• Dresses

    Autumn M7969

    Happy October everyone! It’s spooky season right? I’m already planning what pumpkin design to try this year after my super successful painted pumpkin with sewing theme illustrations.

    Now onto what I’ve been making! Here is my new M7969 dress which you can buy here. When I finished my previous red and pink M7969 I knew I needed more of this pattern. I then very soon after picked up this gorgeous floral viscose from Rainbow Fabrics.

    almond rock in an autumn floral print version of m7969 buffet dress surplice bodice with gathered skirt and elastic hem sleeves

    The falling blooms in orange and blush on the black base make me think of Autumn and even though I try to avoid wearing black, I knew it had to come home with me. All their fabric is deadstock or overstock from fashion houses and suppliers in London so you have to buy quickly if you like something. I’m glad I did as it’s now sold out, but take a look to see if you fall in love with another print.

    almond rock in an autumn floral print version of m7969 buffet dress surplice bodice with gathered skirt and elastic hem sleeves

    For my second version of the dress I chose to try longer sleeves. I used view B again but cut the sleeve just below elbow length. I should have probably gone another couple of inches longer in hindsight but I’m pretty happy with this. I can wear a cardigan over the top easily but also show a little bit of skin when I choose. With oversized dresses like this I think they suit me best when you can see my arms OR I cut to knee length.

    almond rock in an autumn floral print version of m7969 buffet dress surplice bodice with gathered skirt and elastic hem sleeves

    The dress goes together so smoothly and with the multi directional print I could easily get the dress out of 2metres of fabric. It’s definitely softer and swishier than the polyester crepe version which I like so you can see why the primary recommended fabric is challis. For me, using the double row of gathering stitches to draw in fabric has never seen me wrong so I’ve done that at the sleeve heads and waist.

    almond rock in an autumn floral print version of m7969 buffet dress surplice bodice with gathered skirt and elastic hem sleeves

    As before this is a size M with no other size alterations. For the elastic cuffs I made a small single folded 1cm hem which was stitched 80% of the way around with a gap left to feed my elastic into place. This teeny channel required adding a safety pin to the end of my elastic to help feed it through. I normally like to use my bodkin for elastic channels but it was too tight for that.

    almond rock in an autumn floral print version of m7969 buffet dress surplice bodice with gathered skirt and elastic hem sleeves

    I already wore it out twice. Once to dinner with my new colleagues! Sue who is the General Manager of Simplicity, Jackie who leads the Customer Service team and Marilyn who manages the Sew Today digital subscriptions. We went to a lovely new restaurant in Altrincham. Then I enjoyed wearing it so much, I wore it over to dinner at my in-laws house! So what I’ve determined is it’s great for wearing to dinner. It’s dressy enough to feel fancy but loose enough to sit comfortably while I stuff my face. WINNER.

    almond rock in an autumn floral print version of m7969 buffet dress surplice bodice with gathered skirt and elastic hem sleeves

     

  • Tops, blouses and shirts

    Vintage McCall’s 4916

    Ahhh Carefree McCall’s. Doesn’t that sound like a dreamy collection. I’ve no idea where the name came from but it seems to have run throughout the seventies. I picked up M4916 from my local charity shop and instantly was captivated by that pleated bib. I thought I’d make the dress version on the pattern but when it came down to it, I knew I needed more easy tops in my wardrobe I could throw on. Can you believe it? Me… NOT making the dress… unbelievable.

    Almond Rock makes McCall's 4916 vintage blouse pattern from 1970s

    The blouse is boxy but hopefully doesn’t make me look pregnant when I’m not. (A common mistake unfortunately, people are often congratulating me when they shouldn’t). And I thought go on Amy, try the puff sleeves you might like them. Factor in a sweet swiss dot effect 70s floral polycotton and I was ready for the #sewseventies challenge. Except I wasn’t. I finished this blouse a day too late and then photographed it even later. So now it’s ready for the Sew Vintage September challenge!

    Almond Rock makes McCall's 4916 vintage blouse pattern from 1970s in floral cotton

    It was a pretty fun make apart from struggling to cut a nice pair of bib pieces that looked carefree and not too repetitive with the flower positions. That’s just me being annoying I bet. There were 4 bibs in total. But thankfully I found the winning pair in the end. The bib has a self facing you fold in half to get the centre front line and then is basted together around the outside. No interfacing which was interesting. I made a toile in black to have a practice and was pretty pleased so moved ahead to the real fabric.

    Almond Rock makes McCall's 4916 vintage blouse pattern from 1970s in black as toile version

    You attach the triangular yoke to the bottom of each bib piece to hold them in place and fold back all the seam allowance before topstitching it in the opening. Fiddly and with no seam finishes but I got a neat finish with my topstitching and overlocked the inside to protect it from the washing machine. I also took an extra step of sewing up the centre front line by placing the two bibs RST before folding back the facings to add a bit more bust coverage. I also skipped the half collar in favour of a bias bound neckline as I find half collars a bit claustrophobic!

    Almond Rock makes McCall's 4916 vintage blouse pattern from 1970s in floral cotton

    My fabric was actually from eBay and while not authentically vintage, it has that sort of 1970s Laura Ashley nightdress print. Like I mentioned earlier, the dots are just printed on which is a shame as a true dobby aka swiss dot would have been lovely for this top. You need something crisp enough to make the pleats and soft enough not to balloon out like a tent and polycotton satisfied both these requirements! It was a whopping £4.49 per metre.

    Almond Rock makes McCall's 4916 vintage blouse pattern from 1970s in floral cotton with puff sleeves

    What surprised me is how much I like these little puff sleeves. At the minute statement sleeves or BIG SLEEVE ENERGY is everywhere and it’s a bit much for me. I have very small shoulder and don’t seem able to pull off the dramatic styles. These are pretty adorable though right!? Or am I on my own here? They are gently gathered into a band which I always enjoy making. In hindsight I could have given myself a little bit more room at the armscye but this is a minor point.

    Almond Rock makes McCall's 4916 vintage blouse pattern from 1970s in floral cotton

    What I really don’t like about the pattern is the centre back seam. YUCK. This breaks everything up in an unattractive way. But it’s a curved centre back seam so I just went with it to add shaping. Now I look at it and think I should have taken the time to cut it on the fold and add diamond shape darts for shaping instead. I mean, this print is too small the pattern match effectively without needing another 50cm of fabric… but I suppose if I hadn’t cut FOUR bibs like a mad woman, I might have had enough. Ca La Vie!

    Almond Rock makes McCall's 4916 vintage blouse pattern from 1970s in floral cotton

    Overall I’m super pleased with the blouse and the fit achieved by altering a single size sewing pattern to match my measurements. Plus I’m happy to take part in Sew Vintage September at least once… but hope to sneak in one more make before the month is over. Watch this space.

  • Dresses

    Pink and Red McCall’s 7969

    Well well, I feel like the last person on the planet to jump onto the love train for M7969 but now it’s all aboard and full steam ahead! TOOT TOOT! Months after it was released, this pattern couldn’t escape my attention any longer. It has a lovely surplice neckline and swishy skirt. And although I don’t wear oversized sleeves like the pattern views, I had seen the lovely Kathy of Sew Dainty make a puff sleeve variation that I could pull off.

    almond rock in a pink and red print version of m7969 buffet dress surplice bodice with gathered skirt and puff sleeves

    Looking at the finished bust measurements on the tissue I decided on size M. That’s a 39.5″ at the finished bust so roomy without being too baggy. I did my favourite tape measure trick to check where you make a loop the same size as the finished measurement and dance around in it to see how the finished dress would feel. Then I made a toile because I wanted to see how much gathering was included at the sleeve head and whether I’d need to add more coverage to the centre front V neckline. I didn’t bother adding the skirt to the toile as I knew how that would fit. I also like to use a longer stitch length on my toiles to speed up the sewing and incase I need to rip out any seams quickly.

