Butterick 5880 – The Toile

toile vintage dress

I am busy making a toile of the Butterick 5880, ahead of my contribution to The Big Vintage Sewalong. I wasn’t going to bother with those notches in the neckline, but having tried them out on the toile I now really love them.

notched neckline

I do need to improve my sewing of the notches. They’re not great. I’m thinking:

  • Shorten my stitch length
  • Stabilise with silk organza

Anything else you’d recommend doing?

The bodice has needed a lot of adjustment, but that’s not unusual for me. An FBA, pinching out excess fabric in the upper chest, a second toile. It’s not that onerous. Once you get into the zone, it’s in equal measure intriguing and satisfying. Always nice to know you’re not wasting fashion fabric!

butterick toile

pen on calico

I scribble on my calico with nothing more sophisticated than a biro, and I use a long stitch length to make the sewing – and unpicking! – quicker.


Any toile tips that you have to share? So far, I’ve only attacked the bodice. Next up, the skirt sections including that awesomely huge draped overlay. I want to practice the construction. Not sure I can promise photos of me wearing the finished toile!

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26 Responses to Butterick 5880 – The Toile

  1. Su says:

    Love the notches! Not sure if this what you mean, but I use fusible interfacing, then a stiffer non-woven interfacing around the notch area. Bit basic but worked well and didn’t show, even on cheesecloth.

  2. Maureen says:

    If it’s a complicated toile, I pull in a fit buddy, as much for fitting as a second opinion on detail tweaks.

  3. Florence SaUmarez says:

    Hi Karen. I’d love to see a snapshot of your wardrobe. It must be an absolute cacophony of colour! I sometimes wonder how you have enough days in the year to wear everything that you make? Perhaps you could write a blog on how you store all your pieces to keep them in their best condition. Thank you!

  4. Elle C says:

    Love the notches too! What an easy addition to a regular boring old pattern. I just might have to give something like this a try. I have no advice unfortunately as I seem to sew nothing complicated these days. Gotta change that soon.

  5. MarjorieTrundle says:

    I too love the the notches on the neckline of this dress. I learnt a technique last year at fashion training college here in Australia for sharp corners on collars and notches like these and it really works. Incredibly easy as well. So when you are sewing down to the V go all the way to the point, then stitch 2 stitches vertically and then continue stitching away from the point. I hope that makes sense. On a collar you sew to the corner, stitch 2 stitches diagonally and then continue sewing around the edge of the collar until you reach the next corner and repeat.

    • Wow, thank you so much for sharing! So, if I understand correctly, I sew down, across a couple of stitches, and then up – rather than just down the point and immediately up from the point? I’m definitely going to try that!

  6. Katie M says:

    I agree with Maureen on the fit buddy. Invaluable.

    I use a biro or sharpie to add pattern markings or adjustments on my toile. I also transfer pattern labels and grainlines on the toile pieces, incase I make so many adjustments that I end up using the toile pieces as my final pattern.

    When I self-draft a pattern I don’t usually add seam allowances to my pattern pieces, so I just trace around the patterns with a sharpie or biro on my toile, then add seam allowance when I cut. This give me the option of being able to add extra seam allowance to adjust fit issues, but still be able to match up the actual stitching lines. Does that make sense?

    • Of course it makes sense, Marjorie! I’ve been doing that all my life. In fact, in Spain, commercial patterns do not include seam allowances and never have. As in Haute couture. Including seams in the pattern is a tricky shortcut, I believe.

  7. Paola says:

    Toile making is my opportunity to use up nearly-exhausted spools of cotton and bobbins. And I use masking tape a lot put in tucks and darts while I am fitting the toile to the body.A lot easier than fiddling about with pins.

  8. Mags says:

    I’ve made this Dress and I love it. The notches are absolutely necessary. I shortened my stitch at the point and marked the pivot carefully. The skirt is quite heavy and I think the dress would benefit from a waist stay.
    Happy sewing.

  9. Colesworth says:

    no advice, but can’t wait to see it ;o)

  10. I sense a lack of of confidence in your last paragraph, Karen… it is going to be great! Those notches look gorgeous, I would stabilise them with fusible interlining, applied all around the neck opening. Some parts of it is cut on bias, so I think it is necessary.

  11. Lots of great info here. I have this pattern but haven’t given it a go yet. I will be very interested to see how it turns out. It is a lovely dress. Xx

  12. oonaballoona says:

    yeah, those notches are sa-weeet. i took tiny stitches at the v, and clipped as close as i could to the seam–didn’t do the interfacing, but i made mine in flocked heavyweight denim, so it was basically interfaced already;). the skirt as drafted is very straight, i pegged mine in by a BUNCH to get a more vintage feel. can’t wait to see yours!!

  13. Songbirdy says:

    If I recall, as it has been awhile, I approached a notch from both sides to the v, and then stopped just before the point leaving long tails. Then I would flip, see how it sat and if happy, hand tie the ends. Made it easy to change and as it is an area that is fairly stable, I could simply leave once I was happy without issues.

  14. Carol S says:

    I find a toile/muslin really helpful for the practice part of new construction. It is important though to remember the usually the fashion fabric is much more forgiving than calico/muslin.

  15. Carol in Denver says:

    I agree with Marjorie: two tiny stitches across the point of a v, instead of immediately reversing direction, will help the v lie smoothly.

  16. esewing says:

    Great tips for perfecting notches , Without interfacing the neckline would curl too. Have you chosen fabric for the finished dress yet ? Something crisp to really kick the top of the drape at the hip ?

  17. Loads of good suggestions here, I’ll add another: I change colour on the fine point marker I use to mark the toile. First adjustment: red, second blue, then orange, green … whatever contrasts well. Because sometimes I make a change that upon testing was not the best, and then I’ll know in the end which mark to follow. Multiple blue lines are confusing. Which was the right one?

  18. ciara says:

    My #1 tip for making muslins/toiles: leave long tails when you do your basting. Don’t backstitch or trim them. Then when you’re ready to take your muslin apart (to make more alterations, sew a smaller SA, whatever), you can just tug on the bobbin tail &, if you’re lucky, it will slide right out. SO much faster & easier than unpicking (though obviously unpicking a basting stitch isn’t the end of the world). I basted a jacket yesterday to check the fit & it took me less than five minutes to take it apart, even though it was 15 seams!

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