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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

That Sweet Summer Sarong (Making the McCalls 4425)

I have been dreaming of summer these last few rainy days out here in Portland and there’s nothing better to help bring in the cheer like a gorgeous sarong dress. That’s right ladies! We’re making the McCalls 4425 together and this post has most certainly been a long time in coming but I am ready to go and we are definitely going to have ourselves some lovely sewing fun together!

For those of you who have read former blog posts, you will know that the McCalls 4425 was one of the patterns I found while creating a digital pattern collection of a friend’s 730+ sewing pattern collection. Hundreds of those patterns were copied from her collection (and many picked up since-I really need to update my digital pattern collection) but the McCalls 4425 was found one hot summer day and the moment I saw it I just knew that pattern and I were going to have a lovely future together. Well, the future is here my friends!

As I begin the process of making my McCalls 4425 dress I thought it might be nice to document the process to help any of you along with your own patterns. Not to rush ahead here, but if you're just one of those 'show me the pics!' kind of person and don't want to go through the entire process of making this beauty, feel free to skip to the end and take a peak ;)

I don’t expect many problems making this, though I admit a certain level of procrastination when it comes to making this dress. Something about that graceful(ly intimidating) sweep of the side-bow that makes me drag my feet like there’s no tomorrow. It’s also a classic vintage pattern and the directions need a little bit of updating. In a lot of cases I find that the vintage patterns need at least some updates. In some cases, you will find that I have deviated slightly from the original directions. Feel free to read through both the original directions and my suggestions to determine for yourself which is the best way for you to proceed based on the style, etc.

With that in mind I am gracefully going to walk into this project with no trepidation because I know, just like all patterns before this one, it will prove lovely. And when I say ‘gracefully walk into this project’ I do indeed mean just that. For you see, nothing helps motivate me in sewing a new dress like wearing the fabulous pair of heels I intend to wear with the dress once finished! I told you we were going to have ourselves some fun. So don those pretty little shoes ladies, find yourself some fabulous fabric for this project, grab the pattern and let’s get started!
If in the event you are reading this and saying “Ok, I’m almost there. I have my heels on and the fabric in hand, but I still need the pattern to make this magic work!” I will lead you to the pattern. The thought of you lifelessly holding a pair of scissors in one hand and your lovely new fabric in the other-all the while knowing you still need the pattern-is just too much. You can order the pattern on my etsy site @ www.Craftzies.etsy.com. I also have it listed on ebay, just run a search on McCalls 4425 and you should find it. If you don’t see it as an active listing shoot me a message. I pop in every few days so I can easily relist one for you.  It's pricey I know, but you know it's worth every penny!

Getting Started:
I am first going to start out by cutting this pattern in the size 16, the size this pattern is cut for, and follow the directions fully with a test dress. This is a vintage pattern so the dress should be expected to be a little smaller than a current size 16 and patterns are notorious for coming out smaller as a final garment as well so I am just going to start by making the dress out of a white fabric first and go from there. I also happen to have the hips of a Celtic Goddess so I know my final dress is going to need some customization, and the best way to work out those alterations is in the practice phase. Remember to pre-wash your fabric (test fabrics don’t need to be washed first) before you make your dress unless you are working with a material that will be dry cleaned. For example, if I were using a cotton or blend I would pre-wash. If it were a silk or painted satin, I would not pre-wash the material because that baby is going straight to the dry cleaners if I need it laundered. For the record, Zout is my new secret laundering agent. That stuff is the bomb & gets out anything when it comes to stains. Just test it on a fabric swatch first before spraying it to a finished garment.

Anyway, back to our pattern. I know working with a boring white fabric (that was originally a set of curtains) is not very exciting but bear with me on this. Once I work out the pattern alterations I will share my modifications and you might be able to skip the test copy all together based on those recommendations. I need to make one out of white fabric as a test, I then need to make myself a pattern copy with my size alterations made, and then cut the fabric for that dress and do the whole she-bang all over again. For the final dress I have selected a red and white painted satin in the shorter strapless style. I always prefer to have removable straps when I can as well so if I were to add straps, I would just add them by way of inside buttons so this dress converts from straps to strapless as desired.

