Monday, 9 July 2012

Finished Project & Pattern Review: McCall's Generation Next 6331.

Melissa Watson for Palmer Pletsch McCall’s 6331 Misses' Romper and Dresses pattern. Phew, that's a loooooog name for a pattern!

At the risk of sounding like the biggest bimbo in the world, I don’t know where my waist is. To be honest, I only started worrying about where my waist was in the last couple of months when I embarked on this mission to sew a dress that fits perfectly.

So ladies, help me out here, where is my waist??? Is my waist below my ribcage?
If so, my RTW dresses and handmade dresses sit about 1.5cm-2cm above the bottom of my ribs – I can feel the waist seam line on my ribs. Is this normal? This emphasized when the dress is belted. I always thought my waist is where my belt naturally sits but lately I am not so sure.

For that reason, I decided that I have a long torso.

On hindsight, I think I may have a normal torso, but a long midriff section. I really don’t know anymore!! When did life get so complicated haha. Then there are days that I think I have a short torso because I get “folds” under the bust when I sit down. Again, is this normal?

RTW world was not this complex at all! If a garment looked awesome but didn’t fit right or feel comfortable (reasons unknown as I never dwelled on it), I’d simply return it to the rack, so I guess the reason we all sew is to be able to get the perfect fit for the styles that we like.

Which brings me to my latest fascination with strapless dresses.

Last week I made the Mc Call’s 5850 and I decided that I didn’t like that particular style as I felt naked up top. The dress didn’t hold up well because I have boobs that are, as Shakira puts it, small and humble (so you don’t confuse them with mountains). Because of that, I had to take the waist in HEAPS. This is not ideal cos I need to breathe and occasionally eat.

I’d like to thank everyone for their comments on me in the dress. I would like to disclose that the photos I posted were the best photos out of about 30 shots! The dress did not look flattering on me at all so it was hard to photograph well. I really appreciate the encouraging and complimentary comments though, it really makes me feel good. Love you guys!

Also a BIG thank you for the pattern recommendations. I really liked the V1174 suggested to me by AlmondRock. In the end, I bought the McCall’s 6331 recommended by Jennifer (Ms JennyHomemaker) because it had the different cup sizes.

If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you would've seen my progress this weekend on the M6331.

I spent about an hour on Friday night tracing the pattern and lengthening the bodice by 3cms.

Saturday afternoon I made a muslin. I wore it all day at home, I even took a nap in it!! I woke to find it had stretched! Silly me made a muslin with cotton sateen. I know I read somewhere that a muslin should be made with fabric that has no stretch, but I forgot that on Saturday. Duh.

NOTE TO SELF: Don't make a muslin with stretchy fabric!

Saturday night I made my bodice. I interfaced all the front pieces and the cups. There was a lot of concave/convexes to join. This was absolute hell but once I got the pieces together I felt so good!

I decided to give top stitching a go. I bought top stitching thread and everything! Something was wrong with my machine (actually, most likely there was something wrong with the operator!).

The thread kept snagging and when it did stitch, the top would look normal but the bobbin thread would look gnarly, loose and knotted at the same time. Hell part two. 

I managed to top stitch the front bodice cups. I inserted boning on the side and front panels. Bodice looked great! 

I was so happy with it! And then I wasn’t. 

I removed all the top stitching. I didn’t think it suited the fabric, and knowing that under the lining was a hot mess of knotted and gnarly threads put me off. Also, the cups looked like eyes of a Futurama character.

Boning - Top Stitching - Finished Bodice.

Sunday morning I did some measuring and fitted the bodice. Guess what I found? The waist was too small. Hell part three. 

If I had made the muslin with non-stretch fabric I would’ve picked up on this. The fabric I used for the dress was also cotton sateen, however I had interfaced it. All I can say is thank goodness I did not trim my side seam allowances. I unpicked the boning, unpicked the side seams and restitched. Bodice saved. 

I also changed my mind about the boning and removed it all. The bodice was stiff enough because it was self lined and interfaced. The boning added too much bulk and felt uncomfortable.

I spent more time unpicking this dress than I did sewing it. I am so thankful that I was able to save the bodice because I absolutely LOVE this fabric. Love it so much that I was almost going to not sew it at all.

At this point it seems that all I did over the weekend was sew and unpick, but that’s not true. I managed to start and finish a long overdue presentation for a work conference coming up this Thursday, subject: ME. I felt it was a little self indulgent; I am not used to talking about myself. I learnt how to use Movie Maker and the finished video is pretty great! I used ‘Unwritten’ by Natasha Bedingfield as the song to accompany photos of me and my life. I also watched a heap of Mad Men and TED!!!

After I caught up with a girlfriend and watched TED on Sunday afternoon, I moved on to the skirt. The skirt is a simple panel of fabric, 50cm long and about 120cm wide. For something different, I pleated it. I put a pleat in the centre and worked my way outwards, adding a pleat below every seam and dart on the bodice. They lined up quite well. 

On the M5850 I put random soft pleats but on this skirt, the pleats were measured precisely so that they were evenly placed.

Pleats, pleats and understitching.

After all my zipper horror, I was reluctant to use an invisible zipper. Oh and the other day the zipper tab broke off one of my zippers! WTF Birch?? I’ve had three of their zippers break on me. Are there better zippers available?

I inserted the invisible zipper, stitched the lining to the bodice and finished the back seams.
Today I finished the hem by hand.

I love this dress because of the fabric and how close to perfect the fit it but there are adjustments I need to make for next time. 

