Thursday, 21 May 2015

Denim McCalls 6696 Shirtdress

I'm so excited to share my latest completed garment with you today! It was one of those projects which seemed to come together without any struggles and just worked. I'm so pleased with the style, fit, fabric, and finishing I managed to achieve.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Denim McCalls 6696 Shirtdress

I'm sure many of you will recognise the pattern as the infamous McCalls 6696 shirtdress which has been taking the sewing blogosphere by storm over the last year or so. I can see why everyone has been raving about it; it's a fantastic pattern and is so enjoyable to put together. The cut is beautiful and it has some gorgeous design details. Not only that but it comes with bodice pattern pieces for different cup sizes and the construction method is spot on. I love the way the insides have turned out, especially with the contrast of the right and wrong sides of this lovely denim!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Denim McCalls 6696 Shirtdress

I've been thinking about making a denim shirtdress for a while now, they keep popping up all over my Pinterest! I think they're a great staple to have in your wardrobe and with changes in styling can work through all seasons. Then I found this beautiful washed denim in Unique Fabrix on Goldhawk Road and my mind was made up! It was so lovely to work with and great for this pattern as the washed quality means it's not too stiff, thick or heavy. I'm very tempted to head back and buy a bit more in a different shade to make myself a little seventies style button up skirt!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Denim McCalls 6696 Shirtdress

I then deliberated over what pattern to use for some time as I already have the Grainline Alder and Colette Hawthorn in my pattern collection but neither of them seemed quite what I was after; I wanted something more fitted than Alder and not quite as feminine and full skirted as the Hawthorne. I then remembered Clare from Sew Dixie Lou's gorgeous chambray version of 6696, decided it was just what I needed in my life and treated myself to the pattern! Boy was that a good decision. It's one of those patterns that as soon as you finish you want to start all over again. It's a good thing I didn't have any other suitable fabric in my stash or I could have disappeared down a shirtdress rabbit hole and the rest of my sewing queue would have gone out thew window!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Denim McCalls 6696 Shirtdress

I made View C, sleeveless with the more fitted skirt. I was so keen to make this dress just perfect that I actually made a muslin of the bodice which is fairly unusual for me! I'm always a bit wary of the amount of ease in the sizing of the big 4 patterns so I measured the flat pattern pieces to work out what size would probably fit best. The envelope suggested a size 12 but my measuring indicated I would be a size 10 maximum so I cut this with the A/B cup (which I also don't understand as that's not my usual size but I followed their measuring guide!). It was a pretty good fit as is. The only change I made was to shorten the bodice by just shy of an inch and the waistband now sits perfectly. Looking at the final dress in photos I think it's a little roomy in the shoulders so next time I'd skim a bit of width off the armholes or possibly even size down to the 8 with a C cup as I could probably stand to loose a bit of ease in the waist too. I like this shape of skirt to finish above the knee on me as I think my frame gets a bit overwhelmed by them being longer so I took 3.5" off the bottom and used 1" for the hem.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Denim McCalls 6696 Shirtdress

The main change I made to the pattern was to remove the gathering from the centre back. I quite like it as a feature in the version with the full skirt but I wanted to keep my straight skirted version streamlined and also felt like the gathering would be too bulky in the denim. To do this I removed a wedge from the centre back of the pattern piece, 3.5" at the top where the back piece joins the yoke, and 6" from the waist seam. One of the things that I really liked about this pattern (which I have to say I miss from a lot of indies) is how clearly aspects like the waistline, centre back and bust points are marked on the pattern pieces. It makes making alterations like this and analysing fit SO much easier. Marking things like this on pattern pieces and muslins is definitely something I will take forward from this project.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Denim McCalls 6696 Shirtdress

The pattern doesn't instruct you to topstitch your seams; the yoke, plackets and waistband are all finished with slip-stitching. As I was using denim I really wanted to incorporate some topstitched detail but I wanted it to be quite soft a subtle so chose to use the same mid grey thread I was using to construct it. Topstitching is actually one of my favourite sewing activities, I don't know why! I'm really pleased with how it turned out on this. I didn't use a special foot or anything, I just used the edge of my foot as a guide and the fabric took it beautifully. It also meant that I could get out of all that hand sewing as I just pressed under the edges that would have been slipstitched, pinned them in place from the right side and secured them with the topstitching.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Denim McCalls 6696 Shirtdress

