M7094: Crap, I Did It Again

aM7094top

So, that top I said I’d never make again because it was tortuous?

Yeah, I made it again.

Here’s my second iteration of McCall’s 7094, the first being this satanic flamingo version.

Have not yet forgiven the flamingos...

Have not yet forgiven the flamingos…

The thing is, it’s a really cool top, it’s easy to wear, and that’s what I need. I also kind of wanted to use this as a benchmarked test of how much my skills had improved in the last year. My conclusion: my skills are definitely better but I’ve still got lot of room to improve. (Most of my errors were self-inflicted. Like when I followed the instructions for the sleeveless version when I clearly knew I’d be adding sleeves. Doh!)

That, and this pattern really is a bit problematic.

I mean, the step where you attach the sleeves to the bodice is left out entirely. Seriously. And that popover collar is just as fussy as I remembered. Fortunately, I went in ready to do battle, so it went relatively smoothly.

The face you make when your realize the bushes are filled with large spiders...

The face you make when your realize the bushes are filled with large spiders…

I still don’t understand the directions for the placket bottom. Like, at all. So I just did it the messy, get-it-done way, and it’s fine. I do feel infinitely vindicated that it was not lack of skill, but perhaps a construction issue that frustrated me so much the first time.

Also helping me out was fabric that didn’t fray on contact. This is just a random poly woven from Joann’s that I found on sale and took a shine to. I waffled for months on what to create with this. Shirtdress? Pussybow blouse? Popover dress? (Dammit, I *totally* should’ve made a popover dress!)

What does it say about me that I couldn’t resist the siren call of a pattern I knew I hated the first time around? Psychoanalysis aside, I’m a fan of this top. It’s a perfect blend of subtle (oh, just my billowy smock top, nbd) and attention-getting (wowza on the open-back in the breeze!). The super lightweight poly has a rayon-like feel, and isn’t an OMG-I’m-sweating-before-I-leave-the-house type of polyester.

aM7094back

The only drawback is that it took me about a month to sew this. New hobbies combined with an uptick in social engagements, and my sewing has definitely slowed down. (Other people don’t seem to consider time with my sewing machine as the genuine “social engagement” I personally see it as, and insist on planning alternate gatherings.)

Whatever. As the NY Times article about McCall’s notes, and I slightly paraphrase, sewing as been around a hell of a long time. I’m sure it’ll be around when my calendar frees up.

Slowly backing away from the spider-filled bushes

Slowly backing away from the spider-filled bushes

Vogue 8685: Old Pattern, New Look

V8685front

This is what happens when you let your husband pick your fabric.

Actually, I like what he chose. I wouldn’t have put this combo together, but it’s a fun look, and fills a niche in my work wardrobe. I like how the wild, artsy print keeps this somewhat conservative silhouette looking fun and fresh.

The pattern is Vogue 8685, a knit dress with waist panels and yokes, sleeve options, and pencil/full skirt options. I knew I wanted to add a full-skirted dress to my closet. I have, literally, only one full skirt amid an army of pencil skirts. I wore it the other day and loved swishing around in it. I needed more!

V8685

I also knew I wanted a knit dress. On a daily basis, they’re just so much easier to wear. Plus, I wanted an easy, fun project and stretch fabrics simply don’t require the precision and tailoring that quality woven garments do. (My despair comes from a work-in-progress pair of lace trousers. The fit is off, they’ve already taken a lot of time and effort, and I don’t think I can fully redeem them. I weep.)

So, patterns in hand, off to Hart’s I went, husband in tow. (I go antique-hunting with him, he comes to the fabric store with me. Marriage equality ftw.) When fabric indecision overtook me, as per usual, he confidently selected the brightest, wackiest print in the joint. I almost went with this amazing dog print, but the white background would’ve required a lining. I wouldn’t be surprised if it turns up here as a top or something sooner rather than later.

All that backstory to say: this dress was a breeze to make. It took a long time to cut out, because the fabric was way off-grain, being the last on the roll and having gotten a bit twisted over time. So I cut a lot of pieces in single layers, with a lot of swearing. And with the bodice, waist panels, and yoke panels, plus skirt and sleeves, there are *a lot* of pieces for a dress! After that chore was over, it was smooth sailing.

Can you even *see* the panels and yoke in this print?

Can you even *see* the panels and yoke in this print?

I highly recommend this dress for a quick, easy sew that doesn’t feel boring.

I made the following changes:

*Lengthened the skirt by 2-3 inches
*Shortened the sleeves to elbow length and narrowed them significantly
*Eliminated the back zipper
*Eliminated the topstitching, since it wouldn’t be visible on the dramatic print

Next time, I would plan for ditching the zipper from the start. It might take some creative placement to cut all the back and front pieces on the fold without buying a lot of extra fabric for the full-skirted view. No question on the slim view, though — ditch the zipper and cut the back pieces on a fold if your bust measurement allows.

V8685back

One other pattern note: the envelope calls for seam binding as a required notion. I couldn’t figure out how it was going to be used, but I got some anyway. Turns out, I didn’t need it, so feel free to skip that purchase if you try this pattern.

