[Module 8] Creating a Garment | Garment Ideas to Make - Tulip Party Dress, Part 1

Design Details

DESIGN NAME –Tulip Party Dress

DESIGNED BY - Amanda Goldsmith

SAMPLE SIZE – Approx. size 10

SKILL LEVEL – Brave Beginner to Intermediate and Advanced


  • Fashion Fabric – A nice crisp Cotton or linen or wool blend medium weight. Approx. 2m. required. This sample was made using a silk/wool blend.

  • A lining fabric was used in this sample to hide the internal seams and finish off the Neckline and Armholes. Approx. 2m. required. This sample was made using a fine silk such as a china silk although you could use a heavier silk lining. If you are not lining you will need to either bind the Neckline or Armholes or draft a Facing to finish off the seams, unless you are leaving raw seams which can look nice if you have chosen a looser woven wool fabric.

  • An underlining is used in this sample to bring out the essence of the fabric and to assist with hand sewn finishing. It is highly recommended to use an underlining for this dress and sewing technique. This sample was made using a silk organza but you could use a cotton for a more weighted result, get some advice from your fabric store when you purchase your fashion fabric for their ideas on underlining. Approx. 2m. required.

If you are in any doubt regarding quantity of fabric as fabric can come in so many different widths then take in your completed pattern pieces to your supplier.

As a guide there are quite a few small pattern pieces for this dress and very generous seam allowances so this dress will use between 1.5 and 2m of fabric for average sizes (between 10 – 14 size).

OTHER NOTIONS – Apart from the usual sewing requirements such as sewing machine, needles and thread/basting thread, scissors, drafting tools, tailors wax and tracing tool etc. the following are required; Zip optional to put in the back around 12”, Silk organza selvages, or a cotton binding for stays in the seams, Pinking shears are a useful addition to your toolset,

Beeswax for thread preparation - optional.

DESIGN NOTES – This is a tailored form fitting dress to mid-thigh or just above the knee with a pencil skirt and back split. It has a mid-depth square neckline on both the front and the back with straps. The design shows style lines with Princess seams both front and back. It also has a waist band and an option of a style line across the shoulder/chest (not used in this sample).

The dress is fully lined and has an invisible zip in the back.

From these photos you can see how nicely the Princess seams show the shape of the body in the silk as the shine on the silk switches across the seams in the light.

This fabric is beautiful to work with but is not very forgiving so work very slowly with it for the best results.

Here is the Back.


The prerequisites for working through this ‘Sew Along’ are that you have worked through the following Modules and Units;

An estimate of time to allow for each stage is 1 – 2 days to draft the patterns and create Test Garments, 1 – 2 days to pre-treat the fabric and cut out the pieces and preparation, 2 - 6 days for sewing at least. Although everything could be done within a week it would be a long slog so just take your time with each stage and it will take as long as it has to. Obviously the timeframe is down to each person, experience and daily life.

Remember to post pictures of your final garment!

Have a look at this overview process for creating a garment, it is very straight forward and logical and will hopefully you can now see how everything flows and pulls together from what you have learned so far.

Design Notes

This dress designed is a very fitted dress and is a classic dress shape fitted all the way down with a pencil skirt and is designed to be worn for a special occasion. So with this in mind it makes complete sense to take some extra special care with this dress and using a couture style of dressmaking to make the best garment you can possibly create.

So get out your favourite fabrics, this is the time to use them. This sample has been made using a rather beautiful red silk/wool with an organza underlining and a black silk lining, a little tricky to work with if you have not worked with silk before, in this instance the lining is slippery to work with and necessitates a light touch. The fashion fabric although very lovely to work with needs special attention when pressing and will show every little stitch from the inside if you are not careful with your finishing stitches.

The designed length is mid-thigh but that is personal choice you could go any length with the skirt, knee or mid knee would also look really good. I would say as the dress has a covered bust that a mid-thigh option would still keep the dress classy but add a little sexy to the overall look.

The design uses some simple style lines to add in some interest and break up the colour, with this silk in mind a seam will catch the light at a different angle and help show how the dress travels across the body. Seams you could include are a Princess Seam in the Back and Front, a Centre Back seam, a panel around the bodice at the waist and an option of a seam line at the base of the shoulder strap across the chest at the Necklines both Front and Back.

