RSS Feed

Tag Archives: Simplicity patterns

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, Old Time is still a-flying

Pretentious post title? Check.


I didn’t want to bring Robert Herrick into it, but considering the dress and the date, I couldn’t resist. Herrick’s “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time” undeniably has some creepy overtones. Yet the poem calls for a more deliberate enjoyment of fleeting moments, a perspective which is very relevant in this last week of August. Blooms, summers and lives all end. I’m beginning another busy semester of teaching, research and writing, and while that is exciting, I will miss mellow summer days.


Summer flowers may have an expiration date; the flowers on this dress do not. I adore the bold red flowers on this fabric, perhaps in part because I rarely go this bold with my clothing. The dress is made from stretch cotton from G Street Fabrics. The fabric is relatively heavy and not very drapey, so the finished result is more structural, especially in the bodice. I used Simplicity 1460 for the pattern (which I have made previously here). I used a lightweight, solid shirting for the blouse last time, and the pattern works well with both. Design features like the double darts are more subtle with the crazy flowers in this version.

I am super impressed with the versatility of Simplicity 1460. This dress has the same sleeve and neckline options as I used before but turned out as a very different garment. There are still other sleeve and neckline variations to the pattern which I might experiment with at some point.


The blouse pattern was very simple to convert into a dress pattern: I just extended the length of the peplum to 24 inches. The resulting skirt is pleasantly full without being heavy or overwhelming. Who wants to haul around a huge skirt that gets in the way? Not Me. My preference for skirts is based primarily on the fact that they are not trousers, so comfort and ease of movement are rather important to me. This dress would look cute in a shorter length as well, but the large scale fabric pattern demands a knee-length skirt (the flowers look huge and ridiculous with a shorter length).


After a few wears, it became apparent that I should have shortened the waist by an inch as it currently hits enough below my natural waist to be annoying. Since tearing the whole thing apart to fix this currently holds zero interest for me, the dress will be staying as is for the time being. Wearing a belt does help, and it makes for cheerful, comfy, and office appropriate summer wear. I have more completed summer projects to blog, but I’m starting to get the itch for cozy fall clothing. Cool weather can’t come soon enough!


Buttonholes and Polka dots: Simplicity 1590

Posted on

Waaaaay back in September of last year (2013) I was preparing for some major exams and frantically sewing as a distraction. The project in question was Simplicity 1590, a vintage reprint pattern for a blouse. The blouse was mostly finished in September, only making the buttonholes and sewing on the buttons remained, but this is where the project stalled. The exams loomed ever nearer, and I still hadn’t figured out how to work the buttonhole function on my sewing machine.


I have mentioned my struggles with the buttonhole function on this sewing machine before in passing, but I sheepishly omitted that there was a  project languishing for six months because I couldn’t figure out how to work the darn thing. I had something of a breakthrough while making the buttonholes on the red plaid coat (i.e., there were actual buttonholes), but i have since refined the process. While the buttonholes on the jacket are serviceable, I wasn’t satisfied with the quality or the reliability of the result.

simplicity 1590

yes, languishing, just like that

In case you were wondering, I did consult the manual, and tried every possible interpretation of directions which I am quite certain were poorly translated into English. Despairing, I made some bold and rebellious decisions. I would ignore the manual, and I would not use the buttonhole attachment. GASP! What blasphemy do I dare speak? Ignoring the directions AND not using the designated tools? Well as reckless as this may seem, using the standard presser foot seems to have done the trick – I can now reliably coax a nice buttonhole from my sewing machine.

Once buttonholes were attainable, this project wrapped up quickly. It has been sometime since I initially sewed the blouse, but I don’t remember any major issues in  making it up – the directions and construction are pretty straightforward. I do remember being rather hesitant about the peplum initially – it is rather… voluminous? I haven’t quite worked out how I want to wear the blouse. It does seem that the six months hanging unfinished in my closet actually benefited the final result. The drape of the peplum is smoother now that the fibers have had a chance to hang out and settle.

The blouse is made out of a lovely navy and white polka dot voile. I would suggest only using fabrics with significant drape for this pattern; I think the blouse is wearable only because it is a voile. As for the design? I love the smooth swoop of the neckline and the non-sleeve sleeves, but I am still not a huge fan of the voluminous peplum. I would duplicate the neckline and sleeves in another project, but not the rest of the blouse. That would take some major alterations, so it doesn’t seem likely right now.

DSCN4740What’s ahead? I’m knitting away at a baby sweater at the moment, and I recently finished two more versions of Simplicity 1460. After that? who knows. I’m getting in my sewing while I have time.


Simplicity 1460

Posted on

Simplicity 1460 is one of Simplicity’s reprints of patterns from previous decades. This blouse and tunic pattern from the 1950s has been updated so the pattern pieces and markings are familiar to modern sewers, but it is unclear whether or not adjustments have been made to reflect the difference in sizing systems. My only quibble with the pattern is a sizing one: the waist measurement listed on the pattern is larger than the actual waist measurement of the pattern pieces. It is not a huge difference, but if you choose your size based on Simplicity’s typically generous ease, you will be frustrated. I just sewed my waist seams with narrower seam allowances, and it all worked out.

Simplicity 1460 1



The design of this pattern, like most of these reprints, includes many delightful details that rarely show up in contemporary patterns. While there are options for multiple necklines, I used the scalloped neckline. The graduated scallops look unusual and tricky but really are not any more difficult than any other neckline facing. I would recommend tracing your stitchline for the neckline on the back of your facing to make things go smoother. The resulting scalloped edge is so pretty, and it even continues onto the back of the blouse! The scallop at the back of the neck is such a simple little detail, but it makes the design way more exciting.

My other suggestion regarding the scallops is that you trim the seam allowance close to the stitching rather than notching the seam allowance the way the directions suggest. Trimming rather than notching makes a HUGE difference in the smoothness of your results. I learned this only recently thanks to the detailed explanation offered on this post. The difference between a notched and a trimmed curve is immediately noticeable, and you will be wondering why you ever notched your seam allowances at all.

I love a scallop edge on pretty much anything, but the other design features of the pattern add to the charm. The pair of parallel darts look rather nifty. The peplum is not voluminous, so it is very subtle, comfortable and wearable. The not-sleeves are great because they give the look of a cap sleeve without the fuss of actually attaching a cap sleeve. I was somewhat apprehensive about this feature because my shoulders sometimes do odd things with cap sleeves, but these fit fine without adjustment. The only other change I made was making the buttonholes vertical rather than horizontal.


This blouse was made with another mystery fabric from the G Street Fabrics clearance area. It is a rather soft and lightweight baby blue shirting. As ever, the specific content is unknown, but it is substantially cotton. Now that I have made one of these blouses, I have a number of other versions in mind. There is already a nearly finished blouse in green, and I cut out a flowered dress using the same bodice but greatly extending the peplum to a skirt length. Once you have worked through the more unusual features of this pattern once, it actually sews up very quickly.

Sunny Summer Sundress: Simplicity 1606

Simplicity 1606 five

I will admit it; I might have a Simplicity pattern problem. For whatever reason, I tend to find Simplicity patterns more appealing than those from the other Big Four pattern companies (Butterick, McCall and Vogue). There is the added enticement that I have a pretty good idea of how a Simplicity pattern will fit me and what modifications might need to be made. But beyond even my general affection for Simplicity is my specific adoration of the “Amazing Fit” patterns. Amazing Fit patterns come with the standard “average” sized pattern pieces as well as “slim” and “curvy” options and cup-size specific pieces which make getting a proper fit much, much simpler. There are a number of complicated reasons for that, but the most important one is that “slim” and “curvy” pieces fit the same size frame (skeleton) as the “average” pieces while accommodating the various quirks of squishy human bodies. Could I get the same good fit from a standard “average” pattern? Certainly, but I am lazy and like it when other people do my math for me.