(This is a sample of the red and white painted satin fabric selected for this project)

And yes ladies, it is perfectly acceptable to create a social event surrounding this dress. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I’m not saying when you host your event you will be telling people the reason for the party was so you had a proper event in which to wear your dress, but sometimes you have to create your own reality, know what I’m saying? ;)

Fabric recommendations for this dress:  Peau de Soie, Taffeta, Satin, Printed Silk or Cotton, Faille, Polished Cotton, Tussah.

Fabric needed: size 16-(let’s assume our fabric is 45” width) 3 ¼ yards of fabric (2 ¾ yards for style B-shorter version), and 1 1/8 yards for the bodice lining.

*note-This pattern requires a large amount of yardage and even more so if you are making a test dress first. If you do not want to use fabric for the test, cutting out the pattern in paper and taping the pieces together to gain a sense of the length, size of the pattern, etc., is always recommended.

Notions needed:  thread, optional seam binding, 16” neck zipper, 1 hook and eye, and 1 ¼ covered featherbone for A.
**Two things on those notions: 
1) I have never heard of a ‘neck zipper’ but it turns out they just mean a straight up regular old zipper. I originally thought a neck zipper would be for a cropped neckline, which would make sense I guess for a strapless dress for tightening purposes at the top but I couldn’t find one and the ladies at the fabric store said a straight 16” zipper would be perfectly fine (they were right) 
2) I generally just refer to featherbone as boning so as not to confuse you later on while going through the directions.

If you have a large table for cutting your fabric you are in luck. If not, a flat surface like a sheet on the floor, a cardboard cutting board opened out on an ironing board, or a long kitchen counter work well. I have lived and worked in larger and smaller spaces. Today I use both a kitchen table opened out and a cutting board opened on an ironing board in my craft room as cutting areas. Both of these spaces work well. For fabrics that are lighter weight the fold out cutting board over the ironing board works just find but I recently made a set of 8 upholstery grade slip covers for a woman and the fabric was so heavy the only way to cut the fabric was by laying the bolt across a dining chair and then draping the fabric out across my fully opened dining table so use what you have and be resourceful.

(late night pattern copying)
Once you have cut your pattern, cut out your fabric according to the directions layout. I really like those blue sewing markers they have where you can essentially write on the fabric. If you don’t have one it might be worth picking up. They work well for lighter fabrics and white chalk works well for darker fabrics but it is helpful to have an opportunity to mark your fabrics and a little water sprayed over the marker lines will remove the blue marker. You will see blue lines on the tan inside lining of the final dress in the photos below and black marker & thread for the test dress to help show the seams. I am going to use the marker on the test and would for cotton fabrics; however I would again be very careful when working with silks and painted satins. Remember anything you do such as heat from an iron to spritzing your fabric with water should be tested on a fabric swatch first. This red and white painted satin I am going to be working with is exquisite and rather pricey in the yardage factor so I want this red and white dress to be perfect, hence the test dress beforehand.

Before we go through the directions to this pattern step by step I just wanted to point out that I like to make a copy of a sewing pattern when I can, and have done so with this pattern. I don’t always do this, but making a copy ensures that my original will stay intact in the event of a crafting disaster. Let’s not bother discussing what those disasters could possibly be and just skip to where you make a backup. I would do this with any kind of data and the same will hold true here. Newspaper, muslin, interfacing, white paper, they are all suitable to make a hard copy of your pattern and in general it will only take a few extra minutes to copy out, even if you just make a trace of the pattern pieces and then refer to the original pattern for the pattern details you need as you go forward on your project. In this case I made a copy of the pattern from a standard white paper (as you will see in some of the photos), the same paper the print shop prints the copies out for my customers on.

