Thursday, December 14, 2023

A Christmas Plaid

This fabric is from a fabric swap that happened in Fall of 2022.  It was seasonly appropriate when I picked it out, and I had immediate plans for a shirtdress.  But, as with so many of my project ideas, some other sewing project distracted me, and once the weather got cold, I lost the motivation to work with the fabric.

Fast forward a year, and once again, cold weather was approaching, but I really wanted to use this fabric.  So I went rummaging through my patterns searching for something appropriate  - which is when I remembered McCalls 4769.  I made this up in a black rayon/linen blend about 15 years ago, and I remembered it being a great pattern.  The only issue was that I really wanted a tea-length dress, and my fabric was four yards, however, it was only 45" wide, so fitting all of the pieces and getting a decent plaid match was going to be challenging, if not impossible.  But once I get an idea stuck in my head, I'm pretty stubborn, and I wasn't going to let this go.

For whatever reason, this fabric just felt like it was meant to be a shirtdress from the moment that I spotted it, and that was the only silhouette that would do.

One of the reasons that I picked this particular pattern was for that bias cut banding that runs down the center front of the dress.  I thought that it would be a nice break in the plaid (although it doesn't eliminate the need to match up those horizontal lines).

One quirky feature of this pattern is the three-quarter cuffed sleeve.  I have never come across another pattern (vintage or contemporary) that uses this method of cutting one long sleeve piece and creating a notched cuff by folding and stitching what amounts to a dart in the middle of that fold.

I posted the process on Instagram, and from the response, it looks as though no one else has seen this technique before, either!

After fighting to fit all of my pieces with less yardage than the amount required, things went together fairly easily.  Well, there was that hiccup with the collar when I clipped one side at the notch instead of the marking for the clip, but I managed to get through that after a bit of cursing.  Don't start sewing when you are distracted by other things!  When will I learn?!

And speaking of plaid matching, it seemed to me that the yellow stripe was going to draw the most attention, and so I did my best to focus on that part of the plaid.

As you can see here, the bodice and back skirt look pretty good from the horizontal perspective, however there was just no way to get those vertical lines to match and cut a long skirt from the fabric that I had.  If I stare at it long enough, it really bothers me, but I don't have to look at my back when it's on my body, so I am going to enjoy the dress as it is.  And since I plan on wearing a belt, I would wager that most (non-sewing) folks wouldn't even notice the issue.

Seams were finished with seam binding, of course.

This cotton/spandex woven was easy to work with, so there was not any frustration from that perspective.  And at least I managed to get that center back skirt seam to match - because that would have made me truly crazy!

I don't usually trim down my waist seams, but this fabric, for whatever reason, did have a tendency to fray more than expected, and I thought it would be a good idea to give myself a fresh edge for the seam binding application.

Facing pieces were interfaced, as was the bias strip down center front.

And honestly, that's not looking too terrible.

I got lucky with the collar, and the points matched up great on the first go, which is always nice.

And I do love any excuse for a bit of hand sewing!

For my buttonholes, I pulled out a vintage automatic buttonholer made for an old straight stitch machine.

If I have to make machine buttonholes, it's nice to be able to count on that attachment instead of fighting with a modern version.  The Bernina foot with that plastic eye thing is atrocious.  It is so finicky and rarely works properly, so I have given up on it completely.

I broke down and purchased a gross of covered button forms from Wawak in a few different sizes.  It's rather freeing to think that I can cover buttons to my heart's content without worrying that I am going to have to run to the store to get just one more for that placket front.

I also can't figure out why my stash of red buttons is wanting.  Then again, I think the self-fabric buttons really were the best choice with this fabric/design.

And here is one of the ways I cheated my lack of yardage.  The bodice facing had to be cut from self-fabric because of the fold back design, but the lower skirt facing pieces I cut out of a red cotton.  Would I have preferred it to be the plaid?  Yes.  But at least this allowed me to make the dress in the length I envisioned it.

I did shorten the skirt pieces slightly, but then used a narrower than suggested hem, so it all worked out.

Some cotton spandex blends can be difficult to hand stitch; I find that I almost want a ballpoint needle (do they make those for hand sewing?).  But this one was quite lovely to work with.

And to keep that bodice closed (the buttons are not spaced very closely) I added a hook & thread bar at the waist, and a snap between the two bodice buttons.

After wearing the dress for the day, I added another snap between the first two buttons on the skirt.  Since the hips are fairly fitted, I noticed that the interfaced band had a tendency to pop open when seated.

But a single snap took care of that.

Overall, I am very happy with the way this dress turned out.  I might try interfacing the cuffed section of that sleeve with a lightweight fusible if I make this again, but it still looks nice in this fairly crisp textile.

Now if only I had an extra yard I could have made that darn back really match up!  But we don't always get our way, now do we . . .


  1. Well done!!! The dress is lovely and I know you will enjoy wearing it -- a lot. Thank you for all the detail in your sewing. I always pick up a little tip that I did not know or refreshes my memory from decades ago. Enjoy your dress.

  2. This is gorgeous! I love reading your blog. You're so detailed on your methods and you do such beautiful work.

  3. Lovely dress and so well made as are all your garments. I have made the cuffed sleeves like yours but can't remember what pattern or if I made it up.
    Happy Holidays! Karen in Austin

  4. Great dress!! You did a great job working with a limited length of fabric and matching the plaid. Gorgeous colors. This should be fun to wear. Fantastic!!

  5. Wow! What p pretty Christmas dress.

  6. Loved your videos on Facebook as you made this. I love a dress that’s beautiful on the inside! The outside looks great too! Merry Christmas!

  7. All of your dresses are lovely. What a great use of fabric from a swap!

  8. This is a great dress

  9. I only hand sew now with Clover Black Gold hand sewing needles. I think you might like them. My hand sewing is mostly quilt binding, so you can imagine they get a workout.

    1. I will have to get myself some of those needles - thank you for the suggestion!

  10. Oops, was so excited to share about the Clover needles I forgot to say the dress is amazing. I know what you mean about wanting absolutely everything to match when sewing with a plaid, at least you don't have to look at the back when you wear it!