I was immediately drawn to Simplicity 1606 when it came out this past Spring. I love the classic lines of the dress as well as the halter neck and lace overlay variations included. It is a multi-tasking pattern which would work for a breezy summer sundress AND fancy formal wear. I did not realize at first that the pattern calls for boning in the bodice, which I will admit made me a bit concerned. But let’s be honest – an exotic new garment construction technique that I know nothing about is exactly what I want. You learn by doing and what’s life without a bit of adventure?

simplicity 1606

Oh hush, garment construction is definitely an adventure

Just to clarify, as this blog post will shortly become rife with double entendres, boning refers to flexible, plastic reinforcements sewn into the linings of garments to provide structure. These structural supports were originally made from whalebone, or wood or similar materials for the purpose of changing the shape of the human form through corsets. The shape of corsets changed with the centuries and the fashions (and theories of health), but they were an important component in supporting some of the more massive skirts that have at times been in vogue. In the case of my sundress, the boning in the bodice holds the dress up; the neckties could be comfortably omitted.

simplicity 1606 back

As this sundress was something of an experiment with new construction techniques, I made it with free fabric – always a good idea for experiments. This dress started life as a twin bed sheet which appeared to have been used as a dropcloth at some point. Lucky for me, it was possible to cut around the occasional drop of blue paint. The old cotton is soft and thin from years of use, but the white floral pattern on a buttery yellow background is still charming. I couldn’t find the narrow boning called for in the pattern, which was problematic as the pattern pieces only allowed just enough room for the boning and this style dress needs a snug fit. The pattern suggests using 3/8 inch width boning, but I could only find 1/2 inch width. My potentially ill-advised solution? The boning I used is made with a flat plastic core surrounded by a fabric casing. I ended up taking the narrow plastic bit out of the fabric casing and just using that part. I was afraid it would be more prone to stabbing me in the side when worn, but this has yet to be a problem.

Simplicity 1606 three

The actual construction was very straightforward. There was very little fussy easing, the seams all matched, the neck ties were simple to attach, and the lining kept the bodice neat without any need to finish many seams. The trickiest part was sewing in the boning, but even that was simple. The bodice is lined and the boning goes in the lining seam allowances. The instructions have you sew the lining together just as you do the bodice, but then you sew your seam allowances together to make a pocket for the boning. You then cut the boning to the length of your seam, slip it in the pocket, sew along the end, and repeat for the next one. Since the boning comes packaged in a coil, it has a tendency to curl, so I just turned the curved piece in to mirror the body line. I am no expert, but it certainly seems to be working! I imagine this pattern would be easy to adjust for a wide variety of different sizes and shapes. The only adjustment I made was to take the dress in a bit at the top of the side seams to get a snug fit and keep the dress in place.

Simplicity 1606 one

The finished product is shockingly comfortable. I wore it all day at the office without any problems, though that did mean 10+ hours with minimal slouching. Huzzah for good posture! The neck ties are long enough without being too long. The skirt is unlined and my fabric is very thin, so I do need to wear a slip with this dress.

Would I make this dress again? In a heartbeat, but for the sundress version, I might try adding some elastic at the back instead of using boning to hold the dress up. While comfortable, the boning goes against the spirit of an easy, breezy summer sundress. The sleeveless version would be wearable year-round, so I may go that route next time.

For now, the next occupier of this space remains unclear. A busy school year looms ominously, but I’m hanging out in my sundress of sunshine and denial.

A Simpler Simplicity 2154

Posted on


Back when I scored the gorgeous burgundy shot cotton that went into Mom’s birthday blouse, I also purchased the end of another bolt of shot cotton. (I may be bitter that Exquisite Fabrics moved from Georgetown to Culpepper, VA, but that moving sale is the gift that keeps on giving). This teal cotton only amounted to an uneven yard of 60 inch wide fabric, but it was so lovely that I held out for a project that could be a wardrobe staple. The burgundy shot cotton made up beautifully into a fairly structured blouse for Mom, so I knew I wanted to make something structured and tailored for myself.


