Okay, where were we? Ah yes, you’ve decided to sew a dress, taken your measurements and picked out the pattern. First things first- read the directions! Seriously- this pattern has directions that if followed correctly, will result in a garment that you can wear to your heart’s delight, for as long as you both shall live- or until it falls apart in the wash, whichever comes first.
Each pattern you buy will have it’s own set of directions, steps to take in the construction of the garment. As you continue to gain experience in sewing eventually you will begin to notice that they all start to sound alike, have weird little quirks, and some are downright fussy and ill thought out, but you don’t know that now, do you? Well, I don’t- so I read the directions. This step helps me visualize the seams, darts, hems and whatever else goes into the construction of this particular dress, and will eventually help me figure out what short cuts I can or want to take while making it. Right now, I don’t want to take any shortcuts- I’m thinking that’s why my projects never fit, that I’ve been taking to many alterations before I’ve even learned how to sew properly, so I’m taking it slow and following each step of the directions the way it is written. That is also the advantage of making a toile, or draft, dress first- I can make changes in the next version if I need to later.
One trick I did learn about- and isn’t in the directions- is to measure the actual pattern pieces against my body measurements:
This helps me determine what size to cut, and how much fabric I’ll need for the dress. In this case, the piece of fabric I want to use is too short by a couple of inches. Hmm… what to do, what to do? I like the look of tonal stripes, and asymmetrical color blocking comes to mind, so I seamed my fabric together to create a deep hem and voila- the fabric is ready to roll! This picture is out of order to show you how the fabric came together:
Okay, next step- tracing the pattern.
This is another step that I learned from my vast amount of research and development in recent years. If you don’t want to have to constantly keep buying the same pattern over and over because of mishaps and/or bad measuring practices (err, ahem.) you will learn to trace your patterns. Take a piece of freezer pattern, or tracing paper from the sewing store- it’s over by the interfacing- line it up over your pattern, and trace away. You might iron your pattern first, too- it helps to straighten it out and take away those creases and wrinkles. Make sure to transfer all those arrows, triangles, squares, dots and lines too, otherwise you’ll have a basic outline with no shaping to it. Fold the actual pattern back up and put it back into the envelope, then cut out your tracing. You’re ready for the next step!
As I type this post, I am in the process of ripping out two long seams- I wanted to let everyone know that you can make mistakes! Don’t let them stop you- keep working at it, even when you think it’s ruined, it can be saved. I am in the third week of working on this dress, but when you see it completed you’ll wonder why it took me so long! Because I am taking the time to learn from my mistakes, but I am very happy with my progress so far. I know it fits, because I’ve been trying it on from time to time to check the fit. I am very excited to wear this dress- it’s so me! Now, if I can just get those faeries to move out of the dress form- they’ve installed floors and furniture and papered the inside with floral- Hey! No windows you guys! That’s a structural integrity issue! And it'll ruin my dress form…