Wednesday, 28 September 2016

A pair of knit dresses (Ottobre 05-2016-16 and Butterick 6388)

I'm not going to lie, I really liked both of these dresses and was dead pleased with how they looked in the mirror. Then I took photos in order to review the patterns here and when I looked at the photos I was like... oh. These look terrible, just deeply unflattering and sack like both on Flossie and on me. Since then I've wound my way back round to "I still really like these, they're great for the purpose I made them, and I don't really care if they don't look good in photos". Still, it's a thing to note.

Left: Ottobre 05-2016-16; Right: Butterick 6388 (View D)
The purpose part is important. I had a sort of gap in my wardrobe in the category I like to call Not Entirely Unlike Pyjamas. These are soft and comfortable clothes suitable for those days where my sole intention is to spend my time lying around the house, but that are still perfectly respectable to wear if I have to answer the door or run into the local shop for thirty seconds. Until recently, I've mostly worn some kind of tracky bottom/knit top combination on those days, but this autumn I decided to add some knit leggings & long knit tunic/short knit dress combinations into rotation. I bought a couple of pairs of RTW leggings on this occasion -- I am not entirely convinced sewing my own leggings is worth the effort, though I daresay I'll end up giving it a try one of these days.
Ottobre 05-2016-16

I decided to make two blue dresses to go with navy leggings first. The first is from the most recent issue of Ottobre Woman, pattern 05-2016-16. I can't say this leapt out at me from the magazine when it arrived. It was, in fact, only when another blogger -- Dawn at Two On Two Off -- made a really great version that my attention was drawn to the pattern. Once alerted to it though I added it quickly to my sewing queue. For my version I used a grey and blue knit of unknown fibre composition that, while rather thin, was quite well behaved overall. It has a sort of paisley pattern on it but didn't sweat the pattern matching (by which I mean, I cut out all the pieces from my fabric and THEN suddenly thought oh! pattern matching! that's a thing people do, I guess!) and the whole thing therefore came together in no time at all.

Various view of my actual dress -- front, side and droopy pocket

One disappointment is the droopy pocket, which I don't think the other reviewer experienced. It's impossible to tell if the version in the magazine has droopy pockets like mine because the model has her hands in them. My suspicion is probably not, and that it's caused in my dress by a combination of my fabric being very lightweight and drooping under the weight of the double facing, compared to the stiffer knits used both by Dawn and by the magazine, and also it not being pulled straight/flat by my body because of the size I used.

Ottobre 05-2016-16 on me
I made a 44, more or less straight from the pattern sheet. Ordinarily, I make a square shoulder adjustment but with batwing tops this becomes rather complicated so I decided to try this version without. The fit through the shoulder/bust is pretty much what I would expect from a non-square-shoulder-adjusted batwing to look on me. It all comes unstuck, of course, at the waist and hip. Ordinarily, when making separates, I use a size 44 upper body, size 40 lower body in Ottobre patterns. Often I don't attempt to grade down through the hips at all because I don't generally choose to emphasize the relative narrowness of my hips vs my shoulders/bust. In this case though, I really should have graded at least one size down over the hips as I think that might have helped with the droopy pocket problem. Also, you can just about tell from the technical drawing that the skirt is pegged somewhat. Unfortunately, it turns out that a too large pegged skirt will hang a little oddly, with some peculiar droopy lines over the hip. That said, it's a very comfortable dress.

My second dress is from this recent Butterick pattern, B6388.

Butterick 6388
For sure I am not the only person who glanced through the recent Butterick release and pounced on Butterick 6388 as a pattern I really needed in my life, mainly because of that lapped collar on views B, C and D. I have been waiting patiently ever since for it to first arrive and then go on sale here in the UK, which it finally did last week, allowing me to scoop it up for £4 instead of the usual £8.

However, there was a problem: the sizing. First up, let me just say that my full bust allegedly puts me in a Size 18 according to the McVogueRick size chart. I have never ever made a size 18 in anything. I use either a 14 or a 16 or something between the two for upper body garments, and a 12/14 for lower body. With this pattern, however, the sizing has been done in XS/S/M, and L/XL/XXL, where M is 12-14, and L is 16-18.

