This is my first make for Minerva Crafts as part of their Blogger Network. I’ve been thinking about a sailor-style dress for a while now, I love the big wide collars, they have a real vintage vibe and remind me of 50’s pin-ups (or sometimes, of 80’s party dresses). It’s just turning into Autumn so just enough time to squeeze in one more summery tea dress before it gets too cold!
The pattern I’m using for this is a printed paper pattern, McCall’s M6913.
You can see there’s a couple of views on this dress, so plenty of options if you want to use the pattern again. The C and D views has a square collar that’s sewn into the shoulders, and the others have a pointed tie. I’m going for the B version, which is the one the little girl is wearing. You’ll notice the pattern says EASY. This always makes me super suspicious because I’ve never once come across a pattern that says it’s easy and actually is – similarly if it says “3 hours” that usually means 3 days!
Anyway, I’m using a really super soft blue chambray fabric with white pin-dots and a white linen-look fabric for the collar. Here’s the notions that I’m using to finish off the dress – some crochet lace trim for the bottom of the dress…
Some small white buttons to fasten the front (although I only needed two for the dress)…
White cotton bias binding for the trim…
And some matching blue thread for the main body of the dress.
I also used some white thread, some bright pink for tacking and gathering, and a little pieces of interfacing to secure the front of the dress and stiffen it where the buttons and buttonholes go.
Now, if you’re a follower of my blog you’ll know that I don’t often use traditional paper patterns, and tend to go for downloaded ones instead. I used to be really frightened of paper patterns, opening them up was so confusing, I remember staring blankly at a big sheet of tissue and feeling like I wanted to cry. But, after a while, I’ve grown more confident with using them, so I’m going to take you through some tips and show you how to get off to a good start.
First, give the back of your pattern a good read, and make sure you’re familiar with any extra bits and pieces that you’ll need. It also helps familiarise yourself with the language of the pattern (for example, you can see that option C has elasticated sleeves, whereas the others don’t). Unfold your pattern and the instructions and have a look at the pattern pieces diagram.
Make sure you read it look at which pieces you’ll need, and which you won’t – you don’t want to spend time cutting out ones you don’t need! If you want to save your pattern to use again in a different size or variation, you can trace it off onto tracing paper first.
Spread out your pattern pieces and cut roughly around the ones you need, not right up to the line but roughly around the outside. You can also have a look at the instructions on each piece to see whether you need to cut one or two on your fabric.
I like to save all the pieces I haven’t used and store them away. I’m using these funky little zippy bags for my patterns, so I can put the used pattern in there too.
Once you’ve cut out your pattern pieces, spend a little time getting to know which piece goes where, and what needs to be cut from the main fabric, interfacing and the collar (contrast).
You can see here that there’s a lot of information on the pattern, which can be a little confusing, but just try and concentrate on the information that’s relevant to your pattern view, size and language! I find it really helps to highlight the information I need, so when I’m pinning the pattern I can easily see what needs to go where. There are also some suggested layouts for placing the pattern pieces on the fabric, which is important to follow if you’re using a pattern with a direction to it.
I’m using a lovely blue chambray fabric, which is just a little heavier than a dressmaking cotton. It’s like a very light, soft version of denim, and the polka dots are so cute! If you’re using a fabric with a directional pattern on it, make sure you have it the right way up when you lay you pattern pieces out!
Here’s a close-up of the white linen-look fabric that I’m using for the tie. Because it’s a little heavier than the chambray anyway (especially when it’s pressed, as it goes quite stiff), I’m choosing not to use interfacing with it, and to just cut two pieces of the fabric instead.
Before you start to place your pattern, fold over a portion of the fabric (enough for the skirt piece to lay on top) and press a really sharp line. You don’t necessarily need to fold it directly down the centre, depending on the width of your fabric. Just make sure you have a really nice straight line to place all the pieces that need to be cut on the fold.
Place your pieces down and pin them securely. If you’ve cut the pieces roughly before you pin them, you can then cut along the exact line on the pattern.
This means that your pieces will come out a lot more accurately than if you’ve cut them out once, then cut round them again. (It’s also much quicker). Keep the pattern pieces pinned to your cut fabric to stop you from getting confused!
Don’t be afraid to flip your pattern pieces if you need to, it helps conserve space and means you’ll use less fabric. Remember to transfer the markings onto the fabric pieces. If you’re cutting multiples of the same piece, leave the original piece still pinned to the pattern when you cut the second piece. This means you’ll get two pieces that are very similar. I also like to cut the notches at this point (cutting inwards into the seam allowance) to make sure that the pattern pieces line up exactly. Of course, you can cut the notches outwards, which is better because they don’t stretch – I just always forget to cut them so end up going inwards instead!!
Here’s the front bodice piece with the iron-on interfacing attached. This helps to stabilise the front later on when we add the buttons (which are hiding at the front under the tie).
Here’s the first few pieces stitched together. The bodice is stitched at the sides and top before the collar is added, then the collar is tacked on, and the lining pieces sandwiched on top. This makes an enclosed seam with the collar attached inside, and the lining will flip over and attach to the mid-seam.
