Hello and welcome to day one of our sew-along! Today we are preparing our pattern, talking about fabric preparation, and playing with seam finishes! We will then cut and fit a muslin. I will be demonstrating technique using the three versions of the dress I created.
You will need:
1. Your printed Bootstrap Fashion pattern
2. Tracing paper, tracing medium and wheel
3. Fabric for your muslin
4. Your machine set up to sew
5. Clear tape
When you purchased your Bootstrap Fashion pattern, you had the option to omit seam allowances, or have a 3/8″ seam allowance included. But we may want to make changes. In couture and higher-end tailoring, seam lines are transferred to the fabric (by tracing or thread), and large seam allowances are cut with the expectation of hand-basting and then either hand- or machine-stitching. Bootstrap is a made-to-measure type of pattern. We may want to take a tip from couture work and add a little extra to the seam allowances, in case we do any alterations.
The seam allowance you choose will depend on how you want to finish your seams. So now is the time to play with the seam finishes you want to use for construction, and for hemming. Here are some examples, below.
For the silk crepe de chine dress sample I made, I constructed the skirt with a very narrow French seam – meaning, I used the 3/8″ seam allowance, sewed at 1/8″, micro-trimmed, then pressed and sewed at 1/4″. A more traditional French seam would use a 5/8″ seam allowance. Finishing your skirt seams with this finish will make sure the dress looks professional inside and out!
For the hem of the silk crepe de chine dress, I used a ban-roll method to make a very narrow hem – 1/8″. In this case, technically, you’d only want to cut a 1/4″ hem allowance! However, I didn’t want to fuss with changing the hem allowance, so I just set the ban-roll 1/4″ away from the hem. Alternatively, you can just accept a slightly longer or shorter hem. I won’t be showing the ban-roll technique now, but I will when we finish the dress hem:
For the wool crepe dress, I finished construction seams with a narrow serge-setting. However, I love a good slot-seam, so I experimented with those as well (including a linen underlay, a wool underlay, both a gapped and non-gapped version, and interfaced vs. non-interfaced seam allowance). I found the best results for slot seams for this project were as follows: a 5/8″ seam allowance in the garment, and a seam interfaced with 7/8″. I then cut a 1 1/4″ strip of backing fabric, and interfaced it as well. I basted the steam, then pinned and topstitched (using a narrow zig-zag, as the wool crepe is a knit):
And then I finished the seam allowances. In the bodice, since it will be fully-lined, I didn’t finish the slot seams. The skirt will also have a lining, but it will be free-hanging, so you may want to finish your seams.
My slot seam ended up being very subtle, but you could use something striking for your underlay, or a gap to accentuate it (don’t forget to factor in any additional girth this affords). Here is my final result, shown with my hand-crocheted belt carriers:
All of these seam finishes are meant to be fun! The more I sew, the more I care about how the insides of my garment look! Anyone else wayyyyy too into seam finishes? Or is it just me?
OK! After we’ve played with our stitching methods (or not, if that’s not our groove), it’s time to print our pattern!
Your Bootstrap Fashion pattern comes in any form. I choose a 36″ wide copy shop format, and I opt for seam allowances. So my file looks a little like this:
After I print the file, I always check that the scale is correct. I have never had a problem, but I hardly want to sew up an entire garment without checking first!
It’s time to cut the pattern pieces. If I am adding seam allowance – as is the case for my side seams in the crepe, where I require 5/8″ for slot-seams, I usually cut the Bootstrap pattern, then trace my own copy on blank paper. I then label my pattern pieces by number and/or the function of the piece (i.e. “side front” etc):
This brings me to the skirt. There are several gores to the skirt, resulting in seven panels altogether. Here, they are presented from back to front (starting left). I like to label the parts of these gores, and use safety pins at the hip/side seams, so I don’t get mixed up later:
Important to note: the center front panel (far right) will be the widest. The center back panels (far left) will have a hash mark only a few inches down, at center back. As for the two side panels, there is one missing notch on the side front (second-from-right). That said, the side seam – the “hip” of the skirt – has a more pronounced curve, that is easy to mark as hip.
I label these various features of the pattern:
Below is the flutter sleeve: you can see three marks at the shoulder (concave edge). The middle mark corresponds to the location where the sleeve will meet the shoulder seam. The notch that is closer to the shoulder notch, corresponds to the front of the sleeve. The notch that is further away, the back:
Shown below is the gathered cap sleeve. Again, the point where the sleeve meets the shoulder seam is marked with a notch, and the longer seam length corresponds to the back side of the pattern. Below, I have put in a safety pin (top right) and will do the same for my fabric pieces, to make for easy construction order later. I put the safety pin in the fabric right-side, garment front:
Now, I tape up any lines I plan on tracing. Below, you see my bodice – with the 5/8″ seam allowance extension I added – and I’ve taped all lines. I tape these lines so the pattern won’t tear if I trace many times. This is especially important if I plan on making more than one dress from the pattern. Note, also, the red mark at center-front of the waistline. I like to mark my centers on the paper pattern and the garment pieces:
Here, I begin to lay out my pattern on my fashion fabric (remember, Bootstrap’s patterns do not halve pattern pieces that have symmetry). I’m nowhere near cutting my fashion fabric, just making sure I have enough yardage. This was especially important with my wool crepe, as the yardage came printed in large panels. In the upper-right of the photo you can see a larger version of the motif printed sideways on the fabric!
This goes quite quickly. We baste together the major components of the dress as follows. First, we baste the darts (there are six in the bodice), the bodice, and the skirt seams. We can add sleeves if we like. We then baste the skirt to the bodice, and baste a zipper in the back. Or, if you think the dress might pull over the head, you can baste the back seam (as I did, below). Then, we check our fit. If we like, we can pin or baste our collar in or drape the belt across the waist.
Here is my daughter in the muslin of a knit version of the dress. Note that the sleeves, collar, and belt are not shown. Also note that the hemline is raw (and thus about 3/4″ longer than the design). I won’t be finishing the hem on this dress, as I like the raw edge:
This muslin is a great fit. I’d say it assumes shoulders just a little broader than my daughter; this means, for her next Bootstrap Fashion pattern, under “Fit Adjustments” > “Shoulder Width” I can choose “Narrow”.
I also want to point out that the fact the stripes line up on all seven panels, along the back seam, and along the darts, shows how well the pattern is drafted. (Also, of course, that I laid out the grain properly before cutting!) It isn’t possible to get a perfect stripe-lineup along the waist seam, because the waist seamline is curved. However, this muslin is so balanced that you have to peer a bit to even see the waist seam. A belt will help disrupt any pattern issues you have, where the bodice and skirt meet.
And finally: if in your muslin fit you find that the dress can pull over the head (as I have) you can either sew up the back seam, or shift the edge of the backpiece onto a fold. Since the pattern is designed with a curved back, you need to first consider whether you are willing to sacrifice the fit.
So there we have it! On the fifth we will begin putting the dress together in earnest, more or less following Bootstrap’s instructions. In the meantime, if you have questions, go to the Facebook group and post them there! Tag me so I see you right away!