An attempt at a border print

One of the patterns in my stash has been catching my eye recently. The McCall’s 7536 that came with one of the Love Sewing magazines:

I saw that it mentioned you could use it for border prints and realised I had exactly that in my fabric stash. A lovely muted navy blue cotton with large white appliqué flowers at the border that I had bought a while back from Minerva Crafts. I could immediately visualise it as view A and started working on the pattern.

I made quite a few adjustments, including my usual FBA (I went for 5/8″ this time) plus a half inch sway back adjustment. When I made the toile, I saw that I needed a bit more space over my back hip / rear area, and needed to pinch some excess from the top of the front princess seams to remove the armhole gaping. I also removed 1/2″ from each of the front and back shoulder seam. The back V also seemed to sit out a little so I had my husband pinch out a little dart there and pin it. It was his first time helping me with something like that – I think he was a bit nervous of sticking a pin into me, but he did a stellar job.

Once I’d marked the adjustments in pen on the calico toile and then measured and transferred them to the pattern, I was ready to cut out the proper fabric.

It was at this point that I realised the pattern was for using border prints along the top of the skirt waistline and the lower part of the bodice. Not at the skirt hem, where I was planning it. Hmmmpff. Of course, the photo on the pattern cover really should have been a clue…

The sloping hem line of the A-line skirt won’t give the straight edge you need for a border print. But with the appliqué flowers being bulky-ish I didn’t want them at the waistline. I wanted them on the hem, dammit.

I figured my options were:

  1. Put them at the waist as per the pattern and be constantly annoyed with the extra bulk in the area I least want more bulk;
  2. Use different fabric;
  3. Use a different pattern for the skirt bit so it has a straight hem (but I wanted the balance of the A-line look plus I didn’t think I would have enough fabric for e.g. a gathered skirt);
  4. Abandon this project for now and sew something else; or
  5. Crack on and sew it with the border at the hem anyway, it will just curve a bit, or have the lowest bit of the front hem showing more of the navy below the flowers. Or something. No idea how it will actually look once sewn.

You can guess which one I went with can’t you…

Stubborn is occasionally my middle name.

Sewing all went fairly smoothly, no major mishaps. I stay stitched the two V necklines in addition to the other bits of stay stitching mentioned in the instructions. I did find a few things amiss with the instructions and pattern though. The shoulders don’t match up on the pattern pieces, i.e. if you line them up on their seam lines as if sewn, the width of the shoulders doesn’t line up. I had to trim the back one in by around a centimetre.

Also, for version A it never tells you to sew up the side seams. It has the step for sewing the shoulder seams (and for the view B step it also says to sew the side seam). So fine, you add the capped sleeve for view A flat, great. But then (unless I am being completely blind in which case somebody please put me right!) it never says to sew the side seams during the rest of the instructions. You just notice in some of the later pictures that they are all of a sudden sewn together.

My final gripe about the instructions is that they give clear details about clipping, turning, pressing and basting the underarm seam for the lining, but never mention doing it for the main fabric. Yet when you come to hand stitch them together it is clear that you need to do this step for the main fabric too.

Now I know I have been spoilt by indie pattern companies like Tilly and the Buttons and their wonderful, clear instructions and I equally know the big four aren’t (generally) known for their instructions. But whilst I can cope with brief instructions, completely missing ones aren’t really ideal!

And on the point about the hand stitching of the arms holes, I know I have seen a blog tutorial somewhere about how to do a lined bodice with unlined sleeves by machine, all nice and neat. But I thought I would follow the instructions within this pattern to use hand stitching. I’m not as averse to hand stitching as I used to be, however I still don’t love it. Suffice to say that hasn’t changed! Next time I make this pattern I will dig out the machine method and try that instead.

Anyway, on to the dress itself. Did it work? Do I like it?

The answers are yes and yes.

Whilst the border pattern isn’t completely even at the bottom, it doesn’t jump out as wrong (to me, anyway 😄) because the border pattern itself isn’t in a straight line, so I think I got away with it.

(I didn’t have enough fabric to try pattern matching, as you can see!)

I really like the finished dress and the way it fits. In a further version I think I need a small-ish full rear adjustment as there is some pulling across the back (you can see it a bit in the last photo above). Or perhaps I need to convert the ease stitching at the back into a small dart. I will also add some height to the pattern at the front underarm to raise this area as you can see my bra a little.

The sleeves sit out in a more structured way that it looked on the envelope, but that is probably down to the fabric I used. And I really like them like that anyway, I think it balances me out and gives an interesting semi-structural looking detail.

So all in all, I’m counting this one as a success. Hooray, my stubbornness actually paid off!

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