Simplicity Sewing Challenge

This summer I entered the Simplicity Sewing Challenge. And it was a lot of fun!!!

To enter, I simply had to email Simplicity and request my free pattern (Simplicity 1458) – then make it up in the fabric of my choice. Easy enough, it would seem…

Simplicity 1458 is a knee-length A-line summer dress with a high neckline and unusual princess-seamed panels that sweep away from the centre. The pattern gives three different styling options. View A has short sleeves with a small triangular cutaway detail, view B has no sleeves, and piping inserted into the princess seams to provide definition, while view C has no sleeves and a cute little Peter Pan collar. Looking at the pattern envelope, I wasn’t sure I particularly liked this dress, but it had enough interesting details that I knew I would enjoy making it.

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As you can see from the photograph, this is one of Simplicity’s Amazing Fit patterns. I’ve seen these before, but have never tried them, so I was keen to get started! I was very curious about how the different cup sizes and fit options would work, and whether the fit would be better than a standard Simplicity pattern.

After much hemming and hawing, I decided to make View A (with sleeves), but also to add the collar from View C. This was meant to be a challenge, after all, so I wanted to try something new. I’ve never made a dress with a Peter Pan collar, and this seemed like a good place to start.

As for fabric, my initial thought was to use a pretty yellow floral Liberty lawn, with a co-ordinating coral-coloured collar…

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… but then I remembered the glorious pale pink double gauze I had recently bought to make some pyjamas with. I’d never sewn with double gauze before, but the fabric itself was as soft as a feather and as light as air, and I realised it would look divine made up into a summer dress. Especially if I paired it with a delicate off-white lace for the collar. How difficult could it be???

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And so I set to work. I took my measurements and compared them to the finished garment measurements given in the pattern. To be honest, I was expecting to have to cut somewhere around a D cup and for a curvy figure, but there I was, bang in the middle of ‘ordinary’ – with a standard B cup and a slim fit. So no real difference to a regular Simplicity pattern, at least for me. And that in itself is very useful to know!

Now, the instructions would have you cut straight out of your fashion fabric, and they specify extra seam allowances in key areas to allow you to adjust the fit as you go. But when I’ve tried this in the past, it’s always ended badly. I’m a funny shape, and I usually have to make a number of adjustments to any pattern, so I now always make up a toile (or fitting muslin) in inexpensive white fabric to perfect the fit before I cut into my precious fashion fabric. This also allows me to work out any new techniques (such as putting in a collar, or the triangular cut-out on the sleeves), and thus to prevent any costly errors!

So I made my initial pattern adjustments (adding an inch at the waist, grading from a size 12 bust to a size 14 waist and hips), and made up my toile. In the end, I didn’t need to change that much at all. I added a little more room at the bust, took in a good few inches over the hips, and made some minor adjustments to the sleeve placement, but all in all I found very little difference to the fit of a regular Simplicity pattern.

And this is what I made 🙂

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Front view of dress

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Side view, with the triangular cut-out detail on the sleeve

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Another side view – loving that triangle detail!

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Back of dress

Collar details

Check out that superb seam matching!!!

I had been planning to line this dress, but as the double gauze has, by its nature, 2 layers of fabric, I decided that a lining wasn’t needed. And I’m so very glad that I left it out because, truthfully, I think it would have added too much weight when I was wearing it and could have distorted the way the dress hangs.

As for the seams, I finished them simply with my overlocker; I do prefer a French seam where possible, to give the inside of a garment a clean finish, but the princess seams were way to curved for that, and, in any case, I think it would have added too much bulk. I did, however, hem the skirt by hand, as is my wont.

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So, after all that, what did I learn from taking part in this sewing challenge?

First and foremost – I love this dress!

I learnt that double gauze feels divine, but can be a complete nightmare to sew with. The two layers have a tendency to shift as you sew, no matter how well you pin. There were points during the garment construction that I felt like throwing it all in the lake and reverting to my original plan of using lovely, well-behaved Liberty fabric. And you’d jolly well better get it right first time, because it’s next to impossible to unpick any problem areas as the fabric is so temperamental. So baste, baste and baste again! And use a walking foot, if you have one…

I learnt that wearing a garment made from double gauze is like wearing air! It is so so comfortable and cool! And here in Switzerland, we have horribly hot summers so dresses that feel like air are a good thing 🙂

(Incidentally I also learnt that double gauze creases and crumples if you so much as look at it! For the pictures above, I pressed the whole dress not 5 minutes before the photos were taken, but after a short walk down to the garden of our apartment building it looked as if I’d slept in it!)

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I learnt that putting a Peter Pan collar on a dress isn’t as tricky as it looks, even if I do make it out of lace, and it can really add that extra something to a garment.

I learnt that, for me, the Amazing Fit patterns are no different to a regular Simplicity pattern, but I can see how the different cup size and fit options would work well for people with different body shapes.

And finally, I learnt that picking the right fabric can transform a pattern, and make something that initially seemed unpromising into a garment that will be worn time and time again.

I really enjoyed making this dress, and it is destined to become a new favourite pattern – in fact, I’m already planning my next version in yellow floral Liberty with a coral coloured collar 🙂

 

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