Tag Archives: Simplicity 3688

Polka dot postmortem and new project preview

Now that the polka dot outfit has made its public debut (on Halloween, no less), it’s time to talk about what it was like to wear it.

It was conceived as a 1940s-era outfit. The skirt is from Simplicity 3688, a reproduction 1940s pattern, but altered for a contour waistband. The top is from Simplicity 4047 (out of print), a reproduction 1950s pattern. I have worn it out once, for our Mad Men Halloween at work.

The skirt is easy to wear. It’s probably just a smidge too big in the waist, but not so much that I gave it even one thought during the day. I’ve thought about stretching some elastic inside the waistband to make it flexible  (my waistline can vary about an inch within a single DAY, particularly when salty pizza is involved for lunch), but I’m not sure I want to mess up how tidy the whole thing is.

The top is surprisingly comfortable despite how fitted it is. I knew it was a little tight across the upper back, but this was not at all noticeable during a day spent sitting at a desk and occasionally walking to a copy machine. Even with the belt on, I was completely at ease. I guess if those fitted styles are fitted correctly, they can be worn with total comfort.

Also, I love-love-love the neckline! I plan to steal it for a dress some day.

1960s style was required for our Mad Men Halloween. I can’t do a credible job with 1960s hair, so here is a redo, a little more 1940s style.

Polka dot top and skirt, 1940s styling

Ah, this is how I intended to wear this outfit! I really like that $7 plastic rattan purse. Look closely. Can you see the polka dot trim on my shoes? No? Too bad — That was the inspiration for the whole outfit!

At a certain point on Halloween in my 1960s garb, I had to walk a few blocks through Downtown Sacramento. The only thing that made me at all self-conscious was the pair of white gloves tucked into my belt.

Now that I’ve seen it properly styled, I look forward to wearing this outfit again — but probably not until spring! I learned a LOT on this project, so this is overall a winner. Even though this “summer” outfit took me well into October to make!

Next up, a wearable muslin of Colette Patterns’ Sencha top.

Here is my mood board of the fun cotton I found.

Brown and aqua Sencha mood board

If you can’t tell, those crazy space-age shapes are aqua on a brown background. The buttons are aqua, too. I have a long brown A-line skirt I’ll wear this with.

I decided to do a wearable muslin because I don’t anticipate needing to alter this pattern all that much. According to the Colette Patterns’ site, the sizes are based on a C-cup; and actual bust measurement should be used when selecting a pattern. With tucks at the waistline, rather than darts to the bust, the construction should be unfitted enough in all the right places not to require much in the way of alterations. I’ll check the bodice for overall length — and see just where those tucks will release on me — but other than that, I may be good to go. Also, I note that the pattern does not call for interfacing in the button and buttonhole areas, which I find curious. I’ll be interfacing them anyway.

The Magic 8 Ball says “All signs point to yes” on this wearable muslin idea.

The “real” version will be in a navy silk with a gray floral design. I’m still pondering my way through the seam finishes on that one. The sleeve construction makes French seams impossible on the sides, so overcast may have to do, although I have crazy ideas about getting out my notes on couture and doing hand overcast seams. Insane, no? But maybe this silk doesn’t lend itself to that. I think pinking and stitching could be very pretty. And underlining in cotton batiste is still a possibility. Basically, the Sencha top in silk is one big silppery experiment that I am hoping results in a wearable garment. Time will tell  …

Fit and flattery

I’ve talked about the construction lessons learned during the making of the polka dot top and skirt. After two months of work, I also learned a few lessons about fit and flattery for my particular figure.

❦ Muslins are critical for me to get the proper fit on a closely fitted garment, but they are just as critical for checking proportions. I had to lengthen the bodice on the top, and that necessitated increasing the peplum length. Otherwise, it would have looked tiny. I increased the length of the peplum by 1½ inches, and another inch wouldn’t have hurt. I wouldn’t have even thought of that if I hadn’t made the muslin.

