Sunday, August 14, 2011

Miss Lavinia Begins Again: Simplicity 2591

Kittens, it's hot. I don't know if you've noticed, but Texas seems to be melting. If our lakes aren't drying up, they're turning blood red. Despite fifty-nine days of 100+ degree heat, summer is showing no signs of taking its much-anticipated leave.

To that end, I've taken every opportunity available to flee the state. Admittedly, most of my trips this summer were planned, but even I didn't expect to make it to twenty-four of the contiguous United States (and Canada!) in three months. Consequently, while my fabric stash has ballooned in size (Y'all, I went to New York. Twice. Enough said.), my actual sewing progress has been pretty puny.

For what sewing I have accomplished, I've instituted Emergency Horrid Heat measures. While this awful season persists, any garment undertaken must:
  1. Not have sleeves.
  2. Not have a full lining.
  3. Use the most breathable fabric available.
  4. Make going outside slightly less depressing.
Light and pretty sundresses fit that bill perfectly. There's nothing more refreshing - excluding ice cold Sangria - than cool cotton that just dances around the body. During all my travels, I found myself returning to the same dress again and again for this reason. It's actually a pattern I haven't blogged about before, because it was the very first piece I ever sewed. In my typical Hermione Granger fashion, I jumped in to the sewing world with a whole dress, instead of the usual pillowcase. What can I say? I love a challenge.

I made that first dress, Simplicity 2591, out of a vintage paisley cotton my mother gave me. Not going to lie, it's a total mess. I didn't finish any of the seams, somehow managed to use THREE colors of thread (Black, white, and light blue. Why? I have no clue.), and didn't alter the pattern for fit. Despite all of that, it's one of the most comfortable dresses in my closet. The pattern itself is divinely flattering, even with the extra three inches in the waist and lends itself well to cotton fabrics. Best of all - no lining! It's a summer sewist's dream! Since it's still frowned upon to wear the same outfit every day, I decided to make up a few more iterations of the now out-of-print 2591.

For my first revisit, I reached for a linen/cotton blend picked up at JoAnn's fabric earlier this year. (Fabric confession: I'm an utter copycat and bought this fabric only after seeing Jessica's lovely version of Butterick 5603. After that fabulous dress, I couldn't resist, when it popped up at our JoAnn's, as well!) The fabric sewed up wonderfully, even though the print hides the side-panel seams a bit. This time around, I made some fit alterations - grading the waist down two sizes and fiddling with the neckline, mainly. I also - hallelujah - finished the inside properly. So, while this dress is just as comfortable as my first, the quality of workmanship improved tenfold.

As for the pattern itself, I love it. The side panels are just so, so flattering - nipping in a just the right place. They're a little tricky to piece to the main bodice, even with a year full of sewing under my belt, but produce a fantastic final result. The facings, as with all facings, do drive me nuts. But if I'm going for an unlined dress, the only options are facings or bias-bindings. To combat the flapping tendencies of facings, I top-stitched the arm-holes, which fixed the problem. Next time, I'm going to try out a contrast bias-binding - a look I love, but haven't attempted. And after wearing this dress twice since finishing it last week, is there really a question that there will be a next time?

Things I Love:
  • The side panels! Sure, they're lost in the print now, but just think of how cute they would look made up in stripes. I love dresses with bias-cut stripe pieces and this would be a perfect pattern to try the technique.
  • The pockets! Who doesn't love a dress with pockets? Even better, these aren't in-seam pockets, but rather ones formed by the side panel, skirt, and a pocket facing. They end up being deep, highly usable, and not so bulky.
  • The traditional zipper! I know invisible zippers are all the rage, but I have had more of them break on me in the last few months. The Coats & Clarks ones just don't seem to hold up over time, which means having to do a tedious zipper-replacement on a garment you finished months before. Traditional zippers may not be as fancy, but at least they hold up better over time.
Things I Changed:
  • Graded the waist down two sizes. I don't know if it's Simplicity, or my body, but this is a common adjustment for me on their patterns. I like about one-inch of ease at the waist, but I started with four inches pre-adjustments.
  • Top-stitched the arm-hole facings. I don't use facings often, but when I do I always top-stitch them down. There is nothing so annoying as perfectly ironing a seam, only to have the facing come flapping out before you're halfway through breakfast.
Things I Would Change, If I Made It Again:
  • Switch the facings to bias-bindings, as both a decorative touch and an anti-facing measure.
  • I might add a few decorative touches to the pattern itself - like perhaps a wide center pleat down the bodice, just so I don't end up with a million versions of the exact same dress.
Tricky Steps & Suggestions:
  • The only truly tricky part is joining the side panels to the front bodice and skirt. I had to stare at the pieces for ten minutes, before I realized how they fit together, even with notches and markings. My tip, if you try this pattern, is to start pinning them together at the pockets. The pocket shapes echo each other well, which helps visualize how the rest goes together.
Fabric Used:
  • Floral print cotton/linen blend from JoAnn Fabrics - $12.99/yard. (Note: While you can't get the blue, there is a lovely orange version of this fabric still available online. It's also on sale for the next three days!)


  1. That is such a pretty dress. I love the belt you have paired with it. I can sympathize with you on the heat. It has been so hot here is south Alabama, I have taken to wearing sundresses myself.

  2. Not sure if I should envy you your summer or be glad about the cool temperatures and rain we've had this year... ;) The dress is very pretty, I love the fabric! Yay for light summer dresses (and weather that makes wearing them possible ;).

  3. This is a flattering look. Great color choice! I like the pockets too and I second the idea of switching facings to bias binding. I've done a couple of tops like that lately and love it.

  4. You're back! Hooray! I missed your blog!
    Lovely summery dress.:)
    It is hard for me to imagine such heat from my draughty desk in Scotland, but you have my sympathy!

  5. Love your dresses!! Would you be my new Best friend and make mé a copy of the pattern? I Would of cause pay you good for all your trouble. I just warnt that pattern and i am tirred of serching and getting, " no but happy hunting".... In return ;-) So i hope you Will help mé :-)
    Sara, Denmark