I love the cups!!!! They were challenging but look so good!
I love the self lined bodice, looks so pretty against the green lining.
M5850 vs M6331.
Massive difference in bodice length.
I prefer the M5850 bodice length, but I love the M6331 cups.
The neckline on the M6331 is more flattering on me.
Pattern Review: Melissa Watson for Palmer Pletsch McCall's 6331no halter strap

Size: 6 with A/B cups. Next time I will cut a 4 bust and grade to 8 waist.
Fabric: 1.5m cotton sateen, 50cm sunsilky lining 
Notions: Invisible zipper 14" (hunter green), Gutermann thread (472), interfacing
Time: 4 days
Cost: Pattern $13, Fabric $9, Lining $4, Zipper $4, Interfacing $2, Thread $8, total: $40.
I also bought boning ($4), top stitch thread ($3) that I didn't end up using :( 
Techniques used: 
    • Boning (ended up removing)
    • Top stitching (ended up removing)
    • Self drafted pleated skirt
    • Side seam allowance tapered to 0.5cm at the waist
    • Back seam allowance 3.5cm at the top, tapered to regular SA at the waist
    • Added 3cm to the bodice, but then cut about 1.5cm off. I don't think I actually needed the extra length though. 
In conclusion, I love the fabric, I love the pattern. I will be making this dress again, I might actually shorten the bodice to achieve more of a high-waisted look. I am much more comfortable with the waist seams sitting where they usually sit on RTW and unmodified patterns.

Things I need you ladies from the online sewing community to help me with:
  • Where is my waist? (I know how dumb this sounds...)
  • How do I fix the nasty, gnarly bobbin thread when I top stitch?
  • Where can I find better zippers? Three Birch zippers have broken on me, I can't go through that heartache anymore.
  • Any other suggestions you can give me to improve the fit of this dress.
I appreciate all comments and feedback. Thank you for helping me grow as a sewist!


  1. Tasia talks about how to find your waist here: - basically she says it's where you bend if you lean side to side.

    I've stopped using invisible zips as much as i can, they keep being dodgy for me too. I think it's just easier to use a normal dress zip (and to hand pick it on most fabrics:

    1. Thanks for the links Rachel! I am going to do a handpicked zipper on the next dress for sure. Can't trust those invisible zippers anymore!

  2. Very cute!! I do love that fabric. I'm so glad the pattern worked for you!
    Figuring out my torso proportions is something I'm struggling with too. My Modern Mary dress showed me that while I'm short-waisted (roughly 1cm), I'm actually long above the bust. Makes no sense! haha I would agree your waist is the point where your belt naturally sits.
    I think your bobbin thread issues are related to tension. If you can adjust it, I would play with that on a few scraps. Sometimes, though, just rethreading my machine helps.
    For zippers, I prefer to use only YKK. They're the brand I find most commonly in nice rtw and I haven't had any issues with them. I'm not sure where you'd source them locally but, many of the popular sites carry them (FabricMart, Wawak, Vogue Fabrics, also ebay and Etsy).

  3. Hey! This looks super cute! I agree with Jennifer and I try to buy YKK zippers-- they seem to be higher quality and able to withstand a beating. It looks like your waist is where the belt sits. Your waist is the narrowest part of your torso, where it dips in the most. You're not alone in not knowing that! I always thought my waist was somewhere around my hip bones!

    1. You are a doll! I used to think my waist was where my belly button was hahahhaha

  4. Firstly- this dress is cute as a button- I love the pleats!
    Secondly- I'm going to be following Rachel's advice and checking out that link about finding your waist as well.
    Thirdly- Birch invisible zips are too fragile! I have had four of them break on me and two repeatedly jam. Grrrr! YKK seems to be the better brand :D

    1. I'm in the process of cutting another dress and using this dress as a measuring tool. So hard!!! I'm scared I'll shorten the bodice too much

  5. Replies
    1. <3 I love the fabric. Call me obsessed, i bought more of it yesterday

  6. I have always taken waist as your smallest width, usually above your belly button - I think that bodice is too long for you. I will be interested to hear what others say. Love the fabric too!

  7. First, what an adorable dress!! It looks great!! I am amazed by how much work you did in 3 days!!! The belt shows exactly where your waist is and if you unsure put it on and bend side to side and it'll move right to your waist. Ykk zippers are the best.

  8. I think your instincts about where you feel your waist is are right... it looks right where your belt goes. I think you're right to think of shortening your bodice :) That would eliminate the wrinkles caused by it being too long. If there were still wrinkles on the back after you shortened both front and back the same amount, maybe it would be sway back as well.

    This looks great and I'm in awe of your hard work! Also, did you buy a needle specifically for top stitching? I believe they have a larger eye for the special thread. (I've never done top stitching before!)

  9. I've always been told that one's waist is where a loop of tied elastic would sit after running around and moving and waving one's arms and such...which usually ends up at the narrowest part of the torso. I would agree that the bodice is too long on this dress, which will cause the back wrinkling. Love the fabric, though!

    No topstitching help from me, as I had the same problem even after adjusting tension and all. However, if I kept the topstitching thread to the top and used regular thread in the bobbin, it got much better. I also didn't know about topstitching needles until afterward...

    1. I used regular thread in the bobbin. I think it could be the needle that was causing the jamming. I need to find a tutorial on top stitching.

  10. i agree with everyone.... adorable dress, the construction is fantastic! i think the bodice is too long, your belt was at your natural waist. way to tackle another strapless dress!!

  11. lol, I already commented but I'm here to drop off the blog award(s) I gave you :)
    It's on my blog so check it out, but congrats! Your blog is lovely :)

  12. Wow these dresses are amazing and so beautiful! Your waist is where your stomach dips in, at the centre part of it and is the smallest part. Hopenthisnhelps! I adore seeing all your amazing designs! XxxX

  13. Very cute dress, also, you should think about joining, you can get so many helpful tips. You did a very good job, congratulations.


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