Fashion · Fitting

McCall’s M6886: Knit Dress Fitting and Tips

M6886

McCall’s pattern M6886 has a strong following. A recent search on patternreview.com found 203 reviews, with an average rating of 4.9/5 stars! It certainly warranted a closer look. It’s a pattern for a simple shaped knit dress with optional set-in sleeves, 2 length and 3 neckline options.

When my Mom recently came for a visit, we thought it would be a great choice for making her a fun new dress. I’ve never sewn garments for another person, so I was especially interested to see how well the fitting skills I developed for myself would translate.

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Lots of color and texture

The first part is always fun: a trip to the fabric store! We considered lots of options and finally landed on a vibrant textured nylon/lycra knit. It fit the bill as a medium weight moderate stretch knit. As a bonus, it is impossible to wrinkle, making it a great fabric for traveling. Because the print was so prominent, we chose the plainest neckline and the shorter knee-length.

Before cutting into the good fabric, I tissue-fit the pattern. I started with a pattern size based on Mom’s chest (not bust) measurement. This way, the neck and shoulders already fit the way they were supposed to. With a good fit above the bust, figuring out the rest was straightforward. With the tissue pinned to my model down the center line, I taped additional pattern paper around the sides to make the front and back meet. I could see right away that I would need to make darts to fit the bust. I folded the pattern paper to make the dart and taped that in place as well. I marked her actual bust apex, waist, and hip heights. With my model standing still and straight, I drew a line perpendicular to the floor from the underarm to the knee.

momdress_6With the pattern unpinned, I set about creating new front and back pattern pieces. The perpendicular line became the new side seam. I added 5/8 inch seam allowance outside the seam line to make a new cutting line. I made the dart using a cut-and-slide technique, angling the dart to the actual bust point. I then checked to make sure the side seams matched by measuring inside the seam allowance on both sides. Whew! Finally time to cut into the fabric!

I basted the front and back pieces and checked the fit again. The fit was ok, but not great. The bust darts needed to be moved, but the back just looked loose and shapeless. We decided to add some shape with back darts. When I was happy with the new changes, I sewed them in place then transferred them to the pattern pieces.

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Tape-marked dart
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Sew close, but not into the tape

By pure luck, I didn’t need to make any changes to the sleeves. The only departure from the pattern was to add 1 1/2 inches to the short sleeve length.

Once all of the fitting was done, sewing the dress was fairly simple. The only difficulty I had was figuring out how to mark the darts. I tried chalk, transfer paper and marking pens in various colors, but nothing showed up. I didn’t want to do tailor’s tacks mostly because I don’t like doing them, but also because they might create snags. So once again it was blue tape to the rescue!

I carefully positioned blue painter’s tape just outside the darts’ seam lines. I pinned the fabric as I would normally for darts. I then stitched the darts, keeping the needle just “kissing” the tape edge. Bonus: the tape stabilized the fabric while I sewed, so there was no risk of stretching the darts out of shape.

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Machine threaded with textured nylon in the bobbin

This project also marks the first time I have tried sewing with textured nylon thread. Instead of using all-purpose thread in my regular (not serger) machine, I used Maxi-Lock Stretch thread in the bobbin only. It really worked well. I thought the machine might have some difficultly with it, but I had no problems at all. The results were fantastic. All of the seams have nice stretchiness and recovery. I have no worries about any stitches breaking under a little pressure. I’m thinking about getting more in some neutral colors so I can use it in all of my knit sewing.

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Narrow hem on neckline

The edges are all finished with a truly invisible invisible hem (I hope I never have to pick it out!). The neckline is just a 1/4 inch narrow hem.

I managed to make this simple pattern much more complicated, but it fits Mom well (if I do say so myself!). Now I have a go-to pattern for her that can be used for dresses or even tee-shirts.

Happy late Mother’s Day, Mom! You look beautiful!

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Fashion · Fitting · General

Quick Jeans Edit – Topstitch Hem

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So professional looking!

I’ve hemmed jeans on the blog before, I know. This time though, I’m taking it up a notch with some jeans-thread topstitching.

The last time I did some outlet shopping, I found some jeans that almost fit for $16 (yay, me!). The only problem was that they were over 4 inches too long. Fortunately, hemming pants is one of the easiest sewing projects there is. These were straight leg, making it even easier.

