Sunday, August 12, 2012

What the Heck, McCalls? A study of M6603

I must be getting feistier, because "What the Heck" seems to be the way I start conversations these days. You should probably be very grateful you don't live with me.

Last night, after a very long day sewing an Etsy item that it basically a wadder, and then a pesky sewing task I would only do for my good friend with cancer, and then some productive, satisfying sewing for ME, I ended the evening, around 2:30am, surfing the BMV website. A fairly standard weekend day for me.

(A little aside: When people ask me how I get so much done, when I have a full time job, here are a few tips:

  • Eject husband/partner.
  • Eject children. (Though a more accurate description might be, "Children grow up and flee the nest.")
  • Work from home, thereby eliminating commute time, shower time, getting dressed time.
  • Reduce cleaning to the minimum: focus primarily on the kitchen and the toilet.
  • Reduce food preparation to the minimum: Can of beans + chopped tomatoes + a few walnuts (purchased pre-chopped) + dressing = salad. You're welcome.
  • Embrace your insomnia. It can be a gift.
You will find you have much more sewing time! Maybe you should be really grateful you don't live with me...)

Anyway, I was looking at patterns on the Butterick, Vogue, McCalls site, when I began to study a pattern I like, though the photos don't inspire: McCalls 6603.

This pattern has two views. The first view is what attracted me to this pattern and is shown above. I see potential here and, interestingly enough, the pose is rather normal for recent Vogue patterns.

The second view is a real head puzzler. Let's take a look, shall we?

Hmm.. Well, this might look like a perfectly reasonable photo of a fairly non-interesting tunic, except wait... Look at the technical drawing (and I always look at the technical drawing):

This second view (which is technically view D, but views A through C are the same pattern draft with tweaks) is very asymmetric, both in the neckline and the hemline. It looks kinda interesting, but kinda weird, too. I feel... dubious about this view.

Look at the photo again. The model's right arm is thrown over her head and the top is torqued in such a way that the neckline opening appears symmetric, as does the hem. I see no signs of asymmetry here. This looks deliberate, and suggests that the top may not be pleasing when worn as designed.

If you look at the photo of the back and you see the asymmetric hem. It is photographed normally. They seem to be ok with the back view.

McCalls does provide a second photo of the front, but they do something I have never seen before. Let's take a looksie. (This is fun, isn't it?)

I notice a couple of things. First, the tunic is still torqued so that the neckline looks fairly symmetric. Second, she is holding a "huge" pleat against her belly. It's almost hidden in the print, but, again, it causes the top to appear more symmetric. Also, she is holding it in such a way that it looks like she might be pregnant. If that weren't suggestive enough, did you notice the text in the upper right? Suitable for maternity. Adjustments may be necessary.


I believe that this is another deliberate attempt to make the top look better when taking the pictures, then when they were choosing the photos for the pattern, they decided to add the "maternity tip" to justify such a suggestive pose. You might wonder, did they intend for this to be a maternity top? The answer is in the pattern description:

And I quote: Oversized, pullover tops (wrong side may show). A: bias collar and sleeve bands. B and C: single layer hood, purchased drawstring. A, B, C: narrow hem. D: topstitched three-piece collar, sleeve and hem bands.

In other words, NO. If they had intended it for maternity from the get-go, they would have made it a maternity top. Are you supposed to do an FBA, as in Full Belly Alteration? If these are the "good" pictures, can you imagine the pictures they didn't use?

In my humble opinion, it seems that McCalls has little faith in this view of the pattern and are trying to make it as appealing as possible. (If anyone has access to a McCalls pattern book, please let me know if this pattern is even listed in the maternity section.)

Often I see sewists say that they won't sew up a pattern if there is no accompanying photograph provided. This is proof that even a photograph can mislead.

Currently there are no reviews of this pattern on Pattern Review. Does anyone want to whip up this view and let me know what they think? I'd love to hear about it and would be happy to share your results on my blog.

(And please don't think I hate the good folks at BMV or their products. I don't. I use, and love, loads of their patterns, but I enjoy noting these little foibles as I meander through their website. I feel like a pattern detective. And if I can save you from a wadder, so much the better.)


I really want to thank you for all the wonderful feedback on yesterday's post, as well as all of my recent posts. I appreciate it more than you know and I love to hear your musings, thoughts, perspectives.

I have created my master list of interview questions, which includes mine and those submitted in the comments section. (Robin, you win for asking the most questions!!) I have sent the list to Marcy and Diane, so you can consider the request for questions to be closed.

In other exciting news, DD2 returns from Sweden today!!! Early on in her trip, we had a few marathon (ie. 2 hour) Skype sessions, but I haven't really heard from her at all, beyond a single Skype text, in the last two weeks. I am eager to hear of her adventures, though she may be focusing on sleep for awhile.

In one of our Skype sessions, she amused me with a fascinating tour through her host's fridge.

The Swedish have so many dairy products! While she enjoyed all the dairy, she experienced much more congestion than usual. The following is their organic 1.5% milk. (I wasn't quick enough to snap a picture of the yogurt, which comes in a similar carton.)

The following is a fermented milk product that she assures me has no equivalent in the U.S. - it's nothing like buttermilk or kefir or anything else I asked her to compare it to.

She was also delighted to discover that she could check books out from their very impressive library using only her California driver's license. That is mighty trusting of them, given her history of forgetting to return books for months here in the U.S. (Kids can get away with this in our area, because they do not levy library fines against minors.)

