Contest · Fashion · Vintage

1949 McCall’s Shirtdress Part 2: Making the Dress

7649
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!

shirtdress_1_26
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.

shirtdress_1_10
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.

shirtdress_1_1
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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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!

shirtdress_1_11
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!

IMG_4093

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!

shirtdress_1_24

Check out all of the shirtdress contest entries here.

sewing_sig

 

Fashion

Giant Stripes Two Ways

The one piece of fabric from my Sincerely Rylee mystery box that I had no idea what to do with was this brushed sweater knit with a giant horizontal design.

giant_stripes3
Big. Progresso soup can for scale.

While the quality is excellent, I have to admit that this is one I would never have chosen for myself. My initial reaction was just BIG BIG BIG.  I could have given it away, but as you know, I love a challenge. Also, it was so fluffy that it was taking up a big space on the shelf. If I used it, I could fill that space with more fabric!

giant_stripes14
Front View

Like most knits, the material had a wide width: 58 inches after washing. I had almost 3 yards of it, so I had a lot of options. I thought a long time about how I could best use the vivid pattern. There was enough yardage to do almost anything, but I was concerned that the pattern would be overwhelming in anything long – so sweater dresses and dusters were out. So I started looking at my casual top patterns for a good match.

I came up with hallå patterns’ Slim Dolman. Hallå seems to have a loyal following and I’ve seen a few sewists online list the dolman as one of their go-to patterns. Bonus: Hallå gives you a code to download the pattern and tutorial free if you join their facebook group. I liked that the pieces did not have darts or any details that might disrupt the pattern.

I can see why people like Hallå. Their tutorial has a really nice, clear set of instructions that shows how the simple pattern can be modified for different necklines, sleeves, lengths, and even curviness.  I chose to make it long-sleeved, regular (instead of tunic) length with a banded bottom.

giant_stripes13
Same pattern back

Unlike traditional patterns, all of the purely rectangular pieces such as cuffs and bands are just given as dimensions for you to cut. You are also expected to be able to figure out the pattern layout unaided. The most unusual thing is that the pieces only have a 1/4″ seam allowance. If you don’t need to do any fitting, that’s perfect for sewing on a serger. There is absolutely no wasted fabric with this one.

For those reasons, it might not be a good first pattern for a beginner. But otherwise, it’s about as simple as it gets.

When I actually started placing pattern pieces on the fabric, I was surprised to observe that I could only fit one complete repeat of the design on the large front and back pieces. I decided to maneuver the pieces so the large dark stripe would go across the body so the shoulder and hip would be coral. For the bands, sleeves, and cuffs, I played around with different combinations until I found what I liked the best.

When I put it all together, it turned out to have a kind of sweatshirt vibe. It’s really perfect to wear with jeans and super warm and cozy. The crazy stripes were starting to grow on me!

giant_stripes20
Version 1 – Sweatshirt-y

Because I had so much fabric left over, I thought it might be interesting to see how it sewed up in a variation of the dolman pattern. I was really curious about the batwing modification. I don’t have anything with a batwing sleeve in my wardrobe and wondered how it would be to wear. Also, it gave me another opportunity to experiment with those stripes!

There is no pattern piece for batwings. Instead there are directions on how to modify the pattern to achieve it. I simply made a new pattern piece with a shallower underarm curve. Because the slim dolman uses the same piece for front and back, I only had to do it once.

I really like the way stripes look when they are joined at an angle. I was already changing the pattern, so I made one more change and cut right and left pieces (plus 1/4 inch) for both the front and back.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I used the guides on my quilter’s ruler to place the pieces at a 30 degree angle (or 60, depending on how you look at things). To make sure the stripes aligned, I cut the first piece then used it as the pattern piece for the opposite side. When you place the piece wrong side down, it’s easy to see if the pattern lines up.

Sewing the pieces together along what would have been the foldline results in a front and a back that are the same dimensions as the original pattern pieces.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

To minimize adding anything that would disrupt my now beloved pattern, I also changed the neckline from a neckband to bias facing. For the same reason, I hemmed the bottom and sleeves instead of using cuffs.

giant_stripes21
Version 2 – 1985 and 2018 mash-up

I discovered something neat about 99% of the way through this project. I wan’t really happy with the way my machine hems were coming out. I just couldn’t find a thread color that would blend well enough to not be distracting. Solution: after securing the edges with an overlock or zig-zag, hand finish the hem with lace-weight knitting yarn. I know not everyone has yarn on hand, but my medium-gray wool yarn turned out to be perfect. I only did the sleeve hems this way, but they are absolutely invisible.

So… the stripes don’t line up. I guess I should have measured twice and cut once. I don’t hate it though. I think it worked very well as a proof of concept, and I’ll definitely wear it as a casual top.

It looks like I have another pattern for the keep pile. Which one do you prefer?

Up next, I begin working on my entry for the patternreview.com 2018 Match Your Shoes contest.

giant_stripes23