Beach wear with McCall’s 7158, part 2

Previously, I posted about using McCall’s 7158 as beach cover-up. I ended up making two muslins with two different fabrics: one with a lightweight polyester/cotton blend and the other with a stretch polyester charmeuse. Since Pattern Review doesn’t yet have any reviews on it, I thought I’d take the plunge.

Overall, this pattern is straightforward for those beginning to sew. However, this dress is dependent on fabric choice and it becomes more challenging since it looks best in flowy fabrics like challis, crepe de chine, and linen. The loose fit makes it ideal for casual settings and will be ideal for summery or tropical weather.


Post contents

  • Fabric choices
  • Sizing
  • Sewing process/modifications
  • Sewing with cotton poly and polyester charmeuse
  • Finished garments
  • Final thoughts
  • Sewing statistics

Fabric choices
The first muslin used a gray leopard burnout in a polyester/cotton blend from Fabric Mart, bought in 2012(!). It was $1.99/yard at 60″ width, so I bought nine yards of it but then realized that

  1. None of my wardrobe contains animal print and
  2. It was pretty sheer. I don’t do sheer.

I had a lot of other hobbies then so the interest in sewing faded and this fabric sat around until now.

Second dress used a coral pink polyester charmeuse from I bought this month. It was intended for making a slip using the favorably reviewed McCall’s 6966 before I realized that both sewing with poly charmeuse for the first time and sewing a bias-cut slip for the first time would result in a headache.

When trying new things, do it one at a time. Like learning to juggle, try juggling first with handkerchiefs or fruit before moving onto knives and chainsaws. You don’t want to end up limbless and hating juggling. I had already sewn the pullover dress in the leopard burnout so making it again with a different fabric was a more sensible approach.

Both fabrics were machine washed and dried beforehand.

McCall’s 5178 comes in two options and I chose D5, which spans sizes 12-20. I’ve only sewn one complete dress in my life and that was a Burda patterns dress in a 12, because at the time I  was still offended that sewing pattern sizing is completely different from ready-to-wear (RTW). You know what was more offensive though? Squeezing myself into a dress that was a size too small, after spending hours sewing it.

Barbara of sewing on the edge recently posted about minimum ease that made total sense:

Remember the cut-her-out-flat and make her round argument? Well this is true, but you need to add in one more thing that makes garment sewing so different from other design activities.

The subject moves and as she moves the shapes change.

Thinking about that,  I took the following measurements:

  • Bust: 35 inches
  • Waist: 29 inches
  • Hips: 40.5 inches
  • Sitting hips: 42.5 inches

The pullover dress is sleeveless, so I don’t have to worry about fitting my shoulders.  Based purely on their size chart, I should go with a size 14 on top, and grade to a size 16 on the bottom

Sizes 12 and 14 highlighted


The finished garment measurements tell a different story, namely a size 12 is 37″ in the bust while a 14 is 39.5″ in the bust. For the hips, a size 12 is 40.5″ and a 14 is 42.5″ According to Sunni of A Fashionable Stitch, you should have 2.5-3″ of ease in a shirt and 2-3″ of ease in a dress. I would have no ease in the hips when sitting with a size 14 but pride won out, so I used a size 12 on top and graded to a size 14 from the waist on.

Sewing process/modifications
Traced out the pattern in View A using Swedish Tracing Paper. It’s so much sturdier than tissue paper and allows room for mistakes and re-tracings.

Added 2 inches in length to the waist area to accommodate my long torso.

The side seams were sewn with French seams since it provides a neater finish and I don’t own a serger. This is especially vital for the poly charmeuse as it displayed a tendency to fray like crazy. I sewed a 1/4″ seam with the wrong sides together, pressed, trimmed the seam allowance, folded to the wrong side, pressed, and sewed another 1/4″ seam. The seam allowance is 5/8″ but since I was skirting on the edge with the hip size,  saving 1/4″ might help.

With the cotton poly version, I excluded the use of interfacing on the front and back facings. It’s a thin but sturdy fabric. With the poly charmeuse, I skipped the facings entirely because the cutting process was so stressful. I found out that I should have just done it, because hemming polyester charmeuse is a bitch and it looks awful on top.

Sewing with cotton poly and polyester charmeuse

Sewing with the cotton poly blend was all right. It has a low melting point and got shiny in parts where I pressed. Oops. I had to re-cut one of the straps since it became all wrinkly and melted in the burnout parts.

The cotton poly was slightly thinner than quilting cotton. I found that increasing foot pressure slightly helped the stitches look less puckery. I used a 70 /10 universal needle, but it sounded like it was still punching through the fabric.

The poly charmeuse was harder than the cotton poly blend but not as hard as I gathered from the internet. After washing, I laid out the fabric on the floor and sprayed it lightly with spray starch for ironing shirts. After 5 minutes it felt dry to the touch and I sprayed it lightly again. I did this once more for a total of three coats. It felt much stiffer and less slippery.

