McCalls 7727 front view

McCalls 7727 shirt dress

I’m trying to make more wearable clothes, I really am. It just depends on the definition of wearable. And what could be more sensible and practical than a shirt dress? Well this particular shirt dress all but has a train, so I don’t suppose it really counts as sensible, but I love it anyway.

McCalls 7727 front view

The pattern is McCalls 7727 which comes with two views, a tunic and a dress, both with a sash and a dramatic high-low hem. There is a sleeveless option or full length sleeves, so it’s easy to produce four different looks. It’s a great pattern but my goodness it’s a fabric hog. I made the dress length version with long sleeves so the worst case. I skipped the sash and ignored the pattern layout, cutting some of the pieces out upside down, and I still used five metres of wide fabric. It’s ivory stretch cotton poplin from Tissu Fabrics, and it’s great quality for a pretty low price.

Cutting this out was very hard work. If you make a lot of McCalls/Butterick/Vogue you’ve probably noticed the special instructions they always include for when there are pieces cut in pairs that need the full fabric width. The cutting layout has a big asterisk which means you fold the fabric in half across the grain, cut down that fold, and then turn the top bit around 180 degrees. Then the nap on both pieces runs the same way, and you can cut the pairs of wide pattern pieces out of that.

It is really difficult to realign the two layers once one is turned over and on this fabric, which has no nap that I can detect, it absolutely wasn’t worth the effort. Next time I’d just fold it crosswise.

McCalls 7727 back view

I meant to look up all the best ways to sew shirt collars and plackets and all those fiddly shirt bits, because we all know pattern instructions don’t always give the easiest method, but in the end I just switched my brain off and followed the pattern. Not only did their methods work beautifully, they were easy too. One exception: I didn’t slip stitch anything down by hand but stitched in the ditch from the right side.

McCalls 7727 3/4 view with pockets

The sleeves can be worn rolled up – the pattern includes a tab and button to do that. I wish I’d french seamed the sleeve seams because the overlocked seam allowances show when the sleeves are rolled up.

Speaking of the sleeves, these went in with no ease stitching and very little pinning. There’s lots of mobility in the arms too.

McCalls 7727 sleeves

I was originally going for a sort of Carolina Herrera look with this: a wide floor sweeping skirt with pockets, a crisp white shirt on the top half, and a very tight, defined waist between the two. But floor length skirts are definitely not practical and I think the high-low hem is a nice compromise which keeps the drama without sacrificing the ability to run up stairs. Not so sure how it’ll cope with a crowded bus though.

I added the pockets; the pattern doesn’t have them. It also doesn’t have much in the way of a waist, relying on the sash or a belt to pull it in. I thought having a white sash would make the whole thing look bridal, hence the belt.

I don’t think I really achieved my vision – the skirt should be in a contrasting colour for starters – but I’ll wear this and that’s the main thing.

Pictures all by my husband. We did these in the early evening and the light has worked out nicely.

McCalls 7727 back view full skirt

Style Arc Toni front view

Style Arc Toni dress the third

White Style Arc Toni front view

This dress was an experiment which worked out far better than I expected. The pattern is Style Arc‘s Toni ‘designer dress’, which I’ve made twice before in very drapey fabrics as the pattern recommends. I loved both versions, but sadly neither fabric aged gracefully and both have now been thrown out. However I’d always suspected that the pattern would also look good in something crisp and structured. So here it is in white cotton sateen, and I think it’s the best version I’ve made yet.

White Style Arc Toni side view

I’ve shortened the pattern 10cm from the original length as I found it’s much easier to walk in that way. Otherwise this is made up straight out of the packet in a single size; the fit is very forgiving.

White Style Arc Toni back view

In previous versions I sewed weights into the drapes to keep them in place, but that wasn’t entirely effective. For this one I tried to encourage the drapes to stay put by tacking the seam allowances together in a couple of places. They still move about a bit. I think I’m just going to have to embrace that. I think I was trying to adjust the drapes in the picture below!

White Style Arc Toni bending front view

The crisp fabric really gives the skirt some volume. This pattern is a bit of a fabric hog, but I got very lucky: a friend of my mum’s was destashing and passed on 3m of this sateen. It’s an unusually narrow width; only just over a metre; and I used it all. Thanks Sue! I interfaced the collar and facings with Vilene G405. I wondered if that was going to be too heavy but it worked out OK because you need something fairly supportive for the collar on this one. I also added strips of interfacing on the front pocket opening edge.