When I made Simplicity 2154 before I loved how it came out, though in my previous attempt I cut the pieces a size too big and wrestled unnecessarily with fitting. I cut out the correct size this time, and lo and behold, it fits without adjustment. (On the sensible and mature hand, I learned many useful altering skill by starting with the wrong pattern size. On the sane hand, UGH.) Arranging the pattern pieces to cut them out required creativity as the pattern calls for just over a yard of fabric and my piece was just under a yard. You can usually squeeze all the pieces into less fabric than is called for on the pattern packet, but these pattern pieces called for a lot of squeezing. The element of suspense just makes sewing more exciting, right? There wasn’t enough fabric to cut out the bias bow pattern piece, but this was more a happy accident than tragedy. The detail of the mustard blouse for which I bear the least affection is the actual, rather floppy, bow. Minus the bow but with the “knot,” the blouse looks more stream-lined and modern.


This sleeker blouse also reprises my favorite feature of Simplicity 2154 – the zipper. Gasp! Did I say that my favorite part was the ZIPPER? Aren’t zippers the most obnoxious step in sewing a garment? Putting them in nicely is fussy and miserable, and they are installed near the end when you just want the project finished and wearable already. Placing the zipper as the best part of this pattern is a rather bold claim.

Now that is a gorgeous zipper if I do say so myself.

But I have my reasons. Prior to sewing my first Simplicity 2154, I had always installed zippers by following the instructions that come on your average Coats and Clark zipper package. For a standard zipper this meant either a centered or a lapped application, but in both cases the seam where the zipper would be installed was sewn shut and the zipper was stitched in place essentially blind. This is a perfectly reasonable way to sew in a zipper, but I always disliked not being able to see what I was doing. For the Simplicity 2154, I followed the sewing directions in the pattern to the letter (which may be more rare than I am willing to admit) and thereby discovered a completely different approach. The pattern indicates that the seam should not be sewn shut; rather, the seam allowances should be folded under and pressed, and the zipper sewn in place accordingly. For whatever reason, this approach makes much more sense to my brain, and it obviously gave sharp results.


Also, the whole pull-tab at the bottom seam design is fantastic. I have an illustrious career of getting myself tangled in garments with side zippers. The bottom opening zipper, however, combined with the button opening at the back of the neck have thus far compensated for graceless dressing on my part.

I’ve been wearing this blouse like crazy at the office this summer. It is polished and professional but cool and comfortable, AND it is such a pretty, versatile color. This blouse makes dressing professionally for DC summer bearable.

This long holiday weekend (huzzah!) has meant a bit of time to blog and sew (and pretend I shouldn’t be studying instead). I am working out how to sew in the new apartment without losing my mind, disrupting the roommate, or accidentally killing her cat. I made the very grownup decision to purchase an actual, life-size ironing board. There is a proper, if pricey, fabric store a twelve minute drive from my new apartment. I am cautiously considering all of the above as positive developments.

Up next? There may be a sundress, sewn from a bed sheet, with boning in the bodice. Just saying.

Mustard and Navy Blue Polka Dots

Posted on

Have you ever had an outfit which was so delightful you wanted to wear it every single day? But because it is so much fun to wear, you instead saved it for days that would be “worthy” of it? I find myself doing that with my mustard sleeveless blouse and navy and white polka dot skirt. After all, I wouldn’t want to waste mustard and navy blue polka dots on an average day. These lovelies have been finished and in use for some time, but are only now making it to the blog because pictures were pending.


The skirt is the remarkable Vogue 7798 which I used when reinventing my bridesmaid dress into a skirt here. Making the skirt again has proven the pattern to be both reliable and versatile. The polka dot fabric is a polyester with a bit of texture to it, so it is stiffer than the fabric used in the green skirt, but it is still quite drapey. I suspect that fabric with a fluid drape is essential with this pattern. I cut the top layer to be two inches shorter than the bottom layer and finished both layers with narrow hems. This gives the hems some visual interest which might otherwise be missing when both layers of the skirt come from the same fabric. I was uncertain about how to install the zipper, but ended up just doing a standard lapped zipper with both layers of polka dot fabric held together. The fabric is thin enough and non-slippery enough that I didn’t have any problems setting the zipper in this way or with sewing with it in general.


The end result is a great skirt which, like a good pair of jeans, works with nearly anything. The navy blue polka dots are more versatile than the lovely but unusual bridesmaid green. I have found the green skirt a challenge when looking for color combinations that don’t make me cringe. There are few rather gorgeous ways to pair it, but the green is definitely not a neutral. Despite the polka dots, the neutral navy of this skirt makes getting dressed in the morning quick and simple.


The mustard blouse was started at the height of my bow blouse phase. It is the blouse from Simplicity 2154, a set of 60s reproduction patterns including the blouse, a jacket and a skirt pattern. Initially, the blouse fit strangely because I made it a size too big. It then hibernated until there was time to take it in. Some blouses can be worn oversized without a problem, but between the bright color, the collar and the bow, there was just too much going on to be wearable. Also? sleeveless blouses are much more comfortable when they actually fit properly.

The blouse includes a number of finishing details which I suspect are relics of what was more standard sewing practice in the ’60s. Instead of the expected armhole facing, the armholes and neck edge are finished with a bias strip folded in half, attached like a facing and then stitched down for a much cleaner finish. The side zipper opens to the bottom of the blouse, which is again unusual in modern patterns, but makes the blouse easier to get in and out of. The bow itself and the little button closure at the back of the neck all combine to make a fine garment with sharp details. I learned several new finishing techniques while making this blouse.


Following the pattern instructions to the letter (which I rarely do) proved highly rewarding in this case. The only real change I made aside from alterations for fit was leaving out the interfacing on the bow. The interfacing is what makes fabric stiff enough to hold a shape, as it does in the collar, but I wanted a drapey bow. By sewing the bow without first applying interfacing to the fabric, the bow looks softer and a bit less conspicuous than it would be otherwise.

The blouse is made from a mustard polished cotton, a thin but crisp cotton fabric. Polished cotton is a bit shiny from how it is processed, which is where the fabric get its name. The fabric for both the blouse and the skirt came from a wholesale fabric warehouse in Allentown, PA. Nick of Time Textiles’ website is here . They do most of their sales in huge quantities online, but my mother and I stopped by the warehouse on a whim last summer. You can purchase fabric in person and in smaller quantities, but they definitely prefer larger amounts. I think we ended up getting ten yards of both fabrics, as well as some others.

Visiting the warehouse was… an adventure. Mom and I had no idea what we were getting into and picked a swelteringly hot summer afternoon to visit. It turned out that the fabric was all on the third floor of a large, un-air-conditioned warehouse, which was reachable only by climbing some impressively steep stairs. We wandered around a warren of massive bolts of fabric, slightly freaked out, until we got to the main office. There are racks and racks of fabric samples which represent the full contents of the warehouse, and, after sorting out what you would like, you request the fabric and quantity desired and someone retrieves and cuts it for you. Everyone was friendly and helpful, but it is definitely not the place for the faint of heart or the inexperienced sewers. Also, I would avoid visiting on a hot summer day as it is difficult to make fabric decisions when your brain is cooking. But if you are feeling adventurous, I would definitely recommend a visit – they have high quality fabrics at great prices.


May has been busy and this Summer promises more of the same, but I have been binge-sewing since the semester ended. There is a seasonably irrelevant sweater finished and at least one more sleeveless blouse ahead. Stay tuned!

