When it comes to dressmaking, I confess I am pattern novice. Our end of year leavers Bash this year was a special one, special in that I was amongst this year’s leavers, my last Bash as a student! This seemed the perfect excuse to make a dress and so I seized the opportunity. Being a Country Garden themed do, I decided on a summery 50’s style dress in floral fabric and then spent hours trying to find just the right pattern and fabric (at just the right price!). Once again, thank you ebay.
This was my first time using a pattern and I owe a lot to Mom-in-Law Debbie for patiently showing me how not to screw it up. Here are a few random tips and tricks I learned from her and from the process:
- Don’t cut out the pattern pieces first. Just cut around them roughly then, cut pattern and fabric together.
- Following the grain. The big arrow on the pattern shows you which way the grain of your material should run. Make sure it’s right by pinning and then measuring from the line to the edge of your fabric. Measure in the same way further up the line. The distance should be the same from both points. Getting it right ensure each pieces falls the way it should and that all the material of each section will run in the same direction once you are finished.
3. What are those strange triangles for? As far as I can gather, these help you match up your pieces to the right place before sewing them together. These are supposed to be snipped out from the hem BUT, snip them the other way (see below) and you have a little more margin for error if you find you need to take a seam out at all.
4. Marking Darts. This is an obvious one to you maybe, but it was all new to me. To mark darts, use a double threaded needle (with bright colour cotton), sew once through the small circle on the dart line, and then sew again in the same direction leaving a little loop. Snip this loop and your thread and you should have achieved the effect below. (Mark other symbols with different colour bright thread – I should have done this and it would have saved me hunting though my pattern pieces later).
5. Sewing may appear to be a strange mixture of exact science and guesstimating, but whatever you do follow the pattern, I was amazed how accurate it turned out to be. Then, when all else fails, make it up.
6. When your pattern is too small… I made the error of buying the pattern in the wrong size range. Thankfully, because I only needed one size up from the largest size provided, I was able to remedy this. By looking at the pattern pieces I could see the outline for each size, the pattern at points should get larger with each increasing dress size. At these points of the pattern, I followed the edge of the pattern, but imagined where the line would be for the next size up and then cut along this imaginary line, allowing a little extra (for my extra…) This worked surprisingly well!
7. Invisible zips are the devil. Try, try and try again.
The fabric, zip and lace cost £20, the pattern £10, and the petticoat to give it some volume was £10, so altogether this dress cost as much as I might have paid for a shop bought, plus I can re-use the pattern. I loved making my dress as much as I enjoyed wearing it. It was the perfect beginner project. I will definitely be doing this again.
Any other tips, please comment below, they will be gratefully appreciated.