    m7969

    Everything was good to move ahead so I chose one of my most prized fabrics. Not because it was too expensive but because I love the mix of pink and red, and it sold out so quickly I have no chance of getting more. It’s a stretch polyester crepe, and has good body plus drape and is totally opaque – everything I look for in a fabric! It’s such a beginner friendly pattern without any fastening and forgiving on fit. They just need to master the art of gathering, because there’s lots to try. Plus the binding at the neckline is a nice technique for beginners. As I’m not a beginner I flew through this in an evening. I was home alone, had a delicious dinner and sewed all evening while watching tv in the background… heaven.

    almond rock in a pink and red print version of m7969 buffet dress surplice bodice with gathered skirt and puff sleeves

    Chain sewing the pieces made it even quicker. This is where you batch prepare your pieces and you pin every seam or dart etc that can be pinned at that stage. For this dress that meant side seams, sleeve seams and skirt side seams. Then I overlocked everything and pressed open before moving onto the next set of seams. If a seam relies on a previous seam being sewn you obviously can’t include it in the same batch but it does speed things up AND save thread because you sew each prepared piece, backstitching at the start and end as normal BUT you don’t lift the foot and clip the threads. You just move your piece out from under the foot and move a new piece in place. The thread tails between each piece are much shorter saving thread. Plus by not stopping to clip threads until the end you save time.

    almond rock in a pink and red print version of m7969 buffet dress surplice bodice with gathered skirt and puff sleeves

    For the puffed sleeves I cut piece 5 at the shorten/lengthen line and hemmed with a 1.5cm hem. Then I sewed a line of stitching with elastic in my bobbin 2cm up from the hem edge. This gathered the sleeve into a pleasing puff shape. You wind the elastic on the bobbin by hand so you can maintain a gentle tension, but still keeping the thread close to the bobbin core. I could have added two rows of stitching but one felt enough. My top tip for bobbin elastic is to hover your iron over the stitching line and press to release steam. This gathers the elastic up a little tighter, perfect if you’re doing rows of shirring.

    This dress makes me so happy. I can’t wait to wear it out and about soon. I think it’ll go really nicely with tights in Autumn and winter, and the colour will keep me smiling all year round! I made a video of tips for this dress you can see on the Simplicity McCall’s UK Instagram as well as a video round up of some amazing versions from the sewing community! There are a whopping 3k shared using the hashtag at time of writing. Now I know why…

    almond rock in a pink and red print version of m7969 buffet dress surplice bodice with gathered skirt and puff sleeves

  • Dresses

    Ditsy Butterick 6758

    Happy bank holiday weekend everyone! I’ve just finished photographing a new dress and I’m really hoping the weather stays nice enough for me to wear it out and about this weekend. This is Butterick 6758 from the latest summer collection. It’s a really nice day dress pattern with drawstring waist and grown-on sleeves (aka drafted to be attached to the bodice), plus the option for a hem ruffle! I chose to make view A but without the sleeve bands. And I changed the drawstring to a waist belt.

    almond rock in butterick 6758 loose fitting dress red leopard ditsy ecovera viscose from rainbow fabrics

    The dress turned out so great. Easy to wear and fit, plus it will transition from summer to winter easily! I sewed it over the course of a few evenings, taking my time with it so I could slow down and enjoy the process.

    almond rock in butterick 6758 loose fitting dress red leopard ditsy ecovera viscose from rainbow fabrics

    My fabric is from Rainbow Fabrics, an online seller of deadstock fabric. This means the fabric is limited quantities, ie left over from ready to wear lines or excess stock from fabric wholesalers and once it’s gone it’s gone… which is the case for this print I’m afraid. It was labelled Ecovera viscose and they do have this same fabric base in other prints so maybe take a look. It’s unusual as a viscose as it has a crepe like texture with that familiar bubbled pebbly surface. I think it works perfectly for this dress as it has enough drape to gather nicely but still feels substantial to wear.

