Cooling-off dress: McCall’s 6331

After I tried Lynda Maynard’s suggestion, only to be rewarded with a still-wrinkly back AND the reappearance of all the problems I had already worked hard to correct*, I decided I needed to move on to another project for a while.  Yes, I know I said I was not going to do anything else until I successfully made Craftsy’s fitting class dress, but I really needed a break.  Sewing is a hobby for me, and hobbies are supposed to be fun! Instead of being fun, sewing was just becoming a grueling task that made me angry.

For my cooling-down project, I choose McCall’s 6331.

McCall's 6331
McCall’s 6331

It has several options- over the shoulder straps, halter straps, as well as a romper option (with a back zipper instead of a side zipper, which seems like it would make going to the bathroom hard, but whatever). I’m not really built for halter straps, so am going with the shoulder straps option (View B).  This dress looks good for warm weather, and will let me avoid having to deal with fitting my arms and upper back, meaning I might actually be able to make something wearable.  It has different cup size options, which is a plus.

I started off making a bodice muslin in a size 14, cup size C.  Despite the fact that the muslin still had folds and drag lines in all the usual places (diagonal line from bust to waist, lots of horizontal folds on back), it was clearly too big.  But, it did expose a problem that I thought had been due to mistakes I made in altering previous muslins; the back waistline clearly dipped down in back. I made a second muslin in a size 12; the fit was closer, which was good; this is supposed to have a close-fitting bodice. With my size selected, I was able to start making alterations.

unaltered M6331 size 12 back
Unaltered back. See how the center waist dips down?

I’ll get to the front alterations in my next post, but first I’m going to discuss the back. Making it in the proper size made the fit closer, but also made the fit problems more apparent, especially the dipping in the center waist.  In fitting, drag lines are supposed to point to the problem area; this is especially true here. As I already said, I was surprised to learn that this problem was a result of misalignment between my body and the pattern, and not a drafting mistake that was my own fault.

To correct this, I took off the zipper and made a 1 1/2″ triangular horizontal wedge to remove length from the center back, but keep the length of the side seams the same.

Using triangular wedges to removing length from center back, but keep side seam length the same.
Using triangular wedges to removing length from center back, but keep side seam length the same.


Comparing the two sides, I was happier with the left side.  I marked and measured the changes on the muslin, then transferred them to the pattern.  I also added length to the darts to keep the overall length the same.

Making these alterations presented me with a new dilemma; how to adjust the balance lines and where to put the new zipper, since these things shifted during alterations? I marked two options on the pattern; one wider than the other.

m6331 fully altered back, both cb options



I tried the narrower center back option first, but ended up going with the wider center back option, since that one had fewer back wrinkles.  Is it perfect? No.  But, this is progress.  At least there isn’t a huge lump of fabric on my back like other muslins have! I’ve decided that for this project, I will be happy with “good enough,” instead of “perfect.” Only making muslins is getting boring!




*I think Lynda Maynard’s suggestion is probably correct, but I’ve been getting some great responses from the readers as well.  I’m going to start from scratch one size up when I feel ready to deal with the aggravation again.

Learning how to fit, part 1: Butterick 5638 Muslin

Butterick 5638
Butterick 5638

I am finally ready to learn how to properly fit garments!  I am using The Perfect Fit: The Classic Guide to Altering Patterns as my guide to identifying and fixing problems. I am starting out with Butterick 5638, a fitted dress that uses princess seams instead of darts to hug the body.

B5638 lets you chose your proper size based on your measurements, but also your bust size.   I started with a size 12. The difference between my high bust and bust is about two inches.  I seem to be on the borderline between using the  A/B cup pattern piece and the C cup pattern piece.  Figuring I was probably unconsciously inflating the numbers, I decided to use the A/B cup piece. This pattern has shortening lines for petites, which I used.

The first problem I encountered was a misprint on the pattern- the center front piece (piece 1, 3 or 5, depending on your cup size) doesn’t have the arrows indicating that you’re supposed to cut on the fold. Hmm. At least I was using cheap muslin fabric instead of real fabric.  Undeterred, I cut out another front piece along the fold and basted my muslin together.

At this point in the project, I am still focusing on basic fit, so these pictures are of my unhemmed muslin, without any front or arm facings.