Side note: I finally cut the right size from the get-go, a 10. Hallelujah! (I remembered cursing at myself about this in a previous post, so score one for blogging as an extremely labor-intensive memory aid.)

"No, Honey -- smile like a normal person!"

“No, Honey — smile like a normal person!”

Another size-related side note: Sewing really is the best way to absorb the idea that fit is fact, but size is just a number. I was shopping over the weekend, which I haven’t really done in…. a long, long time. I grabbed all size 6 items, which is what I should reasonably be in RTW, only to find out that vanity sizing makes me closer to a 2. If I’m a 10 in Vogue and a 2 in RTW brands, then I really can’t find a way to interpret size as anything more than a vague guideline, and nothing like a personal judgement. Yay for sewing.

After construction, I was lukewarm on this dress. I thoroughly enjoyed the process of sewing it, but was “meh” on wearing it. After wearing it, I kinda love it. It’s swishy! It’s light! It has full work coverage! Way to rock my weekday world, dress.

Swishy skirt in action as I make friends with random people at the PokeStop!

Swishy skirt in action as I make friends with random people at the PokeStop!

Welcome to the closet, my Spousally Endorsed Swishy Dress!

Checkmate, 6696

6696full

Hey Gingham Dress! You’re new around these parts, but I can tell we’re going to be friends.

This is my second iteration of McCall’s 6696. You know, *the* shirtdress. Of course, they’ve released a few new shirtdress patterns that I’m seeing around, so of course, I’m behind the curve as always…

My previous version was a muslin that I really enjoyed making, and which fit beautifully out of the envelope. It just took a few more months than I planned on to get the non-muslin version made!

Not much more to say here on construction than what I previously noted, other than what you may already know: there is a lot of handstitching to this dress. Because of the contrast of black-and-white gingham, I didn’t topstitch, so yup. Lots of handstitching: the yoke, the collar, both front button panels, and the cuffs. It wasn’t my fave, but hand sewing is never as bad as I expect it will be.

The real learning for me came from trying to pattern-match the gingham. I’m not a pattern-matcher. Not at all. Previously, I’ve been too lazy or felt too time-constricted to worry about it. Bah! Just cut it out, and let the chips fall where they may! Aren’t I just the most carefree stitcher? [Insert giggling hair flip here.]

It’s time for me to grow up. (At least in that regard.) There’s no reason not to stretch and grow my skill set, except fear of failing, which is a lousy reason. And if Me-Made-May taught me nothing else, it’s that I don’t need a ton of clothes. There’s no rush here, folks, even though I like to move through projects quickly and not get bogged down for more than a few weeks. I really can’t find a good excuse not to try harder.

6696bodice

So, I took a great deal of time trying to lay the check out evenly (and straight!), and figure out how to make things look intentional. Or at the very least, not crappy and distracting.

I don’t have great natural spatial intelligence. I can’t manipulate things in 3D in my mind all that easily. But as my husband insists, and I have to agree, it’s less a matter of you-got-it-or-you-don’t, and more about building up that skillset with practice and intention. So, I squinted, I measured, I tried to envision what pieces needed to go where to match up seamlessly. And it worked in a few places. Others, not so much.

I give myself a grade of B. It’s okay. Nothing looks terribly “off” to me, and I made a solid effort. The front skirt pieces don’t line up horizontally as I’d planned, but the rest is pretty decent. I’ll get better with more practice.

Other than that, it was a pretty smooth construction process. And now I have this dress that will work for me about 70% of the year. (Yay coastal climate!) I’m excited about the different styling opportunities in the black-and-white check. (The fabric is a Robert Kaufman cotton from Hart’s.

I could go with all red accessories, or stick to black-and-white, or try a patterned scarf, and let’s be real, I REALLY think a Carmen Miranda fruit headdress would probably complement this best.

Pattern updates–just a couple:

  • I nixed the flared end on the cuff. So much better!
  • I edited out the excessive gathering on the back yoke. Nice and flat!

6696back

And, I’m guessing I’ll make this again, at least once. As I was sewing, I realized that what would really be great was a rayon version of this dress. So soft! So light! Wouldn’t you know? I finally let myself just buy full-price fabric that suited whatever design idea I had in the moment (instead of trying to make something happen out of the stash) and it turns out, I *still* end up wanting to make something different! I don’t know if I’m totally relieved by this, or completely saddened. Emo sewing.

That’s not to say I don’t like this dress. But honestly, it feels a bit stiff and possibly a size or half-size too large in the bodice. (I think the stiffness of the cotton is exacerbating the minimal fitting issues.) Regardless, this dress meets both of my top criteria for a successful garment:

1) It’s easy to wear
2) It makes a statement

Seriously, for a classic print and style in neutral colors, the large check makes me feel pretty flashy and fabulous. (And you know I love being both of those things!) I’m imagining wearing this one a lot — which soothes my cheap, Puritan soul that is inwardly horrified that I paid over $30 in materials.

6696front
So, Secretly Fabulous Shirtdress, welcome to my closet. And don’t forget to mingle with every single pair of shoes in there…