Monday, 27 November 2017

McCalls 7538, or making dresses because you really need tops

I don't have the best luck when it comes to tops. It's hard to find patterns that fit what I'm looking for - most of the big 4 offerings are loose-fitting hip-length things with ridiculous sleeves, and most indie patterns are super-basic or super-twee. I want mostly knit tops, fairly fitted, with interesting details but not crazy sleeves, that I can cut shorter without losing most of the design of the top. It's tough to find. So when I do see an interesting top pattern, I snap it up.

(Neither of the things I am about to show you are tops. Bear with me.)

This is my first attempt at McCalls 7358, using the same sweater knit I used for my Wanted top. I fully intended to just make the top, but missed the "Cut here for view A" line on the bottom piece and ended up making view C, a bodycon dress. This is not great and I have several problems with it. One, the sleeves are falling off, which I must attribute to the fabric given that my Wanted top did the same thing but subsequent versions of both that top and this one did not. Two, it didn't occur to me to work out how to FBA this one and so the front crossover panels are cutting across my boobs, which looks really weird. Three, I am really into this jersey LBD as a concept, but in practice it just doesn't work for me.

However, the back is gorgeous and I love it. It's cute, interesting, and is exactly the right height to dispense with weird fabric folds in the upper back without straying into complicated underwear territory. I wasn't sure I was up for trying to do a proper FBA on those front pieces, so I decided to have a go at view D, with a round neck at the front and crossover at the back, and a full skirt. I've avoided full skirts for the last couple of years, but I've been experimenting lately.

I went on a bit of a journey with this dress. When I first tried it on I was absolutely convinced I didn't like it, and actually wrote a whole pre-emptive blog post about why it was terrible. After I hemmed it my opinion of it started to improve, and after a week or so I decided that I loved it. 

This jersey is from Fabric Store in Walthamstow, and it's one of the best things I've ever bought there. It's hard to describe it; it's a very soft and stretchy jersey that's very comfortable to wear, and yet I keep forgetting that it's stretchy because it displays zero sign of being stretched when I'm wearing it. This cost me £2 per metre, and if one of the more expensive shops had tried to charge me £12-15 I wouldn't have blinked. It's great stuff. 

Now that we're looking at slightly better photos I'll attempt to explain the pattern a bit more; I don't know how visible the seam lines are in this fabric. Between the bust and hips there's a panel of fabric stretching diagonally one way, and two smaller panels at the opposite corners to create the impression of an X across the body. The pattern comes with round neck and crossover options for both front and back, and you can mix and match them however you choose. 

Look at the back of that! I love it so much.

In terms of alterations, I lengthened the upper front panel by a couple of inches to prevent the whole bisected boob thing, and that seems to have worked well enough, though some of the panels now don't match up at the side seams. In this fabric I don't really care, but if I try making a version in stripes (which I'd like to) I'd need to either change the alteration or work out how to make the back longer too. I also found the shoulders were protruding off my actual shoulders by about an inch, so I took that in. I also cut the long sleeves down to elbow length because the sheer amount of grey was a bit overwhelming. 

I will definitely be making this as a dress again. I made this version because I loved the back neckline, but it turns out this front neckline is a really great one for me as well. It's super comfy and will be a great dance dress, and I'd like another one or two. What I'm not sure is whether I'm going to make this as a top. The fit is great and it would be interesting and different, but also it really does have to end at the hip because of the pattern pieces. I never wear hip length tops and I think this design might look weird if I wore it tucked in to something. I might give it a go, when I'm feeling experimental, but I'm not counting on it. Sigh. Still looking for you, interesting knit tops of the sewing pattern world.

Up next: (hopefully) something I actually planned!


  1. I think both look great on you! You are making me re-think passing up this pattern. For the shoulders on the black dress ... did you stabilize the shoulder seams? If not, go back and do it now with a strip of woven selvege. Just sew it to the seam allowances. Also, you can add bra strap "holders" to keep the neckline from sliding down your arm.

    Interesting knit top patterns? Jalie, hands down.

    1. Thank you! I did stabilise the shoulders; I think the problem is the fabric's recovery. Bra strap carriers is a good idea though!

      I will look into Jalie. I think I thought they were mainly an activewear brand but I've clearly been missing out!

    2. Carriers. THAT'S the word I couldn't remember.

      Yeah, Jalie actually has a lot of gems hidden amongst the skating costumes. Kwik Sew does too, but it's hard to get past the photos/styling if you're a visual person. Also, HotPatterns. But I think Jalie and KS are probably better.

  2. That is a lovely grey dress; it really suits you and looks both comfortable and a little bit swirly.

    1. Thank you! It is just the right amount of swirly - satisfying to spin in but not tons of excess fabric!

  3. Cute!! I love both but especially the adjusted one.

  4. Other than the seam across the boob, the first dress looks great on you- the shaping of the cross bands adds a nice "tuck" at the natural waist.