Most of the insides end up cleanly finished if you follow the instructions. The only change I made was to complete the yoke using the burrito method rather than slipstitching the inside yoke piece to the shoulder seams as recommended. I finished any visible seam allowances using a light grey thread on my overlocker. It's true what they say about grey thread; it really does blend in with nearly anything and I'm really pleased I bought some cones of it a few weeks ago. While I'm looking at the insides and thinking about it I'm just going to take a moment and say how much I love the angled pockets on this pattern. I might end up using the skirt pieces to make my denim skirt just because I like the pockets so much!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Denim McCalls 6696 Shirtdress

The only aspect I'm not super happy with my finishing on is the collar stand. It's always a tricky element and in this denim it proved even more so. The topstitching worked out great but it was tucking in the seam allowance at the centre front points that proved tricky in the denim. It needed trimming down quite a bit so as not to be too bulky but I ended up with such a small allowance it was really hard to keep it tucked in neatly. As always I used Andrea from Four Square Walls' collar tutorial and trimmed down the interfacing, under collar and inner stand slightly which helped both with bulk and to keep everything sitting correctly.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Denim McCalls 6696 Shirtdress

I chose to use a mid weight fusible cotton interfacing after much deliberation. I was worried about it being too stiff and heavy, particularly on the button plackets where there is a double layer but it's worked out perfectly.  I made my own bias binding from the denim to finish the armholes rather than using shop bought and am so happy with how this looks. The buttons came from Goldhawk Silks & Trimmings and were just what I was after; the metal look of a traditional denim shirt dress but still delicate and small. I only needed 9 as I had shortened it beyond the bottom button and omitted the one on the collar stand which I would never use. I had a bit of trouble with the buttonholes because the bulky seam allowance where the band meets the bodice/skirt was pushing the foot off centre but I got there in the end with a bit of unpicking!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Denim McCalls 6696 Shirtdress

As well as being ridiculously pleased with this new addition to my wardrobe I really learnt a lot from the process of making it and enjoyed that too. Despite my usual tendency to plough on ahead with a project because I have such limited time to sew I think I've finally cracked realising just how valuable it is to give myself a bit more time to think about fit and whip up a muslin if necessary. This one took no time at all and even though I barely made any adjustments I can see difference!

75 comments:

  1. We love this on you! Well done. Hope you don't mind if we plaster your photo all over our social media!

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    1. I don't mind at all! Thanks so much!

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  2. You've done a great job on this Fiona, and I agree that the topstitching was a good idea. I've had this pattern on my radar for a while, but the handsewing had put me off. Now I have no excuses not to get cracking on it! Your sewing is impeccable. Well done!

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    1. Thanks Emma! The topstitching was at first a purely aesthetic choice but as I got further along into the instructions I realised how much time it was saving me! I hope you enjoy making yours!

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  3. I absolutely love this version of the McCall's 6696 Shirtdress. I have pondered making this dress many times this past year and wondered why I was so hesitant. It seems to be the plackets on the front of the dress; I have heard they are a bit temperamental to make and several people have commented on how they ignored the instructions in the pattern and just sewed them together the way that made sense to them. Are they problematic? Yours shows no sign of any struggle; it is a beautiful dress. You should be proud! And yes; make another one quick!

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    1. Thank you! I had no trouble at all with the plackets, they're just a long rectangular shape and are added just before you attach the collar. You press under the seam allowance on one long edge, sew the other edge to the dress. Fold it in half right sides together then stitch along the bottom edge before turning it right side out. Press the seam allowances towards the placket and then slipstitch/topstitch down the remaining edge. That probably makes no sense at all without diagrams if you're not in the middle of making it but it's very straightforward I promise! I hope you do try it!

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    2. I want to to thank you, Fiona, for taking the time to explain this and help me with it. The dress has been hanging there for a couple of months because of my struggles with this. For some reason, I just could not get what they wanted in this aspect. I will re-read your advice carefully and see what I can come up with! You are very kind.