❦ Sleeves cut in one with the bodice are not my best look. My shoulders hunch forward a bit, which throws off the shoulder seam. This can be accounted for pretty easily with a set-in sleeve, but I have never found a successful way to deal with this on a sleeve that’s an extension of the bodice. No more of those, thank you.

❦ Fitted back darts really accentuate my slight case of scoliosis. That was an unpleasant surprise as I looked at the finished garment from the back. I couldn’t see it from the front, but maybe that’s just because I’m so used to seeing myself from the front. My waistline is not parallel to the floor, and my torso slants to one side a bit. I have no desire whatsoever to try to account for this with alterations. That would just be crazy, but a gathered waist might be in order. That’s a pretty easy adjustment to make to a pattern with waist darts.

❦ Big contrasting belts are not for me, but thin matching belts work. I’ve never had any waist definition and gave up belts years ago, but it turns out that if it’s the right kind of belt, I can wear it. That was a nice surprise since belts can be an important part of a vintage look.

❦ Speaking of no waist definition, I learned on the project just before this one that a straight waist, no matter how nice it looks on my dress form, doesn’t sit correctly on me. That’s why I made the polka dot skirt with a period-inappropriate-but-comfortable-for-me contour waistband. It came out a smidge big, but I plan to perfect that waistband and use it for all my pants and skirts.

❦ My tummy, on the other hand, is pretty well-defined. No need for additional bulk in that area, thank you very much. A side-zipper skirt works fine for me. And the next pair of pants I make will have a side zip as well.

Wow, did I learn a lot from this project

The polka dot skirt and top project took two months total. No wonder I’m over it! But now that it’s all done, it’s time to take stock of the lessons I learned. I learn something with every single project I make. Today, I’ll talk about construction revelations. Fitting issues are for another day.

❦ If you suspect you’ll need two spools of thread, buy them! I could have finished a week sooner if I’d bought two spools to begin with, but I thought I could get by. Really, with all those overcast seam allowances? The Sewing Gods had a good chuckle at that one.

❦ If you’ve made your own pattern, or are making significant structural changes to an existing pattern, write out your instructions ahead of time. At least twice, I had to stop, regroup and restrategize because I didn’t know how to proceed. I had almost sewed myself into a corner.

❦ Underlining increases the quality of a project. This was the first time I’ve done an underlining. It will not be the last. I love how it makes the inside look.

❦ Interfacing may not be needed if underlining is used. It certainly wasn’t necessary for my project, but I had already fused the interfacing. Softer edges would have been nice, but oh well.

❦ A serger is not necessary for a tidy looking inside. The overcast stitch on the Fancy Damn Sewing Machine finished the edges nicely. There are some threads poking out here and there because of course the sewing machine doesn’t trim the fabric, but to me that’s a fine tradeoff for keeping the serger in the back of my closet.

❦ Invisible zippers should be darker than the fashion fabric, not lighter. In theory, this should not matter because they are supposed to be invisible except the pull, but I haven’t reached that level of execution yet.

❦ Underarm zippers on a blouse go in upside down. Learned that one the hard way.

❦ Invisible zippers actually can be sewn in if you have already stitched the remainder of the seam. It’s not easy, but it can be done. Learned that one by necessity.

❦ Facings should be pin-fit into place with the facing on the inside, which is where it will be when the project is complete. I usually pin them into place with the facing on the outside because it’s easier, but I realized that that makes no sense whatsoever.

❦ Facings should not be the same size as the area being faced. Turn of the cloth must be accounted for so the facings lie smooth. Even if the fabric is thin. With trim inserted, an even smaller facing may be needed. Check the fit before sewing the facing pieces together. You may want to adjust by sewing larger seam allowances. I had to restitch my sleeve facings because the circumference was too big by about a half-inch.

❦ Catch-stitching is cool.

❦ Fun details on the inside make a project more special. I sewed the hem of my skirt lining with a decorative sitch in thread that matches the fashion fabric. I don’t know why I haven’t done that before. I love it.

❦ Making a matching belt is totally worth the effort! For kits and, even more importantly, excellent tutorials, check out A Fashionable Stitch. I followed the instructions exactly and am so happy with the result. I doubt I’ll ever make a dress with a defined waist without a matching belt. I’ve even started a vintage buckle collection to use on future projects.

