Hooray! First day of the Southport Dress Sewalong. So excited to get started. Before getting going, make sure that your fabric has been washed and dried according to the care instructions for your particular fabric. You do not want to go through the whole process of sewing up the dress and then having it shrink the first time you wash it – believe me I have been there :(. I also think it’s a good idea to iron your fabric before cutting it out. It makes it so much easier to cut and line up, especially if you are pattern matching. It also helps you get the most width and length out of your fabric.
Printing / Assembling Your Pattern
I am not going to go through all of the details here of printing your pattern, assembling your pattern, and cutting out your fabric. I’ve done it before with other sewalongs and so I think it’s repetetive for most. But you will find some links below for more help if you want it.
As always though, make sure that your printer is set up to print at 100% and check the 2×2 inch square on page one of your pattern to make sure that it is printing to the correct scale.
You do not have to print the entire pattern if you are only assembling View A or View B. If you are making View A only print pages 1-24 and 30 and if you are making View B only print pages 1-12, 18, and 22-51.
If you need more help with printing and assembling your pattern check out the following posts from past sewalongs:
Lengthen / Shorten
The Southport Dress is drafted for a model who is 5’5″ and the maxi length (View B) is long enough to wear with moderate heels. It measures 42″ from the waist. View A is 20″ from the waist and is drafted to hit a couple of inches above the knee. The bodice should hit right at the smallest part of your waist. To lengthen or shorten your skirt or bodice cut it along the lengthen/shorten line and overlap or separate by the desired amount. Tape in place (adding paper underneath if you are adding length). If the sides of your pattern are now a weird shape, reconnect the lines of the pattern edge so that it is a continuous straight line again.
Because I am 5’3″ I have to shorten the maxi length when I am making it. If wearing flats with the dress I find that I need to shorten the skirt by 4″. I do recommend shortening the pattern on the lengthen/shorten line instead of just taking the length from bottom of the skirt pattern piece as might seem easier. The reason is that if you just take the length from the bottom then you will be losing some of the skirt width which is part of the drama of the maxi dress.
Although it’s a pain (and I admit that I don’t always do it myself) it’s never a bad idea to sew up a muslin before cutting into your nice fabric. You could probably get away with just sewing up a muslin of the bodice for this dress because the skirt portion is gathered. This will give you a good idea of the fit of the bust, neckline and armholes, and if you need to lengthen or shorten the bodice before going forward. The dress is drafted for a C cup, with most of the dart being rotated to the waist for gathering. Most of my testers found the bodice to be pretty forgiving no matter their cup size, but like I said, it’s never a bad idea to test it first.
Make sure that you have gathered your notions before starting. You will just need a few items.
– 3 yds of single fold (1/2″) bias tape – This could be premade like the package above or homemade if you choose.
– 4 buttons that are 1/4″ – 3/8″
– lightweight fusible interfacing
– safety pin
Another optional notion is to buy some drawstring or twill tape to use to gather the waist. The pattern has you sew up a drawstring, but you could certainly use store bought if you prefer.
Transfer all markings from your pattern pieces to your fabric before starting to sew. There are lots of ways that you can mark your fabric, but here are the ways that I prefer:
Clip all notches with your scissors. Just make sure that you only clip about 1/4″ so that it doesn’t extend past your seam allowance.
Use Tailors Tacks for the bust dart points and the circles on your skirt pattern pieces (at the pocket and on the center front slit for View B).
Use chalk to mark any other important lines such as the bust dart stitch lines, and fold lines.
Now that everything is marked lets start with the actual step of the instructions. All of the steps below refer back to the steps in the instructions, but have a little more specifics.
Step 1 – Staystitch the front and back necklines and armholes at a scant (just less than) 1/4” in the directions shown in the instructions which is always from the shoulder and downwards. Staystitching is a row of stitching along a bias or curved seam to prevent the fabric of the garment from stretching during construction. This will really help you construct a well fitting neckline and armholes that are not flipping outwards so I do suggest not skipping over it even though it is tempting.
Step 2 – Fuse each of the interfacing pieces to the bodice fronts on the wrong side of the fabric, between the two fold lines and 1/4” from the top. It will also be 1/2″ from the bottom. This keeps the interfacing out of the seam allowances to reduce bulk. This little area will eventually turn into your button band and the interfacing really helps reinforce those areas that will need it.
Now that we are getting ready to actually sew pattern pieces together, we need to talk about seam finishes. All seam allowances (unless otherwise stated in the instructions) are 1/2″. You will want to finish your seam allowances when guided to in the instructions to prevent future unraveling. You can do this in various ways such as overlocking, using pinking shears, or zigzag stitching. Below you will see examples of all three. I will be using a serger / overlocking my seams for the sewalong, but you can choose whatever method works best for you. Another seam finish that is really nice is french seams. The reason that I don’t recommend it for the pattern is that it is a tricky technique to do with the inseam pockets. It is not impossible, and there are tutorials on the internet for it, but I will not be going over it for this sewalong as I feel like it’s a more advanced process.
OK, that finishes us all up for today. Tomorrow will be much more fun as we actually get to start sewing! Please leave questions in the comments and I will try to reply to them as soon as possible so that we can all stay on track.