Vintage Girls Pattern – McCall’s 8721


Vintage Sewing Pattern- Once Upon a Sewing Machine

Recently I shared a post on my stash of vintage patterns. I just finished sewing up my first one and let me tell you it was an EXPERIENCE. Luckily I was at home for the holiday so Donna and I could tag team through it. Both of us totally baffled how anyone ever learned how to sew. I suppose though they were in neighborhoods full of experienced seamstresses, and didn’t need to take to the internet to find some sage knowledge in pattern decoding. Because this pattern needed some serious decoding.

Sewing a vintage girls pattern - Once Upon a Sewing Machine


I started with these-

upcycle sewingI got them for nearly nothing on clearance at Kohls. They are denim with a slight stretch. And while they didn’t appeal to me at all as pants something screamed vintage dress pattern at me when I walked past them. If you are looking for a reference these are size 18 capris and the dress I sewed up fit a child who typically wears a 2T (we won’t talk about the pattern’s take on sizes). It was pretty tight, but we were creative and it worked.

We emptied out the pattern envelope and compared the suggested layout and needed pieces to what came tumbling out. Victory we had all of our pieces! We should not have been so confident….

After cutting I began reading instructions on the first step, adding that little inset. Two things became very clear right away.

1. They were going to be calling the pattern pieces by all different names, these names would change without warning, none of these names would be what the actual pattern piece was labeled.

2. The instructions were going to reference lines and markings that didn’t exist and the diagrams were ….well what comes right after not at all helpful?

McCalls patternI’m not too proud to admit after approximately three and a half minutes minutes of rereading and staring at the pieces I was ready to call it a day. Donna came to my rescue. She took what we had and entirely made up her own set of directions.

It looks great, just like the picture. We never did figure out what exactly they wanted us to do.

vintage patternsRemember the creative cutting? This front is made up of two pattern pieces. I’ve marked the stitching line that was actually the old side seam of my starting pants. In order to keep a consistent look we added a line of top stitching next to the inset. While it isn’t perfectly symmetrical your eye is tricked and we were both really happy with the look we ended up with. Here is to unplanned wins!

Back to that lovely pattern. Now it was time to add facings. This is a picture of the instructions.

pattern facing Fun fact- those facing pieces don’t exist. Anywhere. Nope not in the pattern, not in the layout where you cut your fabric. The facings that come with this pattern and are shown in the layout look like this.

sewing facingsOk we can adjust to that. So I diligently put in my facings. Looked down and suddenly thought I’m making version A, the one with the sleeve. Why am I facing the armhole?

…..Because the directions completely neglected to mention setting the sleeve. It just wasn’t there. This is a MCCALLS pattern people! I suspect though maybe Donna can confirm since she now has the pattern, the versions may have gotten swapped around and the sleeveless directions talk about setting a sleeve.

Since that was simply not enough the sleeve was HUGE. I didn’t really want a gathered sleeve so I ended up improvising a pleat up at the shoulder to take in all the extra sleeve. It worked, but if I did it again I would redraw the sleeve from scratch. The whole thing closed up with a zipper in back.

vintage girl patternThis is an easier the second time type of project. Now that we’ve stepped in all of the potential problems, a second dress would go smoothly I’m sure!

McCalls patternI’m really happy with how smooth the zipper lies. It is that sea/teal green color from the flower, so it’s fun even when you do see it.

Anyone else have a crazy pattern experience like this? We can’t be the only ones…..

Happy Sewing,

Rachel and Donna

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{ 24 comments… add one }
  • Abby November 30, 2012, 8:45 am

    What an adventure! Sounds like it worked out okay in the end, though. And it looks adorable, so hey, win win, right? I don’t know if I would be brave enough to try something like that a second time…my patience level isn’t up to snuff.

    • onceuponasewingmachine November 30, 2012, 2:26 pm

      Adventure is the word!

