Day 1 of our Sew Along for M7120 - Cool Stitches

Day 1 of our Sew Along for M7120

This past Monday, March 15th, we launched our latest sew-along with the Florida Sewing Sew-ciety Fleming Island Chapter and had a blast. The initial group was small - or just right. It was an honor and so much fun to take the lead on this fun event that will span the next couple weeks as we sew along together to construct McCalls M7120. Let me bring you up to speed on what we covered in case you want to work on this project with us. 

If you do want to sew along with us, we will meet each Monday evening at 6PM to sew. You should have your dress cut out before Monday, March 22. 

To prep for day 1 the following tasks were provided: 

  • Have a notepad or notebook and pen or pencil.
  • Read the pattern instructions, and jot down any questions or highlight areas you want to discuss. We'll do this at the beginning of each session. 
  • Purchase the following according to your size on the pattern:
    • Fabric with no nap*.  Extra for matching stripes or plaids.
    • Interfacing
    • Notions
    • Thread
    • Buttons, elastic, etc. as required for your selected version
  • Launder your fabric based on the content and instructions. This should be the same way you will launder it as a garment.
  • Take your measurements at your bust, waist, and widest part of your hips and notate them. Notes for measurements follow. 

Measurements. Having a partner is ideal for taking measurements. Wearing your regular undergarments and a single layer of lightweight knit clothing helps too.  So we paired up making sure no partner pairs were left with two inexperienced people. Using a great worksheet created by DIY Fashion Rebel (below), and adding 2 key measurements required for dressmaking - neck to waist and neck to knee - we documented our measurements. 

These are used from the start to select your size, calculate ease, determine where you may want to reshape seamlines between sizes, and to confirm darts are in the right place. 

Garment Ease is the extra space built in for comfort and movement (wearing ease), and for style (design ease). For details on determining the ease on a pattern, see “If you want to fit in, maintain minimum ease,” page 27. "Does Your Pattern Fit?" by Barbara Emodi Threads Best of Fitting Issue 2013. 

Wearing ease recommendations:

  • Bust: 2 to 4 inches; 3 to 5 inches for coats and jackets
  • Chest width: 1 ⁄2 to 3 ⁄4 inch
  • Back width: 3 ⁄4 to 1 inch; 1 to 2 inches for jackets and coats
  • Biceps: 1 1 ⁄2 to 21 ⁄2 inches; 3 to 41 ⁄2 inches for jackets; 4 to 6 inches for coats
  • Waist: 1 inch Hips: 2 to 4 inches
  • Crotch length: 1 to 2 inches Crotch depth: 1 ⁄2 to 1 inch

Each pattern piece should have a finished garment measurement on it. Use this to determine any adjustments you need to make to ensure a good fit. Here is an example of determining ease.  

Cutting out your pattern. Grainlines. Make sure your fabric is straight as determined by the grainlines of your fabric. Looking closely to see the threads you can use the short end of your acrylic ruler aligned to those threads running parallel to the selvege and look to see that the lines of your ruler also are aligned to the folded edge. You can do this with the long arrow indicating how the pattern pieces should be oriented to the grainlines. It sounds more complicated than it is and I will get photos for this too. 
When you use pins to hold your pieces in place be sure to keep them clear of your cutting lines. I use these great over sized nuts from McMaster Supply as pattern weights because they are heavy, small, and with the six sided shape and deep threads inside I can pick up five at once.  I'll get a photo and link for you if you want some too. ;) 
We were all working with prints or solids so we did not discuss matching stripes and plaids. We did talk about directional prints. When your print is the same when viewed from the top as it is from the bottom, it is non-directional; and when your pattern is designed with an obvious top and bottom or up and down print, your pattern pieces must all be placed with the tops pointing in the same direction for your front, back, and sleeves (for a dress, shirt, blouse). Lucky for us all of the pattern placement instructions had the pieces running in the same direction!

Sewing tips. I want to emphasize the importance of reading through the instructions before starting so you can confirm basics like seam allowances used. Then, remember your best work will happen when using a new needle, appropriate thread, and the right stitch selection for the fabric you are sewing.  Remember to sew like seams in the same direction. In other words, if you sew the side seam from top to bottom on one side, do the same for the other side seam. 

Seam finishing options. There are many options for finishing seams and the one you select will be partially determined by the fabric and garment type. Nicely finished seams are the hallmark of a quality garment. (more to come with photos on seam finishing). 

Perfect pockets. I prefer to make patch pockets as called for on this dress with a lining using a template to cut out each piece. This process helps ensure my pockets match and provides a design opportunity too! For fine fabrics I will use a sheer lining just to provide that finished patch pocket, but using a surprise color or print to line your pockets gives you a pop of color or print that I think is nice. 

To make my perfect patch pockets:

  1. Cut out the template using either cardstock or chip board. The template is cut the same as the pattern piece including the seam allowances but not the folded facing you should see at the top edge of the pocket pattern piece. Note, you must add a seam allowance where the folded facing is.
  2. Next I cut out the pocket pieces from my fashion fabrics using the template matching the prints either to the dress front or to each other based on the print.
  3. Then I cut out lining fabrics and trim a scant 1/8" from the size of the lining.
  4. With right sides together I match the raw edges of the lining and fashion fabric and sew all four sides leaving a small unstitched section for turning.
  5. Now turn, shape, and press. Having the lining ever so slightly smaller helps the lining stay well inside the pocket after turning and pressing.
  6. The finished pockets can now be edge stitched into place. Be sure to secure the top of the pocket seams with either a triangle shape or several 0 length zigzap stitches.   

Set in sleeves. There are a number of techniques for constructing set in sleeves, but the ones we are doing are attached to a relaxed or somewhat dropped shoulder seam so the ease is not to severe. Janet Pray auther of Islander Sewing demonstrates an effective method of crimping the convex curve at the top of your sleeve so it can be eased into the concave shape of your armscye. I'll have more on this soon.  

Hem options. Well, that's about all I have time for tonight, but I will come back with some notes on hem options and when to use them. My favorite person to reference for hems is Claire Shaffer. I have a number of her couture sewing books and she provides great guidance and instructions. Stay tuned!

Okay, so everyone should have their pattern pieces for our M7120 dress cut out by Monday, March 22 at 6PM. We accomplished a lot for Day 1 and it is all applicable to future projects. 

If you have any questions or get stuck, email me and we can connect. If you want to do a video call we can use zoom, duo, or facetime. I want you to be successful!

If you aren't local to us but want to try a sew along I recommend you seek out any sewing clubs or guilds (American Sewing Guild is a great one!) and talk to them about having one. 


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