Tuesday, July 10, 2007

McCall's 5316 - The dress built for two

Doesn't this look like the sweetest little summer dress ever?

Hah! That's what I thought too, but after spending way too much time on this dress before deciding to give it up, I now fondly refer to it as my Dress Built for Two.

Whew! Stiff wind blows up under this dress and I'll fly away just like Mary Poppins!

Kind of looks like an after shot for a weight loss product doesn't it?

Hmmm, maybe if I wore a bustle underneath no one would notice how big this dress is.

Of course you never know when I might need a maternity dress.
But I better sew it in black because I'm not so sure DH would survive the shock.

So what happened?

Oh, there were a few things that contributed to the problems with this dress. Probably the biggest mistake was my choice of fabrics.

The fabric I used is a beautiful turquoise colored, crinkled cotton gauze with a tone on tone eyelet pattern. I blissfully cut out view B (the view with the flutter sleeves) and proceeded to happily stitch away with visions of my new summer dress floating through my mind.

What I didn't take into account was the stretch factor of my crinkled cotton gauze fabric. Oh, the thought quickly crossed my mind that I should use stay tape along the collar edges to stabilize the bodice piece, but just as quickly it left. I reasoned with myself that I was sewing it very, very carefully and it sure didn't *look* like it was stretching out of shape. I didn't even bother to compare the printed bodice pattern piece with the final sewn bodice to make sure it hadn't grown.

(Ann, if you're reading - this is why I asked you how you dealt with crinkled fabric!) By the way, if any of you much more experienced sewers can tell me how I should have handled this fabric I would be very appreciative!

I had also done a small FBA on the bodice even though the ease printed on the pattern piece showed that there was 7-1/2 inches of ease built into the design. I reasoned that by doing an FBA I would keep the design ease of the dress intact.

In retrospect, the FBA wasn't needed for the additional ease, but it was needed to lower the bust dart so that the raised waistline would sit below my bust and not across it.

I also spent way too much time working on this dress before calling it quits. When I choose this dress I hadn't bothered to actually read the description on the back of the envelope. If I had I probably would have put this one back in the pattern drawer at the store.

I didn't realize that:
  • The entire dress is lined.
  • The dress is not a pull-over dress (although it could be)
  • The front button loops and buttons are not purely decorative.
  • The front button loops are to be made from elastic.
What?!? Elastic button loops that are not hidden? The last time I checked I could purchase elastic in white or black. Why would I want white or black elastic button loops on the front of my dress? How home-sewn would that look?

I choose to make small bias tubes for the loops instead. If those loops are showing on the front of the dress I want them to match. To begin I cut 1" wide strips of fabric on the true bias.

I folded the strip in half length-wise and, while stretching slightly, stitched the bias strip about 1/8" from the folded edge.

The hardest part is turning these tiny bias tubes right side out. I could have threaded a needle and took a few stitches on one end, slipped the needle through the bias tube out the other end and then pulled the fabric through that way. But I have this set of handy dandy tools called FastTurn tubes.

Using the narrowest metal tube and wire hook, I placed the tube inside the bias loop.

Next I inserted the corresponding hook inside the metal tube, twisted the end to secure the end of the fabric and pulled the fabric loop right side out. See? So much easier.

I also increased the number of button loops from five to seven - five on the bodice and two on the midriff band. Now doesn't that look nicer than white elastic loops?

The other thing that is kinda goofy on this pattern is the way the instructions have you form the midriff casings. This dress has a casing at the top of the midriff and at the bottom of the midriff.

After sewing the (lined) midriff to the (lined) bodice there is a 5/8" seam with four layers of fabric. To make the casing, the instructions tell you to trim the midriff seam portion to 1/4", to press under 1/4" on the skirt bodice seam allowance, and finally to stitch on the midriff close to the turned-under edge.

Yea, right. I was skeptical that I possessed the patience required to perform that step, but I thought if I went really slow I could do it.

I just kept telling myself "I think I can, I think I can, I think I can", until the scissor slipped and I said "oops!" Well, I might have said more than just oops.

At that point I decided that pre-packaged bias tape would work just fine and who cares if the color doesn't match because it's the inside of the dress.

So that's what I did. Much, much easier than trying to trim that seam allowance, turn under 1/4" and then stitch in place.

By this point I'm thinking that way too much time has gone into this quick and easy summer dress and it had better be just as cute on me as I had envisioned when I began the project. I decided to baste the (unlined) skirt onto the midriff and then try it on to check the fit.

Once I picked myself up off of the floor (where I landed from laughing so hard), I *still* thought I could selvage this dress! Then I came to my senses and realized I had no desire to take the entire bodice apart, recut, and resew.

But, all is not lost! I found someone that the shoulder and neckline area of the dress fits. Once I pull the midriff in with elastic the dress may yet live to see the light of day!

Oh, birthday giveaway reminder. Don't forget to leave a comment if you're interested in winning a copy of the new Low-Sew Boutique book! I'll draw a name on Saturday, July 14. Pin It


  1. I throughly enjoyed this post - you had me rolling on the floor with your pictures and captions!

  2. Anonymous11:02 PM

    I see now why you asked me about crinkled fabric. Way too funny!! I think this is one of those fabrics that you press the fabric, stretching as much as possible, before cutting it out. Also, try washing it now and see what happens. It may return to a "dress for one".

  3. I am never going to be able to look at crinkled gauze on the bolt without getting the shakes. Thanks for the cautionary tale (and the big fit of the giggles...)

  4. Hilarious! I think the reason it was so funny is because these kinds of things happen to me all too often with sewing. I just don't tell anybody. :-)

  5. I love the pics! Thanks for taking us along for the ("learning experience") ride.

  6. Oh dear! What an enormous dress! Great of you to take it so well though, laugh of it and have us laugh along! I'm not sure I'd even have had the guts to show it on my blog.

  7. wow!!! Thanks for the giggle and the learning expericnce lol

  8. OMG, the photos had me laughing but your commentary was hilarious. I admire your perseverance! LOL.

  9. Seriously. Snorted out loud when I saw the photos! thanks for the guidance!

  10. That is one gimormous dress! Very funny story!

  11. Thanks for sharing the good, the bad and the ugly! Sometimes sewing really is a crapshoot isn't it!

  12. I couldn't believe it when I saw the photo of your dress! Wow. So funny it is ridiculous! Thanks for sharing though, we all have it happen.

  13. Too bad this didn't work out. The pattern looks cute, and that IS pretty fabric. Glad you found someone it has a chance of fitting.

  14. Sewing disasters... ugh... we've all had 'em - thanks for sharing and giving us all a giggle!

  15. I had to look twice at the pictures to realize that I was seeing a woman absolutely dwarfed by her dress. Too funny. Thanks for reminding us that sometimes fabrics have a mind of their own. The fabric color is lovely!

  16. Forget the big big dress, girl, I'm ecstatic that you posted turn tubes---Woah!!! I'm all over that, like right now, I'm going to get some of those!

    The dress? Hmm....you could hide an easter basket underneath and surprise a lot of sweet children! Mmmhmmm...think on that! xo



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