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!

28 thoughts on “McCall’s 6518: lessons in pattern matching

  1. A tip I recently learnt from the Couture Dress course on craftsy – you could have cut the midriff/waistband piece on the bias. You then lose all necessity for matching 🙂

    It’s a great dress. I love the ruffles in the plaid.

  2. I agree with ReadyThreadSew — put some pieces on the bias and it breaks it up. I love your dress — imho, much cuter than the pattern envelope, and the skirt looks a-line, which I like better than the way it’s represented on the pattern. Nice job!

  3. Ah this is a cute dress! I love the ruffles – it’s super clever that you used a plaid with the ruffles…It’s a really nice feature.

    With linings, I use cotton – voile or thicker cotton instead of boring nasty lining fabric. Wears better and is easier to sew as well as being much cooler. Though in summer it makes sense only to line the sheerest or itchiest of fabrics 😉

  4. I also like your version better than the pattern envelop. Your skirt looks more a-line, and theirs a bit pegged, which is a real difference. The plaid ruffles looks great!

  5. Love your dress, good job! I also line all my dresses with cotton, it just feels so much better on skin and is cooler than poly. I’m in the process of making my new summer dress (Burda 8836) with ruffles:)

  6. Oh wow, that’s insane. That is first Madras plaid sewn thing I’ve seen that I’ve liked. Ever. Despite the mismatch at the back that makes my forehead veins twitch. Love the stuff happening at the front with the ruffles. You make such pretty things from McCall’s patterns – a brand I’ve only had smashy-smashy-killy-killy results. XS Good job! =D

  7. I love your dress especially the middle ruffly bits. Good job matching the plaid. You make the pattern more desirable than those models on the pattern cover

  8. Wow, very cute dress! It is just as cute as your inspiration dress which has the plaid on the diagonal. I prefer yours that is done on the grain with the ruffles in the diagonal.

  9. that came out wonderfully. i love the way you chose to match the plaids, and cutting the ruffle on the bias was exactly the way to go.

  10. This is a beautiful dress. Whew! So many little fitting tweaks. You are a much more patient seamstress than I. Great tips on choosing your battle with the plaid. Your plaid looks to match terrific.

  11. Good job, Jessica! It’s really cute. I am still working on the denim shift in the evenings after work and realizing that I will probably need to alter any pattern to custom fit. Your comments on the things that you do differently are really helpful. I was wondering, do you work on a form to do your fitting? I think my darts are in the wrong place, because they seem to be located below my bustline. Is that where they are supposed to be? It doesn’t seem to be the right place! (I was the one who emailed you regarding interfacing!)

    1. I don’t use a dress form. Although I have one, I mostly use it for photos – unless you have one specially made, they tend to be different from your body, ie the waist is higher or lower than yours, and this is not adjustable on most dummies (just the circumference.)

      Most darts should point towards the tip of your bust but end an inch away – otherwise you run the risk of getting some strange looks if the dart isn’t totally flat! Bust darts are designed for a B cup and if you are a different size you may need adjustments. I recommend the book “Fast Fit” by Sandra Betzina for direction regarding this sort of alteration (I’m a B cup, so I don’t usually have to mess with the bust, though I occasionally have to do a small bust adjustment on vintage patterns.)

      My favorite tip for darts is this: reduce your stitch length at the end of the dart and sew off the fold. Then, without breaking stitching, reposition the needle so that it is over the body of the dart, about 1″ away from the tip. Lower the needle and sew a few stitches forward and back to secure the thread, then trim your ends. This gives a little bit of give to the tip of the dart, which allows it to lie flat, and it avoids the tedium of tying off the darts by hand the way most books recommend. Since the dart is on the inside of the garment, no one will see these stitches.

  12. Love, love, love this dress! I’m saying that alot tonight but the plaid is an unexpected fabric to use for this dress and the interplay of straight plaid with bias plaid is a great look!

  13. I really like this dress! I love the look of ruffles in plaid! I am currently working on a sun dress with ruffles, and I am also using a plaid.

    I wanted to pass on a hint, that I found years ago, about bias bindings. Line up your seam lines with the edge to be bound and with the bias binding. Make sure your bias binding is lying in the finished direction. Using an iron, press binding around the curves so that it lays correctly without waving or pulling (too long or too short). Then, either pin or baste along the seam line, maintaining the positioning at the seam line while you flip the binding into the position needed for sewing.

    Before I read this tip, I always applied the binding so that it laid smoothly while sewing, but then it would get turned to face the opposite direction, & it looked terrible! Now, by using this tip, my binding look just they way they should!

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