Contest · Fashion · Vintage

1949 McCall’s Shirtdress Part 2: Making the Dress

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Art from the pattern envelope. I made View B.

See Part 1 here for general impressions on sewing with a vintage pattern.

For Patternreview.com’s Shirtdress contest, I made a vintage shirtwaist with lots of modifications.

I started out with a McCall Pattern Co. pattern 7649 printed in 1949.

The dress features:

  • Open collar
  • Dolman sleeve
  • Button front opening
  • Scoop front pockets
  • Unusual layered skirt back with many tucks and darts
  • Side zip
  • Belt
  • Shoulder pads
  • Darts at waist front and back

I left the basic shape of the dress alone, but knew I would need to shorten it and modify the padded shoulder to make it wearable. Unfortunately, I didn’t notice this contest rule when I chose the pattern:

The opening must be sufficient to take the dress on and off, but does not have to be the entire length of the front.

With that fitted waist, there was no way my dress was going to qualify. My solution: extend the button opening all the way down the front and eliminate the side zipper.

I had my work cut out for me!

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Taking the padded shoulder away affected the fit of the back and the dolman sleeves, but eventually I got it sorted.

First order of business: unpad the shoulder. To get the shape of the bodice right, I made a muslin. I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t need to change the length, waist, or bust. But those shoulders were awful! While still wearing the muslin, I pinched the bagginess out and pinned a new shoulder seam in place, constantly checking the back and front in the mirror. I ripped out the old shoulder seam and sewed the new one in place. Back to the mirror, I saw that it would need more adjustment. It took three tries, but I finally got it. Once I made a new pattern piece with the changes, I was ready to cut my good fabric.

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Skirt muslin back view: so many tucks and darts!

Speaking of fabric…  I used an Amy Butler design entitled “Cotton Blossom.” I found the cotton woven on sale at Moona Fabrics on Etsy, but I would have paid full price. It’s really good quality material and I love that color combination! Here’s some more Amy Butler on fabric.com.

I didn’t have any problems putting the top half together. The only other change I made was to add fusible interfacing to the facings and inside the collar. Since the original didn’t call for any interfacing at all, I chose Pellon SF101, which is on the lighter side for a collar. I suppose in 1949 they would have used starch to stiffen the collar. I’m grateful for the modern materials that make starch unnecessary. I finished everything but the buttons and buttonholes and set it aside.

Next – the skirt. I didn’t think I would need to make a muslin for the skirt, but when I started looking at how it went together, I was baffled. To get that cute shape in the back, there are 5 darts and 6 tucks! I felt like it would take less time to test it with a muslin than it would ripping out the inevitable mistakes.

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Sure, that makes sense. Practically sews itself!

It wasn’t difficult once I ran through it once, but it was time consuming. There was a lot more time spent marking and ironing than usual.

For the pockets, I tried to eliminate some bulk by using a lightweight woven on the inside (which does not show). The pockets turned out to be roomy and useful. Finally, I can wear a dress and not have to have a separate bag for my phone!

Here’s a little slideshow of the pockets going together.

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I have to admit the next part made me nervous. I carefully cut the skirt front down the middle. I drafted a new pattern piece for the facings behind the opening. I used that to cut out two facing pieces and two more lengths of interfacing. Using the top half as a guide, I mirrored the steps I used to assemble the facings. Finally, it was time to sew the back to the front and the top to the skirt. By some kind of miracle, my math and obsessiveness worked. and everything fit!

I don’t want to do that again, but at least now I know I can.

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As regular readers know, buttonholes are not my favorite thing to do. But I think I have finally turned a corner. Not flawless, but not bad!

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Finally figuring out how to do buttonholes!

The dress also called for a 1″ belt. I’ve never made a belt before. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was pretty easy. I stiffened the fabric (there was a pattern piece for this) with a one inch strip of Pellon ShirTailor fusible interfacing. Then I fused a strip of heat-n-bond ultra-hold tape right on top of the Pellon. I folded over the seam allowances and just fused them to the back. Finishing was just a matter of sewing on the buckle. It was so easy that I will consider doing belts a lot more!

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I finished it with a simple invisible hem. I’ll definitely be wearing this dress a lot. It looks good on its own, but can also work under a sweater or other layers. I am really happy with the result, but I think I am ready for something quick and easy next time!

Until then,

Happy Sewing!

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Check out all of the shirtdress contest entries here.

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Fashion

Marfy Blouse 2 – The Valentine Toile

velentine_toile15The Marfy blouse, my personal challenge for January, is coming together. After creating my own pattern from the pieces Marfy supplied, I was ready to make a toile (or wearable muslin) to test my construction method and make any necessary fitting adjustments.

For the toile, I chose a woven fabric from my stash that I wasn’t particularly attached to. That way, if things work out, I’ll wear it. If they don’t, I haven’t wasted special or expensive material. The striped heart pattern isn’t my usual taste, but I do like the red and white combination. Also, it might be fun to wear on Valentine’s Day.

