I'm so excited for day 1 of the sew along! Happy Labor day to all my friends in the US- I'm off enjoying a beach day before the weather turns on us, but I'll be checking in later to answer questions so please let me know if anything is unclear or you need additional help!
Today we're going to talk about selecting a size, gathering your supplies, printing and prepping pattern pieces, and preparing homemade bias tape. Ready? Let's go!
Selecting a size:
This is the most important part of getting a good fit. Are you ready? MEASURE! Yes, I base my size chart off of current ASTM standards, but guess what? Every pattern maker/brand/clothing manufacturer has their own size chart and fit, even ones based on the same standards. I know it's tempting to select the size your child wears in ready to wear, particularly if you're a night time sewer like me and have a sleeping child. Measuring your child is the best way to ensure you're making the right size. You should choose a size based on chest measurement, meaning the circumference around the fullest part of the chest. If you're making the Blue Ridge Dress for someone with a developing bust, the upper bust measurement seems to be more accurate, as the gathered part will skim over the developing bust. I've noted the height so you can lengthen or shorten the selected size based on your own child's height. To lengthen the skirt of say, a size 2 to a size 4 length, I usually measure the difference between those two skirt pieces and add that amount to the bottom of the hem. Again, a 2in hem in included so it is possible to sew a standard size and lengthen to within a few sizes just by using a narrower hem.
Once you've selected the proper size you can gather supplies. This dress is designed for light to mid weight wovens. Quilting cotton, chambray, linen, lightweight wool, voile, and rayon would all be lovely choices. The fabric requirements are listed above and are also on page 3 of the instructions. In addition to the main fabric and the bodice lining, if you choose to make your own bias tape (which I recommend and will detail in this post) you'll need fabric for that. My tutorial shows you how to make the bias tape using a fat quarter (18x22in) but you can follow the same process with other square or rectangular scraps. A fat quarter yields about 5 yards finished bias tape, which is plenty for any size of the Blue Ridge Dress. If you buy premade double fold bias tape (narrow or wide) you'll need one package (3yds) for sizes 12m-5, and between 3-4 yards for sizes 6-14. Narrow double fold bias tape can be used but you'll need to take caution when applying it to the waist seam. I'll detail that step later in the sew along. Additional notions include 1 button, roughly 3/8-5/8in. Thread, pins, sewing machine, iron, fabric marker, seam gauge, scissors, and other basic sewing supplies are assumed. A clear quilting ruler is very helpful in making the bias tape.
Printing and Prepping the Pattern:
This pattern contains two files- one for the instructions and one for the pattern pieces. This is based on my own personal preference- I don't like having to look up which page the pattern pieces start on before printing. Open the pattern file in Adobe Acrobat. You can print the entire pattern by selecting print, and in the print options double checking that there is no scaling. I have a Mac and my options look like this:
I make sure to select "actual size" in the size options. You should print the first page first and measure the test square to ensure accurate printing.
One fun option I've included in my pattern is the ability to print layers, which means each size can be printed separately. This works great if you know you only need one size and don't want to bother with trying to identify which line to cut on, and don't want to waste paper. You can select multiple sizes if need be, also. I've included a print guide detailing which pages to print for each size so that, for instance, if you are printing the smallest size you won't have all the extra paper where the size 14 would normally be.
To print using layers, before opening the print dialog select the icon on the left, second from the bottom, that looks like two sheets of paper.
Once you click that icon you'll see the individual layers pop up, like this:
Each of those layers corresponds with a size, and the bottom two are for pattern markings. Each layer with an eye next to it is what is visible, so unselect any sizes you DON'T want to print. Make sure the Master and Tiling layers stay selected so you have all the necessary markings. After selecting which layers to print you can move to the print dialog as outlined above.
Once printed you'll need to assemble your pattern. I prefer to cut along the bottom edge and right side lines on each page, but folding also works. I use a small scale paper cutter to make it quicker. After cutting you'll assemble and tape the pages in a 5 across, 5 down grid. I start with the bottom right- page 25- and work left along each row and then assemble the rows together from the bottom up, which seems to work well if you've cut the bottom and right edges as I do. Match the dark grey circles as you join each page.
Once it's assembled you can cut out the pattern pieces or trace and cut if you prefer. Your pieces are now ready to be cut!
Cutting guides are included in the pattern- do people use those? I never do. From the main fabric you'll need one each of the skirt front, skirt back, and bodice front, all cut on the fold. Cut 2 of the bodice back, mirror images. Only the bodice is lined so you'll need one bodice front cut on the fold and 2 bodice back pieces, again mirrored.
Making Homemade Bias Tape:
During the testing process I encouraged my testers to use home made bias tape, and the consensus from all was that those who did loved the result, and those who didn't thought they would have liked that better. The reason? It lays nicer, it's softer, and really, it isn't that hard to make. I'm going to show you a way to make continuous bias tape so you don't have to cut a bunch of strips and sew them all together. Store bought tape is convenient (and believe me, I've used my fair share!) but the stiffness of that polyester against the arm and neck is pretty unpleasant. While you certainly can fold and iron your bias tape as it comes from the store, I'll show you how to apply it without ironing first, saving yourself a few steps and the risk of burnt fingers. Ready?
Start with your fat quarter or other scrap fabric.
Fold one corner up to meet the top edge, forming a triangle.
Cut along the fold
Then arrange them so the original right edge of the fabric (currently right side of the triangle) is now aligned in the center with the edge of the other piece. Face the two pieces right sides together with those two center edges aligned, and sew a 1cm seam.
Iron the seam open, and using the cut edge as a guide, mark a line every 4.5cm, or 1 3/4in.
Continue across the entire piece.
Here's where things get fancy. Find your top and bottom edges, and start to align the lines you've marked. Rather than matching the left edge of the bottom with the same edge of the top, offset by one marking. This means the left edge of the bottom will align with the first line of the top edge.
Right sides should be together as you prepare to sew this seam.
I find it helpful to actually offset the alignment a bit- meaning the lines will cross at the seam allowance rather than the edge. On the image below I've marked the line onto the front of the fabric to better show how this works. It may be helpful to place the pin through one layer of fabric along the marked line at the seam allowance, then through the other layer on the marked line at the seam allowance, then slide the layers together and complete pinning. Gosh that's so much easier to show than explain.
Do this at each intersecting line across the edge.
Sew the seam together and press open. Next is the fun part- start cutting! Cut along the lines starting at one edge and keep cutting along the line.
The way we've sewn it has joined the lines so they now essentially form one long coiled line. Cool right? Just keep cutting...
Until VOILA! One long strip of bias cut fabric, ready for use.
You can leave it in a heap or fold it up nice, this stuff is prepped and ready for use! Everything is now prepped and ready so we can begin sewing tomorrow for Part 2!
Any questions? Anyone new to making continuous bias tape? It's my new favorite trick!