Hello you fabulous stitchers! Today I am announcing my April sew-along: a short, very feminine spring dress I have been calling the tea & crumpet!
Yes, someone’s been re-living the nineties! This feminine spring dress can also be worn with traditional heels or flats. My second sample of the dress will be a 40s-inspired wool crepe and yes, I will be posting soon!
Now, listen carefully. I will be leading the sew-along in two versions. Version one has an asymmetrical collar and flutter sleeves, with a trumpet-hem skirt that hits mid-thigh (the version shown in this post). Version two is identical, except it features a tie neck and gathered-bottom cap sleeves. Both were created at Bootstrap Fashion which is one of my favorite pattern companies.
In both cases, we will be underlining the bodice, and inserting a lining by hand. For a back closure, we can choose between an invisible zipper or a long line of covered buttons and loops. I am here to help you with your fabric choices, and I will speak more to those in the supplies list below.
And before we get started, some housekeeping. If you are on Facebook make sure to join the group Sew-A-Longs & Sewing Contests, helmed by Judy O’Day and Crystal Rice. This particular sew-along will be held there.Not only will this be a wonderful forum to share our sew-along experiences, but Judy and Crystal put together a prize pack for this sew-along!
You will need, in short: your fabrics (including underlining and linings), your Bootstrap pattern, an invisible zipper (and invisible zipper foot, or other installation method) or 25 cover button templates no larger than 5/8″, 1/4 yard interfacing, and thread (a few extra cones/spools if you will be using a serger). You will also need 5 yards of ban-roll, some double-sided tape, a soft glue stick, and a bone folder (or something for turning points).
I will be covering the following skills in the sew-along:
Working with, cutting, marking, and sewing sheers
Underlining a fitted bodice
Narrow french seams
1/8″ hem using ban-roll
Narrow double-fold hem using a serger
Crotcheted belt carriers
Creating a vintage button-loop closure
You will need fabrics with a good drape – period (here’s a basics article that will help). My advice is to find a light fabric that you adore! Light knits, stretch wovens, or non-stretch wovens with drape are all fine, because the pattern can be built accordingly when you build your pattern (is this not fabulous?). Sheers or semi-sheers are also suitable: you will need to underline/line accordingly – or make a sheer/semi-sheer dress and wear a slip. I am 100% about see-through clothing (like this Iggy Pop video I watched the other day, warning NSFW in any way!). Keep in mind also, that when you underline or line with semi-sheers, all of this changes the drape and opacity. You are a grownup, you can experiment. And I am here to answer any questions!
The fact you get to build the pattern as fitted, semi-fitted, or. As will your own personal preference. Some of us like very fitted clothing, some of us do not. All of us have different tastes. Again – this is all up to you. I urge my sew-along participants to focus less on an end result of having a dress that is magically perfect and solves all your style and body image issues, and to rather focus on the exploration of design, and the practice of construction skills!
Bootstrap Fashion’s patterns do not always carry instructions, although they are working in partnership to create more, and better, instructions. Bootstrap patterns are generally suitable for an intermediate seamstress (although with the help of this sew-along, any patient stitcher can get great results). Bootstrap requires you sign up, enter in a few key body measurements, then select your preferences for pattern output (CAD, or printed – on any size/style of paper). The pattern comes drafted to your specific measurements. As always one needs to test a muslin for fit (more about that in a moment) – but I’ve sewn many of their patterns and I’m always thrilled with the results! In my twin post today, I demonstrate how to sign up, and get your pattern.
Here are the links to the dresses I’ve built:
Zipper or Buttons
We are looking for an invisible zipper; I used a YKK 23″ invisible zipper, utilizing my colorcard from Zipperstop. Remember, if you are installing an invisible zipper you will be doing so by hand, with a specialized foot, or with some other method. If you’d like to use a button-and-loop closure buy plenty of buttons (I bought 25 to be safe); I chose 5/8″ size, a little on the large end of the spectrum. And yes, this means some fool will have to button me into my dress!
One more thing about closures: both builds of this dress have wide necklines. Depending on the pattern you choose, the fabric you select, your fit (fitted, semi-fitted, or loose), and your build, you may be able to pull the dress over your head without a closure, or with only a short closure – or a gorgeous short-placket open-back-with-loop fastening. I decided to use a long zipper and many buttons on my two samples, because I am a glutton for punishment, and I liked the idea of a long line of buttons. When you make your muslin, go ahead and explore how much of a back closure you need.
Interfacing and Thread
Use an interfacing suitable for your fabric. In the green crepe de chine dress, as well as the wool crepe, I did not use any interfacing collar, but this is an option you may want to explore. In my wool crepe sample, I did interface the back placket for strength to hold buttons and loops. It is better to have interfacing on hand, then to wish one did. I recommend Pamela Erny’s products at Fashion Sewing Supply; you may be able to purchase a sample set from her.
As for thread: of course we should always buy the best quality thread. But you can also use the best thread you have available. If you are going to serge or use the serger to help with hemming, you can either buy matching cones or cheat and buy a few smaller, cheap spools for these finishes. I have done this when I don’t have cones in the right color – a quick trip to Walmart for cheap thread. A reminder we will be inserting a lining in the bodice and you may want to french-seam the skirt. we won’t be doing a great deal of serging – just the hem if you don’t want to try the ban-roll, and any construction seams you want to finish that way.
If you’d like to try a ban-roll narrow hem, I reccommend purchasing 5 yards of ban-roll. This technique is quite incredible as it works with even flimsy, easy-to-fray fabrics (such as the silk habotai I used to line this sample garment).
In addition we will be using double-sided tape for our button loops, a soft glue stick for a few finishing bits and bobs, and a bone folder for turning points.
Before You Get Started!
I have a few additional recommendations. Think of these as investments – of time and resources – to up your sewing game.
Since this pattern is meant for fabrics with drape, I highly recommend you purchase and watch – no need to do any sewing just yet – the lovely Craftsy Class “The Essential Guide to Sewing with Sheers” with Sara Alm. This goes double for anyone who is wanting to use a light and/or sheer/semi-sheer fabric, and triple for anyone who is interested in sheer fabrics in general. Sheer fabrics can seem intimidating but they provide so many gorgous results. They aren’t as impossible as they seem. However, without practice, patience, and the help of veteran stitchers, you are perhaps setting yourself up for trouble! Sarah’s class is just gorgeous, and Craftsy courses come with 100% money-back guarantee.
Secondly: you need to make a muslin for fit. I know, I know. Nobody wants to do this! But here are some reasons why you should – as elucidated by Trudy at Hot Patterns, and posted with her permission. If you don’t make a muslin, then please don’t complain about fit results. Although Bootstrap has never let me down and their patterns fit like a dream (others have reported this, as well), muslins are my recommendation for all patterns. In the case of this dress, making a muslin means utilizing a fabric of similar weight and stretch, then cutting out all relevant pieces and stitching them together (without finishing the seams), installing a zipper, and zipping the dress up. The bodice is fitted enough that pinning at the back seam won’t do.
And finally, when it comes to muslins: please DO have someone take a picture of you in the muslin, and take the same picture in your favorite ready-to-wear (RTW) dress. I notice in the sewing world people can get quite involved in trying to solve every little ripple and bump they see in their custom creations. It’s important to realize most of us are walking around and feeling fabulous (or not!) in RTW clothing that fits far less well than what we sew. Fit important – and it can be the passion of a lifetime for some stitchers – but it’s also important to enjoy the process, and enjoy our results.
Please do make sure to email or comment any questions you have – or any bits of errata you find in my sew-along posts. YOUR assistance helps make this sew-along better for EVERYONE else!