B5638 Muslin Front View
B5638 Muslin Front View

At first glance, the dress was pretty good. Anything that looks like a dress is good! Once I got over my self-satisfaction, I was ready to stop ignoring problems and start fixing them.

In this picture, you can see that the waist is a little high, and that there are diagonal wrinkles on the front of the dress.  But, it gives me some curves, and it isn’t outrageously big. The bust seems to hit where it should.

I was tempted to end my scrutiny there, but I fought my laziness and continued taking pictures.  In order to identify fitting problems, you need to look at the sides and back of the garment too!




B5638 Side View
B5638 Side View

Ah! Looking at the side view, the fitting problems become much more obvious.  There are strong diagonal wrinkles running from the bust to the hips and butt.  Instead of lying smoothly, the fabric on the upper back is baggy and wrinkled.

Instead of going straight down, the side seams are pulled forward under the butt.  I think this contributes to the fold of fabric you can see at the bottom right corner in the above picture.






B5638 Back View
Heavy wrinkling between armpits and waist

First of all, huh, I never knew my shoulders sloped at different angles.  That brings up a whole other category of fitting issues, but I’m not advanced enough to deal with those yet.

More important for my purposes right now is the terrible wrinkles and bagginess above the waist and below the armpits.

The waist seems to be hitting where it should.  I’m pretty happy with the fit of the lower half- it seems to give a little curve to my butt- yay for optical illusions!  I might like the skirt to be a touch more narrow in the lower half, but that can wait until the fitting problems in the torso have been fixed.

Fixing the problems

Based on the my muslin pictures and the info in The Perfect Fit: The Classic Guide to Altering Patterns, here is what I think the problems and there solutions are:

Full Bust: The waist is hitting at the right spot in back,  but is pulled up in front.  The bust seems to be hitting at the right spot (I think), so a high bust is not the problem here. Combined with the diagonal wrinkles running from the bust to the butt, this makes me suspect that bust fullness is the problem here.  Luckily, there is an easy solution for this dress!  I just need to try again with the C cup variation. If there wasn’t any cup variations in this pattern, I might be in trouble.  There are no darts to deepen or modify in this pattern.

Short waist: The other major problem is the bagginess at the back.  I don’t have a particularly small waist, so that’s not the issue.  I don’t think I have a narrow back either, so I don’t think that is the problem. I am short-waisted, so I think I will try to fix this problem by shortening the back waist length in my next muslin. If this doesn’t work, I’ll have to  re-exam my back width assessment.

So, my next muslin will be made in what is hopefully the correct size, with a shorter back length.

I’m a very new novice to fitting, so my analysis could be wrong.  What do you guys think? Are these the correct problems and solutions?


Kwik Sew 3486 Maternity Dress

Maternity Dress Sewing Project

Kwik Sew 3486 Maternity Dress
Kwik Sew 3486 Maternity Dress Sewing Pattern

Now that I am obviously pregnant (31 weeks) there is just no hiding my belly. At this point I am clearly not just bloated. I absolutely need longer shirts and fuller dresses. I am still unwilling to pay super inflated prices for maternity clothing! The quality is terrible, and its not as if the cheap fabric it is made with increases the true cost that much! I decided to sew a maternity dress because I had nothing to lose. Besides, any thoughts of circus-tent proportions were outweighed by the shining promise of comfortable, non-restrictive clothes. I chose Kwik Sew 3486 Maternity Dress because it looked reasonably cute and comfortable. I made view B, the sleeveless version.

Kwik Sew patterns are available at my local fabric store for a good discount, so I don’t feel obligated to wait for a sale. Kwik Sew 3486 Sewing Pattern requires woven (not knit) fabric. I would prefer a stretchy, casual knit for a maternity dress, but I settled on a cheap cotton/poly purple broadcloth. I am still not at the point where I can realistically make a dress or shirt that I actually can wear in public, so I cannot splurge on nicer fabrics yet.

Overall, this maternity dress is a bit too at-home-on-the-compound for my taste. It has TONS of volume in the skirt, making me look HUGE! On the other hand, this dress would be a good choice for someone who really, REALLY wants people to know without a doubt that she is pregnant. But who knows, maybe by 40 weeks this will fit like a glove?

