March 2, 2015
I am so excited to talk about this topic of fabric for The McCall Pattern Company Wrap Dress Sewalong. Fabric choice is essential to the ultimate execution of your garment. Once you have selected your sewing pattern, please consider your fabric choice as your most important step in the process. For this sew-along, I will be using Vogue Pattern V8379 HERE.
(The style board is inspiration for my fabric choice and mix of the solid with the print. The skirt portion of the DVF dress is made of a structured woven, but I think that I can emulate a similar look with the floral knit jersey.)
Diane Von Furstenberg set the standard for the wrap dress in her 1970’s design. Her signature dresses were introduced to the fashion world constructed of knit jersey fabric. Within the knit family there are so many options to choose from: interlock twisted yarn, jersey, neoprene, sweater knits…and the list goes on. The differences vary by stability, drape, handfeel, and overall functionality. There are an array of wrap dress patterns to choose from. All of these patterns can be paired back to so many fabrics. However, for the wrap dress sewalong, we are encouraging you to use lightweight jersey knit fabrics.
I must admit that when I first started sewing, I was intimidated by knit fabrics and avoided sewing with knits for several years! Boy was I missing out! Knits are a great choice for a beginners sewing project. Knits are extremely easy because fit is less of a factor than in using woven fabric. I will cover things to consider when buying fabric, ease allowance, and cutting your fabric.
RIGHT FABRIC for the RIGHT PATTERN:
The recommended fabric for this sewalong is lightweight jersey knit fabric. Jersey fabric is generally soft and drapeable with a moderate amount of stretch. I am very conscious of my body type and I know what I want to accentuate and/or conceal. Fabric plays a HUGE role in both. I chose to use Vogue V8379 as the pleats add some contouring and some shape to the waistline. I will be using a jersey crepe fabric (shown on my style board) for the top portion and the silk/rayon floral portion for the botton half of the dress (similar to that of the Diane Von Furstenberg ready to wear style HERE) shown on the style board. Jersey fabric can be made of cotton, silk, polyester, rayon or blends. I will be using the fabric shown in the pictures below for this sewalong.
Below are some fabric options that would work well for pattern Vogue V8379. Links to the fabrics are listed below.
LET’S GO SHOPPING FOR FABRIC:
1) The best place to start when selecting knit fabric is to reference the list on the back of the pattern. The suggestions from the guide give you a great starting point on the kind of drape, stability, and hand feel you should seek. Visit a fabric store and play with the drape of the fabric in your hand. Test the handfeel. How does it feel? Is it soft? Does it have a coarse texture?
2) Determine the direction of the stretchest part of the fabric. Test the stretch against the grain and crosswise. Is the fabric extremely stretchy? Is the amount of stretch limited? Use the guide on the back of the pattern to determine if you are using the right fabric with the right amount of stretch. However, don’t rule out a fabric because it may have more or less stretch than on the guide.
3) Shop retail and look at the fabric content tags. Try on different ready to wear dresses and see how different fabrics drape against your body. Recently, I used this pattern (V8379) HERE to make a wrap dress out of a double knit textured fabric. The aesthetic of the double knit that I used had a completely different drape than some of the suggested fabrics I will show you below. Here are some examples of fabrics that I would recommend, roughly draped on my mannequin.
CHARACTERISTICS: Drapey, Soft Handfeel, Moderate Stretch (The fabric that I will be using is slightly thicker and has less stretch than the silk in example 2.)
CHARACTERISTICS: Has soft drape, smooth handfeel and moderate stretch. I will be using one of these examples as my muslin (or test garment).
CHARACTERISTICS: ITY (Interlock Twist Yarn) knits by definition are not actually jersey knits. Nevertheless, ITY has the perfect characteristics that will deliver a similar aesthetic as in jersey. ITY fabrics drape softly against the body, have moderate amount of stretch. ITY knits are also relatively affordable.
Examples 7 and 8 – Double Knit Jersey – Slighty less drapey than the aforementioned fabrics and falls slightly close to the body (I have found some double knits to be really thick…you should avoid the thicker double knits for this particular sewalong.)
CHARACTERISTICS: More stable than the knits listed above, Slighty drapes against the body, Super soft handfeel, Moderate to Low stretch (There are some double knits that are a lot more stable with a lot less stretch…the examples above are drapey)
4) Online Shopping. If you shop online for fabric, take note of similar fabrics that you either have in your closet already or that you have seen in fabric stores. Some online fabric retailers do a great job at providing very descriptive information. I have linked to some of my favorite online fabric sites.
4) Solid vs Pattern. Depending on the pattern that you select, a printed fabric design could be critical. Stripes, plaids, checkered prints will require matching. You should account for additional fabric to match the design. You will need to factor in extra fabric for aligning border prints, too. I would suggest a pattern with a straight skirt portion. Allover prints and solids will be the easiest to use (especially if you are a first timer to sewing or sewing with knits).
5) Lining fabric. I will be lining the top portion of my dress. Here are some of my favorites:
UNDERSTANDING EASE (AS IT RELATES TO FABRIC CHOICE)
I will cover more of this next week as I make my muslin (or test garment). In a nutshell, the ease of a pattern is the amount of give built in for the wearer’s comfort.
The nice thing about knits is that ease is already built into the fabric. However, the more closely your fabric resembles a tightly woven fabric (for example Ponte de Roma knits have very little stretch and more stable than most knits)…the more ease you need to account for in building your dress. For example,if you usually cut a size 14 or 16 in patterns, you may want to consider going up or down a size depending on the amount of stretch in your fabric. If your fabric has more stretch than what the pattern suggest, you may want to consider cutting your pattern smaller (and vice versa if the fabric is more stable).
The reason that I am mentioning this in relation to fabric, is because as you are planning your garment, you need to consider for the appropriate fit as well as the right amount of fabric (or before you start cutting fabric that you have in your stash).
Prewashing your fabric is probably one of the most annoying steps (at least for me it is)…but a necessary step…especially for knits. You do not want all of your hard work making a dress to go to waste because it shrinks when you wash it for the first time (post construction). Wash your washable knits and steam your special treatment knits. Since I will be making a wearable muslin and using a silk blend jersey for my final dress, I will be doing both. Allow your fabric to sit overnight after pretreating to relax the fabric.
As I mentioned in the beginning, when I first taught myself to sew, I only sewed with woven fabrics…more specifically wovens that were more stable, crisper (like silk dupioni and denim). Now that my eyes have been open to the world of knits, I have two tips that I use on slippery, slinky, curling fabrics. One is a rotary blade and the second is wrapping paper. That’s right wrapping paper! Instead of hunting down tissue paper that is large enough for your cutting surface…wrapping paper is the least expensive, accessible thing to use. (At the end of each Christmas season I buy wrapping paper just for the purpose of cutting knit fabric.)
Using this method, you will get razor sharp cutting edges and you can avoid that annoying curling, slippery, slinky knit cutting (I use this method on other slippery fabrics, too). Here is what I suggest:
1) Once you have determined the size pattern that you plan to cut, lay your wrapping paper on your cutting surface. Most wrapping paper can cover a 45″ or 60″ wide folded fabric. With right sides together, lay your folded fabric on top of the paper.
2) Lay out your pattern pieces and pin or use fabric weights to hold the fabric down. Don’t let your fabric fall off of the edges of your cutting table. The pull from the fabric draping from the sides will alter your cut and could drastically shift the patterns size/length.
4) Use a rotary blade to cut your pattern pieces…cutting through the folded fabric and your wrapping paper (I usually use scissors…but I have discovered on knits that you get a cleaner line and your fabric will not shift as much as it would with scissors. Also, you won’t ruin the blades of your fabric scissors cutting through paper (and replacement rotary blades are a lot less expensive!)
5) Clip all of your notches using your fabric scissors. Transfer all of your markings from the pattern to the fabric.
Now that we have touched on fabrics, ease, care, and cutting to make your own DVF inspired wrap dress it’s time to go shopping (or maybe you have something in your stash that you have been waiting to use)! Please leave comments if you have questions regarding fabric choices or need suggestions.
Stay tuned as I will be discussing making a muslin and discussing ease a little bit more Tuesday, March 10th. The BIG REVEAL date is April 6th…