Monday, March 28, 2011

Finished Object: Mariana Trench Dress

I first came across McCall's 6279 a few weeks ago while preparing for a McCall's pattern sale at Fabricland, and while I was attracted to version C right away, I've fallen more and more in love with the pattern ever since. In fact, I loved it so much, I didn't even deviate much the colours they chose for it on the envelope.

Look at those white white legs. Yeesh.

A trip to Fabricland yielded a lightweight navy blue cotton poplin with a bit of stretch, a lovely funky floral cotton voile for the lining, grey swirly buttons, and a bunch of thread. I cut a size 16 out of some cheap cotton as a muslin, and only really needed to add some ease to the hip area and lengthen the fabric. For those who didn't see it, I talked about both the fabric choice and muslin here.

This dress required so much patience. While the pattern went together beautifully, my own blunders caused me a lot of grief. For instance, I originally fused medium-weight interfacing to the front panels, but then tore it out because it was too stiff. It caused a bit of distortion and shininess to the bottom of one of the front panels, but luckily it was on the side that gets overlapped, so it's not visible.

I chose to top-stitch along most of the major seams, and practiced (and practiced and practiced) before hand to make sure I wouldn't mess it up. I'd originally picked up some top-stitching thread for the job, but the sewing machine I was using hated it, so instead I used regular thread. Luckily, all that practice paid off and I didn't have to unpick anything.

Look at all that top-stitching

I can't say the same for the buttonholes and sleeves. Out of six buttonholes, I had to unpick three, two due to negligence while lining up the buttonholer, and one because of my bobbin running out of thread. I'm surprised the whole thing didn't wind up in the garbage.


The sleeves were another headache entirely. I left them until last because I hate gathering and easing sleeves, and this required both along the armscye, as well as gathering along the cuff. On the cuff itself, I thought I needed to add length, and inserted a small panel to widen it (I'd already cut it out to pattern specifications and was out of fabric). However, as shown on the left below, it turned out to be too big. So I yanked the panel out, and the cuff turned out to be perfect (shown on the right). Should've trusted the pattern.

Boy does this colour ever make my hair look red.

I do love these sleeves. They are loose and comfy, but the cuff makes my arm look more slender (in my opinion). However, the gathering on the sleeve cape has caused some other problems, specifically a nice big bump when I'm not standing perfectly still with arms at my side. I'm considering flipping the seam allowance under the shoulder and tacking it down, but any suggestions would be appreciated!

Any suggestions on how to deal with the shoulder bump?

I sort of messed up the hem, or rather, how the instructions say to do the hem. But because I added a lining to the dress, the instructions weren't going to work anyways, so I sort of jury-rigged a hem. I cut down the inner front facing so that it matched my lining (1 inch shorter than the shell), hemmed the entire lining, then attached the lining and shell together along the collar and front seams. For the shell hem, I sewed some hem ribbon along the raw edge, then slipstitched the tape to the skirt. I like the effect, especially when you catch a flash of the silver ribbon.

Note the change in thread colour from the navy blue thread on the poplin facing to the grey thread on the lining. :)

I paid a lot of attention to the details on this dress. I hand-stitched where ever needed, and even hand-basted where needed. This was a novelty to me, as I usually avoid basting whenever possible. It's amazing how much more lovely the results are when you baste, as opposed to simply pinning the tar out of the seam.

Yes, that's hand stitching. I'm getting better at it, when I pay attention.

I think the hem length turned out perfect. The picture below, while a little shoddy, shows the length perfectly.

I love this dress. It's comfortable and cute, and I think it'll dress up and dress down nicely. I fully intend to wear this to my thesis defense on the basis that an awesome dress - and feeling good about how you look - totally boosts your confidence, and I'll need all the help I can get!

Now I just need to find the perfect shoes!

ETA 1: Alright, so after a tonne of input from people here and in my review at PR, I think I've worked out why the sleeve caps are popping up so much. First off, thank you everyone for reassuring me that they're not actually that bad. It's funny how you can nitpick over something you've made that you'd completely disregard/love in RTW.

I believe the poof is meant to be there. This sleeve was a headache because it involved gathering along the top of the sleeve cap, and easing on either side of the gathers to about halfway down the armscye. This leads to a concentrated poof at the top of the sleeve cap. When my arms are hanging straight down at my sides, the sleeves are heavy enough that the gathers are pulled down and don't poof as much (as you can see on my right shoulder in the 'pondering' picture above).

