M7906 and the Ashton top

Today I have a double garment post for y’all, featuring the McCall’s 7906 skirt and the Ashton top from Helen’s Closet. This outfit is a very late brain child of the Seamwork Design Your Wardrobe challenge – which took place back in February, and I never completed – but nonetheless has informed my sewing queue ever since.

If you haven’t tried the Design Your Wardrobe challenge, I highly recommend it. Or at least, I highly recommend the first part (which is the only part I finished). The basic idea is that you take the time to create a mood board of styles you are drawn to, and then try to find or identify a cohesive theme. After you figure out what the overarching motifs are, you name your future collection and use it as a basis to start planning what you will make next.

Things I learned from this exercise:

  1. What I thought was a long-dormant desire to fancy myself a cowgirl is in fact alive and well. Helloooooo cowgirl boot wearin’ 1st grade Miranda.
  2. Even though I still love the 20s-40s vintage aesthetic (thank you Downtown), my sweet spot is really where americana meets romantic silhouettes.
  3. Apparently I love belts??? And yet, at the time of this exercise – I owned no belts. We are slowly remedying that.

What did I name my collection, you might ask? Desert Rose. You know, like Kate Winslet in Titanic, but specifically that last scene where you get the shot of her on a horse & living her best post-Titanic life. I like to imagine that Rose moved somewhere to the southwest, still wore fancy vintage clothes, but struck a less ostentatious vibe and instead went a little more yeehaw. Basically, I let my imagination fill in the gaps on this Pinterest board.

Let the record show that yes, Titanic is my favorite movie. Don’t @ me cuz no, I’m not ashamed.

Anywho! Back to the topic at hand, which uhhh . . . is not Kate Winslet and my photoshopped tangent but actually the two sewing projects I referenced in the title.

Like the McCall’s M7906 skirt! I think this is a fantastic pattern that would be beautiful in just about any fabric, but when I came across this kitschy horse tech fabric at my local discount fabric store – I knew some Desert Rose wardrobe dreams were about to come true.

The pinterest post that inspired my skirt. Friggin horses, amirite?!

I’ll be transparent with y’all: this skirt is constructed from what I’m 90% sure is a quilting cotton (M&L Fabrics in Anaheim sells discount fabric on a flat fold – which means you don’t get more information than what is printed on the selvage). Was it a risk? Yes. Did it totally pay off? Also yes.

And really, it’s kudos to the pattern itself because it’s clearly designed for sturdy fabrics (although I think it would be lovely with a softer silhouette too). I cut a straight size 10 based on the finished waistline measurements located on the pattern pieces*, and didn’t worry about grading out at the hips thanks to the pleated design.

Partly because I sewed this up in a quilting cotton, and partly because I was inspired by Brittany J Jones – I opted to finish all of my seams with contrast bias binding. Holy moly does the result feel fancy! I have to resist the urge to run around lifting my skirt up for everybody who expresses a modicum of interest in my outfit. The nicer finishes really elevates the garment, and it feels like something I paid a lot of money for at a high end department store (when it fact the total cost was about $17)

I don’t have much more to say about the M7906 except that it’s a great pattern, and 11/10 I will be making it again. I can also pair with at least four of my tops already, so as far as pure #sewfrosting projects go, this one is definite win!


Now – on to the Ashton top by Helen’s Closet. After I completed my skirt, and while planning what to wear with these blog photos you’re now enjoying – I realized that I owned only one white crop top. Given the amount of patterned high-waisted skirts in my closet, I decided that this a gap in my wardrobe I needed to start filling.

Cue the Ashton, which has been making the rounds on Instagram since it’s release. The silhouette is super cute, and I knew it would work perfectly with this skirt. This pattern has been touted as a stash buster, and since I had a tiny amount of linen leftover from the last Fairfield I made, I had high hopes I could squeeze an Ashton out of what was left.

Luckily, I was right! Granted this was another precarious, Miranda-tests-the-limits-of-what’s-reasonable, fabric cutting situation. But I got through it, and with only one seam line added to the back hem facing! (For any other brave explorers out there – please note that I squeaked out this top out with only 1 yd of 34″ wide fabric)

when you on thin pattern-cutting ice and you know it

I cut a size 4 in the cropped view with the facing finish option – despite my facing rant in my last post. This was the first time I’ve done an all-in-one neck/armhole facing, and I like to try things at least once before refusing to do them. With that said (and while an all-in-one facing is definitely less annoying to wear than separate facings), I will probably skip it next time in favor of bias binding.

