Thursday, August 26, 2010

Orange Color Block Mod Dress- Simplicity 7535 from 1968

I heart color block patterns

Coffee & I are BFFs

When deciding on this pattern, I wanted a really popping color. That's one thing I love about the mod color-block patterns- the ability to combine a really bold color with a neutral like white. So, I went with a bright orange, which I thought was a great color for the mod look. I also went with the fabric that I've been the most comfortable working with-- 100% ponte de roma polyester that I got from a local fabric store (is it just me or does Joann's have a very limited color palette for knits?). Sure, knits can be tricky, but they have that stretch that I love.

Overall, this was a pretty seamless project--uh wait, bad choice of words. Let's just say it went pretty well. I did have some trouble getting the two fabrics pieces (the orange and the white) to meet at the front in clean points. There was some bunching at the corners, but I didn't let it stress me out too much. Instead, I moved along at a pretty good clip and came out with a product that I was quite pleased with (but of course, as always, with a few warts here and there).

I didn't spend much time with my bestie Mr. Seam Ripper, although I did struggle a tad with the facing for the neck. I have been using a bias tape technique to face my armholes and necks. I got the technique from this link: It's a great technique by the way, and I'd like to thank the original poster for putting this out there. BUT, with this project, I got sick with over-confidence (anyone have a cure for this?). I decided to cut the facings from the pattern pieces and use those. Why did I decide to use those when I had a workable technique that I actually understood? I guess I thought I was getting "good". I thought I was a big kid, ready to sit at the adult table.

I'm not a big kid yet.

I think you can see the overconfidence in my face

The pattern called for slip-stitching the facing to secure it and keep it down. I still have no friggin clue how to machine or hand slip-stitch. Yep, I've seen the tutorials. Yep, I've looked at pictures. Yep, I've read my machines' manual. I just DON'T get it. When it comes to hand-stitching, I must say, I just hate it. Deep down, I think I'm resistant to learn hand slip-stitching because I just HATE HATE HATE hand-stitching so much. I have no patience for it. I hate hand-threading. I hate tying the knot. I hate the actual stitching process. Did I mention I hate hand-stitching?

When it comes to machine slip-stitching, I tried to follow my machine's instructions. I set it to the correct stitch, but no matter what I did, the stitches weren't blind and that's the whole point. I can see them VERY clearly, each and every damn one of them. So, I know I'm doing something wrong but I just don't know what. I think I should sit down and practice with some scrap fabric. Now, it's just the little matter of getting over a little laziness and a lot of impatience. I wish there was a cure for that...

Now, there was one minor difference between the pattern and my actual results that I didn't quite understand. I don't think I did anything "wrong" to cause the difference, but I noticed that the color block is under my bust in the final result, whereas the pattern pictures the color block as mid or above bust-line. Could my bust size be forcing the color block south?

Overall, with relatively few snafus, I found myself speculating about a few things that I've been glossing over:

1.) IRONING: I'll admit it. I don't iron my fabric. I tried to when I did my first pattern, but either I'm an ironing imbecile, or my iron just plain sucks. No matter how much I try to smooth out those wrinkles, nothing seems to happen. At least I pre-wash my fabric (okay, I didn't do it the first few times, but now I do), doesn't that count for something? So, my question is, am I making a big mistake by not ironing? It doesn't really bother me to use wrinkly fabric, but could it be throwing off my technique?

2.) ON THE GRAIN: I line up things okay. I'm on the grain. Well, pretty much anyway. I'll admit-- I'm not that picky about getting things on the grain. My pieces are decently "on the grain." Does "decently" cut it? Should I be pickier?

3.) SELVAGES: I keep reading about how you're supposed to pull your selvages to make them even. Mine are sometimes a little off. I haven't been able to bring myself to care. They're not horribly off. Just a little. Does this matter much?

4.) HEMS: My hems aren't bad. They just aren't great. They're always a little "wonky" looking, but I can't quite put my finger on what I'm doing wrong. They always look a little rumpled in spots. Every book I have glosses over hemming. It's makes me feel a little dumb, when the book thinks it's so damn easy that hardly any instructions are required. But, I don't feel that dumb, because I'm realizing something about sewing. I had thought originally that it's all about technique. I'm beginning to think it's more of an "art" than a "skill". It's also a lot more about patience than anything else.

