In Which A Bit of an Enthusiast Has Her Apple Cart Upset (to Delightful Result)

Friends, what do you do when a beautiful shirt dress pattern comes your way?  You incorporate it into your Six Pattern Challenge, of course.  Now, when I added M6696 to the challenge, it was my favourite (if you’re a regular sewing blog reader I’ll bet you know which one it is without even having to look).   I couldn’t wait to sew this one up!  But first, get some skills, woman.  So I did.McCalls 6696 Shirt Dress

First we had what turned out to be a wonderful pleated skirt pattern (here and here).  Then we had a cute jersey Summer throw-it-on dress.  Then came the over-engineered pyjamas (to be blogged) and The Dress That Must Not Be Named.  All good for working those skills and building up to a glorious fit & flare style shirtdress.  And then something happened to pique my pride.

McCalls 6696 Shirt Dress

It got popular.

Shirtdress in Liberty seasonal Farhad, grey

M6696 became the pattern to blog about in 2014 and it somewhat upset my apple cart.  The apple cart being my imaginary world of uniqueness.  What to do when everyone makes your (how proprietary of me!) dress?  Pondering here, pouting (a little) there, I finally smelled the coffee and decided just to get on with it.  It’s one of the challenge patterns and not one I wanted to swap out (I’m allowed, according to my totally arbitrary set of rules, to do so to one pattern only).  So I swallowed my foolish pride and just went with it.

McCalls 6696 Shirt Dress

I’m glad I did!  It’s as lovely a dress as I’d hoped and, aided by a speedy make thanks to a few days at my parents’ house with my mother’s sewing room available all hours (lucky me!) I realised that this must not be a one-off.  No!  I have at least one more of these to make (with sleeves next time).  I so enjoy wearing this dress!

McCalls 6696 Shirt Dress


Details: Dress is the McCall’s 6696 shirtdress pattern, made up with another wonderful Liberty lawn second (style: Farhad available here)in just the right, soft, grey with a great little early-mid 20th century print detail.  I made the sleeveless version and kept the gathered back.  Because I’m daft I made three bodice toiles for this- but the first was cut in the wrong bust size- the pattern comes with separate pieces for various bust sizes.  Once I’d put that right I ended up doing a small bust adjustment (toile the third) which was a first and I’m pleased with how simple it was to do!


abitofanenthusiast signature


In Which A Bit of an Enthusiast Meets The Dress That Must Not Be Named

It happened.  I was scared of the day when it would.  I was right to fear.

McCalls 6600 Shirt Dress in Liberty Fabrics

See what my face did there? Guess how this is going to go…

The dress that didn’t work:  you lovingly cut, pin, sew and all the rest and weeks later (never said I was quick at this sewing stuff) you find yourself throwing The Dress That Must Not Be Named in a corner and sulking every time it gives you the side-eye.  It knows.  The Dress knows you don’t like it because you poured effort and enjoyment and energy and money into it.  It knows it’s not at fault.  It knows that sometimes, a style doesn’t suit.  Could be fabric’s drape.  Could be the colour/patttern combination.  Could be personal style and body shape.  Could be all of those.  Probably.

McCalls 6600 Shirt Dress in Liberty fabrics

Just daydreaming here.  Don’t mind me, imagining other, better handmade garments.  YOU HAM.


Could be that when you showed your Husband the dress he says: “oh look!  It’s a Summer Sack!”.  Thanks Mr Enthusiast.  And then he saves the day by not only photographing the Nightmare Frock but-  BUT-  suggesting you put jeans on, tuck it in and see where this ship sails.

McCalls 6600 Shirt Dress in Liberty fabrics

Ooh now look here- bits I love!  See why I want to hack this into a shirt?

Stop the liner.  He’s a genius!  This dress you’re witnessing is, someday, going to make an EPIC shirt to wear with my high-waisted skinny jeans.  I’m going to grow my hair and pretend like I’m Stacey Sutton on m’ranch in an 80’s Bond film.  I’d put a picture in for you but all I can find are pics of her in silky jim-jams with a gun.  Great pj’s though.  And excellent hair.

McCalls 6600 Shirt Dress in Liberty fabrics

And the less said of this dress from here on in, the better!




