Saturday, 15 August 2015

Simplicity 1418 - made with fingers crossed

As you may know, I have two bridesmaids' dresses to (help) design and make for my oldest and middle daughters for the wedding of my youngest daughter, H.

I've had some ideas. One of them involved a (very) low back but I know when I tried to lower the back on a dress for H previously that it didn't have enough material to support it and I ended up having to add more. So I'm still not sure what I can get away with.
So when I received Simplicity 1418 as the free pattern in this month's Sew magazine, I thought I'd try it out. 

Needless to say, not for me! I decided to make it for H as I'd made two dresses for her before, with good success:

Cynthia Rowley dress - H had just passed her driving test

Modified V8766

I didn't want to make it as a potential bridesmaid's dress, just to try out some techniques. Hopefully a dress that would be suitable for H to wear to work. I didn't have any updated measurements.

However, I did have the traced and modified pattern from the V8766 dress I'd made previously and H assured me it was a good fit.

This pattern comes with a lower and a higher back insert. Looking at it, I realised that they were recommending that the lower insert should be used with decorative lacing and only the higher insert could be used alone.

I didn't like the lacing. So I decided to use the higher insert. I made view A with the higher back insert and no lacing - like the green one at the bottom of the envelope picture, quite a way above.

I decided to use an inexpensive but pretty cotton poly fabric I bought in Chester le Street market. Part of it was flawed but I had plenty. The fabric looks like chambray on the back. It was no more expensive than using calico and I decided to work through all the steps; if it then fitted my daughter, she'd have a dress to wear. 

I cut all the pieces out.

The pattern instructions showed that facings were applied wrong sides together and used as a sandwich inside folded bias tape around neck, down the back bodice and around the armholes if the sleeveless version was chosen. I didn't fancy the bias tape so decided, instead, to use mini piping. This involved the facings being applied right sides together and turned after seaming, with the mini piping inserted in the seam. I used purchased mini piping in white bought from 1st for Fabrics.

Detail of front, piping in place

Detail of one side of  back

This meant that I needed a seam allowance.  However, my daughter needed a 3cm (1.25") reduction in the back width previously so I reckoned that I could take this in by using the mini piping as I wanted, through the seam allowance. I didn't want to narrow the back insert.

I used a 1.5cm allowance down the back bodice edges but I used a 1cm allowance elsewhere - this meant I could align the edge of the piping with the raw edge.

Unfortunately, I failed to work through all the implications of my use of the mini piping. I was already attaching the skirt to the bodice when I realised there was too much fabric in the skirt because of my back width reduction. I was able to increase the pleats at the back to take account of this.

I had to finish the front differently. The front extension piece was no longer the correct size. I had a bit of a task getting the neck slit to lie properly. I had to extend the raw edges of the piping over the raw edges of the bodice fabric at the bottom of the slit. I removed some cord from the piping to make this easier.

After that, it was mostly straightforward.

There is a side invisible zip. The instructions had me sew together the very top part of the side seam. I managed the first side of the zip without difficulty but I could not get the second side. Eventually, in frustration, I unpicked the top part of the seam and inserted normally. I then managed to sew together the top part of the seam in the same way that we sew together the seam under an invisible zip. I was at a sewing bee and the tutor assumed the zipper tape would be enclosed within a seam allowance. Not so. I thought I'd need to cover it with some fabric to make sure it doesn't irritate; in the end, I folded the sleeve seam allowances over it and hopefully that will work for the sleeve okay. I should have taken a photo of the zip as it looks pretty good!

I made the sleeved version.  The little cap sleeves inserted beautifully. They have a pleated detail at the top. They were also supposed to be finished with bias tape. I considered making a facing and using mini piping there, too, but decided that was 'too much'. I was going to overlock and turn but after I overlocked and double turned the skirt hem I decided to do that with the sleeves too. 

I like the dress - I think my version looks nicer than that on the envelope. It has been much admired by my fellow sewing bees. I hope my daughter likes it too. 

I hope it fits...but I fear it might not. I have photographed on a hanger as I can't get it onto my small model;  the shoulders are too wide.  Also I measured the waist and it is smaller than the size my daughter eventually sent me;  I effectively removed 3cms from the size 12. No changes, though.  This is it!

Back view - unfortunately you see the inside of the front. too

Front view

If I made this dress again I would make the following changes:
  • Alter pattern in advance to take account of intention to use piping.
  • Line it. This dress calls out for lining,  though I'm not sure how it would be done. Any ideas, please?
  • Reduce bulk at piping seams.
  • It might be better with a rear zipper,  though that would slice the back insert in half, so it really wouldn't work. There would be more opportunity for fitting after the event,  though.


  1. You worked hard! I really hope it fits as it looks great.

  2. That's a pretty dress Anne, I hope it fits! About the higher en lower back inset, that's pretty confusing on the envelope. It looks like the laced dress has the higher inset as well and the green/white dress has the lower back without extra lacing?

    1. Thank you. I agree - inside low on its own is not listed a an option. High can be with criss cross or not (the edges are fixed; it's not lacing BTW).


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