Pattern Review: McCalls 6559 Maxi Dress

a.k.a. Zip zap zum

Pattern Description: (From McCalls website)MISSES’UNLINED JACKETS AND DRESSES: Close-fitting, unlined jacket in 2 lengths has front extending into single-layer tie ends(wrong side shows). Very close-fitting, pullover dresses. E and F: front seam detail, bias upper/middle fronts, and lower front/back (cut on crosswise grain of fabric. All have narrow hems.

I made View D, the plain and simple maxi dress.

Sizing: 6-22

Available as a PDF? Yes

Fabric Used: Chevron print abstract smooth faced jersey from Gorgeous Fabrics (naturally). It’s sold out, but You Can Find Similar Here.

Machines and Tools Used: Pfaff 2130 sewing machine, Juki home serger, Naomi the Naomoto iron, pressing ham, shoulder stand.

Needle/Notions Used: Stretch 75/11 needle. Scraps of interfacing for stabilizing the shoulder seams, thread. That’s all.

Tips Used during Construction: And Now, a Word from the Pressinatrix

Did it look like the photo or drawing when you got through? Yes

How were the instructions? I didn’t really use them. I took a cursory look at them and they seem fine.

Construction Notes: It doesn’t get easier than this. Cut out, sew side seams, make narrow hems at neckline, armholes and bottom hem. Done.

I serged the side seams, and I used a narrow (1mm by 3mm) zigzag stitch for the hems all around.

I have a technique for narrow hems that helps me keep them even. Before I start on them, I sew a line of basting stitches at the 5/8 inch (in this case) hemline. That serves as an exact guide when I fold my hems and it keeps the hemlines from getting all ripply.

Closeup of the neckline.

Closeup of the neckline.



With a closeup of the inside finishing

With a closeup of the inside finishing

Likes/Dislikes: Do you want an easy, simple pattern that sews up in under an hour from start to finish? Here you go. I wanted a cool easy dress for summer. This fits the bill perfectly. And since JoAnn had McCalls patterns on sale at 5 for $7 this past weekend, the timing couldn’t have worked out better.

No real dislikes.

Would you do it again? Would you recommend it? Yes and yes. I’m serious when I say this is about as easy as it gets. Here it is on Shelley



and Back

and Back

Conclusion: What’s not to love? It’s easy, it’s quick, it’s comfortable. Great for summer!

Here’s a fun challenge. Anyone notice anything about this dress? My rendition, I mean, not the pattern in general.

Happy sewing!

Posted in McCalls, Patterns, Reviews | 7 Comments

Simplicity 1586 Take Two – Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll

With apologies to Ian Drury.

I loved my Wedding Gown Refactor so much that I decided to use the same pattern on some fabric for our 30th anniversary trip that’s coming up later this summer. There’s not too much that I did differently, so I won’t bother with a complete review, just highlight the differences.

Fabric Used: A stretchy rayon print that I bought from my friend Alice of Mendel Goldberg.

Machines and Tools Used: I think I used every one of my machines this time, since I started working on it at lunch up at the office (inudstrial Juki straight stitch and serger) and then brought it home and finished it (Pfaff and Juki home serger)

Tips Used during Construction: I had exactly 1.5 yards of this fabric, and it was very dear, so I used Sewing Tip, Get More Mileage From Your Fabric. And hey, I have fabric left over! Not enough for a garment, but maybe for a clutch or something.

Construction Notes: I used a straight stitch (2.5mm) to sew all seams, and I serged the seam allowances before pressing and pressing them open.
6838 v2 Inside

I finished the hems and facings with a serged edge. I mitered the hem at the back vent. And unlike the way the instructions have you construct the vent, I used a standard vent opening, rather than having both facings go to one side.
6838 v2 Mitered Hem

I reinforced the CB seam at the back vent with a steel eye.

I know, my hand sewing sucks on this, but no one will see it.

I know, my hand sewing sucks on this, but no one will see it.

I hand tacked the facings at the seams, shoulder darts and the center front (very loosely)

Likes/Dislikes: I really love this pattern. I’ve become very drawn to princess lines, and they work perfectly for this fabric. And what a great fabric it is! You can see why I call it “Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll” though I also call it the “Valley of the Dolls” fabric. :)
6838 v2 Closeup

Would you do it again? Would you recommend it? Yes and yes!

Conclusion: I LOVE this dress! Here are the shots on Shelley. I can’t wait to wear it!!!
6838 v2 Front
6838 v2 Back

Happy sewing!

