What I discovered through this process was that the actual sewing part of the dress really didn't get going until I had already spent a considerable amount of time doing pattern and fabric homework. I had to wash, dry, and iron my fabric. Then I had to determine which pattern size was right for me. That led into tracing the correct size, transferring over all the special pattern markings (and they all mean something), cutting these new just-for-me pattern pieces out, getting them on the fabric correctly, cutting the pieces out again, and transferring pattern markings ~ this time on my actual dress fabric ~ again. Sheesh.
I list all this because I would have appreciated that warning ahead of time. Not that it was so terrible, but it's good to know that this is what's waiting for you, and that this preparation is a critical step. It's a part of the sewing process that doesn't involve actual sewing, but without it, the project would be a mess.
My tracing cloth was great! It's easy to see through but not too flimsy, and it's nice and soft to handle. My fabric pencils were not helpful, and this led to some unnecessary frustration. I will definitely be exploring other fabric marking options!
To be fair, even though it felt like it took forever to get to the actual sewing part, once you've traced your pattern onto tracing cloth, that's it. Unless your size changes dramatically, you won't have to do this again to make additional dresses from that pattern. I keep my cut out pattern pieces in a big Ziploc bag, along with the pattern and any notes I made, and it's all ready to go for me next time.
Making a Muslin
Muslin is an inexpensive fabric you can use to make a practice dress. You get some practice putting together and sewing the pieces, you can adjust fit, and you can screw up left and right without any pressure. I have to admit, I was relieved to have a practice dress to work on. Even though I ended up sewing two dresses, it really was nice to work out all my issues on the much cheaper fabric.
Plus now I love having the muslin to help me remember how to insert sleeves. For some reason, those goof me up. But I can grab my muslin dress, turn it inside out, and study how the sleeves are sewn. This helps me so much more than reading the pattern directions.
I sewed all my pieces the first time around with big, giant basting stitches. Why? Because if I goofed up and needed to rip a seam, those big stitches are way easier to see and unpick. When I was happy with a seam, I just sewed over it again, choosing a smaller stitch length the second time around. Yes, I sewed each seam a minimum of two times. Believe me, that is way less time consuming than trying to unpick lots of teeny stitches.
And now, those links:
Tracing cloth, Pellon 830
An example of muslin fabric
How to insert a darn sleeve ~ for new people and people who keep forgetting...like me.
I'm going to make Dress #3 from this same pattern, using fabric that may or may not work. We'll see ~ I promise to share the results of my experiment. I'll also comment on the two different fabric choices, and my use of interfacing for the neckline.
What happened to Dress #2? That's my Pajama Dress. :o) I'll introduce that little number to the blog soon.