Simplicity 1699: I Know Where All the Flowers Have Gone

Hint: They are all here.

DSCN3558I got some fabric for my birthday. It arrived as a little square of adorableness in the mail, but the full sized piece lived in Pennsylvania while I furiously researched and wrote through the tail end of the semester. We met properly during Christmas break. It is a silky cotton print my mother found in a quilt shop in New York, but it feels more like a lawn than like a quilting cotton. The cheery apple green and the white flowers with multi-colored centers were begging for an awesome dress pattern. I dithered a bit, but think I found one in the new Simplicity 1699. The pattern actually includes a dress, a jacket, a blouse, and a pair of pants, all of which I may try making at some point. The jacket in particular looks simple and sharp.

simplicity 1699 seaming

But to stay on topic, the dress is rather simple. It has a fullish skirt which sits at the natural waist and princess seams on the bodice, but the somewhat unusual part is the raglan sleeves. These were quite a bit of fun to make because for once I wasn’t easing in the sleeve cap on yet another set-in sleeve. The raglan shape, which makes the shoulder and the sleeve all in one piece, just avoids that drama altogether. The pattern tells you to do an odd little folded-under hem on the sleeves, but it comes out with a charming split finish.

Simplicity 1699 Green sleeve

My only significant modification to the pattern was to drop the neckline one inch all around. Frankly, I could have done more and may next time I make the dress… either that or I’m toying with the idea of a “V” at the back neck. The need to lower the neckline became immediately apparent when I first tried the dress on.DSCN3565That’s a bit too 60s housewife for me. Alternately, if you share my context, that’s a very, very good imitation of Conservative Mennonite fashion. While there is a place for both of these, neither were remotely where I was aiming. To correct this, I simply drew a line one inch from the existing neckline, cut the excess off, and finished the neckline as per the pattern. I’m rather happy with it now – it preserves the basic look of the dress while avoiding the awkwardness of the too high neckline. I know there are perfectly lovely examples of clothing with super high necklines, but personally, I prefer a bit of collarbone showing (gasp!).

simplicity 1699 necklineThe dress zipped together quite quickly – my biggest difficulties were purely a result of failing to read the pattern package correctly. Based on the many sewing patterns I have recently modified by taking out 2-3 inches at center back, I decided to try making the next size down to begin with. It worked like a charm, the bodice fits perfectly, and I feel rather silly for all the fussing and adjusting I’ve been doing to get patterns to fit when I was just making the wrong size. However, being the the paranoid sort, I triple-checked the hip measurement on the skirt to make sure it would fit. The dress has a rather full skirt, so a problem in this area seemed unlikely, but it never hurts to check, especially when sewing a different size than usual, right? Well this time it did, as I mistakenly assumed that the listed hip measurement was for the skirt when I was actually looking at the hip measurement for the pants.

Simplicity 1699 green flowers

Now Full Skirt hip measurement > Slim Fit Pants hip measurement, or at least it should be by quite alot. I took one look at the pants measurement, thought it was the skirt measurement and thought yeah, that’s not going to work. In a move of total brilliance, I then added width to the existing skirt pattern piece, cut it out, sewed it up, tried it on, and promptly took out all the fullness I had added in because it made the bottom part of the dress fit strangely. All rather silly on my part, but easily fixed. I would like to say that I will now be more careful, that it won’t ever happen again, but that would be a complete lie. Here’s to recklessly altering patterns to make pointless work for yourself!

simplicity 1699 kick

I think this dress is the sort of thing that begs to be worn while frolicking in a field of daffodils. As January has a shortage of daffodils and pleasant weather, it was a bit of a challenge getting halfway decent pictures. Mom and I ended up taking pictures on a darkly overcast day of green clothing in a green room – it was not the best of plans. I am, however, looking forward to wearing my dress frequently as it warms up into Spring and those daffodils start growing. All the flowers should be more readily located by then.

%d bloggers like this: