Last you saw, I was on my second muslin of my dress and it needed a few more tweaks to the back. I made some changes, made another muslin of the back bodice only, basted it into the dress muslin, and decided I was satisfied at last. Yay! So I've got my dress pattern all draped and transferred to paper. It's time to sew! But before I cut into the fabric, I've already spent a lot of time thinking about how I'm going to construct my design.
Let me start by stating the obvious: self-drafted patterns do not come with instructions. You've thought up this design, and now it's up to you to figure out the best way to sew it. I find this process to be liberating, frustrating, and gratifying all at the same time. It's certainly a test of one's construction skills! But I've often learned the most about sewing this way, because I don't have someone else's instructions to rely on.
Here's a little checklist of things to think about as you're designing a pattern, along with the decisions I made about my design:
- Finishing the edges. Will you use facings? Or have a lining that extends to the edge? I decided to line my bodice to the edge so I could finish the kimono sleeves and the neckline in one fell swoop.
- Lining. Will the design be partially lined, unlined, or fully lined? I'll be partially lining my dress - the bodice will be lined to finish the edges, but the skirt doesn't really need a lining.
- Interfacing. Where will you use it? What kind will you use? I decided to interface the midriff section of my dress because I wanted there to be a lot of support in the fabric there. I initially wanted to use muslin as a sew-in interfacing because it's breathable - important in a summer dress. But a quick test of muslin and fusible interfacing proved that the fusible was the much better choice to keep the midriff from buckling or wrinkling. (Test swatches pictured above.)
- Stabilizing seams. (Remember this post on this subject?) Do you want to use stay tape on any seams? Because I didn't have facings to stabilize my neckline, I used a fusible stay tape that I made myself by cutting fusible interfacing strips on the bias. Worked like a charm! I also used the tape to stabilize the shoulder seams while I was at it (but only on one side; that's all you need).
- Closures. You know: zipper or buttons? If a zipper: side or back? I decided to go with a lapped back zipper on this dress. I love to handpick my zippers, but I haven't loved the look of centered zippers on recent projects. Then I thought: why not do a lapped back zipper?
- Seam allowances. First, how will you finish them? Secondly, how wide do you want them to be? The seam allowances on my bodice don't need to be finished since it will be lined. I'm going to go with the "simpler is better" philosophy on the skirt and pink the seam allowances. As for seam allowances, I used the standard 5/8" everywhere except the back. I did an inch there to easily accommodate a lapped zipper - no need for a zipper placket.
- Hemming. How much hem allowance will you need? Would you prefer to face the hem? Think it through and make sure you have a big enough allowance. Mine will be a simple 1-1/2" turned up hem, covered with seam binding, and hand-stitched.
- Order of construction. Once you've made a muslin (or three!) that will give you an opportunity to have a dry-run of your construction. But go through it again mentally to make sure you're taking into consideration facings, linings, and stuff like that.
Fusible stay tape on neckline and shoulder