Colette Wren / McCalls M7531 Franken pattern

Colette Wren / McCalls M7531

Recently, I'm a big fan of knit dresses. Not slinky viscose drapey knits, but sturdy fabrics that can hold structure as well as having that bit of stretch. Basically I'm after secret pyjamas that look smart enough for work. Since lockdowns, finding the kind of work wear I need has also been more difficult, with a lot more floaty looks rather than tailoring about. Handily, learning to sew means I can make my own dresses in any style I like so I've been setting about adding to this wardrobe area. You will have seen last year's dress that I used suiting fabric for. This time, I went for a nice thick ponte, to head for that secret pyjama feel. As it happened (as often happens actually), major deviations were required due to problems encountered. My sewing fortune was in though as I think I've needed up with a far better outcome than I would have done if I followed the original pattern just on its own.

Interesting as well to compare commercial and independent label patterns in one project.

Colette Wren and McCalls M7531


As I said, I was definitely in the market for a sturdy knit that would hold structure yet still have some stretch, and look smart. I found this striped Ponte Roma on on sale at £6.99 per metre so I ordered 1.5m. I used to always get 2m for dresses, but other previous projects (notably Tilly and the Buttons Freyas) have shown me that 1.5m is plenty for short sleeves. It was enough, even with stripe matching and the adaptations I had to make along the way, but there isn't much left! 

I enjoyed sewing with this fabric. It cut easily, pressed really well and was so easy to sew on my machine. I do use a walking foot as much as possible and it was a good idea in this case because at points there were a lot of seams going through, but it moved through well. There are parts where I used a straight stitch, with the majority in a zig zag, always using a stretch needle, and all stitches worked well with no skipping or breaking. I didn't finish the seams, but it could be something that you would consider as I had a lot of black fluff knocking around. I'm waiting to see how it ends up after a day of wearing, but seems to be okay for now.

It had enough stretch for the pattern requirements and for comfortable wear. I would absolutely use it again for a dress or top.

Colette Wren / McCalls M7531

Pattern and Instructions

The pattern I had in mind for this project was McCalls M7531. Lucy from Sew Essential had talked about this pattern on her YouTube channel and I thought it looked like a good staple piece to have and ordered one for myself. Link here, £11.50. The pattern is designed for beginners as part of the McCalls Learn to Sew range. It's a close fitting bodycon dress with set in sleeves and a slit, with shorter and longer options for length and sleeves.

I only realised just now that the image for option C must have influenced my fabric choice!

The pattern only uses a couple of pieces - front, back and sleeves, printed on tissue, with instructions on paper, as you would normally find in commercial patterns. I used a 1cm seam allowance, just in case it was going to be too tight. (It's meant to have 1.5cm).

As far as instructions go, they are more detailed than normal commercial patterns, with lots more information about cutting, transferring markings and stitching together. I wouldn't advise this as the only item to use if you are learning to sew, particularly with knits, for a complete beginner. (I used Tilly and the Buttons online class, and would also recommend her book). However, I do think this pattern is simple and easy to construct in principle. The reason I say in principle is that I had fit issues. This might not apply to most people at all, but if I didn't have other options and the confidence to adapt, I would have been quite demoralised as a beginner.

Now, the pattern does say it is close fitting.

The one I made was a little too close fitting around the hips! It was also too roomy around my sway back so was going to need some serious consideration. It ended up in the box of woe for a while whilst I figured out how to fix it. I did not have enough fabric to cut off the skirt and use a larger size. I did have enough to add side panels, but would need to use the existing skirt to make them. The sleeves are a little snug, but I can live with them.

Colette Wren / McCalls M7531

Eventually, I stumbled across the Colette Wren pattern. I've had this pattern for a very long time and it was one of my earliest makes, and first garments using knit fabric. It features a wrap bodice and options for sleeveless or short sleeves, and either a gathered skirt or a straighter six panel version. I have a printed one, but they have moved their patterns over to Seamwork for digital downloads now. If you are in the UK, you might try Sewbox to source a printed version for £12. I can only feed back on the printed version, but I do love how it arrives, with its own booklet keeping everything together. It's very beginner friendly with diagrams and explanations for each step. If you are interested in my beginner experience of Version 2 (pictured below), check out this post

Seamwork Wren

When comparing with the McCalls, there are some parts that aren't as detailed when it comes to transferring markings for example, and others that are like stitching advice. It's also set out in slower steps with more diagrams, and clearly has more options. It is hard not to be drawn in by the packaging as well, but considering they both cost about the same, I'd tend towards the Wren if pushed to only have one in my stash. That said, I much prefer the bodice of the McCalls for this project!

I had always been intrigued by the straighter skirt version, but didn't pursue it as the wrap bodice is always a bit problematic for me to wear. It looked like the solution to my problems here though. I used the large size and lined up the pattern pieces with a seam overlap and it looked like it would match up quite nicely, and I just about had enough fabric left to cut out the side panels.

I cut off the skirt 1cm below the natural waist. Then I cut the six pattern pieces out from the skirt and the left over fabric, matching notches to keep the lines, well, lined up! The pattern instructions were really straightforward so I put together the skirt very easily. Because the fabric behaved itself under the walking foot, I was able to keep lines matched up quite well.

When it came to attaching the top to the skirt, I knew I also had to factor in some (yet to be sewn) darts in the back to compensate for the extra room in this area. I was also putting together two pieces from entirely different patterns and companies which meant there was a high chance the two wouldn't match up. I pinned the skirt in place , matching side seams and was pleasantly surprised to see that this was going to work! By pinning in place, I was able to then add in some darts in line with the back seams, stitching these before sewing the skirt in place. I know that the horizontal lines aren't perfect, with a curved skirt being sewn to a straight bodice, but I'm happier that it fits! I can live with the horizontal lines - at least they are symmetrical.

Colette Wren and McCalls M7531

I think I've ended up with the best of both worlds with my Frankenpattern, and I would totally make another one of these. Neither pattern is as flattering as it could be on its own for me - bodycons and wraps don't work brilliantly. However, the two together work really well. I think the thickness of the ponte has helped a lot too.

Colette Wren / McCalls M7531


No comments:

Post a Comment

Welcome to Sewing and Other Stories; my journeys with sewing and knitting; pattern reviews, tips and guides for beginners. I'm also the designer behind West Beach Knits knitting patterns and I host a Knitting and Sewing channel on YouTube where you can see all of this in person. Come have a look!

Follow Me

Search This Blog

Popular Posts


the #wardrobebuilder project

Powered by Blogger.



Blog Archive

Legal stuff

Check out our disclaimer here