  • Amy Mayen November 30, 2012, 9:20 am

    Wow! You girls are fearless! Good job, thanks for the heads up. I’ll be tackling vintage very soon 🙂
    Amy Mayen recently posted..Operation: Home For ChristmasMy Profile

    • onceuponasewingmachine November 30, 2012, 2:26 pm

      I hope your pattern in more cooperative than ours!

      • Amy Mayen December 1, 2012, 10:31 pm

        I have a ton of vintage patterns. I display them, admire them, dream of the things I could make with them….then I get scared and put them down. I’m just terrified! I know everytime I challenge my self I get better though. Things I’m scared of: vintage patterns, fully lined coats, intricate collars, smocking, silk…oh the list goes on and on.
        Amy Mayen recently posted..Sock Monkey DilemmaMy Profile

  • Pam December 1, 2012, 1:47 am

    Very clever making the leg seam on the pants, a feature of the dress!!! Love the style with the blue peeking out.

    • onceuponasewingmachine December 1, 2012, 7:51 am

      Thanks Pam!

  • beth December 2, 2012, 9:54 am

    wow! I love everything about this. The pattern, your description of the pattern, the fabric you found and it looks GREAT!

    • onceuponasewingmachine December 2, 2012, 10:23 am

      Thanks so much! We were happy with the end result- even if it was a trip getting there!

  • highland monkeys December 2, 2012, 11:46 am

    Well done you for perservering. I might have thrown in the towel! It is a super cute little dress and I’m sure you will be able to do the next one without any hiccups.

    • onceuponasewingmachine December 2, 2012, 3:05 pm

      It was good there were two of us, we could take turns being done with it!

  • robin December 2, 2012, 9:32 pm

    wow, this is such a cute dress! i love the fabric you chose- it looks great on her. sounds like a crazy pattern, nice job working it out!

    • onceuponasewingmachine December 3, 2012, 8:59 am

      Thanks, Sometimes clearance racks make for good fabric shopping!

  • Cindy December 3, 2012, 10:08 am

    I’m glad that you were able to “make it work” as the finished dress is adorable!
    Cindy recently posted..Handmade Christmas…Well, Kind OfMy Profile

  • Annie December 3, 2012, 11:00 am

    Your dress is so cute! I do shop woman’s clearance for the fabric too, but never thought about getting pants! Great job working with pants and the crazy pattern!
    Annie recently posted..Updated Autumn Fairy Dress for Little MomoMy Profile

    • onceuponasewingmachine December 3, 2012, 1:21 pm

      I took a risk on the pants because there weren’t a lot of pockets or detailing to work around-but it was a tight fit getting the pieces on. We’re excited it worked though because the material really suited the dress!

  • Jill December 4, 2012, 9:47 pm

    Gorgeous dress – well done for figuring it out!

    Thanks for linking to a Round Tuit!
    Hope you have a fabulous week!
    Jill @ Creating my way to Success
    Jill recently posted..Upcycled denim jeans to pencil caseMy Profile

  • Tracey December 6, 2012, 7:36 am

    Well you did a great job the dress looks great (much better than the pants!) But wow what a mission, glad it worked out in the end. Thanks for sharing on We Made That!

    • onceuponasewingmachine December 6, 2012, 7:39 am

      I think this is a better home for that fabric too 😉

  • Kilee December 6, 2012, 11:08 am

    I just love vintage patterns! So sweet! Thanks for linking up!
    Kilee recently posted..WIWW- Warm WeatherMy Profile

    • onceuponasewingmachine December 6, 2012, 9:18 pm

      They are really fun! -normally 😉

  • Ginny December 8, 2012, 3:27 pm

    I love the fabric you have used, and it is really clever of you to change a pair of trousers to such a cute little dress. I have a box of old clothes that I have kept because I thought I could reuse the fabric, but I never seem to get it done.
    Ginny recently posted..The Elves and the ShoeMakerMy Profile

    • onceuponasewingmachine December 8, 2012, 7:00 pm

      I have a few clothes like that tucked away too!

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