M4369: The Upholstery Dress

By | February 11, 2016

Enter a different door, change your life.


Okay, going in the back door at Hart’s didn’t change my life, but it did make me walk through the upholstery remnants, where I never go, and I found this gorgeous piece! It reminds me of Hawaiian quilting, and the smoky aqua is a lovely color.


I’m all for experimenting with non-traditional fabrics, so why not? When asked at the cutting table what I was planning to make, I confidently said “Pencil skirt!” and requested just one yard. Then, as soon as I was home, I promptly changed my mind. Because that’s what sewing does. It makes you crazy in a hundred small ways.

I thought that maybe I wouldn’t have enough tops to wear with a pencil skirt in this fabric. A dress would solve that problem. Brilliant! What dresses could I make in just a yard? Not many.

I dug into the depths of my pattern collection and choose McCall’s 4369. I was looking for something with no front seams, and this fit the bill.

From the "Dress Alternatives" line: now featuring dresses!

From the “Dress Alternatives” line: now featuring dresses!

Turns out, sewing this fabric was not as easy as just changing my needle. It’s really two layers, one of tapestry-like yarn, and one of a silky ivory. While the fabric looked flat in the yard cut, as soon as you sew through the ivory layer, it wrinkles and turns a bit… 3D. I posted to Insta and asked if there was any world in which this looked intentional, and got some positive feedback, so I moved on.

Here's a close-up of the fabric

Here’s a close-up of the fabric

I ended up eliminating the front and back darts to avoid disrupting the pattern. Instead, I took in both side seams a signficant amount. (Maybe too much. It takes a bit of wiggling to get into this dress!)

I also couldn’t fit the full length since, of course, I hadn’t bought enough yardage to make a proper dress. I wish this dress was a few inches longer. I debated just making a short, sexy dress, but really, it didn’t go with the style. Or my style. Or something. It just looked silly. I busted out the hem tape to keep as much length as I could, and went from there. (And in seeing the photos, yeah, it really did turn out short. Glad I didn’t make it any shorter!)

In the end, I feel like this is a special dress. It looks interesting, or at the very least, on the spectrum of “it looks weird and unusual, so it must be on purpose.” On the other hand, I’m not all that excited to wear it, despite being SUPER excited about the fabric to start with.

Hazards of taking pictures alone: no one to fasten your hooks and eyes.

Hazards of taking pictures alone: no one to fasten your hooks and eyes.

First, it’s very fitted. It’s the look I wanted, but turns out, I actually want to wear fluffy fleece pants all day. This is not a “let it all hang loose” dress. The fit and the collar make me feel pretty buttoned up.

Second, it’s short. I’m not sure how often I’ll wear it since it ended up being office inappropriate. (Is there any hope that this will work with black tights and a black blazer?)

Third, I don’t know how well it will hold up over time. I didn’t line the dress because I didn’t want to add any excess or bulk; the fabric is already quite bulky. But that means the seams are taking the full brunt of any pulling. The fabric doesn’t seem very robust–at least the ivory layer. Even when hand-stitching, I tried to put in as few stitches as possible, because the top layer of fabric felt fragile. I’m hoping it won’t shred at the seams after a few wears.


So, mixed reviews on this one. I enjoyed making it, I’m glad I experimented, and I love the color. In reality, I think I’ll get money’s worth in wear (fabric and zipper totalled about $12.50), but not much beyond that. The bright side is that if this dress isn’t really wearable or durable: PILLOWS!

Any opinions? Any tips for working with upholstery fabric, or unusual fabrics in general? I’m all ears, because I’m guessing I’ll get sucked in again the next time I enter the store through the back door.

12 thoughts on “M4369: The Upholstery Dress

  1. Jennifer A

    I don’t think I’d have the courage to try upholstery fabric. It takes enough courage for me to use regular fabrics. Haha. I think it looks great though!

    1. Sara in Stitches Post author

      Courage… Stupidity…. Two sides of the same coin really. 😉 My eternal optimism is a blessing and a curse. Thanks for the kind comment!

  2. Claire

    Doesn’t look too short or tight to me! Very figure flattering, especially with the great pattern placement job you did. It WOULD make great pillows, but i prefer your dress! Regarding upholstery, I did an upholstery project in 2014 and had to buy a walking foot to get through all the layers…

    1. Sara in Stitches Post author

      Ah, walking foot! That makes sense. (I don’t have one, but probably would’ve helped.) Also, keep it quiet, but the pattern placement was totally accidental. I just got lucky! Let’s let everyone think that it’s purposeful and that I know more than I do…

    1. Sara in Stitches Post author

      Thank you! Off to go look for your home dec fabric makes…

  3. Carmen

    It is a really cool pattern, but I worry it’s engulfing you a bit, maybe because the neckline comes up so high. If you’re worried that you may not end up actually wearing it, why not revise it a bit? How about if you changed the neckline to a v neck or a boatneck? Or, how would you feel about turning it into a two piece, matching crop top + skirt? A daring print calls for a daring look. I feel like this dress still has a lot of potential. Or, you could say, “to hell with it,” throw your hair up, put on some bright pink lipstick, your most gorgeous pair of heels, and wear it out on a Saturday night.

    1. Sara in Stitches Post author

      Well, I’m definitely pulling a “to hell with it” tonight, and wearing this out to dinner. We’ll see how it goes. I might end up loving it, but if don’t, I like your idea of separates! I’ve been meaning to do an outfit like that… Thanks for helping me through my fashion conundrum, Carmen! I’m a fan of your style.

  4. Margo

    Even though it may not be worn too much…I’m sure you can find some special occasion to wear this special dress! It does look gorgeous on you! I love the color and your pattern placement is great. Lovely!

    1. Sara in Stitches Post author

      Thank you, Margo! I’m totally using this dress as an excuse for a fancy dinner date. 🙂

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