Pattern is the McCalls M6600 for my Six Pattern Challenge, but made to much better effect at Sew Dixie Lou if you’re looking for inspiration!  I used a Liberty voile with a tiny red leaf print which feels glorious but from afar looks pink!  The contrast is Liberty babycord.  

abitofanenthusiast signature

In Which A Bit of an Enthusiast Sort of Shops the Look

Ever tried “shopping the look”?  Me neither.  Never seriously because- and I’ll let you in on a little secret- I’m a rubbish shopper.  This also means I’m a cheap date which is good news for Mr Enthusiast but not good news for my wardrobe.  Here’s another secret for you, gratis:  if you sew your own clothes, you do not have to shop the look.  You can make the look your very own.  

Thrilling, non?

Where do you get your inspiration?  I’m pretty keen on the entire wardrobe worn by Jess Day, the lead character in sitcom New Girl.  Totes snazzy.  So when I saw this dress I decided, again:  I can make the look my very own.

Jess Day's Navy Dress

Image source

This dress.  Ooh lala.  It’s so pretty- the navy colour, the flat piped accents, that (as described on Modcloth) “fit and flare” style.  Erin's Flair for the Classics Dress from Modcloth

Image source


Navy and Mustard Megan Dress

When I laid my eyes on that dress I knew I could use it to inspire my own cute dress- I still had the recently-made Megan dress on my mind.  This time I wanted to try adding some details to a garment (such as piping)- and I had a scanty metre of this weird and adorable bargain bin Liberty cotton print in a lovely dark blue.

Navy and Mustard Megan Dress

The idea was sealed, Instagram stitchers quizzed as to which colour accent to use (mustard won out!) and away we were.Navy and Mustard Megan Dress back

I worked hard to make this dress in time for a lovely weekend away (here I’m standing at the promenade outside the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill- such a wonderful little town!) and it showed me how much work goes into those details- it’s fully lined with a hand picked zip, flat piping on the sleeve hems, in the waistline and piping at the neckline.

Navy and Mustard Megan Dress


There’s also the faux placket down the front with the bow and cute buttons from grandma’s tin.  Phew!  I’ve worn it on two big occasions-both times with the Shrek legs (must find better tights options!)- and loved it!

All there is now is for me to leave you with this Jess Day quote.  A little insight into yours truly, if you like:

 I have touched glitter in the last 24 hours. I spend my entire day talking to children. And I find it fundamentally strange that you’re not a dessert person. It freaks me out.

abitofanenthusiast signature

In Which A Bit of an Enthusiast Holidays By The Seaside, Wears a Megan Dress and Keeps Warm-ish in a Hand Knitted Cardigan

Black and White- Megan Dress from Tilly Walnes' Love At First Stitch and Knitted Cardigan from Craftsy Class My First Sweater

Readers, you know how this works.  You make some things and then what with one thing and another weekends roll on by without so much as a quick snap of said Sewn Items.  Happily this weekend changed that- we were on the South coast and a glorious beachy walk gave the perfick opportunity to look like a total amateur in front of a film crew who were faffing about with light meters and horse poo and whatever else techy guys on that particular (equine) film set get up to.

Megan Dress from Love At First Stitch

I’m told we missed seeing Ms Kidman and Mr Law being filmed on the same beach by a mere weekend.  The nerve.  Anyway, the dress.  Yes.  There’s not much of a story here- my very kind husband bought me Tilly’s book of dressmaking, Love at First Stitch for our wedding anniversary back in July.  What a pretty book!  Great projects, too.  But my least fave?  The Megan Dress.  I mean, I loved the jersey version in the book but the woven ones I’ve seen I just don’t love.  Then a while later I went browsing round my local market and the fabric lady had a thick stretchy jersey knit in black and white stripes.  Ping!  Went my braincakes.  Stripes!  Stripes and a solid!  A Megan in stripes and a solid!  At last I could reconcile with that pattern and I’m so pleased I did.

I’m not going to lie- the insides are a nest of iniquity and the stripes are kind of wonky on the bottom front but the bits I like, I REALLY like.  I love my zip insertion; I love how the stripes match across the zip at the back; I love the cute sleeves and how they seem to line up nicely perpendicular to the floor.   I love how it feels to wear in the soft fabric and the deep hem (it was a lazy moment of not wishing to cut the skirt shorter, but I like the look now) and how it looks with bright tights (I think Miss Demeanour would approve of that sentiment, being the Disco Tights in the Daytime Queen and all).  I even went so far as to make a little detachable collar should the fancy take me.  It’s love!