There is a book she has been wanting. It is a book about the Swedish language, written in Swedish. She was able to check it out and, in this photo, she is explaining Swedish vowels to me. Swedish people hear more vowels than we do. Fascinating stuff. Given that I don't seem to hear all the American language vowels, I would be hopeless at learning Swedish.


  1. Hey, I bought that pattern and was waiting for YOU to test it for me. I guess I need a plan B.

    1. LOL. I will make view C, I think, with the hood and long sleeves. ;)

  2. Pattern Detective! New addition for your resume. I agree with you, this pattern is VERY SUSPICIOUS. A picture of the asymmetrical top in a plain fabric, with both arms at her sides, would give a lot more information.
    Looking forward to hearing about DD2's trip...

  3. There are sooooo many patterns in the world that I don't even lament the lack of pretty stuff/questionable offerings out there to buy. 20 years or so in, I doubt I will ever need to buy a new pattern EVER again. If you look only at the technical drawings, patterns NEVER get old! I wouldn't even worry about this one...

  4. Ah, yes, filmjölk (although the picture is of regular milk, organic, 1.5% fat). . .you're right, there is no equivalent to that. It's sour cream culture stirred into regular milk. It smells like unsweetened yogurt to me and the low fat content means it's almost glutinous in texture. Has anyone here tried low fat sour cream lately? Has it still got that glutinous texture given by non-fattening starchy binding agents? Fil's like that, minus the binders.

    And mjölk has one of those pesky vowels, the eu--
    the oo--
    the eu--
    the ö
    I HATE trying to pronounce that sound even when it's just a short e with some vestigal noise stuck on the front. Note to self: do not move to Östersund or I will never find my way home.
    Wish I could see that vowel chart better.

    She better be bringing Marabou chocolate!

    1. YES, QUincux! I have another picture of her holding the filmjölk, but I looked atrocious, so I didn't include that one. Yup, that's dairy product she talked about as being so different from anything here in the U.S.

      She did mention the outstanding chocolate and I told her, forget the fabric, bring me chocolate!!!

    2. Quincux, I went ahead and added the pic of the filmjölk. Thanks for the clarification and description. :)

  5. Interesting "detective work" of the pattern! It's strange that they are showing such bad pictuers of a garment, but as you say maby they didn't get any better ones...:)
    Being a swede I can tell you that the stuff in the green carton is milk, called mellanmjölk ("in betveen milk") beacuse the fat in it is between standard and low fat...;)
    I hope your daughter had a nice stay in Sweden!

  6. I loved seeing all the images of your Skype chat with your daughter in Sweden. It's just amazing to see something like the insides of a refrigerator in another country! I love Skype :)

    You are so funny in your critiques. The first thing I noticed was that the back view of the garment looks wonky where the sleeve attaches. Just goes to show what we are interested in, :)

  7. I noticed that wonky sleeve attachment too. It's critiques like this that really help me hone my own eye when looking at a pattern; thanks for the direction shams :)

    I hope you're having a great reunion with DD2 by now, and look forward to hearing about it! (you wouldn't happen to be bringing a sample of chocolate with you tomorrow night......would you....?) ;-D

  8. I did put that pattern on my list on the McCalls site, but another pattern that I got with my last bunch is Butterick 5791, it's a but more structured then the McCalls version. I'm trying to figure out the type of fabric used in the Mexican Baja Hoodie. Your daughter is absolutely adorable. I see good looks run in the family.

  9. I love the first view of that pattern, but I agree, photos can indeed be very misleading. I bought a Burda dress pattern a few years ago, and only after I had made it up did I realise that the model on the envelope had her arm wrapped possessively about her chest for a good reason, the bodice was WEIRD!
    By the way, I love your new dressing gown!! Another gorgeous pattern... now when is the next Vogue sale on? Your creations are a constant source of inspiration to me :)
    I wish you all the best with your etsy adventures, and I hope you are enjoying your mother/daughter reunion!

  10. Ahh, insomnia. 4am, best time to read blogs, with only the dogs for company.

    I hate the crazy poses on patterns lately. And why would I want to wear something that looks maternity-ish at my no-way-could-I-be-pregnant age? At any rate, the hooded view is cute.

    Your DD looks so excited in the skype pics. Hope she had a great time. Has she taught you any Swedish yet? My DD is trying to teach us Chinese...

  11. Hey Shams - I've been lost in Olympicland for the past 2+ weeks, so I've just caught up on your blog. I love reading your insights and seeing what you've made!
    Excellent that you're planning to go to DOL. It's on my bucket list, too. Interviewing Diane and Marcy is a great idea. I'm looking forward to reading more!

  12. LOL on the "what the heck!" Similarly, I've noticed a lot lately that I'm starting conversations with "Really??!!??"

  13. I remember being fascinated and amazed by the lineup of yogurts in even small Swedish grocery stores. You mean they use different cultures and we get to choose? Wow.

  14. Wow, you really tore that pattern apart - but funny. Love the "what the heck?" what better way to start the day?

  15. I've been knitting a lot longer than I've been sewing. I learned a long time ago that if the model was in a strange or awkward pose in a sweater it was an automatic "do not buy!" as it was a dead give away that something was not right with it.

    I haven't analyzed enough sewing patterns, but I wonder sometimes if the choice of fabric sometimes obscures poor design as well. I am leery of patterns where the line drawing shows details I can't see because of the fabric pattern.