Sewing Projects

A MCCALLS M6696 SHIRTDRESS TO CALL MY OWN (IN AFRICAN WAX PRINT)

It’s so funny how we as a community can collectively get obsessed with a pattern. It’s basically how a virus spreads; one person catches it, sneezes on a few people, and before you know it we’re all feverish and shaking,  wearing Inari Dresses, Linden sweatshirts, or the blockbuster Big 4 hit of the last few years, McCalls 6696.

I caught the virus. Technically  I caught it last year, and in a fit of shirtdress fever actually bought the digital download since I was too impatient for it to arrive by post. This was a mistake. While I’ve personally never worried too much about pattern piracy (both because it’s completely out of my control and because I think most sewists are respectful of all the blood, sweat and tears I put into my patterns), the Big 4 clearly are, and as a result their digital download system is a little byzantine (if not downright annoying). You need to download a special program to print and view your pattern, and from what I can remember, there is no way to figure out what pages you need to print, which means that with a huge beast like this shirt dress with multiple cup sizes and options, you’re printing well over a hundred pages. Thankfully Deepika being the kind soul that she is brought me a paper copy when she visited Montreal last summer, saving me from the ultimate PDF assembly purgatory.

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For my first version (a wearable muslin), I decide to use up some of the psychedelic Vlisco African wax print cotton I had bought in a madness last spring. Why I thought I needed 4 yards of a bright orange Escher-esque 3D print is a mystery to me; I got the same print in 2 other colourways as well, but its so bold that I’ve mostly been using it as pocket linings in jeans these days (if you love wax prints, under no circumstance visit the Vlisco site. You’ll basically lose your mind and sell your eggs for every single thing they make). Boldness aside, it’s the perfect weight for a structured pattern like this; cotton loves waist pleats, trust me.

I had traced out the pattern last year but only got around to making it this spring, and you’ll have to forgive me for totally forgetting what size I made. I think I did the C-up bodice grading from a size 12 at the bust to a 14 at the waist, but I ended up doing some additional side seam tomfoolery to get her to fit. Like many, I removed all the gathering from the back piece, basically by folding it out and redrafting the seams so they ended cleanly in the yoke and waistband. If you’d like to skip that pattern adjustment, you could probably try M7351 , which looks like the same block minus all that back fullness.

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It fits beautifully through the front, but I am getting some pooling at the small of my back so I’ll be making a slight sway back adjustment for my next version. Of course, there will be a next version… this is a lovely pattern with perfect proportions and I am very excited to make a sleeveless version using a breathtaking hand dyed rayon sent to me by my pen pal Nicole.

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Even though it is loud as hell (not quite in line with the more monochromatic palette I’ve been fond of lately) it turns out it’s the perfect dress for picnicking and bike rides.  And it helps that if I got lost in the forest, they would be able to see me from space.

Have you made M6696? What’s your favourite shirt dress pattern?