Crown Jewels Dress: Butterick 5850 Pattern Review

Oy, this dress, you guys.

When the Royal Wedding Sewalong was announced, I thought it would be totally fun to participate. I had been sewing a ton, and tossing a fun project in the queue, even if I didn’t need a party dress, wouldn’t be a problem. Then I spent half of April torturing myself sewing this dress, only to realize at the end that I’d made a lot (like, a lot a lot) of stupid mistakes. This dress is so lucky it turned out cute, because I was ready to chuck it out the window a number of times.

I’m just going to put it out there: I hate sewing grown-on/shawl collars. I need to not do it for, like, at least another year. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong, but they never come out crisp and clean for me. They come out kind of sloppy and forced and ugly on the inside. (That’s the nickname for this dress: Ugly on the Inside.)

Because I went into this project all gung-ho, I ended up making three muslins of the bodice. Three. You guys. The funny part is that the joke’s on me. I ended up making a bunch of edits and unneccessary tweaking because I didn’t fully read the instructions. And after having a lovely time marking up my muslin with Crayola washable marker (not joking, it really was fun), I totally disregarded some important marks and didn’t fit the damn thing(s) properly at all. I ignored the directions regarding gathering part of the bodice and just hacked the pieces down because I thought they were too big.

Then, when I went to sew the final garment, it was too small to sew as intended because sometimes I am SO SO DUMB. It sort of works, but there really should be more overlap between the two bodice fronts. I mostly lost the high front neckline, and ended up with a much lower front v-neckline. It’s not bad at all, just not intentional. If I had just made the dress like usual, without muslining, it probably would’ve fit reasonably well. Alas, no.

Sidenote: I seriously debated being all, “I made a bunch of intentional edits because I’m awesome,” but I just can’t. There’s enough smugness on the internet without me pretending I have skills I really don’t. So embarrassing honesty it is.

This is more like what it *should* look like….

There were some edits that were valuable that didn’t totally jack up the fit, so that’s a plus. I slashed out some fullness across the back, which I should always do. That was an easy adjustment to make on the pattern and resulted in a smoother fit across the shoulders. I also cut in the shoulders a bit. I’d read a few reviews that note the finished dress doesn’t have the cut-in shoulders that the cover illustrations show, and I’m happy with that update. In all honesty, I’m really, really trying not to have my takeaway on this project be “don’t muslin, ever,” but it’ll be awhile before the sting goes away. (The real lesson is: don’t sew like a damn idiot, Self.)

Another update includes lining the skirt because my fashion fabric is pretty thin, but I didn’t think through the process. So instead of having a lovely clean finish inside, I have double the mess because I made a lined bodice and lined skirt, and then put them together. (Shaking my head.)

Okay, now that I have all that off my chest, there’s actually a lot to like here.

Aww, I really like this dress in spite of everything!

I love my fabric. It’s just polyester, but the colors are so vibrant and the print is a blast. So blingy! It’s walking the edge of “super tacky and cheesy” and “mildly ironic but in a refreshingly earnest way.” So happy I have more of this fabric, so I can make a cute everyday blouse and/or a slinky nightgown and robe. I’m also thinking it might make a fun lining for a coat project I’m planning for the fall.

Love this fabric, and that pattern placement on the back is totally intentional. For once.

I love that this fabric is lightweight, which ended up working really well for this skirt. The skirt is enormous! Huge! Tremendous! It’s four panels wide, and I can’t imagine gathering that much yardage in a fabric like shantung, which is what I would’ve picked if I didn’t have this fabric in the stash. It’s wonderfully floaty and light and swishy to wear, with the lining (a silky poly-ish of unknown origin) providing some extra body.

I did cut the lining down by half after seeing how much bulk the full gathered skirt had. Thank goodness! My lining would barely gather up in the halved size — I’m not sure what would’ve happened if I’d tried to gather the full four panels together!

I also love the length — long enough to seem a bit formal, but short enough to be playful. It’s just right for me, but of course, it all depends on your height.

Okay, some final notes if you’re interested in making this dress:

  1. If you muslin, make sure to gather at the bottom of the bodice (as clearly laid out in the instructions).
  2. Make sure your fabric can be gathered a lot. While stiff fabric will give you a lovely shape in the skirt, you’ll end up with a bulkier waistline. If you’re fine with that, go for it!
  3. Consider altering the shoulders to be a bit more cut-in if you love the envelope cover.
  4. Consider doubling up on the tie bow (instead of edge finishing both humongous pieces with a narrow hem). I cut double the number of pieces so I could just sew them right sides together, turn the whole shebang, and be done with it, and also so that the fabric underside wouldn’t show. If you have enough fabric, I’d recommend this option.
  5. Also on the ties, consider adding some interfacing or fabric with more body. My bow is really floppy and it kind of takes away from the whole look.

