Problems with pockets – McCalls 3875

This dress fulfils two purposes: it should work for cycling and it uses up some stash fabric. I was getting bored of wearing jeans every other day, but I have very few dresses that are warm enough for winter and can be worn on a bike. This has long sleeves and a high neck so should keep the chill out.


The pattern is vintage, McCalls 3875 from 1973. I’ve had it a while – so long that I can’t remember where it came from although it was probably an Etsy shop. I love these 70s illustrated pattern envelopes. There’s something about the lovely clean lines and bright colours of the pictures that appeals to me; much more so than ones with photographs or more painterly illustrations.

McCalls 3875 envelope

This is a very simple style and extremely quick to sew. The only detail is that the bust shaping has been turned into gathers at the raglan sleeve seams. Not sure mine’s come out looking as gathered as the illustration.


Here’s a closer look. I was a bit dubious about the gathering originally – especially on the envelope’s maxi dress view where it’s paired with a ghastly floral print fabric – but now I have made the dress I very much like the effect. I think it needs a solid colour though, and probably a fairly neutral one. I’ve gone for navy blue because that’s what I had in stash of the right weight and hand. The fabric is a very drapey viscose doubleknit which was described as ‘crepe jersey’. It certainly has that matte, slightly textured, look of crepe on the right side. It came from Minerva Crafts.


I added side seam pockets to the dress. These have not been entirely successful. The jersey is not sufficiently stable to support them so they tend to gape. I took quite a few precautions: interfacing along the side seam lines, cutting the front pocket bag out of lining fabric to reduce bulk, and eventually adding clear elastic to the side seam, but they aren’t great. It doesn’t help that I put them in too low and had to rip them out again and reposition. The jersey hates being unpicked at the best of times and I’d already overlocked things, so this made a big mess and I lost a bit of seam allowance here and there which I think has contributed to the gaping.

The other alteration I did was to make a facing to finish the neck. The original pattern has an extra-wide allowance that you turn over and tack down, but I was worried it might be too floppy. My facing is interfaced with some light weight fusible. It turned out that this was a good thing; when I measured the pattern to check the length of the facing pieces I realised that the neckline is much wider than the pattern illustration shows. I took all the seams around the neck other than the CB seam in by 1cm (ie sewed them 0.5cm deeper) to get the neck to look the way it does.


The back view is intensely plain. I’m proud of my invisible zip though.

The hem is a bit limp; I probably should have interfaced it. And as always with 70s patterns I had to hack off quite a few inches to get the hem to the length I’d intended. The original pattern came to well below the knee. It didn’t look bad at that length but this is better.


I think I’d make this again if I could work out what to do about the pockets. It’s possible they’d work better if I’d placed them correctly first time, or at least not damaged the fabric when moving them. The style needs a drapey and stretchy fabric so I can’t see welt pockets or patch pockets working any better than side seam pockets. And not having pockets isn’t an option. If anyone has any bright ideas, do let me know. I like the dress despite the flaw though.

Most sewed patterns

Posting on the blog is going to be a bit spotty for the next couple of weeks – I have a pile of teaching and report-writing to catch up on and haven’t touched the sewing machine for a while. I am really looking forward to the end of the academic year so I can start clearing my queue of sewing projects!

So in the absence of any new sewing to post about I thought I’d post about my all time favourite pattern, McCall’s 5799, and share the love. I’ve made this up no less than four times and I have plans for a fifth. It’s a really simple A-line sleeveless dress with french seams. It comes in a range of cups sizes so fitting is straightforward, and it lends itself to a multitude of fabrics and variations. But McCall’s have gone and discontinued it. I’m surprised, but I suppose it wasn’t selling well enough. The envelope picture was slightly off-putting. I’ve got nothing against appliqué but it doesn’t scream ‘classic dress you will make again and again’. More ‘one for your inner ten-year-old’.

After 5799 the pattern I have sewed up the most is McCall’s 2401, which is still in print.

This is a sheath dress with multiple sleeve and neckline variations. I only made it up once as-is, but I’ve used the pattern as the basis for several other things. My favourite adaptation is probably the Star Trek dress.

This pattern has also morphed into my TNT T-shirt pattern, and I’ve used the sleeves to add sleeves to other patterns. So this one comes highly recommended.

Apart from those I have a couple of patterns I’ve made up twice and everything else has been once only. Do you have patterns that you make over and over and over again? What are they? Do share!

The camera lies – McCall’s 5975

What is it about cameras not reproducing reality?

This weekend I didn’t do the things I was supposed to be doing and instead whipped up McCall’s 5975. And whipped up is right – this is a seriously quick and easy pattern to make. It’s out of print, which is a shame, because despite the fact it’s not turned out the way I hoped it would I think this is a really good pattern.

When I got it originally I was looking for something to replace a much-loved red wool cowl-necked dress that was eaten by moths. But the new dress, sadly, is not it.

I think it looks OK in the photos, but in real life I’m not in love with it. It is a bit better without the belt.

I’m not sure what isn’t working about it. Does it need shorter sleeves? Shorter hem? A different belt? Different colour? Or maybe I just need put lipstick on in the mornings rather than only for photos.

I’m not giving up on this pattern yet. It is so close to what I’m looking for that I think the right tweak will produce the perfect dress. If only I knew what it was.