Tag Archives: fitting

Simplicity 1886 – FO 18/2013 – review and a splendid Simplicity pattern giveaway

Ye Gods!

I’m so glad to finally be able to post this review. I’ve been exceptionally tardy with it. Although we’ve had a lovely time, the summer holidays really got in the way of my creative time. On Sunday The Husband whisked the kids away to the park  and for ice cream.  He’s my hero!

Of course, I’d have been posting this much sooner if I hadn’t had that pesky ironing escapade!

Anyway…back to the patterns.  As you know I was approached by Simplicity who very kindly offered me some free patterns in exchange for me making up and reviewing them.  I was delighted to accept, but all opinions are my own.

I chose:



1606 (1)

My third pattern is the one I’ll be reviewing first, although I will get to the other two over the coming months.


As the weather is cooling down a little as we head towards autumn, I decided to shop the stash and make this up in some pretty John Kaldor print that’s been waiting far too long to make it to the sewing table.

John Kaldor floral

John Kaldor floral

Yes it’s poly, but I thought it would be a great little basic to wear with my denim skirt and a little cardigan for slightly cooler days.

I chose this pattern as I’ve been looking for a replacement for Sorbetto.  I love Colette’s aesthetic but really had trouble getting the darts right because of the FBA I needed.  I’m still a bit hit and miss with FBA’s.  I’ll crack them eventually.

With that in mind, this pattern seemed a great option as it’s already drafted for different cup sizes…although I’m a DD/E dependent on who you speak to, so even with the extra cup size options, I knew I’d have some finangling of the fit to do.

So…how did I get on?

It’s a mix of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly!

The Good

Well, despite the discrepancy between my bosom and that of the pattern, it took me a surprisingly small amount of time and effort to to fit this top.

I cut the pattern in the D cup option in the size that fits my high bust measurement at the shoulders and armholes.  I cut the side seams at the next size up.

This is the muslin straight off the pattern:

03 08 13_edited-1-1_edited-1

I was really surprised that this worked.  Yes, I still had gapping at the armhole and front and back necks…but I always have that gapping.  It’s down to the shape I am.

You can see that I’ve already pinned out a dart on one of the armholes.  I just replicated that at the front neck and back neck, transferred those darts to the pattern and cut out the fashion fabric.


Alterations made and transferred to the pattern within about half an hour. Which is without doubt the quickest turnaround of a muslin in my whole sewing career! It was so easy and I am a very happy camper!

The multi cup size pattern options really do work.

So I was ready to sew, which is when we came to…

The Bad

Perhaps calling them ‘Bad’ is a little harsh.  Perhaps ‘Pesky’ would be a better word.  Or just a little bit ‘Naughty’.

Semantics aside, the first hiccup came when I was making the ruffle for the front. Let’s just say the instructions for inserting the ruffles are less than clear.


The neck band was a complete and total bear.  I’ve lost count of how many times I unpicked the wretched thing.

However, I think it’s most likely that the problems I encountered were created by the fabric being very slippery and fidgety.  Because it was very slippery and fidgety indeed.  But! I suspect that it would have been easier to draft a simple stand collar than the band and facings used here.  It was all a little bit fussy to apply and turned the air in the sewing loft blue on more than one occasion.

Despite it being a slippery customer, once done, it looks really cute, and if I did it again it would be a whole lot easier.  That said, I’m grateful for the printed fabric. It hides a multiple of sins! 😉

The Ugly

This is where I’m going to take the opportunity to speak to Simplicity (and the other major pattern houses, to be fair.  They’re just as bad) about the styling of their pattern envelopes.

People…you really need to up your game on the envelope styling!

You don’t make it at all easy for us to choose your patterns.  I’ve lost count of the times I’ve seen a really cute dress/top/trousers/whatever on a blog only to realise that it’s a pattern that I’d previously totally discounted due to the styling on the envelope.

I can understand that back in the day, before the independent pattern companies flourished, that you could get away with it.  But now…not so much. The Cynthia Rowley envelope isn’t all bad but 1606 and 1886…I feel that they really need some work.

I recognise that the big 4 are aiming at a much wider audience than the indie companies, but I’m not sure that’s a strong enough argument.  How hard can it be to pitch at multiple markets with the same envelope? Especially as most of the design is sketched. Even Knip Mode magazine, which isn’t always the most fashion forward of the sewing mags, manages to do this on a regular basis.

Yep...same pattern...different fabric and styling! Although the camel ones could do with a better fit...more whiskers that O'Malley the Alley Cat!

Yep…same pattern…different fabric and styling!
Although the camel ones could do with a better fit…more whiskers that O’Malley the Alley Cat!

As the sewing market grows, both in the number of customers (due to the resurgence of interest in the craft), and of the range of patterns available (because of the growth of independent houses), I feel that the Big 4 are missing a real opportunity to reach out to sewists and provide them with a well drafted product in a packaging that appeals to a wide range of tastes and styles.


I hope you don’t think this is a negative review because, despite the niggles I had with the neckline on this top, I’m really, really pleased with the result and feel that it really fills a gap in my wardrobe. I know it’s going to get quite a bit of wear over the next few months.  It goes with my denim skirt and a pair of cropped RTW trousers.


Please ignore the creases…this was the end of a very busy day of last minute school uniform shopping!

I also think the ruffle, which I’d normally avoid, works very well and is surprisingly flattering thanks to the lovely drape of the fabric.

For me, this pattern works in a way that I couldn’t get Sorbetto to.  The darts are great and as a result it’s not too boxy.  Lord knows, I need no help in looking boxy!


Happy dart and a lovely snug armhole.
Ignore the wrinkles…they’re just there because I’m pulling my arm back to show the dart.

I can see myself playing with the neckline and hemline to make variations so that I can get some much needed quick and easy tops into my wardrobe. Although, rest assured, next time I’ll be binding the neck and armholes and not faffing with the wretched neckline and facing pieces given in the pattern.

And the scorch…


I just slapped a teeny tiny patch on it…and a matching one on the other side seam. I promise they are much less obtrusive and inelegant in real life. You can hardly see them. And they mean I can happily wear this top.  As most of the time I’ll be wearing this with a cardigan, this is a solution I can easily live with.

But most of all I am totally sold on the idea of multiple bust size options, and salute Simplicity for introducing them.  Being able to remove/reduce the FBA/SBA makes fitting so much faster and easier. I think we’ll all agree that this is a Very Good Thing.  For sure, I’ve never fitted a pattern so quickly and with such a good result.

I can only encourage more/all pattern companies to embrace this feature going forwards.  It’s a feature that will definitely influence my pattern purchasing decisions in the future.  I suspect I’m not alone in this view.

So I’m patting myself on the back for selecting this pattern, and am patting Simplicity on the back for giving me the opportunity to try it.  I’m also looking forward to making up the other two patterns and am hopeful for an equally happy outcome.

But now, if you not asleep at this point, here’s the bit of this post you’ve really been waiting for. It’s time for you to get your hands on a Simplicity pattern of your own!

Actually, it’s time for 3 (yep…three) of you to get a Simplicity pattern of your choice!

Here’s how you can win:

  1. Go to www.simplicitynewlook.com and choose which pattern you’d like to add to your collection.
  2. Leave a comment below telling me which pattern you’ve chosen.
  3. For an extra chance to win, just follow Simplicity on Twitter – @SewSimplicity – and leave me another comment to confirm you’ve done so.
  4. Get a third chance to win by posting this giveaway on your blog and pop a link to the post in your comment.

Easy, peasy, lemon squeezy!

I’ll close this giveaway on Friday 6th September at midnight GMT and choose 3 lucky winners to receive the pattern of their choice.

This giveaway is open to international readers as well as those in the UK.

Good luck!

Green Bee Amelia – FO 16/2013

After the success of Button’s dress and the coming together of the quilts, its time to share a big fat fail with you.

Before I get to the photos in all their hideous splendour, I’ll share my review of the pattern with you.  I think that’s fair.  I’ve waited a while to post this because I didn’t want my review to be coloured by the results, so I’m happy that this is now a considered opinion, rather than a rant over yet another fail.

First up the pattern is printed on lovely study paper that makes tracing it a dream, and it’s well drafted with all the pieces going nicely together.

I did, however have some issue with the sizing. Namely, it turns out not to be designed with us bigger girls in mind, and I think this was half the cause of my problems.  As well as the usual adjustments to accommodate my height and bosom, I also needed to grade the pattern up all over.

In Green Bee’s defence, they do publish the sizes, I just got all swept up in the excitement of the loveliness of this dress and didn’t bother checking.

My bad!  Not the pattern’s.

Lesson well learned.

I also had an issue with the pockets.  I sewed them as drafted and they are teeny tiny.  I can’t get my hands in them properly, never mind a phone.  So if you do decide to sew this dress, please do yourself a favour and add some size to the pockets.

And finally, I found the instructions to be so densely crammed onto the page as to be more hindrance than help.  I think I’ve been spoiled by the likes of Elegance and Elephants and Cake Patterns, who produce clear well spaced instructions with photos or diagrams to illustrate the point.  Amelia’s instructions are effectively just a typed list.  Thankfully I’m at the point in my sewing career where I can toss the instructions and still get a garment to work, but I think a beginner would find these directions lacking.  It’s a shame.

For all that, and for the resulting catastrophe of a dress, I still think Amelia is a pretty dress.  It didn’t work for me for 3 major reasons:

  1. I foolishly didn’t check the sizing before ordering the pattern.  Shiny squirrel syndrome kicked in.  A rookie mistake.  I should know better.
  2. Like the Washi dress, I don’t think this works on my figure.  And that’s not the fault of the dress, the pattern, or my figure.  It just is what it is.
  3. I was rushing to get this finished because, as always, I needed something for an event and was doing this at the 11th hour.  Hence, I ran out of time to keep tweaking the fit.  Though, to be fair, I don’t think I would love it even if the fit was better.  It just would be a better fitting shambles!

Do you want to see it?  Those of a nervous disposition may want to look away now.


Ok…you still here?

Don’t need smelling salts?

Let’s look at what’s going on.

  • A shows the problem at the bust. I added a 3 inch FBA.  In the muslin it looked OK. In the dress fabric, not so much. Because the darts are French Darts, I had a problems actually working out the FBA as I’d never attempted one before…and it shows.  I need more room to accommodate The Ladies.
  • B shows the problem around the sleeves, which are little cap sleeves all in one with the bodice.  Again these are dragging…I think linked to the lack of room in the bosom.
  • C shows what happens when you fit to your natural waist knowing you have a longer torso and really need to fit the waist a little higher to create a better waistline illusion.
  • D is the one that caught me completely unawares.  The dress is cut on the bias.  The fabric is a chambray…red threads one way, white the other.  When you cut it on the bias as a double with the fabric laid on the table right sides together, you end up with a harlequin effect dress.

I can’t even show you the back.  I have waaaaaay to much pride for that.  I know it’s a sin, but lets just say the back is even worse.

And I’ve lost 5lbs in weight since I made this dress…

It doesn’t bear thinking about.

But, there is hope in this.

I was talking to one of the other mums at dance class at the weekend.  She is learning to crochet and was saying that in time she’ll look back on her first attempts and laugh that she could be so thrilled with such a small accomplishment.

I reminded her that even if she crochets for 50 years, she’ll still be learning something new and increasing her skills.  It’s the nature of the crafty beast.

This dress is a timely reminder of some basic rules of sewing that, in my haste to get a garment into my wardrobe as quickly as possible, I conveniently forgot. Namely:

  1. Always, always, ALWAYS check the pattern size.  If you are competent at grading patterns, or have the time to do it slowly, learn the new skills and make it work, then of course you can ignore this.  If you’re in a rush…don’t.  Buy a size that only needs minimal alterations.
  2. Don’t rush the prep.  This would have been a much better garment if I’d taken the time to work out the fitting kinks and make more than one hasty toile before cutting the fashion fabric.
  3. Don’t rush the sewing.  If I’d have allowed myself more time, I could have double and triple checked the fit as I sewed.
  4. Work with the fabric. I’ve got to admit that I never even considered that this lovely fabric would trip me up with this shading.  It’s tantamount to the fabric having a nap, such as velvet.  This would have been much more suitable for a garment cut on the straight grain.
  5. Work with your figure.  I know I don’t have a waist and need to create the illusion of one.  I should have raised that waistline.

This dress is a cautionary tale to all of us.

But it’s not all bad news.  Apart from the kick up the backside to remember the basics of dressmaking, I’ve also discovered another silhouette that doesn’t work for me.  This is A Very Good Thing.  Years and years ago I used to work in sales and sales training and our mantra was if a prospective client genuinely has no requirement for you product or service, then it’s a good “no”.  It’s one more out of the way to a “yes” and a sale.  It’s the same when you’re working out your personal style, as I am.  Every time I make something that has the Fashion Police banging on my door, I’m one step closer to establishing my own Look.

And, of course, I can always chop it up, destroy the evidence, and make pretty things for Button out of it.

Cut on the straight grain, of course! 😉

PS…if you’d like this pattern, do shout.  

I’ll be happy to stick it in the post for you. It’s a pretty dress, just not for me.