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McCalls M4444 and Breaking a Stalemate


I made a dress, and I mostly like it.


It’s made from an old sheet I picked up from the thrift store.  I love the fabric- it’s off-white, with a big bird-and-flower print that’s just gorgeous.



The pattern is McCalls M4444, and it was very straightforward.  In fact, it would have been a rather quick project, if I had actually sat down to work on it for more than ten minutes at a time.  As it is, it took me a month plus.


It’s supposed to be a practice run, as I’d like to make this dress with a more expensive fabric.  Mostly I’m happy with it (I particularly like the way the straps all hook together), but there’s something odd going on with the skirt.  See it?  It’s all… poofy (yes, even without a breeze).  It’s not hanging correctly over my hips.  It’s particularly behaving strangely at the seams, where it kind of… folds in on itself?  The fabric itself, being an old sheet, has softened over the years and so has a very soft body, is rather heavy for a cotton, and thus has mad drape.  So why isn’t it draping?


Which brings me to this thought: I need to learn about fabric.


I’d call myself a low-intermediate seamstress.  I can do fun things with reconstructing knits, and can follow even relatively complex patterns (though not always without issues).  I can teach others.  The thing is, I do not understand fabric.  I don’t have the knowledge in my head to grasp why the fabric buckles this way or pulls that way when I sew it this way, and without that knowledge, I don’t know how to take my skill further.  I don’t even have the knowledge to properly describe the knowledge I don’t have (seriously, “this way that way this way”?)- of course I know about body and drape and fullness and grain and such… I just don’t seem to know enough to avoid problems, much less fix them.

So!  Tailors and seamstresses extraordinaire: how did you learn this sh… erm, stuff?  Is there a book or resource you’d recommend to learn not just sewing and fabric basics, but why exactly different fabrics behave the way they do?  I want to move from intermediate to advanced, but I think my progress is stalled until I have an actual mental understanding of why things go wrong and how to fix them.


I suspect a little knowledge would work a lot better than my current method of seam rip, try again, seam rip, try again, repeat.  When I do that, it either a) never works or b) works, but I don’t know why and so can’t replicate it.  I need a theoretical basis to start from.


Meanwhile, my habit of constantly losing things continues to frustrate.  This time, it’s the pattern envelope and instructions for the owl dress.  I have the pattern (cut out, even), I just don’t know where the instructions/envelope went!  Which is odd, because I store them in totally different places, so it’s not like I would have put them away together and then forgotten where.


Just another day in the life, I suppose.



At least I have a (mostly) pretty dress.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. 10/22/2010 12:05 PM

    I bet that fabric feels so great though! Having an untrained eye, I love the dress- it’s very darling.

  2. 10/22/2010 3:39 PM

    My first guess is the seams may not have been clipped enough for the curve in the seam.
    In case that is it,
    here’s a tutorial on curved seams. (it’s on quilting, but curved fabric is curved fabric)

  3. 10/30/2010 12:24 PM

    That dress is so beautiful!

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