Saturday, March 19, 2016

To Make a Short Story Long: My Take on McCall's 6886

These days, I'm trying to squeeze in sewing whenever I can--that is, whenever my new studio supervisor, pictured in the sidebar (big smile, heart-shaped nose, large pink tongue), is snoozing. Mr. Arbuthnot is a delightful, mischievous, and cuddly young man who wants to be with me all the time; however, he is also very curious.  He thinks anything and everything was put on this earth for him to chew and swallow.  So, it shouldn't be any surprise that my studio supervisor isn't actually allowed in the studio!  Sewing now happens when he is safely tucked in bed.
Mr. Arbuthnot in his younger days.
Look at that cute little tummy!
Mr. Arbuthnot has been in my life for several months now.  I love him, but I have missed spending time in my studio.  I thought a few quick projects in the evening would satisfy my sewing cravings and help me figure out how to balance my peppy pup's needs with my own.

No, that's not Mr. Arbuthnot.  It's his assistant, Björn.
For my first project during Mr. Arbuthnot's sleepy time, I chose the ubiquitous McCall's 6886. There are loads of reviews online for this dress, many of which stress how easy and versatile it is. And I agree.  It is easy and versatile.  But in true bespokeability fashion, I took a simple pattern and made it much more complicated than it needed to be.  Heh.  Oh well.

I made this dress for my daughter, Mehetabel, to wear with her brown suede boots.  (It is still plenty cold to wear boots here; it's snowing as I write this.)  For this first version, I raided my stash. The fabric is a super soft and lightweight crepe jersey from, and features small geometric shapes in dark chocolate, passion fruit, café au lait, and apricot.  I'm hungry.

So, how did I complicate matters?  Well, I decided the fabric was a bit too thin for Mehetabel to feel comfortable wearing it while teaching.  To fix that, I decided to line the dress, but in a different manner than I normally would.  Well, except I have kinda/sorta done it before.  For this dress, I wrote about Sandra Betzina's method for lining knit pants which I adapted for lining the skirt of that dress--and it worked very well.  I thought I could use the same method for lining this dress; I particularly like that it creates a clean, nicely finished hem.  I also decided to use the same method on the sleeves.  The sleeves didn't really need to be lined; it was my laziness--not wanting to hem the sleeves--that caused me to do it.

Close-up of the lining/hem
I used tricot, purchased at Mill End in Portland, Oregon, to line the dress.  Except "line" isn't entirely accurate.  While I did line the sleeves, body of the dress, and shoulders from the hem up, I treated the fabric/lining as one for the armscyes and neckline.  After the sleeves were attached to the lined/underlined dress, I serged the armscye seams.  The pattern calls for turning under the seam allowance at the neck and stitching it down.  I prefer to face necklines as I think it creates a more polished product.  So I traced the front and back necklines from the pattern pieces and drew facing patterns.  I almost wrote that I "drafted" facings, but that seems a bit grandiose for what I actually did!   I fused interfacing to the fabric prior to cutting out the facing pieces (more laziness!).  
I do love the clean neckline
Even though I made a series of mistakes while making this dress, I'm very pleased with the outcome.  I think Mehetabel looks great in it, and more importantly, she likes it!  The lining gives a nice finish to the dress, although I'll do things a little differently next time.  

Order of Operations and Blunders / Notes to Self:
  • After pre-treating the fabric and determining my preliminary changes to the size 14 pattern pieces for length, I cut out the fashion fabric and the tricot lining pieces.
  • The tricot is significantly heavier than the fashion fabric.  The tricot also has a two-way stretch whereas the fashion fabric has a four-way stretch.  I thought these things might possibly cause problems, but damn the torpedoes, I wanted to sew so it was full speed ahead!  Except for the miscalculation for the lining's length, the tricot worked well.
  • I am embarrassed to say that I had a terrible time figuring out how much shorter the lining should be from the fashion fabric.  I took 2.25 inches off the length of the lining.  This created a deeper hem, but with the heaviness of the tricot, the fashion fabric didn't have enough support at the hemline to make it as clean as I would've liked.  If I do this again, I'll take one inch off the length of the lining--and/or beef up the fashion fabric with some fusible interfacing at the hem.  
  • For the next steps, I pressed each seam well before moving on to sewing the successive seams.
  • I sewed the bottom of the lining dress front to the bottom of the fashion fabric dress front, right sides together.  Then I did the same for the dress back pieces.  The lining pieces were 2 1/4 inches shorter than the fashion fabric.
  • I pinned the fashion fabric front to the back and the lining front to the back (these pieces were already connected at the hem) and sewed the side seams, making a long tube.  I turned it right side out, matching the lining with the outer fabric at the armscyes and neckline.
  • I stabilized the fashion fabric shoulders with fusible interfacing and sewed front/back shoulder seams of the fashion fabric right sides together, and then repeated this with the lining shoulder seams.
  • I attached the hem of the sleeve pieces (lining and fashion fabric) right sides together. The lining was one inch shorter than the fashion fabric.  This is what I should have done for the dress pieces!  Nuts.
  • Like the dress, I sewed the sleeve side seams together (fashion-hem-lining), turned the tube right side out and basted the lining/fashion fabric at the top of the sleeve.
  • I prefer to sew sleeves in flat, but because of my lining experiment, the sleeves were set in.  The fashion fabric/lining of the sleeves were treated as one--ditto the dress's armscyes.  I managed to snag excess amounts of the lining fabric into my seams.  And I had quality time with my seam ripper. 
  • After unpicking white thread from white lining, I serged the armscye seams.
  • I made the facing pieces, finished the raw edges, sewed them together, and sewed them to the neckline (treating fashion fabric and lining as one) in a 5/8 inch seam.  After trimming and pressing, I hand stitched the facing edge to the lining/underlining so it would stay put.  It amuses me that I was too lazy to use my coverstitch machine to hem the sleeves, but had no problem hand sewing the neck facing in place.
So, that's it.  That's what I did.  Was it worth it?  Yes, I think so.  This dress looks polished and professional, and it is appropriate for Mehetabel to wear in her high school classroom.  I envision all sorts of possibilities for this pattern.


  1. Another beautiful dress for your beautiful daughter Peggy. She must be so proud!

    1. Thank you so much, Dawn! She's fun to make clothes for--and she's very appreciative :)

  2. So pretty! Both the dress and your daughter. I think I might try to find a copy of this one!

    1. Thank you for your kind words! I hope you do copy this dress; it's a classic style that won't dissapoint!