The only adjustment I made was 1″ small bust adjustment, and overall I’m pretty happy with the fit! My single complaint is that I barely fit into the neck hole, and I’ve definitely already gotten make-up all over the neckline of the garment. I’m not sure if this is a grading issue since I’m at the smaller end of the size range – or if I just have a large head.

Either way, I will adjust this on future versions. The construction was straightforward and I was super impressed with the level of detail that Helen includes in her pattern instructions.

This top is a great closet staple, and omg, it’s perfect for summer. The A-line shape means that it hangs completely off my body, and the linen fabric is easy breezy. So between it and my quilting cotton skirt (which okay, I will admit is a little warm), I was not uncomfortable taking these photos in the August heat.

As always, thank you to Ian for taking these photos, and to anybody else who has managed to read this far despite my rambling.

The Details (M7906):

  • Fabric: 100% Cotton from M&L Discount Fabrics in Anaheim, CA (3 yards, 45″)
  • Pattern: McCall’s M7906
  • Size: 10
    • View C, length shortened to View B
  • Total Cost: $17
    • $2 for the pattern
    • $9 for the fabric
    • $6 bias binding

The Details (Ashton Top):

  • Fabric: Leftover Linen from Ian’s Fairfield Button-Up
  • Pattern: The Ashton Top from Helen’s Closet
  • Size: 4
    • View B, Facing Finish
  • Adjustments:
    • 1″ Small Bust Adjustment
  • Total Cost: $11
    • $11 for the pattern
    • $0 for the fabric (yay for sewing leftovers!)

*Tip: when using a Big 4 pattern – do not cut out your pieces based on the pattern envelope. For this pattern that would have (surprisingly) only put me one size over what I needed – but often times it’s two or three sizes off. You need to pull the actual pattern pieces out and take a look at the finished garment measurements before picking the correct size.

the Seren dress

The weather has finally (!!) started warming up in southern California, and all I want to do is make summer dresses. Originally planned & frantically started with the intent of wearing it to a backyard wedding (which LOL, did not happen) – here is my completed Seren dress from Tilly and the Buttons.

I purchased this deadstock rayon from Blackbird Fabrics in April with no real project in mind – but I loved the color scheme and I was drawn to the pattern, which vaguely reminded me of the mid-90s writing textbooks I used to read cover-to-cover in elementary school.

Oh, it was just me who did that?

I’ve come to realize that buying fabric with no project in mind is something I should probably stop doing. Not only because I waffle for months on what to do with it, but also because I inevitably purchase less than I actually need for whatever I end up deciding I will do with it.

Like the Seren dress, for example! Once I set my heart on this pattern, I obviously needed to include the flouce feature (hello, small bust), and no – I would not settle for any length short of midi. The recommended yardage for this particular view is 2.5 meters, which means it literally could not have required more fabric than it did.

You guys, I only bought 2 meters of this fabric. Not having enough fabric has become such a norm for me that I’m starting to feel like it’s my thing. A keystone of my sustainably-minded aesthetic, if I’m pretending it’s intentional. A fun game I play with myself where I have strategize before it’s time to cut my fabric and feel slightly stressed about the whole thing until it’s over. A triumphant photo I take of my tiny scrap pile to share on Instagram.

I pretty much have it down to a science at this point:

  • Step one is tracing out all of my pattern pieces so they are optimized for cutting on a single layer. Anything I need multiple pieces of is traced for the number of pieces needed (and reversed if it’s a one-sided fabric). Pieces cut on the fold are flipped and traced to be a single piece instead.
  • Step two is laying out my fabric on top of my queen size mattress so I can play with pattern piece placement (I have two dogs so the floor is not an option). It turns out that my bed is pretty perfectly sized for 2 meters of 60″ wide fabric!
  • Step three is taking photographs to document whatever layout I’ve come up with. Once I find an arrangement I’m confident with, I have to make sure I can remember exactly where each piece needs to go and in what order I will need to cut them in.
A bird’s eye view of the final layout on top of my mattress.