When I made the white test dress I made the longer version-view A-to see just how long it was before I decided on the longer or shorter version for my final dress. Once I made the white test dress I felt it was a little too long for me so I ended up going with the shorter version-view B-and just elongating it a few inches in order to compensate. If you do this just remember to cut your LOWER DRAPE FACING pieces in the same shape and length needed for any alterations you have made to the skirt itself and when in doubt, cut the strips a little wider. You can always trim a little excess off easily if needed. For example, if you cut the dress a few inches wider than the pattern, make sure you have extended the length of the LOWER FACING PIECES as well or you will have to compensate by adding additional strips on the ends, and let’s just have this project be as perfect as we can before we cut the fabric-let’s plan ahead so it turns out perfectly and our efforts will result in perfection!

If you are unsure of the length you want-view A or B-or would prefer to wait until you have had a chance to match up the side seams before cutting and adding the LOWER DRAPE FACING PIECES, you are encouraged to do so. If you have decided to line the front and back fully then you will only need to cut out the LOWER DRAPE FACING PIECE. If you have lined only the back, you will need to do this with both the LOWER DRAPE FACING and the LOWER FRONT FACING. If you have opted to only line the bodice to the waist on the dress, then you will do this with all three pieces of the LOWER FACING PIECES. In any event, regardless of those specific choices you have made, you can lay the lower regions of your dress over the fabric you intend to cut for your LOWER FACING PIECES and then as you add those pieces to the underside of the bottom hem of the skirt you will know those pieces are the exact cut as the cut of your outer fabric and your bottom hem, once hand sewn, will look so very professional. And let’s be honest ladies, none of us are in the business of making clothes that look handmade.

For the sake of authenticity and to show you a few elements of the pattern in detail, I have pulled out the original pattern for some photos. I now have my pattern copied, my pattern pieces I need selected and laid out according to the pattern directions and then the fabric pieces cut out. For the white test dress I went with the drape for view A. For my final dress-the red and white painted satin-I went with drape B. Pick your pattern pieces according to your needs. The pattern comes with 15 pieces total and offers a different front drape pattern piece for view A and view B.

Step 1) Make any adjustments such as petite or tall to your new dress pattern (or your copy of your dress pattern) before cutting your fabric. If you are widening the dress to fit a larger size, you will want to move the darts out ever so slightly as needed to compensate for the larger size. The pattern also came with the lower halves of the front and back of the skirt cut off so if you are making the longer version, view A, you are going to want to tape those pieces to the bottom of the front and back pattern pieces. If you have made a copy of your pattern before hand, you can tape the lower halves to the copy and then you don’t have to remove or fold them up when you are using the pattern for the shorter version, view B, but the choice is of course yours. Just remember to ADD THE BOTTOM HALVES OF the FRONT AND BACK PATTERN PIECES to the UPPER SECTIONS if you are making VIEW A. That is important because if you do not, you will be making view B. The same goes true for the front drape. Make sure you are using the correct drape depending on which view you are making. Another thing I would like to mention before cutting your fabric is, and this just might be me but I find my additional calculation of adding a 1-1.5” additional fabric on the left hand side of both the FRONT and BACK of both the OUTER fabric and the LINING to be beneficial. This makes perfect sense to me because as I add my zipper up the left hand side of the dress I know that I will be able to make this seam smaller if needed, and I can also alter the right hand side slightly as needed but this way your bodice-and especially the bodice darts-won’t be off and you won’t be forced to make the entire bodice slimmer because you failed to think about this element of the dress prior to cutting your fabric. You will note this additional fabric added to the side of the front and back in the images below.

Step 2) Cut your fabric pieces out according to the layout provided in the directions. Most of us are going to follow the fabric layout for 45” fabric. The fabric layout for the bodice lining is for both view A & B and the layout is for fabric 25-39” fabric width. Lining fabric is usually offered in a narrower width that regular fabric so we are going to go with 1.5 yards. Now, when I initially looked at this lining section in the directions I was like..ok, so that makes me wonder about 2 things. First, it is weird how the front piece of both views looks like it is shaped for a different dress…entirely different! Second, and more to the point in regards to the lining, there are NO lining pattern pieces offered. Here is one of the ways in which you have a pattern variation from patterns today in that today a pattern would offer you the pattern pieces for the lining. Here they didn’t bother.

