Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Sew along, days 3-4: the test run

Since Sunday, you should have used the free Coffee Date Dress pattern to cut out cheap practice to play around with for sizing purposes. All the seams should be marked, and you should have cut out along the sewing lines. Now, it's time to make alterations! I'll leave you two days to do this plus a catch up day on Thursday. The next sew along post will be Friday, June 24th. I honestly think alterations are the most complicated part of sewing.

Alterations are really individualized. I'm going to walk you through the process I usually follow when altering a pattern. How you adjust for a problem depends on what the problem is, so you should use your best judgment.

First, pin the fabric along the dart lines. Then hold it up to yourself or your dressform if you have one. The darts should go from your waist to just below each boob (sounds so vulgar in text). If they're too far apart, you'll want to take a little out of the middle. If they're too close together, you should add a little to the middle. If they go up too high, you'll want to move the point of the triangle down, etc. You should do all of this by marking new seams with a different colored marker than you originally used. Mark all changes on the stitching line, not the cutting line. Play with the darts if necessary until you get them right. If you end up having to add to the middle, just cut it open, pin in a little extra fabric, and then go back to your playing around. If there's not enough difference between the waist and bust, you'll have to widen the darts (pinch in more fabric, which means you'll have to add to the sides in the next step.
Pin the darts--you want all "seams" (not real seams since
they're pinned, not stitched) to face outward, like you're
wearing the dress inside out

Darts are too far apart! Take in from the middle
Do the same with the back darts, which should hit just below your shoulderblades.

Once your darts are all set, pin together one side along the stitching line and put on the bodice. Pin the other side while you're wearing it. Is it too big? Too small? Adjust the side stitching line with your marker or by pinning on more fabric.
Too big at the waist, along the side at the top
Draw a straight line from the armhole to
the actual waist
Now the skirt should be easy since there are no darts. Pin the skirt to the bodice. The side seams should hit at your side. Adjust the skirt from the middle--take fabric out or add it in. Then adjust the side seam if the shape is wrong. Make sure the front bodice bottom is exactly the same width as the front skirt, and do the same for the back.

**I have a really arched back, so I added darts to my skirt back. I would not recommend doing this if you're a beginner, but if you're a little more advanced and you have a very arched back, adding darts helps. You might also need to widen the back darts and add some fabric to the side back to make up for it.

Finally, you want to pay attention to the armholes, neckline, and shoulder seams. You might want to trim off or pin down the seam allowance for this step to see how they will really fit. At this step, things get really personalized. You'll want to ask questions like, "Is the neckline gaping anywhere?" If so, take out some fabric in the center front or back at the top. Make sure the shoulder seams line up properly. Pin them along the sewing line while wearing your practice dress.
Trim around the neckline and armholes,
since there's no seam there
Armholes and neckline fit ok
The final bodice front--I've taken out of
the middle and a bit out of the sides, but
only at the bottom
Depending on how many alterations you had to make, your piece of fabric might just have a few lines moved over, etc., or it might be a whole bunch of fabric pieces pinned together. If you made a lot of changes, you might want to go through this process again--simply trace/copy the new lines to a new piece of cheap fabric, and make sure the new version fits properly. If you didn't make a ton of changes, then you should be good to go! Once you're all done, you should also alter the seam allowances to match. Keep in mind that the darts are just stitching lines, not cutting lines. You won't cut up the dart, so you don't need to add cutting lines for those. You can alter the seam allowances after you transfer the pattern to paper, as well.

Now copy the pattern from your fabric to tissue paper or packing paper (like blank newspaper). You can iron the paper on low heat, no steam, so there are no wrinkles in your pattern. Make sure you copy all marks from the pattern.
Finished pattern pieces, copied to packing paper
Back skirt--I had to add darts here, which you can see
in dotted lines... unless you're already a strong
sewer, you won't be doing this
Finally, you'll want to alter the facing pieces. You'll notice that the facing is really the same as the top of the actual bodice front and back, so you can just copy the top of each of those from your new pattern.

Bodice front final piece with the facing
pattern piece lying on top--see, they match!
I didn't make any changes to the neckline
or armhole, so I hardly had to change the
facing piece at all (just a tiny bit at the side
seam, which I did change)
Ideally, you'll want to actually sew this practice dress together along all the stitching lines. I'll leave this up to you. The pieces are simple enough that I don't think you actually have to finish making the muslin to get the sizing correct--pinning should be sufficient.

Congratulations, you now have a perfectly tailored pattern for yourself! This pattern is really versatile, and I'm sure it'll come in handy for you in the future. Without the ruffles, the coffee date dress pattern is really just a basic bodice block with an A line skirt, and you can use it to make all sorts of things in the future!

The next sew along post will be this Friday, after a catch up day Thursday. You'll use your new pattern to prepare and cut your dress and lining fabric.

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