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!


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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.  

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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!

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In Which A Bit of an Enthusiast Ticks One Project Off

McCalls 6706 in Shell Print Cotton

Me and a sheep. Hanging out (as you do).

Well folks, this certainly has been a decent Summer so far for floaty skirts and whatnot.  I’m very much enjoying wearing my latest.  Want in on the surprise?  It’s the exact same skirt as the previous two.  I know, I know.  But I’m consolidating my tekkers, ‘k?

McCalls 6706 Hi Lo Shell Print Cotton 2

May I take you back in time?  See, this skirt has its very own sweet memory association.  Let me expand:

It was a rainy December day (this is London, y’know), and I was meeting other sewing people IN THE REAL WORLD.  Scary!  Actually, it wasn’t because they were blimmin’ lovely and very welcoming.  And as we swished our way (I always imagine stitchers swish everywhere, like Eliza Doolittle post-transformation, or Gigi gliding, elegantly, into chairs.  Don’t ask me why:  I just do) through the V&A museum we happened upon a glorious, green, bias-cut 30’s affair.  It was love at first sight for, I’m guessing, all of us as we oohed and ahhed over the delectable dress.   It was A Moment.

McCalls 6706 Hi Lo Shell Print Cotton 3


I love this fabric- don’t you?  Those lovely  shells? make me think of Thirties prints and patterns and for that reason every time I see this skirt it reminds me of that lovely moment with those lovely first stitchers I met.

McCalls 6706 Hi Lo Shell Print Cotton 4

My photographer decided to make things action-based. I’m such a goof.


Can I say I’m very much Still Loving the hi-lo hem.  Or is it a dipped hem?  Or is that something else altogether?  Either way, it’s fun to wear and pretty nice to swish about in!


McCalls 6706 Hi Lo Button Detail

Fabulous button detail: I was so, so pleased when I found this in Grandma’s tin of old, old buttons!



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In which a bit of an enthusiast realises it was All Just A Dream

I’m float-float-floating in a happy haze of me-made in the grand hallways of the marbled and venerable Victoria and Albert Museum.  Cool air wafts my new hi-lo hem dreamily about as the gentle murmur of seamstress’ voices puncture the atmosphere.  Half-giddy, I realise the gentle murmur is turning to an angry buzzing.  Burning eyes, gorgeous outfits are storming my direction and all of a sudden my carefully ironed, carefully planned outfit is being torn to fluttering shreds decorating the shining floor.  The shame!  How dare I turn up to an auspicious sewing bloggers’ event in my several-times remade, not-quite-fitting, poorly-positioned-pleats skirt?


I’m awake.  It was a pre-big-event anxiety dream and my outfit rests unwittingly in the wardrobe.  Angry stitchers?  No!  They’re not real.  They never arrive at the gathering.  But I do, in my (slightly held together with a safety pin- yes indeed) skirt.  And the other NYLon2014 attendees are friendly and chatty and the bright eyes are full of joy at watching and waiting and chatting and drinking and shopping with friends who Get It.  They get the nerdy detailing and the love of touching fabric and the prints and the colours and yes:  the gorgeous outfits fittingly embellish the venerable museum halls.  The Cinderella’s sisters dream is just that.  But these ladies are real.  And fun!  And fabulous- of course.

Side view of Nautical hi-lo skirt


My hi-lo hem goes down pretty well- “is that a Flora skirt?” begs the question time and again- the answer is: “no; but it is inspired by it!”.  Before the Flora I’m not convinced I’d even seen a hi-lo hem, much less thought I’d consider wearing one.  But hey- it’s a short, pretty skirt with a floaty back hem and no flashing all inone joyous package.  That skirt style is certainly going to be making further appearances in this wardrobe.  Now all I need to do is be brave enough to cut into the fancy fabric I bought for it.  In the meantime I’ve made another with straight hem using a wax print-esque polycotton I bought as a souvenir from the Goldhawk road on the big day.



This skirt is the McCalls 6706.  It has deep pleats with several options for banding, the hi-lo hem and a plain skirt.  It also comes with a petticoat pattern.

