First off, may I just say how excited I am to be sewing with you all? What an honor to be on board at CPHQ and chatting with such a lively and happy blog audience!
Now that we are all acquainted, I have a confession to make: I am an impulse fabric shopper. If I see a 50% off tag on a fold of coral and brown plaid wool at the Pendleton Woolen Mill, it’ll probably end up walking out of the store with me (even if it is the first eighty degree day of the year). For this reason, I usually start new sewing projects searching out a pattern to go with fabric I already own.
But in the case of Sew-alongs, where you have committed yourself to a pattern first, you’ve got to find the right fabric to compliment the design. To keep myself on track at the fabric store in this situation I like to figure out exactly what I am going to purchase before I start browsing the bolts.
How to buy the right fabric for your project:
The easiest place to begin is the suggested fabrics list on your pattern. For the Hawthorn you’ll see the following list: cotton shirting, linen, voile, lawn, cotton poplin, seersucker, chambray, cotton flannelette, madras.
If you’re like me, that list still gives way too much leeway to wander the isles of my local fabric store. I try to narrow my options further by identifying the key design elements of my project and considering how different fabrics will compliment them. Here is my list of things to look at on Hawthorn: Sleeves, structure, and grainline.
- Sleeves: If you’re going for version three, think about how a chambray will lighten them and give a summery feel while a cotton flannelette will create more of a transitional piece you can layer with sweaters. If you choose the sleeveless style, you’ll probably want a light linen, voile or lawn to create a light and effortless summer dress.
- Structure: The collar and faced button-up closure require fabrics with a bit of structure. A sheer silk would result in a floppy collar and might look a bit wilted, losing the crisp clean quality we like in the menswear style of shirt dresses.
- Semi-circle skirt and peplum: The drape of a bias cut will give the perfect breezy summer feel if you use fabric with a nice drape. We shy away from stiff quilting cottons for this reason.
Of course, these are the same design elements the patternmaker considered when compiling the suggested fabrics list, but I have an easier time picking one specific type of fabric from the list when I understand why it was included as an option. Everything on the Hawthorn list is lightweight and will lend itself beautifully to the grainline of the skirt/peplum as well as the sleeve length and neckline.
Some final things to consider might be: What shoes will I wear with this garment? Is there a specific occasion I want to wear it for? What colors will compliment me and make me want to wear the garment often? Do I have time to tackle a difficult pattern like plaid, or should I use a simple solid?
I have pondered these questions and safely made it out of the fabric store with just one cut of fabric! I’ll be sewing version two, but with version one sleeves. I picked a red and white striped seersucker, which will look great cut on the bias for the sleeve finish.
Tip: When working with seersucker, make sure to wash and dry your fabric, then give it a thorough ironing to press out the wrinkles that form naturally due to the weave. If you don’t iron before cutting, the wrinkles will release as you sew and press your garment together, adding lots of excess width.
Below: Left side of fabric has been pressed, right side has not.
Sarai has picked a navy cotton silk blend by Marc Jacobs with brass buttons.
Now we can talk muslins. You may know of a few pattern alterations you want to make, but if not, a well constructed muslin is the best way to spot any glaring fit issues.
A few pointers on muslin construction
Here are the innards of the muslin we created to fit our model. While it isn’t necessary for you to go so far as adding button holes and buttons (you can simply pin your muslin closed) you do want to put enough care into your construction to make the process worth your while. I have rushed on muslin constructions in the past and ended up missing some key fit issues, which defeats the purpose of the muslin.
Also, the more care you put into your muslin construction the better practice you get for your final garment. I like to think of this as a dress rehearsal where I can get all of my mistakes out and then cut and sew my fashion fabric without a hitch.
Alrighty, on to our checklist for today!
Choose your size
Take a look at the measurement chart on your pattern booklet and locate the best size for you, focusing on the bust and waist measurements. The hip is open, so that measurement is not as important.
Cut out paper pattern and muslin
Unless you’re making a wearable muslin (a garment you think will fit well enough to actually wear) there is no need to cut out the facings. Just cut the bodice front and back, skirt front and back and sleeves.
Lay out pieces as shown in the cutting layout diagram. Transfer all markings (dart legs, button holes, fold lines, etc) then cut pieces.
Here is a picture of all the pieces I cut for my wearable muslin. I decided to cut the facings, but I am not going to interface them. A good pressing before wearing will give enough structure without making the dress stiff or overly formal.
Machine baste your test version
Here are the steps for stitching a basic muslin together:
- Sew darts.
- Sew shoulder and side seams of bodice.
- Stitch skirt back (J) pieces, then attach skirt front (I) pieces.
- Attach skirt to bodice.
- If using version 1 or 2:
- Sew three rows of basting between small dots on the top curve of the sleeves.
- Pull the bobbin threads to lightly gather the fabric.
- Sew underarm seam on sleeve, then set sleeve into armhole.
- Attach cuffs to determine the fit of the width and length of your sleeves.
- Since we did not attach the facing, we will need to turn the center front seams under by ¼” to remove the seam allowance. If you were to try and fit the muslin at this point without turning the center seam under, you would end up with an extra ½” of width all around, and this might lead you to think that the pattern is too large.
Determine fit alterations, if any
Put on your muslin and lap the right side over the left side by 1/2″ placing pins on buttonhole markings. Is the waist fitted yet comfortable, without any pulling at the waistline? Do you like where the waist seam hits your natural waistline and the length of the skirt?
If not, you may want to lengthen or shorten the bodice, or lengthen or shorten the skirt pieces. These only require simple slash alterations on the lines indicated on the pattern pieces.
Alter pattern, if needed
Add or remove any width or length to the pattern pieces. We will have detailed tutorials next week on Full and Small Bust Adjustments, as well as Wide and Narrow Shoulder Adjustments.
Have you picked your Hawthorn fabric yet? Tell us what you’re using and why you picked it for your version!