Saturday, 11 April 2015

Cardigan/jacket with peplum - McCall's 6844

Well,  I finally made something for myself! I hoped I would manage to write that 3 or 4 weeks ago! I've been ill so didn't manage as much as I'd hoped. Still, I didn't want to rush it just for the sake of finishing.
I'd have been happier with finished result if I looked like this model!
I've had this pattern, McCall's 6844 for ages. I like wearing a cardigan type top over a T-shirt or similar and I'd decided I needed a grey one. I have a couple of black ones - black is so useful but it's not really my colour. I have a few cardigan patterns - 2 McCall's and 2 Style Arc. I like some of the details in the Style Arc patterns and like that they suggest fabric, providing a swatch. A couple of things decided me against on this occasion though - I've never made one of their patterns and gather they're a bit short on instructions,  which I definitely still need at this stage and I'm not sure I've bought the correct size,  with them being single size patterns. The other reason was they suggested quite a fine stretch bengaline which I don't have and I wanted to use up fabric from my rapidly growing stash.  One of the great disadvantages of being a slow sewer is that stash grows faster than it is used up!

I've seen loads of great reviews for the McCall's. Then I realised that it was one of the best patterns of its year and was therefore valid for entry into the PR Best Patterns competition. Now why would I want to enter that?  'Simples' as  Aleksandr Orlov (Meerkat!) says!  I'm not getting things done for myself and this gives me a push.  Besides, it appeared to be quite an easy make,  so I decided to go ahead. I liked the idea of a simple make for me. Some people call this a 'palate cleanser'. I missed the PR competition but that's no big deal.

I now think that perhaps my fabric is a little thick and 'bouncy' though it did have the required amount of stretch. This led to a few extra steps.

In my sewing class, I was measured against the pattern. It's great to have someone to do that!

Pattern alterations

I decided to make size L. I had read that it runs a bit big so felt that although my hips are bigger than given in this size range,  it would be fine.

I needed to lengthen the centre front by ¾" , tapering to zero at the side,  and shorten the back by a similar ¾". tapering to zero at the side seam. My tutor, Lyn, said it was crucial that the waist fell at the correct spot in this style or it just wouldn't look good.
The sleeves appeared to be a good length for me so I didn't need to lengthen them  - which is unusual for me. However,  my tutor advised making the sleeves in size XL,  though leaving the sleeve cap at L, because there didn't appear to be enough ease for my chunky biceps. I'm glad I did this as I feel the finished sleeves are somewhat neat over another sleeve.
Many sewers who reviewed this cardigan felt it was fine to put the sleeves in flat but my tutor advised me to insert them in the round as that would give a better look. I read a Curvy Sewing Collective post that linked to a post about dominant seams and that may be why. Another reviewer also suggested this gave a better look.
Now many people felt that interfacing the band was unnecessary but my tutor advised that I should complete this step.
So I was going to be following the instructions exactly. Or more or less exactly - as I would add a step.

My original plan had been to do version B
- completely plain with just a touch of waist shaping. However,  my tutor and all of my fellow students suggested the longer peplum version. I've never liked peplums on me and don't have any garments in that style. I always felt that as a pear shape,  I didn't want to emphasise my hips. However, more recently I've been seen as rectangular,  so I decided to give this a go. Nothing to lose! (Well except time, hair and fabric!)

I cut out the fabric with only 2" left at the end. The top is quite greedy for fabric because of the circular skirt shaped peplum. However, I only realised later that I hadn't cut my band longer to compensate for the lengthened front;  then I thought,  that was correct,  in fact what I needed to do was to shorten the skirt part at the waist. So, at front, longer bodice, shorter skirt and opposite at back.  After all,  the hem (which I had already turned up but not stitched)  needed to be level.

After stitching the shoulders (including stay/twill tape - not mentioned in instructions) and sides of bodice and side seams of peplum, I had turned up the hem ready to topstitch and had prepared the band. I pinned my band to the front and saw that it was,  indeed,  too short, although I had reduced the bottom seam allowance of the band to try to make it a little longer.  I tried to alter the skirt portion at the waist to account for the shorter band. You can see that the 2" I had left would have been invaluable if I had included at the right time! I had no fabric left so no chance to recut anything.

My tutor got me to try on at this stage.
She advised taking in at the waist by ½" on each side,  tapering to nothing at armhole and peplum hem as she felt it was a little large, and not shaped enough, although correct at the shoulders.
She felt it was better to split the difference between the amount I had planned to take up of the skirt at the front at the waist and leaving it as it was. This meant I would need to shorten the whole peplum, form the hem,  to make the band front level.
Everyone liked it (I didn't and don't)

I drew up the changes I needed to make and stitched with my regular sewing machine. I then took out the overlocking and cut and re-overlocked the new narrower seam. My tutor recommended this - she said that overlocking over overlocking is untidy. I also attached the peplum to the bodice and overlocked,  including stay/twill tape,  as advised by my tutor.
That's not strictly true; I took my overlocker to class and the teacher wanted to try it with the stay tape inserted, as per instructions, in the foot. This didn't work and she ended doing it her usual way. I just watched. I didn't feel like doing more than that,  in all honesty.

So I was back to putting on the band. Yes, it was too short - but it was unequal! Or it seemed to be.  I had pinned the outer seam line together as it didn't really want to lie flat.  I took out all the pins and realised that there was no way this band was ever going to look good at the edge - I really felt that understitching was necessary, although it wasn't in the instructions. My tutor agreed.  (Today I read a review suggesting the same - the reviewer hadn't done it,  but felt it was necessary so had edge stitched instead) I also laid the band out flat,  now that it had no pins and wasn't attached to cardigan - and each side was the same length! So clearly, I had been pulling and pinning unequally.

In retrospect, I'm not sure understitching  was a good idea, although it certainly did its job. The instructions say right side is sewn to right side, as usual - but as band is folded over, the wrong side is then on display. If there is no understitching,  this isn't so obvious,  but only one side is interfaced. I read some reviews and see some reviewers comment on the band instructions, suggesting they were wrong or at best misleading. I'm glad that it wasn't just me - I'm sure there is an error in the instructions.

I had tremendous difficulty pinning the band to the bodice. Instructions say to clip and, boy, I had to clip! The hem needed to be shortened about ¾", equalling the original lengthening. However, the big issue was that the understitching line was showing - beautifully and evenly sewn,  but showing. Was this acceptable? I wondered.  I only machine basted the band half expecting to have to take it off.
I did shorten the hem to the correct length. I was going to overlock,  turn and topstitch the hem of the circular peplum but my overlocking didn't look neat so I did a twice folded hem as was in the original instructions and hand basted.

Anyway,  I was well enough to go to class that Thursday. Just! As I had suspected,  Lyn advised that although the neckband looked OK, it would never lie correctly as there was too much fabric underneath as my understitching was doing its job. She suggested I unpick and she would stitch the neckband on again. Agreed!  When Lyn was stitching it back on again,  I realised that my fabric really wasn't very well behaved - it wasn't just me! There were particular problems when the non interfaced side was on top as it wanted to stretch and move away from the presser foot. I watched and took notes. I really still wasn't well enough to do more.

Before I went to class I had also tried to gather and ease the sleeve heads and insert but this didn't work - I had problems with the easing and loads of puckers. I was using my big machine and wasn't sure how to change stitch tension for the duration of easing. I took it all out and restitched with a normal length stitch but at a looser tension as advised, using my smaller class machine, and this worked much better. I think Lyn felt sorry for me and ended up inserting my sleeves for me. I certainly wasn't protesting! I did the easing and the pinning. My fabric was really ill behaved!

I had family with me for the week before Easter and then I took my mother back home and stayed with her for a few days.  She is moving out of her house into a one level flat in a few weeks and needs help to sort out loads of paperwork - my mother is visually impaired and struggles enormously with this. So no sewing over this period,  other than the bit I got done in class on the Thursday before Easter.

At class yesterday (our term continued right up until yesterday, Thursday 9th April,  as an earlier session had been cancelled,  but yesterday was the last until next term) I thought I still had to overlock all my seams and took my overlocker. I didn't have my car and when I realised I had already done my overlocking and didn't need my machine,  it was too late to change. I didn't have my sewing machine but could use a class machine - except I didn't have the same thread I'd used to topstitch with me!  

I didn't really have enough with me to keep me going. However,  we were having an A to Z of sewing terms done Boggle style. We could put one term against each letter and got a point if no one else had the term. I decided to use only terms I had come across and used rather than try to look up more obscure terms. Others had clearly worked hard looking up terms.  However,  my policy worked and I won by 1 point!  That was nice. I received a prize of a pin cushion, a small storage box and the choice of a button covering kit or seam gauge - I chose the button kit as I already had the latter. The competition took quite a while and we learned quite a few new terms.

I put on the jacket and asked help in measuring the sleeve length. The instructions suggested 1.5 cm turned,  raw edge turned under,  so a ¾ cm hem.  Lyn suggested I'd be better doing a slightly deeper hem as it would lie better - so I was going to be doing a 1 cm double turned hem, topstitched. To my surprise,  I actually had to shorten the sleeves - one by more than the other. Yes, I'm lopsided! During the class, I cut the sleeves and turned them to the correct length. I then hand basted to keep them in place,  and pressed. I also handstitched the seam allowance in place at the hemline and waistline.

So the jacket was more or less finished. I asked Lyn's advice on finishing touches and pressing. Lyn advised me to stitch the overlocked neck seam in place from the outside, between the shoulder seams, as otherwise that seam could irritate my neck - so, like understitching except the stitches are visible on the correct side of the fabric. Overstitching?  I did this at home.

At home,  I topstitched my sleeve hems. I forgot to change my stitch length so my stitches were shorter than my previous topstitching,  unfortunately - but I didn't think it was such a big issue and didn't take it out and redo.  The first sleeve went very well - but my machine didn't want to stitch the second!  It took a few attempts but it was okay in the end. I think it was a combination of too short a stitch length and the narrow width of the hem I was stitching while using my 9mm stitch plate. I couldn't use my straight stitch plate as my needle wasn't in centre position - I need all the help I can get to place my stitches accurately and was using my needle offset so I could use the edge of the presser foot to guide my stitching. My new 5.5 mm stitch plate had actually been delivered while I was out but I didn't even think of using it! However,  I need to practice keeping stitching straight while using a straight stitch foot and plate.

The inside is nicely finished

The iron in class isn't good enough to use for steam so after a demo of what to do,  I elected to do the steaming and pressing at home. Lyn advised how to steam the underside of the collar, each seam and the sleeve cap seam allowances. This I did. I'm not completely happy with the collar/band but it looks okay from the outside. Again,  I think the understitching is to 'blame' for this.  Looking at the finished cardigan/jacket,  I feel I would like to tether the band back at the hem. What do you think?  Do you think a decorative pin would be a good idea?

I can say I have a garment for me,  even if I can't say I sewed it all myself! I'm pleased with the result,  from a sewing point of view, but I don't think this will ever become a favourite garment. Somehow I must find a way of choosing styles that are better for me. This was a combination of a style that doesn't suit and fabric that is too bulky. I did learn a few things so it's not time wasted. I still wonder about that understitching which caused a lot of extra work and I feel is contributing to puckering on the band.

Today I noticed that the winner of the PR Best Pattern competition used this pattern - but altered the style beautifully,  though more suited to a petite person,  I feel. I'm still happy to sew patterns as given,  modifying only for size. That might change when I have got a TNT pattern and when I feel more practised in sewing skills.

I don't have photos of the construction stages but did have photos of some of the details - but they are refusing to load!! So rather than wait even longer, I'm going to post this without those images but will add at a later date if I can retrieve them.


  1. Well Anne, you sound like myself when I am not so sure that what I am making is right for me.....but....hey, you are tall enough to wear this peplum jacket. It is not easy to step outside the box fashion-wise but as you say you have learned a lot.
    I have been 'fighting' with StyleArc Slip On Suzie dress all day....if there was a wrong way to do something I did is black fabric with white japanese sprays on it from Tia Knight on e-bay....wanted something not too expensive.....but like yourself I feel this dress may not get much wear from me. I did baste it all together and fitted it on to try and get some idea of what it was like on glad I added a bit to the neckline ( pattern review site again was a great help, one girl showed a template to do just that) as it would have been too low, indeed I chopped a bit off the shoulders to make the neckline even higher....had to stop sewing as with black fabric it is hard on the eyes....I'm afraid I'll have to leave it aside as I work from home doing calligraphy and making cards and have to go and get some of that done....Should also say that I think I would rather have the big 4 patterns....I threw out a StyleArc Mollie top pattern as it was a disaster on me.....sometimes I am really ruthless....anyhow...wear the jacket and see what your friends will be interesting! Then decide.

    1. Thanks. I looked up the reviews you mention. The Suzie looks nice but as you say needs the extra on the neckline. Your fabric sounds lovely but dark colours are difficult to work with - especially unpicking! Calligraphy and card making sound exciting. I couldn't find the Mollie so don't know what that looks like, I guess it's discontinued as not on the site and I couldn't find on PR. I haven't made a Style Arc pattern yet but have a couple. One day...

  2. Hi Anne, I found you blog thru pattern review. I am a beginner sewer and decided to sew M6884 because PR reviewers said it is easy :( My first time sewing knits and I am struggling with the Band. I interfaced the band. I was not sure what the instructions meant by right sides together as my band once it was turned looked good on both sides. What do they mean by right sides together wrt to the band?

    I went ahead and basted my band and stitched it to the neckline. I clipped and notched my curves but when I try it on it looks horrible. It is not folding over nicely like your or any others I have seen. Do I need to understich or topstitch the band? how do I make it fold over?

    Any help is much appreciated. Thanks a lot

    1. Well, I already did a reply and lost it as I was trying to post! Firstly, I am no expert - in fact as you will see in my blog post, my tutor did the actual stitching on as I had problems with it. It needs LOTS of clipping - you are essentially sewing opposing curves). They don't do understitching so both sides look pretty much the same (I can't remember whether it's the interfaced side that's the right or the wrong side according to them; I had problems working that out) However, by doing understitching, I created an obvious right and wrong side. When the collar is attached, it folds over at the neck and part way down, like a jacket collar. Just did it back
      Further down, it doesn't fold. So I should have changed my understitching from one side to the other when I was at that break level. I didn't. This means that my understitching is underneath the collar but on top in the torso. I don't mind - and could fold back the band and stitch it there. Depending on your fabric, edgestitching could be a good idea and would get over this problem. When you are stitching on, make sure that you have pinned the band evenly - then hand baste it. It's too easy to get the band longer at one side than the other if you don't. Stitch slowly (you might want to machine baste at this point so stitches are bigger and easier to come out if you need to unpick). I didn't find it an easy make, in fact.

  3. Thanks a lot for your reply Anne. I am going to try edgestitch and also tacking it at some place. I guess this pattern really showed me how much of a beginner I am. I found this pattern hard and confusing


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