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My initial construction notes

Before I even cut into the fabric, I made notes on to sew it together. I update my notes as I go along. When I’m done, I’ll have a good set of instructions to put in the envelope with the pattern.

After washing, it was obvious that the hearts fabric was pretty flimsy. I knew it would need interfacing to give it some structure, especially in the collar and button bands. I had four different possibilities on hand, so I made test swatches of each of them to see what worked best (or if I needed to get something else).

  • Pellon SF101 Shape Flex , woven fusible: the winner. Provided nice support without stiffness.
  • Pellon 950F ShirTailor, non-woven fusible: too crisp. This one would be better for heavier fabric, men’s shirts and cuffs, etc.
  • Pellon 845F Designer’s Lite, non-woven fusible: very lightweight interfacing kept the fabric from fraying and losing shape, but added no stiffness at all. Better for silky fabrics or the body of the garment (not the collar).
  • Heat n’ Bond Lightweight, non-woven fusible: very similar support to SF101. This one would have also worked well, but since I had more of the Pellon on hand, I went with that.

Since the original Marfy pattern pieces have no seam allowance, they are ready to use as pattern pieces for interfacing.

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SF101 for the collar ready to cut with original pattern piece. (Presser foot pattern weight)

Section by section, I assembled the parts of the blouse. I left out the pockets but otherwise kept to the design. I saved a little time by using the serger to overcast the raw edges instead of doing any “nice” seam finishes. As the parts started to come together, I pinned them to my duct-tape double. Once all of the components were prepared (collar, back, yoke/sleeve, and fronts), I was able to get a good idea of how the final version would fit. Some of the things I checked were the position of the darts, whether the side seams fell straight down or not, and where the hem should fall for a comfortable length.

I had expected to adjust the darts, which I did. What I didn’t expect was that I would need to let out the bottom so much. Apparently my posterior does not conform to Italian standards – who knew? Because I needed to let out more than my seam allowance would allow, I went ahead and drafted an entirely new back pattern piece. After making another back section from the new pattern, I pinned it in place on my double.

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Well, it was better, but not good. I needed to pinch away about an inch horizontally across the small of the back. I made yet another pattern piece and tried again. Ideally, I would also take out a little from the center seam, but I was concerned that the stripe pattern would look too distorted if I did that. So, I went with version 3 and moved on.

Once I was done with the back, I needed to adjust the front a little bit by adding side darts.

One thing I wasn’t able to test-fit on the double was the sleeve. I had to wait until the body of the blouse was complete to see how much gathering I would need. I frequently need to adjust sleeves for myself, so I knew I didn’t want to commit to the bias tape edge until I was sure the fit would work.

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And…. this is how I learned that I needed to clean the lint from under my sole plate.

The instructions for the sleeve edges were a little mysterious. The sleeve was not pictured in detail on the illustration. The pleated parts were clearly marked on the pattern, but the only detail about how to handle the sleeve edges was “Reduce to cm.” There was a pencilled in (!) number 8.5 near it. Reduce 8.5 cm? One side? Both sides? Reduce to 8.5cm? I had to guess. I measured the edge of both sleeve pieces on each side. I ran a couple rows of gathering stitches and pulled the bobbin threads until the total edge measurements were reduced by 17 cm in total (8.5 for the front, 8.5 for the back). I basted the gathers, then tested for fit. It seemed a little snug, so I let them out until I was happy, then sewed on my matching self-made bias.

The final sleeve looks pretty good, but dips a little too low. Unfortunately, there wasn’t any good way to raise the bottom of the sleeve opening once the pieces had been cut, so I did not incorporate that necessary modification to the toile. I did adjust the pattern pieces, though.

The collar was next. Finally, something that just worked!

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I’m getting better at buttonholes.

Then it was time for the part I was dreading: the buttonholes. My buttonhole skills are improving, but they are far from perfect. But I think these will do unless there is a close inspection. The buttons are just old ones I found in my stash, except for the top button. I thought it would be cute to put a little red heart button at the top, so I did. I could have probably put a row of hearts down the front, but it was getting a little too cute for a grown woman already!

The blue line in center of the buttonhole is where I marked the buttonhole placement using water-soluble marker. It comes right out with water – you can take it off with a damp rag in a pinch.

I turned up a simple blind machine hem and pronounced it done!

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The back is finally done and ready to hem!

I’m really glad I made a test version. Now I can cut into my “good” fabric with confidence. And I may even wear the test version for more than just Valentine’s Day.

Here are some pictures of me wearing my “wearable muslin.” Click the images to enlarge.

Missed Part 1? You can find it here: Marfy Blouse 1: The Pattern

Next time: Marfy Blouse 3: Pulling it all Together