McCalls 7408 is the free pattern with the issue 42 of Love Sewing magazine.
On a lovely June day I set off through the Peak District to meet some of the team from Love Sewing. I've done many things, but never a photo shoot! It was a case of hair, make up, camera, action!
I'd been asked to review McCall's 7408 for a future issue of the magazine. The design had a sixties kaftan feel, with or without sleeves, the possibility of a contrast border and 3 lengths. Always up for a challenge, I said yes and Editor Amy offered me two coordinating fabrics from the Gutermann 'ring a roses' Marrakech range. I washed the fabric and it shrank about 4% along the length.
I don't usually work with plain weave cotton, perhaps because at school it was considered a beginners fabric and each garment we made tackled a more challenging cloth! I also like fabric with a bit more give, making clothes comfortable to wear. It turned out to be a delight to work with, although perhaps a little bit thick for the sleeveless design. It's what I would call a soft crafting/homeware fabric. An even weave made from thread that hasn't been mercerised to make it smooth.
Having used a lot of McCall's group patterns and I fairly confident about what size to make. At 5'2" and measurements of 40:32:42 I match exactly with a size 18. Yet I always make a size 14! This pattern is described as semi-fitted and McCall's group patterns have a specific range of ease added depending on the fit category, for a semi-fitted top/dress it's 10-12cm of additional design ease on top of wearing ease. Click here to see their chart for the full range of descriptions and garment types.
I like to get the bust and shoulder area to fit well as they act as a scaffold for most garments, so I made a mock up, just to be sure. With the armholes unfinished I could see my bra, and the front faced opening revealed more than I was comfortable with! I then tried it with sleeves. The sleeves in the pattern are bell shaped and I was concerned about all that width across my hip area, especially in a firm fabric. I straightened the sleeve, but the underarm seam is finished first for the contrast band to be added, then the seam down the centre of the sleeve is stitched followed by the vent facing. Because you're working within the narrow sleeve it made topstitching the vent really difficult. But it does give a pleasant fit to the 3/4 sleeve with the vent opening to the elbow.
I also tried one full width sleeve..................
Initially I cut out the knee length version and there was masses of fabric, especially in the back. This might be ok in a fine fabric that drapes, but the cotton I was going to use, although soft needed a more structured finish. I recut the length and made the top, the bust point was accurate, the width was perfect, but it was just a bit short as it finished across my hips, my widest point, especially as the horizontal contrast band would emphasise this, it's not too obvious in a plain cloth.
I knew I was working with contrasting fabrics and I wanted to get a balance between the them, so I used View A adding length to the body pieces without adding width.
There are a lot of design options with this pattern and you don't have to add the contrast bands to View A, just add the extra length to the front and back. This will appear to add length, giving a longer, narrower impression.
I decided to make a sleeveless version, mainly because of the fabric choice. Sleeves where going to be too wide and too busy. I raised the underarm, reshaping the armhole facings to match(they are an exact copy of the armhole shape) and made an insert to go behind the front opening. This was sewn in as I topstitched the front facing. Although you can't see it, the fabric design of the insert matches the area it is set into!
The two geometric prints gave an additional challenge as I love to get fabric designs to match! I decided which was the dominant part of the body fabric and worked out how I wanted it placed, especially at the bottom of the faced opening, where I wanted the facing to mirror the diamond design and I wanted it to join to the border without cutting through an important shape! Call me fussy! The front and back body pieces are the same size, so matching the side seams was relatively easy. The contrast fabric is a much smaller repeat and I wanted the side vent facings to match the lower band and make a perfect match in the seam at the top of the vent, now I know that if you lifted the ribbon trim the design matches perfectly.....fussy.....! The curved neck band would be on the bias where it meets the front facing, but I still wanted it to look as if the lines matched!
I chose a line in the design that would be vertical so that it appears to match the vertical lines of the front facing ............now you're thinking OCD! Believe me I'm not, I'm one of the most laid back people I know ...... but not when it comes to pattern matching!!!!
I avoided all the slip stitching by attaching the contrast pieces so they turned out to the right side, trimming the outer seam allowances and covering the edges with the ribbon trim. I used a soft gros grain ribbon with a stripe as I felt the other colours lifted the design, whilst the stripe maintained the geometry. The pattern says to use ribbon, but it's really hard to get it to lie flat round the curved pieces.
I tried a gathering stitch along one edge, but it really distorted the stripe so I had to steam it into shape. Steam and an iron are an amazing tool, especially working with natural fabrics like wool and to a lesser degree cotton. I sprayed the tape then added heat and pressure, pulling the tape towards me gradually stretching one edge and easing in the other!
Bias binding would have been easier, but harder to keep the edges parallel on the straight pieces, the tension needed to keep it straight would cause it to narrow!!!
Just to go back a stage. The vents in the side seam and sleeve are faced and show on the outside. They're an important part of the design as they add stability. You could turn them to the inside instead, neaten the outer edges and top stitch. The pattern instructions for the vent are accurate, but the diagrams are tiny, especially for the sleeve instructions, I'd use stages 42-47 as they're identical and just a tad bigger! I've done a photo tutorial to help you, just follow this link.
It wasn't until I'd finished that I realised that none of the pattern views had the armhole facing on the outside! Definitely something to think about because you need to press in the curved edges to top stitch or get your ribbon round some more curves....I hand stitched the ribbon, but that's mainly because the topstitching kept going over the stripes................!
This is a really versatile pattern. I kept mine quite narrow and omitted the sleeves as they're very wide, but the fullness and the sleeves would be lovely in a soft voile or crepe de chine. The lower edge for each view is almost straight and a border print would look amazing, you wouldn't need to add the lower bands, perhaps turning the side facings to the inside, giving strength and stability without breaking up the border design. It's suitable for a wide range of fabrics that would create clothes for all sorts of occasions, brocade for stunning evening wear, linen and knits for casual wear, voiles and crepes for beachwear.
I'm already using it to create a tunic from a vintage silk sari.
I have to thank Amy, Editor of Love Sewing, along with the other members of her team for such an amazing experience.
I've never really liked having my photo taken, but I have spent my working life showing myself up in front of teenagers, trying to enthuse them about Textiles! In retirement I'm passionate about inspiring others by being an aspirational advocate promoting garment making!