McCalls 4769 – I Made A Cotton Dress In January

McCalls Dress Collage

Want a fast track to bonding with colleagues? Make a dress out of a ker-razy digital print and wear it to the office. This dress received a lot of attention. I’m hoping for the right reasons!

At stages during construction of the McCalls 4769, I did wonder if I was making the ugliest dress in the world. The fabric is just weird. Strange mustard hues, strange purple hues, strange strangeness. But a very nice cotton that doesn’t crease too much, and is surprisingly cosy once you wear it with a slip and tights. I bought the fabric from Croft Mill. They don’t stock it any more, but if you’re looking for your own crazy fabric from them, check this beauty out! 

I fancied making a dress, but couldn’t cope with toiles, bodice adjustments or linings. I just wanted something easy. Enter the shirt dress! That open collar meant I could sidestep usual issues with my upper chest. I didn’t bother to toile, just cut according to my measurements – and, bingo! The dress actually fits. Bust darts point to my apex, waist fitted but comfortable, arm holes sitting neatly on my shoulders. A miracle of simple sewing!

Or was it…

This pattern, I discovered, is notorious for its insultingly scant collar construction details. I scratched my head, I swore vociferously, I unpicked, I threw, I swore again… Finally, I stumbled upon a blog post tutorial for this very dress written by – who’d a thunk it? – one of my best sewing friends. Thank you, Handmade Jane, for your glorious help.

Bakelite Buttons

I must mention the buttons. Dug out of my stash, they make me swoon with delight. Just perfect for this dress. The bakelite buttons I won a couple of years ago and they’ve been waiting for just the right project. I think I found it.

My one hiccup (other than the collars) was my buttonhole insertion. I sewed them horizontally rather than vertically and only realised my mistake whilst out walking the dog. Doh! The buttonholes should be vertical, you muppet. Which then led to all sorts of existential buttonhole angst. If a buttonhole butterfly flaps its vertical wings in Brazil, does it cause a horizontal buttonhole hurricane in Florida? I mean, WHY do buttonholes need to be vertical on a button band? Aesthetic reasons? Because my buttonholes are performing just fine.


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72 Responses to McCalls 4769 – I Made A Cotton Dress In January

  1. such a lovely dress as always 🙂

  2. Love the fabric and the dress!

  3. Helen says:

    Just so lovely and cheery for the season, you’re right to wear it now!!! It’s a burst of colour when everyone else is in black, grey or navy.

  4. sewbutterfly says:

    Love the dress and colour!

  5. Dilliander says:

    You look fabulous in this happy dress.

  6. Kayleigh says:

    This is a lovely dress. I never noticed that about buttonholes either. It’s funny how you notice these things when you start making clothes.

  7. Lovely dress, Karen. I love shirt dresses. One piece and ready! Buttons are also really nice. Regarding the toile, I only make one when it is my own pattern and it is the first time I test it, so it needs all the necessary arangements. I have never made a toile with a comercial pattern in my life, but our method of sewing is slightly different, and I think, better. Our patterns never have seam allowances. So, I pin the pattern on the fabric, and cut it leaving generous seam allowances in the critical spots (waist, hips, bust areas…). Once it is cut, I mark it with long tailor stictches, and then assemble and baste it. On first trial, I still can make important modifications to the design, because my seam allowances are big. And sewing is much more precise this way, becasue you sew over your actual marks.
    You look faboulous and I am sure you are the light of that office!

  8. I’m not a big fun of shirt dresses but yours looks really elegant and I love the crazy fabric, it’s very cheerful and the buttons are really cute!! xx

  9. Ruth says:

    It looks great – and suits you perfect. I’m certain the attention it drew was for all the right reasons 🙂

  10. What a pretty dress! The buttons are perfect, too.

  11. Lucy says:

    Love this dress. It certainly didn’t turn out to be the ugliest dress in the world. It fits you perfectly. And, hey, I have done that same thing with button holes before and found it you don’t say anything, no one notices. Haha

  12. Ah McCalls 4769, a fine pattern indeed – I love the way it magically fits people straight out of the packet! It looks fab Karen, very flattering and the colours are great on you, I’m not surprised you received comments on it. Glad my tutorial helped you keep your sanity when you were adding the collar – the instructions are rubbish aren’t they?! xx

  13. This dress pops in all the right ways! Good on you for going with your gut and making it.

  14. Lovely! And welcome to the Crazy Fabric Club!

  15. Nicky says:

    Fab dress! Often have done buttonholes that way on shirts….. Seems to stop them popping and exposing me if i wave my arms about too much, or haven’t left quite asmuch ease as i should.

