The Muslin Diaries: Simplicity 1776 (Finale/ Finally!)

I’m still here! Some craziness has happened–which I’ll get to later. Sorry this post is super long and pictures are random at best. Skip to the end for the punchline!

Monday, March 10, 5:39 p.m.

I have spent a weekend with a friend away from muslins and fitting woes, and I have returned with a renewed will to conquer. After my last post on the subject, my frustration with Simplicity 1776 was making me question whether I really needed to spend all this time fitting a single dress.

Without some much-needed inspiration, I was dangerously close to quitting and sewing only Lady Skaters for the rest of my life. (Come on–would that really be such a bad thing?) So, I turned to Pinterest. I quick search for “shift dresses” revealed so many get-in-my-closet-right-now styling options to pin to my shiny, new “Shifty” board that I felt a renewed interest in defeating my shift dress fitting issues.

The biggest problem was making the armhole seam quit cutting into my arm in front. I drew in a new seam line and then clipped to it. Instant relief. I also pinned in a small armhole dart which helped immensely. It eliminated the armhole gaping and scooped the seam line enough to give my arm some breathing room.

I noticed that there was a lot of wrinkling at the back armhole. A little bit of scoop action back there solved that problem as well. After making the corresponding changes to the pattern, it’s time to sew another muslin. And that’s where I’m stuck. I need to run to Jo-Ann’s for some actual muslin as I no longer have icky fabric I don’t want to sew with. I’m waiting for a 50% fabric coupon. Paying full price at Jo-Ann’s just proves you have no patience 🙂

Once I get the armhole sorted, I’m going to attack those back darts. After that, I’ll work on the sleeve. And then I’ll be done. It sounds so simple, doesn’t it?

Wednesday, March 12, 4:14 p.m.

I found some muslin! I have no idea what I originally bought it for, but it has definitely come in handy. I’m really hoping this current version works as I have just enough left to test some sleeves.

5:50 p.m.

How much chips and salsa can one eat in one day before it becomes weird?

Unrelated: How much salsa can one’s hair retain before one can be termed “slovenly”?

Thursday, March 13, 3:35 p.m.

Is this my third muslin or my fourth? I’ve lost track. . .

Good news! I’ve almost got the armhole perfect! It needs to be lowered about 1/4″ and scooped more at front and back. Scooping the armhole not only makes it more comfortable, but also gets rid of excess fabric that wrinkles up right at my armpit.

Finding that there was lots of gaping at the back of the armhole, I pinched about 1/2″ out from armhole to neckline. And then pinched out a little 1/4″ dart a little lower down.

The new bust darts look good–they just need to be shortened about an inch. Easy-peasy.

Because the muslin felt a little tight at my chest, I restitched the side seams (front only) at about 1/4″ in between the sleeve seam and the dart. It seemed to help some. I think I’m either going to add a little at the side seams (1/2″ maybe?) or add to the CF. I just don’t want the neckline to be any wider. I’m thinking of splitting my muslin up the middle and sewing a 1/2″ strip in to test.

You know how I was worried about the back darts? Well they looked really good on this muslin, so maybe I just sewed them stupidly last time.

Also, I need to remember to even up the hem line and for Pete’s sake true my neckline!

Slaving away on this fitting process has opened my eyes to fit problems on other patterns which I previously thought were great. Example? The Lady Skater. She is amazing, but she is also very wrong at the arm holes. Very, very wrong. I’ve been cutting off desperately needed visual torso length by wearing armholes too low. I’m a short-waisted person! I need all the torso length I can get!

So, things seem to be progressing in a positive direction. I confess, however, that I am a little scared of trying to get the sleeves to work. I’ve been down this road before. Granted, I know more now and the cut-in gusset really does work wonders. But still. . .

Okay, I’m going to go away now.

Thursday, March 20, 6:46 p.m.

I know I said last time that I had the armhole almost perfect, well this time, I mean it!

