Kimono sleeves on McCall’s 6436, times four

I’ve been admiring some of the awesome kimono-sleeved buttoned shirt patterns (like the StyleArc Blair – check out Kelli’s and Meg’s – and Deer & Doe Melilot – check out Katie’s) and became obsessed with Heather Lou’s self-drafted shirt dress, but the idea of fitting a new-to-me shirt pattern was giving me hives. I turned to my my old favorite, McCall’s 6436, and grafted on some kimono sleeves using my Helen Joseph-Armstrong drafting manual.

I made a quick muslin, and I was off to the races, making no less than FOUR variations of this pattern. In all versions, I finished the sleeves with a cuff.

First up was an aloha shirt in palm-print rayon challis. I had recently re-watched Romeo+Juliet and was admiring Leo’s Hawaiian shirt. This fabric was as close as I could
come this time around (as in, not very close at all), but I’ll be on the lookout for that perfect Japanese floral on a blue background from now on.

(I had to attempt the Leo smolder.)

But this shirt makes me really gleeful… | McCall's 6436 kimono | McCall's 6436 kimono sleeve

Next up was white linen, salvaged from an attempt at McCall’s 7325 that persisted in looking like a baptismal gown. The pattern pieces were large and rectangular, so the only adjustment I had to make was putting in a CB seam. | McCall's 6436 kimono sleeve | McCall's 6436 kimono sleeve

Bonus project: these are my denim Morgan jeans converted into trousers! | McCall's 6436 kimono sleeves and Closet Case Patterns Morgan jeans altered into trousers

I changed the welt pocket placement a bit this time around. | Closet Case patterns Morgan jeans altered into trousers

Back to the shirts; after the first two versions, I was ready to lengthen the pattern into a shirt dress sewn in that magical thick silk rayon you saw in my jumper dress post! In order to add more ease to the hips, I added a back yoke and a CB pleat, adding 3″ total to the back width. Uncharacteristically for me, I didn’t end up liking the loose waist, so I added a drawstring. | McCall's 6436 kimono sleeve dress | McCall's 6436 kimono sleeve dress

I found myself wishing I also had a collared shirt version in the same fabric, and had juuuust enough fabric to make it happen. I finished this one shortly after my sis and I took pictures, but I thought I’d include it for the sake of thoroughness.

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These shirts are simple, but a wardrobe dream come true for me. They’ll be the backbone of my 2017 wardrobe. The sleeves are a little breezy for winter temps, but I’ve still been wearing them – the dress, especially – quite a bit. They also layer nicely under my jumper dresses!

These shirts have also proved to me how much I enjoy sewing iteratively. Once I have success with a pattern, I love to make slight variations in length and design details to max it out. Being immersed in the construction helped me sew these rather quickly (which isn’t always my goal but nice in this case.)


My favorite shirt | McCall's 6436 double-gauze shirt

After I finished my husband’s jacket, you’d better believe I dove straight into that pile of fabrics from Japan! First on the cutting table was a tantalizing water-color striped double-gauze bought with the incomparable Inna in the incomparable town of Kyoto.

Inna witnessed my shopping process. For me, it’s rarely as simple as “I like that, I have the money, I’ll buy it.” I’ll call into question my entire identity and value system (aspirational minimalism, thrift, investment of time required to properly own something, quality, wardrobe versatility, environmental values) before I make a purchase.

And guess what? It’s a tiring, and ultimately not all that effective method for making decisions; I’ll prevaricate for some sweaty minutes or hours until I throw out all of my requirements in favor of an impulse decision. Luckily, Inna was a patient shopping buddy.

Obviously I did buy the fabric in this case, and I haven’t regretted it because it’s been sewn into what is hands-down my favorite shirt! | McCall's 6436 double-gauze shirt

I had no such analysis paralysis choosing the pattern. It’s another McCall’s 6436, of course, with all of my standard fit adjustments (1/2″ square shoulder, size 14 with 12 bust) and as well as some design changes (1 – piece sleeve, topstitched french button plackets, shorter cuffs, no back darts). I also added a tower placket – my first ever, after a practice run – using another Vogue pattern to place the opening. I used the Off The Cuff placket construction method. | McCall's 6436 double-gauze shirt

And may I add that I’m excited to have my first long-sleeved buttoned shirt that fits through the shoulders…! | McCall's 6436 double-gauze shirt

In spring, I’ll be wearing this shirt tucked into skirts! This was the flared skirt muslin I drafted based on my skirt sloper. It started looking mighty wearable, so I finished it with a top-stitched waist-band facing. | McCall's 6436 double-gauze shirt

Back soon with the skirt I drafted and wore to my friend’s wedding!


Further adventures with shoulder fitting

Goodness, it’s been awhile! Since I last blogged in late February, I started a new job. It’s actually with the same company and team that I left when I wrote this post, but it feels very different and exciting. Nathan and I are working hard to practice what we enjoyed so much when we were both not working – cooking for ourselves, getting enough exercise, and being mindful while I embrace this new, decidedly full-time job.

I’ve been sewing steadily (if a little less frequently) over the past couple of months. Shortly before my post on shoulders, I had started experimenting with fit on a buttoned shirt pattern I’d made a couple of times in 2011 and 2012, McCall’s 6436. Armed with a working diagnosis of my shoulder fit – rather broad, a few degrees shy of completely square, and slightly forward – I decided to revisit it. | McCall's 6436 | McCall's 6436

You saw this first iteration a couple of times in my post about jeans – a sleeveless swiss-dot shirt. When I made it, I was trying out a couple of theories: that I could trace one pattern size as long as I made a major SBA, and that I could adjust for my square, forward shoulders by adding 1/2″ to the outside of the back shoulder seam. It was pretty flattering but I found myself taking shocking amounts of ease from the side seams. (I use the finished measurements when I work with patterns, so normally I’m not surprised by the amount of ease.)

After some wear, I realized the neck was huge – an issue I’d never encountered. | McCall's 6436

Well, I went back to fix my pattern and realized I’d forgotten to subtract out some seam allowance when I converted it into French(ish) placket. The horror! I did take a little more width from the bust, but not nearly as much as I thought I needed to. For my second try, I wanted to try a new variation with a bias-bound neckline. I also cautiously threw sleeves into the mix and cut into some lovely cotton-linen from Sanae. | McCall's 6436 | McCall's 6436

I have very nascent understanding about how sleeves are drafted (although Ikat Bag’s post – holy cow, what a revelation – and the Fit For Real People book have been helping). After removing some width from the bust and raising the arm scye, the sleeves were much too upright and tight (probably also due to the fact that the bodice of this pattern is supposed to work with sleeves and without and I made some adjustments based on the sleeveless version). I used FFRP’s “Very Large Arms” adjustment and it worked perfectly. I’m actually ambivalent on the appearance of the sleeves, but I think they fit pretty well for a first try. And just look at this shoulder seam! Never have I beheld its like on my person. | McCall's 6436

So overall, mistakes aside, I’m excited to say that the fit adjustments I made on this shirt have become my new standards – at least until I learn enough to become dissatisfied with them! (Isn’t that just the way it is with sewing? I love it.) I’ve also started adding 1″ wide seam allowance to any shoulder seams just for good measure; it’s so little fabric but it can make such a huge difference to the fit for me.

I did muslin a bodice for my matron (!) of honor dress using these adjustments and the fit was nearly perfect. Yes, I was shocked. I’m still not sure I believe Fit For Real People when they say that all Big 4, Simplicity and Burda blocks are exactly the same, but I will say that I’ve had success with my two-pattern sample. I did find it surprising that I was able to use one pattern size to get the shoulder fit I wanted, especially after seeing I would need to go up many sizes in the two pattern brands that provide shoulder fit information – Marfy and Style Arc.

How are your fit experiments coming along? Any revelations about fitting shoulders or any other body parts?

Further adventures in shirtmaking

It’s good to be talking shirts again. The last one I finished was over a year ago! The inspiration for this one was certainly the fabric, a plaid cotton-linen blend I bought this summer with every intention of making something for myself. I was holding the fabric up to my face, using the mirror in Nathan’s office, and pondering what I should make when his eyes lit up and he complimented… the fabric. There is a world of difference between “that’s an awesome fabric” and “that fabric looks awesome on you.” Begrudgingly, I held the fabric up to his face and it looked so much better on him that the decision was made. | Plaid men's shirt, McCall's 6044

(The plaids match because I spent what felt like hours making sure – looks like they’re a bit askew in this pic!)

I spent quite a bit of time thinking about plaid placement, spending a little bit of time each day over a week. I drew lines on my pattern where I wanted the dark horizontal stripes to land, pondered the benefits of a yoke on the grain vs. on the bias, sorted out how to continue the line across the sleeve… all efforts that paid off in the end. You can’t just cut into a plaid without a plan, especially when you work with it as infrequently as I do. I believe the last time I touched a plaid was in 2011, on a shirt for myself that has long since been donated to the Goodwill.

I also used this shirt as an opportunity to make the following changes to the McCall’s 6044 pattern:

  • Reduced the sleeve fullness at the bottom by slashing and closing
  • Made what I understand to be a modified French placket
  • Widened the placket to 1.25″
  • Removed 1/8″ from the undercollar and inner collar band seam allowance
  • Added a back yoke (same as black shirt)
  • Graded from a large in the shoulders/arm scye to a medium through the waist (same as both previous versions) | Plaid men's shirt, McCall's 6044

Semi-scientific sleeve fullness comparison. | Plaid men's shirt, McCall's 6044

I decided to use a French placket with stitching – is there a proper name for this? – because I thought it would both look nicer and be easier to sew. Instead of using the placket piece included in the pattern, I extended the shirt front and folded it over twice and edge- and top-stitched. I love it – how often does “easier” and “better-looking” intersect? Both of the other shirts look puckered where the shirt front and placket were stitched together after going through the wash.

I also used Andrea’s order of operations for sewing on a collar – highly recommended. Instead of fusible interfacing, I used a stiff cotton lawn for my collar and collar band; with the smaller undercollar and inner collar band, the collar curves ever so slightly and is really well-behaved. Still working on the perfect points, though – they’re not as sharp as they look in the image above.


I forgot for a second time that I need to reduce the upper back width; I hackily removed 3/8″ from the back arm scye, grading to nothing at the shoulder, but I think there’s about 3/4″ or more of excess on either side. Unlike me, I think Nathan is broader in the front and may not need the larger size in the back. A pattern-making puzzle to consider; what does that do to the sleeve pattern? | Plaid men's shirt, McCall's 6044

This shirt has quickly overtaken the other two as Nathan’s favorite. How gratifying is that? While I’d like to claim that using this gorgeous fabric on something for Nathan is selfless, I really can’t – I get to see him wearing it all the time.


I started the shirt after a post-Scraptember dress break and have since started a jacket I’ve meant to sew since May! If you could see the instructions, you’d know why it never sounded good to start. Why yes, it is a Burda pattern – how did you guess? But it’s almost finished and I’m loving the results. Even if my welt pocket has a pucker in the corner… | Burda collarless jacket

Black and gold | McCall's 6512

One of my focuses this fall is making shirts that cover my shoulders. I have far too many sleeveless tops that don’t go with one of my two cardigans, which confounds me in the morning when I’m fumbling around trying to get dressed. This top has just enough of a sleeve to get by. The pattern is McCall’s 6512, which I bought a long time ago. Then I saw Kathryn’s version last May and have been meaning to make it ever since! | McCall's 6512

I used a lightweight cotton voile I bought during my birthday week this year. It’s semi-sheer with a bit of sheen. Apparently, it wrinkles deeply when worn under a coat! (This is sounding less and less appropriate for fall! Ah, well.) | McCall's 6512

I’m between sizes in most Big 4 patterns. I went with the smaller size, which still has a generous amount of ease. If I were to make this pattern in a thicker fabric, I would remove some of the chest and underarm ease. | McCall's 6512

The only real change I made to the pattern was adjusting where the tabs are sewn down on the inside. The pattern says to sew the down at the corner of the pointed bodice piece. This created a really strange-looking sleeve gather for me, so I moved them towards my shoulder. I think I’ll move the buttons, too, since it looks like they’re being pulled by the tabs a bit. | McCall's 6512

I searched high and low for plain gold-colored or accented buttons with holes (not shanks) that wouldn’t pull down on the lightweight fabric. Shopping my stash, Etsy, and two fabric stores proved insufficient. I found these on eBay and love the tiny bit of bling they add.

I’m not sure why, but this project felt a bit cumbersome to me. I just never got too excited about working on it. Maybe it was working on what felt like a lot of details in such lightweight fabric? Still, I’m happy with the results and a basic-ish black shirt is a welcome addition to my wardrobe! And I’d love to make the other pattern view with the long sleeves and bow neck. | McCall's 6512

Now, here’s a conundrum for you – I think one of my deepest sewing fears is fitting sleeves. One of the deciding factors for me to try this pattern was Kathryn’s description of the sleeve as “superhero hybrid of a raglan and kimono.”  I gravitate towards both of those styles (as well as cap sleeves) or no sleeves at all. I can’t tell if it’s because those styles are truly more flattering on broad shoulders – I think they might be – or just easier to fit. Broad-shouldered readers: do you embrace or reject the set-in sleeve?

Western birthday blues

The shirt I made my monsieur in February has been worn constantly, so I decided to make another for his birthday. I wanted to keep it a secret, and assumed that Nathan wouldn’t ask what I was making. I started cutting out the pieces when we were both home, and less than 2 minutes into it, he popped around the corner.

“Whatcha making!” he said.

Instead of coming up with a lie, I stammered “nothing!” He looked kind of confused and a little hurt, so I caved and told him everything.  “You could have just lied to me!” he said, after we’d had a laugh. (Nathan has picked up a good bit of sewing knowledge and in my moment of panic I feared he could tell I was making a men’s shirt based on the pattern pieces. Apparently, not so!)

On to the shirt! I’ve used McCall’s 6044 for every shirt I’ve made Nathan, but wanted to try the Western-style yokes this time. | McCall's 6044 western shirt

The fit of this pattern is pretty great on him. One of Nathan’s issues with RTW shirts is that they’re too wide through the waist if they fit him in the shoulders. I used a larger size through the chest and grade down to one size smaller for the waist.The only other change I made to the pattern was shortening the sleeves by about 1″.

After making the black shirt, I had meant to take a look at what may be excess fabric in the back shoulder seam. I totally forgot! I plan to do this on the next shirt and welcome suggestions. I’m thinking of taking a wedge out of the area between the shoulder and neckline. | McCall's 6044 western shirt

This is another project where I would have been working much harder without my walking foot. Top-stitching (especially on light fabric) is much easier. | McCall's 6044 western shirt

I was kind of stumped on what color of buttons to use, but my sis picked these out for me (without even a swatch to go by) and I love them! | McCall's 6044 western shirt

So far, Nathan’s worn the shirt four times since I finished it last Saturday.  This is a case where flattery will get one everywhere – there’s no better motivation for me to sew for others than seeing my creations worn to bits.

For the next shirt, I’d like to attempt something long-sleeved and dressier. One of the downfalls of this pattern is that it’s pretty scant; the long sleeve is two pieces and no sleeve placket. I want to add a sleeve placket as well as try a folded button placket (not sure if that’s the right term) instead of a separate placket piece. I’ve been cruising Lisa G.’s posts on men’s shirts again, and she inspired me to purchase a used copy of David Coffin’s book on shirtmaking with which to educate myself.

As always, I can’t promise when I’ll be attempting another shirt because planned sewing makes me defiant (against myself…) but I’ve got two fabrics to choose from! One is probably the oldest piece of fabric in my stash, and the other is a dressier light blue cotton (see the photo below)  I found this weekend on a field trip with awesome fellow Seattle bloggers Sanae and Meris.


We went to an AMAZING store in Seattle where individuals can put their stashed fabric for sale on consignment. It’s called Our Fabric Stash, and there are deals to be had. They have all kinds of fabric, from a scrap bin to big bolts, patterns, notions, and books. I walked out of there with 18+ yards of cotton and linen fabrics and three bags of metal buttons for under 100 USD. I felt so great about buying used fabric from a cool business that I lost my usual restraint. That said, aside from a piece of linen knit and pattern twill I want to buy for specific projects, I think I’m all set for my fall/winter sewing!

Swap shirt and MMM pledge!

This is a knit shirt I made awhile back, with fabric gifted to me by the lovely Heather B (thank you, Heather!) from the Stashbusting Challenge swap! It’s a hemp/cotton blend, somewhere between t-shirt weight and sweatshirt weight and not too stretchy. I love it. It’s unapologetically bright. Also goes well with one of my many 2451 skirts.

I was inspired by Andrea’s take on McCall’s 6288, where she transformed a fitted raglan knit top pattern into something more pullover-ish. I happen to own the same pattern, and added an inch to the side seams and the bottoms of the raglan sleeve seams as well as lowered the arm scye. I used the Renfrew techniques for the waistband, arm bands and neck binding. There’s a bit of waviness in the waistband. I’d like to try adding some paper between the fabric next time to see if I can’t get some of the waviness out.

Waviness or no, expect to see this little green shirt during MMM ’13! Because I’m doing it! I’m going to stick with one item per day because, as I’ve mentioned before, I love purging unsuccessful projects. Repeats are ok in my book, but I’ll try to keep it interesting!

One of the unexpected things I loved about MMM last year was that it usually got me up a couple of hours earlier during the work week. On bad days, I won’t get up until 8:45am (I get to work at 9:30). So! My extra challenge to myself on every weekday (except for Wednesday – Tuesday is my night class) is to get up around 7am, get dressed, document, and do something – draw, read, walk to work or just enjoy a cup of tea. I’ll share what I wore and what I did in a weekly recap. Wish me luck!

Has Me-Made-May or another sewing challenge impact your schedule or lifestyle?

Black shirt for Nathan

I finished Nathan’s shirt in the middle of last week! He wore it to work the next day and again this weekend, so I call it a success. We managed to get some pictures today, and I tried to impart my best and only modeling advice: look off to the side dreamily and un-focus your eyes.

I could see shirt-making getting addicting. No one step in the process (perhaps aside from edge-stitching the collar stand) was crazy difficult but each one builds on the last. It’s a like a sewing crescendo.

I made a few changes to the pattern (McCall’s 6044) since the last time I used it. I was already using a large through the arm holes and tapering down to a medium through the waist. This time I added 1/4″ back into the bottom of the side seams for a little more ease. I also drafted a back yoke (inspired by Lisa) to add a bit of visual interest to the plain near-black fabric.

Speaking of the fabric… I’m still a little bit rankled because it was listed as 100% cotton but the second I put an iron to it, I smelled polyester. I’d already washed it and hadn’t done a burn test but I’m starting to think I might need to every time I get a fabric.  This is the second time in a month I’ve received synthetic fibers in a so-called cotton. The first was from Girl Charlee, and this one was from Mood. Reputable retailers, both of them! All the more shocking as internet research leads me to believe it’s illegal to sell fabric or garments and not declare fiber content accurately. Explaining why I was upset to Girl Charlee was a draining process that took place over a couple of days and I didn’t have the gumption to repeat it. I also had my heart set on starting this project for Nathan.

Has anyone else bought fabric online that was misrepresented?
Look at that stink eye

Fiber content drama aside, I’m super proud of this shirt! I learned a lot of new techniques from Pam Howard’s Craftsy class like how to make sure you’re cutting on-grain, tailor’s tacks, flat-felling seams, and the proper way to line up buttons to the placket. I even have ideas for what I’d like to tackle next time, like better collar points, better edge-stitching, a slightly wider button placket and exploring what looks like excessive ease in the top back area of the sleeve and upper back.

With this project complete, my head is now spinning even more about what to make next, aside from the blazer my mom and I are making in our lessons (we’re using Simplicity 2250). We had another lesson this weekend fitting our muslins. I’ve always known that my shoulders and upper back are broad but it really hit home when we added 7/8″ to the center back seam! No wonder I had a hard time finding RTW button shirts and jackets.

A refashion and a pledge!

It’s amazing what a little waistband can do for a shirt, isn’t it? I found a sweet woven lace shirt at the thrift store a few months ago. It was really inexpensive and I liked the lace itself. I could never bring myself to wear it on account of its shape (or lack of shape), however.

Enter a waistband (from le stash, of course)! I cut off the bottom few inches of the shirt and added a folded-over waistband of a black wool blend knit. I made sure not to repeat the mistake I made with this dress, where I strained the waistband because of how big the difference between the two circumferences were. I did a zig-zag stitch to sew the waistband in, then finished it using my overlock foot.


This was a tremendously simple project – less than an hour’s worth of measuring, fussing and sewing – but I’ve worn it a lot already. I’m fascinated by lace but don’t have a particularly girly style, so the athletic-inspired waistband is a nice tonic.

I made this in January, intending for it to be part of the Stashbusting Sewalong but couldn’t get it photographed in time. I still feel the need to say that my refashion bag and fabric stash have ever-so-slightly reduced in size.

Speaking of challenges, I decided earlier this year to join the Seamless Pledge (inspired by Gillian) but haven’t yet blogged about it! So let’s make it official:The Seamless Pledge

I, Morgan of Crab&Bee, am taking the Seamless Pledge for 2013.

While I mostly abstained from new clothing purchases last year, I did buy a few things. I’ll also admit to considering squeaking in a purchase before signing up, because my winter coats are failing me right now and I’m scared to sew one… but I decided to buck up and face the possibility of making my own. Also, Ginger’s Anise!! I’m so inspired by her wonderful project.

Finally, I’ve thoughtfully included the photo below because I thought you should see my paper-doll arms and quizzical expression. There’s nothing funnier than failed posed photos, don’t you think? There are lots more where this came from!
Blooper reel!

Just a couple 2012 projects


I made this top way back in June using a modified Burda 7661, which is the second pattern I bought, ever. I removed the closure in the back and dropped the arm scye by an inch, I believe. It’s made from the same fabric as the garment once known as the Melville Dress, now referred to as the Wrinkle Dress.

Its creation was a very compulsive affair. Nathan was out of town on business and I allowed myself to descend into a sewing binge, only returning to real life to pick him up from the airport. Nonetheless, it’s well-made enough to be one of my favorite pieces to layer in spring and wear on its own during summer. The crinkly cotton does just fine as a top, unlike the dress in its current state. I’m excited to wear it again when the time comes!


This is a more recent make, from November. I had some cotton jersey on hand from a 2011 fabric purchase. I used McCall’s 6288 as a base (the same pattern that Andrea from four square walls made her cute knit shirts from) but converted it into a dress.

It’s a hard-working and useful dress, but mistakes were made. The waistband, which is just a smaller circumference of the same fabric, is stressed to the max by the larger circumference of the skirt and bodice. I think I could have made it a lot closer to the skirt/bodice circumference and it still would have looked flattering. Also, the more blog posts I read by other seamsters, the more I realize that there is more to knits than just sewing as normal and trimming/finishing my edges with an overlock foot. The biggest visible issue is the wavy hem. It sounds like I need to stabilize my hems? And employ a double-needle? Help!

(Shoe confession: even though I tried to limit myself to 0-2 new pairs this year, my shoe purchases ballooned out to 5 and the boots above were the fifth. I’m writing up a little sustainable habits post for next week!)

My last tidbit has to do with very prosaic sewing, hemming some thrifted jeans. My Bernina generally handles everything I throw at it with aplomb, but got cranky when I reached the thickest part of the hem. I was using top-stitching thread with a 90/14 needle. It looks like the bobbin case tension might have been high. Does anybody have any tricks for working with denim, or have I pushed my machine over its limit? It’s also been a couple years since its had a proper cleaning.