McCall’s 5974, or: I’m so predictable

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.

  1. Gorgeous! You are the queen of the knit dress! Don’t worry about being predictable. If something works for you why fix it!?

  2. Ruth said:

    It looks great! Love the print 🙂

  3. Your dress is beautiful! You blended right in with the flowers – what a cute picture. What kind of flowers are on the trees?

    • aleah said:

      It’s jasmine, as Beth pointed out below. It thinks it’s spring or something. Suddenly my neutral backdrop isn’t so neutral anymore!

  4. lisa g said:

    love the dress, and the print you choose is great! in my opinion a gal can never have too many knit dresses. 🙂 and, the pattern calls for a zipper?! i really wish they would stop treating knits like wovens. maybe newer patterns are better about that, but i pretty much won’t do a big 4 knit pattern anymore.

  5. Deby said:

    It does look perfect on you, and I really like the print. You are not the last to make this – I still haven’t gotten round to it either. Is that a sewing sin?

  6. Stacie said:

    Very pretty. I love a good knit dress because it feels like pajamas! I will be on the lookout for bargain knits, so I can try it myself. 🙂

  7. very cute dress, you are the queen of knit dresses. and look at your jasmine blooming, so nice. Mine hasn’t started yet.

  8. Super cute dress! I squeezed my polka dot dress out of 2 yards by cutting on the cross grain. There wasn’t much to spare, though, but it can be done. Feel free to copy that one and thanks for the shout out!

    • aleah said:

      That’s good to hear since I only bought 2 and a half yards of the dots! I was wondering about how you cut it out, thanks!

  9. This has turned out just lovely, and who cares if it is a little predictable, as long as you have created something beautiful, which you have 😀 I am still a bit wary of sewing knits, just because I don’t often do it. This looks like a good pattern to start with though xXX

  10. Super awesome dress! What a great fit. I totally need to look into this pattern…

    Also, a bit jealous of the flowers and greenness going on behind you! It’s snowing again today here.

  11. Nhi said:

    Great dress. I don’t care what people sew, as long as they’re sewing and it’s wearable. I’m a pro at eeking out garments with very limited fabric. If I were you I would have done the waist in another fabric like solid black or red. I’m too lazy to lay it out again and again.

  12. You are cute as a button! I just found your blog via I love that you sew so many knits. I am your newest follower!

  13. Such a pretty dress! That fabric is gorgeous and it looks lovely on you!

  14. Who cares about predictability when it results in (predictably) awesome dresses like this one! I love the fabric you chose, and thanks for your notes about the tie and the back…I don’t know that I’ll ever make this, but I might steal the tie idea. Man, I really need to check out this crazy Solvang store!

  15. Absolutely beautiful, Aleah. This is definitely a TNT pattern for me. But never call yourself predictable. You made a gorgeous dress in a stunning fabric, and you look fabulous and happy. It was the right pattern at the right time. Isn’t that a great feeling?

  16. Amy said:

    Ah what a lovely print, the dress looks fantastic – and super wearable.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: