You may have noticed that I’ve been a tiny bit excited about issue 63 of Love Sewing magazine. It feels very surreal, but I was asked to write the reader review of the pattern gift, McCalls 6891. I should warn you at this point that this is quite a long post, so feel free to grab a cuppa before continuing!
Also, there are a lot of pictures. Because my pictures are usually a bit pants so I’m sharing AS MANY AS POSSIBLE of these lovelies. Sorry not sorry!
I was incredibly flattered when Amy asked me to write the review. I’ve subscribed to Love Sewing since issue 2 and it’s genuinely my favourite sewing magazine. I like the balance they strike between dressmaking and other sewing (i.e. there’s loads of dressmaking ) and that they don’t tailor everything to the absolute beginner. I also enjoy there actually being articles to read rather than just projects which I flip through and never make.
Amy explained in her email that time was a little short on this one as all photography etc needed to be done by mid December. As usual, I was utterly confident about this; clearly life conspired against me, not least with the announcement that the OFSTED inspectors were due at the school where I’m a governor. Now THAT was an intimidating experience!
I initially looked at the pattern and wasn’t quite sure where to go with it. It’s been a while since I’ve sewn a “proper” dress (as opposed to a pinafore or jumper dress) and I think I probably wouldn’t have made this up if I’d just got it as a cover gift. Don’t get me wrong, I would have thought it lovely and kept it, but it might never have got to the top of the practical list.
Anyway, I’m glad I did make it! I had a browse around for fabric (always a joy, guilt free fabric shopping!) and found myself really drawn to the Atelier Brunette double gauze in forest green. (Seriously, is it possible not to be drawn to this fabric??) I ummed and ahhed for a while, trying to decide whether the quite different hand of a double gauze would work for all those buttons, but it just kept beckoning to me and thankfully Amy was happy for me to take a chance!
I had originally planned to make the version D, which is a longer length with rolled up sleeves. I did cut the D length skirt, but left the sleeve cutting out til last. By the time I got the supplies, life was already looking quite stressful with family stuff, work commitments etc. so I decided that I’d make a call on the sleeves as late on as possible.
Very unusually for me, I decided to follow the pattern instructions to tissue fit before cutting out. Got to be honest, this is not the easiest thing in the world to do by yourself; if you know a way of pinning the bodice back accurately down the centre and assessing the fit whilst you’re twisted around trying to see your own behind, do let me know! The pattern was pretty clear though, and the nice thing was that there are lots of lines already marked on the pattern pieces, showing you where to cut the pattern to make various adjustments.
I made quite a few changes, not least to drop the front shoulder (hollow chest adjustment), grade between sizes from shoulder to waist, increase the sleeve circumference (no one is to mention bingo wings!) and to make a sway back adjustment to both bodice and skirt. I think it was worth the time though: the double gauze is probably never going to fit as closely as a crisp poplin would, but I’m happy with how well this one fits given I didn’t sew a toile as such.
Other than the notched collar, the pattern instructions were fine to follow. I found the collar head scratching, and in the end kind of dived in and did my best? I think the key to a better finish another time would be marking the seam allowances on all the collar pieces before starting, but I’m OK with the finished result.
I got the bodice and skirt together, tried it on and found the skirt to be a really odd length. I think if I wore super high heels on a regular basis, it would look amazing, but since in the real world I don’t, I decided that I needed to shorten it. I had already left it hanging a couple of days (that full skirt really does need to drop before you level that bottom hem off) so I just marked all around on the dress form and went for it.
I also had to make the call at this point to abandon the full length sleeves and associated plackets; I just didn’t have the time. It’s a shame, but I love the finished dress so it all worked out ok.
Oh, and did I mention it has pockets?
Those pockets were an absolute god send at the photo shoot; at least there was somewhere to put my hands! Amy and her team were so lovely and it felt like such a luxury having my make up done professionally, but standing in front of a camera and trying to look natural was hard! Like, REALLY hard! If you had been there, you’d appreciate just how good that team are to get good photos of someone as far outside their comfort zone as I was!
And I really do love those photos. Much as I blog and instagram my life, I genuinely rarely look at a photo of myself and think I look good. I hate most of them a lot less than I used to before I started this blogging malarkey, but it’s rare for me to like photos. These, I like. They make me feel good about myself. Which is rare!
The response on Instagram has been so wonderful as well; if you’re one of the lovely people who gave me a like or a comment, thank you so much. I was so nervous when I saw subscriber copies starting to arrive, particularly as my copy was late this month!
Also, Marie (whose blog I have adored for years) described my dress as “shirt dress porn” on Instagram. I’m taking that one with me to the grave!
Anyway, waffle over. Clearly I should mention that the fabric and pattern were provided by Love Sewing in return for my review (I’d hope that was fairly obvious, but best to be explicit). This experience was one that pushed me quite a long way outside my comfort zone, but I am so glad I did it, time pressures and all. I was brave and I did something that you don’t often get the chance to do, so thank you so much to Amy and her team for giving me that chance.