Today we start our sew-along dress in double-gauze!
I have created three versions of this lovely fit-and-flare from Bootstrap, and I’ve a fourth (for my mother) on the cutting table. These dresses are gorgeous because they have a look and feel like a well-loved garment, and they are (by virtue of Bootstrap Fashion’s wonderful pattern metrics) custom-built!
In our last post, we put together our supplies. A few people asked about alternate fabric choices as they didn’t want to sew with double-gauze – or didn’t want to purchase more fabric. You can of course use a crisper fabric, or even a fairly stable knit. My sew-along techniques will be assuming double-gauze properties, but I will make sure to write notes for anyone departing from that fabric choice.
For the sew-along I’m using a two-sided double gauze. The two-sided nature of this fabric will make it easy for you to see which side of the fabric I’m working with.
In general, you want to pre-treat your fabrics exactly the way you’ll be treating your garment. Since this is a casual cotton dress, I recommend serging or zig-zag stitching the raw edges of the yardage, then washing in the washing machine and drying in the dryer (or in the sun). After the fabric is dry, give the yardage a light steam press. You won’t be able to get all the wrinkles out of double gauze and nor should you try – it’s part of what gives the garment its softness, and its slightly-distressed hand. You merely want to press enough so the pattern’s grain can be easily straightened, including the selvedge.
Shown below: my 36″ wide print-ready pattern. As you can see by the double-outline, I elected to have a seam allowance added. Remember: you can always add a larger seam allowance if you want one. Seam allowances aren’t set in stone and they’re not magical. In fact, couture sewing tends to mark the stitching line and cut very large seam allowances. It is good to get comfortable altering seam allowances, but I’d been sewing a few years before I got to that place.
From top to bottom, left to right: back facing, back skirt, front skirt, back bodice, back insert, front bodice, front insert, sleeve, front facing:
For the sew-along, you can put aside the facing pieces (the two “smile”-shaped pieces), as we’ll be finishing our neckline with a bound edge.
Now, let’s cut our pattern out and mark our pieces, for best results.
First, you will want to mark the front and back of your sleeve piece. As I’ve mentioned before, in Bootstrap Patterns the notch closest to the shoulder notch, is the front notch. I usually mark my pattern front and back, then put a safety pin on the right-side front part of my sleeve. Shown below: the notch at left is the front notch, and the one at right, the back:
If you are new to sewing sleeves shaped like this, now’s as good at time as any to let you know that sleeves with this sort of sleeve cap are most often designed with a little fullness in between the notches. This is both for aesthetics, but also to provide ease of shoulder movement – our shoulder is our most mobile joint. Shown below, I’ve marked my front notch, and drawn a “fullness” line in pink to show you where we’ll be gathering the sleeve as we sew, later:
Now, it’s time to mark the inserts. The inserts need to be marked such that we can easily designate the top (that is, bodice-side) from the bottom (skirt-side). Otherwise it is too easy to get confused, later on. The pattern is printed such that the printed word is right-side up:
Next, and probably more important, is the center back of the back insert. This will be the short, curved end furthest from the notch. The notch lines up with the back bodice dart, when we affix the bodice:
Now, let’s think about the pleats!
The pleats for this design, are box-pleats. There are so many kinds of pleating techniques out there and let me tell you, I am not smart about pleat-reading! But in the fashion diagram, you can see the pleats meet one another right at the waistline:
In this case, when I printed the pattern and first saw five lines per pleat I was incredibly perplexed. All that those five lines mean is, the two outermost lines in the set of five, meet at the center line. The other two lines are the fold lines per pleat, but since we aren’t going to be making creases (we’re leaving the pleats soft, and not pleating at the hem), these lines aren’t very important. I marked all pleats with directional lines, for my reference when I assemble the skirt:
Now here’s something a bit tricky!
The front of the skirt is cut on a fold. This piece will make the front very wide, unless you have an especially wide yardage. So you might benefit from either cutting this skirt piece on the crossgrain, or dividing up the front skirt into two sections: one, a center piece to be cut on the fold, and the other, two mirror image cuts forming the front side of the skirt. To do this (as I did for the ivory dress and the denim blue dress; the teal dress featured a cross-grain center piece cut). You can make this new stitching line on the fold or (as shown below) on the middle of the pleat (where it will be more hidden). Just remember to transfer the grainline to the outer piece, and add a seam allowance to each new section. You can see my new stitching line in the pale red below:
And there you have it! Tomorrow we will be cutting and marking our fabrics, and getting to some stitching, to boot! Please email me for any questions; or leave them here in the comments!
See you tomorrow!