in the sale, and came upon a linen print I liked.  Since I was depressed about my green fabric, I bought enough to make up the other view of 1877, so that’s what I’m working on now.  To refresh your memory, here it is:


I’m making the printed version – it has no hip flounces, but it does have little ones on the sleeves.  So far the pattern is pretty clear, though not for beginners I would say (the instructions for flounce attachment aren’t the absolute clearest, but if you have sewn them before it makes sense.)  Here is the fabric:

This is a (machine washable) rayon/linen blend.  It’s actually a charcoal gray, not plum as it looks on my monitor.  And yes, I am now using weights as pattern weights – hey, it works and saves me from pinning!

Hopefully this will be finished soon – it is not too complicated, I just have to find some time!  It’s spring break this week, so while all my 20 year old classmates are in Cancun I will be sewing… and working my regular job.  Ah well!  It’s nice to be sewing springy clothes!

crafts · patterns · Sewing

Here we go again: spring wardrobe planning

My spring allergies are here in full force, which  must mean it’s time for some new dresses!  I did a series of wardrobe planning in the fall, and I think it really helped me to focus (I didn’t finish everything, but I got through a lot!)

I love warm weather – partly because I am eternally cold, but also because I love the clothes.  I wear dresses in the winter, but it never makes me happy the way that a sundress can.  I love bright colors and prints.  I love that I don’t have to plan my outfits as much, since I don’t have to wear tights!  I’ve spent a bit of time this week ordering a few fabrics, and I’ve created some storyboard ideas.  They aren’t the best storyboards, but what they do is give me a better idea of how something will look – especially if I can manage to get the scale right on the prints!

Thoughts on spring:  I have an overabundance of knit projects, so I want to focus on wovens for a bit (except for one maxi dress.)  I wear dresses more than pants, so I will make more of them.  I want to work with some lighter cottons and rayons, as I tend to default to sateen (I love sateen, but honestly it isn’t always the best choice!)  without further ado, here are my plans (nothing is set in stone – or cut – yet!)

Vogue 8231: The consensus on my last post was that I should definitely go for this pattern!  I thought about the suggestions to turn it into a dress, but I like the back of the top – it closes with buttons rather than a zip.  I had this stretch sateen, which I purchased in the fall from Fabricmart.  It’s on the heavier side and has stretch, so I think it will work for something more structured (I’m glad that I didn’t use it yet – it’s one of the leftovers from my fall plan!)

Simplicity 1877: Simplicity has two patterns in their Spring line designed by Leanne Marshall (the season 5 winner of Project Runway.)  I loved her designs on the show, so I’m excited!  This dress is not likely to be anything slimming, but I’m ok with intentional proportion changes (I like tulip shaped skirts, right?)  I like the other pattern in the envelope too, which has interesting pleated shoulders and a different (more normal) skirt.  This fabric is a rayon/linen blend… I’m thinking the side pieces need a little crispness.

Simplicity 1881: This is a new pattern.  I like the other version of the skirt too – it’s longer in the back than front, or what I call a “mullet hem.”  This fabric is white on the back, so I can’t use it for that purpose.  I bought this fabric quite awhile ago, and then it has sat in my closet due to the fact that it’s kind of crazy.  I think it will make a nice summer dress though – if I’m not traveling anywhere tropical, I can at least feel like I could wear my dress there!

Simplicity 1872: The new Cynthia Rowley patterns are slightly less sack-like than her past offerings, which make me happy!  You know, I want to like her designs (this is for her retail line) but they don’t seem designed for my body type.  Luckily, both of the new patterns will work for me.  I bought this cotton lawn last year – it was a bolt end, so I have tons of it – lucky since this dress is a fabric hog with all those layers.  The top will need to be lined, as this fabric is rather sheer.  I think the skirt, with all those layers, will be fine, depending on construction.

New Look 6093:  I’ve never made a New Look pattern.  This one suffers from an incredibly terrible pattern photo, which seems common for the line.  I think I may have worn that dress to my 8th grade formal… in 1993.  Looking beyond that, the dress is described as “1940s inspired.”  Um… yes, I will buy that.  I plan to use rayon crepe, which should hang nicely on the bias.

McCall’s 6507 is a Tracy Reese design.  I’m thrilled to see her lower end line, Plenty, get reproduced at McCall’s.  I really like the front overlay on  this dress!

McCall’s 6505 is another Tracy Reese design.  I like these better than the Vogues this season, because the Vogues are on the clingy side and I prefer full skirts.  I haven’t actually received this fabric – I bought it from and it should be here tomorrow!  It will likely need to be lined.

Butterick 5744 is one of the new Butterick patterns.  I plan to pick this up tomorrow at Joann’s.  The fabric is a voile, and you know… I have made peace with the fact that I have the same taste in fabric as a five year old girl.  I do manage to restrain myself from adorable puppies and such, but I could not resist stars.  The overlay on this dress is decorative I think- it’s not a wrap dress (note: I don’t have the pattern yet, so I’m not 100% on that!)


I somehow ended up with two heart print fabrics.  Maybe it can be a theme?

Simplicity 1873: I bought this brocade when had it (back in 2009?)  I have since been stumped by how to use it.  I think it has a certain retro 60s appeal, as does this Cynthia Rowley design.  I have hope that it might be cute, and if it’s not then at least it can leave my house!  It is on the stiff side, and I worry how it might work with a full skirt.

McCall’s 6518: I plan to cut this with the skirt and bodice on the straight grain and the ruffles on the bias.  There was a similar dress at Anthropologie a few years ago, and I’ve been looking for a suitable pattern ever since.  I like this one because it’s not too complicated!

Vogue 8791:  I can’t decide whether I should be afraid of the pose or not.  Sometimes a particularly kicky pose means the design looks strange if you stand normally!  I want to try it though – I think it’s a really interesting style!

Vogue 1158:  This depends on whether I can match the stripes in the amount I have.  I have 3 yards, which is more than the dress calls for, but matching stripes can be very tricky!


Whew… that’s enough.  Seriously.  I enjoy making these storyboards because it helps me to narrow my focus – otherwise I spend all my time frozen with indecision!  Now I just have to decide what to make first…