Sewing Patterns As Just The Starting Point

Do you ever buy a sewing pattern knowing full well what you’re going to make won’t look much like the pattern photo or illustration? If so, congratulations, you’re thinking like a designer.

We actually love seeing our customers put their own spin on our patterns. We’re really impressed when you think beyond the pattern photo or illustration and make something that’s your own design. Look at Nikki of Beauté J’Adore, for example. When we saw how she was able to take a sewing pattern as a starting point and then turn it into a garment that looked like it came straight from the runway, we thought “gotta have her as a pattern designer!” And we’re pleased to say that her first patterns for McCall’s will be available in the Early Fall collection (coming soon).

Most of the time I’m happy to sew the pattern as is. But every so often I get the urge to play designer. That urge struck me this season when I saw this Céline resort ’16 collection in a store window on Fifth Avenue. I fell in love with the idea of combining cotton shirting with a minimalist design.

Céline sewing inspiration: On the McCall Pattern Company blog

So I took this Vogue® Pattern and let it be my starting point:
Vogue Patterns V9185With some cotton shirting I bought at Metro Textiles and Beckenstein’s in the Garment District, and V9185, I made this tunic:

Vogue Pattern V9185 as made by Meg Carter. On the McCall Pattern Company blog.
Vogue Pattern V9185 as made by Meg Carter. On the McCall Pattern Company blog.

If you want to make a top like this using V9185, here are the modifications I made:

  • Omit the back overlay (piece 4) entirely
  • Cut a single layer of fabric for the front overlay (piece 5)
  • Omit the lining
  • Omit the center-back seam (place the CB seam on the fold)
  • On the front overlay, stitch a narrow hem around the top (shoulder), the outer edge, and the bottom. Don’t finish the neck edge or the part that is sewn into the front seam
  • Add sleeves if desired (mine are bracelet-length)
  • Finish the neckline using your preferred method. I bias-bound mine
  • To make an opening for your head, you can make a decorative facing like I did. Cut a rectangular piece of contrast fabric and press the side and bottom edges under 1/4-inch. Pin the right side of the facing to the wrong side of your top, at the center back neck. Stitch a narrow opening, slash between the stitch line, and turn the facing out. Press and stitch in place on the right side of your top

Follow all other directions as is. Here’s a closeup of the neckline:

Vogue Pattern V9185 as made by Meg Carter. On the McCall Pattern Company blog.

What about you, readers? Do you stick to the pattern as is most of the time? Or do you feel like a pattern is just the opening chapter for you. Discuss!

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Pattern Hall of Fame: The Basic Shell Top

The shell top is a classic pattern to sew. From the McCall Pattern Company blog.

If there was such a thing as the Pattern Hall of Fame, the basic shell top would definitely be in it. It packs a lot of style using a small amount of fabric (usually a yard, give or take) and the minimal design details means it sews up fast. The shell can be worn short and boxy, or you can make it longer and belt it or tuck it in. And with or without sleeves, the shell top has been a year-round favorite of fashion designers for years.

I usually make at least two or more shell tops a year. They’re quick to sew and once it starts getting warmer outside I prefer to keep the patterns I make on the easy side. Besides, one of my sewing mantras is “let the fabric do the heavy lifting for you.” Choose a fabric with a bold print or an appealing texture and pair it with a very simple design, like a shell top. With the Butterick B6175 shell top I made here, I used an Oscar de la Renta brocade that’s been marinating in my stash for over five years:

Butterick B6175 top made by Meg Carter of the McCall Pattern Company
When you have a gorgeous, detailed fabric like this one from Oscar de la Renta, it’s best to keep the design details to a minimum and let the fabric take the starring role. Butterick B6175 shell top pattern.
Butterick B6175 top made by Meg Carter of the McCall Pattern Company. Exposed back zipper framed in petersham ribbon.
I created a little back interest with an exposed zipper framed by a navy petersham ribbon.
Butterick B6175 top made by Meg Carter of the McCall Pattern Company. Inside view showing half lining.
Inside view of this top. Half-lining made of black silk charmeuse. I like my facings on the big and wide side, so I used one of my French curve rulers and filled in the facing to give more coverage in the front and back.

Everything for this top came from my stash and not a penny was spent. Ok, so I did pay $50/yard for the Oscar fabric in 2009 and I bought the charmeuse and the zipper and the ribbon at one time too…. But since everything has been just aging and depreciating in my stash for years now, I can claim I made it for $0, right?! Do you apply that kind of logic too when you use up stuff in your stash?

Shell top sewing inspiration:

Sewing inspiration: RTW shell tops. McCall Pattern Company blog

Shell top patterns from Butterick, McCall’s and Vogue Patterns:

Shell top sewing patterns from McCall's, Butterick and Vogue Patterns
Shell top pattern illustration from our archives:

From the McCall Pattern Company archives: 1950s Vogue Patterns illustrations
Shell top patterns from the 1950s. Vogue Patterns illustration.

Is a shell top pattern on your list to sew for the season? I just cut out another shell top last night, this time from Butterick B5948 in lightweight denim. What other pattern styles should be in a pattern hall of fame, if there was such a thing?

Easy and chic shell top sewing patterns.


Editor’s Picks: Kwik Sew Patterns

Kwik Sew Fall/Winter 2014 catalogThe Kwik Sew Fall/Winter 2014 collection debuted recently and I cozied up with this pattern catalog for a little look-through. Kwik Sew has been my go-to for basic patterns for years, but I was pleasantly surprised at how many stylish options this brand offers. Here are my top five picks for sewing right now:

Kwik Sew K4087 jacket

1) K4087 jacket: The moment I saw this new jacket pattern I thought of the Becky jacket by Rebecca Minkoff. I know you’re saying c’mon, Meg, you usually do a better job of matching your patterns to RTW, but to me it has a very similar feel to the designer jacket. Ignore the prints we made it up in and make your version out of solid 4-ply silk (if it’s available in a color you like and not too pricey, or a comparable poly fabric) or wool crepe. Lovely.

Kwik Sew K4068 dress

2) K4068 dress: This dress is for everyone who loves a feminine dress with a softly gathered waist. If you like our McCall’s shirtdress M6696, then you’ll love this pattern. Sew it out of soft cottons or silks in solids or mini prints. And look super-cute when you wear it.

Kwik Sew K4083 peplum top

3) K4083 top: We’re going nuts here over this flirty peplum top. I mean, cute peplum and color-blocked sides? Count us in! We recommend using lightweight fabrics for this Kwik Sew pattern, like silks or polyesters, for the best results. Maybe try color-blocking solids instead of mixing a print with a solid. Your call.

Kwik Sew K4031 cape

4) K4031 cape: Yes, I am going to keep forcing cape patterns on you this season until you break down and make one. This Kwik Sew pattern looks very similar to the Chloé capes that sell for close to $5,000. Make your much more reasonably priced version out of the softest wool or wool blend you can find, the thicker the better.

Kwik Sew K3764 biker jacket

5) K3764 moto/biker jacket: This pattern is an oldie but really, really goodie. You need to rock a motorcycle jacket this season and this is the pattern to get you on the road. Make it out of leather or faux leather, or explore some unexpected fabric choices, like the silver jacquard of the designer biker jacket in the photo above. Yes, you will look smoking-hot in this jacket.

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V1419 Sewalong update: How is everybody doing with this? Are you checking out our Flickr group and contributing comments (if you want)? I am up to step #8. Where are you in the process?