Sunday, March 31, 2013

Sew for Victory!

My overzealous setting on the camera's flash shows the pleat details quite nicely

I'm on sabbatical at the moment. For the first time in...what, 17 years?...I am not working full time. And loving it! So much mental space for sewing.

On one of the first days sabbatticalling (not sure of the correct term to use here) I found myself at the sewer's paradise and wailing wall, Spotlight. With all this new-found time and freedom I had the luxury of being able to spend an hour just browsing the pattern books. Browsing! With no time pressure! Bliss. 

So after all that browsing I must have reached nirvana because all of a sudden I was at the counter with about 15 patterns. Do you know that as a Spotlight member you get hefty discounts on patterns? Just saying.

One of the patterns was this:

Simplicity 1777

The pattern

I am a huge fan of the very feminine styles of last century and have been dying to make some more. Serendipity was also working here as I happened upon the Lucky Lucille blog and discovered Rochelle's Sew for Victory! 1940s sew-along competition. So this is my entry!

Simplicity patterns and I get along very well.  The instructions are always very clear, they include many options for shortening and lengthening (very important if you are any person other than the model in the 1970s upon whom the original measurements for these patterns are based), and they include Spanish instructions in case you want to practice your Spanish.

I shortened the bodice and skirt overall by 4cm and made significant changes to the sleeves (see below).


I do seem to have a habit of making dresses out of quilting material (which my mum, who is an avid quilter, finds most amusing), but if you think about it - quilts were originally made from scraps as a way to recycle old clothes. So we have come full circle by using quilting material to make clothes!

This material is the blue Punctuation by Sandy Klop of American Jane fabrics from Sewing World. It is very cute, nearly school-uniformish 1940s-inspired 100% cotton. In fact, it reminds me of Dorothy's dress in the Wizard of Oz, which is very close to the 1940s (1939). 


The climate where I live is hot and humid nearly all the time, even in winter, so I hardly ever wear long sleeved dresses (layering with jackets is better). For a day wear dress, these long sleeves had to go.

Instead, I cut the sleeves off short and added a sort of French cuff without the cuff links. The inside of the cuff is lined in cream linen, the same as the front facing of the bodice, top stitched in red. Here is the original sleeve pattern and my altered sleeve + cuff:

lolly snakes help you sew faster

The trickiest part of the dress was the front pleating detail. There are pleats and gathers running horizontally from the front centre, as well as pleats radiating out and down from the waist of the skirt. I had to redo these a couple of times before I got them facing the right way and even on both sides.

Bodice and skirt pleats and gathers detail
Pleating all the way to the bottom

The dress can be finished with six buttons down the front centre bodice, but I thought the material was already so busy that there was no need for extra embellishments. Other than on the inside of course:

And all the seams are finished in cherry red Hong Kong binding!

Dress hem length from the 40s tended to be mid-calf, but anything that length makes me look like I should be auditioning for a role as a hobbit in Lord of the Rings. However I can see that even if it were a couple of inches longer the dress would be more balanced.

The back has an invisible zip (these are the EASIEST things to insert! Way easier than a normal zip!) and both the bodice and skirt have darts.

I had a go at 1940s makeup and hair. How much fun is red lipstick!

A big thank you to my wonderful sister Liv who took the photos, and to Bruce for being such a good dog:

Happy easter everyone!


  1. I love it.

    When I first saw your photos on the flicker page I had to check what pattern you used. Turnes out I made a dress using exactly the same pattern only a totally different fabric (and mine is with long sleeves). It just looked so different that I didnt recognize the dress at first. I thought I wouldnt use the pattern again, that one was nice, but enough. Now I am wondering if I need to make it again with a differnt fabric.

    You look soooo fresh and happy :-) Great job!

    1. Thank you lovely! Do try the pattern again. The pleats look like rays of sunshine and deserve another go!

  2. It came out really nicely! Well done!
    I always use quilting material too- they have the BEST prints in the quilting fabrics. Out of all the Sew For Victory patterns I made, 1/2 of them were out of quilting cotton ;)

    1. Thank you! Nice to know I'm not the odd one out hee hee.

  3. Gorgeous! I too have that dress pattern but haven't made it yet because I wasn't sure how those pleats would look in the front. Now I can see I need to make this dress up quick because yours is so darn cute! I'm also loving that fabric you used. I'm a huge fan of using quilting cotton for dresses. I can't help it, I just love cotton! The added sleeve cuff is adorable and so are your shoes. ...and your dog ;) Is Bruce a Bull Terrier? Lucille is part mini BT!!

    1. Thanks so much! Go go go make that dress!

      Yes he is a Bull Terrier - and I just love Lucille and her story. Bruce is very similar, he was a lost dog at the RSPCA. He sat on my foot at the kennel and the rest is history :)

  4. It's so pretty and you look beautiful!
    I am looking to make this pattern and search the web for fabric ideas. I love 100% cotton and am happy to see yours was made in it and looks great!

    1. Well thank you Lucy :)
      Cotton's awesome. So easy to sew with. Have fun making the dress - I would love to see it!

  5. I've always passed over this pattern, but now I'll have to give it a try! Your pleats turned out lovely.

  6. Thank you Abigail - it's such a versatile pattern, you must post photos of it once you've finished :)

  7. Thanks! I'm getting ready to cut mine out of a heavenly Art Gallery print, and I wanted to see how someone else's looked in quilting cotton. Did you have trouble with extra ease at the waist? I saw that in some reviews.