Butterick B6051 deserved an immediate encore, so that’s what I did: sewed one right after the other. I’ve had a crush on this dramatic maxi dress for a while, and this summer, I knew it was time to get serious about our relationship.
Join me, won’t you, as I add two bold maxi dresses to my wardrobe!
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Butterick B6051 is a sweeping, pullover maxi dress with four views. I sewed view A, which has a surplice bodice, full skirt, and no sleeves. As you can see, I sewed two versions of A: one with a back waist tie (navy with flowers) and one without a back waist tie (black bodice). I first saw this dress made by the Stitch Sisters, and it’s been on my mind since then. When Joann ran a super sale on Big 4 patterns, I was all over this dress pattern.
The pattern comes in sizes 8 (31 ½ inch bust, 33 ½ hip) to 24 (46 bust, 48 hip). To pick my size, I practiced some flat pattern measuring. (I measured the flat pattern pieces from seamline to seamline.) Check this out…
My Body Measurements vs. B6051 Flat Pattern Measurements (in Inches)
|Size 8 Envelope Body Measurements||Size 8 Flat Pattern Measurements||Ease in Pattern||Erin’s Body|
|Upper Bust||31 1/2||35||3 1/2||32 3/4|
|Hip||33 1/2||39 1/2||6||39|
You can see there’s a lot of ease built into this dress. I used my bust to pick my size (8), because waist and hip enlargements are easier to make vs. bust shrinkenings. When you start playing around with bust adjustments, armholes can get wonky. RELATED: How to Make a Full Bust Adjustment on T-Shirts (No Darts)
I was making these dresses in very stretchy fabric, so as long as I had SOME ease around my body, the dress would fit fine.
From the waist to the hip in the skirt, I graded to a 12. My full hip is 3 ½ inches lower than the pattern’s full hip. I measured the flat pattern piece at this lower hip spot specific to my body and concluded that a size 12 hip would give me enough ease in the skirt.
Many sewists who shared this dress on Instagram noted that it had a lot of ease (and their pictures confirmed this observation). If I had gone with the envelope-recommended size based on my body measurements, where I chose a size based on my largest measurement (my hip), I would have sewn a size 14.
The finished upper bust measurement (including ease) for a size 14 is 39 ½ inches — 6 ¾ inches larger than my body! Think of the bust adjustments it would take to size down! UGH. Flat pattern measuring definitely saved me from headaches. It’s all about ease, guys, especially when it comes to Big 4 patterns.
Because I was sewing a size that varied so greatly from my body measurements, I made a muslin of the bodice. It fit great, and I went ahead with the fashion fabric.
I used stretchy, slinky polyester ITY knits I bought at Vogue Fabrics in the Chicago suburbs. This type of fabric has a bit of bounce, and it’s great for a maxi-length skirt. Polyester can be hot to wear, but when it’s matched with a swishy skirt and sleeveless top, you don’t have to worry about overheating.
The navy flower knit has more drape than the green diamond knit. Navy flowers has more folds in the skirt vs. green diamonds.
The solid black bodice is an athleisure knit from Joann, and it was not part of the plan. I had cut out green diamond fabric for the bodice, taking great care not to end up with Boob Diamonds™. As I sewed the bodice on my serger, my big dog, who was sitting at my feet under my sewing table, moved her big butt onto my serger foot pedal. You can guess what happened next — a runaway line of serging and a lot of cursing.
I had to come up with a Plan B to replace my ruined green diamond bodice. I puttered around my neighborhood Joann for a replacement fabric and landed on black. I like the top-and-skirt effect of the black and green diamond fabric combo. What’s more, the green now is farther from my face, and I think that’s a good thing, because green often is hard for me to wear. (But I do it anyway, because pretty fabric is pretty fabric!)
I learned a hard lesson sewing this pattern: Don’t let your dog sit under the sewing table when you’re sewing, especially if she’s a big gal who’s hard to move.
Sewing Tips for the Butterick B6051 Dress
Build a Support System
Even though the instructions didn’t call for it, I stabilized the shoulder seams. I used nylon tape because it’s lightweight and doesn’t create bulk. Shoulder seams of stretchy knits are prone to becoming misshapen over time. Stabilizing seams helps stitching that’s under stress win against gravity and wear and tear.
The Butterick B6051 instructions DO call for inserting quarter-inch elastic into the seam allowance of the waist seam. First you sew the waist seam. Then below the waist seam — approximately ¼ inch to ⅜ inch IN the seam allowance — you sew another line of stitching, leaving a gap in the stitching about 2 inches wide. Next you insert a strip of elastic into the gap and work it through the casing. Finally you sew together the ends of the elastic and sew shut the gap to close the elastic casing.
The waist elastic helps hold up the skirt and take some of the stress of the mass of the skirt off the shoulder seams (another good reason to stabilize the shoulders!). I forgot to add the elastic to the navy flower dress; I serged the waist seam and there’s no seam allowance for an elastic casing. I did remember elastic for the black-and-green dress, and it definitely helps carry the weight of the skirt. I need to figure out a way to add elastic to the waist of the flower dress! Suggestions?
Experiment with Raw Edge Finishes
So, these dresses took me a couple weeks to finish, which is a long time for a pattern of this relatively low complexity. I got caught up in testing finishes for the armholes and neckline.
The pattern calls for turning over the neckline and armholes and stitching down the raw edge. I wanted a finish with more polish, so I spent multiple days experimenting with the blind hem on my serger. I’m not saying it can’t be done, but I was not satisfied with my serger’s blind hem. In my opinion, the blind stitching was too visible, uneven in length, and not flat on the right side. (This failure almost assuredly is user error and inexperience!)
I think if I had more seam allowance to work with the blind hems would have turned out better. My instruction manual recommends hems of 1 ½ to 2 inches, and I was working with ⅝ inch hems. I also think blind hems on curves are tricky, too, and the armhole is almost all curve.
After I gave up on the blind hem, I tried following the pattern instructions for the neckline and armhole finishes (turn and stitch). I had a heckuva time neatly pinning down the raw edge so it didn’t twist. Plus, this finish still felt too “raw” to me.
Finally I went with sewing strips of fabric to the raw edges, turning the strips to the inside, and topstitching the strips. (This was my first instinct for finishing, and I should have stuck with it!) It was easier to keep the strip-armhole/neckline seam from twisting (vs. turn and stitch). There still was some twisting while sewing around curves; I should have used more pins and gone even slower when topstitching. Reducing the presser foot pressure probably would have helped, too. To finish the raw edges of the strips, I serged them off just past the topstitching.
The instructions have you sew the bodice side seams (to make a circle) before turning and stitching the armholes. I finished the armholes first and then sewed the side seams, because sewing in a line is easier than sewing in a circle. I wonder, though, if I couldn’t get an even better armhole finish if I sewed the side seam and finished the armhole more like I would sew a knit neckband. Definitely something for my next B6051 dress!
I could see B6051 becoming a staple dress for me. It’s fast to sew after gathering the bodice. View D would be hyper fast — the front of the bodice is one pattern piece (vs. two) cut on the fold. I also might have fun with the skirt length and sleeves. Wouldn’t flutter sleeves look pretty on this dress?
Over to you: What’s your favorite finish for raw knit edges? Would you have turned and topstitched? How do you feel about maxi dresses — in general and to sew and wear? Please share your thoughts in the comments!