veni, vidi… vici

My rusty Latin has failed me (and so has Google Translate). I spent a while trying to figure out how to insert “I cried” before “I won.” I’m not Julius Caesar, so a lot happened between the seeing and the victory.

Let me skip to the victory for a moment and then walk back:


This is McCall’s 6891, my nemesis for the past several weeks. (I almost said “years.”) I think it might be better to sometimes just throw things in the corner or even the trash angrily and move on. But that’s not really in my nature. I tend to just doggedly pursue the problem until I exhaust all options. And sometimes myself.

(Looking at these photos I realize the dress would have benefitted from ironing before I put it on. It was a very hot day when I took these, so I hope you can forgive me for choosing not to iron.)

But I’m definitely not planning on exhausting you, so I’ll try to make the weepy parts telegraphic rather than descriptive.

Let’s break it down:


I wrote about how I got the pattern and realized how different the dress could look from the one on the pattern envelope. I blame Kirsten Dunst for what followed.


Seeing what I needed to attend to in order to fit this pattern wasn’t easy. So, Ceasar, this is where we part ways for a while.

I’ve vented about the sizing in these patterns a lot already (maybe too much?). Trying to crack the logic behind it is like a new hobby at this point. Fit for Real People, as great a book as it is, tries to convince you that Big Four sizing is the best and most sensible. I understand that the sizing is supposed to somehow magically end up working for all figure types, hence the 4″ of unnecessary ease slapped on the shoulders and bust area. Figuring out which size to actually cut out for the shoulders is a quest for secret clues (my own favorite clue comes from Susan Khalje). But I’m still not convinced that grading wildly between three sizes (which is what I apparently have to do) is such a great way to arrive at your size.

Bullet points from here on:

  • the straightforward alterations: forward shoulder adjustment, square shoulder tweak, and a pretty significant sway back alteration (the back is drafted looooong)
  • some of you might remember that after attaching the sleeves I couldn’t move my arms in this dress. I did a broad upper back alteration, following Sunni Standing’s excellent advice. That involved cutting out a new back bodice from leftover fabric.
  • After attaching the sleeves to the new bodice I still couldn’t move my arms. So I took a closer look at the sleeves. Thanks to Kenneth D. King’s  video and article in Threads
    I was able to redraft the sleeves to give myself room for movement. I don’t think I arrived at a perfect sleeves, but I can move, so VICTORY!

    This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The skirt was a straightforward circle skirt, so no challenges there. That concludes fitting. But sewing held some surprises as well.

Edit: Oh, hot tip for hemming the circle skirt — while I was struggling with the bodice, I hung up the skirt on a hanger. It ended up hanging for about two weeks, after which I marked a new hem, evening it out where the bias dropped. Measuring was a bit easier on the unattached skirt.

Before vici, the collar

The pattern envelope claims it’s an easy pattern to sew, but I don’t think that sewing within a millimeter of a pattern mark from two opposite directions falls into that category, McCall’s. And that’s what you have to do to get the collar right. If you end up too far from the mark, you get a hole. If you accidentally sew through the mark, you can’t turn the collar pieces.

The instructions for the collar are sparse. But I haven’t found anything that helpful online. Jane has good tips on navigating another tricky point in this collar style. What was most difficult for me, though, was figuring out how the collar and facings move when you flip things to hide the wrong sides. The pattern doesn’t tell you that, so for my first try I set out to follow the instructions with a handsewing needle. That was helpful. Once I understood that the collar and the facings move independently (don’t sew through those pesky dot marks!), I was on the right track. Trimming the seam allowances exactly to the pattern’s specifications helps very much as well.


I like this dress. I like it a lot. I think I might make it again, now that I’ve fitted it and drawn up new pattern pieces that work. Getting through all the fitting and redrafting really did give me a sense of accomplishment. It was learning the hard way, without the certainty that I’d get a wearable garment out of it at the end. But I did! And I’m also feeling a bit more confident about fitting Big Four patterns.

That said, would I recommend it to others? Yes and no.


  • if you’re not obsessed with this style but rather looking for a fairly easy shirt dress, I’d recommend looking for a different pattern
  • if you don’t want to make a muslin and you haven’t yet figured out what your typical adjustments are in Big Four patterns
  • if having to potentially redraft a sleeve is a deal breaker for you


  • if you’re in love with this style and really want to make it
  • if you don’t mind spending time fitting
  • if you don’t mind potentially having to redraft pattern pieces

Case not settled. The jury is split between “Recommend, with modifications” and “Try to look for a shirtdress pattern with clearer instructions, clearer sizing, and more movement-friendly sleeves before you try this one.”

Verdict: Case not settled. The jury is split between “Recommend, with modifications” and “Try to look for a shirtdress pattern with clearer instructions, clearer sizing, and more movement-friendly sleeves before you try this one.”

Over to you: I’d love to hear from you if you have any pattern deal breakers and how you decide how to rate a pattern.





Published by


I write about sewing, knitting, and may sometimes be tempted to talk about books.

11 thoughts on “veni, vidi… vici”

  1. your final version looks great! all those fitting trials definitely worth it 🙂 I haven’t tried a big 4 pattern yet – I’m scared to – so many people say the sizing is crazy and I’m already grading between 3 different sizes… I’m impressed with yours but not quite brave enough to try it myself :/


    1. Thanks so much! It was a real test of patience, this one. This dress ended up taking several weeks during which I spent a lot of time trying to crack it.

      If you change your mind and decide to try a Big Four pattern, I’d be more than happy to share my tips for finding the right size to cut out.


      1. I bet! also I was going to say that as awkward as it apparently was, I really love that vintage-y collar!
        Thank you! I’m sticking with indy patterns atm – love those hand-holding instructions and finished garment measurements – but I’ll def ask for help if I’m ever brave enough to attempt a big 4 🙂


        1. I agree with you about indie patterns completely. I don’t think I’d have tried Big Four patterns if I didn’t live close to a Joann Fabrics — it’s a chain of fabric and craft supply stores that has incredible seasonal sales on Big Four patterns. From their regular prices (which tend to range from $15 to around $30 for Vogue patterns) they get down to even $1 a pattern during those sales. So that’s how I ended up with a bunch of them. It took me months to be able to really start using them. And I do tend to prefer indie patterns anyway.


  2. I just struggled through this pattern as well. I haven’t blogged it yet, but will soon. It took a few weeks of fiddling with the collar to actually get it to work. An Instagram follower pointed me to this tutorial for help with the collar. It was a life (well, collar) saver. My collar still doesn’t look nearly as neat as yours does, but I was ready to just be done with the dress. I feel your love-hate relationship with this pattern. I already bought fabric and buttons to make a second version, so hopefully it is smoother the second time around.


    1. Hello, and thanks for the tip! I hadn’t stumbled upon that tutorial myself (even though I browse Sheryll’s blog pretty often — but I missed that one!).

      I would love to see your versions of this dress. I agree that this pattern is both great and awful. I haven’t posted a review on Pattern Review because I’m torn about how to assess it. I think I might sew it again, but I do have major reservations.

      Now I’m off to see more of your blog. I’m already green (ha!) with envy over your lush garden — now I need to take a proper look at your makes 🙂


  3. That’s beautiful and it turned out really well!! And in case you were wondering, I think ‘flevi’ is ‘I cried” although its been a while since I took Latin.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s