In the case of this dress, it took me soooo long to find a layout that was going to work – I started to lose hope I’d be able to manage it. Once I finally cut everything out, I breathed a sigh of relief.

That is, until I realized that I forgot to cut out the second waistband piece. In fact, despite having made a muslin of the bodice, I didn’t actually realize that this dress features a waistband at all! I thought the bodice attached directly to the skirt, and the first waistband piece was simply a facing. Like, a tutu? On the inside?

In hindsight, it obviously makes no sense – but nonetheless I panicked when I realized that all of the adjustments I had made were not done with a waistband in mind. Luckily, I was able to come up with a second waistband piece (from the very tiny pile of scraps left) by adding a seam line and ignoring the grain.

To accommodate the 1/4″ darts I added to both the bodice and the skirt, I took in the same amount on both sides of the waistband and tried to line it up in the same spot as the other pieces. This turned out okay, but I suspect I benefited from the dark shade of the fabric. Yay for hiding mistakes!

This is basically a long way of saying that had I purchased enough yardage to begin with, I probably could have avoided 3/4 of the drama of this dress.

when u extra & u know it

My other big boo-boo happened when it came time to add the buttonholes. I will admit to playing it real fast and loose with transferring my pattern placement markings, and oh my god, the top buttonhole is SO CLOSE to the top of this dress. It is held together by mere threads. I put as many stitches as seemed reasonable to try and reinforce it, but I fear that particular buttonhole does not have a long life ahead of it. I have no idea what I will do if and when the fabric tears there . . . but that is a problem for Future Miranda to worry about (future Miranda has also made notes about how not to create buttonholes going forward).

Zooming in so y’all can appreciate how precarious this situation is. The top is hand stitched in an attempt to keep it from completely falling apart.

In the meantime, I’m otherwise happy with how this turned out. It was my first time working with a 100% rayon, and while it isn’t the easiest fabric to work with since it’s so slippery, I survived and the result is definitely Good Enough. I could stand to take another inch or so in the top of the side seams, since there is still some gaping in the chest (I think my fabric grew) – but will I bother? Only time will tell.

Signing off with this cute af gif, courtesy of Google Photos.

The Details:

  • Fabric: Deadstock Rayon from Blackbird Fabrics (2 meters)
  • Pattern: Seren Dress by Tilly and the Buttons
  • Size: 3
  • Adjustments:
    • Graded to size 2 to at the bust
    • 1″ Small Bust Adjustment (SBA)
    • Shortened straps 1″
    • Lowered bust dart 1.75″
    • Added two 3/8″ darts to back bodice and skirt
  • Total Cost: ~$66
    • $15 for the pattern
    • $46 for the fabric
    • ~ $5 for buttons

the fairfield-button up

Hello friends! I am back with another finished piece – this time featuring my husband, Ian. This is the fourth button-up shirt I’ve completed for him, and I think I am finally zeroing in on the perfect fit (& in the perfect pattern).

My first ventures into shirt-making for him were from the Simplicty 4760 pattern. I’m not sure when this particular pattern was designed – but if I had to guess I’d say it was the late 90s based on the photographs and the amount of ease designed in the pattern. That pattern required a TON of altering to get a slimmer/modern fit, and while this was a good learning exercise for me – I became weary of other Big 4 men’s shirt patterns for the same reason.

I also didn’t love what felt like short cuts in the design and construction. Namely: the facing used for the button band, and lack of a collar stand.

The fit was about as modern as this photo.

Y’all, I’m pretty much over facings. Arm facings? Nope. Button-band facings? Maybe in dresses, but for collared shirts that’s now a nope. Neckline facings? Also nope. Whenever possible: I much prefer a bias binding or RTW techniques.

Besides the lack of facings, there were two main things that really appealed to me about the Fairfield button-up. One was the legit button placket construction. The other was that it included a version designed with back darts instead of back pleats. If you’ve done much shopping for men’s shirts – you’ll know that back darts in shirts are harder to find than back pleats (at least in the U.S.). A back pleat will add volume to a shirt (which is great if you are larger figure), but in Ian’s case he always has a much better fit with darts.

Fabric is a pure linen so I know y’all understand the wrinkles. Notice how the back darts give a slimmer fit than a pleat under the yoke would.

