Simplicity Sew Simple 2017
I made Simplicity Sew Simple 2017 Misses’ Dress recently. This dress is comfy and cute, and very casual. Regular readers know that I need garments with some sort of waist definition/structure if I am going to look my best. This dress doesn’t have much of that, but since I am a beginner sewist, I am happy to work my way up to making more form-fitting garments. Plus, I wanted a comfortable dress to wear around the apartment in hot weather. I used a blue and white linen/rayon blend, which I washed and dried in the washing machine and dryer, instead of dry cleaning it before cutting. I knew this would be a casual dress, and I do not want to be bothered with dry cleaning it. I’ll probably end up just hand washing it.
Changes I made: I shortened it quite a bit- maybe a little too much, but this is mostly a housedress, so I don’t want to be too dowdy! It would be very easy for me to lengthen it if the length starts to bother me. I left off all of the trim- all I could find in the proper size was rickrack, which looks a little too homemade prairie dress for me. Dollar Dress Friday also left off the trim, and wears her dress with a red belt to make it more form fitting. Cute!
Simple Life Simple Home made two versions of Simplicity 2017- the first was too small. She made the second one according to her measurements. It was on the big side, especially under the arms. She fixed this problem by adding a dart under each arm. She also left the trim off of the second dress- it seems like a trend!
The ties were difficult to turn, even with a loop turner, because of the fabric. So, some parts of the ties are a little frayed and tired looking.
I did not attach the tie straps evenly- I did my best to attach them correctly, but for some reason, it didn’t occur to me that I should compare them before sewing, then move one up or down. Opps!
The far, far larger problem is a fold of fabric that developed when I sewed the one side of the bodice to one of the side front sections.
It’s very small on the front side, but quite large on the backside:
I’m not sure what caused it the fold- I think it’s possible that I should have had the bodice/front piece on top of the front/side piece when I was sewing (step 15- or did I mess up on step 19?), instead of the other way around, because the bodice piece is more curved than the other piece- but I’m not sure. To my credit, the first time it happened I ripped out the stitches and re-did the seam, so it’s not like I’m wantonly ignoring mistakes. Unfortunately, my rose-colored glasses must have kicked in the second time I sewed it, because I didn’t notice the extra fold then. If it was just the tiny extra fold on the the front of the dress, I really wouldn’t mind. But, the fold makes the two sides of the bodice slightly uneven. The collar sits higher, and there’s a bit more of my near-breast on the side and the front exposed then I would like. It’s not a fatal flaw, just a little annoying. Since I won’t be wearing this anywhere fancier than the local convenience store, I’m OK with it.
I’ve already gotten a chance to wear the dress! We had some warm weather last week, and the dress was fabulously comfortable. The directions were mostly clear. I ignored the directions for gathering, which are not be sufficient to teach someone how to gather, and just used my gathering foot. If you don’t know how to gather and don’t have a gathering foot, sew4home.com has a nice tutorial.
I have worked long and hard on my latest project: Very Easy Vogue 8631, a pleated wrap dress. This dress pattern offers two versions: long sleeved and short sleeved. I decided to make the short sleeved version.
I have read quite a bit of the Colette Sewing Handbook. In particular, I read about altering patterns before making this vogue wrap dress. I am so glad that I got this book because it really shows how if you learn how to sew you can customize the fit of your clothes. In fact, there are standard alterations that many home seamstresses find that they routinely make on the clothes that they sew. Simple pattern alterations will make a huge difference on fit!
I had read that this dress pattern sizing runs very big! I decided to cut a smaller size for my first muslin. This size clearly did not fit me at all. It was too tight around the waist but had a ton of extra fabric on my upper back. It looked like I stuck a balloon between my shoulder blades. Hmm, giant hunchback? Not a great look on me.
I made a second muslin, armed with the pattern alteration tips from the Colette Sewing Handbook. I made the waist bigger, cut off about 4 inches from the length, and shortened the bodice. The resulting dress fit a lot better!
