achievement unlocked: jellyfish sailor dress

okay, i have somehow stumbled back over to the old wordpress interface, which actually has the “add media” button that wordpress touts in its help section, so i can write about my dress. while i appreciate that wordpress may be trying to move away from its redesign that made it look more like tumblr, it would be nice if they came up with a fix that actually included the features that people use. anyway!


jellyfish dress! this is mccall’s 6887, which is kind of a newer pattern, i think. i’ve only seen a few reviews of it online. i made view B, with the full skirt, but i lost the sleeve piece & had to sub in sleeve D. i drafted the collar myself & skipped some of the piping that the pattern suggested.

i had to make a lot of alterations to the bodice, which is probably something i am just going to have to do from now on. i am realizing that part of the reason i don’t wear a lot of the dresses i’ve made that often, or only wear them out in public & not when i’m just kicking it around the house, is because the bodices are too short & they make me feel weird & uncomfortable. i keep trying to tug them down to make them look right but it can’t be done because they’re just not fitted properly. for years, i thought i was short-waisted, but it turns out that i just have a really uneven waistline. for this dress, i made the front longer by several inches & the back shorter by several inches, grading out to the standard pattern length at the side seams. now the waistline falls exactly where i like it, & since it’s my entire body that is uneven, i didn’t even have to adjust the hem for balance.


i drafted the collar myself. i had to make it a split collar since the dress zips up the back.


i made matching bias tape to use for trim on the collar, along with a very narrow grosgrain ribbon. i kind of sort of wonder what it would have looked like with two rows of pink ribbon or just the bias tape, instead of both. i think bias tape only could look especially good with a larger white border at the edges of the collar. but the ribbon plays off the piping detail, & overall, i’m fairly happy with it. i’m also really pleased that i found a zipper that so closely matched the weird green-ish aqua color of the fabric, although i failed to find an invisible zipper.


god, i look like such an idiot standing around, not knowing what to do with my arms. & thanks, jared, for making sure to get my weird shoe tan into the shot. i should probably make more of an effort to style these photos better.

anyway. the front collar didn’t turn out exactly how i wanted. i wanted the ties to be longer. but ultimately, i think this is better because the smaller collar doesn’t interfere with the piping style lines.


piping detail. i was on the fence about adding piping, because it seemed like A LOT on top of the print & the collar, but i’m glad i did it. it’s fairly subtle in the effect of the dress as a whole, but it adds some flair & plays up the princess seaming.

this was my first attempt at princess seams. they’re a bit tricky. because i had to adjust the bodice lengths, i had to change six pattern pieces instead of just two, like i would for a typical bodice pattern. mccall’s included three different pattern sizes, depending on cup size. i cut D, which fit very well, aside from the fact that the fullness in the pattern is just a smidgen higher than my body’s fullness. let’s blame ramona for that. & the fact that i turn 35 next week. actually it probably would have fit perfectly if i’d sewn it with the original 5/8″ seam allowance the pattern called for instead of going down to 1/2″. i did that to have better control along the curves. adding piping also draws attention to any mistakes & makes sewing the curves trickier, because you not only have to manage the curves–you also have to be careful about sewing as closely to the piping as possible without sewing over it. around the curviest part of the front, i don’t think i sewed QUITE close enough to the piping, & that tiny mistake is exacerbated by the fact that i then topstitched the seams down. that really highlighted every little error. but i’m not sure it’s really anything anyone would notice unless they sew.

the seams & piping on the back & the skirt all came out perfectly!

i also added pockets, like i always do. lately my pockets seem to be coming out a little bit narrow, even though i use the same basic pattern for almost all of them. ??? maybe this summer’s crushing humidity is making my hands swell.

maybe my favorite part of this dress is the hem.


i just think it came out really nicely. it’s so swishy & i did a truly excellent job easing in the fullness. my suspender skirt hem had a lot of puckers & creases, which aren’t apparent from the outside, where other people can see. but i know they’re there. i didn’t have any of those issues with this hem, probably because i pressed it to within an inch of its life before i sewed.

the fabric is called “coral garden” from the full moon lagoon collection by mo bedell. i was kind of influenced by the name mo, since that is what i usually call ramona. this colorway was hard to find. this same print is available in a purple-&-lavender colorway that was more readily available. i finally found a few yards at alewives fabric in maine, which shipped really fast.

it’s a quilting cotton, & i didn’t line the dress, which i regret now because it’s just ever-so-slightly scratchy. there are all kinds of tiny little differences in the weights, hands, & drapes of quilting cottons. you never really know what you’re going to get until it’s in your hands. i chose not to line because all i have right now is bemberg rayon, which feels really silky & nice, but is a giant pain in the ass to sew. i did not want to deal with trying to stitch it into princess seams, & the curves created by the finished seaming meant that i’d never be able to just lay the finished bodice flat & cut a lining to fit. i priced cotton batiste at the local fabric shop, which is very crisp & would have been easier to seams precisely, but it was over $17 a yard! i didn’t want my lining to cost more than the fashion fabric! so i just skipped the lining. i doubt this dress will get a ton of wear until the weather cools off some. it’s just a tiny bit too heavy to be comfortable on a 95-degree day.

