Simplicity 3835, Take Three: A Dress!

I made a dress! And I wore it to work today!

Simplicity 3835 dress

Yay! My first dress!

In addition to my first dress, there were several other firsts:

  • First invisible zipper
  • First darts
  • First real collar/first facing
  • First gathering stitches
  • First handstitching (ick!!!)
  • First hook and eye
Simplicity 3835 with sweater

This is what I actually looked like most of the day.

It was a good experience, and although the dress is not perfect, it is wearable (especially if I have a sweater on, covering the back!).

I used Simplicity 3835 again, mostly because I already own it and had the pattern pieces cut out. I used View A this time, with a few alterations:

  • I added 2″ to the length to be sure it was work appropriate.
  • I used the sleeve length from View B (without the weird tie thingies).
  • I used an invisible zipper instead of a regular zipper with lapping.
  • I did NOT try a blind hem. I just burrito rolled the hem and stitched. You can see the stitch, but I think it looks very nice. 🙂
Floral fabric

I love a floral that's not *too* summery!

I used a gorgeous teal floral fabric from the Del Hi fabric collection by Valori Wells for Free Spirit that I bought on sale at Sew, Mama, Sew (of course), which made the dress a little more retro than I’d envisioned, which is great!

I started by cutting the pattern, using the suggested layout, which left me a fair amount of leftover fabric. I bought three yards and used less than 2.5. Then I did the one thing I knew how to do from my previous go-arounds with this pattern, namely make the sleeves. And I quickly added the pockets, although I never did figure out a good way to move the markings from the pattern to the fabric, so it was difficult to get them straight.

But then I was immediately stalled. The next step was to sew the back darts. Darts! I’d never done darts. I’d never even thought about darts. Luckily, Mr. Google was my friend (and Mr. IPhone, since I Googled while riding the exercise bike–always multitasking!). The darts were much easier than expected, and they actually looked pretty good.

zipper foot

"Concealed" zipper foot for Kenmore machine.

I had no time to rest on my laurels, though, since the very next step was the invisible zipper. I had prepared myself for a long YouTube session until I read the instructions with the zipper. It seemed easy enough, and I had an invisible zipper foot from the gadgets I got with my mom’s machine. (Mom, did you know you had an invisible zipper foot?!?) As it turned out, it really was that easy. In fact, I’d argue that invisible zippers are WAY easier than regular zippers (assuming you have the right foot). The only real problem is that I didn’t know exactly where to place the zipper. In the original pattern, sewing in the zipper is almost the last step, but because I was using an invisible zipper, I had to do it early. I didn’t have a good understanding of what the collar was going to look like, and I ended up with the zipper too low. Oh well, now I know.

Once I had installed the zipper and sewn up the back seam, it was smooth sailing for sewing up the side seams and adding the sleeves. Except that at that point I realized that I had two right sleeves! Whoops! I had followed the cutting layout on the pattern but had missed the very faint shading that indicated I was supposed to put the sleeve pattern upside down once and right side up the other time. D’oh! I had even thought that it didn’t seem right to cut it out ride side up both times. I should really learn to listen to that little voice in my head. Luckily, I had that leftover fabric and was easily able to cut another sleeve. One note on the sleeves, the various review have said that the sleeves are too skinny. You may recall that in my first go at this pattern we made the sleeves wider. This time I decided to keep them as is. And they fit me just fine (I have pretty skinny arms from focusing all of my working out on my legs!). The one downside of keeping the sleeves as is, though, is that the end of the sleeve is too small to fit around the free arm of the sewing machine! That posed some difficulties, but at least the  sleeve ends are small and don’t take long. Still, when I make this for the Star Trek dress, I will be altering the pattern to make the sleeves wider.

I was exhausted by the time I did round two with the left sleeve and got them attached, so I went to bed thinking I could finish quickly the next day. Ha! I continued to be fooled with I woke up and quickly finished the bottom hem.

Gathering at neck

I think I got the gathering more or less even.

