Sunday, May 15, 2011

Coffee Date Dress Sew Along Details!

I've set a date for my coffee date dress sew along! We'll start working on Monday, June 19th. Correction: Sunday, June 19th (2011). I'll post ~30 minutes of very beginner level instructions for each day. This means you should buy all your supplies in the next month. At the start of the sew along, I'll post a calendar with what we're going to do each day. I expect the whole thing to take about two weeks, and I'll leave a few "catch up days" in there in case you miss a day.

Committee Meeting Dress

Sexy Date Dress
Click the picture to see the blog post
I have used this pattern twice before, once to make my "Sexy Date Dress," and once to make my "Committee Meeting Dress," which I made before I started this blog. This time I'll make a "Picnic Date Dress"--a sundress version out of plain cotton or cotton/polyester material. I would recommend that beginners also make a sundress style coffee date dress, but if you're more experienced,  you could use this sew along to challenge yourself with a fabric that is more difficult to work with (like satin).

I'm thinking about doing the top in one color and bottom in another, like on this Anthropologie dress, which really resembles the coffee date dress:

About a week before the official sew along, I'll post a reusable grocery bag mini sew along so those of you new to using a sewing machine can get some practice.

We're going to use the free coffee date dress pattern from BurdaStyle with one slight modification--we'll make a fully lined version. If you want to skip the lining, the instructions will be pretty much identical, but I've found that a lot of sundress-appropriate fabrics are at least a little bit see-through, so lining them is very helpful. Here's the actual pattern (you can click the picture to get to the pattern page):

So what should you be doing now to get ready for this sew along?

You should print the free pattern from BurdaStyle and put it together with scotch tape. The pattern will print on several pages with instructions on how to tape it together in one big rectangle. Don't cut out the individual pieces yet. Print the instructions, too, but don't worry if they sound too complicated; I'm going to go into more detail on each step.

You should also figure out what size you should make. Measure your bust, waist, and hips with a measuring tape, and compare to the BurdaStyle size chart. DO NOT just compare to your US size, as US sizes keep changing and might not match the size chart listing.

You should also buy all your supplies!

The dress supplies:
  1. Fabric for your coffee date dress--1.5-2 yards for the dress, 1.5 yards for the lining of 60" wide fabric. For 45" wide fabric, you should buy 3 yards for the dress, 2.5 yards for the lining--you could probably get by with less, but keep in mind that the pattern has to be oriented in a certain direction on the fabric.
    • Like I said above, if you're a beginner, buy a cotton or cotton/polyester blend for both the dress and the lining.
    • When you go to the fabric store, try to avoid quilt fabrics (they are stiffer and don't flow as well--some people use them for apparel, and some of the nicer brands would work very well for a sundress, but if this is your first project, you probably aren't planning on spending a lot of money for the fancy brands).
    • Try to find fabric that is a solid color or has a very tiny pattern. If you buy a fabric with stripes or a bigger pattern, then any little mistakes you make lining things up will be apparent.
    • The fabric for this dress should not be stretchy! 
    • If you want a different color top than bottom, you should buy 1 yard of fabric for the top and 1 yard (correction: 2 yards for the bottom regardless of whether you're using 60" wide or 45" wide fabric) for the bottom of 60" wide fabric or 1 yard of fabric for the top and 2 yards for the bottom for 45" wide fabric.
    • As long as the fabric is inexpensive, I tend to buy ~1/2 yard extra, just in case I mess up!
    • If you're using expensive fabric and are experienced with pattern layout, you can check ahead of time how much fabric you really need.
    • If you're not lining your dress (if you're following the original instructions), you'll need an extra half yard or so of the dress fabric for your facing.
  2. CHEAP fabric to experiment with sizing ahead of time. 2 yards should be plenty. The first time I made this pattern, I had to alter it to fit me properly. For this reason, we're going to "make a muslin," which means we'll do a test cut out/try on session to see if you need to change anything before we actually start cutting the real dress. This fabric still should not be quilt fabric, but it should be a cheap cotton/polyester. You could use an old sheet as well.
  3. Matching thread. You should buy a spool of all-purpose thread that matches your dress. If the lining is a different color, you should also buy thread that matches the lining.
  4. An 18 inch invisible zipper, available at your fabric store. It should match your fabric.
  5. 1/4 yard iron-on lightweight interfacing Correction: 1/2 yard iron-on lightweight interfacing, available at any fabric store. This is something to iron to the back of the lining fabric at the neckline and sleeves to keep it from flopping around. You won't see it in the finished product. If you find interfacing that is 36" wide, 1/4 yard will be fine, but you'll need more of the 20" wide stuff.

