Tag Archives: The History of English Podcast

McCall’s 7561 Knit Octopus Dress

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McCall’s 7561 Knit Octopus Dress

Do you wear dresses?  If so, do you like knit or woven dresses?  I was a tomboy growing up and after a few years in a school where I was required to wear skirts or dresses every day, I was pretty happy to mostly leave them behind for the rest of my growing-up years.  I feel different about dresses now, though.  I still don’t wear them often, and when I do wear them, it’s mostly in warmer weather, but I can’t resist great-looking dress patterns!  I have so many that I’ve never sewn.  I’m so glad I attempted McCall’s 7561, however.  It was a pattern that I had put in my own Christmas stocking 😉 because I really wanted to try it.

McCall's 7561 Knit Octopus Dress

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McCall's 7561 Knit Octopus Dress

When there was a sale at Pintuck & Purl before their big move, I bought some of this pink Cotton + Steel cotton/spandex jersey with octopi all over it.  It’s called “Mystery Food Orchid” and even has a fun selvage.  The selvage is easy to turn into a fun tag.  🙂

McCall's 7561 Knit Octopus Dress

I had some of it in a quilting cotton in my stash, but I really wanted to try the knit, too.  Does it look a little juvenile?  Maybe.  But I like it, and I’m not here to sew all “normal” clothes.

McCall's 7561 Knit Octopus Dress

When my parents were here visiting, we had a trip planned to the New England Aquarium and, like any sewist who likes an unrealistic deadline, I put two and two together the day before we went, and thought, “Maybe I could make an octopus dress tonight!”  I’m not the world’s fastest sewer, but I had the pattern traced, it was a knit (which can make fitting easier), AND I wouldn’t have to finish any seams.  It was on!

And I did it!  Not only did I make it, but I made it with pockets, too!  And you know what?  It was really fun to wear my dress to the aquarium the next day.  It’s comfortable and very easy to wear with leggings when the weather is cold.

McCall's 7561 Knit Octopus Dress

Details

This pattern was (happily) so quick and easy.  It took me 45 minutes to cut out including pockets (which are a free pattern from Tilly & the Buttons, not a part of the McCall’s pattern).

McCall's 7561 Knit Octopus Dress

I made Dress B and lengthened it about 5″ since I knew that would feel more comfortable when I wear it without leggings.  I made a large in the bust and graded out to an extra large for the waist and hip.

McCall's 7561 Knit Octopus Dress

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McCall's 7561 Knit Octopus Dress

I sewed clear elastic into the shoulder seams so they wouldn’t stretch out.

McCall's 7561 Knit Octopus Dress

The waist was kind of funny in that you sew the bodice to the skirt and then encase your elastic in the seam allowance so that you don’t do any stitching on the outside of the garment.  It was a little weird, but also creative, so I don’t quite know how I feel about it construction-wise.  As far as wearing, it’s very comfortable.

McCall's 7561 Knit Octopus Dress

The pockets are made following Tilly’s instructions, but I find that they gape sometimes, so I don’t know if I should understitch somewhere or if there is a better method.  Does anyone have any thoughts on that?  For this particular project, speed was the name of the game, so I didn’t think about it too much.

This was all done with a zigzag stitch, jersey needle, and walking foot on a regular home sewing machine.  And that’s about it!  I would definitely make this pattern again, hopefully in a summer version.  We’ll see.  I’d also like to try a t-shirt style knit dress, so if anyone has any favorite patterns, let me know in the comments!  Thanks!

