Monthly Archives: March 2013

This is maybe the most unsurprising post ever. What? I made a knit dress in a bold print from one of the most popular knit patterns ever, and I love it? I truly apologize for being so predictable. I suppose the only slightly unexpected thing about this dress is that it took me so long to get around to it.

McCall's 5974

The pattern is, of course, McCall’s 5974, the Palmer/Pletsch pattern that they actually call “the perfect knit dress”. Ordinarily I would take umbrage at that sort of labeling, but you know what? It is pretty perfect. It’s the classic crossover bodice with just the right amount of pleating, a skirt with lovely front pleats that give it the perfect amount of swishy fullness, and a tapered tie/belt/thing that defines the waist nicely. The only thing that’s not perfect about this pattern is how much fabric it requires! This sucker, with its long waist ties, cannot be squeezed out of 2 or even 2 and a half yards. Ask me how I know that. The reason it’s taken me so long to actually make it up is that the 4 or 5 previous times I thought I’d found the perfect fabric and laid it all out to cut I’d come up short. Finally, when I saw a bolt of this awesome print rayon knit at the crazy Solvang store, I thought of this pattern and cut off 3 yards and some change. Just to be safe. And so the perfect knit dress finally happened!

I made only one adjustment: on Amanda’s sage advice (sidebar: I love her graduated dot version! I thought I would have to be content with admiring it, since it’s such a unique fabric, but I just happened across a very similar fabric down here in LA and I nabbed it! I feel a copycat dress coming on…) I narrowed the wide end of the ties so they don’t come up as high on the side seam. I cut a 10-top-12-bottom as usual and I just took it in a little in the upper arm/armpit/upper bust area. I do wish that I had done my usual wrap top SBA by pinching out an inch or so along the neckline, since it does gape a bit when I slouch. Well, next time! I finished the neckline my usual way, by zigzagging clear elastic to the wrong side along the edge, then folding it under and twin needle topstitching. It’s by far my favorite v-neck finishing technique because it’s very easy and much more foolproof for me than a self fabric binding (and I sure hate cutting long skinny strips of fiddly stretchy rayon knit).


The back is not broken up by a midriff, and has a center back seam, both of which I thought I would be annoyed by but I’m not. If I ever make it without the tie belt, though, I would probably want to add a back midriff for balance and eliminate the seam, since the midriff would serve the same swayback-shaping purpose.

One last thing of note about this pattern – it may be the perfect knit dress pattern, but it’s far from the perfect knit instructions. As it has been extensively noted on PR (wow, I’m pretty sure I’m the last person on earth to make this dress), these instructions are like out of 1988. I mean, I am not slipstitching the midriff lining down over the skirt seam, thank you very much. And in what universe would this dress need a zipper? Honestly, I really only glanced at the instructions anyway, since I’d heard they were not great and I’ve assembled about a million of these type of dresses anyway. One thing I did notice was that the layout diagram told me to attach the two pieces of piece 8, the tie, together before cutting, but my tie pattern was all in one piece. I must have gotten a newer printing of the pattern tissue and an old instruction sheet. I was suspicious because I felt like the tie was a little short, but it’s like that on the pattern photo so I think I cut it the full length. (Not that you can see it in this busy print, but trust me that it’s on the short side.) I may make it a smidge longer next time.

IMG_9035 If I have ever have enough of one fabric to make this pattern again, that is.

First of all, thank you all for your nice comments (and votes!) for my RTW knockoff dress! I really love figuring out how to use existing patterns to replicate things I’ve seen in stores. (Is anyone interested in a post about my method for picking patterns for knockoffs? Planning them is half the fun for me, even if I never get around to making the actual garment.)

But it’s funny how after a mad rush to finish something for a deadline, I almost always fall into a slump of inactivity… I have completed a couple things, but a random cold sidetracked me from finishing (or, ahem, well, starting) my trousers before I was separated from my machine for a couple weeks working away from home. So to make up for my sad lack of posting in the last two weeks, pants or otherwise, here I present three garments in one post. Shocked? You should be. But probably just by the terrible, terrible pun I have committed in the post title. I apologise, but it had to be done.

Because, yes, these three knit dresses are all patterns I have made before! Also shocking, I’m sure, (well, mostly just to me) since I’m generally not a pattern-revisiter. Too many shiny new patterns out there! But for some reason, in January I pulled out three patterns I’d made before and took another stab at them.

Let’s start with Vogue 1194:

Vogue 1194 take 2

This was one of the first knit dress patterns I ever made, into maybe my first true-love-success! knit dress. I made it up in a nice ITY print from Gorgeous Fabrics for an anniversary dinner a couple years ago (almost exactly 2 years ago, since my anniversary is at the end of March), and I have worn it a ton since then. It’s my go-to cool-weather-dress-up dress. So when I was looking for a practical winter work dress to make from this super nice jersey I got at the FIDM store, I thought this pattern would be perfect. I mean, I didn’t want to screw up a great fabric on a pattern that didn’t work! So I went for it. And it worked, for the most part. I cut the same size as before (including cheater SBA – folding out length in the neckline), but somehow the elastic in the waist bands ended up tighter. Stiffer elastic? More careless with measuring? Both possible. It’s tight but still wearable, though since the front band is somehow much less wide than the dress front, it pulls and gathers the sides of the bodice a bit so it looks like there are more pleats than there are.

Also, I used the pockets on this version, omitted in the first one because my fabric was so light. The instructions for sewing them are really weird, but I went with it because, well, it must be like this for a reason, right? Wrong. They have you sew one pocket piece to the skirt front, understitch it, sew the other pocket piece to the first one, then sew the skirt sides, catching the back pocket piece while avoiding the front. Not necessary at all. I should have just done the usual sew-the-side-seams-including-around-the-pockets method. Because of the weird construction as well as the understitching stretching out the pocket seam on the front, the pockets gape and stick out a bit. Oh well. Another keeping-hands-in-pockets-at-all-times dress.

FInally, I think this pattern is better in a heavier, more drapey jersey. This fabric has the most wonderful soft and smooth hand, but it’s still on the light side so it poufs just slightly more than I’d like it to rather than falling flatteringly from the waistline. Still, it’s a solid pattern and I’ve already worn this version a bunch.

Next up, Butterick 5246:

Butterick 5246 2nd

I made my first one of these last winter out of a random cheapo jersey and I wear it all the time. It’s a really good casual dress to wear with leggings for a bike commute in cooler weather. One such day in January when wanted to wear it and it was dirty, it suddenly occurred to me that I should make another one (duh)! I had a thick, super stretchy striped jersey from Girl Charlee that I wasn’t sure what to do with, and equally suddenly it latched itself to this pattern in my mind. But when I washed the fabric, like several other striped knits I’ve gotten from them, sadly, the different colored stripes shrunk at different rates and I ended up with what looked basically like seersucker. That was still heavy and super stretchy. There was also almost not enough (it went from 2 yards of 60″ to like a yard and a half of 45  inch!) to make this pattern at all, but I did some of my best desperate pattern puzzling and barely got it all cut out. I made the sleeves as long as the fabric would allow, which was not very long, so I added bands to the sleeves to lengthen them a little. (The contrasting stripe direction was more about available fabric scraps than a design choice, but a happy necessity. The fabric is so stretchy in all directions that I didn’t need to worry about grainlines!) I did not line the bodice, instead finishing the neckline with a self binding strip.

Ultimately, though, this fabric proved a little too heavy for this pattern. The weight of the skirt pulls both the empire seam and the neckline lower than they should be. And because it’s so stretchy, even after taking it in on the sides a bunch, it still pulls away from my body at the underbust seam because of the weight of the center gathers (which makes it maybe the least flattering dress ever from the side). I wonder if going back in and sewing elastic to the seam allowance would pull it in a little? I may try it at some point, but for now I’m just wearing it as is. It’s more casual than I was envisioning, but the thick fabric is warm, anyway.

Finally, here’s Vogue 8511, a pattern for woven fabrics that I (quelle surprise!) made up in a knit:

Vogue 8511 knitifiedI was inspired to pull this out when I saw a houndstooth doubleknit version pop up on PR, and I was reminded of a similar baby houndstooth doubleknit I had gotten from Fashion Fabrics Club eons ago that I didn’t know what to do with.

Again I just cut the size I had cut before (since my previous version was in a stretch poplin, and this fabric was a stable knit, they stretch about the same). Bonus to reusing patterns: you don’t have to cut through the pattern tissue when you cut your fabric (yes I cut out my pattern tissue. For commercial patterns that I get on super sale, who cares? Also I am lazy, in case you hadn’t noticed). I saved the center back seam for last, basting it first to be sure I could squeeze the dress on over my head, and success – no zipper necessary! I did sew the waist seam with a legit “stretch stitch”, the triple straight stitch, to make sure it didn’t pop with the stress of pulling it over my chest (luckily there isn’t much chest to strain it). I didn’t line the bodice, just turning the neckline under and topstitching to finish it.

I will say that this version has the same problem as the last version: the waist seam allowance is annoying. It wants to lay facing up because of the bulk from the skirt pleats, but then it’s visible slash creates unnecessary waistline bulk. This dress really wants a belt, I think, but none of my belts look good with this fabric. So I wore it without and tried to forget about the bulky waist seam. Just goes to show that I almost always prefer a midriff on my dresses!

So what did these three dresses show me about remaking patterns? Well, honestly, that I can see why I almost never do it. I have to say that I don’t like any of these dresses more (or even as much as) my original makes. Maybe it takes three tries at a pattern to get it perfect – the first to get you excited, the second to show you what you did wrong or need to fix about the pattern, so the third time’s the charm? Oh boy, I’m pretty sure I don’t have the patience for that.