Because I was feeling ambitious, I also cut back on the three pleats on the side of the dress that is closest to the body. I made the dress so that the bottom layer of the wrap has only one pleat on the bodice and on the skirt. This side of the dress is covered by the second wrap part of the dress. The top layer has plenty of pleating in my opinion. I don’t need two full layers of puffy pleating on my stomach. My stomach is puffy enough and I don’t need to add more.
I decided to go ahead and make the dress using the fabric I bought. Unfortunately, the seams for the bodice and the skirt part do not line up correctly as a result of my pattern alterations. Adjusting the waist and length changed where the pleats and darts occur on the dress, something I should have paid more attention to on the muslin. I hand sewed on the hook and eye closures for the waist over and over again until I finally attached them where they wouldn’t show.
Despite my mistakes, I was happy to rush off to try on the dress. “Great”, I thought. “Its not perfect but I made a dress!” Then I started to wonder why the dress looked so familiar. “Do I already own something like this? No, I don’t think so…” Looking at myself in the mirror, under the harsh florescent lights, I looked tired and haggard. I looked sick. The pale blue green dress and my unhealthy appearance looked terrible. Then it occurred to me: I had sewn myself a fancy hospital gown.
The lesson here: Get new lighting. Also, if I have to go to the hospital I will be the most stylish patient around. Thankfully, the fabric color looks much better under different lighting conditions.
Luckily, I knew that I would likely mess up this sewing project, so I had used clearance fabric. No big loss, and lots of useful experience. I will make this dress again, but I will redraft the pattern so the pleats and darts match, and so that the bodice is longer (my fault for cutting it). I will need to experiment with my pattern alterations for a better fit. I traced the pattern instead of cutting into the tissue paper, so its no problem to try again.
Ultimately, I think this dress could work for me. Green Apples made an absolutely gorgeous version. She paired it with a matching belt, something that I will consider. Also, Lazy Stitching made a beautiful version of this dress. The dress looks great on her: its quite figure-flattering, in my opinion.
Since I am petite, I often find that many clothes don’t quite hang right. Of course I find that regular-length pants are much too long and always need to be hemmed. Thankfully I have started to become comfortable with the idea of hemming my own jeans.
On some tops and shirts, the shoulder straps are simply too long. This means that the cut on the front of a shirt is sometimes much too low. Its not just a matter of too much cleavage- its really a matter of avoiding an unflattering fit. I ran into this problem when trying on a dress for an upcoming wedding. The dress (Donna Ricco ‘flourishing floral’) fit well everywhere except my chest. Because the straps were too long, the top portion of the dress just looked weird.
I decided to alter the dress myself. But to be honest, the thought of cutting the shoulder straps is too much of a commitment for my novice sewing skills. I was afraid of ruining the dress just through my inexperience. I decided to alter the shoulder straps in a way that would at least be salvageable if I made a terrible mistake.
So instead of cutting and resewing the shoulder straps, I simply pinned the center of the straps right side together and baste stitched it in about half an inch, resulting in shoulder straps that were shortened by about an inch or so each.
There is an extra flap of strap fabric inside of the dress on my shoulders, but it lies securely flat when I am wearing the dress. I used baste stitches so I could check to make sure that the altered length of the straps would be okay. Once I tried the dress on to make sure that it fit better, I stitched the length permanently. Since the dress is a satin polyester, I used a thinner needle than for my regular cotton sewing projects.
I bet that any experienced sewer would be horrified at my shoddy workmanship. But the dress fits better and I feel good knowing that once I am a more experienced sewer I can fix it permanently, and actually alter it the right way.
Of course, eventually I will need a better way to alter shoulder straps. This complete guide to altering ready to wear clothes by Craftsy shows how to get professional quality results when you want to shorten a shoulder strap, even if the dress or top has a lining.
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.