McCall's 7561 Knit Octopus Dress

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McCall's 7561 Knit Octopus Dress

Recommendations

  • The History of English podcast just had a great episode (#110) called “Dyed in the Wool” that is all about words and phrases in the English language that were originally related to the wool trade.  You’ll be surprised when you find out where some of the last names, terms, and phrases you’ve heard originated from.
  • Have you ever looked at the knitting patterns from Boyland Knitworks?  I’ve seen a few on Instagram and at Pintuck & Purl, and they’re so beautiful!  I’m in love with the Alyeska sweater.  I kind of thinking I could actually make the Glacier Park cowl.  I’ll have to keep it in mind if I need another knitting project.
  • I went on a little trip up to New Hampshire last weekend and stopped at the Tilt’n Diner in Laconia, NH.  It was great!  It was decorated in a fun 1950’s style with paintings of ’50’s scenes on the walls and quirky sayings all over.  I got breakfast, but I think they serve all meal types at all times of day.  Milkshake for breakfast?  That’s up to you!
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Tiger Shirt!!!! Simplicity 1538 Perfected

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I’m so excited to share my latest project with you today.  I LOVE this shirt.  There are two reasons I love it so much.  The first is this awesome Cotton + Steel pink tiger fabric.  The second is the fit!

Simplicity 1538

Ping of Peneloping was my inspiration for this project.  Her tiger shirt is amazing (as is everything she makes), and it set me on the quest for my own tiger shirt.

You may remember my first attempt at this pattern, made from a vintage sheet.  I really loved that shirt.  It was beautiful, except for being too tight across the back.

Simplicity 1538

Simplicity 1538

I also realized, in trying it on before making this one, that the darts were slightly too high.  Luckily, I had just learned both how to do a broad back adjustment AND how to lower darts.  After doing both of these things to this pattern, I think I may have found my perfect casual button-down…and I have worn it a billion times since making it.  I’m actually afraid of wearing it out.

This post is going to get a bit technical in the hopes that it might help someone else out there.  I won’t go into lowering a bust dart because The Curvy Sewing Collective blog just did an excellent post on this.  You can find that here.

I will, however, show you pictures of the major broad back adjustment I did in case anyone else is working on learning how to do this.  I showed how I did this on a princess-seam shirt in this post.  Today’s shirt, Simplicity 1538 does not have princess seams, but does have a yoke in the back.

Simplicity 1538

Simplicity 1538

Now is the time to skim if you don’t care about the technical aspects of this project.

As before, I used the information in The Perfect Fit, part of The Singer Sewing Reference Library.

Singer Sewing Reference Library:  The Perfect Fit

Because I knew my back measurement, I could measure the pattern to see how much width + ease I needed to make the shirt comfortable when sewn up.  The pattern was 15 inches across the back.  I needed 17 1/4-17 3/4 inches in order for this to be comfortable on me.  (I mention how I measured for this in this post.)  This meant I had to add 1 1/8-1 3/8 inches to this pattern piece (since it only represents half of the back).  I decided I would try adding 1 1/4 inches with a major broad back adjustment (rather than a minor adjustment, which just adds a little width to the back armhole curve).

Major Broad Back Adjustment on Simplicity 1538

Here are my pieces before alteration:

Major Broad Back Adjustment on Simplicity 1538

I have a full yoke piece and a half bottom back piece.  I folded the yoke in half so that the edges of each side could be adjusted simultaneously (and hopefully identically).  You’ll see that my yoke is narrower than the back bottom piece.  That’s because there is a little bit of gathering below the yoke on the center back.  As the shirt is sewn, they become the same width.

For the major adjustment, I taped the yoke to the bottom piece of the back so I could work on them as one.  I made sure to overlap them by 5/8 inch to account for seam allowance.

Major Broad Back Adjustment on Simplicity 1538

Then I drew a line from the middle of the shoulder seam down to the waist and parallel to the grainline.  (I’m more or less quoting from the book, but since you may not be able to read the picture in the book, hopefully this will be helpful.)

Major Broad Back Adjustment on Simplicity 1538

 Next I drew two horizontal lines perpendicular to the one I had just drawn.  Line number one went from the middle of the armhole over to my first (vertical) line and line number two went from about 1 inch below the armhole to my vertical line.  Since line number one coincided with where the yoke joins, you can’t see it, but I’m pointing to the two new lines with my fingers in the picture below.