So there have been several arm/shoulder adjustments since I last blathered away here. Let me try to sum up: continued back armhole gaping was solved by a combination of scooping the armhole curve and repositioning of the shoulder seam.

There, that was rather neat and tidy.

Of course, it took lots and lots of staring at the muslin and pinning and trying on and pinching and long showers so I could think clearly before I finally got there. I think it was when I realized just how far back the shoulder seam was sitting that I finally started making progress. Now, I have an armhole that fits comfortably all the way around and doesn’t gape. There’s still a bit of wrinkling at the underarm, but let’s face it, I’m working with fabric not plastic. Wrinkles are going to happen.

Also, it’s gone baggy in the middle, so I need to take out that tummy curve I randomly put in.

Also, I’ve decided on the patch pockets.

Now, it’s time for (I hope!) the last round of dress paper adjustments. Then, the sleeves. (“And after that, the deluge. . .” )


Neville! R.I.P. ugly green flip-flop that I’ve had for about ten years that finally broke. I was not so sorry to see you go. This picture is just to break up the monotony.

Wednesday, April 9, 4:14 p.m.

Friends. Holy freaking cow, friends.

It has been a longish time since I’ve been around here. I have not been idle. I started a new old job which I may or may not have already told you about. I have been very focussed on (and exhausted by) that, but now it is Spring Break and I am accomplishing the things. I have two goals for this week: 1. Finally finish my navy Archer–which I was actually making decent progress on last Wednesday before there was a significant derailment, which I shall tell you about in due time and 2. Finish this freakin’ shift dress for the love of chocolate and be able to move on with my life.

So the most recent solution that I had come up with to solve the armhole fitting issues managed to fix the back gaping (yay!) but made the armhole too tight once again (boo!). (Also, I had to lower the darts which I’d previously raised. This is why we fit from shoulder down.) This discovery occurred yesterday. So frustrated I started to hate sewing all together, I tossed the muslin back in its box (to think about what it had done) and went outside.

This is a habit of mine–and I’m so glad it’s warm enough for me to not freeze while I do it. When I get tired or feel like I’m losing my focus, I always head outside to play with the cats or weed the flower beds or just wander around and let the wind blow the thread fluff and general frustration out from between my ears. While I was verbally complaining to the cats about my weird shape (they didn’t sympathize, FYI), the simplest of all solutions hit me. I realized that it wasn’t just the armhole that was tight. It was also tight across the bust. And how do we fix that? We let out the side seams, of course! So easy!

After some more trial and error, I ended up letting out the side seam (about 1/4″ front and back) from underarm to bust, cinched it back in from bust to waist, and let it out again over my tummy and hips. The lines of the dress drastically improved. Then, I lengthened the back darts and voila! A fitted-but-not-too-fitted shift dress.

And this is how my scribbly pattern pieces looked after all the struggle:



See? Work happened.

Now, it’s time for the sleeves. I confess, I’m frightened. I’ve adjusted the armhole so much that I’m not even sure where to begin on the sleeve head! The armscye is the only part that needs to be adjusted since the rest of the sleeve already fits. I just have to make the armscye fit the armhole.

Time to find my bendy ruler!

Saturday, April 12, 3:24 p.m.

Suck it, Simplicity! YOU DID NOT DEFEAT ME!!! Not this time. . .

Friends–true friends who have actually read this far, I salute you!–my Simplicity 1776 shift block is complete. My final step before cutting out the real thing is to make clean copies of all the pieces.

This is, indeed, a momentous occasion.

Let’s talk about the sleeves.

If you remember, I thought that the only thing I had to adjust was the armscye (I learned from Lynda Maynard that the “armscye” is the curved seam line at the top of a sleeve. Knowledge!). I was wrongity wrong. I made so many changes I’m not even sure I remember them all.

