Friday, August 29, 2014

McCall's 6891 Shirt Dress in Silk Noil

Sewing by the numbers, checking off my "needs, wants and requirements" list:
  • Solid color
  • Pockets
  • Collar
  • Stash fabric
  • Appropriate for summer to fall transitional wear

Making up a new-to-me pattern is always more exciting than embarking on a proven winner, and I loved the collar shape of McCall's 6891. Although you wouldn't know it from the envelope of this Palmer/Pletsch pattern, the instructions note that this dress is based on a 1947 Dior design.

From the fitting perspective, I found the dress very straightforward. I compared another well-fitting darted bodice to the tissue and found the necessary changes to be fairly minimal and easy to execute. This is a size 8 in the shoulders and neck, tapering to about a size 12 at the waist and through the skirt. I shortened the bodice one inch and took a generous swayback tuck in the back.

A more significant change was reducing the flare of the skirt to fit within my three yards of 45" wide silk noil fabric. I used another pattern as a guide, which helped me to adjust the curve of the waist to match the flare of the skirt. Do you always remember that the wider the skirt, the more extreme the curve of the waist? I don't. At any rate, the skirt is much less full than as drafted--maybe as much as 25" to 30" less circumference at the hem. But I used up nearly every scrap of the fabric even so. I had to piece the inseam pockets, using a strip of the garment fabric as a facing at the edges, but switching to lining material for most of the pocket bag.

The biggest challenge of all was deciding what to do about buttons. Nothing at Hancock Fabrics was exciting me, self-covered buttons seemed too boring and I was having a terrible time picking out a button online. I wanted to try out a mixture of different vintage buttons, but I wasn't sure how to handle making different-sized buttonholes for varying sizes of buttons. Some of the ones I most wanted to use were really too big for a dress anyway. The solution was snaps sewn invisibly under the edges, with the vintage buttons applied on the outside. Wow, that was a lot of hand stitching--eight snaps on the right, eight snaps on the left, eight vintage buttons on top--at least to my mind.

I'm not positive how I feel about the buttons, but the good thing is I can change them out, since there are no buttonholes. It would be hard to make myself cut off all that hand sewing, but it wouldn't hurt the dress at all.

The only review for this pattern I found online is over at Cotton Creek Sewing--love her blog and her finished dress is gorgeous!--but she was, oh, shall we say, not a fan of the instructions for sewing the collar and facing. I consulted Claire Shaeffer's Book of Sewing Shortcuts (my enthusiasm for which I have mentioned before), which had some good points on this method of sewing collars. I took a few construction photos, but I just don't have the strength (or really the thorough knowledge) for a full tutorial. I am including the pictures, and the encouragement that I found the collar construction achievable. Just a different point of view from someone who is a booster for the convertible collar style and who would hate to see this pattern passed over entirely.

Under collar applied to bodice

Upper collar applied to facing

Inside corner detail, upper collar applied to facing, trimmed and pressed
This is actually my second version of this dress--I will show you the first just as soon as I get it hemmed and photographed.


  1. Beautiful! I can imagine a blouse with that great collar and fit in a retro-ish print too.

  2. What a cute dress! I like your button solution:)

  3. The dress is lovely and the buttons add a whimsical touch.

  4. I love the dress the collar shape. And new skirt is such a good look, I think I prefer it in terms of proportions. I have been looking for a good Lindy friendly shirt dress pattern and I did read Cotton Creak's blog on this one. I will have to give it some more thought. I am not experienced at collars. I do though have the book by Claire S and so I will dig that out and take look at her guide.

  5. Just reading Claire Shaeffer's Short Cuts book collars section. It's a gem of a book, they should reprint it.

  6. What a lovely, perfectly fitting dress! I love the smart collar (too intimidating for me...) and actually, I wouldn't have realised you had reduced the flair of the skirt by much, the photo of the dress from the pattern doesn't look all that full. I usually really like mismatched buttons, but I wonder if a matching set would fit the neat, tailored 1940-50s vibe here? Your call, of course, and the buttons you chose are very pretty.
    Looking forward to seeing the first version of the dress too. xxx

  7. That dress looks fantastic on you! Well done.

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