Over and out!

Love those mod chain belts-- got this particular one at Target

Earrings were purchased at Target, necklace is vintage Sarah Coventry


  1. That's a fabulous dress. I love the orange.

    I hate hemming too. I've got a book called Vogue Sewing that goes into quite a lot of detail about it and it does work better when I can be bothered to do it 'properly'.

  2. Love the dress! Really nicely done, good to see some 60´s fans out there!

  3. Grai n and ironing I'm big on,but I don't care much about anything else!I'm the worlds laziest sewer!Although I don't mind handstitching,and almost always handstitch my hems nowdays.
    Love the frock,it turned out fab!Great colours!

  4. Perhaps you should try the shorten and lengethen method pre fabric cut, I notice you tend to take a whole lot of fabric off your hems and you could save that by shortening before cutting. The method is generally spelled out in the pattern leaflets.

    Nice dress though, I love the orange.

  5. I think the reason your fabric rumples is because the edge of your dress (I mean the real edge, not the hem) is longer when you turn it inwards to make the hem. This sounds just like Chinese, but I mean that it's basically two circles and the 'edge'-circle is longer than the 'hem'-circle, which makes it rumple.
    And another option is perhaps a rolled hem like this:
    I haven't tried that technique myself yet (being more or less a newbie), but I'm planning to. I got this idea because one of the vintage dresses I bought had a hem like this.

  6. Really cute dress. Brings back so many memories.

    I have 3 tips for you today.
    1. Except for formal wear, I've never slip stitched a facing in my life. It's enough to tack it places like the shoulder seams where you can sew to a honkin' bunch of fabric with no chance of it showing through.
    2. Sewing with wrinkley fabric can change the shape of your pattern and make your results look funky. The more wrinkley, the more distorted. It's more of a problem in areas with lots of shaping (necklines, armholes, etc.).
    3. Another suggestion for hemming an a-line dress is to use the wide (2" or so) bias hem facing. You sew it at the foldline and cut off most of the fabric that would be normally in the hem. The bias conforms to the shaping of the skirt and doesn't bunch like a self-fabric hem would. As Eline said, when you turn it up, the edge is longer than the fabric you're trying to sew it to, causing th bunching.

  7. The dress looks great--love the orange! I love to see blondes rock orange and yellow because so many of us shy away from them...

    Re hemming, one thing I've found (and I'm a beginner myself) is that my hems never look great until they've been properly ironed. In fact, I had to go out and buy a new iron. Once I press the hem--really press it well--the garment starts to look less homemade and more RTW.

    Keep the great mod dresses coming!

  8. You are doing so well, and it seems you are learning a lot with each dress. This one is very cute! There are a lot of great resources on sewing with knits, which can be a major pain in the rear. I am still newer to sewing as well, and as someone else mentioned, I have found Gertie's New Blog for Better Sewing to be very educational. She has a guest poster who writes all about sewing with knits:
    And of course a lot of people who sew with knits regularly will want to invest in a serger. While browsing some of the sewing sites, I came upon this post on color block sewing that you might be interested in:
    Keep up the good work! Oh, and in my opinion, (I know it stinks) you will get more even less wonky hems by hand sewing. Just keep practicing the slip stitch- I had a hard time figuring it out too- there are youtube videos that might help.
    Your blog is great! :)

  9. I love all your dressess. Regarding hemming - I ve got readers digest Complete guide to sewing - 1970's edition and it includes about 15, yes 15, ways to hem a garment. (but honestly I have never been bothered to do it the proper way so I dont knopw if it works hehe)I also found any other information that I ever wanted to know about sewing in this book. - And the best thing I bought the book for less than 5 pounds over ebay. I intentionally bought an old edition as many people suggested that the new editions of the book are nowhere near the old ones, with so much information missed out.

  10. and btw. there are nice tutorials on machine blind stitching on youtube.