Do not fret my fabulous little crafters. We’re going to be just fine. If you become overwhelmed you can do 2 things. First, move those pretty eyes right up to the upper left corner of the directions. What does it say right below the text McCalls 4425? EASY SEWING GUIDE. So you see, it’s all good. It’s easy ;) We’re just going to take the front and back pattern pieces and use those as a pattern guide for our lining fabric pieces and cut the bottom piece across the lower waist a little longer so you have enough lining fabric to trim, hem and fold over again because as we move forward with the project the directions will have us hand sew down that lining inside so if you make that bottom hem a little longer to start you will be fine.

*Note-For my white test dress I did not bother with a lining. For my final dress (red & white satin) I fully lined both the front and back panels-but not the front skirt (more details on this below).

Next, the directions on the right hand side of page one of the directions shows you a picture of a bodice top and has you join the seams, mentions stay stitching, basting, etc. and you’re thinking the image I have been given of the bodice lining looks NOTHING like the pattern piece for the bodice for this dress. Relax, it’s all good because McCalls just pasted in a general set of directions for sewing techniques you are going to need to know in order to follow through with making the rest of this dress. You know this because their “GENERAL DIRECTIONS” text and then the narrow stream of sewing techniques indicate this. So, read through those but don’t worry. The good stuff is on the other side so flip page one over when ready and you will see the specific directions for part I View A.

Lay the FRONT and BACK FABRIC PIECES out flat with the WRONG SIDE FACING UP. Take the LINING PIECES for each and lay them out on top of the FABRIC PIECES. Sew the top of the OUTER and LINING pieces together of both the FRONT and BACK pieces of fabric. Once you have the top stitched, sew down each side so you have a lined FRONT and BACK piece. Next we are going to add the darts and just as the directions indicate, we are going to now add the darts as though the front and lining are now one piece of fabric. For the darts you are going to want to sort of pinch and pin those layers of fabric and then sew them down. If you have a fabric marker or chalk, marking those darts on the inside before pinning and sewing will work really well. Follow the directions on how to press and clip the darts so they lay flat beautifully and you will be just fine on this section. Once I managed to get the darts perfect on each side I clipped small incisions in the darts just as in the images. I followed this up with a wide zigzag stitch just so I could ensure that the fabric didn’t unravel on me. You might feel tempted to cut out the excess fabric on the back side of the darts but you are NOT going to do that for 2 very good reasons. One, you are going to use that excess fabric in the end to sew the boning into the dress. Secondly, even if you decide you do not want boning, you are still going to want to keep the excess fabric in there and flattened down as the excess on the seams will provide a little more support to the bodice area. See Image III below.

Step 3) Woot! We’re on step 3 already and it’s been really simple so far so I think things are looking good. At this point you have a lovely and separate FRONT and BACK, darted, and we’re going to move onto the next step. The directions next tell you to add the LOWER FRONT and BACK DRAPING PIECES, and then do the same with the DRAPE piece. I will lead you through as the directions indicate however I personally have found it best to wait on adding the FRONT and BACK LOWER FACING PIECES until you have had an opportunity to match up the seams to the FRONT and BACK pieces. Keep in mind the FRONT DRAPE is added to the FRONT piece BEFORE the FRONT (at this point FRONT + FRONT DRAPE as 1 piece) and BACK are sewn together at the RIGHT SIDE SEAM (LEFT side left open as this is where the zipper will be added).

Despite possibly waiting to add the FRONT AND BACK LOWER FACING pieces, you will want to add the LOWER FRONT DRAPE FACING piece to the underside of the FRONT DRAPE, making sure to tuck in the raw edge of the end of the strip underneath at the top right hand side of the drape (right hand side when the piece is laid fabric facing out).

*(Unless waiting on this section until later)-Take the LOWER FRONT FACING PIECE and iron in ¼” to the lower section BETWEEN notches 1 & 2. You will know which side to iron under-it will be the side opposite the notches. Iron that down and line up the FACING FRONT SKIRT with the LOWER FRONT FACING with the RIGHT SIDES FACING UP between notches 1 & 2. Trim the excess, turn the LOWER FRONT FACING up, press and hand sew the bottom down. Do the same for the LOWER BACK FACING. If you have not done so already, you will also want to add the LOWER DRAPE FACING piece to the FRONT DRAPE and hand hemming up the bottom at this time.