Kwik Sew 3486 Maternity Dress
I swear I am not really this big

I made the sleeveless version of this dress (View B) instead of the three-quarters sleeve version (View A). This maternity dress pattern gets good reviews on Pattern Review, so I figured that it would at least be good practice sewing. The instructions were clear and easy to follow. Kwik Sew’s thick, real-paper pattern is great to work with compared with tissue pattern paper. Kwik Sew patterns often call for a serger (apparently) as they are often made for knit fabrics, but this pattern only included instructions to overcast stitch the edge of the fabric to finish it.

I am trying to figure out the best way for me to quickly cut out my pattern pieces without cutting up and destroying the paper pattern, so I can change sizes easily if I need to. This time I traced the roughly cut out pattern piece outline onto the fabric using transfer paper. This technique may have worked for some people, but I don’t think that the tracing was quite accurate enough as the pattern paper shifted several times. It also complicated the fabric grain alignment somewhat.

The construction of the dress was a pretty smooth process. No real surprises or major mistakes to report. The bottom edge of the dress came out a little uneven and I am not sure why, but I got it straightened out by hemming it.

Kwik Sew 3486 Maternity Dress Untied
Here is the dress without the waist tied… that’s a lot of fabric!
Kwik Sew 3486 Maternity Dress Tied Waist
With the waist tied tightly, the dress looks more manageable!

Understitiching the Facings

I had to understitch the neckline facing on this maternity dress. The understitching tutorial at Coletterie was super helpful, especially because I had never been able to figure this out before. Next time I need to remember not to trim the seam too much to allow room for the stitches in the understitching.

Centered Zipper

My centered back zipper looks pretty pathetic, but honestly I have to call it a success because it is actually functional. Sure, the stitching veers off to the side where the zipper stop is, but it is still the best job I have done with zipper insertion! I used the instructions from Sew Everything Workshop and the Colette Sewing Handbook to help me out.

Deep Thoughts…

Sewing this dress was a good experience. Since I haven’t been able to sew during my pregnancy due to back pain (which is gone now, thanks Chiropractor!) I just wanted to at minimum not regress in my skills too much. This sewing project was good practice for me in that respect. I think that a nicer fabric with better drape (less stiff) would make this dress more wearable. Unfortunately most of the cute cotton prints available at my fabric store would require me to make a lined dress as they are semi-sheer. I wish I could find a cute dress pattern designed for a jersey knit.

Butterick 4443 dress

Butterick 4443
Butterick 4443 Envelope Picture


I’m very happy with my latest project, Butterick 4443, which is a fitted dress that comes with 6 style variations.  I went with the cap sleeve variation because I’ve never done cap sleeves, so it seemed like a good technique to learn.

Butterick 4443 Front View
Butterick 4443 Front View

I used some extra cotton fabric that Wrong gave me.  I think it might be quilting fabric, which was why she was against me using it for a dress.  It is a bit stiff and doesn’t drape as beautifully as it could, but I loved the pattern, and I was also feeling very apprehensive/economical.  Because I’m a very beginning level sewist, every pattern I do has techniques that I’ve never done before. So, I knew there was a high potential for failure.  I used some of the leftover linen/rayon blend that I used for Vogue 8645 for the lining.

I did make many, many mistakes when sewing this dress, but I managed to cover them up adequately, so the dress is completely wearable!  There are some fitting issues that I’ll discuss later, but that is because of my body type, not because of the pattern or because of sewing mistakes.

The bodice is made with princess seams; Nancy Zieman’s Sewing A to Z was a big help in figuring out how to do them correctly, so I managed to avoid the problems I had with  Simplicity 2017. The trick to sewing seams with different edge lengths is to sew with the shorter edge on top.  Then, cant the fabric so the feed dogs bite more of the longer (bottom) fabric as you sew.  It was a bit nerve-wracking not to be able to use a lot of pins to line the fabric layers up firmly like I usually do, but the seams were great the first time!

My main problem with this pattern was inserting the cap sleeves.  For someone whose never inserted cap sleeves into a lined bodice, the diagram was pretty much incomprehensible.  I couldn’t find good instructions online, so I just gave up and folded both the lining and the main fabric back about 5/8th of an inch, inserting the sleeve, and went on sewing.  Yes, there is a visible line of stitching, but I got sick of staring at the diagram and feeling stupid.