This means more pattern pieces to sew as there are lots of seams, but it also means more opportunity to get a very good fit as this is a fitted dress after all.

The pattern is made without predefined seam allowances added to it to allow for a final fitting for the best fit possible, and larger seam allowances do settle in very easily on the inside and make hand sewing an easy and exquisite process this is a more couture way to make the dress. It demands a little more fabric and hand sewing but I think it is worth it in the end result giving the seams a little more weight and helping with the drape of the dress and finishing.

One other thing to consider is an underlining. An underlining sits under the Fashion Fabric and essentially they are basted together for every pattern piece and dealt with as if they were just one piece. Having an underlining gives you a great advantage during construction as you can wax trace on to it and mark it for reference points and you do not have to put any of your finishing stitches into the fashion fabric which is a benefit when making a dress for a special occasion that may have lots of eyes on it. Also an underlining can help show off the nature of the fabric and its drape it can add more oomph and structure. I used a silk organza for this sample.

Other Flexible Pattern options are;

  • It can be created with or without a Centre Back seam and place the zip on the side.

  • You could add sleeves.

  • Make the straps wider.

  • You could make it without a zip as it would fit over the head but be careful with a larger bust size, squeezing on a dress can pop stitches and this is couture after all so …..

  • Try different skirt lengths.

  • Raise or drop the Necklines.

  • Add a different skirt such as an Aline straight or gathered skirt as you have a Waist seam it is easier to swap the skirt pattern.

Here is my very simple drawn design that I started with to work out the main features of what I wanted to make.

The aim is to make the wearer feel exquisite in this party dress so a good fit and quality fabrics is all part of process.

Couture dressmaking will give you the ability to get more control over the fabric as there is lots and lots of hand stitching.

When you create a dress like this although you may have a plan of action you will still make many decisions on the fly which is all part of the process, for example you may decide to sew in a certain way because of the fabric you have chosen. The best way to continue along is to have your plan but be flexible.

It is a good idea to read through the rest of this Unit to get an idea of how the Tulip Party Dress was created and then you can determine how you would like to do it. This way you can see what decisions I made making the dress. So what follows in an honest account and I have not hidden my errors partly to show I am human but partly to show that it does not matter, if you have made any mistakes then work around them until you get your result. At the end of the day your mistakes will help you learn so strive forward I won’t tell if you don’t tell! Take your time and give yourself rest breaks along the way. But most of all enjoy the process!


Drafting the Front

As this dress is simple Style lines the drafting is pretty straight forward.

Start work by copying off the Working Template for the Front and Back and draw in all guidelines and all darts all pointing to the Upper Bust Point (in this photo I forgot to add my Back Shaping but I did add on later when I noticed as it will be used to get a better fit as the model does have a sway back so this will help).

In this example my Working Template has 2” of wearing ease and as I want the dress to be fitted I didn’t add on any extra ease.

If you want more or less design ease, add it or remove it off the sides.

The drafts are labelled as the Front and Back and if it helps at this stage you could label all of your lines and Guidelines and orientation points for example, Side, Centre Front Waist etc.

The Front draft is separated from the Back by cutting down the middle and the Back is put to one side for now.

The Front draft is then cut off at the Waist to assist with the dart manipulation and as we have a Waist Seam the waist shaping is used and is cut away. In this photo you can also see that I have drawn on the breast position as I need to understand where the bust is to determine how low it is going to be (you can see how to do this in Module 6 - Create the Flexible Pattern - 4c. Bodice – Necklines, in the Low Neckline text).

The width of the Waist Panel is drawn in.

When I looked at the space between the Breast and the Waist on this draft it seemed very short to me and actually later the bodice was extended during the fitting (something to revisit on the Base/Working Template, we can continually improve these Master Drafts if you do spot something obvious like this). The wide band I had drawn in the original design would not fit into this space. Which got me thinking had this person grown since I did the Base Template as it was quite a few months ago which is a good reason to date your Base Templates. So I set the band at 2 ½” for now and decided that I would leave extra-long seam allowances for the test garment in this area at the bottom of the bodice and the top of the Waist Panel to give me room to make adjustments if needed. I decided to wait until the fitting to decide on the width of the panel and look at the overall proportions of the dress. Sometimes you just can’t make these sort of decisions during drafting, you just need to decide on a plan of action and work it out when it gets placed on the body.