There’s a third make in these pics- my cardigan.  I took 8 months to knit this thing but it’s my first more technical project (i.e. not a knitted scarf or handwarmers or tea cosy!) and I’m so enjoying wearing it!  If you’re interested in moving your knitting to the next level but cardi’s are too scary (as they were for me) I can recommend the craftsy class My First Sweater – does what it says on the tin.  Not the most exciting class to watch but it’s a good one and easy to follow!

Black and White Striped Megan Dress from Love at First Stitch


abitofanenthusiast signature

In Which A Bit of an Enthusiast Dabbles in Free Cutting Dressmaking

Lookee- I made a dress at a workshop!  With Chinelo of Sewing Bee fame herself!

Chinelo Dress 1

Let’s pretend I’m doing the hula- properly– here.

I probably just about missed it with the weather on this one, since both times I’ve worn this dress it’s been with a cardi and by this point Autumn is well and truly here (as in, I bought a squash and turned it into fake-but-real canned pumpkin (pardon me- squash) to make all manner of Autumn-themed treats).  But- BUT- I really do like it!

Chinelo Dress 3

Look- the thing is it’s not exactly my finest hour of dressmaking.  It’s pretty shabby in places (oh my-that zip!  It’s a shocker!), the straps a little too apron-y for my liking and I probably need some new- ahem- underpinnings to work with the scooped back or face looking flatter than the top of Table Mountain on a clear day (see photos for proof).  But most of it was made on a whim (see here for an earlier post with more class pics) with the aid of the one and only Chinelo Bally who pretty much gave me free rein on this baby and guided me through it.

Chinelo Dress Scoop Back

When I got home I decided that it needed lining to give that bodice a bit of oomph and- proud moment- I replicated what I’d learnt at the workshop a week later.  In my house.  Without help.  So, with replicated bodice part deux snugly attached, zip finally on and the straps dilemma sorted (I went with ties for a halter thanks to some excellent brainstorming with mum in law) we now have a fitted bodice dress, with halter ties, circle skirt and scoop back.  Happy dance (but only next Summer, when I can wear it again)!

Want to see the most ridiculous photo everrrr?  I was messing ’round with my kids and this…thing… appeared.  That used be a balloon dog.  Now it’s just kind of rude and hilarious, as balloons often are in the most festive way.  Enjoy me being a dork!



In Which A Bit of an Enthusiast Delves into the World of Stretch Fabric

Hey kids- I trust all’s shiny?  It’s been said before but it’s cooking hot in London and we’re all in shock.  Calm down, London, it’s only Summer.  I know, I know, it doesn’t usually happen so now we’re all secretly hoping the rain will stay for a week so we can wear knits and drink more tea (not that the heat is stopping the tea drinking.  One must stay hydrated) and eat pies and soup and Stay In.  London is weird when staying in becomes an event.  Staying in is what we do!  All over the internet people’s new Summer dresses (because we can get away with sewing more than one Summer dress and not have to be practical about it- viz. “if I sew another Summer item it’ll just never get worn.  I should sew something for our climate.  I really should”) are making an appearance.  So guess what?  Here’s mine!

Butterick 5211 Blue Jersey Dress

Butterick 5211


It’s the Butterick 5211, View A.  What’s new here?  Well, let me tell you:  I finished the second pattern in my six-pattern-challenge! Ahead of time (yeeehaw!).

The benefits are manifold:  I get my prize (a new pattern- double yeehaw!);  I’m getting a bit quicker at sewing processes;  I’m learning how to use small chunks of time to complete a garment (yay Marginal Aggregation of Gains!) and I’m learning new techniques.

This last was a double delight to me whilst reading Sarai’s wonderful memo to newbie stitchers– that lady comes up with gems of wisdom all the time.  What a treasure!

Butterick 5211 Blue Jersey Dress B&W

Kind of looks like a sack here. These pictures are terrible. Note to self: bribe the photographer with better treats next time.


New techniques here include using jersey (properly, using a pattern), changing a pattern for woven fabric to accomodate the use of said stretch fabric and trying front bodice lining instead of a neck facing (to make a neat neck and armhole seam).  Also- I’m in love with the overlock stitch on my machine!  It’s blimmin’ fantastic and makes for a really neat edge.  Oh, and twin needles.  Nice hems, what?

Butterick 5211 Blue Jersey Dress

When your photographer tries something new… like sprinkling a hosepipe whilst operating one’s iphone.


So you’re dying to know what’s next, right?   We’re ahead of schedule so I’m going ahead and fitting a Sencha blouse because  I don’t have enough blouses to go with all these skirts I’ve been sewing!  Until next time!

abitofanenthusiast signature