White Style Arc Toni back view

I did some top stitching around the sleeve openings. The pattern just asks you to turn the allowances under there, but I don’t see how they’d stay put like that. I tacked the neckline facing to the seam allowances to make it stay in place but that could have been topstitched down as well.

White Style Arc Toni front view

Of course the big question is how wearable it is. It has the obligatory pockets (built into the pattern so no need to add them) and once shortened it’s quite easy to move in. The colour isn’t entirely practical but it’s easy to wash. Only time will tell for sure, but I’ve worn it for a day at work this week and was happy with it.

Pictures all by my husband (and his fancy new camera lens!)

White Style Arc Toni front view

Space clothes: Vogue 1335 modelled

I like space clothes: the sort of thing BBC costume designers came up with for 70s and 80s scifi shows. Vogue 1335 definitely fits the description. Unfortunately we don’t have a post-apocalyptic wasteland round here to use as a backdrop for photos, so my garden will have to do.

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The original looks like this:

Vogue 1335 envelope art

Finishing this project coincided with one of the UK’s rare heatwaves. I’m wearing this with my Vogue 1378 neoprene leggings and a black wool jersey top derived from Burda 122-4-2011. And I’m melting. The jacket shell fabric is wool.

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Here’s the back. It holds its shape pretty well. The diameter at the waist is actually greater than at the hem on this design.

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This is meant to be an oversized style but the sleeves in particular are very long. I added the usual two inches to the length that I always do with Vogue patterns and ended up removing it again. I also added two inches to the body length, which again I normally do, and that was about the right amount.

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The pockets are very roomy.

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They’re pretty high upon the body, but I think it works with the design.

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The fasteners are a little bit fiddly! I’m glad I didn’t need the internal snaps that were on the pattern as well as external fasteners.

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Not such a good picture of the jacket, but I like the Doctor Who monster pose. And it’s about the only shot I have where any of the lining is visible. The lining fabric is a heavy poly satin that just adds to the insulation factor.

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So there it is. I’ll have to wait until the end of summer to wear this for real, but I’m really pleased with the result.

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Fasteners for Vogue 1335

Warning: picture-heavy post ahead. This is my last post about constructing Vogue 1335, which I started sewing way back in March. Hopefully I’ll get some pictures of it in action soon.

Vogue’s version of this style has optional tab closures made from scraps of leather and poppers. The pattern also has marking for snaps inside the jacket which are supposed to provide the real closure mechanism. The tabs are just decorative.

Vogue 1335 envelope art

I originally wanted to use the tabs on my version, so I made these from some faux leather I got on eBay. However as the project wore on I started to think that the tabs I’d made were a little too yellow against the winter white shell fabric I was using. When I finally came to the stage where the tabs had to be stitched on I decided not to use them and looked for something else.

Tabs for Vogue 1335

Much internet searching and several failed purchases later I acquired these things:

Macculloch and Wallis small trigger lock fasteners

Hammer and rivet tools

The fasteners are from Macculloch and Wallis and at the time of writing are available here. One of the difficulties with finding them was that there doesn’t seem to be a standard name for this type of fastener. Macculloch and Wallis call them ‘trigger lock’ fasteners, but if you google that term you’ll mostly find a slightly different type of gadget intended for attaching straps to handbags. I’ve seen the coat fastener variety called ‘hook and dee’ or ‘fireman’ fasteners on US sites but had no luck finding them for sale under those names.

The rivet setting tools came from Amazon. I also got a pack of extra rivets which provided useful practice material before taking the hammer to my jacket and fasteners.

Rivet tools closeup

The rivets were quite tricky to install. Thumping them with the hammer wasn’t difficult but keeping them straight was. The results aren’t entirely straight and square but luckily that’s not obvious unless you get very close indeed.

Dee loop on Vogue 1335

Hook on Vogue 1335

Vogue 1335 fasteners closeup

One nice and unexpected thing was that it turned out that two external fasteners are enough and I didn’t need to install the internal snaps. I am useless at sewing snaps – they never stay attached for long! I’ve had to reapply the snaps on my Burda coat more than once. This jacket sits perfectly without snaps; probably a testament to all the extra interfacing in it.

Vogue 1335 front on dressform

So that’s it for construction. I’ll try to get some pictures of the jacket being worn soon.

