I am Angela and I love to sew. I started sewing as a child and by the time I was a teenager I was wearing the very latest fashions to go out in. All me-made. I am passionate about reducing the amount of textiles sent to landfill, and encourage you to repurpose fabrics and clothes I started this blog in order to have a way in which to pass on my gained knowledge, and my professional knowledge to you, Sewing is empowering, you can save money by making items, make money by selling then, You can pass your knowledge on to others. What is there not to love? Interestingly I am a direct descendant of the Flemish weavers who came over to England in the 1300's. I find that fascinating especially as most of my family from as far back as I can trace are somehow involved in the manufacturing of fabric . . I have a degree in tailoring with a special interest in WW2 fashion.

Monday 29 December 2014

How to Sew a Simplicity 1960s style dress

This is a pattern which was given in SEW magazine a couple of months ago. It is Simplicity K1609.

The pattern is a simple shift style which became popular in the 1960s. 
After the austerity of earlier years fashion for the young suddenly became fun and young designers, boutiques and fun fashion, heralded the start of the swinging 60s. 
The key look of the period was mini skirts and short A-line dresses and coats. Graphic  prints were used to create a strong look. It was during this period that tights came into being, so now that young women were free of stockings skirts could become shorter and shorter. 
Boutiques were a new way of shopping for clothes, they were dark and mysterious with loud music playing, sales staff wore the clothes they were selling and chatted about fashion passionately. 
Mary Quant was a pioneer in fashion and she desIgned dresses which were very short, with zips down the front with a circular pull-ring. She used a new fabric called courtelle, one of the first synthetic materials used in fashion.
Of course we cannot mention the 60s without paying homage to Twiggy probably the most famous fashion model of all time.Her waif like figure epitomises the era and the total change in how women looked and dressed. This was the age when fashion was
young and fun, and girls dressed for themselves not as copies of their mothers.

So, the fabric I have chosen is a silk in a bold pattern,  and I will be making it in 1960s style. Fashion in this decade was beautifully made and so I will be concentrating on a garment which looks as good on the inside as on the outside. It will be perfect to take on holiday later this year.
Join me again in a few days and if you like get hold of the pattern and some fabric and make it along with me.

The fabric I am using is very slippery, when I was cutting it out I took care to use a lot of pins but I placed them inside the seam allowance so that they do not mark the fabric.also the fabric is prone to distort so frequent pinning helps to stop it from moving around. If you have problems with slippery fabrics then cut the pieces out in a single layer, remembering to reverse one of the pieces for the opposite side of course! Use very sharp scissors or if you are lucky enough to have some sharp pinking sheers made especially for silks then use them instead.

The next thing to do is to cut out some lightweight fusible Interfacing and carefully iron it onto the facing pieces with a dry iron, dont use steam. This will add structure to the neckline and armholes and will stabilise the fabric stopping it from going out of shape.
The next most important step is to stay stitch the neck and armhole adges within the seam allowances,being careful not to stretch the fabric. again this will keep the shape. Once you have done the stay stitching check that it still matches the pattern piece and that you have not pulled it out of shape.

The pattern itself has a centre front seam, I omitted it because I did not want to spoil the fabric design. If you do that then you must remember to leave out the seam allowance!

There are several darts on this pattern so mark them with tailors tacks, pin together, tack if necessary, stitch and tie the ends off. If you use dressmakers tracing paper please be careful because darker colours may not wash out. Also non-permanent marker pens for fabric can become permament when ironed so if in doubt test whatever method you choose on a scrap of fabric first. Dont forget too that fine fabric requires a fine sewing machine needle,  you may need to experiment with different feet, I use a teflon foot which  glides accross the fabric, or sometimes I use a walking foot.it is worth while experimenting with different feet to see which gives the smoothest seam.also make sure that the needle is new and the stitch length is right for the fabric.
I am going to be using an invisible zipper, do not be daunted by this, it is easy to do and you will not want to use anything else once you have tried it. Next time I will talk you through the process of inserting it and continue with putting the dress together.

By the way, did you know that the mini skirt was different to this style of shift dress? The dress we are making is elegant and easy to wear, it is timeless and a staple in any woman's wardrobe even now. It should end on or about the knee, if you are young and have good legs then by all means make it shorter, dressmaking is about making garments that suit you and your personality.

I tailored tacked the darts,stitched and pressed them carefully. Stitched the shoulder seams and then I interfaced the facings with iron on interfacing. 

Neaten the bottom of the facings and join together at the shoulder seams. Stitch the facings to the garment around the neck and armhole edges, clip the curves, press, pull through so that it is the right way out. Join the side seams, press.

At this stage it is time to insert a zipper. I use an invisible zipper and I promise you that once you have done it you will never go back to a regular zip.
It is necessary to first iron the zip flat, do this with the zip open and be careful not to melt the teeth.
Mark the seam allowance on the back of the dress and pin one side of the zip to the seam allowance only, making sure that the teeth are in line with the seam allowance line, it is easier if you fold the seam allowance back and press it to make a crease. Attach an invisible  zipper foot, position it so that the teeth are in  the groove of the foot and sew slowly with the needle as close as possible to the zip teeth. Stop stitching when the machine foot reaches the pull.
Stitch the other side to match.

 Close the zip and pin the back seam together, tack, making sure that the seam alignes with the zip stitching. Machine stitch the seam.
Press the seam allowance  neaten the edges. To finish stitch the remainder of the zipper neatly in  place to the seam allowance only

When the zipper is closed it is invisible - hence the term!

We have almost finished the dress now, so to complete it catch the facings to the dress under the arms so thst they are secure. I understitichrd,  that is I machined the facing to the seam allowance on tne wrong side, then I did something i would not normally do, I top stitched around the neck and armholes, I did this purely because thr fabric is very slippery and I did not want to be constantly messing with tucking facings back in place.
At the top of the zipper you need to sew a hook and eye, I did not do this on my dress, but you should. I have parkinsons and whilst I can do a zip up with a zip pull there is no way I can fasten a hook and eye behind my back!
I measured the hem by pinning it using the hem guide on my tailors dummy , once I wss satiscied that it was even I overlocked the edge, trimming it ti about an inch. I would previously have hand sewn the hem, but hand sewing is not easy with PD so I machined it, you choose whichever method you are happiest with.
So, there you have it, one very wearable, simple shift dress in the style of 1960.

I hope that you have enjoyed this, please let me know!