back to the beginning

Long ago, in a land far away, a terrific blogger wrote this. It inspired me to embark on a similar exercise, revisiting the first garment pattern I sewed and considering the overall experience. How did my lack of knowledge change the process? Oh so many ways…

my first garment, made from McCall's 5640

My first self-stitched garment was made from McCalls 5640, a plus-sized design with several top/tunic/dress options as well as the obligatory waste-of-paper-and-ink pants that are often included. (I mean, it might be a very good pattern and all that, but why include the same old elastic-waist, no-pockets pants in so many envelopes? How much unnecessary bulk is that adding to my pattern stash??)

McCall's 5640 pattern envelope

McCall's 5640 line art

The first thing that jumped out at me as glaringly ironic is the pattern size I chose. I had read enough theory to know that many sewists find it best to select size based on high bust, especially with Big 4 companies. So that’s what I did. And it fit great. But of course, after this experience, the more I “educated myself” about fitting doctrine, the more I had to overthink it. I’ve since tried the armpit-to-armpit measurement, shoulder measurement, full bust measurement, etc etc etc and had varying degrees of non-success, eventually returning to the high bust because it works best for me. Live and learn!

I don’t wear this shirt very much anymore; it’s kind of a laundry day item. A big part of the reason is the fabric. It’s a cheap quilting cotton from Hobby Lobby, which I intentionally purchased because I didn’t want to worry about messing up something expensive or beloved. I actually don’t mind the print, but I now understand that a loose-fitting design like this needs drape. Over the years, the surface of the fabric has softened and feels almost brushed, but it’s still rather stiff, appearing more “inflated” than it needs to… :)

poofy, and about to be tackled

The most significant mistake I made in the construction, I now find quite funny. The yoke facing is designed to be handstitched to the yoke’s seam allowance. But because of the allowance I had pressed under, or where it landed, or whatever, the folded edge of my facing actually hit about 1/4″ below the top of the gathers, so that’s where I attached it. I remember thinking it was kind of weird, but what did I know, so I pressed on. (My first lesson on following my instincts when sewing! Actually I’m glad I didn’t follow them this time, because otherwise I might not have finished it at all, too lost in confusion.) Needless to say, after washing, the gathers became puckery and you don’t have to look too closely to see the “invisible” slipstitches.

beautifully imperfect facing slipstitching

One of the interesting things about my process that hasn’t changed is this: I made the pattern three times that I can remember. I’ve since donated one of the versions, because I didn’t like the fabric. (And by the way, that slipstiching issue happened on ALL THREE of the makes, so I suspect the instructions were off. An issue that a more experienced sewer would likely have corrected without even thinking much about it!) Below is view A, which was either the second or third time with the pattern. I remember being quite flummoxed about how to do the armscye finishing with the bias tape, a technique that I love now.

green linen version of McCall's 5640

I’m jaunting a bit further down this memory lane. Just as Karen did in the post that inspired me, I’m planning to make the pattern again. I’ll share the results soon! Well, let’s say sort of soon.

(Yes, the pics of me in the first make are a couple of months old — that’s why my hair is different… and the lawn is much greener…)

Comments 11

  • Can’t wait to see how this turns out!

    Thanks Evie! I guess I’d better get started on it then! ;) ~Susan

  • Oh, I love your photos! You have such a happy, smiling face. I’m glad I inspired you.

    What a nice thing to say, thanks Karen. You have great post ideas!

  • What a great idea. Love your learning process.

    It’s definitely an interesting exercise! Thanks :)

  • I love smock tops like this, and I made my first one in quilting cotton too – and not a cheap quilting cotton either! It’s pretty poofy, but I still love it and wear it often :-) I’m very curious to learn what you’ll do differently next time around.

    They’re so comfy right?? Embrace the poofy! I’ll try… :)

  • That is a blast from the past for me too! I did my first one my own project in the same exact stiff fabric and learned quilting cotton doesn’t make great garments sometimes! Check it out…

    Oh how funny that we used the exact same fabric for our first garments… Loved your post, thank you for sharing that!

  • Gosh, I like them both, but especially the first one…I like the print and I think it looks nice even if you don’t. I agree with the post above…you do have such a happy, smiling face…your clothes aren’t taking center stage, you are and that’s how it should be!!!

    Thank you Judi! That’s such a sweet sentiment — I really appreciate it! ~S

  • It’s a cute top worth making again. Look forward to see what you make next.

    I do love that green version, mistakes and all!

    I wear the $&!# out of that one during the summer. It’s been washed so much that the linen is nice and soft, and doesn’t even wrinkle much anymore!

  • It’s so nice to revisit some older projects. Love the fabric on both. Let me get out my microscope to find those mistakes you mentioned… ;)

    Hehe… I can assure you that no magnification would be necessary! No matter though, they still get worn, which is more than I can say for many of the garments that got made later… :)

  • If my taste weren’t so bad when I started sewing, i might revisit- maybe I’ll just make that pattern you did- it looks adorable!

    Hey, embracing our early bad taste is part of the fun of it, right?? :) ~S

  • Ok, love your blog! This was the first “successful” pattern I ever sewed as well! Love my second version with a passion, the other 5? Not as much. (I got stuck in a rut!) And one of mine is my favorite shirt to clean house in, so at least it’s got that goin on :)
    -Amy Jo

    • Thank you Amy Jo — you’ve reminded me that I really need to get to the remake of this pattern!! I *totally* get remaking the same pattern over and over… And just about everything I wear around the house is a me-made wearable-muslin. :D

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