Winter white – Vogue 1073 pictures at last

I finally got some pictures of my finished Vogue 1073 on me. It’s been a long slog to get here! I hope it wasn’t boring. It was a lot of fun to make but I haven’t talked about anything else for about a month.





The construction of this dress is quite unusual. There are no side seams on the bottom piece so that the pintucks can wrap all the way round uninterrupted. Most of the shaping in the bodice is carefully hidden under the tucks.



This closer back view shows about the only really visible seams – and there are still some darts on the shoulders under those tucks.



The braid gives the hem a lot of body. I imagine it’s a similar effect to finishing a hem with horsehair. I was originally thinking of leaving the braid off because I wasn’t sure it goes with the style of the dress but I’m glad I kept it.

Anyway, one last picture which kind of shows the cuffs. I love all the little details on this dress. And that’s it! Thanks so much to all of you who have been following along and encouraging me with this project. I’m so pleased with the results.



In search of buttonhole twist

I nearly fell at the final hurdle with Vogue 1073. The hem is finished in a really unusual way that calls for ‘buttonhole twist’ thread. I’ve heard of this stuff as fairly thick, shiny thread used to make hand-worked buttonholes but never seen it in a shop. A quick internet search didn’t turn it up in any online shops in the UK.

What you use the buttonhole twist for is attaching a plaited braid to hang from the bottom of the dress hem, using a hand-sewing stitch that resembles a series of french knots. The braid is made out of the same fabric as the dress. The stitches attaching the braid clearly show on the pattern envelope photo, although I don’t think they’re very visible in this electronic version.

I was thinking of buying some embroidery floss and trying to use a single strand of that, but then I remembered I had this DMC Special Dentelles 80 thread left over from when I used to do lacemaking. It’s thick and slightly glossy thread with very little elasticity. It seemed to work OK for attaching the braid, although I think it may be slightly thicker than whatever Vogue used.

Amazingly there are no bloodstains on the hem, despite my having rammed a needle into my finger while sewing the braid on. I am not good at hand sewing. This whole project has been pretty hard on the fingers.

You can see the funny little knots attaching the braid in this picture. The braid is definitely meant to be attached below the hem rather than on top of it according to Vogue’s diagrams.

So that’s the dress done at long last! I haven’t got pictures of it yet because the nights here are drawing in so fast there’s now no daylight left by the time I get home from work. Hopefully I’ll get some at the weekend.

The project list is reorganised because of new Vogue patterns

It’s New Vogue pattern time! And this collection is much more to my taste than the last one. But first an update on the venerable Vogue 1073, which is progressing. I have pretty much finished the shell and now I’m tackling the lining. This dress is definitely going to need lining. It doesn’t help that my dressform is wearing her usual black t-shirt in the pictures, but the fashion fabric is definitely less than opaque.

Inserting the zip has been the worst part so far. I wouldn’t normally bother with one in a knit, but this dress has such a high neckline you couldn’t get it over your head without it. Normally zips hold no fears for me but this one took four goes to get in without going wavy. The solution turned out to be to interface the back opening edges. It’s still a bit wavy but so much better than before. I’m pretty pleased at how well I got the waist seams to match at the zip.

And I can report that each pair of pintucks on the body took 35 minutes to sew if you include the thread tracing and pressing. There are six pairs. My next project is definitely going to be something that sews up more quickly than this.

And speaking of next projects, I think I’m sorted for project ideas until 2012 and beyond. The new Vogues are out, in the US anyway, and I assume they’ll hit the UK in the next week or two, and there are some really good ones.

Everyone seems to like V1265 and it’s definitely my favourite. I’m wondering if I could get away with this at work with a contrasting vest underneath, because it’s unfortunately bra-unfriendly. I bet you get a good swish off that back skirt though!

I’m surprised I like V1268 as much as I do. It’s very 1980s, which might be what saves it from the country and western look you’d normally get with that much orangey-brown suede. I bet it would look great in grey.

And then there’s V1276, a coat pattern with a hood! This one is a Today’s Fit, which have completely different sizing from the main range.

As for the rest, there’s a lot of designer party dresses shown in very shiny blue fabrics. There are lots and lots and lots of jackets. There’s a pair of jeans. The Very Easy range has two ‘custom fit’ day dresses which come with pattern pieces for different cup sizes, although I can’t help thinking they have strangely similar necklines. About the only thing that’s missing is some more interesting skirts. Definitely a good collection. I hope it gets to the UK soon.

