Starting Early on a Sundress – Simplicity 1881

I was planning to start sewing this sundress this weekend regardless of the weather, but it somehow felt appropriate to be stitching up the beginnings of a sundress when it was nearly 80 degrees outside.  In January.

I’ve been looking forward to this dress for a while, from pattern Simplicity 1881.  It is one of the items from my project list – hooray for getting closer to crossing it off!  I’m sewing the sleeveless bodice B version with the hi-low skirt (shown in black on the pattern envelope).  I am a sucker for hi-low skirts, and I do not own any dresses with such a cute keyhole bodice.  I’m using a white, brown, and gold striped jersey knit fabric I purchased at Hancock ages ago when it was on sale.  I even pre-washed it; you should be proud, since I am notorious for never doing important things like this when I sew.

Before I get too involved in the details of what I have done so far, let me tell you about a few new sewing items I have acquired.

1)  Deirdre – My dress form, given to me for Christmas by my husband.  She is adjustable, and now sports all of my measurements which will hopefully make garments easier to fit without poking myself a bazillion times with my pins.



2) A bobbin box!  I ordered this from Amazon as I got tired of throwing them into the thread spots in my organizer.



3)  New presser feet.  A narrow hem foot – which I have already acquired once before and lost it, so now that I have bought another, I will surely locate the other one – and a Side Cutter foot.  I have not tried either of these out yet, but plan to soon.  The side cutter foot is supposed to cut while you overcast your seams, making your machine function very much like a serger.


Okay, show and tell is now over 🙂  Time to get to the actual sewing.

Honestly, I only sewed about 6 steps worth of the dress.  Lots of time was sucked up by ironing and fusing some interfacing to a few pieces of fabric.  Basically, my accomplishments for the day included:

1)  Attaching the two bodice front pieces together at the center seam, prepping for the keyhole part of the bodice.

2)  Attaching the two bodice back pieces together at the center seam.  The is a keyhole part on the back of the dress as well.

3)  Connecting the facing / lining pieces similarly, and then attaching the lining pieces to the front and back of the bodice at the center seam (keyhole segment) and the underarm seam.  Below is a shot of the finished front bodice piece.


4)  Understitching the facings of the front and back of the bodice.  This was not too bad, though the weird already stitched bodice parts made the machine sewing a tad messy.


My least favorite part of the sewing from today was attaching the facing to the main bodice pieces at the ‘v’ part of the keyhole area.  Four different lines of stitching wind up coming together at the same point, and the seams even clipped seem to leave a bit of  a bump  after ironing.  Regardless, no major hiccups thus far.  It is tough telling which side of this fabric is right side and wrong side.  There is a very slight difference, mostly in the gold thread  lines.  I am terrified that at some point I am going to get this wrong and wind up with the wrong side of the fabric on the outside for part of the dress.

I even tested putting the front and back pieces on Deirdre a bit, to get a general idea of size / fit.  I always cut the largest pattern size because (a) my measurements require it and (b) I’d rather take it in than figure out how to make a garment bigger.  But from the picture below, you’ll see I might be spending some time taking this dress in, as per usual with patterns.


Granted, the bodice piece does have some gathering at the top and bottom of each side in the front.  And the circular collar will pull the pieces together a bit differently than I have them laid on Deirdre here.  But with two inches of extra fabric on each side, I tend to think I will still wind up taking it in a bit …

The collar for the dress calls for three bead accents.  I am considering going with a gold or turquoise accent there.  Let me know if you have thoughts or suggestions.  I can’t decide if the turquoise will stand out too much or not.


4 comments for “Starting Early on a Sundress – Simplicity 1881

  1. January 14, 2013 at 8:14 am

    Turquoise!!! This dress is going to be soooooo pretty.

  2. Ciara
    April 7, 2013 at 10:27 am

    Hey! I’m currently trying to make this and cannot make head nor tail of the pattern.
    Can you tell me in picture 3 what parts have you sewn together? I’m not sure
    If I’m only meant to do the armholes or what.
    This is only my second attempt at a dress and I feel like throwing it out the window!

    • Tyraenna
      April 7, 2013 at 12:54 pm

      Hi Ciara! I feel your pain on wanting to throw projects out the window in frustration, especially due to pattern instructions! By the end of Step 2 in this pattern, you should have one piece – a front bodice piece connected to a facing piece. It is only stitched along the “v” keyhole edges and the armhole edges. Then in Step 3, press the seams for the armholes and the “v” keyhole piece towards the facing. You then need to understitch that seam to the facing piece, which basically means a line of straight stitches very close to the original seam. Since the facing is connected to the bodice piece, getting this situated in your machine may be a little tricky. I recommend turning the piece right side out, and then bunching your front bodice piece back out of the way while you sew the seam allowance down onto the facing. The wrong side of the facing is up, with the seam allowance on top while you stitch it down. None of this will be seen on the outside of your dress, as you need to be sure to keep the front of the bodice free of the understitching. I hope this helps – hard to describe without a picture. But the pictures in the pattern are a tad misleading – the circle one is not showing the best way to DO it with this tricky piece. Please let me know if you have more questions!! I’d love to see your finished dress when you’re done! 🙂

      • Tyraenna
        April 7, 2013 at 12:58 pm

        Also, Item 4) in the post above talks about this tricky part of the pattern, and the picture is attempting to show you how I accomplished it. Give that a look if my description isn’t helpful! I actually did the understitching in that picture with the seam on the bottom and the right side of the facing up.


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