  16. Tammy says:

    I love the fabric! Great dress! I’m sure I read somewhere that shirts should have horizontal button holes to give you more ease/movement but it would be far too time consuming and therefore expensive to do in rtw as you would have to reset the buttonhole settings each time, rather than just moving the fabric up.

  17. lisa g says:

    the dress looks great! i have this pattern floating around my sewing room waiting for the right fabric… and i love your fabric choice! had to laugh at the “existential buttonhole angst” line… haha yeah that’d be my reaction too! but i’m guessing that with that fabric no one will be judging your buttonholes. 🙂

  18. Katie says:

    Such a beautiful dress. Don’t sweat the buttons – no one else will ever notice 🙂

  19. Fadanista says:

    ooh, I have fabric envy! This looks wonderful, and I adore those buttons (so button envy too).

  20. Claire says:

    Your dress is beautiful! As for the buttonholes – I think I know the reason, and I learned the hard way. If your buttonholes are horizontal, it allows the garment to pull open a little in front because there is room for side-to-side movement. This might not matter for small buttonholes, because the garment can only shift a little. But if you are using larger buttons, the garment might end up gaping a lot. I made this mistake on the first blouse I made. Although now that I think of it, if you make sure the end of the buttonhole is right at the center front, maybe it doesn’t matter if they are horizontal. Now I’m confused again!

  21. mellincf says:

    And why not sew a cotton dress in January, especially as it will brighten everyone’s day when you wear it to the office! Love the way the print turned out, and I agree with Claire. If you have a big bust, horizontal buttonholes can gape: ask me how I know.

  22. senjiva says:

    That is one crazy fabric, but it TOTALLY WORKS!!! I love your dress. Now I want a shirt dress too.

  23. Molly says:

    It looks great all made up!
    I think the vertical vs horizontal buttonholes depends on the size of your buttons, horizontal holes might not always fit on a center band (I’ve made that mistake, then the dress doesn’t stay as closed as it should!)

  24. liza jane says:

    I’ve made that pattern and I can vouch for the great fit- and the difficult collar instructions. Your version looks awesome. Love, love, love your ker-azy print fabric!

  25. Marina says:

    Where did you get those buttons? I have the same ones! Strange coincidence as I’m all the way across the pond in Brooklyn!

  26. Land girl says:

    Don’t bound button holes go in horizontally, I am confused too. I am doing some rouleau loop buttons which are also horizontal, but then there is also a placket on the button side to stop the gaping thing.

  27. Carolyn says:

    This combination of pattern, fabric, and buttons is to die for!! LOVE it, Karen! : ) And congrats on such a smooth, easy sew (well except for the collar I guess). You look fab!!

  28. I tend to shy away from bold patterns but this dress in incredible – truly! I like how your tights ground the pattern and give balance. I’m going to have to get me some ker-razy fabric! And I love those buttons. They would outshine any direction the button hole goes 🙂

  29. Stephanie says:

    I haven’t been sewing at all lately as I realize that I don’t like sewing winter clothes. I was actually thinking of making a cotton dress so I am going to copy you! Great job and I love the buttons. You look very pretty.

  30. Ellen says:

    Many years ago my future mother-in-law offered to make buttonholes for a blouse I had made. I was so disappointed when she put them horizontal instead of vertical. Then I realized they looked and functioned just fine. I wish she were still around to talk sewing with, it was the topic that helped us bond.

  31. amaryllislog says:

    I love this! It’s perfectly cheerful in the middle of winter!

  32. Suzie says:

    A really lovely dress Karen. I’m seeing quite a few shirt dresses these days – must get my pattern out and make one for myself!