The ULTIMATE sleeves

I have been sewing for more than four hours today, and what do I have to show for it? A pair of sleeves! But not just any sleeves. These are the sleeves from Vogue 1073. They have curved darts. They have gussets. They have pintucks with hairpin bends. One thing about this pattern, they don’t save all the difficult stuff until the end.

Here’s what the dress is supposed to look like.

And here’s what I have so far. The pintucks on the front have come out a bit more pointy than Vogue’s photo, but the technical drawing of the pattern shows them as pointed so maybe it depends on your fabric. I’m not sure I could have made mine much less pointy because the fabric’s quite thick.

One thing I hadn’t appreciated when practising for the pintucks is that the curviest tuck goes right over the shoulder seam, meaning you need to deal with the bulk of the seam allowances while sewing. I ended up trimming the allowances back to about 1/4″ at the point where the tuck crosses the seam. You can just see the end of the back shoulder dart in this picture too. The pattern hides all of its darts under the tucks.

The back has curved darts but I didn’t take a picture before making the tuck over them. Funnily enough, having the darts there made it easier to sew the tuck. Even at the points where you can’t really see what’s going on, you can feel exactly where you’re meant to be sewing because the edge of dart is your stitching line.

And finally the gussets. They aren’t beautiful, but who looks at your underarms?

In actual fact the sleeves aren’t quite finished even now. There’s some faffing with a facing and a slit to be done. I think I’ll have a bit of break first. This pattern is a lot of fun, but I can feel my brain melting.

Can haz pintucks – Vogue 1073 samples

I’m currently making Vogue 1073, a pattern that’s well out of my comfort zone. The obviously awkward feature in it is the curved pintucks, although no doubt there are others that I’ll discover later on.

The pattern instructions say something along the lines of ‘to make pintucks, fold along the marked line and sew close to folded edge’. Perfectly accurate but light on detail. So I spent an evening sewing pintucks in scraps of my fashion fabric in various different ways to try to find a way to do it neatly. This is what worked best for me.

My fabric is a viscose doubleknit – or perhaps it’s an interlock as I’m not quite sure of the difference between the two. Anyway it’s a beefy knit with no obvious right and wrong side. I’m sewing it with a stretch needle and a looser than normal needle tension as my machine tends to skip stitches on this fabric.

I start off by hand basting along the tuck with a long running stitch so I can see it from the right side of the fabric. Unfortunately the pictures that follow are a mixture of two different tucks with slightly different shapes because I kept forgetting to take photos as I went.

It’s easier to sew the tuck with the inside edge of the curve on top of the work, so the side where the fabric bunches up is on the bottom. This seems counter-intuitive to me but it really did work better that way round. It’s also easier to be neat if you keep the tuck very small – mine are a scant 1/8 of an inch.

Fold along the line of basting (wrong sides together) and sew along the line. When you get to the sharp curve, stop every few stitches with the needle in the fabric, lift the presser foot, and rearrange the fabric under the foot to avoid sewing any wrinkles in. It’s a bit difficult to see what’s going on and it feels like the needle’s about to fall off the edge of the fabric all the time. I had to resist the temptation to correct that as it just resulted in a wrinkly mess when I did.


Once you’re done it looks a bit wrinkly.

Pull out the basting and press, and it looks a whole lot better. And you can reuse the basting thread for the next one.

The samples didn’t all come out right first time, but I found that it’s possible to recover a wrinkly one by unpicking the wrinkle and resewing that section. This probably depends on the fabric. Mine’s quite forgiving.

Next stop, sewing the real thing. After I’ve cut out the interfacing and the lining, that is, which will be a job in itself.

A whiter shade of pale?

I finally got some reasonable photos of the white dress. The weather in the UK turned a lot greyer which probably helped, although I’d rather we still had the sun!





I haven’t got the fit quite right but it’s wearable. I think I overdid adjusting for my narrow shoulders so next time I’d trace a size up in that area. The pattern itself runs true to size.

I really like the lapped zip. I will definitely do that again. I usually do an invisible zip on all centre back zips, but this is neater and easier, although probably slower to sew.

I’m just not sure what to wear the dress with. These blue shoes are the best out of the ones I’ve got. It would probably look better with white patent leather shoes or boots, but that’s not the most practical option even if I could find a pair!