Do you sew with “Big Four” patterns? McCall’s are one of the biggest sewing pattern companies, stocked worldwide and you usually find their patterns sold in printed form on the tissue paper you traditionally associate with home sewing. I haven’t got too much experience with them but here is my very short summary…
Before working with a Big Four pattern, you should know…
- Their patterns come in two size bands and, annoyingly if like me you’re across them both, you have to choose one.
- Their sizing is different to indie companies, eg in indie I would be between a 10-14 and in Big Four I am consistently a 16-18
- McCall’s patterns in particular may have two hashtags on insta when you’re searching; for example #DawnMcCalls and M8104 for the name of the style and the pattern number.
- The PDF assembly is dodgy to say the least and not as well laid out as an indie pattern in my opinion. So if you don’t like assembling PDF patterns at the best of times but want to try a Big Four, stick to the printed tissue patterns!
- My top tip for purchasing from their website is to scroll down and look at the line drawings for these patterns. The fabrics used on the promo for some of these patterns really influence how I see the garment and often I might miss the actual shape of the pattern because of a very busy pattern. Patterns also usually have at least 3 variations so you should check them out in the line drawings, too.
I have several Big Four patterns in my collection but have only really sewn with the New Look ones including some basics, which I love but haven’t gone further than that. However when I saw that McCall’s and Butterick not only do PDF patterns but were having a $2.99 sale at their website Something Delightful.com, I decided to clean up!
These sales come along fairly often (maybe every 4 months or so? Not that I’m counting….*marks calendar*) and apply to all patterns but of course ordering from the US it made more sense to me to buy PDF patterns.
You could use these sales to your advantage when building a pattern collection and stock up on your ‘basic blocks’ which are really handy for hacking patterns. For example a button down dress, a fitted bodice and skirt, or a staple pair of trousers.
Alternatively of course you could use the sale to try out some patterns out of your comfort zone in terms of style of structure that you might not normally invest in!
I may or may not have bought 10. Gulp. But at $30 for 10 patterns, I am a happy customer! I am excited to work through them and try and get the fit down for these patterns.
My Dawn McCalls – the prep
I decided to start with Dawn McCall’s, a button down dress (obvious choice for me) but with a grown on sleeve and waist gathers on the bodice as well as an unusual curved waist seam. I’d been looking on Pinterest for summer sewing inspiration and this relaxed bodice was a definite trend that matched some of the outfits I’d been picturing.
As usual I checked out the #dawnmccalls tag on instagram for inspiration and saw that the dress varies a lot depending on the fabric used. For the dress I had in mind I wanted a drapey viscose or rayon for sure.
I had won a voucher for Pretty Mercerie back in November on an insta giveaway so decided this was a great time to use it and picked up this beautiful viscose. This was my first time ordering with PM and they may be spenny but fair play; the order was dispatched within 4 hours, arrived in 2 days and is some of the best quality fabrics I’ve handed.
Instagram reviews of this dress were also very helpful for the sizing. The majority of people sized down and as my measurements place me between a 16-18 I did the same and am glad I did.
I did make a wearable toile of this in a gorgeous viscose my friend Joyce gave me that she had experimented with fabric printing on. I really like the fabric so wouldn’t have used it on something I wasn’t sure of, but knew the fit of the dress would be almost certainly ok and I really wanted to try it as a top. It confirmed that I didn’t need any adjustments which was a pleasant surprise!
Once that was done I moved onto the Pretty Mercerie fabric and managed to get this dress cut out and made in a day, one of my fastest makes yet!
I really liked the construction of this pattern with no darts to worry about and a straight skirt. The facing was fiddly; luckily I’d read reviews online which warned me the pattern diagrams are wrong and you sew the outer edge of the facing to the neckline first, rather than the inner as shown.
Otherwise there was no real drama with this make. I machined sewed the facing down and in retrospect regret that, wishing I had hand sewn it. After years of trying I still can’t manage stitch in the ditch and am ok with it, but need to start handsewing as standard rather than being tempted to give it a go!
Honestly? I LOVE THIS DRESS. I love the shoulder. The waist. The dropped back. The length. How inexplicably Gatsby it feels. That I can wear it with my hair up feeling like a supermodel or with a denim jacket and white trainers to be nice and dressed down. The viscose is buttery soft and sewed up like a dream and was a perfect match for the pattern. So from me, it’s a 10/10!
Have you tried any Big Four patterns yet? Or have you got any tips for someone looking to?