McCall’s M6884 Pattern review

I haven’t blogged for a while and here’s finally my first detailed pattern review.

For a long time I’ve wanted a perfect wrap dress so I’ve splurged on all kinds of patterns of wrap dresses. This is the one I ultimately tried to make and I quite liked the resimg_1511.jpgult.

There are patterns for woven wrap dresses as well as those for knit ones. This M6884 is for knit fabric. As I’ve mentioned at my sewing tips post, I checked out reviews on this pattern and from the number of posts you can immediately tell that this is a popular pattern!

I ended up making quite a number of alterations to the original pattern after I finish my “real” dress as in the dress that I will actually wear and I will list them down at the very end as a quick recap as well as talk about them in the body of this post.

I’ll also introduce to you all the steps that I will take to sew this dress.

1. Re-create the pattern pieces

If you have one of these commercialised sewing patterns, you will note that it comes in 2 main parts – one is the instructions page(s) and the other is the pattern sheets. The pattern sheets are huge tissue papers that can be torn very easily. So instead of using that directly, I always trace the pattern pieces on a more durable piece of paper first. This also avoids cutting up the pattern sheets, leaving you the option of using the pattern for a different size at a different time.

In terms of the paper which I trace the pattern pieces on, anything that is slightly translucent should do. I know some people use baking paper, while I use a roll of “medical pattern paper” I got from Amazon.

Then I have something like this:

img_1512

2. Do basic alterations

There are times when you know right off the bat that you will need to alter a certain part of the pattern before you even start sewing. And if that’s the case, you will do the alteration first. Other times, which are often times for me, you will realise you need alterations during the sewing process (or even after). If you have altered the garment in any way, make sure you always remember to make the same changes to your pattern piece. Otherwise, you will keep making the same mistake.

As I noted many reviewers of this pattern say that the torso part of this dress is very short, I measured my upper body length and decided to lengthen the pattern at about the waist area by 2cm. I did this to both the front and the back pieces (hence the colourful washi tapes on the pattern paper).

img_1513When I did the test run, I noticed that the fabric ties sit at an awkwardly high position around the bottom of my rib cage. You can see from the picture on the left that there are a small circle and a large circle marked on the pattern piece and that is where you are supposed to place the fabric tie. If you do, the ties will sit above the waist by quite a bit. Gravity will bring them down so even after you have knotted the tie, they will not lie horizontally on your waistline but will sag a little bit.

I didn’t like that so I decided to move the ties down. To do that, I’ve moved the smaller circle down below the big one (it’s marked on the washi tape, where the tip of the marker points).

I also realised that the sleeve caps are too “puffed” for my liking. Setting in sleeves was a very scary thing when I first started – you need to “ease” the sleeve caps and then the fabric got all puckered after you sewed it on. That’s until I found out that you don’t always need a puffed sleeve (and I note many patterns do provide at least a slightly puffed sleeve instead of a flat one).

img_1543
Test run: slightly puffed sleeves on the right (as per original pattern) and flat sleeves on the left (post alteration)

I personally feel that a slight puffed sleeve is more 3-dimensional and looks a bit more dressy, while a flat sleeve looks more casual. I hate dealing with the puckering so I always gravitate towards flat sleeves. That’s what I’ve done as part of the alterations to this pattern.

3. Place the pattern pieces on the fabric and trace the markings onto the fabric

Not everyone does this but I prefer to trace the cutting lines from the pattern pieces together with all markings onto the fabric instead of cut right through the pattern pieces together with the fabric. I feel that it gives me more control over the cutting process but you can do whatever suits you in getting the fabric pieces cut out.

img_1515
img_1514As you can see from the picture above, I placed all the pattern pieces on top of the fabric and then traced the lines with tracing paper and a tracing wheel.

The end result is something like this. (The chalkiness is from the white tracing paper that I used and I don’t have to worry about it because it will come off either during the sewing process or when I wash the end product before I actually wear it.

4. Cut out the fabric pieces

Needless to say, all the above is just to enable you to cut out fabric pieces that are in the same shapes as the pattern pieces. But before you do, always remember to check the grain – there will be times when you go absent-minded and placed the pattern pieces crosswise instead of along the grainline as you should. That was what happened to me and had I not done a final check before cutting through the fabric, all of the fabric pieces would not be usable and I would have wasted a good piece of cotton knit I lugged all the way back from Japan.