Anywho, I decided to make the first version as a wearable muslin in an inexpensive cotton I picked up some time last year. To my pleasant surprise, the construction was straightforward, and I didn’t have any trouble with the button placket even though it was my first time doing it. (I repeat: why bother with a facing???)

I didn’t find the collar stand particularly difficult either, and I think the result is worth the added effort. The only bit I had trouble with was keeping track of the “under” vs. “over” collar pieces. Instead of cutting the same collar stand and collar piece on the fold, the pattern includes four different pieces in which the “over” pieces are slightly bigger to allow for the turn of cloth (another reason this is a high-quality pattern). I’m pretty sure I mixed them up on the first version of the shirt, so for the second one I made sure to use tailor’s tacks to help me keep track of which was which.

I should note that I also shortened the sleeves for both of these versions. The pattern does not include a short-sleeve option, but it’s an easy adjustment to make yourself (especially if you have another pattern you can pull from, like I did). I can’t speak to the cuff construction in this pattern yet, but given my experience so far I have high hopes for when I try it this fall.

As for the fit, it was honestly not bad straight out of the pattern. I had to raise the pocket placement an inch and a half, but otherwise the result was pretty good.

Even though Ian thought the first fit was amazing (thanks boo!) – I was bothered by the drag line coming down from his right shoulder. The shoulders were a touch too long, leading to extra fabric in the chest and back. To correct this, I did just a 1/4 narrow shoulder and back adjustment – and I think the second version looks perfect.

The singular drag line was trickier to figure out, but after consulting Fit for Real People, I realized that Ian has slightly uneven shoulders. I followed the pattern adjustment as outlined in the book, which is essentially a straight shoulder adjustment on one side only. Note that this will raise/lower one of the armholes as well, which is what you want if one arm is in fact hanging lower than the other.

Simple in theory, not simple in execution! Making an adjustment to only one side of a pattern is a lot to keep track of when you are talking about two separate front bodices pieces, two yoke pieces, all cut on a single layer – on a fabric where the right side and wrong side are interchangeable.

I did my best to keep everything straight, but when Ian tried on the shirt and asked me, “Isn’t the pocket supposed to be on the other side?” I knew that somewhere along the way I had made a grave, grave error. While it was easy to move the pocket to the correct side – it was way to late for the buttons and button holes.

Apropos of nothing . . . what photoshoots with me are like. “Can you pose like this, please!?”

Funny enough, I did manage to get the adjustments all on the correct side in terms of actually wearing the garment – so it fits and looks great! But managed to completely switch the construction of the front bodices. I guess I didn’t notice because it seemed correct to me? But, forevermore, every time Ian puts that shirt on, his fingers will awkwardly remember that I managed to sew his shirt backwards.

Really, the worst part is that it means I will need to do all of those adjustments again the next time I make him this shirt (did I mention that I traced and cut this pattern on a single layer?). But as far as this version goes – nobody but him and you lovely people reading this blog will ever be the wiser.

Okay not exactly a garment photo but it’s my blog. Don’t @ me!

The Details:

  • Fabric: 100% Linen from Superbuzzy (2 yards)
  • Pattern: Fairfield Button Up by Thread Theory Designs
  • Size: S
  • Adjustments:
    • Short Sleeve
    • Raised Pocket 1.25″
    • 1/4″ Narrow Shoulder and Back
    • 1/4″ Uneven Shoulder
    • Shortened Bodice Length 1/2″
  • Total Cost: ~$50
    • $11 for the pattern (one time cost but I’ve already used it twice)
    • $35 for the fabric (linen version)
    • ~ $5 for misc. notions (buttons, interfacing)

the meridian dress

Perhaps my most-procrastinated project yet – I’ve finally completed the Meridian Dress by Papercut patterns. This dress has been in the works for approximately 10 months, ever since I first layed eyes on a beautiful (but $300) linen wrap dress on Etsy. It was August of 2018, I had just completed some collared shirts for Ian, so it seemed reasonable that of course I was ready to dive straight into self-drafting my own dress. I immediately and impulsively purchased two meters of crinkle linen from Blackbird Fabrics.

Lol at past me! I was not ready.

The fabric arrived, it was very crinkly, and self-drafting a pattern was in fact quite intimidating. I went ahead and pre-washed the fabric (making it super crinkly), folded it and put away with my stash, and like the excited hummingbird that I am – immediately became distracted with other, shiny projects.