    almond rock in butterick 6758 loose fitting dress red leopard ditsy ecovera viscose from rainbow fabrics

    I love grown-on sleeves on me. Not because I don’t enjoy sewing sleeves, that’s not it. I just have very narrow shoulders and I love how grown-on sleeves broaden my top and balance everything out. Plus, when slightly oversized like this they look and feel super breezy! The trick with grown-on sleeves though is to recognise how the seam will fall down your arm, you’re asking a straight line to curve over your shoulder and down the arm so you will naturally get a small curve at the very end if using a soft fabric as it bounces up at the hem. A slightly stiffer fabric will hold itself away from your arm but you might not like that look. One trick that helps is to snip into the seam allowance from the shoulder point downwards every 2cm or so this helps the seam allowance lie flatter along the arm. But this shouldn’t be tried on a fabric that frays very easily.

    almond rock in butterick 6758 loose fitting dress red leopard ditsy ecovera viscose from rainbow fabrics I use a similar technique on the underarm of a grown-on sleeve, I snip into the seam allowance of the curve in a couple of places and then overlock the side seam allowances together letting the snips stay slightly open as I go over the fabric. Alternatively you can trim quite close so there is minimal seam allowance pulling on the curve.

    almond rock in butterick 6758 loose fitting dress red leopard ditsy ecovera viscose from rainbow fabrics

    I’m wearing my dress with red converse right now but I can easily see it with tights and a cardigan in colder weather. I made a size 14 and graded out the hips to add another 1″ at the side seams. To share this evenly I divided by 2 so I knew how much to add to the front and the back. Then divided by 2 again to work out how much needed adding to each side seam. So by adding a 1/4″ to the front and back side seam on my tissue pieces this added up to 1″ in total. Have you made this dress? Or are tempted to make it now? Please let me know in the comments!

  • Dresses

    Bircham Butterick 5748

    I must confess I did a double take when I saw this fabric go on sale in Hobbycraft. Not because it’s from Joules. I mean it’s definitely exciting that they have released a sample fabric collection of cotton prints. But because I own a handbag in this exact fabric design! I loved that bag, it came with me on many adventures and I always loved the hot pink colours. And given the bag has seen better days, it felt right to pick up some of the fabric for a dress.

    This is the Bircham bloom print, and the collection is exclusively available at Hobbycraft. You’ll see they’ve just listed the second collection of Christmas/festive themed fabric called “Sew Ho Ho”! I’m very tempted to make myself a Christmas dress or pjs out of the 12 days of Christmas print, or the foraged floral. But for now, back to this dress… one of my coping mechanisms for the pandemic was comfort eating, which was great except it meant many of my me-made clothes don’t fit any longer, and all my patterns are traced/cut in the wrong sizes.

    So I pulled out a favourite silhouette and got to work. Butterick 5748 is an early 60s vintage reissue pattern which perfectly spans that late 50s into early 60s aesthetic of close fitting bodice and big skirt. There are neckline cutouts to practice, charming bows to attach and a lined bodice to boost your skills. For me, I love the clean silhouette without any of the cutouts or details for a timeless work dress. I ended up going up one size at the bust and two sizes at the waist.

    You’ll see I switched out the side zip for a centre back lapped zipper. And the circle skirt for a gathered rectangle. What you can’t see is I actually lined the whole dress with pink habotai lining so I can wear it in winter with tights. I’m pretty pleased with my print placement as I didn’t have a lot of fabric to work with. It’s on sale in a 2m cut piece so I had to cut out the front bodice on the single layer to get the best placement and then place the other pattern pieces around that, without cutting the print too badly around the zipper area.

    So there you have it! This was a quick fix to my wardrobe issues and a way to use a beautiful print at the same time. I still have quite a few gaps in my wardrobe to fill and am determined to fit back into some of my absolute favourite makes, but one step at a time!