Another thing I would keep reminding myself during this process is that it does NOT have to be perfect. Especially with knits that are stretchy, there will be times when the fabric pieces do not line perfectly with the pattern pieces. The fabric could have been slightly stretched when you traced the cut lines, or things could have just moved a little bit underneath during the process. None of that is fatal, especially with knits which are very forgiving. Unless you are doing something very intricate, perfect precision is not something to waste your time on.

5. Follow the instructions and sew!

The first 4 steps are almost always the most time consuming part of the entire process. In fact, I’ll say most of the time spent would be on the first 4 steps. This is particularly the case with simpler items like this wrap dress – there are only 4 pattern pieces you need.

Another tip that I have about the sewing process is that many of you will want to read the instructions and be able to understand every step before actually embarking on the process. But not all the steps can be readily visualised especially when you are a beginner. There will be instructions that do not make any sense just reading it. Sometimes it’s the fault of the sewing pattern manufacturer. Other times it’s just a lack of experience. Don’t panic and stop dead when there are things on the instructions sheet that you don’t understand. All you have to do (most of the times) is to just follow it step by step. When you get to the part where you didn’t initially understand, it will all come together. If all fails, ask Mr Google and see if anyone has done a sew-along. Or ask questions at sewing forums. There are plenty of great lovely people out there ready to help.

For this particular dress, the finishing of the neckline is done by folding in twice and sewing on top. So that’s folding in 1/4″ and then again for 1/4″, together taking up the 5/8″ seam allowance with the turn of the cloth.

I’ve tried two methods in doing this: (1) is to fold and then pin and (2) is to iron down the folds with no pinning. Number (2) is the clear winner here:

img_1537
Edge on top: done with pins; Edge on bottom: done with ironing

The fabric is a deep navy so it may be slightly difficult to see from the picture. But what happens with the pinning method is that between pins there will be gaps and because the folds are kind of tiny (just a quarter of an inch each), they tend to bounce out, creating a wavy edge which looks very homemade.

Instead, if you use a paper ruler like the one in the picture and iron down the folds with it, the edges are a lot crisper.

Another alteration which I realised I had to do during the sewing process is the placement of the fabric ties (not just the positioning of them which I have mentioned above. As this is a faux wrap dress, the dress does not open up like a bathroom. The ties are locked in place by the seam lines on the sides. The instructions told me to put one piece of tie on one front piece, as follows:

img_1544

But since I’ve moved the ties down, one side of the tie end will be “hidden” underneath the wrap. So both tie ends will have to be basted on the right side of the right side of the wrap front:

img_1538

After I sewed down the side seams connecting the front pieces with the back piece, I tried the dress on and found something very funny – the fabric near my hips stick out like a flap of unwanted skin. With wrap dresses, or knit dresses that cling to your body instead of puff out like a gathered skirt, an excess piece of fabric that sticks out away from your body is not going to be flattering.

So I went back to check the pattern and notice that the curve does look quite weird for my body shape. My bottoms are not flat and there is a noticeable difference between the waist and the bums, but not significant enough for this pattern design. For this pattern to fit, your hips will have to be much wider than what the size chart indicates. The pattern does state that the measurement of the finished garment at the hip would be 35″ for size 6, but side seams continue to flare out to 37″ wide.

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The line to the most left is the original line near the hips. The line on the most right is the tapered one.

I have therefore tapered the sides further down, until the sides of the dress naturally flow down beside my thighs.

I didn’t notice this when I did the test run with a different knit fabric (the green one). The test fabric is slightly more lightweight than the navy one, and more clingy. That was perhaps why the extra “flaps” of fabric did not show up then. But since my navy knit is slightly more structured, the flaps do stick out prominently. So whether you need this alteration will depend not only on your body shape but also on the clinginess of your fabric.

6. Finish your seams

For knits there is not much you need to do to finish the seams except maybe to trim them down. I have a serger so I have overlocked my side seams as well as the hem. I used the serger on the hem because the knit I used is quite lightweight and I don’t want to do a double-turn which can look quite heavy. Also as it is a wrap dress, faux wrap nonetheless, the hem finishing may be visible and so I prefer to have a serged line to avoid a homemade look.

So that’s the end of my review. I’ll upload a photo of the finished dress when I get to snap a picture of me wearing it. Hope you find this review useful.

Summary of alterations done:

  1. Lengthened the torso by 2cm
  2. Move down the positioning of the ties (about 2″)
  3. Flatten the sleeve cap
  4. Taper in the sides of the bottom (about 2cm)

SUBMARK

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