Lucky for me, two months later Papercut patterns released their Geo collection, and lo and behold – one of them was a tentacle dress! Did I mention I’d been referring to this project as my tentacle dress? I could put my pattern drafting ambitions aside, and move this new pattern into my queue with the fabric I’d already acquired.

Trouble was, I still found the fabric itself a little intimidating. It had really wrinkled up in the wash, and I both:

  • forgot it wasn’t quite that crinkly when I originally purchased it; and
  • didn’t realize that a simple pass with the iron would help it get back into shape.

There was also a serious lack of #crinklelinen tags on Instagram, all of which led to a low-level of anxiety about the project and kept it on my to-do list for ohhhh . . . another six months!

Anywho, finally I found myself deep in the spring of 2019, with the looming threat of a hot summer and the knowledge that there were two meters of a gorgeous linen just sitting around and waiting to be turned into a dress. I finally decided to just Do The Thing and make my tentacle dress.

I was a good Miranda this project and opted to make a wearable muslin first – and thank goodness I did!! Cuz what a disaster that first version turned out to be:

  • I chose my size based on my waist and hip measurements, and then completely forgot to do an SBA. I kid you not I could have fit a soccer ball in the extra fabric at my bust. All tentacle dress, no Miranda.
  • Despite lining my zipper up correctly at both waist seam lines, somehow one side of my back bodice ended up a centimeter longer than the other. This might not be an issue on a dress where the zipper goes all the way up the back – but with the keyhole design it looked pretty sloppy. I knew to correct for this stretching in the final version:
Once the zipper was installed, I marked the corner of both seam lines to make sure one side would not end up longer than the other.
  • Speaking of keyholes – my first button loop was Not. Cute. Wearable muslins are great because they give you an opportunity to practice techniques before you do them on your final garment, and in this case I knew I needed to do some more homework before attempting it again.
Each end of the loop should be sewn as a single layer to keep the button laying flat.

The muslin itself was a lost cause, made from a cheap fabric that wrinkled anytime you looked at it – so I threw in the towel on that version. I almost gave up entirely, but after a night of sleep I changed my mind and decided I could probably get the second version where it needed to be. I’ll be honest and admit that I also didn’t have any other ideas for my fabric, and I didn’t want to put it away for another year.

Cue pattern adjustments:

  • 2” SBA
  • Removed the front pleats (I’ve not had good luck with either darts or pleats in the front of skits and I think I might pre-emptively remove them from here on out)
  • Raised the waistline 1”
  • Added 1/2” dart to the back shoulders (probably an “always” adjustment for me but sometimes I skip it if I don’t want a dart line. That said, I was especially pleased with how these turned out in the crinkle linen – the texture of the fabric makes the detail super subtle).
  • Removed 1” from the length of the keyhole opening, tapering to the arm scye. I still have a little extra length here, but it’s much less noticeable.
  • Shortened the skirt 9″ from the midi length. I love the look of the longer skirt, but I think it’s more suited to drapey fabrics and not so much a linen or cotton.
  • Changed the shape of the ties at the end (aka the tentacles). The design calls for a square finish on these, but I prefer the look of a rounded end.

It was arguably too many adjustments to do at oncee, but nonetheless I’m happy with the final result. As far as construction goes, this might be my proudest make yet. I couldn’t find a zipper that matched this shade of pink (at least at Joann), so instead I opted for a contrasting color for the zipper, button, and serged edges. The details pop nicely and the inside of the dress is really pretty (it helps that the contrast color happens to be my favorite color).

As for the fabric? It was actually quite fun to work with. Linen in general is great in that it presses so well, but I loved the way I could steam this one. As I mentioned, it gets TOO crinkled after a wash, but if you take an iron to it, the fabric will stretch back to it’s correct size. In fact, it might stretch a little too much, in which case some steam will get it right back to its correct shape. I looooved pressing the seams nice and flat, but then using steam and watching the garment “scrunch” back up. Blackbird Fabrics doesn’t carry this particular fabric anymore – but they have some other really beautiful crinkle linens in stock right now.