  33. CUP + PENNY says:

    The fabric is gorgeous!

  34. Jeanette says:

    Fabulous dress! You reminded me about Croft Mill. I used to look forward to their bonkers catalogue back when they didn’t have a web site and the catalogue had no photos, relying instead on really rather bizarre descriptions. I’d settle down with a cuppa, giggling at the descriptions and circling the ones I thought I could take a gamble on, the delivery of fabric in a big old brown paper sack was always a surprise, seeing if the fabrics I’d chosen matched up to how I’d imagined them. 🙂

  35. Graca says:

    Any attention that dress got is for the RIGHT REASONS. The fabric, style and buttons works well together. It is a lovely dress.

  36. Jen (NY) says:

    Buttonhole orientation = design choice. I think it only matters if the placket is too narrow for horizontal ones. The dress is nicely cheery contrast to the dreary winter we all seem to be having this year!

  37. E says:

    Beautiful dress – great!!! xxx

  38. Miriana says:

    Fabulous fabric, fabulous dress and fabulous Karen!! I love this!

  39. Wow – this dress is gorgeous! I love the unusual fabric pattern.

  40. Erika says:

    I did wonder about this as well so I asked my mom (I was sixteen or seventeen at the time). She said that normally, buttonholes are in the direction in which there is the most tension on the fabric. This explains why on clothing, most buttonholes are horizontal – the one on your pants, the ones on your coat, any buttonhole just above your zipper.. They can be vertical as well, for example when they are used for attaching straps. So technically, you made your buttonholes perfectly well!

    When there is not too much tension on your buttonhole anyways, you can make them in any direction you fancy. This is usually done with shirts or shirt dresses. Especially on men’s shirts there is no tension whatsoever so there is no reason to make them horizontal. There is, however, a very good design reason to make them vertical: the placket is a very long vertical line and it would be weird to break that up wit horizontal buttonholes. Vertical buttonholes blend in way more naturally, especially when the shirt is vertically striped
    I’m not sure if the tension on womens shirts is little enough to make the buttonholes vertical, but I do know it is done a lot and if your shirt(dress) is not too close fitting it should be possible.

  41. Tracy H says:

    Great dress love the fabric it looks fantastic on you really fun and cheerful to counter this clod wet winter

  42. Lovely lovely dress. Perfect to brighten up a dreary winter’s day. Love it teamed with your black tights and shoes. No wonder it got lots of attention at the office…and for all the right reasons.

  43. oonaballoona says:

    karenkarenkarenkarenKAREN. every buttonhole in the joint would be proud to be on that dress, vertical or no. i’m sideways over this dress.

  44. Marie says:

    I adore this Karen, it’s such a cool make…you look fab!

  45. Tanya says:

    Love the dress, it compliments you to a T!! Currently, I am working on a toile for my shirt/coat dress – the Hot Patterns Metropolitan Urbanista Coat Dress and to say it is scanty on the construction details, ill-especially the collar with revers and facings – is an understatement, I searched for days trying to find a tutorial!! I wished I sought out Handmade Janes blog for the info, however I managed to find this version, (it is more or less a bit similar to Jane’s) , but the end result was the same.

  46. Anne-Marie says:

    Great dress Karen, you look fantastic! I’ve never thought much about buttonholes but will from now on…

  47. rachelinred says:

    Haha, strange strangeness… Lol!
    Lovely dress, Karen. And wonderful strange fabric choice!

  48. dkswife says:

    Love the crazy fabric. It looks fab on your.

  49. barbara says:

    love the fabric and the dress and the buttons, all gorgeous and it looks great on you.

  50. Tamsin W-P says:

    wow, that is one vibrant dress – perfect for brighten up the dreary days we’ve been having. Looks great!

  51. maddie says:

    I don’t think the pattern and colors of the fabric are cray cray. During winter, we need brightening up and for us seamstresses (and seamsters), fabric is where we get it sometimes.

    As for the buttonholes – vertical one on a placket like this (located around the bust), have less spreading than horizontal ones. If it fits though, you’ll be fine.

  52. Gjeometry says:

    I don’t think the fabric is weird, I think it’s so vibrant and pretty! And, the buttons you added are the perfect touch. Nice job!!

