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Apr 02, 2013
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         It’s easy to figure how to lay a pattern when you are working with a simple one-way fabric.  Working with plaids or horizontal stripes, however, can be tricky.  Often, it is necessary to purchase additional fabric in order for stripes and plaids to match up properly.  You might even find yourself needing a little more fabric than recommend in the pattern instructions for certain one-way designs.

Recently, I came across a single piece of cotton fabric with several different elements. While neither plaids nor strictly defined stripes were involved, my fabric combined a horizontal print, lace, embroidered flowers and a sprinkling of sequins.  It was so different I couldn’t resist purchasing three yards with the certainty that eventually it would tell me what it wanted to be.

The Evolution

Rather than hide my new acquisition away in the chest with the rest of my uncut material, I decided to keep it out and left it neatly folded on my work table.  Every time I went into my workroom, this beautiful fabric would be there, waiting for me to turn it into something stunning.  For several weeks, I had no idea what I would do with this very unique piece of cloth, but I was determined to find a use for it.  With a piece of fabric like this, I had quite a few options.  At first, I thought I would make a fancy blouse or tunic then I thought it would make a pretty skirt.  For a little while, I thought about leaving it whole and simply hemming the edges and using it as a shawl or stole.  The more I looked at it, however, a dress of some sort kept popping up in my mind’s eye. 

When you’ve been sewing as long as I have, you’ve got dozens and dozens of patterns to choose from.  You also have the ability to mix and match patterns or alter them to suit your specific mood on any given day.  The first dress I thought of had a fitted bodice and full skirt; next I considered a dress with princess seams, but I couldn’t  decide if I wanted the lower part to be straight, flared or full; then I considered a dress with an empire waist, but again, I was torn between a straight, flared or full skirt. 

I finally settled on a simple form fitting sleeveless dress.  The pattern I chose, McCalls 8017, is one of my favorites.  I can’t count the number of times I’ve made this dress.  I’ve made it several different lengths and with and without short or long sleeves. I’ve made very dressy dresses and laid back casual dresses with this very same pattern. I’ve used it to make dresses with chiffon, wool crepe, cotton, denim, silk, synthetic blend and knit fabrics.  I chose this pattern, not only because it is easy, but because it has only two main pieces, for me to be concerned with matching the horizontal design and lace.

The Preparations

The hardest part of making this particular dress was matching up the design, making sure everything was in line when I put my dress together.  I started by pinning the selvedges together, matching the printed design and lace at intervals of about 10 – 12 inches. 

The next step was to pin the pattern to the fabric. I wanted the lace to be at both the neckline as well as at the hem. If it wasn’t possible for me to have it at both points, my preference was that it be at the bottom. The good news is I was able to get the results I wanted.  The trade-off, if you want to call it that is since I’m just 5 feet four inches tall, the dress would end just above my ankles.  I pinned the dress front pattern piece to the fold, making sure the lower edge of the pattern was about an inch or so below the edge of the lace, leaving enough fabric at the bottom for my hem.  I then lined up the pattern piece for the dress back.  The best way to guarantee a perfect fabric design match is to align the pattern side seam notches.  The way this pattern is printed, however, it is impossible to line up the side seam notches and guarantee that the fabric pattern would match at the side seams because the only notch is situated above the dart.  If I cut the dress with these notches lined up to meet each other, the fabric design would not match at the bottom edges.  In order to get the effect I wanted, I simply lined my front and back pattern pieces up at the bottom edge and pinned the back pattern piece to the fabric.  If you look very closely, you will notice that the printing on the pattern is reversed.  I deliberately pinned the pattern to the fabric this way.  It was the only way for me to place the front pattern piece on the fold with the lace falling where I wanted it to.

With so many different elements in this fabric, I wanted to use the least busy portions for my neck and armhole facings.  Having lace or sequins on the facings is not only wasteful having even a single sequin or the tiniest bit of lace rubbing against you skin can be downright uncomfortable.  I could have chosen to use lining or a different fabric altogether for my facings, but I was able to get exactly what I wanted and was able to place all my facing pattern pieces on the fabric so that it wasn’t necessary to hunt around in my fabric stash for an alternative.

Putting Things Together

Two more steps were necessary before taking my dress to the sewing machine.  The most obvious step was to fuse my interfacing to the facing pieces.  The next step, however, is just as important.  Sewing with sequins can be very hard on needles.  I have broken more than my share and simply wasn’t in the mood to go through that again if it could be avoided.  I sat down and carefully examined all of my seam allowances.  Whenever I came across a sequin that was in or a little too close to the seam allowance, I used my seam ripper to remove it, guaranteeing that when I did finally sit down to sew, everything would go smoothly.  I also did this for the darts in the front and sides.  In addition, I used a marking pen to match pattern points for the darts, making sure my darts did not disturb the integrity of the pattern in the fabric.   This final step may not have been necessary since the sequins were spaced intermittently rather than stacked in a tight pattern, but I wasn’t willing to take any chances.

My efforts paid off.  In a little more than an hour, from the time I sat down to sew, my dress was fully assembled and ready for the ironing board and hand work.  This is, no doubt, partly because I have used this pattern so many times in the past.  It’s a known fact that the more you use the same pattern, the faster you get.  After making the same dress so many times, I can almost put this one together in my sleep.


I’ve always said that a pattern doesn’t have to be complicated for you to get a great looking garment.  The fabric you choose is the most important element of any piece of clothing.  The next most important factor is your skill.  If you select the right material and then take the time to make sure your pattern is matched up at your seams and darts before you pin the pattern to your fabric or cut it out, your end result will be a garment that people will think cost you a small fortune.

The one thing you must do, however, is take your time.  Every single sewing room mistake I’ve made – whether cutting or assembling – has taken place because I was rushing.  Click here to read about three of my most memorable sewing room mistakes.  Although I was eventually able to into successes, the errors could have been avoided altogether if I had only taken my time. It never fails, however, that when I plan my sewing projects before even pinning pattern to fabric and cutting, no matter how often I use a particular pattern, my finished garment always comes out perfectly.  I’m sure you will discover the same is true for you.

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  1. rlt May 21st

    Vernelle, your dress is outstanding! I love everything about it, the placement of the fabric design, the style, the length -everything.

    Your writing is also outstanding. Threads should hire you to write instructions. You don't waste words and are very concise in your explanations. I felt your excitement about this dress from the first word to the last.

    Thank you for sharing.


  2. User avater miranda10 May 11th

    Things to consider when shopping for the best hard disk drives
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    Thank you, useful.
    Thank you, useful
    But to be frank, it doesn't tell in detail what should we do to choose a best one, agree?
    I don't think it's good to buy a new hard dirve, why not change the laptop? Lol.

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