The goal, of course, was comfort and full mobility. Adding the underarm cut-in gusset allowed me to raise my arms comfortably, so that was taken care of. The front of the sleeve was pulling at the bodice–a familiar problem I attempted to deal with in my S2444 days. Because my front armhole was scooped, I had to add extra volume to the sleeve at the corresponding point on the armscye. Follow? I simply redrew the seam line out more. What happened is a little fold of fabric on the front of the sleeve–similar to Lynda Maynard’s cut-in gusset fold under the sleeve. It didn’t bother me really. And it eased the front pulling. I decided to leave it.

Remember the fold. It becomes important.

My next issue was that the sleeve was too tight across the bicep. Now remember, my armhole fits perfectly, so the simple solution of cutting a bigger sleeve was not going to work. Adding more ease to the armscye would only create a poofiness situation that was certainly not the goal. Some of the problem was relieved by adding 5/8″ to the top curve of the armscye. It added very little ease and enough volume to relieve the tightness right at the top of my shoulder. I remember adding some width at this point, but I honestly can’t remember what my methods were. I remember it started like this. . .


And I somehow transferred some of those changes to the pattern. I’m sorry–it feels like ages ago. (It was yesterday.)

So, the sleeve was far more comfortable. The remaining mobility issue was that I couldn’t raise my arms forward. Up and back were both fine. Forward was super uncomfortable. As in driving to work was going to be a nightmare. Also impersonating zombies. You know–like I do.

I puzzled over this issue for a longish time. Then, while weeding the flowerbeds, I remembered the fold. Remember the fold? The one in front? It was the reason that moving my arms backwards was no problem. Couldn’t I do the same thing to the back of the sleeve? My only other option was to add width across the back which would result in wrinkles and/or a gaping neckline when my arms were raised. But, if I just added extra fabric along the back of the sleeve, I should be able to raise my arms to the front without all the pulling, right?


I don’t mean to get all braggy, but this is the best idea I ever had. Executing it was tricky, but I ended up just redrawing that armscye yet again, bubbling it out a bit along the backside where the pulling was happening.

And the final problem: the sleeves were belling (is that the word I want?) out at the hem. The problem was that I needed more length along the top of my shoulder. I made a quick horizontal incision on the muslin sleeve and noted the length I needed to make the hem behave properly.

To make the changes to the pattern, I drew in a horizontal line where I’d made my cut on the sleeve. I then cut a vertical line from the hem to that horizontal mark and then cut along the horizontal mark from stitching line to stitching line so I could sort of wing my pattern out at the sides. You can sort of see what I did here:



I added an inch at the cap and then redrew the sides. It was pretty simple actually.

And that was it.

Now to draw the clean copies and. . . well, I feel that I should memorialize my working pattern copies somehow. . . What’s the best way to honor them, I wonder. . .

Next time, I promise to show you something pretty! Well. . . something finished, at least 🙂


12 thoughts on “The Muslin Diaries: Simplicity 1776 (Finale/ Finally!)

  1. My daughter is going through a muslin fitting hell right now with a Simplicity pattern. And she is having the same problems. It is good to know that it can be achieved. Congratulations on winning the battle, it sounds as if it was fought long and hard but you were victorious! And in the end that is all that matters. Can’t wait to see the finished garment.

  2. Wow Jenny! You have some serious determination and perseverance going on here. I, and a lot of other sewers would have given up a LONG time ago! I am glad you have it figured out though. Can’t wait to see a finished garment. Also well done on the new job! X

  3. Oh man. I do not have the patience for that many adjustments! I’ve never even done an FBA, which I really should have conquered by now. Well done! I can’t wait to see the finished dress! I bet you’ll make a bunch this summer. 🙂

    • I do have a few versions in mind–I’m very excited to experiment. I’ve never done an FBA either, actually. At this point, it may be the one thing I haven’t! Thanks 🙂

  4. Wow, that is a lot of work you did there! Reminds me of all the work I did on the vogue dress. The best thing about about getting it perfect is having a TNT for the future.

    • Absolutely! Knowing I can use the pattern again is the only reason I kept at it, I think. That is what this year is all about: building up a small army of TNTs.

I'm done. Now, YOU can talk :)

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