Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Best Worst Shirtdress Pattern Ever


So named because this was one of the worst experiences I've had sewing something with the best result. I quite like it now that it is finished but I was cursing it (literally) while I was making it. I've had this McCalls 4769 pattern in my stash for a long time. In fact I believe it was one of the first patterns I bought when I started sewing. I thought the pattern looked pretty easy (it said 8 great looks one easy pattern on the envelope!) and that it was a classic shirtdress. I decided to use it as part of my quest to use different apparel fabrics. This time- Tencel.

Tencel is a brand name for lyocell, which is a fabric made from wood fibers. It's supposed to be environmentally friendly but I've read that only applies to the process of making the fabric. The process of dyeing Tencel on the other hand, not so much. It's comparable to rayon but a bit heavier. This is a peach skin type. It has a slightly suede-y looking finish. It was moderately easy to sew with. I had the most trouble cutting. It was a little slippery. I pinned a lot and noticed that my pinholes stayed. I've heard that Tencel will shrink like crazy so I washed the fabric twice on hot before cutting out my pattern pieces. I'll wash the finished dress in cold water and hang up to dry.


Now on to the worst pattern instructions ever- they weren't really that bad but the collar has me harboring a grudge. I've never seen a collar constructed this way so maybe that has something to do with it. The problem was just that there was no proper explanation of how to put it all together. The collar is a separate piece while the lapel part of the collar is actually part of the dress. It's all supposed to fit neatly between two little clips that you make on the front pieces and the facings. The best way I can explain it is that you end up having to sew together two acute angles backwards-- does that make sense? No, not to me either. The instructions basically just tell you to sew it together, like figure it out on your own. I was not able to match up those dots and clips with collar sandwiched between without some sketchy looking stitching, even after my six (yes, six) attempts on the right side. It may be easier with a crisper cotton fabric, but I still don't quite understand how it works.

I tried to make the sleeves from view E, kind of a faux cuff thingy going on. They looked terrible so I chopped them off and hemmed the sleeves. I'll probably always wear them rolled up anyway. Another thing I didn't like is that the facings stop at the shoulder seams leaving about four inches of collar that need to be clipped and slip stitched. It just looks a little messy. Why not make the facing go all the way around? It took me forever to make this dress, hours and hours, which makes me think they should get rid of the one easy pattern line. I've noticed, though, that the more I sew the longer it takes me to finish a project.



See the strange looking right side? I steamed the heck out of it until it was somewhat flat. I did a better job on the other side. I ended up stitching the collar/facing seam in two seams rather than one continuous. I stitched up to the clipped dot, backstitched and took it off the machine. Then I shifted all the fabric around and stitched the rest of the seam back from the shoulder seam to the dot. I still had to steam it to get it to lie flat.

The good points are that the fit is great- no adjustments. And there are pockets. That's always a plus. I didn't use the guide for button placement. I started at the bust and waist and then spaced the rest evenly. I think I used more buttons than the pattern called for but I like the way it looks. I left the length. It's a little longer than I would normally wear, but I like it with boots. My conclusion is that while I like the finished product, I will not be using this pattern again- unless someone can explain the collar construction. Thanks for reading!

20 comments:

  1. Wow, that dress fits you beautifully!. And what a lot of buttonholes. Superb job on those. The more I sew, the longer things take me too.

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  2. Super cute!! Good color, too. You'd think the more you sew, the quicker it goes, but I'm finding that I don't even start projects because I know it will take me forever to finish! Sheesh...

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  3. That looks superb!!! I love the color!!!!!!!

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  4. Wow that looks like it fits like a dream! great work!

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  5. this looks great on you! the fit is perfect.

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  6. Laura,
    I tried posting this once before but it didnt go through. Abbie and I wanted to thank you sooo much for the beautiful window seat cushion and pillow that you finished for us. I wish you could have seen little Emma's face when she saw it. She ran up to her room when we put it on and said that she was going to sleep on it that night. Thank you again for your fantastic work!
    Sincerely,
    Michael & Abbie Standridge

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  7. I'm so envious of the back fit. It's perfect.

    As for collars... They're not so bad, I tend to pin each layer of collar in, building layers rather than juggling 4 or 5 layers of fabric/dress/facing/collar at once. Hmm... I wish I could do a collar tutorial, but it would cross over into what I do at work.

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  8. Your dress and the fit are fantastic. I know what you mean about the the "best worst". I just finished a blouse that was a total PITA but the it looks absolutely fantastic. As far as the more you sew the longer it takes...now you are choosing more difficult patterns and producing much better looking garments both inside and out.

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  9. Pretty buttons!
    At first, I thought it was a denim dress, i had to look twice.
    For the collar, it is a struggle of mine too. I have realized lately with Gertie's tailoring sew along that pad stitchings makes it perfect. But that is in case you want to spend even more time on it ;)

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  10. Great colour and great fit. Looks fabulous with the boots. I dream of wearing boots. It just never happens here.

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  11. Very nice results! Worth all your frustrations I would say. I really like tencel too but it's not so easy to find in the stores, I guess you have to get it online. Great work on your dress, I really like it too!

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  12. It looks like it was a proper nightmare to sew but it looks gorgeous on you, so definitely worth it.

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  13. Thank you all for the lovely comments! This has made my day!

    Myra, I did get it online-- and cheap. It was a fabric.com purchase (they get me every time!) but I'm not sure if it is still there.

    Steph, Juggling all the layers was my main problem. I couldn't maneuver all the layers around on the machine to keep it from bunching. I wish you could do a collar tutorial, too :)

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  14. Liza there are ways of doing notched collars that are a bit less of a P.I.T.A. ( although they are a lways a pita to some degree) .I've had success with the method where you make the collar itself first then sandwich it in between the body of the garment and the comleted facing.
    There is another method described in Threads number 68 January 1997 called The Foolproof Notched Collar which might be one to try.
    But anyway gorgeous gorgeous dress. I love the colour and the fit and the style. Great job.

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  15. What a great dress - I love all the buttons down the front!
    How frustrating that the instructions were vague - just as well there is a good online sewing community!

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  16. Beautiful dress - you've done a great job - it looks wonderful on you!

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  17. This is so smart and classic. The fit is excellent, and I love the colour. It is interesting that the Tencel is not so bad to sew, I have been a bit wary of it.

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  18. I had the same problem with this collar...in fact I was googling around to find alternate shirt dress patterns! I have made McCall's 4769 twice, and each time it is a breeze until I hit the collar. Aie!

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  19. I'm VERY late to the party here, but just in case you ever want to make this dress again, I wrote a tutorial specifically about attaching the pesky collar on this exact pattern! Here's the link: http://www.handmadejane.co.uk/2013/08/tutorial-attaching-collar-and-facings.html x

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