IMG_6Major Broad Back Adjustment on Simplicity 1538967

 Next, cut out along the lines you just drew so it looks like this:

Major Broad Back Adjustment on Simplicity 1538

 That little ‘almost rectangle’ you have is what you will slide out the amount you need for that half of your shirt (so, it’s half the total amount you need across your back).  In my case, I slid that piece over 1 1/4 inches.  The book notes that the maximum you should slide it out for sizes smaller than 16 is 1 inch.  For 16 and up, you can slide it a maximum of 1 1/2 inches.  Since I had cut a 16 at the bust and an 18 at the waist and hips, this worked for me, and would give me a total amount of 2 1/2 inches across my whole back when the shirt was cut out.

Once you slide that piece out the amount you need, place some paper beneath it and tape it down.  It helps if the paper extends out beyond the edges of your pattern by the armhole and side seam since you will have to redraw those areas now.

I found this part kind of tricky.  I felt like I was making it up as I went along, but here is what I did.  I used my curved ruler to redraw the seamline itself, and then I added my seam allowance in afterward.  I just sort of slid the ruler around until it seemed right.

Major Broad Back Adjustment on Simplicity 1538

Major Broad Back Adjustment on Simplicity 1538

I also had to redraw the area below the armhole, blending the armhole into the side seam.  Again, I felt like I didn’t know what I was doing, so I took my best guess.  Then I cut out my altered pattern pieces (back bottom and yoke).

Major Broad Back Adjustment on Simplicity 1538

Major Broad Back Adjustment on Simplicity 1538

Because my yoke piece was actually a full piece that I had folded in half to do my alterations on, I had to make sure that I had the correct and identical alterations on both edges.  Don’t forget to move any markings (like notches and dots) to an equivalent place on your altered pattern pieces.

A really great thing about this alteration is that it doesn’t change the length of the shoulder seam.  If it did, I would have to adjust the front shoulder seam as well.  The length of that seamline wasn’t my problem, and neither was the size I had chosen.  The width of the shoulders in the back was the issue (and one I also have with store-bought clothing in woven fabrics).  This alteration completely fixed that, and now the shirt is wonderfully comfortable across my shoulders.

Simplicity 1538

The other thing that I did was to lower the front dart by an inch.  I found my information for how to do that in The Perfect Fit as well.  As I mentioned above, The Curvy Sewing Collective did a great tutorial on this very thing.  If you find that dart height is an issue for you, you should check out that post.

Even thought I’m not going into the details, I will show you how my front pattern piece looked after I moved the dart down.

Lowering a bust dart on Simplicity 1538

Lowering a bust dart on Simplicity 1538

I’m glad I didn’t go any lower, and I was a little nervous that the inch had been too much, but after wearing the shirt often, I think it turned out great.

Simplicity 1538

Technical details now finished.  Time for pretty pictures!!!

We found the best background for these shots, and it was actually sunny, too.  All that color + sunshine makes me happy.

Simplicity 1538

Simplicity 1538

Simplicity 1538

And one little fabric and topstitching close-up.  Love those tigers!

Simplicity 1538

Wow!  That was the most technical post I’ve written in a long time (or ever?).  How about some fun?

Recommendations:

  • I’ve got another podcast for you!  Now that I’m out of school, I’m discovering that history is interesting.  😉  I can see how valuable it is to know the past because then you understand why things are the way they are today and how you can avoid the mistakes of the past (hopefully).  It’s also just interesting.  I have long loved “Stuff You Missed in History Class”, but now I have to add “The History of English Podcast” to my list as well.  I realized I was really into it when I went back to episode one and started binge-listening.  It’s not about technical things like grammar, but more a broad history lesson about how languages are related and how the English of today came to be.
  • Have you heard about Me Made May?  If you are a seamstress/stitcher/sewist you should check it out.  It’s a personal pledge to wear your handmades throughout May.  You can challenge yourself to wear one for the month, one every day, or all handmade all month.  It’s whatever you choose.  I participated last year and loved it, and I’m planning on doing it again this year.
  • One of my librarian friends recommended the movie “The Woman in Gold” to me.  (Thanks, Laura!)  It’s the story of one of Gustav Klimt’s most famous paintings, the family it belonged to, and justice long after a wrong had been committed.  Here is the trailer: