I’d seen the simplicity challenge on Twitter last year and decided against it. Not only because I didn’t feel like I had enough skills to pull it off, but also as all the patterns were for women and I hadn’t made any women’s wear by that stage. I decided I wouldn’t enter this year either. Until I saw the tweet “one week left to enter” and I couldn’t help myself.

So you pick a category. Or two. They send you the pattern. You make it & post/tweet/gram a picture with the hashtag. If you write a blog, you get entered for ‘best blogger’ too. I ummed and ahhed about which catagory (ies?) to enter, but eventually settled on vintage sewer and best dressmaker. I didn’t really love the ‘dressmaker’ pattern, but fancied the childrens wear even less. So it was decided.

(Little did I know I had a children’s-pattern-mini-disaster just around the corner…)

(… By the way, do you think Simplicity will bill me for the dress pattern if I don’t submit an entry?… I hope not, that would be the most-annoying-scam-ever … and they’ve got my PayPal…🤔)

Anyway, for the 70’s one, I singled out Maxine at work. She’s young, has a great figure and I see her almost every day. The perfect choice of model. I took some measurements and cut out the size 14. I made it up from some fine pink striped shirting cotton I had (as yet another part of the never ending stash from LadyP) and really enjoyed making it. The instructions were clear, everything matched up nicely.

I’ve never made a garment like this before, very different from shirts and trousers, and the process really felt like magic. With menswear, the front of your trousers or the back of your shirt looks like the front of your trousers or the back of your shirt: womenswear, anything could happen… Crazy shapes… Weird angles… Non-obvious-grainlines… GATHERING…!

The gathering was fun. You don’t get to do much of that with mens sewing. That was first, then put together the outer shell and lining separately. Join them at the neck edge, then again at the bottom and sides before turning out through what I can only call the ‘under arm’. Then it’s just the bands left to attach. They go on using the same technique as a shirt cuff or collar stand, so I’m getting cleaner at that. All its ‘gizzards’ are on the insides… With the right closures it could be reversible. As its a 70’s pattern, I guess it’s not assuming everyone has a zigzagger. I’m feeling SO vintage right now.

It’s a bit wrinkly on Margot (it was a bit wrinkly on Maxine!) but a cute little top none the less.

Maxine’s midriff isn’t as conical as the pattern, so I squared it off by taking a 1cm wedge out of the centre of the pattern piece, and the same from the top so the seams still line up and it’s tighter under her bust.

I made another out of some glitter-stretch-denim that had somehow managed to sneak it’s way into my stash. (I swear I never bought glitter-stretch-denim). I made a few other changes; I used the bust lining piece as front and lining, choosing to not do the gathers in bulky denim. I left off the ties, instead I extended the straps a little so they could be fastened with buttons. As I wasn’t doing the lining in denim, I didn’t want to keep the ties and have another fabric showing on the reverse.

This one came out a better fit, but still not perfect (whatever that is…?)… All I know is the 3.5 minutes I spent pinching Maxine’s nipples through denim & sticking her with a pin won’t be given back to me… Or indeed her. But that’s the gritty underbelly of dressmaking… I guess.

You might not notice that it’s lined in gingham (it is peeking through a bit on the neck ties) but if you did, you can blame Karen at Did You Make That for that. What a great idea, a ‘Gingham-along‘ … Who wouldn’t…?

So, for the final variation I decided to go full-on vintage (& perhaps see if I couldn’t enter another sew along at the same time… did someone say Refashioners?) and recycle some old jeans. Swept up in the vintage spirit, I also dusted off my mums old Singer 99k. Last used on AuntieE’s Jacket.

I scrapped my adjustments… It seemed more sensible to just go down a size. So I cut out the 12 and I lowered the bust line a little (as per Maxine’s preference).

I had to create a couple of centre seams instead of placing on a fold, but I managed to get the lot out of one pair of jeans, just the pockets left to save for another day. I did cut the lining out of stash fabric. I understand that a true refashion should use only the designated material, however, I thought a denim top with denim lining would be too much… and there was no way I was going to patch together 1000 pocket linings to do it!

It was a nice neat pattern to follow to start with. By the third time, it was like meeting an old friend. I absolutely love the way the strap covers up all your gubbins. I kind of miss the ‘bunny-ear’ tie backs, a really cute touch. Even the pointy bit at centre front seemed friendlier than it did before (… this time I started at the centre working outwards, then sewed over the whole seam again). If I was a girl, I’d probably make myself a hundred of these… Thanks to the simplicity challenge, I bet thousands have been made instead. There are loads of great versions popping up all over social media, use the hashtag #simplicitysewingchallenge to search for images and posts.

I changed back to my modern machine for the button holes. I do have a vintage button-holer, but I’m yet to gain any consistency with it. It turned out that consistency was what I was lacking with my button holes anyway… a couple of them chewed up and the placement is a bit wobbly, but it looks great on…

The topstitching is two threads of yellow run through the needle. A couple of stitches skipped and there’s a couple of tiny wobbles, I would have unpicked and gone again but it was midnight on September 28th and I was worried I wouldn’t make either the simplicity or refashioners deadline!

I’m glad I stepped up to the challenge. I really enjoyed making this top and Maxine is enjoying wearing it. Only one downside, I think MrA has noticed a pair of his jeans missing… Shh!

Happy sewing.

Notes to self:

  • Use the measurements and the amount of ease to assess size choice.
  • Always make a toile.
  • Recycle more fabrics (but ask first!).
  • Keep a better eye on deadlines.