One additional thing I would recommend, and I did so in my final dress, was fold over ¼” at the top hem of the FRONT FACING DRAPE along the area that will go across your waist. If you do this now-before you get started on that lovely bow-you will be happy later on. I found folding and sewing this area down (to be clear, I only folded and basted this top piece down to itself-not to the FRONT piece beneath it) just made it look so very clean later on as I folded and basted this seam down one more time AFTER I laid the FRONT DRAPE on top of the FRONT piece and matched up the bow gather with the outer dart on the upper hip of the left hand side..but more on that later.

Now, add the UPPER DRAPE FACING piece to the backside of the FRONT DRAPE and then make pleats on the OUTSIDE of this FRONT DRAPE piece as the pattern indicates. This is another excellent time in which a fabric marker or chalk will come in handy. If you are working with a very light fabric such as a silk, you are going to want to not use pins or at the very least be very careful where those pins end up because you don’t want tiny holes in your finished product. Some fabrics are very unforgiving when it comes to such things. In more delicate fabrics, pin marks might not go away. If I were not using pins or a marker/ chalk on this piece when adding the pleats, I would just lay this piece out over my pattern and note where a pleat needs to be and pinching the fabric in my hands, sew the area down, repeat until all of the pleats have been basted down. In the end I did NOT sew the FRONT DRAPE area across the tummy down to the FRONT piece. 

Carefully baste down the folded over bow, making sure to adjust the gathers carefully as you sew this section down. Lay the FRONT DRAPE over the FRONT piece and pin the RIGHT HAND SIDE (left hand side when outer fabric is facing you) of the DRAPE to the FRONT. Make sure to align the FRONT DRAPE according to the pattern and directions keeping the slight sweep of the bow down slightly. You will also want to match where the DRAPE starts at the right side hip comfortably and also make sure your left hand side has the gather of the bow falling to the outer dart that runs vertically on the left hand side. While matching up these areas, also make sure not to pull the FRONT DRAPE around the thigh area too much. Unless you have super thin Barbie doll legs, a little wiggle room is never a bad idea for this area of the piece. In the end, taking care to not pull and sew down the FRONT DRAPE too tight on the RIGHT HAND SIDE (again, this is the left hand side when you have the fabric facing out) will later prove the dress will NOT pull from the back side seam around to the front to compensate and we don’t want that! Let’s have those lovely lines fall as intended ehh? ;)

Once you have pinned the bow to the outside of the dress, turn the dress inside out and pin the RIGHT SIDE of the FRONT and FRONT DRAPE together you will want to take a moment to evaluate your work. If you have a sewing doll try and just place it and make sure everything is going to fall correctly as you like it. Make any changes as needed before you sew the bow down. At this point, as you line up the FRONT DRAPE over the FRONT panel, you have the perfect opportunity to match up the side seams of the lower half of the dress. On the RIGHT HAND SIDE where you have the FRONT and FRONT DRAPE pinned as 1 PIECE, and pinned down the RIGHT hand side to the bottom hem, you are going to want to trim and align the curves so they fall equally on each side. If you have decided to line the FRONT and BACK of the dress as I did with my final (red and white satin) dress, but also decided to go with the original LOWER DRAPE FACING PIECE for the underside of the FRONT DRAPE you will want to make sure not only your FRONT and BACK line up perfectly at the seam, but your FRONT and FRONT DRAPE pieces (almost 1 PIECE now) fall at the same length as well. Once all of your pieces match and fall as you want them, hand sew the newly made bow down through both layers of the fabric on the top side and then turn your dress inside out and sew the side seam from the top down to the bottom hem. Next add the UPPER FRONT FACING PIECE to the upper bodice. Make sure to leave about a half inch open at the ends in which to tucker the zipper in later on.

