knit shift dress | renfrew meets mccalls 6559 meets laurel

if me made may teaches me anything, it’s that my sewing is seriously out of sync with my blogging. and instagram is just an enabler since my makes are almost always seen there first. but, i have a several project backlog of photographed makes, so there does stand the chance that i’ll actually get them on ye olde blog soon-ish.


a couple weeks ago i had a rare evening out with a group of moms from my daughter’s kindergarten class. naturally i needed to make something new for the occasion… you know how it is. but i should back up… i’ve been itching to add some flowy knit maxi skirts to my wardrobe, and i had a 2 yard piece of black cotton/lycra and thought that would be perfect. i drafted out a 1/4 circle skirt, but alas i was about 1/2 a yard short. i decided to try anyways and make an a-line maxi. chalked it out on my fabric, cut it out, sewed up the side seams and… well it was okay, but it just didn’t totally feel right. it was too fitted from waist to hip and would probably end up not worn very often.

awkward arm pose...

awkward arm pose…

i was bummed, but then i remembered the dinner outing and thought maybe i could get a shift dress even if i had to piece it together. well turns out that a failed maxi skirt is the exact amount of fabric required for a shift dress—no piecing necessary! i cut sleeves and binding from my remaining fabric (which i still had a good chunk of) and had a new dress hours later.

photo 1

so let’s talk about my pattern. you may recall last december that i made a shift dress for christmas out of a heavy sweater knit. i wore that dress a lot, so i knew i’d be making it again. i had hacked it by combining my sewaholic renfrew for the top with mccalls 6559 for the bottom. for this dress, i also narrowed the skirt hem, using my colette patterns laurel as a guide. (side note: why didn’t i just use my laurel—minus darts—for this dress? i had intended to, actually, but i pulled out my renfrew for comparison and i was afraid it would take some serious tweaking to get right. with my renfrew/shift previously hacked, the bulk of the work was already done.) basically all i did was line up the waist marking on the mccalls pattern with where my waist hits on the renfrew. line those two up and you’re ready to go! okay, mostly.

photo 2

one thing that has bugged me on my chevron dress is some excess fabric in the back, and little bit of pulling on the front causing the back to look like it’s sagging. to fix all that, i retraced, narrowing the back piece in quite a bit at the waist. then to address the pulling at the front i added in some bust room by slashing at the bust line and adding 3/8″. this excess i simply eased in when i sewed the side seams, keeping the excess concentrated from the armhole to just under the bust. i would tell you that adding in the extra room was my brilliant idea, but that’s how the mccalls pattern is drafted so i figured it was legit. just note that if you have a striped fabric, start your stripe matching under the bust, not at the armhole!


i finished the neckline with a binding facing, rather than a neck band for a nice clean look. i serged a strip of fabric to the front, then turned it to the inside and top stitched with my cover hem. oh yeah… i bought a cover hem (!!!). we’re just getting acquainted, so i’ll hopefully post more on that later!


and that’s about it! i can see this dress covering all the bases from a casual day dress to an accessorized date night dress for almost any season. versatility at it’s finest!

—lisa g.

30 thoughts on “knit shift dress | renfrew meets mccalls 6559 meets laurel

  1. teri dodds says:

    I’ve been wanting to make a knee length t-shirt dress in an a-line shape but wasn’t quite sure of the best way to go about the skirt part. I love what you did here– maybe I will try something similar with my Plantain tee and Laurel shift. I thought about the Coco pattern but if I can hack some things I’ve already got then all the better.

  2. Andrea says:

    Looks great! Which coverstitch machine did you buy? Good investment for you — I know you’ll love it and use it lots.

    On a side note, you were in my dream last night! Weird, right. But it was awesome because you had me over for dinner with your family and then let me raid your fabric stash. Ha

  3. sewmaris says:

    So much more wearable than a maxi dress/skirt, IMHO. Very flattering and a garment youwill definitely wear again and again. Enjoy!

  4. Sandra (Sewist-Stitch) says:

    I love your dress. Would you believe I just drafted a similar pattern using the Renfrew and my Mission Maxi patterns, shortening it to above my knee. I plan to sew it up this weekend with some lovely merino. I love your dress and hope mine looks just as good.

  5. dokucug says:

    Very cute, and very practical! Funny – when you posted this on IG and wrote “night out with the girls,” I thought you meant YOUR girls, LOL!

  6. Kelly says:

    I knew I’d love this when the title popped up before any content loaded yet. This is the absolute perfect dress! I want one just like this!

  7. aleah says:

    Nice save from the maxi miss! So smart to not let nice fabric languish in your closet in the form of a never-worn garment.
    I can’t wait to hear about your coverstitch! Or maybe I shouldn’t hear about it… it’ll just make me want one more than I do now…

  8. poppykettle says:

    So lovely to see you with a spring-y green background and some sunlight! It’s a gorgeous dress… and yep, I did spy it over on IG when you wore it for the ladies night out 🙂 It’s a winner 🙂 Very classic and easily transposed from day to night!

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