FBBD — Favorite Boring Black Dress: McCall’s 6886

Did I just sew up the most boring dress ever? Quite possibly…

m6886front

Black? Not for me.

No details? Not for me.

This black dress with no details? LET ME WEAR IT EVERY DAY.

I was going for easygoing Silicon Valley chic, and ended up wearing it as a Halloween costume. (Yes, I am that coworker who puts on a witch hat and thinks she’s winning Halloween.) It is that versatile!

The fabric is ponte, and the pattern is McCall’s 6886.

McCall's 6886 pattern envelope

I know: McCall’s 6886 has been reviewed dozens of times. Everybody loves it, blah blah blah. I understand the buzz, though — once you make it, you feel like you could whip out a million more in a snap, like some kind of all-powerful sewing genie. I am drunk with power right now.

It’s easy to fit, it looks good, and it’s super comfortable. I am seriously rethinking changing my wardrobe to be 100% 6886s and only buying shoes and jackets from now on. Okay, not super serious, but you get the vibe, right?

I did make a few edits:

*I cut my usual size 10, and ended up taking the dress in quite a bit. The final version is a size 6 in the bust, graded to a 10 in the hips, and then pegged to all hell at the bottom. (I cut the 2nd longest hemline.)

*The sleeves are narrowed to a size 6 at the armhole and even smaller at the bottom — over an inch beyond the original stitching line.

*I skipped the instructions and set the sleeve in the flat, which I highly recommend. It makes an easy project even faster when burning through those side seams on a serger!

Also important, and something I always fail to do: I marked all changes on the pattern after making alterations. I know. Groundbreaking.

I somehow managed to completely ghost myself. #photographyskills

I somehow managed to completely ghost myself. #photographyskills

I have reiterate what everyone has already said about this pattern: it’s amazing. It feels like I could use this pattern as a perfect knit dress block and create some really exciting iterations.

(If you’d like to see some non-boring versions of this dress, check out Vatsla’s sweater dress version — Vatsla basically *owns* this pattern, she has made so many cool versions. Also check out Shari’s bishop sleeve version with tutorial, and the Frougie Fashionista’s cute ruffle hem hack.)

Of course, I do have one nit to pick. (Always, right?) The directions for the much-less-popular-in-the-SBC v-neck version (View E) are pretty crappy. Specifically, it’s the instructions for attaching the ribbing to the neckline that are super confusing. I was using this pattern to help a wonderful friend dip her toes in garment sewing, and it stopped us in our tracks.

We had to put it aside, find some tutorials on YouTube, and finish it another day. (Pretty much the exact opposite of convincing someone that sewing is easy and fun…) Again, the dress isn’t hard, but if you opt for the v-neck view and you’re not familiar with how to construct it, go straight to YouTube and save yourself the confusion.

Another shining example of my crazy-good photography

Another shining example of my crazy-good photography

That said, if you need chic, wearable clothes fast, this is the pattern for you. I’m not a fast stitcher by any means, but this is bordering on dress-a-day territory, even for me. I reiterate: DRUNK WITH POWER.

Welcome to the (now located on the Peninsula) closet, my magically unboring dress!

Best Flying Squirrel Dress Ever: Vogue 1482

v1482front

This is not a look I usually go for. I just have to put that out there.

Those Marcy Tilton patterns that have wacky angles, questionable fit, and “interesting” design details that some sewers go nuts over? Sooo not my bag.

But this Vogue Rachel Comey pattern just wouldn’t stop calling my name — despite my best efforts to talk myself out of it. (I blame the fabric and the gorgeous model on the cover photo.)

v1482

It’s an interestingly structured bag dress, and I love the hell out of it.

Okay, let’s talk about constructing this dress:

*I struggled with the directions in a few areas, particularly that seam across the front with the inseam pocket. The way I ended up doing it is not the “right” way, but I worked it out.

(The rest of the construction is pretty straightforward.)

*The keyhole in the back dips lower than expected. There’s no bra strap reveal, but if you’re looking to wear this dress in a traditional or conservative environment, consider making the keyhole 1-2″ shorter. (Alternatively, you could just cut the back on the fold, or stitch it all the way up. Unless your melon is exceptionally large, you’ll still be able to get your head through it.)

Decidedly *not* this dress's most flattering angle...

Decidedly *not* this dress’s most flattering angle…

*I did not understand the back button loop construction. At all. Using the included pattern piece resulted in a loop that came out weirdly huge, and I can’t quite figure out where I went wrong. Fortunately, internet. I followed a tutorial (that I can’t find now — similar thread loop tutorial here), and learned how to make quick and easy button loops out of thread with a zig-zag stitch! Highly recommended, and now I can stop shying away from button loop closures.

(Edited to add: Problem solved, thanks to Pattern Review peeps! There’s a box printed around the piece, and you have to cut out what’s in the box. Which makes so much sense. Total facepalm. Fellow sewers are the best, seriously!)

*The directions call for French seams. I ended serging my seams, but wanted to note this as a point of interest. The language used in the directions is very user-friendly. If you’ve ever been intimidated by French seams, consider trying this pattern out and going for it.

