We've been along for the ride with designer, sewing instructor, and fashion writer Jamie Lau as she designs her first textile and sews it up into one of her beautiful shift dresses. She shared her fabric design and color palette inspiration and her textile design process from photo inspiration to printed fabric. Today, she'll begin sewing her a-line shift dress and sharing garment sewing tips along the way!
I set out to design
my fabric print,
I had a specific dress design in mind using a pattern I had
previously drafted. I wanted to showcase a paneled
gradient textile design
that read like abstract scenery with an A-line shift dress silhouette
that was relaxed and easy to wear – something you could slip on
without the hassle of a zipper. I decided to cut the dress on the
bias and play with the rough lines and gradients of the print as I
wanted the print to have the illusion of “wrapping” around the
body. I had my fabric design printed on linen-cotton canvas (a
generous 54 inches wide) to give it the texture I was going for, and
also to have an element of structure for a stronger silhouette. In
the last two posts in my project series I will be detailing my step-by-step
garment construction process and sharing sewing tips along the way.
yards linen-cotton canvas*
Size universal sewing machine needle
and ironing board
Clear gridded ruler
24” Clear gridded quilting ruler
note about fabric care: Read Spoonflower’s “How
should I care for my Spoonflower fabrics?”
for more information on washing/drying and ironing your specific
To cut my dress on the bias, I folded my fabric at a 45-degree angle
from selvage to selvage (from finished edge to finished edge), wrong
sides together. I would normally fold the fabric right sides together
and mark on the wrong side, but I was being very particular with my
pattern placement and where the print would fall and match up. I
pinned my pattern pieces in place, transferred my pattern markings
(darts and sleeve notches) to the fabric using wax-free tracing paper
and a tracing wheel, and cut out the following pieces:
Front Dress (on fold) 1x
Back Yoke (on fold) 1x
Back Dress (on fold) 1x
originally planned on having the lightest part of the gradient begin
falling at the neckline, but I found that going from dark to light
made for a much more compelling overall design.
Next, I sewed my front darts. Working from the wrong side of the
fabric, I folded the Front Dress piece right sides together, matching
the dart stitching lines by pinning them. I sewed the darts from the
edge of the fabric toward the dart vanishing point, decreasing my
stitch length from 2.5mm to 1mm and tapering gently as I approached
the end of the seam. Rather than backstitching, I knotted the loose
ends of the thread to prevent any bunching at the tip of the dart.
Using a pressing ham, I pressed the darts downward.
Next, I pinned the Back Yoke and Back Dress pieces right sides
together and sewed along the seam line at a ½” seam allowance.
(Note: All seams in this dress will be sewn at a ½” seam allowance
except for the hems and neckline.) I then finished the raw edges of
the seam allowance together with a serger (overlock sewing machine)
and pressed the seam allowance toward the yoke.
I then proceeded to finish the raw edges of the shoulder seams and
dress side seams individually before sewing together. I pinned the
Front and Back Dress pieces together at the shoulder seams, right
sides together, and sewed along the seam line at the shoulders. I
pressed the seam allowances open. Next, I pinned the Front and Back
Dress pieces together, right sides facing and matching the side
seams, and sewed along the seam line at the side seams. I pressed the
seam allowances open.
I am now ready to attach my set-in sleeves. First, I finished the
bottom edge of each Sleeve piece with a serger, followed by the side
seams (underarm seams) of each sleeve. I then pinned the sleeve side
seams right sides together, and sewed along the seam line at the side
seams. Using a seam roll, I pressed the seam allowances open. Next, I
folded the bottom edge of each sleeve under ¾” at the hemline and
gave it a press. I then topstitched ⅝” from the edge and pressed
Next, I increased the stitch length on my sewing machine from 2.5mm
to 4mm and sewed two rows of basting stitches at 1/16” to ⅛”
apart inside the seam line along the sleeve cap from one notch to the
other. When doing this, make sure to leave long tails of thread to
gather each sleeve.
I then turned the body of the dress wrong side out and inserted the
Sleeve piece inside the armhole, right sides together. When doing
this, make sure to match the shoulder seam to the notch on the top of
the sleeve cap, and also make sure that the dress side seam and
sleeve side seam are matching when pinning in place.
Next, I gathered the sleeve cap evenly by pulling the bobbin threads
of the basting stitches to fit the armhole, pinning in place. I then
proceeded to shape the top of the sleeve with my fingers, spreading
the fullness until there were no pleats.
Then, I sewed around the armhole around the seam line, making sure to
sew from the wrong side of the sleeve as it is easier to control the
fullness and smooth out the pleats when sewing this way. Next, I
removed all the basting stitches with a seam ripper. I finished the
raw edges of the armhole and sleeve cap together with a serger and
pressed the seam allowances toward the sleeve using a pressing ham or
Repeat Steps 6-9 for the other sleeve.
almost done! Next week, I will discuss how to create bias strips to
use as neckline bias facing, and also how to sew a blind hem stitch
with your sewing machine, so stay tuned. In the meantime, if you have
any questions about any of the above, feel free to comment below.
Until next week, happy sewing!
Our Guest Author
is a designer, sewing instructor, and fashion writer based in
Brooklyn, New York. She received a sewing machine for her
twenty-fifth birthday and hasn’t put it down since. For her line
Jamie transforms simple silhouettes into fashion-forward frocks sewn
from Japanese prints, luxurious brocades, ikats, and her soon-to-be
own original textile designs. In addition to doing custom work
(including bridal), she teaches sewing, draping, and patternmaking
courses at Textile Arts Center and across the country. Follow her
pages for the latest updates and inspirations.