I also laid out the pattern with tissue paper underneath. Some people warn against folding it, that you ought to trace and cut it flat because it will slither all over the place, but starching seemed to eliminate that.  I weighted the pattern down with large washers and other heavy things nearby and used a rotary cutter. It did shift a bit on top so the bodice is slightly off grain but it’s going to live life as a slip.

For this fabric I used a microtex needle and rayon embroidery thread. The thinner, sharper needle combined with thinner thread made it easier to sew. A walking foot also helped greatly.

Facings were not cut for the poly charmeuse and I learned the hard way why you take time to cut facings out. It makes the top of the dress look much more professional and saves time in the long run. It was a hell of a time hemming the top and it resulted in a homemade look.

Finished garments
I sewed both using View A, which fall to the top of my knees after adding 2″ in the bodice to accommodate a long torso. The poly cotton was the first version. It turned out well, although it still looks a bit stiff and flared out at the bottom. After trying it on, I realized that I wasn’t going to bring this with me on my trip and didn’t bother to hem it.

In these photos, I’m wearing a swim suit underneath. It doesn’t cling as much as it did when I wore regular undergarments. There is a lot of fabric in the back, so those with swayback may want to take that into consideration.

The poly charmeuse version is going to live life as a slip. The top finishing just looks so awful. I lopped off three inches from the bottom and hemmed it. I’m happy that the bottom hem isn’t too wavy.

I had also shortened the straps on this version and noticed where the side bust dart falls. It’s higher on my bust than it should be. On the leopard burnout version, it falls where it should, but the overall top is lower than I like. So keep in mind how deep you want the dress to fall and adjust the bust dart accordingly.


Final thoughts

I have another cut of poly charmeuse for the final version, so I will make this once more as beach wear. In real life I wear more structured dresses during the summer, so this will be a one time pattern.

This one looks best in flowy fabrics, which is why I sewed the second a more appropriate fabric. The practice with starching, cutting with rotary blades, and sewing with a microtex needle were really helpful. While the pattern itself is simple, the fabric you use will increase the difficulty. But if you like loose dresses, you might like McCall’s 7158.

Sewing statistics
For fun, I’m including cost and numbers associated with these projects. Project time – includes tracing, cutting, pre-washing fabrics, and actual sewing – is roughly calculated, both were sewn an hour or two at a time over the course of two weeks, some days I didn’t sew. For cost, tax not included, I’m not that masochistic about tracking expenses.

  • Garments: 2
  • Yardage sewn: approximately 3 yards
  • Project hours: 12 hours
  • Pattern cost: $3.95
  • Fabric cost: Leopard burnout (1.5 yards x $1.99) + Stretch charmeuse (1.5 yards x $5.98) = $11.96
  • Notions cost: Needles ($0.67) + Thread ($5) = $5.67
  • Total cost: $24.48

Beach wear with McCall’s 7158, part 1

With the confirmation of a trip to Florida at the end of March, I suddenly had a legitimate sewing goal: beach wear! Traditionally, I’ve shied away from beach wear for several reasons:

  1. My clothing tastes run utilitarian; I often will throw a cotton tank and short over my swim suit because I can wear them later.
  2. I don’t think about buying ready-to-wear beach wear, I’d rather spend my money on everyday garments. While there are 10,000 lakes in Minnesota, it’s only warm enough for three months of the year to swim in them.
  3. Ready-to-wear beach wear is often expensive yet made from cheap-feeling fabrics

However, beach wear is also low stakes. Flowy caftans, elastic-waist pullovers, blousey tunics; those are approachable projects from a sewing perspective. Especially for beginners or for the anxiety-ridden.  Fucking up is all right – you’ll shed them at the beach anyway –  and there are no advanced fit challenges as long as you can measure your bust.

My internet search history took a drastic turn. There were many visits to the Big 4 sewing pattern sites and perusing of fabric stores. There were so many choices and so many poorly styled/drawn pattern covers to choose from.

I initially dismissed McCall’s 7158 on account of it being a maxi dress – too much fabric to deal with wearing – and the eye-searing pattern they used on the cover.


“Hahaha-OUCH, my appendix!”

On a second pass, I took a closer look at the line art. Views A and B were mid-thigh and knee-length, respectively. Four major pieces. Depending on the fabric choice, possibly a multi-tasker; that is, I could wear it outside of going to the beach. This last part appealed to me, since I plan on traveling light.

McCall’s 7158 description: Pullover dresses (close-fitting through bust) have shoulder strap and upper back variations, and narrow hem.

Recommended fabrics: FABRICS: Challis, Crepe de Chine, Linen, Gauze.

McCall’s 7158 line art

I’d been slowly collecting cuts of flowy, summery fabrics like rayon challis for an earlier beach wear contender, Colette Pattern’s Mojave dress from their Seamwork magazine. That project didn’t turn out – more on that later – but it gave me a springboard to start on this new project.