Important sewing supplies:
1.  A sewing machine. Your sewing machine doesn't need to do anything special--you should be comfortable sewing a straight stitch (and if you're not, practice on a strip of fabric and then make the reusable grocery bag with me in June to get the hang of it). Each sewing machine is a little different, so consult your manual to figure out how to thread the machine.

2.  A seam ripper. Think it's funny that I listed the seam ripper right after the sewing machine? Well I'm just trying to help you out! You WILL make mistakes. Part of the reason I'm recommending a sundress type fabric is that it's easy to UNDO the stitches. Make sure you have one of these before we get started.
3.  Fabric scissors. They're better than regular scissors. Buy a pair from the fabric store, and don't let anyone use them to cut paper or anything else!
4.  A measuring tape. You'll need this to measure yourself and also throughout the project.
5.  A fabric pen or tailor's chalk. This is basically a special pen that washes/brushes off very easily. You'll need to mark the fabric to line things up properly, etc., so you should pick up a fabric pen if your fabric is light colored or tailor's chalk if it's dark. These are available at most fabric stores.
6.  Pins! Buy a little box at a fabric store--they sell pins with different colored heads (the little balls at the end). You don't need a pin cushion, though one could come in handy.
7.  A needle for hand sewing. You won't need this until the very end, but you might as well buy a pack while you're out. You most likely have one in a little sewing kit or something anyway.
8. A functional iron (and ironing board). You can get by in life without an iron. You can't get by in sewing without one. We'll iron our seams before moving on in EVERY step. Pressing the seams as you go leads to a much more professional looking project. I will admit that during college I just ironed on a towel on the floor without an ironing board, so you don't have to go out and buy one for this project, it will just make your life easier.

    Once you have all your supplies, you should wash your fabric. Just put it through the laundry however you plan to wash your actual dress. For example, if you're going to wash your dress in warm water and then put it in the dryer, do the same with your fabric.

    I'm really looking forward to teaching you how to sew! Please post any questions as comments to this post, and I'll share my fabric choice with you once I buy it!


      1. Funny story: I'm in the middle of packing up my apartment to move in exactly two weeks. I went through my fabric scrap bin and threw away a lot of it, and I cleaned out a bunch of my other sewing stuff. When I went looking for my coffee date dress pattern, I couldn't find it anywhere. Panic panic panic. I had spent a long time altering that pattern to fit me perfectly, and I use it as a foundation for a lot of other dresses! I looked everywhere, and finally I went outside to the trash, found the bag I had put in there, emptied it out entirely.... still now pattern. Eventually, I found it in a bin of "miscellaneous craft and sewing stuff" that I've been throwing things in to go through later. Phew. Thankfully, there were no other bags in the trashcan outside, and my bag was all fabric, etc.!

      2. Thanks for taking the time to teach newbies how to sew. I look forward to this sew-along! I have one question though, I am trying to learn how to alter patterns by using a basic bodice block that I made, is this a good idea, or should I just do a musli? I hate "wasting" fabric.....But I am aware that every thing I want to sew from a pattern need altering...

        Thanks once again,


      3. Hi Nina,

        I assume you had to go through a few rounds of altering to make your basic bodice block, so if that's the case, you could probably go ahead and use it. The first time I made this dress, I had to make a lot of changes, and I figure for totally new sewers, a muslin will be a good way to get some practice with the fabric and sewing machine before diving in to actually sew something they'll wear.

        If you think your basic bodice block is good, go ahead and use that (skip the muslin). When we actually start sewing the dress, we'll do the lining first, so if you do need to make changes at that point, it won't be on the outer part of the dress that people will see.

        I hardly ever have the patience to make a muslin, but since I had trouble with the sizing of this dress before, I thought it might be a good idea. I actually use my altered bodice of this dress as a basic bodice block when I'm trying to design patterns!

      4. Can't wait to get started on this! Love the pattern and can't wait to graduate to dress making! I am FOR SURE an expert at pillow cases and aprons now, so time to move up in the world! ;) Thanks for hosting this and if you feel like it, follow me too!

      5. Found this today!! So glad. This will be my first attempt at clothes making(I'm a quilter) and this sew along is perfect. Thank you for putting out these instruction-so helpful to a beginner.

      6. I'm glad you like it! To be completely honest, making the muslin is the hardest part. I hope to do another sew along sometime, but right now and for the foreseeable future my sewing focus is on my bridesmaid dresses :)