Since these sleeves are elbow length, as soon as I bend my elbow or lift my arm, the weight is let off of the sleeve cap, and the gathers poof upwards. Most of the pictures above show some degree of this, since I'm posing with my arms oh my hips or bent or something (leave me alone, I'm a scientist not a model).

The sleeve poof has grown on me, and I think that once it's washed a few times and I take an iron to those babies, the poof will relax a bit.

Thanks again to everyone for your input, suggestions, and lovely comments. They all made me smile in joy!

ETA 2: The Mariana Trench has been featured on the McCall's facebook page! Thank you so much Kathy!


  1. Very nice! Thanks for such a thorough review, as I have this pattern yet to be sewn.

  2. It is fabulous!! And looks so gorgeous on you :)

  3. I think you did a great job on the dress. I know you'll feel empowered at your defense with this dress. The topstitching turned out very pretty. I have this pattern in my stash and I need to move it up in my To Sew List.

  4. Ok Heather. I am completely jealous of your new dress! It looks great! The top stitching is fantastic!
    Wish I could help with the bump...but I'm clueless. LOL

  5. Wow Heather, it's absolutely gorgeous, it looks wonderful on you. I really like it. Love the color, everything.
    Wonder how it'd go on plus size, it'd be good for winter.

  6. Thanks everyone. I'm that proud of it!

    Snuzal, I think it would look lovely on you. It's got some decent shaping with the princess seams that's pretty easy to tweak, and I think the shape and details on the dress would actually look great on all sorts of body types. The pattern does come in plus sizes, too. Actually, I was surprised that the pattern I picked up, which ranged between sizes 8 and 16, indicated 'plus' on the envelope, so I wonder if it's different shaping.

    Also, I think this would be a great winter dress (if you live in a place where dresses in the winter time is doable - I certainly don't (-40C winter? I'll stick with pants, thanks). I'm a little concerned that it'll be really hot in the summer, especially since I lined it. But it's all cotton, so we'll see. :)

  7. Wow, amazing job Heather, the dress looks fantastic. I'm totally in love with the lining! So, any idea what your next thesis deadline celebration sewing project will be?

  8. You look so pretty in this dress! I love the dress and the lining! Nice job:)

  9. Thanks everyone! You've all brought a smile to my face. :)

  10. -40c? you can KEEP THAT! lol. Most we get in my town is about -4 to -6c. I was thinking it'd look great with tights and a pair of boots, so will have to look at it

  11. Hi,
    We like your version of M6297 so much that we posted a link to your blog from our McCall's Patterns Facebook page. You did a great job!

  12. Your dress is very nice! I LOVE all of the topstitching you did, it adds a nice touch! I have this pattern stashed away somewhere and love your version!

  13. Is it possible that the left sleeve wasn't gathered evenly? Or could it have been cut too tall at that part?. From the pic it looks as if that sleeve is from a completely different pattern!!LOL!
    I usually snip my notches in most woven fabrics in my sleeves because I find they serve two useful purposes. One, obviously they match up, singles to singles and doubles to doubles ...AND I always follow the pattern directions and stitch my sleeve gathering threads from notch to notch. Never fail. Even if I don't gather all that way. I tie the threads at one end together and pull from one side and then from the opposite side. If the sleeve cap is too pointy tho, it could do what yours looks like. All the gathering is at the top.
    IDK, I'd have to actually watch how you sewed it all up, to really know.
    Threads magazine has some fabulous tutorials you may be able to find online some instruction to help with the next dress!
    Good luck!
    Susan Hart

  14. First off, thank you everyone for your lovely comments! I'm so glad you enjoyed my post about this dress, and I really hope more of you sew it, because it's a lovely pattern.

    @Kathy: Thank you very much for the link on the McCall's facebook page. I'm honoured!

    Finally, I think I've worked out the issue with the sleeve caps. In lieu of writing it out here where others may not see it, I've added an (possible) explanation for what's going on at the bottom of the post. Thank you to everyone who gave me suggestions and tips, and also to those who reassured me that it wasn't so bad!

    *mwah* You're the best!

  15. This dress really shows off your efforts and it looks good on you. Love how smart it looks.
    It is akin to the Simplicity 2043 that I just made, you can see it in my blog!


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