Sunday, June 8, 2014

McCalls 6891 - The Grinder Dress

You know when you are totally engrossed by your sewing project, so much so that you become obsessed, unable to sleep because you are thinking about cutting layouts or buttons?  And where you think about it at work because you just can't stop thinking about it?  Well, that was NOT the case with this dress. I probably started this dress over six weeks ago.  It is linen (of course), and it is a shirtdress (of course).  But inspiration was totally lacking, and I just managed to finish this one by grinding it out.  So I'm calling this the Grinder Dress.

It started out innocently enough.  McCalls released this pattern this spring, number M6891, and it looked sorta easy:

If you look closely, you can see that there is a one-piece collar (no separate stand), no waistband (although there is a waist for easier fitting), no front bands, and only six darts; if you make the sleeveless version (the blue dress in the upper left corner), it should be easy-peasy.  Right?

Blog reader Rachel emailed me back in March, asking me for a recommendation for a shirtdress pattern, as she was planning on making her very first shirtdress, and I recommended this one. (I regret that now, and Rachel, if you are still reading, I am REALLY, REALLY SORRY!  Go make the Colette Hawthorn instead - not only is it easier but there is a sew-along that will help tremendously.)

Still thinking this would be quick 'n easy, I decided to use the wonderful periwinkle linen I got at Mood in December:

So how did it go wrong?  Well, as I was working with the fabric, I decided at some point that this linen was probably a little too light for a dress - it is more blouse weight.  So it wrinkled even worse than what linen is supposed to wrinkle.  It wrinkled just lying on the ironing board.  That isn't the pattern's fault, however, but given that I had already cut it out, I just continued muddling through.  I ground it out.

No, the problem was the collar/front/facing pattern pieces.  So many symbols:  squares, circles, triangles, dots, lines - you get the drift.  The construction technique of this collar was previously unknown to me, and I had a frustrating time trying to figure out how the whole sha-bang went together.   I can't imagine a beginner trying it.  
A sleeveless shirtdress shouldn't be this confusing/difficult.  I finally managed to get it together, and then it sat for several weeks, needing buttonholes, buttons, and hemming.  I procrastinated on all fronts because I knew the hem was going to be a huge PITA and I was right.  The skirt of this thing is a half circle skirt, so it is on the bias at the sides.  Combined with this fabric being a lightweight loose weave linen, I had serious side stretch.  My attempts to put in an even hem were unsuccessful.

So it hung on a hanger for even more weekends, sucking my quality sewing time because I have this completion complex:  I can't work on another project until my current one is done.

Last Saturday, to save my sanity and my hobby, I finally decided to throw money at the problem:  I took this dress to the woman who hemmed my wedding dress and begged her to hem it for me.  Despite her look of horror (she knows bias stretch when she sees it), she only said in her Bulgarian accent, "Next Saturday."

I skipped out of the shop before she changed her mind.  This past Saturday, I picked it up and happily paid her for her trouble.  I wore it to Mass this morning and got the Carpenter to take a photograph before we left and the winkling began:

She did a great job and the twenty bucks I paid her was worth every penny - not just so this dress got done, but because once I subcontracted out the hem, the floodgates of creativity and sewing came pouring out of me and I finished three, count them, three projects since the day I left this dress with her, plus I did a muslin (gasp!) for a project I HAVE become obsessed with. 

Otherwise, there isn't much to say about this dress; I made a size 12.  I added 3/4 inch to the hem for some unknown reason.  I added 1/4 inch to the front side seams of the bodice and skirt, just to make sure the waist was big enough, and I sewed the waist seam just a little less than 5/8 inch just to make extra-super-duper sure there was plenty of room in the waist.  The color is wonderful, and I enjoyed wearing it today, complete with the Gertie-slip I finished Friday night.

So ultimately, what was the problem?  I think I was just bored.  This isn't what I really wanted to be sewing.  (Plus that collar thing really was objectively insane.)

So I'm on to new projects that I keep researching, and compulsively buying supplies, and I'm in the grip of happy obsession.  Fortunately, the Carpenter is tolerant - I haven't been this sewing-crazed since the Tippi Hedren suit!

More to come . . .


Blanca A. Sanchez Maliani said...

The $20 bucks was worth the peace of mind that resulted in finally getting that project done! I call those "project hostage moments"... i.e. when I cannot work on the next thing because the prior project has issues and I have lost the joy in it because it is "sew" gosh darn frustrating.

$20 was the cost of your freedom and now a flood of happy sewing projects can begin. The dress looks great (and I am glad you got a chance to wear your Gertie slip too).

Have a Blessed Pentecost and Big Hugs to You,
Blanca <3

Your sister in Christ and in Sewing :-)

Joanna said...

Congratulations on getting your project done! I am like you in that I like to finish a project before starting another but I become frustrated when it didn't turn out as expected and sometimes there is no hope of salvation. This is great you were able to get someone else to do the hem. I'll be sure to stay away from this pattern:)

Anonymous said...

Rachel here. Have no worries! Now that gardening season is here, I haven't gotten around to getting started on that shirt dress project, so I will go with the Hawthorne instead :) Thanks for the update!

KimP said...

Rachel, so glad to hear from you and that you still have the opportunity to make your first shirtdress a wonderful experience - keep us updated!

Joanna, thanks so much! There are so many other great shirtdress patterns out there, so there is no reason to use this one.

Blanca, peace to you!

Vicki W said...

Good for you subcontracting the finishing! That's what money is for. Also happy to see you haven't made Rachael mad after all. Can't wait to see the other project...
.. and the dress is cute.

Audrey said...

I admire people who always finish a project. It is a pretty dress and so worth the money to have it hemmed and finished. My MO is to move on and hope that inspiration comes back in the future. Sometimes it does and sometimes I have UFO

niema said...

Love the dress! Very pretty. The $20 was worth it. I may start doing that. Hemming is my least favorite thing to do, especially when it involves a circle skirt.

I have this pattern but I could never decide on the fabric and the collar seemed way too complicated for a shirt dress.

Shari said...

I would gladly pay someone right now $20 + to help get me through the collar/facing. It was going very smoothly until I hit that spot. I am determined to get it done anyway even though even after measuring myself and fitting myself to the pattern before ever beginning, mine is going to be too small. I am using a very nice navy denim with a slight stretch.

JoGillespie said...

I'm so glad I found you! I am also making this dress (although the version with short sleeves). I am making it out of a sheet-weight cotton, very pretty print. But the collar facing thing is driving me nuts!!! I just DO NOT get it!!! Sew, unpick, pin, baste, re-sew, re-unpick, get the picture. There is just something I am not getting from the instructions and I can't make it work. Boo-hoo!

KimP said...

Jo, it's not you! This pattern is maddening.

Lesley Wall said...

I have just finished this dress and everybody loves it. But I agree about the collar instructions- very weird and after sewing it on backwards I googled how to attach and it all came back to me. Pleased I persevered and now I have to make my friend one.

Stephanie Ann said...

Help! I am sewing this and can't for the life of me figure out how to pin the collar on. Your dress looks so good. I don't know what I am going to do with this if I don't figure it out. The sleeves were horrid in their own right. I'm not looking forward to trying to set them in.