B6556 Sew Along #1: Supplies, Fabric, and Sizing

Welcome to the first sew along post! I’m happy to report that the Facebook group for the Sew Along is almost up to 800 members. Please join here if you’d like. It’s a great place to post photos, get advice, and generally cheer each other on.

In this post, I’ll be talking about supplies you need and then answering some frequently asked questions about things like pre-washing and picking a size.


  • The pattern for Butterick 6556
  • A yard or two of muslin (aka calico, or unbleached cotton) to make a fit test of the bodice with
  • Dress fabric in the amount listed for your size on the back of the envelope and on the yardage tab on the pattern page. Note that there are different requirements for border prints and “other fabrics,” and also for two different widths of fabrics (45″ and 60″, which are the two most common widths for garment fabrics). If you’re looking for good border prints, I have a bunch of my designs in my shop!
  • Lining fabric in the amount listed for your size. Only the bodice is lined, so you’ll need a yard or less of lining fabric.
  • Interfacing. The pattern calls for sew-in interfacing, but fusible would be fine too. Lightweight woven and tricot are my two favorite interfacings for garments. I avoid non-woven interfacing since it gives your gament a stiff, papery feel that I dislike.
  • An 18″ regular (not invisible) zipper. I use lapped zippers almost all the time for an authentic vintage look. You’ll also need a zipper foot for your machine. 
  • A hook and eye for the top of the zipper (I confess I never use these but I don’t want you to learn from my bad habits!)
  • All-purpose polyester thread to match your garment fabric.
  • Your usual sewing kit with pins, scissors, marking tools, etc. Make sure you have something to transfer pattern markings, like a tracing wheel and transfer paper, or a disappearing ink pen/chalk.


What are the best fabrics to use? 

I love this dress in cottons like sateen, broadcloth, and poplin. I specifically designed this dress for border prints like the ones below, and they look beautiful on the pleated skirt. I would avoid anything too slinky, like rayon or crepe, as a crisp fabric works best for details like the notched neckline and skirt pleats. Some silks and wools could work, but again, I would avoid anything too slippery or drapey.

For your lining, I would recommend a cotton fabric that feels good against your skin.

Should I pre-wash my fabric? 

Cottons are easy to pre-wash, so yes if that’s what you’re using! I’m using one of my Gertie cotton stretch sateens, and I like how they soften with machine washing and drying. My usual rule of thumb is to pre-wash if I intend to machine wash the garment after sewing. If I plan to dry clean or hand wash in cold water, it’s not as important.

What size should I make? 

The biggest piece of advice I can give you here is to go by the finished pattern measurements which are printed on the tissue paper (and I’ve made a chart as well, below). These measurements include the pattern ease, and are bigger than the body measurements on the size chart (found on the flap of the pattern envelope). This pattern includes 3″ of ease in the bust, and 2″ of ease in the waist for all sizes. If you like a fitted look, you will probably make a size smaller than you expect to from the size chart. Measure your bust and waist, holding the tape measure straight and snug. (Don’t worry about the hip measurement, as this skirt is very full.) Compare those measurements to the finished measurements to pick your size. For a fitted look, I would recommend 1″ of ease in the bust and waist. 

Hey, I made a chart with all the finished measurements for your reference!

What if I’m between sizes or two different sizes? 

Most people are–myself included! Let’s say you’re a 20 in the bust and a 22 in the waist. You can draw a line that gradually increases from the 20 to the 22 between the bust and waist. Just make sure to use the size 22 for the skirt!

What if I need an FBA?

If you’re a C cup or above, you will likely need to do an FBA (Full Bust Adjustment) for this pattern (more to come later this week). If that is the case, take your High Bust measurement (under your armpits, with the measuring tape above the fullest part of the bust). Use this number to pick your bust size, rather than your full bust measurement. Then we will add the necessary inches for your bust in the FBA process. For example: my upper bust is 35″ and my full bust is 38″. I will likely make a size 10 and gain 3″ in the bust in an FBA.

I think that’s it for now! Later this week we’ll be discussing fit changes and making a muslin to test your bodice fit.