Happy Monday and WELCOME to the Elisalex Dress Sewalong!! We've been totally psyched about this ever since we wrapped up the Charlotte Skirt Sewalong... Choosing fabrics, thinking up exciting variations and seeing all of your tweets and instagrams as you prepare to sewalong has only upped the hype for us!
Before we begin, here's a little reminder of everything you need, and what we'll be covering over the next month or so:
- Heads up: Elisalex Dress Sewalong coming in March!
We really want to make this sewalong even better than the last, and accessible to all sewing abilities (our only requirements are that you can thread your machine and sew a basic cushion cover first!), so please get in touch via the comments below or tweet us with any questions or extras you'd like us to cover.
Today, we'll be showing you how to:
- find your size
- decide whether or not to make a toile/muslin
- trace the pattern pieces
- lay the pattern onto your fabric ready to be cut
*Hold up! Have you pre-washed your fabric?? Make sure you wash and dry your fabric before you cut - there's nothing worse than spending hours making a dress you love, only to shrink it in the machine after one wear...*
Finding your size
The secret to clothes that look and feel amazing is all in the fit. If something does not fit your body well, chances are it won’t feel great to wear. And if you don’t feel great, what’s the point?? It is important to remember that sewing patterns, just like shop bought clothes, are sized and graded to a set of average measurements. However, once you have a solid understanding of your own shape, it is pretty simple to adjust a paper pattern to your own unique proportions.
Using a measuring tape and the diagram below as a visual guide, note down your waist and bust measurements. For this dress with its exaggerated tulip skirt, it's not necessary to take a hip measurement. Your waist is (usually) the smallest part of your torso, in between your ribs and hip bone. This is where the dress' waistline will sit. Your bust measurement should be taken around the fullest part of your chest, preferably while you're wearing the same type of bra you would choose to wear under this dress.
First, compare your waist measurement with our sizing chart on the back of your Elisalex Dress pattern. This pattern has been designed with very little ease, ie. it is designed to be very form fitting at the bodice, so take the sizing chart as the finished garment measurements. Don’t worry if your measurements don’t match our sizes exactly, we’ll be showing you how to adjust the pattern if your waist and bust measurements fall into different “sizes”. For now, use your waist measurement to determine your size.
*Larger busts, stay tuned for our next post in which we'll be showing you how to do a Full Bust Adjustment (FBA), and smaller busts will be able to take the bodice in before we attach the skirts*
Tracing the pattern
Use pattern weights (or anything heavy) to keep your tracing paper in place. Trace off your chosen size, using a ruler and specialist curves wherever possible, copying all markings and notches. Label each pattern piece clearly (don't forget to include the size you've cut - like we have!!). Carefully cut out your pattern pieces.
To toile or not to toile?
This is a debate that divides many sewists... A toile, or a muslin as it's usually called in the States, is basically just a practice run of the garment you are making in a cheaper fabric. Any changes to the fit or style of the pattern can then be made to the toile without having to tweak and potentially ruin the actual fabric you've chosen for your final garment. Time consuming, yes, but definitely worth it if you want a perfect fit.
As a general rule, if you answer "yes" to any of the following questions, we definitely advise that you first make a toile to be on the safe side. We wouldn't want you spending all that time only to waste your precious fabric!
- Do your measurements differ wildly from our sizing chart? Is there a difference of more than two sizes between your bust and waist measurements?
- Do you have some ridiculously expensive/irreplaceable/vintage fabric lined up to make this dress?
- Have you chosen to make your Elisalex Dress from a fabric with more stretch than the fabrics we've recommended, like jersey?
To make a toile, choose a cheap fabric with a similar weight and drape to your main fabric. You may as well choose a fabric in a colour or print that's not too hideous so if it turns out alright, bonus! You'll have an extra dress! This is called 'a wearable toile/muslin'.
If it's only the bodice you want to toile, don't worry about making the whole dress, or even bothering to line it - just make the outside of the bodice up in your toile fabric, check the fit, make any adjustments (we'll be going through some common adjustments later) and then move onto your main fabric once you're happy.
Cutting your fabric (if you're going to do an FBA with us in the next post, sit this part out for now!)
Fold your - pre-washed and freshly ironed - fabric in half lengthways and lay out your pattern pieces on top. Pattern placement is a bit like a puzzle; you have to try to get the most out of your fabric, while keeping to the grainline and nap*.
On our layplan above, we've got a 60" wide length of fabric folded in half lengthways. You'll see that we've got the bodice front and skirt front placed on the fold, we've gone for a short sleeve and shortened the skirt to 24" - the perfect just-below-the-length! Feel free to shorten or lengthen the sleeve and skirt to your own taste; sleeve and skirt length shown on the pattern is just a guide, given that our heights, arm lengths and preferences vary so much.
Secure your pattern pieces carefully into place with either pins or weights - it is entirely up to you to find the cutting method you're happiest with. Even here at By Hand HQ, we're divided! Victoria insists upon pins and super sharp shears (fabric scissors), while Elisalex prefers weights, a cutting mat and a rotary cutter.
Now cut around all the pattern pieces, being sure to snip all notches.
Repeat this for the bodice lining.
*If you're using a rotary cutter, please please PLEASE be careful! Fingers have almost been lost at their expense!*
That's all for today guys! In the next post we'll be showing you how to do a Full Bust Adjustment (FBA) if your girls need a little extra space (I know mine do!)...
In the meantime, let's get a little dialogue going on here! We want to see your progress, answer your queries, and share the love. Here's how to get in touch:
- Tweet us @byhandlondon using the hashtags #elisalexsewalong & #byhandlondon
- Post on our Facebook page
- Instagram your progress and tag us @byhandlondon using the same hashtags as above
- Post pictures of your progress onto our Flickr pool
- Request an invite to pin to our Elisalex Dress Sewalong community board
Grainline - the threads which run lengthwise on woven fabrics, also known as the 'warp'. The grainline lies parallel to the selvedges. The opposite of the grainline is the crossgrain, which runs widthways from one selvedge to the other.
Nap - a term used for fabric that has a directional pile like velvet, suede, terry cloth, corduroy etc. When you brush over it with your hand in different directions, it will appear slightly different as it reflects the light. 'Nap' can also refer to fabrics with a directional print such as stripes, chevrons or damask. You need to make sure your pattern pieces all face the same direction so as not to end up with a strangely optical effect!