Fabric and notions: Cheap nautical cotton from Minerva; cheap polycotton from a Goldhawk Road shop.  Metal zip,2 hooks and eyes.  Safety pin to remind me of my folly.

Nautical Hi-lo skirt front: swish factor

Some swishing occurred during this shoot

Likes:  The hi- lo hem- I LOVE it!

The numerous options.

The pleats are fab.  And it’s pretty easy make (unless you have my illogical brain).

NYLon2014 Pleat Skirt

Issues:  The fitting- this is my rookie-ness showing up.  I forgot that my size is a 10 in this pattern apart from my waist which their chart states is a 16 (straight up-and-down figure alert).  So of course I cut a straight 10, forgot to mark appropriately and made a too-small waistband.  I lied to myself about my waist size but as many experienced stitchers will tell you: the numbers do not lie!  I hope this is a lesson learned.  Anyway, much annoyance later and I ended up with a too-big skirt.  Round two was somewhat quicker and easier but still too big- hey, some people learn quickly.  I do not number among them.  But I sure love this pattern!

NYLon2014 Pleat Skirt: side view



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In which a bit of an enthusiast discourses on six patterns’ specifics

And so we come down to the details, readers.  What are the patterns  in the six pattern challenge?  Here, in no particular order (but with really quite blurry photos…):


McCalls – 6706 I wanted a cute skirt with structure and the ability to do those crazy fun stripes in navy and red and pink and whatnot.  Plus there’s a hi-lo hem option!   image (2) Kwik Sew – 4015 One of these jackets I can’t bear (not shown) but the other I really like!  I need a raincoat and I really fancy trying out some laminated cotton- chevron stripes maybe?   image (1) Kwik Sew – 3882 Jimjams!  Plus a tank pattern.  Who doesn’t need lots of jammies, right?  Winter weight, Summer weight, shorts, longs- I can see lots of these being made! image (6) Butterick 5211 This is such a simple dress but I wanted something with a chilled vibe I could cinch in with a belt.  I’m starting with a knit version! image (3)   McCalls – 6696 Gah!  Could this dress be any cuter?  I love the sleeveless with full skirt option.  Ja’dore.  Plus I can see this in any number of the adorable Liberty prints I managed to get my mitts on recently! image (4) McCalls – 6600 Jury’s out on this one, peeps.  But I do love a shirtdress- they’re so practical and effortless.  I chose this as I have a RTW one that is very similar that I wear a lot- maybe in a nicer pattern and colour it could be The One? image (5)

So there we have it.  I’m hoping I can bash out a couple of these really quickly.  After all, there’s a reward in it.  And the happy feelings of a stitcher who has jumped her own (embroidery) hoops!   abitofanenthusiast signature

In which a bit of an enthusiast receives a gift, wonders what to do with it and comes to An Important Decision

Ring… ring.  That’s the phone.  It’s my mum… “Hi mum…”: It starts as an ordinary chat, and ends with a proposition:  would you like to choose six patterns for yourself?

Well, what’s the answer to that question?  Duh- it’s yes, isn’t it?  Now at this point I must tell you that this conversation dates back to New Year.  It’s the weekend of the Sew Direct sale and I’m on limited time- it being a weekend sale and me being more than a little indecisive- have worn a total of one items I’ve made from a pattern (and that took me six months to make), am in the middle of the never-ending blouse that is my Sassy Librarian and am nearing the end of a period of several months of extreme fatigue.  Will I ever, ever, EVER get to use this lovely gift?



Fast forward a few months and the energy is back, I’ve made two skirts (a Beignet and a quick jersey skirt), finished my Sassy (finally- it only took me two years from point of buying the fabric to finishing it!)  and made a top from the GBSB sewing book- I’m riding high on a wave of MUST SEW ALL OF THE THINGS EVERYWHERE NOW.

So what’s a girl to do but ride the wave, start a blog, and keep sewing?  Want to hear more about the Six Pattern Challenge?  ‘Course you do.  And also I’d like you to come back again.  So I’m pulling you in with my tempting ways and the promise of a premise.  Until then!


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