Here’s the two pieces of the collar tie pinned together, right sides together. If you’re using interfacing, make sure that you only attach it to one side, and that this piece sits on the top of the dress. I’ve pinned it all the way around, but you can see that there are two shapes of notches – one shows where to sew up to, the other is to match the pieces to the dress.
I’ve sewn the tie and turned it inside out – but I couldn’t find my point turner anywhere so the points aren’t quite sharp enough for my liking!! when you’re turning out something like this, make sure you thoroughly poke out all the seams to make it nice and sharp, especially along the wide curve. Press it with the iron to make it really sharp. You can see here the portion of the tie that’s going to be attached to the neck of the bodice, and then sandwiched in between the lining pieces.
This is the back of the tie, you can see how the shape of the tie changes when it’s sewn to the bodice, the point is much more pronounced.
I chose the same fabric for the lining as for the main bodice of the dress, which was a little bit confusing when I was trying to work out which was the lining and which was the outside when I was sewing it together! You can see here that the tie is caught between the two layers where the raw edges are, and then enclosed on their own at the ends.
Next up, it’s the sleeves. I’m not adding anything to the sleeves, as in the picture, because I thought it would be a little too much with the patterned fabric. The sleeves are short and enclosed by the bottom being turned up and sewn down. First up, sew three lines of gathering stitches along the top of sleeve – it’s marked on the pattern as ‘ease’. This little bit of extra fabric allows you to place the sleeve inside the armhole, with a little bit of volume at the top. Pull on the gathering stitches to rouche up the fabric. If you’d like some more information on gathering, I’ve written a little tutorial.
Oh yes – I nearly forgot. My top tip for turning over the bottoms of tiny sleeves? Press – and press really well – the bottom seam allowance of the sleeves, the part that’s going to be turned up. Then, sew the sleeves at the side, and when you come to turn it over, it will fall into place really easily.
The bodice is almost complete! My gathering on the right sleeve was a little wonky, but I decided to let it stay like that, as it’s not shown too much under the tie. Next is to attach the skirt around the waist, using the same gathering technique. There’s bunches of fabric to gather up here, so be really careful not to snap the threads. There are plenty of notches around the waistline to match up, which will help you keep the gathering even, use the side seams to match it up too.
On the bottom of the skirt I’ve attached some white cotton bias binding, placed two inches above the bottom of the hem. I’ve sewn down the top and bottom edges so that it forms a stripe around the bottom of the skirt. I really like the way that you can see the centre portion slightly – it looks a similar texture to the linen fabric of teh collar.
I’m adding the lace trim to the bottom of the skirt – here’s a great way of doing it without adding too many lines of stitching to the hem. First, sew your trim facing inwards on the bottom of the skirt, leaving a gap of around 1/2 or 1″ between the trim and the edge of the skirt.
Fold the edge of the skirt back towards the wrong side and press securely. This will now be your hem, and your line of stitching where you’ve attached the trim will not be visible from the outside. Fold the edge of your trim in once more so that you’ve doubled-over the hem.
Press it again securely and sew it down to make a secure edge on the skirt. This method works with pretty much any trim, and works really well when you’re using ricrac, as you can sew straight down the middle, and when it’s turned over you can only see the bottom portion, which gives a lovely scalloped edge.
I’ve also added some buttons at the front to fasten the dress, and the loop of the tie is tacked between the buttons, so you can open it fully and thread the tie through when the dress is fastened. I forgot to get a picture of this part! I’ll add this later.
The dress is finished!
The front of the dress.
You can just about see underneath the tie where the button fastening is – maybe you can spot it on a few more pictures?
Doesn’t this lace trim look nice like this?
Here’s the back – I really love the way that the tie extends on to the shoulders and sits low around the front, it’s really pretty.
So what was Mini’s opinion? Well, she’s pretty obsessed with the old-fashioned Cinderella at the moment, and when she saw it she said – “Wow Cinderella dress!” – which, hmm, maybe looks like it?
(Seriously though – this film is not as good as you remember, it’s all about the mice and the cat, which is sooo boring. The Prince doesn’t even speak and Cinderella is clearly a fruit-loop who’s spent too much time on her own talking to rodents).
Anyway, here she is doing some serious posing:
It’s a really good fit on her, perhaps comes down a little bit too long on the front but otherwise fits great with a little room for growth. The length is good too, no nappy flashing and she could wear it with tights later on.
So I asked her to show me the back, and she gave me an over-the-shoulder pose, cheeky!
Oh, yeah. this is Mini showing you a picture of mini. It’s mini-ception!!
And some outside, even though it was absolutely freezing, and actually very early in the morning when these were taken!
She wore it to nursery with her little mustard-coloured cardigan (the same one she’s wearing with the green dress) and it looked awesome!
I have a little bit of this fabric left, so I’m goin to make a matching tote-bag for her to carry around, as she is getting really into carrying her treasures around (we really disagree on the definition of ‘treasures’ though).
I really enjoyed sewing this dress, I think it turned out really well, and the linen-look fabric is just so crisp and lovely to work with. I’m so grateful to Minerva Crafts for giving me the opportunity to work with fabrics that I haven’t tried before, and to explore this lovely pattern.
So what do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts.