McCalls 7969 (M7969) -sewist cult favourite – is about big sleeves, so I thought the Merchant and Mills cotton hemp blend would work well. More than likely you have heard about McCalls 7969. In 2020, it was one of those viral “it” dresses in sewing land. And I caved into the trend!
As this was my first time using a McCalls pattern (yes really) I’m pointing out some observations for anyone else who is a big 4 newbie, as well as some specific things about this pattern. Only interested in seeing how it looks when worn? Skip to the end for the link to the IG reel where I show it in action.
Sewing with a McCalls PDF pattern
PDFs only come in letter, A4 and legal size.
Until recently, McCalls patterns were only available in paper form. I dislike tissue paper immensely, and tracing from tissue paper even more. So I was pretty excited to see that I could buy a PDF version. But there is no A0. For someone who provides A0 printing services to others (click here if you’re in the Netherlands and want to order), this is very very irritating. It is possible to digitally “tape” the A4 pattern together so it’s printable on a wide format printer. But it can be a total pain and you may as well have cut and taped 50ish A4 sheets manually.
Instructions – easy to follow, nicely illustrated.
Instructions are on a separate easy to print file which you can print on A4 if needed. Easy to follow, nicely illustrated although I admit I gave a cursory glance since this was a straightforward sew. Digital instructions make me happy. Easy to Ctrl+F to find what you want. e.g. what is the seam allowance? This brings me to…
Seam allowance of 1.5cm
My personal preference is always 1cm seam allowance. Actually I learned to sew on a 1.5cm seam allowance. But the longer I sew the more I think it is easier to sew accurately than 1.5cm. Don’t believe me? Try setting in a sleeve with a 1.5cm allowance and then doing it again with 1cm allowance and see if you notice a difference.
Also, it takes extra time to trim things down. For example, this step on the sleeve binding has you fold up by 1.5cm then trim down to 1cm. If you had a 1cm seam allowance in the first place you wouldn’t need to do it at all!
Having said that I know some people prefer 1.5cm for security. For example in case you want to have wriggle room to let it out later (don’t forget to overlock your pieces separately if you do this).
McCalls 7969 specific comments
An ode to gathering
There is a LOT of gathering on this dress. A bit on the shoulders, a lot on the sleeve cuffs, a lot on the skirt (or peplum if you want to do a top). My top tips for gathering are on Instagram here. The trend for the last year or two seems to be all about gathers, and it doesn’t appear to be abating anytime soon ….
Top version of M7969
For this top I had 1.25m of the Merchant and Mills cotton hemp blend in colour sizzle – that was all that was left in the shop! So a dress wasn’t a possibility. I had thought about a skirt – in hindsight that might have been more versatile. But it’s not as if I have no other fabric to sew through.
Anyway I wanted a fabric with structure to show off the volume of the sleeves. The sleeve piece is around 70cm wide at the bottom for a size small, so it just fit when I cut on the fold. To be honest if I was making a larger size I probably would have reduced sleeve volume by a bit if it was too wide because this thing is a fabric chewer.
For the peplum, I used the skirt pattern piece cut on the fold. But I cut it at 23cm deep instead of the full skirt length. This includes a 2cm hem (simple double fold). However I didn’t have enough to cut the back piece of the peplum on the fold, so I have a seam in the centre back. Not ideal but not a dealbreaker.
I made small with no modifications. If you want less volume on the sleeve you could use the slash and tape method. But I would not recommend sizing down, as the size of the armhole feels pretty fitted.
In the picture below, you can see how this cotton hemp blend behaves a lot like poplin. Has structure, will hold shape. But I noticed it was also very tightly woven. If you look closely you can see where I did stitch in the ditch on the wrap. Normally, I would have hand-stitched it down on the wrong side for an invisible finish. But maybe because I am used to hand stitching mostly things like linen, after about 5 stitches I could already feel my hand would get sore. So I ended up machining everything.
My friend commented that it could be taken in a bit at the waist where the peplum starts, and maybe less gathers on the peplum. I think she is right about the silhouette and I should have thought more about it than just literally just lopping off the skirt piece. Because the top is also extremely breezy. Let’s hope a gust of wind doesn’t hit me at the wrong angle and turn me into a flasher!
But overall, I’m pretty ok with this one. Is it worth the hype? Let’s say there are so many patterns right now that have big sleeves + gathering formula that will have a similar vibe. For me, that “vibe” is the idea of running barefoot through the countryside amongst the lavender and peonies whilst luxuriously swathed a ton of fabric in the form of dress with a giant skirt (is that what it is referred to as cottage core?) OK maybe my brain is running away with me there, but we are really spoilt for choice!
Finally, see the top in action here. It’s just me in my garden with a pair of jeans so hardly the picture I just imagined, but let me dream…..
Till next time