Doris Dress Sewalong: Choosing Fabric, Measuring & Cutting

Doris Dress Sewalong | Sew Over It

Hi everyone!

We’re so excited to be starting the Doris Dress sewalong today. Have you got your pattern at the ready? (If not, quick, grab one online!)

Supplies and choosing the right fabric

Doris Dress Sewalong | Sew Over It

You’re going to need:
Doris Dress sewing pattern
– 16″ concealed zip
– 0.3m lightweight fusible interfacing
– 6-8 small buttons
matching thread and bobbin
fabric scissors
– paper scissors
pins
tape measure
chalk/fabric marker
– seam ripper
– regular zip foot (optional)
concealed zip foot
hand sewing needles
– and fabric of course!

So let’s talk suitable fabrics! For the Doris Dress we recommend light to medium weight woven fabrics with a good amount of drape. Think rayons, viscose and crepe. The dress will also work in cotton lawn – which we would recommend if you’re a beginner.

Scroll down to see Lisa’s Doris Dresses, and to find out which type of fabric they’re made from.

Sew a rayon Doris Dress!

Doris Dress Sewalong | Sew Over It

These two dresses are both made from rayon. Rayon is a lightweight woven fabric with a beautiful drape. It is often used in ready-to-wear clothing. It’s a man-made natural fibre which is breathable and comfortable to wear in summer. Slightly trickier to sew than cotton, it does move a little more when you’re cutting, pinning and sewing, but if you use sharp scissors, a new, fine needle and lots of pins it is definitely doable, and you’ll have a light and floaty Doris Dress at the end of it.

You can find a selection of rayons on our online shop.

Make your Doris Dress in crepe!

Doris Dress Sewalong | Sew Over It

This Doris Dress is made from our luxury crepe. It’s a beautiful, expensive-feeling medium weight crepe with amazing colour saturation. It’s almost completely opaque so you can’t see through it easily, which makes it ideal for dressmaking. It has a very tight weave which means you’ll need to use sharp, fine pins and a new needle, but generally it is easy to sew. It is less stable than cotton, but because it is a medium-weight fabric it doesn’t slip and slide around like a lighter-weight crepe would. We love this fabric!

You can find luxury crepes here on our online shop.

Not sure about rayon or crepe? Try cotton!

Doris Dress Sewalong | Sew Over It

This spotty version of the Doris Dress is made in cotton. Ideal for summer months, cotton is a breathable natural fibre which will help keep you cool. Most lightweight cottons will work for Doris; but an important factor to bear in mind is how much drape the fabric has. Most cottons will have some drape but some can be quite stiff and crisp. We’d recommend avoiding these. Stable and easy to sew, cotton is the ideal choice for a less advanced dressmaker!

We’ve got loads of gorgeous cottons and cotton lawns online, including Liberty Tana Lawn and Atelier Brunette.

Not sure but just fancy having a browse? Check out our Doris Dress fabric selection for inspiration!

Now we’ve got your fabric choice sorted, let’s work out how much fabric you need to buy. It all starts with the tape measure.

Measuring yourself and choosing your size

For the Doris Dress you need to take your bust, waist and hip measurements.

For this step, try to make sure you’re not wearing anything bulky – for most accurate results you might like to do this step in just your underwear. It makes sense to wear the same bra you intend to wear with your dress once it’s finished, as this can impact the fit.

So! When holding the tape measure around yourself you want it to be fairly snug against your body. Holding it too tight or too loose will give you an inaccurate measurement. Aim to fit a couple of fingers between your body and the tape, but nothing more. And we know this sounds obvious, but don’t be tempted to hold in your tummy – after all the effort you’ve put into making the dress, you don’t want to end up with something that you can’t wear.

Doris Dress Sewalong | Sew Over It

To find your bust measurement hold the tape measure around the fullest part of your bust – usually this is around the nipples. Make sure the tape measure is horizontal all the way around your back. If it dips down or is up too high your measurement will be wrong and you could end up cutting a bigger size than you need to. We recommend standing next to a mirror so you can check.

