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Animal print McCall’s M6713 Dress

When I chose this Animal Print Jersey Fabric I wanted to make a dress but once I touched the fabric I was really tempted to make pyjamas – this fabric is so soft it would be ideal for snuggling up in and the stretch would mean the pyjamas would be super comfy.  But… I decided to go with McCall’s M6713.  I’ve had this pattern in the drawer for a while and it was time to try it out.

The fabric is a lightweight knitted single jersey fabric – think T-shirt type fabric but super soft. The pattern calls for something with a two way stretch – this fabric stretches mostly across the grain from selvedge to selvedge but does have a tiny bit of stretch running down the grain of the fabric so I was hoping that would be enough!

I skipped out the stage where you’re supposed to pre-wash the fabric (oh dear!) so I’m really hoping for no shrinkage…fingers crossed.  I continued on to the pattern and fabric cutting stage

I chose the flared skirt option A and cut out my size, adding 10cm to the cutting line on the skirt and drape pieces so it would reach my knees.

For many of the pattern pieces you only need to cut one due to the wrap front being asymmetrical and having a tuck on one side and gathering on the other.  The front of the skirt is also made up of two pieces between which is inserted a drape section.  As the instructions show, I cut all the ‘cut 2’ pieces with the fabric folded right sides together (putting the pattern onto the wrong side of the fabric) and then cut out all the ‘cut 1’ pieces through a single layer with the right side of the fabric facing me.  I then cut all the notches and transferred all the pattern markings using a disappearing ink pen or chalk – the pen marking is much quicker but due to the fabric colour I couldn’t see the pen in some places so needed the chalk as a back-up method. The disappearing ink pen is ideal for light coloured fabrics and also if you’re planning on making something straight away.  Don’t use this method if you’re going to come back to sewing your pieces in a few days because by then all the markings will have disappeared! 

For the chalk markings I’ve been using this Chaco Pen by Clover which is brilliant – it’s got a tiny roller at the end of the pen that allows the smallest amount of chalk to come out in a very precise line.  This means you can be really accurate with your markings.  Because it’s got the roller it also makes marking on jersey fabrics easier than just using a chalk pencil.  I decided to mark all the darts using this method.

Due to the type of fabric I needed to do a bit of experimenting with different needles before I found the one that would work best.  I tried out a few different ball point, stretch and super stretch needles in various thicknesses before setting for the 75/11 HAx1 SP Super Stretch needle. These were bought specifically for my overlocker but work perfectly on this fine stretchy fabric.  

I also set the presser foot pressure on my machine to a lighter setting so that the fabric wouldn’t stretch out as I sewed.  Another trick I sometimes use is to sew with a walking foot but this fabric didn’t seem to need me to use one.

I was planning on overlocking most of the seams but since there’s lots of gathering in the bodice and this is fully lined I opted for stitching most of this on the sewing machine. 

The pattern instructions were easy to follow and I put together the top part of the dress with no issues, or so I thought until I tried it on.  

The back neckline had stretched out as I sewed and understitched the seam.  

I could have done with taking in the back neckline by around 5cm and also cutting the lining pieces smaller. Adding stay tape, interfacing or clear elastic to the neckline edges would also have helped but it was too late for that. 

I managed to fix it though! – after a bit of unpicking, I took in the back neck by 5cm and then continued as if sewing a dart, extending the stitching to the bottom of the back so to create the illusion of a centre back seam.  I did the same with the lining but took this in a little more to make the lining slightly smaller than the outer layer. 

The result was a much flatter neckline.

and the appearance of a back seam. There’s a back seam in the skirt so it won’t look out of place!

The skirt pieces and the drape section were really easy to construct.  The drape is formed first with two pieces of fabric, so it is lined. This is then inserted into the front seam between the two front panel pieces.  For the skirt seams I used a long machine stitch and then overlocked the seam to give it strength and allow a bit of stretch.  I turned the differential feed to 1.5 to make sure the seam doesn’t appear fluted.  My overlocker has markings on the casing to indicate a seam allowance line to follow. Sometimes I put the tacking line of stitches at 1.5cm and then make sure my overlocking stitches sit exactly on this line using the markings on the presser foot as a guide.

I attached the top to the skirt using a long machine stitch and then overlocked the seam as before.  Although the fabric is lightweight, once you have a number of layers together it becomes heavy, particularly in the drape section of the skirt.  Due to the drape being pleated along the top edge there are 7 layers of fabric in some sections making this quite bulky.  I had to trim the drape section before overlocking as it was too thick for the cutting knife. I’m glad the fabric wasn’t any thicker as the construction of the drape would be really impossible. I suppose for thicker fabrics you could miss out the drape or cut it as a single layer of fabric to reduce bulk.

There’s meant to be an elastic casing in the seam that joins the top to the skirt but I left this out – it fits fine without one.  I also left out the shoulder pads as we’re not in the 80s anymore and they would just look weird.

For the hem I used my coverstitch machine.  On lightweight fabrics I often have an issue with tunnelling when stitching a coverhem. I thought I’d try out some woolly nylon thread in the looper and also loosened the tensions on all three threads.  I was still having issues with my test pieces so I applied interfacing to the raw edge and this seemed to do the trick.  

I’m really happy with the finished dress and think I can wear this to work or for an evening out.  

I thought I’d tried to recreate the image on the front of the pattern envelope – I think the dress looks good with red heels!

By Julia from www.juliahincks.com or you can find me on Instagram @juliahincks

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