The Waist Panel is then cut and removed and the Waist Dart portion cut away and the two pieces of the Front Waist Panel are taped. The piece is then labelled to keep the correct orientation but I did have a few questions with this piece regarding its depth and the sharp shaping of the piece and so it is not quite finished at this point so it was put aside to be considered a little later on after which notches would be added and it would be trued to the Bodice and Skirt pieces.

Not so easy to see in this next photo but this is how I determined the Neckline level. To gauge where the top of the breast is I firstly drew a line from the top of the bust radius out to Centre Front. Then determining how low I wanted the Front Neckline to be I then drew another line below this to review a little bust but not too much, this was around ½” below the first line.

The next step is to determine where the Side Neckline position should be and in this case I used the outside Dart Line as my guide as this then leads quite nicely down the bodice to determine the Princess Seam in the dress. Although I wanted to shape the Side Neckline a little to make it a little softer so I bowed this line out slightly using the French Curve from the Shoulder down to the new Base Neckline Point which was around 1/8” away from the Dart Line at the widest point (I changed this again below to around ¼” away from the Dart Line to give a little more shaping). Which basically means that the Shoulder Dart is not needed.

The new determined Base Neckline was also bowed ever so slightly and here you can see more clearly now how the Neckline is taking shape as all superfluous lines are crossed out, can you see how much softer these lines are even though they are only altered ever so slightly. Just be careful with the Base Neckline to square off from the Centre Front first before the shaping so

that you don’t create a peak in the centre.

If you look closely at the shoulder dart below the Neckline you can see that there is a little mini Shoulder Dart left in the bodice and because I bowed out the Side Shaping on the Neckline the dart no longer lines up so I shifted both mini dart legs to the right by the same amount to fix this up a little. Picky I know but it’s not going to affect too much and will make it easier to follow the lines when I come to cut out the pattern as this mini Shoulder Dart will be cut away and turn into part of the Princess Line. It’s good to look out for these little things and fix them up as you go.

I decided to bow out the Waist Dart slightly because I know that with a larger bust and a smaller waist things are potentially going to get even curvier in this area depending on how close we need to fit in this section. In doing so I decided to change the position of the Dart Legs a little. Later this would need checking against the skirt panels to ensure that all lines match up, it’s only around 1/8” difference but it will need truing as these lines will be very obvious in the fabric that I have chosen. If you have anything to remember and check like this you could always put an asterisk on the pattern to remind you to check it when you come back to truing, it’s your pattern so you can write whatever you like on it to help you get the result you need, just try not to forget it. No doubt things will change here during the fitting anyway.

The Armhole and Bust Dart are not going to be used to keep the bodice side panel clean, so they can be manipulated out to the Waist Dart and taken up in the Princess Seam. You can see that I have firmed up the Neckline also in red to ensure that I know the correct lines to use as it is a little busy in that area with pencil marks.

Also reflecting back to the design I was going to create a Style Line around the Cross Front Guideline but looking at the shape of the Neckline and Shoulder now I have drafted this I am not sure that I like this idea so I have decided to drop this option for this draft because I think I will prefer the smooth lines in the side panel of the bodice without interruption.

To get ready to draft the Back I have also worked out how wide the Back Neckline is going to be, so measuring from the new High Shoulder Point to Centre Front on my draft is 5 5/8”. I need to add 3/8” as the new High Shoulder Point is around midway across the older shoulder width so this gives a total of 6” for the Back Neckline. Refer to Module 6 - Create the Flexible Pattern - 4c. Bodice – Necklines to review how to work out the Back Neck Width and further information.

The pattern so far is labelled as the Master Front Bodice.

A cutting copy is now made by tracing off the bodice pieces the Bodice Front and the Bodice Side including tracing all pattern markings. As pieces are cut smaller than the original Master they will need to be trued and in which case will create a pack of pattern pieces that I will call Master 2 which is the pattern that I write back to with any alterations for this dress.

Here is the Bodice Front piece, showing all markings. This piece will be cut on the Fold. All labels are added to help with orientation and a notch has been added to help line up this piece with the Bodice Side using the Bust Line as a Guide. A Grainline should be added taking the Centre Front as a guide to determining the Grainline. This little piece is then cut out.

The same is done for the Bodice Side and I have notched the Chest Line to help line up the lining for the inside later and the Bust Line to help line up to the Front Bodice and the Bodice Back Side pieces. All labels are added.

Also not shown on this pattern piece as it was added later when trued it will help if you notch the point for the Base Neckline where the Front Bodice piece ends on the Front Side piece. A Grainline is added and the piece is cut out and trued up with the Front Bodice

Returning back to the Front Band this piece is also traced off and it will be cut on the Fold at Centre Front. The shape is blended in the centre to remove the peak slightly both on the top line and the bottom line centrally, the lines are basically smoothed out a little. Labels are added and Notches at the Dart are positioned to help line everything up. This piece is cut out and trued up with the other two bodice pieces, each bodice piece will go up to the notch. If the notch is out a little then shift it until both pieces line up.

Now for the Front Skirt. For more information on drafting Skirts refer to Module 6 - Create the Flexible Pattern - 4a. Bodice - Extending Length and also Module 6 - Create the Flexible Pattern - 5. Drafting Skirts.

The length is extended next. In this sample I started with 17” from the Waist Line (however after the first Test Garment this was extended a further 7” as the proportions worked better with the longer length, a second Test Garment was made in the end to check this).

So measuring the 17” down from Centre Front (or your choice of measurement, 24” if you want to copy the end result on the sample) the Base Line is drawn and the Side Line extended squarely down from the Lower Hip Line.

The Pencil Skirt was shaped by coming in from the Side on the Base by 1”. I also took out 1/8” off the Lower Hip line and squared this down 1 ½”, and redrew the line as a curve. However after the first fitting this change at the Low Hip was added back in and then some, sometimes it is a little trial and error, I was expecting to get a closer fit but bodies change over time so the Working Template is never 100% accurate.

Remember that I changed the Waist Dart position in the Bodice well just to tie it up the Waist Dart in the Skirt this was moved by the same amount.

The Princess Line is then taken down to the Skirt Base, just extended down from the Dart Point in a straight line initially.

This was then bowed out a little to give a nice curve to the shape for the Front Skirt Panel but this is obviously a design option and you would do this if you thought the body shape can take it. By curving out you are making the front panel wider, mirroring the curve on the bodice, if you curved in the other direction you are going to get a different result making the side panels larger. Shifting style lines creates optical illusions, for example if the hips are very wide then shifting a Princess line can make things look bigger from the Front, so consider the body you are making the skirt for carefully here.

The Skirt Draft is labelled as the Master and the Cutting Copies (or Master 2 copies) are traced off.

Here is the Centre Front Skirt piece which will be cut on the fold, all labels are added, Guidelines and Notches at Hip Bone and Lower Hip line and another notch was added to help line up the Side panel to the Back. The Dart is cut away and will form part of the Princess Line in the Skirt.

Here is the Skirt Side Panel with Notches and Guideline and Labels, notice the shaping of the Princess Line in this piece.

For all completed pattern pieces do not add any seam allowances.

Ensure you add on a Hem and true it on all skirt pieces. I added a 2” hem which I think works well with this skirt although you could go a little larger if you prefer. I would not really go much smaller than this as we are going to use a jump pleat in the lining and you do need something to stitch to with regard to the turn up so consider this carefully.

I show this later as I remembered I had not done this after cutting the silk organza! However all was not lost as I remembered before cutting the fashion fabric thankfully! The organza was cut generously so this little error was soon dealt with.

Refer to Auxiliary Reference Information - Draft - Seam Allowances and Hems.

Drafting the Back

Both the Front and the Back drafts are worked on in a similar way.

If you have not done so already start by copying off the Working Template for the Back and draw in all guidelines and darts. Remember your drafts may look different in shape to mine. My draft has a deep Waist Shaping due to a sway back but yours may be a standard 3/8” for example.

The Back is cut apart at the Waist and the Waist Shaping Removed.

The Back Neckline width position is marked to get the High Shoulder Point at 6” from the calculation off the Front Draft – or use the measurement you calculated which may be different to my draft. The Shoulder Line is measured out and extended to match the Shoulder length in the Front Bodice which in this case is 2 1/16”.

The Armhole is redrawn from the new Shoulder End Point to where if blends nicely usually below the Shoulder Blade Line.

The Dart is not going to be used as the Back Neckline will be much lower than the end of the dart and so there is no need for it.

The Back Neckline Base position is determined to be just below where the crease of the armhole will start for now and the Side Neckline shape drawn in, as with the Front Bodice start with straight lines to get the placement then bow the lines out a little if you prefer the shaping as with the Front Neckline.

The position of the Back Neckline can be altered during the fitting so don’t dwell on the position of the line for two long it is easily changed.

In this draft I also redrew the top of the Dart to smooth out the First Dart Leg to give a slight curve to it and a smidge more of a closer fit.

The Back Band is drawn in as with the Front Bodice 2 ½” from the Waist and cut off. The Dart cut away and the pieces taped. The Band is labelled, notched and Grainlines added. As there is going to be a Centre Back zip there will be two Back Bands to cut out of the fabric.

The Back Skirt is then extended as with the Front Skirt and the same shaping done on the Side as with the Front Skirt to create the Pencil Skirt Shaping.

The Princess Line is also drawn in down the Skirt Base and then this line bowed out a little as with the Front Skirt.

The Back Skirt will have a split so this is

added next.

The Split comes off a point ½” from Centre Back (which helps the Split fall closed). This Split is 6” in length.

The Split Facing comes off from this Fold line and I have used 1” here although you could go wider to around 1 ½” if you like which works well on a larger body.

The Split is then trued.

The sewing line is added which will be sewn to hold back the Split facing during construction.

The pattern pieces are then traced off to make cutting copies, remember to remove the Centre Back Shaping.

Here is the Centre Back piece, with a Notch on the Bust Line to match up to the Side Back, Guidelines and Labels. There will be two cut for this piece as there is a Centre Back Zip. While I mention the zip don’t forget to mark on the back skirt pattern in Centre Back where the zip will start from and notch this point.

Here is the Back Skirt piece copied off.

Here is the full cutting copy (or Master 2 pattern pack) for the first Test Garment.

Drafting the Lining

As we are using a couture technique you do not need to create a separate pattern to cut the lining fabric. Once the Silk organza underlining is cut from the pattern pieces it is wax and thread traced and the pattern pieces are removed. The marked underlining is used as the pattern for the fashion fabric which allows the pattern pieces to be used on the lining fabric. So if anything this is a large saving of time with not having to draft a lining pattern for this technique.

Things you would usually be concerned with when creating a lining pattern such as ensuring the lining does not peek to the anterior of the garment or dealing with the length of the hem will all be determined during the couture sewing process.

Creating a Test Garment

Refer to the Test Garment Process starting here to review how to create and fit a Test Garment, Auxiliary Reference Information - Test Garment Creation - 1. Tools Required.

Prior to creating the Test Garment check that all pattern pieces that you are testing have been trued, that you have added all Notches, Awl Points and Grainlines etc.

Remember you can also use your Test Garment to try out different design options to see if your ideas will work so although the Testing in this case is looking at the technical positioning of Seams it is also a creative process.

It is a good time to print out your Pattern Record Card if you have not done so already and made some construction notes to help with the construction of the Test Garment.

Sometimes I will make a decision not to worry about some details when drafting because I find I get a better view of things when studying the Test Garment during a fitting it can be almost impossible to determine where a line might be positioned on a two dimensional sheet of paper but when you put it on the body it all becomes so much clearer. However I might circle areas to check directly on the Test Garment as I create it to remind me to review that area more closely during the fitting. But then you will need to make decisions and confidently and very carefully mark the draft with the adjustments to finalise it. For example I wanted to take note of the width of the Waist Panel and consider the length of the bodice in this case.

For this Test Garment I joined all of the Bodice Pieces first then joined the skirt pieces and I attached the Waist Panel to the skirt. I left the Back Seams unsewn for access and the Seam between the Bodice and the Waist Panel unsewn to allow more manipulation with these pieces as I suspected I might need to extend here.

The fitting looks at the fit of the garment especially with this dress but also the position of the Style lines and the overall design and proportion of the piece. So check the length of the pieces, the length of the bodice and the skirt, look at the seams are they straight on the sides or would the Princess seams look better at a different position?

For the first Test Garment here is the Front.

With regard to the fit, starting from the top;

  • You can see that I have dropped the Waist Panel immediately extending the bodice as I suspected it was much too short in the bodice by a good 2” (which makes me consider a recheck of the Base Template at a later stage, it is fine to make mistakes if you can catch them all the better, as I don’t think there has been 2” of growth in the body). By allowing a good 2-3” of Seam allowance on these bodice pieces I had more than enough to work with here.

  • You can see that the skirt is stretched across the hips causing a slight puddling of fabric around the crotch area can you see the lines dragging out to the Lower Hip region. So extra fabric is brought into the side seams to relax this area a little.

  • The client is happy with the Neckline Shape although would prefer thinner straps and I believed that the dress could handle that as it won’t be heavy and the proportion will still look good.

  • The client is also happy with the Waist position.

  • The armhole position is fine, this was not changed from the Working Template.

  • The Princess Lines and the Side Seams look good and as visualized in the design.

  • We decided that the skirt would be more elegant much longer which is the right decision for the proportions of this dress as it gives a better longer silhouette and allows the pencil skirt to show its shape as it tapers down to the knee.

Here is a side view.

  • You can see the drag lines to the hips in the Front and also drag lines to the backside, so more fabric needs to be added in the hip at least to give a little more room.

  • You can also see that there is room for a little more fitting under the bust for the closer fit that the client likes.

  • In the back view the drag lines from the hip to the backside are more obvious so a little more is needed in the Side Seams possibly also in the Princess Seam in back and at Centre Back.

  • The Split is way too high as it is right now but extending the skirt will resolve this problem.

Here are a few ideas to check on this garment for any alterations, now is the chance to get this right.

  • Check that the side seams are vertical.

  • Check the Neckline Depth and shape and shoulder width on both Front and Back are pleasing.

  • Check the Base Armhole position.

  • Check the Waist Panel Depth to ensure it is the same on the Front and the Back

  • Check the bodice length to check proportion.

  • Check the Skirt length.

  • Check the Split height.

  • Check the overall fit.

  • Stand back and review the overall proportions all the way around.

All of the alterations were written back to the Master pattern 1 and 2 and in this case a new cutting copy created for the skirt as the alterations were quite significant.

So because of this a second Test Garment was made and this time I sewed the Waist Panel to the Bodice.

If there are significant changes made to a Test Garment or more than say 8 changes then I will opt to create a new Test Garment. It is always better to check than to risk it I think.

For Test Garment number 2 here is the Front.

Compared to the first Test Garment you can see the shoulder strap is reduced bringing the Shoulder End Point back in.

The whole dress looks so much more relaxed with the extra fabric in length and for fit. The drag lines around the crotch have gone.

The bodice fits better in length and the shaping under the bust makes the dress look so much more tailored and less casual and with the extra length it creates a more comfortable looking garment. As far as the Waist Panel width goes we both agreed it looks fine as it is and does not need to be widened any further.

Here is the Back view.

Again a much more relaxed result, the drag lines across the backside are not there now.

At this point if you are happy enough that any final fitting tinkering can happen with the fashion fabric then you can continue on. You will need to do a further fitting with the fashion fabric as it is almost garanteed not to behave in the same way as this muslin or cotton used for the Test Garment.

Note that if further changes are made with the fashion fabric because of fit or any other reason like working to a pattern in a fabric then these changes would need to be made back to the Master Pattern and also considered when making the lining.

Pre Treat the Fabric

As always pretreat the fabric, the lining and also the underlining.

As this is a special occasion dress I steamed my underlining, fashion fabric and lining to get any strinkage out. I will steam the dress in the future for laundering.

Of course you could wash your fabrics and should do this if this is how you will launder the dress. But check your care instructions with your supplier first.

Fabric Cutting and Preparation

Once your Test Garment has been fitted and any alterations written back to your respective Master Drafts and cutting copies check that you have added your hem to your skirt pattern pieces and trued you pattern pieces.

In this instance as we are using a more couture construction and sewing technique we are not adding a predefined Seam Allowance. The advantage to doing this is that you secure the sewing line even if you have a fabric that frays a lot as you can determine what seam allowance you are going to have as you cut it out or even after cutting. You do not have to copy off the Master pattern add on Seam Allowances and then true them all up, you will be able to very quickly cut around the pattern piece however you will need to mark the fabric in some way to show the sewing line either by thread/wax tracing the sewing lines onto the fabric which you could remove later or leave in place if you use a similar thread colour. I also have an ulterior motive for doing it this way, it is much easier on your back because I do think that it is a quicker way to cut out.

Seam allowances can always be sewn or bound by hand or machine either before or after sewing seams.

So for some this may be a little introduction to a more couture style of sewing, something that our grandmothers used to do as patterns did not usually have seam allowances on them in the past.

Cutting the Underlining

The process of cutting starts with the underlining so prepare the underlining by folding it in half matching selvages and pinning down them as you would do for a Test Garment with the muslin and give it all a little press to firm up the centre fold line.

Layout the pattern pieces onto the underlining ensuring that you align the grainlines and position all pieces that are to be cut on the fold onto the fold line. Each piece should have space around it to allow for seam allowances so make sure they are spaced out. Now the amount of space you will need for seam allowances depends on a number of things, personal preference, fabric type (a looser weave should have a wider seam allowance to allow for fraying to protect the sewing line), pattern piece. I usually allow between 1 ½ to 2” for each pattern piece on all sides, slightly more if you feel you will have a little fitting to allow for. The fashion fabric used in this dress just has no give in it at all so this extravagance of seam allowance may be needed to get the most comfortable fit and will need to be reflected in the Underlining.

You can see in this photo how the pieces have been laid out and the pinning has started to accommodate the pattern, with the Centre Front pieces that will be cut on the fold lining up on the fold of the fabric.

Don’t look too closely or you will see my big hem error on the skirt pieces – not to worry all was resolved later and no one would know my little secret!

After a final check that you have all the pieces accountable that they are positioned in the correct orientation, that there is enough space around each one for seam allowance then and only then are all pieces roughly cut out. Where two pieces are together simply split the difference when cutting out.

Note:- it does help to be present in your brain at this point and concentrate hard for a few seconds, something that I call thinking at a cutting concentration level. As this is not your fashion fabric you could see this as your trial run!

Out of 2m of silk organza you can see what I had left so on this size dress I may have got away with 1.5m of fabric here. I will always use silk organza so this will not go to waste.

The pieces are trimmed down a little to remove any excess and you are left with your full set of organza pieces. Each piece then gets wax traced prior to removing the pattern pieces, just as you would on your Test Garment. Most importantly ensure that the Grainlines are marked as this will define the grainline for the fashion fabric shortly.

You can also label each piece with a chalk pencil and mark any other important points such as S for 'Side' as seen in this photo, anything to make it a little easier for you.

Cutting the Fashion Fabric

Once your fabric is prepared and ironed to remove any creases that will interfere with the pattern find a surface to lay out the fabric and lay it wrong side up. If you don’t have a table big enough clean the floor and use that.

The underlining pieces will now for the pattern for use on the fashion fabric so have a play around with the pieces until you have got the grainlines orientated correctly and everything fits on nicely. Remember you have already taken care of the seam allowances with the underlining so it should be clear now where you will need to cut. Ensure that everything is pinned down and it helps if you pin outside the seam allowances to ensure you do not mark the fabric especially with this silk which shows up pin marks.

In this photo you can see that I have allowed extra space at the base of each skirt piece to give me space for the hem that I forgot about earlier so that the mistake does not carry through into a disaster.

So check everything as before, number of pieces, orientation, etc. and with your cutting concentration engaged then roughly cut out all of the pieces and save a little piece for your stitch testing.

The test piece is really important to check your machine is sewing correctly and to make decisions about how you are going to get the desired results on your fabric choice, look at thread colour/type and stitch length and finishing’s if required. On my test piece I determined if I needed to overlock the edges as this fabric does fray quite a bit, I also practiced different stitch lengths to see what I liked but other than that most of the other stitching is by hand so a simple 5 minute of testing was enough for me here.

You (hopefully) will not need to do this next step but here you can see how I marked on afterwards the extra for the hem by lining the pattern back up and marking with a chalk pencil so all was not lost!

Cutting the Lining