& the sleeves! i originally cut the sleeve for view B. then i lost it. i could have purchased the pattern again just for the sleeve (big four patterns are almost always on sale), but instead i cut the sleeve for view D even though i didn’t love it. & it is SMALL. i cut the size corresponding to the dress size i made, but while the actual dress came out maybe a hair big on me, the sleeve is very snug. it’s not uncomfortable, per se, but i would prefer a slightly looser sleeve. just half an inch bigger. unfortunately, i just didn’t have enough fabric to draft a larger sleeve. if you’re making this dress & you go for sleeve D & you don’t have the arms of michelle obama, maybe go up a size on the sleeve. just to be safe.

i always installed it wrong THREE TIMES & had to unpick & re-stitch. argh! but that was just me sewing when i was tired & should have gone to bed.




i staystitched my neckline, armscyes, & bodice edges before i did anything else. i used a teeny tiny machine stitch (1.4–i usually sew at 2.5) & my quarter-inch piecing foot to sew around all those edges because this entire thing was all curves & bias edges that could easily stretch out of shape & distort the shape of the finished garment. & then god i did, because i fucked up the neck facing & had to unpick & re-stitch the entire thing. it would have been a droopy, stretched out mess when i finished if i hadn’t staystitched. i also used stay tape at the shoulder seams & along the back where the zipper was installed, for added strength at those high-stress points.

i bring this up because i recently read a blog discussing the author’s first venture into garment-sewing, & i noticed that the neckline of the tank she’d sewn was a bit droopy. i commented & suggested staystitching, & she replied that she’d never hard of it before & had wondered why her neckline had turned out weird. not that i’m under the impression that too many people who actually sew or aspire to sew read this blog, but just in case…staystitching! it’s easy, & although it is another step you have to complete before you can dive into construction, it’s well worth it for the shape & life of your completed garment!

not sure what’s next for me in terms of sewing. i was looking at some nice black eyelet the other day that i could use to make another suspender skirt. or i could finish the messenger bag project i started two months ago. or i could plunge right into another dress. i picked up a jacket pattern recently that is intriguing me, but i also want to try my hand at making shorts, since i actually do wear shorts more than skirts or dresses when it’s hot out (& it’s hot until, like, november in kansas). we shall see…

Published by Ciara

Ciara Xyerra wrote zines for the better part of two decades. She has a brilliant & adorable preschooler named Ramona & sews as much as she possibly can. She lives in Lawrence, Kansas with her boyfriend. She enjoys catching up on "The New Yorker", meatball subs, keeping it cranky, intersectional post-third wave feminism, dinosaurs, & monsters. If you have nothing nice to say, she recommends that you come sit here by her, so you can say not-nice things together.

5 thoughts on “achievement unlocked: jellyfish sailor dress

  1. Is there a version of reality where you sew little matching dresses for Ramona???? Inquiring minds want to know.

    1. i get asked this all the time! i don’t actually sew ramona a lot of clothes right now. the problem is that baby/toddler clothes should ideally be in soft stretchy fabrics, like jersey. (that’s what almost all onesies are made out of.) you can sew fabrics like that on a regular machine, but it’s faster & easier to sew them with a serger, & i don’t have one. yet! i want one, & once i have one, i suspect i will make ramona more clothes. but even a cheap serger is almost $200 & i’ve been scared to drop that kind of money when my disability stuff is still up in the air.

      i also put an embargo on dressing ramona in skirts & dresses until she learns how to walk. babies look weird when they crawl in dresses because their diaper butts stick out, & they also end up crawling on the hems of their outfits a lot. & since she is STILL not a consistent walker (technically she can do it, but she seems to find crawling much faster), she’s still mostly being dressed in rompers & pants.

      but i do have plans to make clothes for her & have slowly been stockpiling cute toddler-sized patterns!

  2. The dress looks great! I like that first pose. It kinda looks like you danced out of an old-timer musical. Maybe Anchors Away with Frank Sinatra? The dress has a nautical vibe to it.

    1. yeah, when i saw jellyfish, i immediately thought sailor collar due to the nautical connection. i struck the pose on a whim & you should have seen jared’s face. it was kind of like, “dude. you cannot be serious with this. calm down.” but it turned out to be the best picture of the bunch as far as showing the front of the dress. i am not wild about being photographed so i never know what to do for these dumb pictures. tyra would say i need to learn my angles.

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