I've not made any Butterick knits before so I had no previous experience to work from. Looking at the measurements, I just couldn't decide at all which to pick. The finished garment sizes on the Medium are almost exactly the same as my actual measurements, which means they would have had almost zero ease. That's fine in a knit normally, but this pattern called for a knit with minimal stretch. Also, I really wanted to make view D as a sweater dress, a top layer that I can wear in winter over leggings and a t-shirt so I wanted a little bit of room for layering. On the other hand, the size Large has a whopping 10cm extra space in it. Ordinarily I would have just merrily made up an imaginary size half way between the two but M and L are in different envelopes, so I had to decide what size to start with. I eventually went for the larger of the two envelope sets, L/XL/XXL, sacrificing the possibility of ever making View E, the trousers, as the smallest size is too large for me.

All of which is to say: this is a size Large, straight off the envelope. The pattern says it is "semi-fitted" which, no. My version is not quite as shapelessly sack-like in person as it appears in my uninspiring, standing still photo, but it is definitely also not semi-fitted. I guess I can just say that the Large is too big on me and I should have bought/made a size Medium. If I had wanted a cute little dress to wear with boots and scarf to wear out the house, this is a disaster and I would have ended up taking inches out of the entire side seam. As Nearly But Not Quite Pyjamas, I'm actually fine with it as is, though if I make it again -- and I will almost certainly make it again -- I will be taking out quite a lot of that extra ease (and also, dear god, look at the twisty sleeve problem, AGAIN!)

Butterick 6388 on me
More pertinently, the real draw of this pattern is in fact the neckline, and this turned out so well, just like the pattern image:
Butterick 6388 neckline
My fabric is a very very soft, floppy knit. It has probably more stretch than the pattern really calls for and the collar is a little prone to falling down as I wear it, but the shape and construction of the collar is actually great. If I were making this again in such a soft, loose knit, I might consider adding a lightweight knit interfacing, just to make it hold the shape more neatly. In a firmer knit, the sort the pattern actually recommends, I think it would hold the shape better to start with. Although I am very happy with how it turned out, construction was not wholly unproblematic. My fabric was quite thick and my overlocker is quite basic/lightweight. The section at the front has 7 layers and the overlocker chewed through it only very reluctantly. I was glad that I actually sewed it with my regular machine before I finished the neckline on the overlocker, because I think going straight to overlocking it would have been a disaster.

B6388 back view
The back of the dress is also seamed -- there's an (unshaped) centre back seam, and a circular yoke seam. In the larger sizes, the centre back seam seems to be there in order to fit the pattern on the fabric, but in smaller sizes you don't need to. If I made it again and decreased the size, I might also cut the back on the fold, since that seam adds nothing and I don't ordinarily do any kind of centre back adjustment (obviously, if you do, the existence of a seam is a plus!)

The pattern calls for 2.2m of fabric for view D in size L, which I blithely ignored. I could have gotten the whole pattern out of 2m without any problem at all, but it slipped my mind that I needed to cut 4 pocket pieces and I only cut 2 by mistake. As it turned out, I had cut round my pattern pieces in such a way that all the scraps I had were almost, but not quite big enough to cut the second pair of pocket pieces, which was aggravating. In the end I just left the pockets off. I also decided not to do the top stitching, partly because it didn't show up on my fabric at all when I tested it and therefore it seemed like a waste of time, and partly because this fabric distorted like crazy with every additional line of stitching.

One major issue I have with the pattern is that it seems to have been written as if the person sewing it will have fallen through a time warp to 1973 before she does so. I understand that not everyone sewing knits has an overlocker/serger, but some of the advice was just bizarre, old-fashioned and/or written as if the garment was going to be made in a woven. I also really REALLY dislike a 5/8ths seam allowance on a knit garment. This is my umpteenth knit garment so I just tra-la-la'd my way through a lot of the instructions and only paid any close attention to how to put the lapped collar together. Still, ugh, McCall's need to get it together with their knit pattern instructions.

In conclusion: I am not a picture of sartorial elegance in these photos, but I don't need to be to be pleased with my dresses. I really want to make the Butterick pattern again -- I might make a view C length jumper with some ponte knit I have -- but I need to think about how to adjust the size. There's a part of me wonders whether it would be worth picking up the smaller envelope, even though that's an expensive thing to do.


  1. I love the idea of clothes that are Not Entirely Unlike Pyjamas! This is all I've been sewing lately. I think you're being a bit hard on yourself about the Ottobre dress - I wouldn't have noticed any of the issues you had with it until you pointed them out.

  2. What a great name for this category of clothes! coincidentally I have also tried to step up my game with these kind of clothes, and it's proving to be surprisingly difficult. Don't give up, and don't be too hard on yourself.