Sewing success at last!
I am basically overjoyed to say that my most ambitious sewing project to date was not an abject failure! My Simplicity Sew Simple 1989 dress pattern took many long hours, and yes I did bleed at one point, but I now have a piece of clothing that I made myself! Instead of a shift dress, I shortened the pattern to a long top. I saw this dress on Sew My and since it looked great and featured a simple design I wanted to try to make it. I decided to make a shirt instead of a dress because I don’t wear dresses too often. For a top, I needed 2 yards of fabric. I used my new brown floral Lisette cotton sateen fabric. I had just enough… If you are tall or are making a larger size, buy more fabric.
I did make a practice version/ muslin before making this shift dress using better fabric. I used some quilting cotton fabric I had to test out the construction process and the new techniques. Because this dress pattern features an extremely simple skirt and waist (with nothing to do but straightforward sewing and hemming), I only used the muslin to practice on the top half of the dress. My muslin sewing practice was to try out three different sewing techniques I had never tried before. I learned how to sew bias tape for the neckline, how to make bust darts, and how to sew sleeves. I am super glad I made the muslin, because it helped me work out the kinks on the difficult parts (especially attaching the sleeves) and let me see that my chosen size would fit just fine. I did not slipstich anything because I don’t know how to do that and I was feeling overwhelmed.
How to Sew Bias Tape
Using bias tape for the dress neckline definitely had me confused. The purpose of the bias tape on the neckline is to create a simple neckline hem that is not bulky or awkward. The single-fold bias tape also gives the neckline substance and structure so it stays up and in place when you are wearing it. This would be especially important for slippery or flimsy fabrics such as satin or polyester. As it is, the neck is quite wide so I am glad for this extra structure.
The tutorial on how to sew bias tape (single fold) by craftstylish.com really helped me. I basically had no idea what bias tape was or how to sew it, and the Simplicity pattern instructions do not say. Thanks to this sewing project, I now feel pretty comfortable sewing on single-fold bias tape. I even added extra bias tape to the project, as I sewed it on the sleeves too.
Easing in the Shirt Sleeves
I can’t lie. Attaching the sleeves to the shirt was a horrible horrible process. Because the sleeves on this shirt have a wider circumference than the armhole opening (apparently those in the know call this the armscye) you have to slide the fabric of the arm along baste stitching in order to evenly distribute the extra length along the shoulder portion of the arm fabric. In this way you are supposed to shorten the circumference of the sleeve where it attaches to the body (especially the shoulder), without creating puckers and tucks. Once you have created evenly distributed tension, and you can’t see any weird tucks, you are ready to sew. This is called easing in sleeves. It is not easy at all. It should be called difficulting in the sleeves. (Ok, yes I know what ease means).
My sleeves didn’t turn out perfect, despite my best efforts. Oh well. At least I jumped right in to a project that has sleeves, so I don’t have to be afraid to try it again. I wish I had seen this tutorial on setting in sleeves on Amanda’s Adventures in Sewing… next time I have to try easing in sleeves I will check here for tips.
Sewing Bust Darts
The bust seems didn’t come out perfectly even, but they are fine. I don’t look misshapen or anything. I think the large scale print of the fabric will hide a slight imperfection in this case.
And of course this dress (shirt) is quite loose fitting, so the bust darts aren’t on display. They do give the dress some much needed shape though. Sewing a straight dart is straightforward, though my accuracy can’t be counted on at this point. Coletterie.com has a dart tutorial that was clear and helpful.
And in conclusion…
I would definitely make this pattern again. I like the Simplicity Sew Simple pattern line, and I am going to look for an actual blouse pattern. Using this pattern to make a casual summer shirt would be perfect. I would love to sew the actual 1989 shift dress some time, but for now I will concentrate on shirts. I saw this dress on Sew Much Style, and I love the idea of using this dress pattern to make a little black dress– always a good standby.