Here’s the exciting part! We have officially completed all of the directions from the first page, meaning we are 2/3 of the way done with this fabulous dress! We are now on part 2 of section 3, which begins on the 3rd page of the directions. A quick note here in regards to the bow at the hip at the difference between the two versions. If you scroll all the way up to the top of this post you will see the image of the front of this pattern. If you look closely you will notice that the span of the bow at the hip is slightly more gathered and tighter on the shorter version of the dress and the white dress in image IV-C shows how the bow on the longer version is a little more spread out. This is so the longer version has a chance to drape nicely towards the bottom hem and requires a little more space from the bow span to make this fall perfectly. We have just added the UPPER FRONT FACING to the FRONT TOP bodice and now we are going to want to add the boning at this point. Follow the images in the directions but as you may recall from earlier when we added the darts, the excess fabric inside that we left with small incisions is now going to be used to fold over the boning and sew it in.

(tuck the very end of the zipper up into the area where the star design is shown above)

Now move to the side where you have the (soon to be zipper) opening and hand sew in the zipper. Some people like to sew zippers on the machines and I do that in a lot of cases. With this dress, I wanted that zipper to be so very invisible and perfect so hand sewing was my personal choice but it turned out perfect. I probably obsessed on the hand sewing for the zipper for a few hours but in this case, I felt it needed to be hand done in order to ensure perfection, but it had to be super sturdy and tight too-no one wants a weak zipper and DEFINITELY NOT for a strapless dress! In order to ensure zipper perfection, you are going to want to take the zipper-starting with the metal clip indicating where the zipper itself starts, and line up and fold in this zipper end with the very exact top of the folded over seam on the FRONT and BACK PIECE (the seam where the bodice and the UPPER FRONT FACING piece meet). Start with one side-right or left depending on which is easier for you-and work your way down the zipper vertically. As you do this, you will find it easier to also add a few stitches going out horizonally from the folded seam of the UPPER FRONT FACING PIECE on the right and left hand sides of the zipper as you work your way down. Next, start again at the top of the opposite side of the zipper, doing the exact same with this side, working your way down the zipper. Pay careful attention to make sure your zipper opens and closes easily and make sure the zipper falls flat while you are hand sewing.

Once you have done this then you can carefully sew in the bottom piece around the zipper and have a chance to make sure that area falls flat perfectly. Follow these hand stitches up with another set of stitches in which you bring the needle and thread through all layers of the dress (lining, zipper and outer fabric) all the way down and around the zipper, again taking care to make sure your stitches do not interfere with the opening and closing of the zipper itself. Finish this area up by completing the hand sewn fold over of the UPPER FRONT FACING PIECE all the way around the inside of the BODICE lining. Add the shoulder straps if you would like at this time, or add buttons for removable straps, or leave as is for the strapless version. My finished dress below is strapless. If you have not done so already, you simply have to hand hem the bottom of the dress up at this point and you are finished! If you went with adding the LOWER FACING pieces earlier, this bottom hem step should already be finished. 

And then…

Oh La La! Hello Beautiful!

End Notes: After spending weeks breaking down the directions and pattern itself, test copy and then a final copy of this dress, I can STILL say I’m in dress heaven here! Would I make more of this? Absolutely! No doubt about it. I have been dreaming of the final construction of this dress for so very long I can honestly say I am not only relieved that my attention to detail and persistence while making this dress definitely paid off but the fabric choice itself was such a dynamic pick! My mother picked this fabric out one day while fabric shopping and though I admit I worried that it would be too busy as a finished garment, I couldn’t be happier with the final results. The red bar that runs along the top originally ran along the top and bottom of the fabric and it was a tough decision to decide where that red solid strip should be-top or bottom-but in the end, the solid red along the top made it I think. The only thing I intend to add to this is a Swarovski crystal brooch at the gathered area on the bow. It is on its way and in the mean time I am off to make more of these beauties!

I have decided to call this dress The Sophia as it was this pattern in particular that finally led me to decide my heart was truly in fashion design-a lovely choice if I do say so myself ;) This dress is going up in the shop in a little bit here as a Ready-Made dress and you will find the listing for custom orders of this dress (in different fabrics) in the next day or two in my clothing etsy shop @ www.SophiaDeLaMer.etsy.com.

Thank you for stopping by and I hope these photos help you visualize the perfect summer!