On the whole, this is a really wearable dress. It offers coverage without being boring. The faux wrap front with a side zipper lets you move freely without worrying about moving parts. I just didn’t enjoy making it nearly as much as I enjoyed wearing it.

So, welcome to the closet, my Gem of a Party Dress!

Questionable Sleeves, Party of One: McCall’s 7717 Pattern Review

You know, it must be frustrating at times to be a pattern designer. People make a bunch of edits, use inappropriate fabrics and pretty questionable methods, and then critique your design for not being perfect. So I’m not really critiquing McCall’s 7717, since I did all of those things. That said, I’m not a fan of the final dress — without some updates, that is.

This is a Laura Ashley branded pattern, which makes it extra funny that my husband referred to this as my “scandalous dress” after seeing me in it. Let’s just say that if you want to wear this dress to the office or church, you might want to consider adding a couple of inches to the hem and raising the v-neckline a couple inches as well. It’s pretty clear from the cleavage on the envelope that the low-cut look is intentional, so that wasn’t a surprise, and it’s not actually something I mind at all. (I’m still on my, “not-in-an-office-daily-I-do-what-I-want” kick.)

I think I should start with the edits I made first, in order to provide some context. They aren’t extensive by any means, but they did change the overall look and feel of the dress. The big change was that I made this in a knit — a lovely Liverpool knit from Cali Fabrics. I hadn’t worked with Liverpool knit before (because I’m a super late adopter on, like, everything) and wanted to give it a try. My opinion?

It’s awesome. It’s a thick, kind of clunky double knit, but the crepe-like texture keeps it safely out of ’70s double-knit territory. It has a nice body and weight, meaning that no lining is needed to smooth over bumps and lumps and it’s not transparent. So, with that in mind, I edited out the lining of this dress. Then, of course, I happily edited out the back zipper and cut the back bodice, midriff, and skirt pieces on a fold. Yay for fewer seams!

Fewer seams = more fun!

That made this a pretty simple sew, and the whole thing came together pretty quickly. I finished the neckline with bias tape. Thankfully I had just been practicing on another test garment and got a healthy refresher on bias tape finishing. (Meaning, I totally botched things up a few times on the practice garment. Whoops!) I still interfaced the midriff pieces per instructions, using a knit fusible interfacing. Mixed experience there: the interfacing removed a lot of the stretch, making this dress a wee bit challenging to take on and off, but I think the extra stability is worth it. I’m just not sure what the point of knit interfacing is if the stretch is compromised so much. User error, perhaps?

I also added a couple of darts in the back to finesse the fit a bit. I really need to start doing this on every garment, but I always forget in my new-project enthusiasm. Ideally, I would’ve made the edit to the pattern, not on the actual garment. Fortunately, the print on this fabric obscures them anyway. Actually, the print on this fabric obscures pretty much all the seaming details on this dress. The princess seams and midriff band are pretty much wasted on this print. (It reminds me of the fireworks I would draw as a kid by making successive rings of crayon hashes. Anyone else?)

Seriously, you can’t even see the details. Shrug.

Speaking of the midriff band, it looks like it’s designed to hit close to the natural waist, but ended up sitting higher on me. After trying on the bodice for a fitting, I was hoping it would all come out in the wash, but nope — this dress is more of an empire waist cut on me. Not really a problem, just not what I was expecting. I was expecting an A-line skirt, and that part totally works. I generally prefer a slim silhouette, but this dress has me thinking twice. With the combo of the knit, the print, and the A-line, I can let it all hang out in this dress. It’s super comfortable, and provides solid cover for a brunch buffet belly.

The sleeves are the showpiece of this dress, and that’s where my awesome, comfy, cozy Liverpool glitched out. (Sidenote: I couldn’t get the word “Liverpudlian” out of my head while working on this.) When I said that the thick double-knit didn’t look like it was from the ’70s, I really meant, unless you add giant bishop sleeves. And then you will look like you picked up this dress at a kitschy thrift shop.

Giant sleeve alert! Watch where you’re swinging those things, ma’am!

I don’t think it’s a trainwreck, but I don’t like it. Also, the cuffs ended up being too wide for my scrawny wrists, so that’s not helping the hang of the sleeves. I could have gone back and unpicked the cuffs and tried to rework that detail, but I just didn’t care for the way the bulky knit draped when gathered so tightly. My solution?