❦ If you machine top-stitch a belt, start from the point and work toward the straight end. I did it the other way. The fabric shifted ever so much, so that the point has some excess fabric hanging off the end. Not much, just enough to annoy me if I think about it. But I’m not thinking about it. Really.

❦ Snaps are difficult to sew on neatly. They just are. The snap pieces I sewed onto the belt look pretty good, but I had to get out my thimble to make it happen. My thimble and I have never been close, but we are working on our relationship.

And, lastly …

❦ Do not accuse your kitty of stealing your supplies without proper evidence. Sewing Assistant Teacup was my No. 1 suspect when the leftover crochet lace trim for the sleeves went missing. I searched all over my sewing area. After I was all done with the project (of course), I found the missing trim hidden between two pieces of fabric for another project. I think I might have stashed it there so Teacup couldn’t get ahold of it. Ah, the irony.

Two-for-one sale on zipper insertions

Polka dot skirt in progress

The result of today's progress.

Today I got through a big chunk of the Simplicity 3688 1940s skirt. Now that I am using the pressing techniques of the Pressinatrix, it seems more sensible to finish my seams allowances before I sew the seams.

So, before sewing a stitch, I overcast all the vertical seam allowances of my skirt. Since it has six gores, that was 12 vertical edges, not even including the lining. This simple skirt is really going through the thread. Then I joined the three front panels, the three back panels and the right side seam. Lots of pressing in that scenario.

The left side seam is where the zipper goes. I hadn’t done an invisible zipper in forever, and I was never terribly proficient at them anyway, so I was excited and jumped right in. I was all pleased with myself when I held it up to my waist and looked in the mirror. It looked fantastic, but why did it seem short?

Oh no — the contour waistband!

I had changed the pattern to a contour waistband, and the zipper was supposed to go all the way to the top of the waistband. Time to get out the trusty tool that has helped me with pretty much every sewing project I have ever done — the seam ripper.

Fortunately, I had reinforced the zipper area with fusible interfacing. The seam came apart, the zipper came out, I put together the waistband and sewed it on.

Then I inserted the zipper again. Here is the result of zipper insertion No. 2:

Invisible zipper insertion

I followed the instructions inside the zipper package and left room at the top for a hook and eye.

As you can see, the zipper is not quite so “invisible.” I used my machine’s invisible zipper foot, and the first few stitches were a tad too close to the coils and caught them. (I had tried to iron the zipper flat like the instructions say, but it seemed quite impossible, so I gave up.) My needle position can be changed, so I moved it over two smidges (not sure what the needle positions are measured in). The needle still went through the small hole in the presser foot, but I guess it was a little too wide of the coils. I am still happy with how it turned out, though. Then I finished the seam, and it was time to do the lining.

But how is the lining going to attach? This is a good question. With a regular waistband, you sew the fashion fabric, insert the zipper, sew the lining, attach it at the top, then add the waistband.

But when the waistband is attached before the zipper is done … well, I’m at a bit of a loss. So, the plan is to attach the lining to the waistband facing. Then I’ll attach the fashion layer to the lining layer with the method shown in this tutorial on the Coletterie blog. Somehow, I will anchor the two layers together at the seam joining the waistband to the skirt. I might sew by hand between the layers, or from the inside of the skirt through the lining. The other option is stitching in the ditch from the outside. I hate stitching in the ditch. I might look OK on the front, but I don’t know how to keep the back aligned so it the stitching doesn’t look like it’s jumping all around inside.

Tomorrow, I’ve got the day off to wait for the installer to bring my new Fancy Damn Dishwasher. I should be doing some housecleaning, but no doubt instead I’ll be sewing.

By the way, my girlfriends and I did see The Help this weekend. I should have remembered a hankie! Well worth the high cost of going to the movies. Some slight changes from the book. Nothing too upsetting. I have a new heroine in Minny Jackson — a Sass Mouth with a no-hugs policy and a wicked chocolate pie!

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