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    3. I hope it helps in some way! I find it hard to explain things without pictures! The hardest bit to get your head around is sewing along that bottom edge where you want the hemline to be before you turn it right way out to get a clean edge. Good luck!

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  4. Absolutely beautiful Fiona, you've done a great job and the finished dress is just lovely! I've made a long sleeved one in denim and wear it all the time. Whenever I can't decide what to wear I just put it on and it works! I wish I'd removed the back gathers though as you've done, as that puffy back is really annoying. Enjoy wearing it this summer. X

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    1. Thanks Jane! I think it's going to be one of those dresses that I end up reaching for again and again because it just works with so little effort! I deliberated over removing those gathers, or at least part of the gathers for so long! I'm really pleased I took them out completely though, I like the streamlined look

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  5. Very pretty! I love the timeless style specially in jeans, it suits you very well.

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    1. Thanks Nathalie! It's a really classic, comfortable and flattering design I think. I can see me getting a lot of wear out of this for years to come!

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  6. This dress is sooo perfect! Thrilled to see this post as I'm coincidentally planning to embark on this very pattern next week, and was umm-ing and aah-ing over whether to remove the back gathers; thank you for explaining how you did it as it's convinced me to do the same!

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    1. O good! It's really straightforward to do, just mark in 1.75" from the centre back fold line on the pattern piece at the top, 3" at the bottom. Draw a line between the two and that is your new centre back line! I hope you enjoy making it!

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  7. A denim shirt dress is just so timeless and your finishing is exquisite! Thanks for such a detailed post, this pattern is going to be my next project and it's good to know the gathering at the back can be omitted without it affecting the overall dress.

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    1. It sounds like there's a few people with this pattern on their list to sew! It's really enjoyable to put together so I hope you like it! I was a bit worried about the back piece ending up off grain once the gathers were omitted but it worked out totally fine for me

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    1. Thanks Devra! I need to sew more classic wardrobe staples like this!

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  9. so lovely fiona. i must buy this pattern - i haven't seen a bad version and cup sized bodice sounds perfect!

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    1. You must Jo, it would really suit you! The method for choosing a cup size still confuses me but it seems to work so I'm just going with it!

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  10. Oh my, this is gorgeous! I wouldn't have thought about making a denim version but you may have just convinced me... Taking the gathering out of the back was also a wise idea - that's still the bit I'm not convinced by!

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    1. It seems a lot of people feel the same way about the gathering! I'm deliberated over what to do about it for ages and ended up just folding it out of my muslin to see how it looked. I'm really pleased I went without it now, especially in denim. Thanks Jenny!

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  11. This is such a beautiful dress! It is sewn to perfection.

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    1. Thank you! I really enjoyed making it!

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  12. This is gorgeous! I have this pattern and I've been meaning to make it. I might consider making it sooner since yours turned out so lovely! I would have removed the gathers too. I'm not a big fan.

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    1. Thanks Kathy! Definitely make it sooner! I'm sitting here thinking about what other fabrics I could make this up in already!

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  13. I'm so impressed at all of the precision in the closeups! This dress looks immaculately stitched!
    I just pulled out this pattern last week and (with my eye) paired it with some pink linen in my stash. I hope I can get to it this summer.
    Wonderful job!

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    1. Thank you! I love a bit of precision topstitching, I don't know why! This denim was so easy to handle too, it took it really well. A pink linen one sounds lovely and you've totally inspired me to make a full skirted linen one now! I hope you enjoy making it

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  14. Looks really lovely Fiona!! Funnily enough, l made version c too, but with short sleeves, in a purple floral cotton twill l purchased in Paris last year (meet up). For denim and other twill fabric, l find the drape or stiffness of it suits version C perfectly.

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    1. Thanks Tanya! Yes I really like view C in a fabric that will give it a bit of structure. In the denim it feels really practical but still put together which is exactly what I need in my summer wardrobe!

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  15. The fit and finish look perfect on this and the denim is so on trend and yet timeless. Every time I see another version I think I have to make another. When?! Anyway love yours.

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    1. I know the feeling! I could sew a whole string of these if I had the time! Thank you

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  16. Beautiful dress and it looks great on you. Lovely.

    Also came out of lurking to say that you convinced me to buy the pattern - and there's a sale on until May 26th with all patterns at 3.99. Helps justify the customs charge to the UK!

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    1. Oo great tip! Now I've had such a great experience with this pattern I'm going to have to investigate trying some more McCalls designs and that sale might be just the excuse I need! I hope you enjoy making it, the instructions and techniques are fab

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  17. Great shirtdress! This is the second time I've seen this pattern and the first time I was reluctant to buy because of the gathers in the back. But if it is that easy to remove them, I might get tempted. Your version looks fabulous.

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    1. Definitely get tempted! It's so easy to get rid of the gathers, you just take out a wedge along the centre back line. I hope you do get the opportunity to try it

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  18. I love this! I have this pattern but have not been brave enough to give it a go yet.

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    1. O you don't need to be brave to try this one! The instructions are great and there's lots of 'straight line' sewing. The fiddly bit is the collar which just takes some patience and good pressing. I hope you do try it soon

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  19. Wow this is a perfect dress! I love the topstitching detail - the whole thing looks so neat!

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    1. Thank you! That collar stand is definitely not perfect or neat but I'm still pretty pleased as punch with the dress as a whole!

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  20. This is too gorgeous on you. I'm pleased to see a version without all the fabric gathers at the back... I like this silhouette so much better.

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    1. Yes me too! It just seems a strange place to add extra volume and fabric to me! Thank you

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  21. Beautiful! Looks massively satisfying - must investigate :-)

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    1. Satisfying is exactly the right word to describe my experience of sewing this one! Such an enjoyable project. Thank you

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  22. Wow, I love this! I made one 6696 a few months and have a second almost finished and two others cut out. I never thought of making one out of denim, but I LOVE the idea and I have some denim that I think might be perfect for this in my stash. Thank you for such great inspiration!

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    1. Hooray for more denim shirt dresses! It was Sew Dixie Lou's chambray version that gave me the inspiration for the denim so I have to give credit to her for the idea really! Here's to a denim one being your fifth version!

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  23. You've done a great job on the dress. The inside finishes make for a special garment.

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    1. Thanks Gail! I find clean and tidy insides so satisfying!

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  24. What a beauty! I saw this on Kollabora and came over for a close up - wow! I have this pattern and haven't made it yet because I was iffy about those flaming gathers - hello, world:) I have quite a few 1950s patterns that have those same gathers - they're the ones I haven't sewn either..... If you subscribe to McCalls' newsletters, they tell you when sales are on - sometiems they have all brand sales which are brilliant. Even with the shipping it's better than buying them from Europe. Re the cup business, I read somewhere quite a while back that for sewing patterns the cup thing is not the same as the bra cup measuring system - maybe that's why it seemed weird? Whatever, the fit is brilliant, the fabric is gorgeous, and the finishing is superb. I am hopeless at topstitching and admire yours - it looks gorge!

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    1. Thanks so much Francesca! I'm sure the gathering would be fairly easy to remove on any of your patterns, you just need to work out how much ease has been included for the gathers and take a wedge out of the area that's that size! Thanks for the tip about the sales and the cup sizes, I figured it was better to follow the pattern recommendation for choosing a cup size than just go with what I usually wear! I didn't know if maybe it was and American to British thing too. Hope you do try this pattern out!

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    1. Thanks Sally! I could so see you in a denim dress like this!

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  26. Beautiful!!! I find I have been cutting down shoulders on all McCall patterns this past year- what's up with that??

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    1. That's really interesting to know! I am fairly small at the shoulders and sometimes have trouble with some other pattern companies because of it but maybe it's just a thing?! I didn't really notice this until I saw the pictures though I must admit

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  27. This is beautiful and really shows off your figure :)
    I'm missing those amazing Goldhawk Road shops, think I need a trip up there!

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    1. Ah thanks Ami! I'm so comfortable in it! Definitely plan yourself a little Goldhawk trip, there's so many shops and lovely stuff that it's worth the effort!

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  28. Aren't sewing blogs wonderful - just discovered yours and it has gone to the top of my 'must reads'. Everything about your dress is perfect - almost as if it was designed with you in mind. It is so different to the things I usually make - I am short and in particular very short waisted so have avoided this style of dress - but it looks so wonderful very tempted to have a go. Would you mind telling me how tall you are please, which would help me decide!

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    1. O Julia that's such a lovely comment thank you! It's one of those projects that just somehow works out exactly as I had in mind and I KNOW I will get loads of wear out of.
      I'm 5ft 3 and also fairly short in the body. I did take a bit of length out of the bodice and a chunk off the skirt for personal preference but after that I found the proportions to be pretty great!

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  29. This looks so amazing!! I love that you removed the back gathers and will need to remember to refer back to this post if I decide to make this dress - I just bought some washed denim that I can't decide what to do with but this pattern has just shot to the top pf the list!

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    1. Yes! Denim shirt dresses for everyone Kathryn!! Good luck!

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  30. So pretty. You're making this pattern awfully tempting!

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    1. This would look so great on you Elena! I can just see you in it now. I'm quite tempted by a linen version next!

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  31. Beautiful! Denim shirtdresses are on my mind as well, but I haven't found the right pattern yet. This one looks nearly perfect - personally, I'd add some sleeves!

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    1. The pattern comes with the option for sleeves so you're in luck! I might try adding some little cap sleeves to my next one

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  32. In general, you look super cute in dresses, but you rule demin dresses for sure! You rock this shirtdress and the only thing which is missing is a Harley ;) Seriously! If I were you, I would be also super proud with the dress and all the work you've done.

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    1. Ah thanks! I am really proud of this one and am particularly pleased to have made something which I know is going to last me years of lots of wear! I'd better go find me a bike ;)

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  33. Lovely dress! You look so cute in it and it's such a fun piece!

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    1. Thanks Sonja! I can't wait for it to heat up enough here for me to wear it!

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  34. Totally behind on my blog reading, but this is gorgeous Fiona! I do love 6696, although I have so far resisted buying the pattern until I make at least one hawthorn given I already have that pattern! I don't think I'd have thought of making this in denim, but it works really well.

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    1. I've got a secret to admit to you...I have the Hawthorne in my stash, totally untouched but still bought and made this! I think the details of this one make it slightly less girly and a bit more me. Still waiting for the perfect fabric to make a hawthorne though!

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  35. Perfect! I have made this pattern too and really love it. Yours looks so good with the removal of the gathers in the back. Beautiful top stitching too...so nice that you could bypass some of that hand sewing!

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  36. Hi Fiona, I don't know if it's too late to comment on your fabulous version of McCall's 6696. Sorry if I'm being rather dim but could you explain what happens with the centre back fold which is the straight of grain when you take out a wedge. Does this not put the waist and yoke seams off grain.I have some nice linen with a subtle check in the weave and so love your dress that I hope to achieve something smiliar to yours.

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    1. Hi Marion! Its never too late for a comment thank you! From what I can remember and looking back at what I've written the back piece is gathered at the centre into both the yoke and waistband and there's a difference of 2.5" between the two so 1.5" on each side which isn't all that much when thinking about the grain. I simply used this straight centre back edge as my new grainline and cut the piece on the fold so the centre back was still on grain and I was cutting a very normal looking bodice back piece. I had no trouble with anything seeming off grain or strange. I don't think I've explained that very well but I'm not sure how else to put it! I got the idea to remove the gathering from Clare at Sew Dixie Lou so do check out her post as she may have some more well explained guidance! Good luck. Its a fantastic pattern!

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    2. Thank you for such a super fast reply.You have explained it really well Fiona.I shall be cutting this out immediately.

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    3. Thank you for your super fast reply. You have explained it really well Fiona. I shall being cutting out my version immediately. I just hope it turns out as great as yours looks.

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I love hearing from readers of my blog so please feel free to leave a comment letting me know what you thought about this post/make! Any hints or tips to improve my sewing are always much appreciated too!