Be lazy. (As per usual.)

This is what I do when my husband says, “Act natural.”

I just pushed the cuffs up over my elbows, let the sleeves bag out, and I like it! To me, it just looks like an intentional elbow-length bell sleeve. Plus, I kind of like that this way, I can’t get the sleeve caught on anything — it’s locked down and baby-proofed!

Confession: I didn’t actually finish the cuffs with buttonholes and buttons. I was working against the clock to try to finish this and pack it for a quick vacation. I just stitched a button through all thicknesses on each cuff and called it a day. Thank goodness! It would’ve been a waste of time to go to the effort, as it turns out. Laziness wins again! Sadly, this dress did not get a vacation debut, since it was too damn cold. We went to Carmel during winter’s last gasp. Instead of getting sweet pics with the ocean in the background and feet in the sand, we huddled in our jackets on the beach for about 10 minutes, and you get driveway pics instead. Shrug. I feel like that’s really the story of this dress. Great intentions not quite realized, but a decent time had by all anyway.

Just ignore the gigantic bruise on my leg. No idea where that came from.

Welcome to the closet, my Obscenely Comfy Statement Sleeve Sack!

DIY Raglan Tee into Funnel Neck Pullover

It started as a “Hmm… I wonder if this would work” hunch, and turned into a great project!

I’ve been having the most fun tweaking patterns lately. I’m not super into the idea of drafting my own blocks, but I just can’t resist the urge to add my own spin to pretty much any pattern. Now that I have a little more time to dedicate to sewing, it’s all about playful experimentation!

I was curious about whether I could turn a regular raglan tee into a funnel-neck top by just widening the neck band. Answer: yes!

Wet hair, don’t care

The pattern I used is an old early-aughts McCall’s, but you could do this with any raglan tee pattern. I’m not going to do a whole tutorial since that’s not my thing, and I’m not sure anyone wants it. That said, here’s a quick rundown of the steps I took to turn a basic raglan pattern into a DIY funnel-neck pattern.

  • Added a number of inches (maybe 7ish?) to the neckband pattern piece, then doubled that so I could fold it over and stitch it to the neckline like a cuff
  • Added two buttonholes in the top front of the funnel-neck and created a casing by just adding a line of stitches about 5/8″ from the top fold
  • Inserted cording through the buttonholes and knotted the ends
  • Added cuffs to both sleeves, breaking stitching along the cuff seam to create thumbholes
  • Added a band of doubled fabric at the bottom and attached like a cuff
  • Added a kangaroo pocket to the front

That’s it! It was pretty easy, since none of the parts needed any real shape or actual “drafting,” It was more about just measuring the existing pieces and, for this particular fabric, matching the stripes where possible. I’m thinking McCall’s 7093 could also be a good candidate for this funnel-neck treatment!

I’m finding this top so wearable, especially as a spring transition item. I just wish I had yoga pants that went along with it, so I could go full soccer-mom.

When you line up your pocket too well and it disappears!

The funny thing for me is the fabric. I bought this heathered windowpane knit fabric, and was a bit let down at some discoloration along the selvedge and throughout the piece. That’s when this fabric was downgraded from, “can’t wait to make something awesome” to “I guess I’ll just experiment with it.” And after I cut out the front, I noticed that portion of the fabric is a shade or so lighter than the rest of it! I was expecting this garment to be recycled almost immediately.

Turns out, the discoloration is a feature, not a bug. My mom actually thought it was a RTW garment because the slight two-tone look isn’t something home sewists can easily replicate. So, with mom-approval, I wholeheartedly embraced this top. While I’m excited to make another (I have some French terry lined up… yum!), it looks like this garment will be sticking around for awhile.

See? I promise the kangaroo pocket is there, just extremely well-matched!

As far as changes to the original pattern, I narrowed the sleeves quite a bit (possibly too much), shortened the sleeves before adding cuffs, and definitely needed the bottom band added because it was pretty short as drafted.

Finally, let’s talk budget. The fabric was a steal at $3 a yard (I picked up 3, so that I could make something more complex if needed), and the navy cording cost $1.25. At a total of $10.25, I have a lounge-y top, some boxer shorts, and about a yard leftover. (A sleep shirt? A regular tee? Playclothes for Baby JuJu?) What looked like a waste of money is already paying for itself. I love it when that happens!

Welcome to the closet, my Surprisingly Successful Funnel(neck) of Love!