  53. Daniela M. says:

    I love the buttons and your fabric choice! You bring some happiness into dull and rainy January! By the way, I am fitting a cotton dress as well at the moment – I am planning to wear it with a cardigan 🙂

  54. Christine says:

    The internet is all about finding hoards of lovely ladies who are interested in talking about the orientation of button holes and admiring great looking dresses. Love it. The dress is fantastic!

  55. Amanda says:

    I read somewhere way back when that shirt buttons go vertically, pyjama buttons go horizontally- but that it was just aesthetic on the shirts. PJs were horizontal to allow you more ease when sleeping, since you weren’t conscious to stop the buttons popping. I’ve done the same thing in a shirt dress before (the perils of putting in buttonholes late at night!), but in the end decided they function just fine, and honestly, no one other than the odd seamstress was likely to notice, anyway! No one’s ever commented on it.

    I adore this dress! I love the print, it’s not cray at all- and winter seriously needs more fun prints, anyway.

  56. I like the fun fabric! I have this pattern in my stash and was considering making it in something more demure. Now, I think I am going to take to a more fun print. Thanks for the inspiration and the collar tutorial lead.

  57. LinB says:

    Buttonhole, schmuttonhole. Do them on the diagonal, if you’d rather! It’s a style thing, not a function thing — unless your bodice is quite tight and you NEED to do horizontal buttonholes to keep the thing closed when you wear it. I’ve had vests/waistcoats like that before. When I use fabric ties instead of buttons, I prefer horizontal slots so that they do not gap weirdly when I tie the knots. Lovely dress, by the way. I really admire the print, though I can see why you might put it in the category “I can’t tell if this is ugly or beautiful.” Some of the most interesting people fit in that category.

    I dimly remember noticing that it was standard practice in the 1940s and 50s to put buttonholes on the horizontal for women’s and children’s garments … but it is a very dim memory indeed, and highly unreliable on this point. One reason that buttonholes are put on the vertical on shirt bands is that you can accommodate a great variety of button sizes that way — you’d have to increase the width of the band for big buttons if you made horizontal holes, par exemple. You could make the entire length of the band one big buttonhole if you needed to — just put in thread bars where needed to hold the buttons in place.

  58. Elizabeth says:

    Oh my, this is a stunner! I love it! That fabric TDF!!!

  59. megthegrand says:

    The fabric, the buttons, the style – all fantastic!

  60. Tasia says:

    I quite like this dress! (I also have that moment of ‘am I sewing something ugly?’ mid-construction. I think that happens to many of us who sew!)
    Buttonholes are usually horizontal, because they’re most secure that way, except if the button band is very narrow and they will only fit vertically. Then vertically is OK. (And not on the diagonal if that’s also the bias, because they’ll stretch out!)

  61. I’m impressed with your dress! Seeing yours makes me want to make one too.

  62. Wait, they need to be vertical? I always do mine horizontal, ha ha! I just took a peek in my closet and it’s a 50%/50% split with my vintage blouses. Anyway, what a fun print for the dress, and I adore those buttons! I too felt a little funny sewing a cotton dress in January (and I’m about to sew 2 in February) but hey, that’s what cardigans are for, right?? 😉

  63. susew says:

    Nice dress! M4769 is such a great pattern with lots of variations, love the buttonband and the dress maker (?) collar. Last fall, I decided my summer version had lived out its wearable lifespan so now the skirt is used for rags. My mother, an expert seamstress did the collar for me when I made it up years ago as a novice sewer. Thanks for pointing out Hand Made Jane’s tutorial- I’ve bookmarked it, If I make another version I think I’m up to trying the collar this time, though I still avoid them if I can.

  64. Eliza-sew-little says:

    Lovely dress and fantastic fabric. Your best yet and thanks for telling us about Croft Mills. I don’t usually go for this style dress but yours has made me want one.

  65. jo says:

    vibrant beautiful dress and you look stunning in it!

  66. Cate says:

    fab dress, and really lovelovelove those buttons! x

  67. Pingback: McCalls 4769 Goes #NYLon2014 | Did You Make That?

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