Right, today we have to do the preparations to our Washington Dress pattern and fabric so we can be ready to cut tomorrow!
Prepare your fabric
Always pre-treat your fabric in the way you’ll eventually clean your garment. If you bought machine washable fabrics, then pop them in the washing machine and dryer first, and that will take any shrinkage out of the fabric. If you’re using hand wash fabrics, then do that. For dry cleanable fabrics, personally I don’t bother pre-treating them but if they’re super special you may want to get the fabrics dry cleaned first.
Choose your size
It’s best to use the body measurement chart to pick your Washington Dress size, because there’s negative ease in this pattern which means the finished garment measurements will be smaller than your body measurements. This is really common in Ready to Wear garments – if you measure a fitted knit dress or t-shirt that you wear, you’ll find it’s significantly smaller than your body!
That said, the Washington Dress is designed with a close fitting bodice, so if you’d rather a looser or more skimming fit (especially if you’re using a thinner or slinkier jersey) then you should go up a size.
To choose your size, start with your waist and hip measurements (don’t worry if they’re in different sizes, we’ll get to that in a second!). Then, choose the bust size. For each size, we have three bust options: C/D, E/F, or G/H. Choose the size based on your actual measurements rather than your bra size. For example, if you have a 38” waist and a 48” bust, use the size 18 G/H.
My measurements are 48″ – 40″ – 47″ at the moment, so for the dress I’m making for the sewalong (which has a slightly slinky jersey for the bodice) I sized up to the 20 G/H for the bodice (two cup sizes bigger than my body measurements), then used the 20 yoke grading down to the 18 skirt.
Prepare your pattern
Alrighty, if you bought the Washington Dress paper pattern, all you need to do is trace your size and you’re done! Boom! (Or, if you’re being a naughty naughty sewist you can just cut your size and live on the wild side).
If you bought the PDF, you have a little more work to do. One route is to take your copy shop file down to your local copy shop and have them print it out for you – easy peasy. If not, you’ll be printing at home. Download your cup sized file (there are 3, so you only have to print yours) and use Adobe Acrobat (or another PDF reader – but not your internet browser) to open it. Make sure your file is set to 100% scale, and print the first page – make sure that the background grid has 1″ x 1″ squares exactly. Then, print the rest of the file.
First, trim the right hand side and bottom margin from your sheets (I highly recommend using a paper cutter – recommended cutter below). Then use the grid to line up your sheets, and tape or glue them together – I first make strips using the letters (all the As, all the Bs), and then attach them to each other.
At that point, you can either cut or trace your pieces.
Grading between sizes
Do your measurements put you between sizes? No problem. It’s possible to grade between sizes to get you exactly where you need to be.
If you need a different size at the bust and waist, you’ll be grading on the bodice. To do this, make a mark on the pattern piece at the bust size notch, and at the waist size you need. Now, join up those lines, making sure you maintain a curve from the bust to waist. Remember to do the same adjustment on the bodice front and back.
Here’s what it will look like if you’re going from a larger bust size to smaller waist size:
And here’s what it will look like if you’re going from a smaller bust size to larger waist size:
Next, if you have a different waist to hip measurement, you’ll need to grade at the yoke. Again, follow the same process: mark the waist size and hip size you need on the yoke, then join them up, maintaining a curve.
Here’s what it will look like if you’re going from a smaller waist size to larger hip size:
And here’s what it will look like if you go from a larger waist size to a smaller hip size:
Tools & Notions
Finally, gather up the tools and notions you’ll need to make the dress.
- Clear elastic for reinforcing the shoulders.
- Stretch or ballpoint needle, and a universal needle. You definitely need to use a stretch/ballpoint needle for sewing the bodice and yoke sections, because they push through knit fabric rather than tearing it. For the skirt, theoretically you should switch to a universal needle, but it will depend a bit on your woven fabric – sometimes the ballpoint needle is still Ok, but if your woven fabric is thick or densely woven you’ll need to switch out. I love buying needle in bulk – I stock up on big boxes of them when they go on sale on Amazon.
- Scissors or a rotary cutter and mat. I use this rotary cutter and mat – I find rotary cutters much more effective for cutting knits, not to mention faster!
- I love Dritz Wonder Tape when I’m sewing knits – it’s much more effective than using pins, and it’s great if you’re using slinky or lightweight knits. It doesn’t gum up your needle and it washes straight out! (so don’t use it on dry clean-only garments…)
- And here’s the paper trimmer I use to make PDF assembly a cinch.
OK, our Washington Dress is all prepared! Do you have any questions after today’s little adventure?
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