I discovered Simplicity were hosting a Blogging Challenge about 4 weeks ago, feeling brave I thought I would enjoy the challenge. I liked the Vintage Category and thought this pattern would be the best choice.
I love the 1960’s its all about the cut and simple lines. This is the era that gave us the A Line skirt, which suits all body shapes. It is also the era of black and white, geometrics, using the new man made fibres developed in the 1950’s – silver and metallic fabrics were popular.
The pattern history tells us that the ‘young’ 70 million teenagers became the fashion leaders for the first time in history – influenced by the Beatles and the androgynous silhouette of twiggy came to the fore, which still influences fashion today. Simplicity introduced this pattern for the new Teenage Market, that could be made quickly as the jiffy term implied. It consisted of three main pattern pieces with a belt option and arm facings.
To be honest I was a little worried about this pattern, I am no spring chicken! I am more Marylin Monroe than Twiggy, this pattern challenge should be how to fit a circle into a rectangle!
I am very busty, (G cup) with a small frame 34 and short 5’2. I know from experience that the bust point needs lowering by around 4 cm. (I blame being over 40 and my daughter! ) I decided to alter the bust point straight away and then make the toile.
It is a simple process,
- Lay the patten across your body and mark your bust point, (your nipple!).
- You don’t want darts to finish at the bust point (it would be a little hello boys!) usually about 5cm 2inches below retains your modesty.
- Cut the dart out then move it down so that it points to your bust point.
- Fill the space created with some of the excess tissue paper from the pattern.
It is surprising how this small step can make a huge difference to the fit of the garment.
I have become quite adept at noticing small details on pattern envelopes.
The gathering shading at the base of this illustration indicated to me that this pattern was quite straight at the bottom. The View C in particular shows just how rectangular this style is.
Not good news if you are curvy! As you can see from the toile there is a huge gap at the bottom I had to open the seam in order to get the top over ‘Doris’.
I am an hourglass – I have noticed with age that my dimensions have changed – my bust has grown in proportion to my hips but I have a relatively small waist and a smaller than average back. I am also short waisted which means that my curves are rather extreme!
Adapting the pattern to create a more defined waist
If I was to make this top without these adaptations I would end up looking at least four sizes bigger as it would finish at my hip line (the widest part of my body) and hide my small waist. I decided to cut the top at the waistline so I can tailor it more to my body shape.
You can see just how deep the side darts are and the large side seam allowance I need to alter the line of this top to enhance my shape rather than hide it.
These side darts really work beautifully – a wonderful find as I have been using waistline darts up to now.
By making these adaptations my top will now resemble views A and B, which is more flattering for my body shape.
Lowering the Neckline
This style includes a boat neck which was a big feature of the 1960’s.
It was important to check that the front neckline would sit on my collarbone.
I had to lower the neck line by 10cm and draw a new line using my french curve on the pattern.
I have a full bust in contrast the top of my chest is quite small. In order to get a better fit I pinch out a tiny 0.5cm dart at the neck edge.
It helps the neckline to lay flat by removing excess fabric.
Simply cut the neckline towards the waist around 20cm and then overlap the edges.
If you have a broader chest then open up the edges to give more room.
Changing the back zip
I am not a fan of back seams, not only are they difficult to do up by yourself, but it creates a pattern match challenge which breaks up the back of the garment.
I decided to adapt this top pattern and use a side invisible zip. Since I had a lot of excess fabric at the sides anyway, I would not need to add any more to the seam allowance.
I removed the seam allowances along the centre back of the pattern.
I also pinched out another small overlap to compensate for my small back in the same way I had adapted the neckline.
The design has dropped sleeves so there was no need to adjust the shoulder line, but I decided to add my own cropped short sleeve rather than the three quarter length sleeve of the pattern.I always add the sleeves before the side seams – the garment can be opened out, it gives you much more space to work with.
Fabric – pattern flow
I chose a black and white fabric in homage to the 1960’s, but went for flowers rather than geometrics.
If I had retained the zip the large flower repeat would have used up a lot of fabric. You can see the back panel with the large flower flowing across the back nicely without the zip to interrupt it – the pattern design flows around the body working upwards from the waist and ending near the shoulder blade.
The fit works well across the shoulders and hugs the waist, which will emphasis the narrowest part of my body, (my best feature).
Side darts and bodice fitting
I am really loving the side darts! They work much better for me as they are longer than the waist darts I have used before.
The bodice is fitting so well, the easy pattern shapes have made adaptations simple!
I decided to use the pattern as a bodice for a skater style dress by adding a circular skirt. The advantage of this style is that it has no gathering at the waistline and I positioned it so that the fullness appears at the sides so that my little tummy is hidden away!
The fabric is a synthetic crepe that flows nicely and works well with a circular pattern. It has a lovely sheen with none of the difficulties of slippery fabric!
Checking the neckline
I have a short neck, so tend to avoid boat necks if possible as they sit on my adams apple rather than the collarbone!
The neckline now sits just below my collarbone but it has altered the boat neckline from a straight line into a curve.
Peter Pan – Yes or No?
I did contemplate adding a peter pan collar which was also a feature of the 1950’s
It created a huge collar because of the broad boat neck – I narrowed the collar to sit on the shoulder edge, but it was altering the clean lines of the pattern.
In the end I decided against it – leaving the neckline simple in line with the ethos of the 1960s lack of ‘trim and embellishment’, to quote from the fashion history.
The toille fabric is an old sheet I bought from a charity shop, they are always sold at a reasonable price – this double bed sheet was only £4! It cuts down costs and makes good use of items that might go to landfill as well as helping charities! I call that a win win situation!
Rolling along the edge
I used rolled hem on my overlocker to create a nice neck edge and finished with black satin bias binding rather than facing.
You can get a very crisp finish without the need of top stitching by using wundaweb hemming tape between the neck edge and the binding.
Once in place, a few hand stitches will be enough to keep it in place permanently.
Invisible Zip Insertion to the side seam
The invisible zip is hidden away – with just the tag poking out under the arm.
I pin the bodice edge to the zip first and then work my way upwards.
I make a first line of stitching using a normal zip foot along the edges and down the seams.
Then I stitch a closer edge using the invisible zipper foot.
I find it avoids the difficulty in joining the bottom of the zip with the seam – I usually end up with a gap. This method seems to create a continuous seam and doesn’t alter the line of the garment.
Inserting a Zip Facing
I created facing to prevent the nylon zip scratching me when I am wearing the dress.
I intend to go dancing in this dress so need lots of movement so a little bit of cushioning is a luxury I can add easily.
It is just a doubled up rectangle of fabric, overlocked the raw edges then secured long side to the free edge of the zip.
Hemming Circular Skirts
My overlocker has a lovely rolled hem setting that is perfect for circular skirts.
They need a very small hem due to the shape, as soon as you turn up even a small section, the top edge of the hem is smaller than the skirt you try and attach it to. A rolled hem offers a great solution and the fabric is light enough so that the edge is not heavy.
I like the hem to finish at the knee and Doris has a lovely device for trimming off hems! It looks like a metal bar that slides up or down. Given that I have a bit of a tummy it sometimes raises the hem at the front slightly, so I try and do this step right at the end.
So here is the finished dress!
What I learned from this Challenge
What fun this challenge has turned out to be! You could call it how to turn a rectangle into a circle!
The pattern was a giveaway from Simplicity for their challenge, which was really kind of them!
I found this pattern very easy to use and adapt. I particularly like the side darts – and will most likely use them in other bodice blocks.
I have a wonderful bodice pattern that works beautifully with my body shape and makes me feel good.
Which is what sewing is all about!