And then I start work on the collar. Oh, the collar, my nemesis. It took me almost ALL DAY to do the darn collar, and I’m still not very happy with it. The beginning went okay. I ironed interfacing onto the collar piece (which is indistinguishable from the collar facing; that would have been helpful to know!). Then I sewed gathering stitches onto the neckline and started the gathering. That was relatively straightforward. I understood the process from gathering elastic. The difference here, though, was that I had to get the gathering to the right size/shape to fit the collar. It was much more difficult to have even gathering when also worrying about size. I think it ended up okay, though. I never did figure out, though, what I was supposed to do with the four dots on the collar that I had painstakingly copied over from the pattern. Oh well.

So there we are with almost the entire dress done, and it looks good. The collar piece took a little longer than expected, but I was feeling good. And then I read the directions for the facing: stitch a line 1/2″ from the notched side (okay, as soon as I figured out what the “notched” side was from the pattern notching); press under at line (okay, easy);  sew facing to collar with right sides together (sure, no problem); slip stitch the bottom of the facing (okay, wait, WHAT?). I desperately Googled for a way to slip stitch by machine, although I knew that didn’t make sense. And I wracked my brain for another way to do this, but with all the fabric, it seemed too thick to stitch through, even if I didn’t mind the look of the top stitching. Alas, I eventually accepted that I needed to (gasp) hand stitch.

Confession time: I have no clue how to hand sew. I mean, I understand the concept, I guess, but I’m totally lost at actually doing it. And my classes didn’t discuss hand sewing at all! I need a whole class on that, I think. So, I put it off and put it off, but I knew I couldn’t wear the dress until it was done. I googled slip stitching, and it was what I expected. I actually have no idea if I did it right, but I did it. It took something like an hour and a half. For a lousy collar. I can’t even imagine how long renaissance dresses must have taken to sew!

Reinaissance Dress

I'm not making that anytime soon!

Back of dress

The invisible zipper looks nice if not entirely invisible, but the gap above the zipper is unfortunate.

As if that weren’t enough, I wasn’t done. Argh. Then I had to sew on the dreaded hook and eye. Because of my mishap with placing the zipper, I decided to sew on two hooks and eyes for a secure closure. I don’t know how many times I sewed them, ripped them out and sewed them again. I’m still pretty sure they don’t line up correctly, but at least they stay closed. In the original pattern, there was a lapped closure for the zipper that I think extended up to the collar. I didn’t have that, so I had to slip stitch the ends of the collar and facing closed too. Sigh.

Anyway, it’s done and wearable. I’ll focus on the positive! 🙂 I love the color, and I love the pockets. It’s maybe a touch long, but it’s good for work.

Next up: the Coffee Date Dress in Joanie Green – Happy Daisy. I think. Although I may start cutting for the Star Trek Dress. Or the Beinget skirt from Colette. Ah, decisions.

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5 responses to “Simplicity 3835, Take Three: A Dress!

  1. I think it looks great, and the zipper thing is one of those “it only bugs b/c you know it’s supposed to be different” things. The dress looks great the way it is.

    Oh, and for hand-sewing (which is all I do these days, since my machine is still in CA) – cross-stitching is really good practice. Open weave, you can easily remove stitches, and you learn lots of different stitch styles.

    • Thanks, I’m sure you’re right. I just need to stop pointing out the zipper as a mistake every time I see someone. 🙂

      I hadn’t thought of doing cross-stitch. I certainly need to do something to improve my hand-sewing because this was ridiculous!

  2. Awesome!! Maybe I’ll be brave enough to tackle a dress.

    • 🙂 It doesn’t have to be much harder than a shirt. Frankly, I find clothes a little easier than bags because clothes are bigger. There are fewer tiny little seams to deal with!

  3. I am working on this dress too–re-learning sewing after 40 years. I DO NOT understand how to pin the neck band to the dress. I am following the directions exactly, (small dots on sleeve seams and all!) but it just looks wrong and when I try to visualize how to sew the seam, it doesn’t look normal. I am really getting frustrated. My 16 year old daughter would really like to have her dress SOMEDAY! I think I am a bit dyslexic and cannot at all comprehend how this neckband will ever actually look like the one in the pattern picture. Can you help me with advice and hopefully some photos of how to pin the dang thing to the garment and then sew it on????

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