Monday 9 October 2017

McCalls 7574 - The Hairy Green Clam Dress

You know how this story goes, you need fabric A so you go shopping. While looking for fabric A, you find fabric B and then have to track down the perfect pattern to use up fabric B. Admit it, it's a familiar story, right?

I found this amazing, thick, spongey, crazy (for me) print, ponte knit at Rathdowne Fabrics and instantly wanted a raglan sleeve T-shirt dress.

The pattern I fell hard for is McCalls M7574 by Melissa Watson. It's a raglan sleeve with a high, square raglan line instead of the usual straight slope from neck to armpit. Best seen on the line drawings here:

Those sharp curves of the raglan sleeve are tricky to sew, but for me, by far the hardest part was trying to get the shoulders to fit well.

But hang on...

Before you even cut a fabric like this you have to carefully consider what part of the print is going to land where. I figured I couldn't control every print/anatomy interface but the one thing I decided to focus on was avoiding another "Map of Tassie" incident.

So, the options for what would land right on what certain Wellness Bloggers might gaggingly call my hoohaa or yoni*, came down to these three:

From Left to Right above, the options were: 1: Jewellery Box (nice, kinda apt hey), 2: Kissy Lips (uhm... no.) or 3: Hairy Green Clam (OK, this one cracked me up and has remained my pet name for the dress, but I wisely chose against it).

With the jewellery box lined up with my neatly marked pattern tissue (no, you're not seeing how I drew on it), the rest was up to fate. Thankfully I didn't get kissy lips on my tits but that was really just sheer luck.

I measured at size 14 and thought briefly about sizing down, but the pattern said "close fitting" and I believed it. I did put my big sewing girl pants on and try the tissue fitting technique outlined in the pattern (it's a Palmer Pletsch after all), only I used my traced interfacing instead of the pattern tissue.

That kind of got me nowhere as the half pattern seemed quite small and only just came to my midline, and the sleeves seemed relatively tight. How can you tissue fit a knit dress? I guess only if the dress has positive ease and I thought that "close fitting" indicated otherwise. So I went with the straight size 14, and then fiddled, and fiddled, and fiddled with those shoulder seams...

The raglan bit was fine, it was trying to get the shoulder seam to not pucker that was so difficult. I put it on inside out and sewed quite a few passes on each sleeve smoothing out and taking little bits out of the squareness of the shoulder seam each time.

It was an interesting exercise as, had you asked me at the start, I would have thought I had pretty square shoulders but evidently not. I also found that my right shoulder seemed shorter/slopier than my left. It got to the point where I would have preferred to do an hour of one arm deltoid exercises in the gym than do one more adjustment to the dress, so I called it good enough and quit.

After I finished I took the centre back seam in by almost an inch from about my bra line down to my butt. Those horizontal folds still persist a bit and I knew that really I had to buck up and start doing proper sway back adjustments to flat patterns from the start. Next time, I promise :)

The high/low shirt tail style hem is really nice and I'm pretty enamoured of that side slit :)

Once those tricky, opposing curve raglan seams are sewn the whole dress comes together pretty quickly and I'd say it's a definite winner - just be prepared to have all your misconceptions of your awesome shoulders shattered. There are lots of fitting tips for this pattern and nice diagrams of the raglan sleeve sewing on the Palmer Pletsch blog here.

Oh, and just to make it the perfect every day kind of knit dress there are pockets!

Pattern: McCalls M7574
NB: I'm pretty sure there's an error in the pattern. The front sleeve notches do not line up at all. If you start pinning from the front underarm seam you only get about an inch and a half in, and then the notches are almost a full inch apart. I pinned to a point equidistant between the mismatched notches and then started the clipping/easing of the opposing curves from there. The back sleeve notches line up perfectly. 
Size: 14
Modifications: Centre back seam reduction thorugh waist, shoulder fiddling
Fabric: Ponte knit from Rathdowne Fabrics

* For a brilliant ob/gyn's smackdown of Gwyneth and her pathologising of your vagina, please read Dr Jen Gunter's blog


  1. You are KILLING me with your hairy green clam and "kissy bit" references here!! Jeez lois, what kind of trolls will you get with a "yoni hairy green clam" search? I shudder to think! The dress is gorgeous and you look great. With that busy print, any remaining shoulder puckers (if there are any?) are totally invisible. Although it's a busy print, it's a very simple dress and will dress up/down easily! Well done.

    1. Oh darn, I forgot about the ol' Google word search thing. Let's see if hairy clams can out-do that reference to boy's bum crack that I made four years ago... (Yes, really. Horrifying right? No, there were no pictures thank goodness)

  2. Well, it has pockets, so it is a win ;) But seriously, the dress looks fab! I think you match fabric and pattern perfectly.

    1. Pockets are certainly handy. I'm glad this fabric and dress came together just as I had imagined

  3. Saw your review on PR and had to pop over to see your blog post. Love your dress and you did a great job with the design placement.

    1. Thanks Linda! I hope your visit to the blog wasn't too frightening :) I'd like to say I don't normally like this but it just wouldn't be true!

  4. I must admit I did wonder, when you first blogged about the fabric, how this one was going to work out - but you've done a superb job. I love the dress style with all its interesting features, and the fabric is awesome. Oh, and of course I can confirm that it looks FABULOUS in person!

  5. Looks really nice! Thanks for the caveats with the shoulders. That's indeed why I got this pattern.

  6. Goodness you sew really nice clothes. Wearable clothes that don't look home sewn. Bravo.


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