Your waist is usually the smallest part of your torso, and the point from which you can bend sideways. Hold the tape measure around yourself, have a little wiggle, and it should find its way into the right spot. Remember, no breathing in!

For your hip measurement you want to hold the tape measure around the fullest part of your bottom. This is not necessarily the fullest part of your thighs when looking at yourself from the front, so it’s a good idea to stand sideways next to the mirror to see if you are holding the tape measure in the right place.

Once you have these measurements, it’s time to consult the sizing chart to work out your size.

Doris Dress Sewalong | Sew Over It

Once you’ve worked out your size, follow the dotted line that corresponds to it and cut all your pieces out!

Preparing your fabric

When you have chosen your fabric and got it home, the next step is to prewash it. This is a very important step! There is nothing worse than spending hours making yourself a beautiful new dress only for it to shrink after its first wash. (We’ve been there!) You need to prewash the fabric in the same way you intend to wash your finished dress, whether it be machine wash, hand wash or dry clean.

If you absolutely do not have time to pre-wash your fabric and just have to get cutting right away (we understand), you can give your fabric a really good steam press. This is what they do in the industry for ready-to-wear clothing. Just make sure you test your fabric can handle all the heat and steam on a scrap piece first. You don’t want shiny patches or a great big iron mark on it!

Making sure your fabric is pressed and wrinkle free, fold it right sides together, selvedge to selvedge. The right side of the fabric is the side that you want to show when you’ve finished the dress; the wrong side is the side that will be hidden on the inside. The selvedge is the finished edge of the fabric, which does not fray. On some fabrics the name of the designer is shown on the selvedge, and sometimes it is evident by little tiny dots in the fabric that run down this edge.

Doris Dress Sewalong | Sew Over It

When your fabric is folded, smooth out any wrinkles and give it another quick press. Lay the fabric out on a large, smooth surface (in the absence of a table, the floor is a good substitute), and begin laying out your pattern pieces across it in accordance with the layplans in the instructions booklet.

Doris Dress Sewalong | Sew Over It

Pay great attention to the grainline – the grainlines on the pattern pieces need to be parallel to the selveldge. If your fabric is slippery and tends to move around, you should always double check this by measuring from both ends of the grainline to the selvedge, and making sure both measurements are the same.

If your fabric has a one-directional print, make sure you lay your pattern pieces out all facing the right way up, so your dress doesn’t end up with upside down panels.

Cutting your fabric

When you’re happy with the positioning, either use pins or weights to secure the pieces down onto the fabric. Then you can begin cutting! Try and keep the pattern paper to the left of your scissors as you cut – this will ensure that your cutting is nice and accurate. Keep the lower blade of the scissors in constant contact with the table for more control.

Once all your pieces are cut make sure to snip those notches. These are going to be invaluable when we get to the sewing, so don’t skip this step. You don’t need to cut out the full triangle – a snip down the middle will do. Keep these snips no longer than 5mm in case the dress ends up too tight and you need to let it out a little.

Doris Dress Sewalong | Sew Over It

Once you have completed this step we recommend that you keep the pattern paper and fabric pieces pinned together. It will make it easier to identify your pieces in the next step, and will also help your fabric from stretching and becoming distorted.

And that’s it! We’re done. Phew! Time for tea, anyone?

If you still have some steam left after all that, you might like to make a toile at this point. A toile is a test garment made from inexpensive material with a similar weight and drape to your dress fabric. Making a toile can highlight any fit issues you might have with the pattern, and allow you to make adjustments before you start cutting into your specially chosen fabric. Often there is no need to make a toile of the whole garment – but we tend to think testing out the bodice is a good idea. Use a long stitch length on your machine for this, so if you need to rip any stitches out during this process, it will be a lot quicker!

See you on Friday when we’ll start the actual sewing! Woohoo!

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