Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Tutorial: attaching a collar and facings to a shirt dress

It's been a long time coming, but here it is at last: a tutorial for attaching the collar and facings to a shirt dress. The tutorial is specific to McCall's 4769, but the basic principles of it could probably be applied to any notched collar pattern.

There are two steps to the original instructions that are really confusing. The first time I made the dress, I muddled through, then wiped the experience from my memory (a bit like having a baby). Which is why I was back the next year, ready to make another one (again, a bit like having a baby!) It was only because A Girl in Winter had specifically asked for a tutorial on these steps that I paid so much attention. And then when I did, my brain started to hurt. Yes, it does take a while to get your head round it from the instructions alone, which is why I'm hoping that the trillions of photos in this tutorial will help make the process a little clearer.

I took photos of each step as I was making the dress, but when I came to write the tutorial, one section really wasn't clear enough for my liking (not helped by choosing a busy rose print for fabric…) So I've made a mock-up of that particular section in calico to demonstrate it a bit more clearly. Please note that the mock up hasn't got a front button band attached to the bodice, which you would have already done at this stage when making your own dress. Right, let's go. 

Preparing collar and facing pieces

First you need to prepare your collar and facing pieces as indicated on the pattern, which for the collar is as follows:

Sew a small line of reinforcing stitches through the marked triangles on the interfaced collar piece and press under ⅝" between the two triangles.

Stitch the two collar sections together along the untouched edges to dots.

Trim seam allowances right down.

Turn right side out and press well.

Now baste the raw edges together from the dot shown, to the turned under section on each side of the collar.

Right, that's the collar pieces prepared, now for the facing pieces which should be prepared as follows:
  • Sew the lower facing to the upper facing at short edges to make an extra long facing.
  • Sew reinforcing stitches through the small circles at a right angle as shown and clip to the circle. Stupidly I hadn't yet clipped my facing piece when I took the photo and only realised when it was too late!
  • Press under ⅝" at the shoulder.
  • Finish the long, untouched edges of the facing (I overlocked mine).
There should be a clip towards the middle of those reinforcing stitches

You should also have reinforced your front bodice piece where shown and clipped it up to the circle/reinforcing stitches (VERY IMPORTANT POINT)

Attaching the collar
Right, now you're ready to attach your collar pieces to your dress. Lay the dress out right side facing you. What we're aiming to do is align the circle on your collar piece (which is basically where the stitches turn a corner) with the reinforced point on your bodice front. The picture below shows the two points that need to be aligned.  

Orange circle on the collar about to be laid on top of the reinforced point on the bodice

Here's a back view of the two pieces once they're pinned (I couldn't show it from the front as they're basically on top of each other). See how the clip allows the pattern piece to almost turn a corner? 

...and a front view of it pinned
You'll find there's a large fold of fabric near that corner point behind the pins, try to hold this out of the way whilst you pin. 

Before you sew, check behind the collar to make sure you haven't inadvertently pinned some extra fabric.

Then stitch from the edge of the collar up to the turned under section, repeating the process on the other side. Make sure you sew just underneath the basting stitches so they don't show through on the right side.

Actual stitches in red, basting stitches in cream

View from the other side, notice how the stitches go just around the big fold of fabric?

And the view from underneath the collar, barely a pucker to be seen!

Attaching the facing pieces
That's the first horrible bit over with, you're nearly there! Next, you need to pin each facing piece to the dress, starting at the hem and working your way up, matching notches as you go. You now have a similar situation to when you were attaching the collar: you need to turn a corner and avoid a large fold of fabric in the process.

In the top photo I'm holding down the fold of fabric you need to avoid, which you can see in the bottom photo. Here's a closer look. 

Once again, you need to use the clipped section to allow you to turn the corner and remember to hold that fold of fabric out of the way whilst you're pinning. Then stitch right around the area you've pinned. Start at one hem edge, pivot at the corners and continue along the back neck edge, keeping the pressed under edge of the collar free. Also ensure the folds of fabric at the the top corners are kept free of your line of stitches. 

Stitched side of facing (this photo shows the opposite side from the one above, sorry)
View from the bodice side - the fold of fabric pulls away from the stitches without puckering

Clip any corners and trim seam allowances, pressing seam allowances towards the collar. Turn the facing to the inside and press.

Inside view of facing attached to collar
View from underside of collar. Don't worry if there are a few puckers, nobody will see them once the collar's turned down!

Slipstitch the facing to the shoulder seam and along the pressed under edge of the collar as shown below.

And that's it, you've done it! It was a slightly tricky process, but you got there in the end. There's just one final thing to do: go and pour yourself a large drink! Cheers! 

This tutorial is dedicated to the readers who contacted me saying they haven't been able to finish their McCall's 4769 because of the rubbish collar and facing instructions. I very much hope this tutorial helps you to finish your beautiful dresses and wear them with pride! x


  1. Oh wow, thanks Jane! I have this pattern (and some lovely mid-blue chambray) in my stash just waiting to be sewn up for autumn, so this is going to be infinitely useful :D

  2. Thank you so much for doing this, you are a star! It was the big fold of fabric that got me every time. Would you believe that this dress and the rubbish collar instructions in the pattern have put me off McCall's for life? Cheers *clink* :-)

  3. Great tutorial!!! You put a lot of time and effort into it and the sewing blogging community rejoices - I'll be bookmarking this one!

  4. Thank you so much for such a detailed post Jane! I very much looking forward to making a shirtdress one of these days, so I've already pinned this post for when the day comes!xx

  5. Yes, I'm also pinning this for a future shirtdress!

  6. Thank you for this tutorial, so helpful!

  7. You really are a wonder at sewing!! this tutorial is fantastic and I know that this is going to be a great help, not only to me but to a lot more too. Thanks for all the hard work.

  8. This is my most dreaded seam! Thanks for the great photos of every step.

  9. You are expert at sewing!! I really appreciate your efforts which you are doing. Thanks for the sharing and just keep up the good work.

    Beautiful Villas Italy

  10. Lovely post, so detailed. Thanks.

  11. Thank Heavens! I thought it was just I who had a hard time deciphering the gibberish which McCalls puts into their instructions for attaching a collar. I was thinking I must be a big dummy for not understanding what they're drawing. Good to know someone can help us when we get into a bind. Thank you so much for your help!!



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