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Mark length with pin

I followed my usual hemming process. Here’s a refresher:

  1. Try on the jeans with shoes. Place a pin where you would like them to end.
  2. Measure the distance from the bottom to the pin. Subtract your chosen hem allowance from this number.
  3. Take out the pin. Measure up from the bottom the calculated number of inches and mark. Be careful to mark the same distance all the way around both legs.
  4. Cut at the marked line.
  5. Finish the raw edges with a 3 or 4 thread overlock stitch. (Any color will do – this stitching doesn’t show).
  6. Turn the jeans inside out. Turn up the hems to your hem allowance and press. Turn right side out again.
  7. Test your topstitching on the cut-off scraps. Topstitch the hem in place. Done!
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Measure and mark

To get the factory-made jeans look, the right topstitching is essential. When you think of jeans details, you think of heavy thread in shades of gold, white, and neutrals. I found that there are many options available. You can find thread made specifically for jeans, but any thread in the heavier weight ranges is worth considering. Think about whether you want soft or hard, matte or shiny, heavy or really heavy. Here are some to try:

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Ready to cut

You will need the right size needle for your thread. I used a size 14/90 universal needle for my TEX 60 weight thread. It worked well on the first try, so I didn’t try any other sizes. However, if I were to use a TEX 80 or 100 weight thread, I would go up to a 16/100. Schmetz, Klasse and Singer make a range of needles specifically for jeans which are supposed to be more durable when sewing through multiple layers. You can also get double needles. These are great if you want to be extra sure you stitch parallel lines and come with different spacing. I haven’t tried them yet, but if I get into sewing a lot of denim, I’m sure I will.

I never really thought about it before, but there isn’t any reason that the bobbin and the upper thread have to match. In fact, what seems to work best for jeans is a bobbin thread in a normal weight the same color as the denim.

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Topstitching thread in needle, navy blue all-purpose in bobbin

Fortunately, my machine sews through thick fabrics and “bumps” without a hitch. I have found that with other machines a “hump jumper” can save a lot of frustration when going over seams. You can make your own with some folded tagboard or you can buy them ready-made. A walking foot can also help your machine cope with the thick layers.

Your machine shouldn’t need any tension or other fancy adjustments. You will just want to make sure it is sewing the longest possible straight stitch to start.

Once I had my machine set up, I lined up the bottom edge of the jeans with the edge of my presser foot. This worked well for stitching the first line. The second line was done in much the same way, just using the first line of stitching as my visual edge guide.

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Maintain even stitching by aligning presser foot with jeans edge

Now that I know how easy it is, I am going to topstitch all the time!

Next time, sewing for patternreview.com’s Shirtdress Contest.

Until then…

Happy sewing!

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Align presser foot with first line of stitching for second line
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Completed topstitching
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The navy bobbin thread blends right in. Maybe I should get some navy serger thread too!
Fashion · Fitting

Itch to Stitch Angelia Shorts – Part 1

angelia_shorts_1_15For the past year, I have been working on putting together a collection of good basic patterns fit to my measurements. So far, I have go-to patterns for a raglan top, a dolman top, a cowl-neck pullover, a loose high-waist pant, joggers, and a workout bra-top. Since I live in shorts in the summer months, a good basic shorts pattern was the next logical choice.

The Angelia Shorts pattern from Itch to Stitch Designs seemed to fit the bill. Itch to Stitch is another independent pattern company that sells downloadable PDF patterns. Itch to Stitch PDFs are available in “copy shop” versions, which is a big time saver. When you purchase the pattern, you get it in all of the available sizes. In this case, there are 12 sizes ranging from a waist measurement of 23 7/8 to 39 inches. You can choose to turn the cutting lines for each size on or off, which really helps when you have so many sizes on one sheet.

angelia_shorts_1_16The basic shorts are slightly below waist with loose fitting legs, a waistband and front zipper fly. There are length variations starting at a 4 inch inseam and all kinds of options for pockets, belt loops, and so on.

I made a quick muslin to test just the main front and back pieces for fit. I did not worry about the closure – I just pinned the center shut.  I found that I needed to taper the sides a little and widen the darts. I transferred the changes to my front and back pattern pieces, then adjusted the waistband piece to compensate for the darts. Now I was ready to test the whole pattern.

I made my wearable muslin out of quilting cotton (Orient by Nel Whatmore). Yes, it’s a little busy, but I have to be me! I have to say that I was impressed by the instructions provided by Itch to Stitch. They don’t assume any garment sewing experience, so there are detailed steps for things like making pattern alterations and shortening a zipper. I followed the instructions closely, since I had never made a zipper fly closure before. It worked! I was not confused by any of the potentially confusing steps and I’m really pleased with how the closure turned out. Here’s a slideshow of the closure construction:

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I’m really glad I made a test version, because I could see right away that I needed to make more changes. The main issue is that the crotch sits too low. I pinned out a slightly shorter crotch length and transferred the change to my pattern pieces. I feel like I am now ready to go with any of the pattern options.

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Side view with shortened crotch pinned

Stay tuned for a “bells and whistles” version. In the meantime, happy sewing!

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