Seriously... am I pregnant? (no) Did I just eat a pint of ice cream? (maybe) In this dress, no one will ever have to know!

Seriously… am I pregnant? (no) Did I just eat a pint of ice cream? (maybe) In this dress, no one will ever have to know!

Confession: I topstitched everywhere as directed (neck, sleeves) in the evening. In daylight the next day, I realized my thread wasn’t black at all. I had been tricked by sneaky dark navy thread! You know what I do in these situations — rip it out and do it correctly.

HAHAHAHAHA KIDDING!!

I call it a “design choice” and move on.

v1482sleeve

Okay, on to the actual finished garment. It’s pretty damn amazing.

Seriously, I haven’t received so many compliments on something I’ve sewn in years! Beyond being secret pajamas, this dress is a crowd-pleaser. The funnel shape and batwing sleeves convey the intentionality of the fit — even from a glance, you can tell by the way it hangs that it’s so much more than a sack dress.

I’m in love, peeps. I wore this to work, I wore it on vacation, and then I wore it back to work. It’s such an easy, elegant piece, and I think I’ll make another in short order. (Meaning, five years from now…)

This dress absolutely requires a lean.

This dress absolutely requires a lean.

I highly recommend this pattern if you’re at all inclined to try this silhouette. For inspiration, check out Up Sew Late’s oh-such-perfect-fabric version, Thornberry’s easy and elegant version, and Maggie Elaine’s sexy lowered neckline version.

Meanwhile, don’t mind me. I’ll just be over here perfecting my flying squirrel pose…

v1482batwing

Sewing Spreadsheet Nerds Unite!

Sooo… my sister, award-winning author and occasional blog commenter, expressed an interest at one point in seeing (and perhaps mocking?) my sewing spreadsheet.

I’m pretty sure there is a significant subset of the sewing community that appreciates tracking their projects, whether the cost or the usefulness or some other metric that satisfies the itch to quantify and classify. It’s oddly satisfying, like a way to commemorate or somehow make official a completed garment. (FYI, spellcheck assures me that “officialize” is not a word.)

I am part of that subset of sewers. I love data, and cling to the belief that if you have the right data and a meaningful way to analyze it, you can answer any question. While that often holds true at my job, this is more self-indulgent. I just can’t not classify and measure my hobby.

My spreadsheet, just a super basic Google doc, tracks a few different data points. Most helpful to me are the total cost of each garment, the total number of wears, and the resulting Cost Per Wear. (Stacy London Alert!) Every time I finish a garment, I add it to the list, and I update it every couple of days to note items I’ve worn. It does require upkeep, but let’s be real, that’s the fun part. Getting to re-sort the sheet is the best!

An excerpt, sorted by Cost Per Wear

An excerpt, sorted by Cost Per Wear

Note: if you’re looking at my Cost Per Wear, the math doesn’t work out. I subtract $8 from the materials cost of any garment as the cost of my entertainment in making the item. I figure it’s the cost of a movie ticket, or a used book, or a coffee and pastry. That’s why sewing is awesome: your entertainment costs and wardrobe costs get rolled up together! If the item cost less than $8, the formula starts at $0 and subtracts $1 for each wear.

I also track the date of completion, and color-code each item by the year and quarter in which it was completed. (A different color for each year, with a different gradient for each quarter.) ┬áIt’s an easy, visual way to see how many garments I’ve stitched in any period, and is a good reference for what items have had the most or least time in the closet.

Other fields include mostly keywords (type of fabric, seasonality, etc). I haven’t yet found a way to use these, but I add them to the sheet in case I find it meaningful later. Like, maybe I’ll find out that I get a lot more wear out of winter items with a high per-project cost, or that sleeveless items don’t get much wear at all.

Also, for curiousity’s sake, I track which garments were made from stash fabric, and which I purchased new fabric for.

I have a separate tab for sewing expenses. Anytime I buy something, from fabric to thread, it goes on the sheet. This is what I use to calculate my total garment costs. I also figure it will serve as viable proof, if ever I require it, that my hobby spending is totally *not* out of control. Turns out I average less than $10 per week on sewing expenses. #Receipts, people.

I have about 2 years’ worth of data at this point, so trends are just now beginning to emerge. (My data scientist spouse might have a laugh at the idea of my spreadsheet being viable data at any point…) Turns out, outerwear is pretty the much best investment I can make, and party dresses have a terrible long-term return. (Still worth it.) In all honesty, even if I determined that one type of fabric/garment/etc netted the absolute best value, I would probably still sew whatever the hell I felt like in the moment. It’s still on par with and usually less than RTW costs.

The whole pretty much an exercise in frivolity, but I get a weird sort of pleasure out of my spreadsheeting. Plus, tracking my garments really encourages me to wear them more. It’s a bit of a gamification of sewing, in which wearing an item feels like points gained. (Yes, I’m trying to gamify my own hobby. You mean that’s not cool?)

Sooooo… now that I’ve publicly discussed my secret spreadsheet, anyone else on the tracking train? How do you track your sewing projects? What metrics do you find interesting? Any data discoveries you’ve made?