Time to make progress on my sabbatical style goal of 5 me-made garments by the end of 100 days! Mostly as before, the plan was:

  1. Pick an inspiration
  2. Pick a pattern
  3. Pick fabric, purchase
  4. Print pattern, cut it out and tape together
  5. Transfer pattern onto fabric
  6. Cut out pattern with seam allowances
  7. Assemble the garment
  8. Wear it!

This time things went largely according to plan, primarily because I gave myself the latitude to complete the project in more than one day. So, in this Part 1, I’ll show you how to make a jersey dress up to a croissant. Let’s go!

Step 1 + 2: Pick an inspiration + a pattern

I love winter dresses. There’s something awesome about wearing a duvet-like garment while outside of your bed. When I saw the Peppermint Mag Sewing School Jersey Dress, I knew I had to find some ridiculously soft fabric and make one tout de suite. In that sense, you could say this was my inspiration:

Step 3: Pick fabric, purchase

For my fabric choice, I wanted to make sure this time to stick to the natural fibers that I prefer. I recalled that Fabrications had a few soft cotton and bamboo jerseys to choose from, so back there I went. I ended up with a magically fleecy light heather grey double-gauze cotton and some navy blue bamboo ribbing, for a cool, nothing-is-on-sale-but-I-am-in-love $85.88.

I’m starting to think home sewing is a poor way to create a budget-friendly wardrobe.

One thing I did properly this time, which I hadn’t ever previously, was to pretreat the fabric by washing and drying it before cutting. This is meant to prevent any shrinkage that may happen on subsequent post-assembly washes. Pretty proud of myself for remembering to do it!

As an aside, I think I’m going to try the opposite approach for my next project: figure out what kind of fabric I want first and then figure out where to get it, instead of simply taking what I can get at the local stores. We shall see!

Step 4: Print pattern, cut it out and tape together

There are many ways to make a PDF pattern work for you. You can print it at home or at the office for free, trim it yourself (if you’ve got access to one of those guillotine paper trimmers, you’re golden), tape it together, and cut out the pieces. That’s pretty much what I did last time, except since I am sans printer at home I got the pattern printed at Rytec for $3.20. I trimmed it at home with my X-Acto knife, then taped it together and cut’em pieces out.

This time, to amp up laziness, I got the pattern printed AND trimmed at Rytec – for a whopping $6.40. Then I did the tapey-tapey, cutty-cutty thing myself.

So, after all was said and done, I was out 1.5 hours and $6.40. Arguably, this is more expensive than actually purchasing a printed pattern, which I might try next time.

Step 5 + 6: Transfer + cut out pattern with seam allowances

Because this fabric wasn’t slippery like my velveteen friend, and because seam allowances were included in the pattern, I skipped the transferring step. When laying out the pieces, I realized that swapping the recommended positions of the front and back pieces (necks together instead of hems together as per instructions) left me much more room to fit in the sleeve. Using my layout, I think you can get away with just 2/2.3 meters of your main fabric (for the views with ribbing/self-bands respectively) even for 45-inch fabric widths. My fabric was definitely less than 60 inches in width, and it worked for me.

Using makeshift pattern weights and a copy of the LCBO’s Food & Drink magazine (Cara was busy), I cut out the pattern pieces with no problems.

This pattern has a few markings that needed to be transferred onto the fabric: notches to cut in, as well as some tailor’s tacks. Even without pinning the pattern down, these were easy to copy over. I didn’t notice right away, but there are notches for the cut-on-fold pieces to mark center front and back – don’t ignore these, they’re very useful for lining up ribbing later on.

And speaking of ribbing: cutting it is the easiest thing ever, because you can use the ribs as the guidelines for cutting straight lines. Plus, if you’re careful, you can use cuts you make for previous pieces for the next ones – just line the pattern pieces up to the cuts you already made as you proceed.

Step 7: Assemble the garment

Before sewing, I was – again, curse you Internets! – scared mildly by tales of crappy results sewing jersey without serger, twin needle, or walking foot. I decided to stick with a stretch stitch, and vowed to be careful and not pull on the fabric too much when I sewed. I even did a few stitch tests to make sure I’m doing it right.

Satisfied with the tests, I started by pinning the first sleeve – the notches came in handy here – and sewing it to the front piece. I fucked it up slightly at first, as you can see. Turns out seam ripping a stretch stitch is literally zero fun. After futile attempts at doing that for a bit, I figured out that the seam allowances are to be pressed to one side instead of open anyway, so I fixed it by going over the seam again. Phew!

In similar fashion, though slightly more carefully, I stitched the other sleeve to the center piece, then attached the back.

Time to try it on! I mean, not really, since it’s not close to being a garment yet, but this step is worth doing to check for lengths. As you can see, this would have been a good time to note that a) the sleeves are quite a good length, and b) the hem is falling past my knees, making me look like a Mormon sister wife. I say “would have been” because I took the picture for the fun of it as opposed to utility, as evidenced by my solemn expression. Mormon hem length remained.

At this point I realized that I’m about to have to sew two of the longest seams of the dress. The side seams, stretching all the way from the sleeve ends, going into the armpit, and then down to the hem, appeared quite daunting as I lay out the fabric for pinning. Thus, in truly French fashion, I capitulated to a light petit dej of a ham and cheese croissant and freshly French-pressed coffee.

As good a time as any to take a bit of a break before we proceed to longggggg seam sewing and ribbing attachment, isn’t it? Stay tuned for part 2!