This pattern calls for a lot of hand sewing; instead of following the instructions and hand-sewing the hem, I decided to be ambitious and blind stitch the hem. Why bother having a machine that comes with a bunch of feet/functions if I’m not going to use them? I used this tutorial to figure out how to do a blind hem. I’m very happy with the blind hem- there are some small vertical stitched visible, but I’m sure these will get smaller as my technique improves.

Butterick 4443- torso length too long
Butterick 4443- torso length too long, so shoulder sits too high

OK, on to my fitting issue- the bodice is just a bit long for my body, so the dress actually sits above my shoulders.  I am short, so I think I need to use The Perfect Fit: The Classic Guide to Altering Patterns to figure out how to shorten the torso when I am sewing.  The waist could also be a bit smaller so that it’s more form-fitting (Adding a narrow belt in a contrasting color helps). I’m very happy with this dress, but am taking it to Goodwill because of the fit.  I don’t need a dress that doesn’t fit well!  And, remember I love Goodwill!  Taking broken or overly worn-out things there is one of my pet peeves, and I don’t feel bad at all about donating this dress.  It will fit someone better than me, and hopefully they will get a lot of good use out of it!

I’m going to make a muslin of this next time to work out the fitting issues.  Still a nice pattern!

Helpful links:

The Perfect Fit: The Classic Guide to Altering Patterns

Nancy Zieman’s Sewing A to Z: Your Source for Sewing and Quilting Tips and Techniques


Vogue 8645 Misses’ Dress

Vogue 8645
Vogue 8645

My latest project is Vogue 8645, view A (the shorter version). I used a pale lavender handkerchief-weight linen/rayon blend, lined in a white handkerchief-weight linen/rayon blend (If I was smart enough to look at the entire package instead of just the top, I would have realized that the dress was lined early enough to buy enough fabric to line it in lavender instead of white. Someday, someday.) This dress is notorious for being a tent- pretty much every blog entry I looked at called it out for having a huge potential to overwhelm the wearer, and my boyfriend kept on calling in a prairie dress when I was sewing it. I copied Wearable Muslin and made a size smaller than I should based on my measurements. Good call!

Vogue 8645 imitating model
Vogue 8645 imitating model

Marie Oliveira made V8645 and was not happy with it! She’s got a point- I think curvy girls most likely fill this dress out better than less curvy girls. I am an inverted triangle, so this dress could even out my figure by making my lower half look a little larger- or it could just make me look lumpy and shapeless. And, Marie also ran across a Vogue catalog where, yes, they featured this dress as a maternity gown. Ugh. maddening. A dress should not be marketed to pregnant and non-pregnant women at the same time!

I think angling the torso more sharply would have been an easy fix for the designer to do to eliminate tenty-ness, but oh well. I am still wary about making more form-fitting clothes, and this dress should be good for the summertime because it is so loose. Thank god for the sash, though!

The dress has the potential to be pretty plain looking, but mystitchnbitch points out that the shoulder ties manage to give it some flare.

Vogue 8645 side view
Vogue 8645 side view

I’m pretty pleased with my work- it came out pretty much how I expected it to, and I think I am getting a bit better at lining things up on the grain! I was expecting a loose-fitting dress, which is what I got. I can’t wait to be able to make more tailored clothes, but this dress is a good step in building my skills.

Vogue 8645 back view
Vogue 8645 back view. This is where it all falls apart

I think I could wear it out in public! I’m not happy with the back view, but oh well- I wasn’t expecting a dress that would look good from all angles, and this seems like it would be nice on hot summer afternoons. Yay!

My main problem with this pattern was the instructions on the shoulders- I really felt that they could be more detailed, with larger pictures that are easier to see. I think I managed just fine, even though I did not follow the directions exactly. I sewed the shoulders together right sides together, then sewed down the little flaps. The shoulder ties cover up any deviations from the instructions here. I also shortened the dress by a few inches.

I’m very happy with this dress. I would not sew it again, because I don’t need two tent dresses, but I got exactly what I was expecting. Yes! I think for my next project, I am going to make Simplicity Sew Simple 1961, which is a cardi-wrap in a knit fabric. This will be my first time sewing a knit fabric, so wish me luck!