My biggest (and really only) boo-boo with this dress is the opacity of the fabric. The skirt is too sheer for any level of sunlight, and mind you – this is supposed to be a summer dress. The problem was pretty quickly solved with a half slip purchased on Amazon – although I will admit, the nylon content of the slip does negate some of the heat resistant benefits of a linen dress. There is a 50% chance I make myself another slip, but made with a light cotton or silk instead.

Finally, as others have mentioned – you do end up with a hole of sorts at the point where the waist seam and front ties converge. I’m not sure if this was intentional since it’s not mentioned in the instructions , but it’s easy to hand stitch closed. Having constructed this seam twice, I recommend doing this small bit of hand stitching before attaching the bodice to the skirt.

Whew! That was probably more than you bargained for. Moral of the story: we love tentacle dress. Go forth and make one if you like it too.

The Details:

  • Fabric: Dusty Rose Crinkle Linen from Blackbird Fabrics (2 meters)
  • Pattern: Meridian Dress by Papercut Patterns
  • Size: XS
  • Adjustments: See Above
  • Total Cost: ~ $58
    • $13 for the pattern
    • $40 for the fabric
    • $5 notions
Isn’t this bow cute? It’s the same knot you’d use for a bow-tie. Thanks Ian!

the Willamette shirt

Every time I finish something new and it turns out well, I can’t help but think it’s my new favorite make. It’s hyperbolic and time is a better test – but you guys, this pattern is a real joy to sew and wear.

I had no plans to make this top in the near future, but when I spotted this beautiful striped linen at my local Joann store (while shopping for another project) – I could not resist buying a yard and a half. Elise Joy and Heidi from Handmade Frenzy recently made such beautiful versions of this pattern – that this project & fabric instantly jumped to the top of my queue.

I try to purchase fabric independently – but Joann’s is really killing with their linen game right now.

When I left the store I really thought that a yard and a half of fabric would be plenty to make myself a nice top, but upon purchasing and printing the pattern pieces I was surprised to discover that the Willamette shirt called for 2.5 yards of fabric! At this point I was committed, however, and therefore had another round of fabric tetris ahead of me.

Luckily I was better prepared this time, and opted to trace all of my pattern pieces to be cut on a single layer. This meant that for pieces designed to be cut on the fold, I traced a new piece that was mirrored with a center line instead of a fold line. For pieces meant to be cut twice, I went ahead and traced a second piece.

Original collar piece at the top – “Cut 2 on the fold”. Instead (bottom) I mirrored the other side and created two separate pattern pieces.

Ultimately this meant that when I layed my fabric out on a single layer, I had a pattern piece for every single piece that needed to be cut, and didn’t have to make any guesses as to where to place each piece.

Apologies for the bad lighting (that 5 pm sunlight was comin’ in FIERCE) – but look how nicely I was able to fit all my pieces!

This obviously required some more time on the front end of the pattern cutting process – but it was 1000% worth it!! Actually laying out the pieces and cutting my fabric was sooooo much easier than my Joni dress.

Once again I found myself with the most adorable tiny scrap pile.

Because my Anna dress was such a journey, I did not opt to make a muslin or do any fitting adjustments prior to sewing this up. The design is meant to be a little over-sized, so I was fairly confident that it would turn out fine without much fuss. I love a long and involved project – but sometimes it’s nice to have a spacer and work on something that’s fairly quick and easy.

As for the pattern itself, it’s fantastic. These are possibly the best set of instructions I’ve encountered yet, and I really loved every step of the project. This is the first time I’ve sewn together a proper front and back yoke, and the process was explained beautifully. If you have never sewn a collared shirt before – I highly recommend this pattern as a starting point.

Finally, I loved sewing with this linen. It’s beautiful. It’s easy to work with. And ooooh it presses so nicely. I cannot wait to wear this as the days continue to get warmer over the next few months. I was reminded of how much I love sewing a collared shirt, and the Fairfield button-up I’ve been promising my husband for months has jumped straight to the top of my sewing queue.

The Details:

  • Fabric: 100% Striped Linen from Joann Stores (1.5 yards, but pattern calls for 2.5)
  • Pattern: Willamette Shirt by Hey June Handmade
  • Size: 2
    • View C w/cuffs
  • Adjustments:
    • Raised the center front stitch line 1″
  • Total Cost: ~ $33
    • $10 for the pattern
    • $23 for the fabric