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!
When 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.
- 2 yards linen-cotton canvas*
- Coordinating polyester thread
- Flat straight pins
- Fabric chalk
- Tracing wheel
- Wax-free tracing paper
- Fabric scissors
- 80/12 Size universal sewing machine needle
- Painter’s tape
- Iron and ironing board
- Pressing ham
- Seam roll
- Seam ripper
- 18” Clear gridded ruler
- 6-1/2” x 24” Clear gridded quilting ruler
- Blind hem foot
1. 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:
- 1 Front Dress (on fold) 1x
- 2 Back Yoke (on fold) 1x
- 3 Back Dress (on fold) 1x
- 4 Sleeve 2x
I 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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 again.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. 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 seam roll.
10. Repeat Steps 6-9 for the other sleeve.
We’re 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!
About Guest Author Jamie Lau
Jamie Lau 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 Lau Designs, 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 blog, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest pages for the latest updates and inspirations.