  11. last thingy - than I will stop spamming your blog:) You could actually feel sorry one day for not ironing - pressing seams on the go as u sew, as it often makes garment fit sooo much better and even your troubles with hemming might be sorted.But having said that it also depends what kind of fabric you use, obviously if you use a "no iron" fabric - and it seems that you probably do most of the time, then you will not miss much by skipping the pressing. If you used a stiff fabric or a fabric that wrinkles easily ironing would be unavoidable. It is also worth investing into a good quality steam iron,as a bad iron will wreck your nerves and wont help u much.

  12. @cyberdaze: Thanks! I'll have to check out that book too.

    @delfinelise: Thanks! : - )

    @Helga: I hear you re: world's laziest sewer. I feel really guilty in that department myself. Maybe I hate hand-stitching so much because it makes my neck hurt from craning ; - )

    @Heather: I've wanted to try the method on the pattern, but I didn't quite "get" how the method works. Perhaps I need to google it and find a source that explains it more fully. I feel pretty dopey sometimes...

    @eline: I see what you mean and I'd really like to try this rolled hem method. Thanks so much for the link-- what a great tutorial! I'm going to try to track down a rolled hem foot, since the tutorial recommends that. Thanks for the tip ; - )

    @Fairevergreen: I'm glad to know that slip-stitching isn't so crucial. I'm going to try tacking it, as you recommended. That eases my stress a lot. I'm going to try really hard to start ironing. If I don't get it perfect, at least I'm going to try to get it to a respectable level. I think this means investing in a new iron. My husband has had our iron for about 12 years, and he thinks it's a piece of crap. Thanks for explaining the bias hem facing method too. Now I've got two options- that one and the rolled hem method. I feel so much less clueless ;- )

    @SemiCharmedWife: I totally have to get a new iron. I'm so bad about ironing, but if I had one that actually worked, I think I'd be less irritated. It's crappy to spend a bunch of time trying to iron something, only to have it look almost as awful as when you started.

  13. @A.J.A.: Thanks for the compliment. I do feel like I'm learning a lot, which helps me as I go through all my bumps. I've got to check out Gertie's. I've heard it's really great too but haven't yet. Okay, I just bookmarked it, so I will def. be getting to it. I bookmarked the other link too, regarding color blocking. So cool! I didn't know there were any blog posts dedicated totally to that. And damn that slipstitch, lol ; - )

    @kkatushka: Ooooh, I'll def. have to check out the Reader's Digest Guide. I might have that one somewhere (yes, I know, I'm bad), but I'll admit that I hadn't looked in it for methods. I'm really bad about accumulating a lot of resources, and then losing track of them in my piles of sewing stuff. I know what you mean about this being a good book, because if I'm not mistaken, this was the book that taught me how to do darts. And I def. have to spend some time perusing youtube. That's how I finally learned how to do the invisible zipper. The video helped me realize the silly mistake I was making.

    Regarding my fabric, I do use 100% polyester, which isn't so bad for wrinkling. I do actually press my seams with my crappy iron(gotta get a new one), but what I don't do is iron my fabric before I cut out the pattern. My projects start out a little wrinkly. Very bad, I know.

  14. Heya, I've been sewing a fair while now and I've learned some things the hard way! Here's my tips:

    1. Iron - everything else is secondary! If you don't iron then you will DEFINITELY have fit issues. get one with a really hot steam function :)

    2. Grain - this is a tricky one to explain so I'll leave it up to this yahoo answer to say it: This is SUPER important because it changes the way your fabric 'hangs'. This means it'll look lop-sided or off-centre if you don't get it right. Also, if you cut it on the BIAS, which is at 45degrees to the GRAIN then you will have stretch fabric. Try stretching your fabric at a 45degree angle to the selvedge (the edge of the fabric) and you'll see what I mean.

    3. Take your time. Don't rush! Just slow everything down. Sometimes even sewing slower can help you with your hem issues and fit issues. It will help you to guide the fabric in the direction it's meant to go instead of letting the little feed dogs under the foot determine the direction of stitch.

    That's the lessons I have learnt from MANY a wonky garment! Also I have taught myself to like handsewing by repetition - now I won't do a machine-sewn hem EVER! Once you get one right, you'll never want to go back :)

    Great blog, really enjoying it!