Posted in Sewing, Simplicity | 8 Comments

A Quick Way to Add Coverage to a Wide Bateau Neckline

In my review of New Look 6838, Tina commented,

I am intrigued with this modification of using the piece of fabric across the shoulder. How & where would I attach that fabric insertion?

I had already started on a sleeveless version of the top with the extra striped fabric, so I figured I would do a quick version to show you. This is more brute force than elegant. But in the words of Jim Blinn at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, “Brute force is a wonderful methodology.” So here’s what I did.

  1. Cut two rectangles of fabric, measuring 3 inches by 5 inches.
  2. Fold the rectangle in half lengthwise, so you have a 1.5 inch by 5 inch strip.
  3. Stitch or serge the long raw edge.
  4. Turn and baste your neckline hem, then position the fabric strips underneath at the shoulders, and pin them to the garment, having the serged edges even with the edge of your neckline hem, and the folded edge extending out about 1 inch from the shoulder seam.

    6838 Shoulder Strip 1

    This is after it’s been sewn in, but you get the idea.

  5. Stitch the neckline hem down, catching the fabric strips in the stitching
  6. Trim away any excess fabric.

    Trim any excess strip fabric underneath.

    Trim any excess strip fabric underneath.


Ideally, you should insert these and finish the neckline right after sewing the shoulder seams, but before attaching sleeves or sewing the side seams. If I do it again, I would probably draft a pattern piece, but this works in a pinch. Here’s a view of the finished front:

Look ma, no straps!

Look ma, no straps!

This keeps those pesky bra straps under wraps! Hope that helps and…

Happy sewing!

ETA 6-9-15: Dear Simplicity, Leaving sleeves off a sleeved top does NOT magically make it a well-drafted sleeveless pattern. Take a clue from StyleArc and give different front and back pattern pieces. #lazydrafting #grrrrr #thatgoesforyoutoomcvoguerick

Posted in Sewing, Tips | 7 Comments

Pattern Review: New Look 6838

I’ve been hankering to make a Breton-style top for summer. I love Jean Paul Gaultier’s tops, but I can’t afford one unless I hit the lottery, so I did a search on the web for a pattern. I was almost resigned to shelling out a fair amount of cash for an indie pattern when I stumbled across a (new to me) blog called Jet Set Sewing. Voila! The blogger had done all the work for me. I love when that happens, don’t you? Thank you, Jet Set Sewing!

When I saw the New Look pattern I knew I had hit pay dirt. I know what adjustments I need to make to Simplicity/New Looks, so I was off.

Pattern Description: From Simplicity’s website, “Misses Separates Misses Pants and Knit Tops.

Wow, that’s really helpful… not. How about this instead: Misses knit tops with neckline and sleeve variations. Woven drawstring pants in two lengths.

I made view A, the bateau neck top with bracelet length sleeves.

Sizing: XS to XL (translates to 6-24). I made a Small.

Available as a PDF? Yes.

Fabric Used: Striped cotton/lycra beefy jersey from Gorgeous Fabrics (natch). Alas, it’s sold out, but you can see Similar Fabrics Here.

Machines and Tools Used: Juki home serger, Pfaff home machine, Naomi the Naomoto iron, pressing ham, shoulder press.

Needle/Notions Used: Stretch 75/11 needle, double needle of indeterminate size (it was floating free in my needle drawer. Two scraps of fusible interfacing to stabilize the shoulder seams, thread.

Tips Used during Construction: Tips and Tricks for Sewing with Knits, And Now, a Word From the Pressinatrix, Can 4 Way Stretch Eliminate the Need for an FBA, How To Flat Set a Sleeve

Did it look like the photo or drawing when you got through? Yes

How were the instructions? They are fine. I checked them but I didn’t use them. This is a very straightforward pattern and it goes together very easily.

Construction Notes: This pattern is super easy. I made it, from start to finish, in under an hour. I serged all the seams, and I used the double needle for the hems and necklines. Rather than set in the sleeve after sewing the side seams, I set it in flat. I made a FBA. Rather than cut the front on a fold, I mirrored the pattern with a piece of tracing paper, making it a full front piece. This allowed me to see exactly how I was laying it out on the stripes.

Likes/Dislikes: Easy, classic, well-drafted. What’s not to love? One thing that I really like about this pattern is that the back has a CB seam, allowing you to fit it better than a piece that is cut on the fold. Nicely done, New Look!

Would you do it again? Would you recommend it? I definitely will do it again and I do recommend it. This is a great pattern, it’s readily available and it’s inexpensive. All great things for a wardrobe builder. I think the next one I make with this pattern will be the sleeveless version. I need a bunch of tops for summer and this pattern will help fill that need.

Conclusion: Love it! I’ll wear it today, but in the meantime here are pictures on Shelley


and Back

Hapy sewing!

Posted in Fabrics, New Look, Reviews, Sewing | 11 Comments

The Pressinatrix Feels Compelled

Yes, my dears, your Pressinatrix feels compelled. Compelled to speak. Compelled to shatter myths. Compelled to preach pressing truth.

The Pressinatrix recently received an email from a lovely sewing friend. This friend, who is quite dear to The Pressinatrix, was appalled that a sewing expert declared that the validity of Pressing As One Sews is a myth. The Pressinatrix’ friend wanted to know what The Pressinatrix had to say about that?

The Pressinatrix’s eyebrows shot up to the ceiling, and after a moment she said, “Hmmm, isn’t that interesting.”

Now, those who know The Pressinatrix know that “interesting” is not a good thing. But she would never disrespect another sewing expert’s opinion, regardless of how muttonheaded that opinion may be much she might disagree with them. No, The Pressinatrix prefers to allow results to speak for themselves. However, since your Pressinatrix presses everything to perfection while she sews, she must look to her lesser self’s alter ego’s examples that she sewed long ago, when she had just met The Pressinatrix.

Admittedly exaggerated, but not by much

Admittedly exaggerated, but not by much

The top example was only pressed at the end, the bottom at every step.

The top example was only pressed at the end, the bottom at every step.

Imagine, my dear readers, how dreadful The Pressinatrix’ lesser self’s alter ego’s refashioned wedding dress would have looked if she had neglected to press it properly at each step. Unpressed princess seams, my darlings! The very thought is enough to send The Pressinatrix to her fainting couch.

Now, The Pressinatrix does not declare that you must do anything. Even when she wears her tiara, The Pressinatrix does not deign to force her will. But The Pressinatrix firmly believes that if sewing is one’s hobby, or even better, one’s passion, it is worth taking the time to do well. The cumulative effect of pressing (or not pressing) as you sew is clearly visible. The results do, indeed, speak for themselves.

Thats All

Posted in Pressinatrix | 17 Comments

Pattern Review – Simplicity 1586, aka The Wedding Gown Refactor

30 years ago, a journey began.
June 1 1985
Since that beautiful June day, lots has happened – two sons, two careers, ups, downs, and everything in between that makes up a more or less normal life.

After the wedding, I had my gown preserved, and since then it’s been sitting in a big honkin’ box in the back of DS the Elder’s closet. To mark our anniversary, we decided to go out for a nice dinner. What to wear, what to wear? Well, typical of my style, on Thursday of this week I got the hankering to make a new dress, and a light bulb went off. I don’t have a daughter; I have a big old dress just sitting there. Surely there must be enough fabric to make something new that also is a sweet way to honor the occasion. I started looking through patterns at lunch and found this one.

Pattern Description: From Simplicity’s website, “Misses’ & Plus size dress with sleeve and neckline variations. Individual patterns for slim, average & curvy fit & B, C, D cup size for miss & C, D, DD cup sizes for plus. Amazing Fit Collection by Simplicity.

To add to that, this is an armhole-princess-line pattern. I made the v-neck, sleeveless version.

Sizing: 10-28 with cup size and curve variations for all sizes. I used a 12 at the shoulders, tapering to a 14 D-cup/Average figure for the rest.

Available as a PDF? Yes

Fabric Used: Silk Satin (Similar Here), Sheer Cotton Voile in White

Machines and Tools Used: Pfaff 2130 sewing machine, Juki serger, Iron, Ham. Shoulder press, sleeve board.

Needle/Notions Used: Universal 70/10 needle, Pro-Tricot Interfacing, ¼” cotton twill tape, Lampo lightweight mesh invisible zipper, Japanese hand-sewing needles, thread.

Tips Used during Construction: Fear Not the Fabric, Anything by The Pressinatrix, Sew from Wide to Narrow

Did it look like the photo or drawing when you got through? Yes

How were the instructions? I didn’t use them. It’s a straightforward princess line dress, and I can sew those in my sleep.

Construction Notes: I have to admit that I was very nervous about this project when I started. I didn’t know what condition the dress would be in when I pulled it out of the box.

My hands were shaking as I opened the box

Fortunately, other than wrinkles from being stored in a box for the better part of 3 decades it was in great shape.

Princess Diana would have been proud.

There’s a lot of fabric in that train

My heart was pounding as I started to cut the skirt but I got over my nerves and really enjoyed the process. I was fascinated to see that this dress was really, really well made. I had the dubious pleasure of helping a good friend with her $6000 Vera Wang wedding dress several years ago, and I was appalled at the shoddy construction used – unfinished seam allowances, threads left hanging, and 4mm stitch length. But my dress was beautifully made, with wide seam allowances, hand-sewn lining in the bodice, tight stitching and all seams finished. Not a serger stitch in sight, either.

There was enough fabric in the skirt to make the dress a couple of times over. I cut out the pieces and decided, thanks to time constraints, to underline the dress (the pattern is unlined) with cotton voile rather than create a lining for it. I made a quick muslin to check the fit. I have found that Simplicity patterns run huge on me through the upper chest and shoulders. This was no exception. I started with a 12, and I still had to take about an inch out of the back neck (I used darts) where it gapped dreadfully. I tapered out to a 14 at the bust (using the D-cup pieces) and gave myself a skoosh extra room at the waist (sigh…)

I used twill tape to stay the v-neckline. I hand basted the underlining pieces to the outer dress pieces and sewed it up. I used the serger to finish the facings and the hem. This went together very quickly. Once I sat at the sewing machine I sewed it up in 4 hours from first seam to last hem stitch. Pressing everything properly took the bulk of that time.

Likes/Dislikes: This is a great base piece for any wardrobe. I love the simple clean lines. I love the different cup sizes and curviness options. Hate Simplicity’s fit through the upper chest, but I know about it so I can fix it easily. There’s nothing I dislike about the pattern (other than the aforementioned fit issue). The pattern is beautifully drafted and goes together without a hitch.

Would you do it again? Would you recommend it? I would do it again. I definitely recommend it.

Conclusion: I’m so happy with how this turned out. I have enough fabric from the dress left to make a bolero, which I think I will do at some point. I also have all the lace, which would make a nice trim on said bolero. Enough of my yammering, here are pictures…

On Shelley

On me

With the Man I Love

Gratuitous Hoover Shot

I think my next project will be a less emotionally-fraught maxi dress for summer.
Happy sewing!

Posted in Fabrics, Sewing, Simplicity | 32 Comments

Wonderful Wardrobe Wednesday at Gorgeous Fabrics!

And now for some Gorgeous Fabrics business-related news…

Last week we tried an experiment that succeeded rather fabulously, so we’re doing it again! I call the concept Wonderful Wardrobe Wednesday. It’s a grouping of fabrics that I’ve picked out that work together well – some are bottom weight, some are for tops. There are knits as well as wovens – all chosen with the idea that you can mix and match. Last week’s group was in a brown/earth-tones colorway; this week’s is blues. There are 5 fabrics (some weeks there may be more, some weeks less) that go together well or complement each other in a wardrobe, SWAP or capsule collection. You don’t have to buy all of them, and you don’t have to buy any specific quantities. You get to pick and choose!

And the really fun thing is that we have a coupon “WWW” that takes 10% off any of these fabrics for the one day that we highlight them (i.e., today)! Here are the today’s fabrics. If you click on the image it will take you to that fabric’s page.
Italian Sweater Knit – great weight for cardigans and toppers

Bold Scale Butterfly ITY for tops, skirts or dresses

Silk Crepe de Chine – Wow – that one sold out already, sorry

Daylily Profusion Neoprene – a totally on-trend fabric for dresses and skirts!

Textured RPL – with a little stretch, it travels beautifully and wears like iron

What do you think of this concept? Should we do more of these? Should I set up a separate email list so you can sign up to get notification of our WWW coordinates, or is our regular sale email good? And if you aren’t on our mailing list already – why not? It’s easy, it’s free and we NEVER share your information with ANYONE. Evah.

Let me know in the comments what you think. Thanks, have fun and happy sewing!

Posted in Fabrics | 22 Comments

Vogue 9073 on the Hoof

Pictures! Tonight is prom, and DS the Younger wore his vest and tie. He told everyone who asked where he got it that I made it for him. :)

In the wild, under the tux.

In the wild, under the tux.

Buttoned up, with his ballroom dance partner

Buttoned up, with his ballroom dance partner


Photobombing the shot of the girls

Happy sewing!

Posted in Vogue | 5 Comments

Pattern Review – Vogue 9073, Plus a Quick Tip

It’s prom time! Between traveling and that, what little sewing time I’ve had has been devoted to others. I made a belt for my friend’s daughter using a pearl and crystal trim from M&J backed with black petersham ribbon. It doesn’t warrant a review, but I’ll see if I can get a picture on her tomorrow night.

The other thing I’ve worked on is a vest and bow tie for DS the Younger. I had an old pattern, Vogue 2826 (long out of print) that I have used many times before, but it didn’t have a vest, so we got him this one.

That’s what I made!

Pattern Description: From the website, MEN’S VEST, CUMMERBUND, POCKET SQUARE AND TIES: Vest A includes sizes S-M-L-XL-XXL and has welt pockets. View A and Cummerbund B are lined. Pocket Square C. Bias-cut Ties D,F are 3″ wide and Ties E,G are 3 1/2″ wide. Views F,G have contrast band. Bow Tie H. Pre-tied Bow Tie I.

I made the vest A and the “pre-tied” bow tie I.

Sizing: S-XXL. I made a medium at the chest and shoulders, tapering to a small at the waist. Oh, to be 17 and the swim team captain…

Available as a PDF? No

Fabric Used: Blue and gold printed quilting cotton. I know, I know. But he had a specific color in mind, and he wanted sparkle to it. This one fit the bill, so there you go. Lining fabric that has been in my stash for who knows how long.

Machines and Tools Used: Home Pfaff sewing machine.

Needle/Notions Used: Universal 70/10 needle, Pro Weft Supreme Light Interfacing from Fashion Sewing Supply, buttons, hooks, eyes, thread.

Tips Used during Construction: Anything by The Pressinatrix, Make the Lining First, Bottom Up Buttons.

Also, I’m not sure this is worth writing a tip for, but if you are ever working with a dark, or heavily patterned, low-contrast fabric like this one, a great way to find all the stray threads on it is to use a bright LED flashlight. It’ll reveal even the most matchy-matchy rogue threads.

Did it look like the photo or drawing when you got through? Yes

How were the instructions? They were okay. Just to try something different, I decided to use the standard Vogue instructions way of making welts, rather than my own Tried-and-True Method for Making Welt Pockets. You know what? The standard Vogue instruction way sucks. You are flying blind for much of it, making it difficult to achieve precise results. I ended up throwing out one whole side of the vest and re-making it using my way of doing welt pockets.

Construction Notes: Speaking of welts, I decided to narrow the welt on the pocket a bit. I found the narrower width more aesthetically pleasing. The pattern calls for sew-in interfacing, but I used fusible, and block-fused all pieces. I used a 2.5mm stitch length and 17mm buttonholes (automatic).

The outside of the welt pocket

And the inside

Likes/Dislikes: This is an easy pattern. I like the vest, and I think DS the Younger will like it when he tries it on. It’s not a standalone vest – it doesn’t have a back, just a back belt and halter, but it will look great under a tux. The tie is a faux-bow tie – it’s basically two rectangles of fabric that are pinched in the middle and tacked together with a band wrapped around the middle, then sewn to the neckband. I don’t care for that method. I’ve made real bow ties and I like those better. But this will do for a high school prom. I have enough fabric left over that I may remake the bow tie the “real” way for him.

Closeup of the tie

Would you do it again? Would you recommend it? If the occasion arises, sure. This was a pretty easy pattern, it’s well drafted and it turned out nicely. I would prefer it in a nice silk, but hey, I wasn’t sewing for me. I wouldn’t make the version of the tie that I made here, though if you are in a time crunch and you need a bow tie, they don’t get much easier than this.

Conclusion: A good pattern, easy to sew. And I’m Hero Mom for making it for him! Here are some shots on Shelley, who has vastly different measurements than he does. I’ll get pictures on him tomorrow night.

It’ll fit him better than my Wolf dress form

See what I mean about not being a standalone vest?

Happy sewing!

Posted in Vogue | 3 Comments

Tip: Bottom Up Buttons

Here’s a quick one that will make your life easier in some cases. Certain garments, like a Tuxedo Vest with pointed hems for example, really need careful placement of the buttons to make sure that those points stay even. When making my son’s prom vest, I sewed the buttons on the front from the top down. I did a great job spacing them, but when I got to the bottom I saw that they were placed so the points were just slightly askew. He probably wouldn’t notice, but it made my eye twitch, and I’m sure it would cause my sewing friends to give me side eye. So here’s a quick solution: sew the buttons from the bottom up!

First, of course, I sew the button holes. Then I lay the piece on a flat surface like an ironing board and using a ruler, “level” the points:
Level the Points
Position your bottom button based on this, and sew it on the garment. Then you can move up the garment and sew your buttons on. Ta daa! Points are aligned!
After the Buttons are Sewn

Now obviously, this works best on a garment, like a vest, that has a v-neck. It’s not meant to replace precise cutting and sewing, but it will make it less likely that you come to the end of the buttons and discover that you’re off by a minute but irritatingly visible amount.

Happy sewing!

Posted in Tips | Leave a comment