This is my second blog post for the Minerva Blogger Network and for this I chose to make a garment in Stretch Jersey. Everything I used is available here at Minerva in my materials list to the right.

The pattern is Simplicity 1653 and is an "Amazing Fit" pattern.

When you choose your fabric first of all look at the pattern back because there is a guide to help you to choose fabric with enough stretch in it. So take the pattern with you, hold it against the guide and stretch it to make sure that it will stretch enough.

The fabric I chose is this Hawiian print stretch jersey fabric.

This is an Amazing Fit pattern which has various options to enable you to choose the correct pieces for your size. It is imperative therefore that you are honest with yourself and take your measurements exactly. Compare them to the pattern envelope and choose the size which most closely resembles your figure. If in doubt cut the larger size out.

To make fitting even better there are options to cut out different backs to suit slim, average or curvy figures,and different cup sizes. 

There is a guide, copied above, which tells you how to measure your bust enabling you to cut out the correct cup size. Once you have determined which pieces will fit you best make a muslin to toille out of some stretch lingerie fabric. Make any adjustments to the paper pattern before you even think about cutting your fabric out.

(The stretch toille can be adapted to make a piece of lingerie or nightwear if you like).

Steam press your fabric to shrink it and then pin it together along the selvedge. Some pattern pieces will be cut out singly, so leave them to one side until you have finished and lay the fabric flat before cutting out.

Each pattern piece has a grain line and the pattern pieces need to be positioned exactly so that the grain line runs in the correct direction. It is important to measure the distance between the grain line and the selvedge to ensure that the pattern pieces are perfectly straight. Any slight deviation will produce a garment which does not hang correctly. When pinning the pattern pieces in place make sure that the pins only go inside the seam allowances to avoid putting a hole in the fabric or puckering it. Use plenty of pins as jersey has a tendency to stretch when being cut.

The next thing to think about is what sort of stitch you are going to use and what sort of thread. I took some offcuts of my fabric and experimented with various machine feet, stitch types and stitch lengths. I chose to use a walking foot in the end. If you do not have one try a Teflon foot.  If necessary put some spare tissue paper or tear-away stabiliser under your seams as you sew. This definately helps you to get smooth seams. You may also need a longer stitch length and if you are using normal polyester thread you will need to use a special stretch stitch or a narrow zig zag.

You will also need a brand new ball point machine needle. This is a needle specially for sewing through jersey fabrics and you can buy them here from Minerva.  A new needle should be put into your machine for every garment you make. An old needle will be blunt and will cause your stitches to be uneven, your thread could break and become tangled in the machine.

I have chosen to use a stretch sewing thread from Minerva Crafts. This is a new product and I have to say that I fell in love with it as soon as I used it for the first time. It enables you to stitch stretch fabrics with a normal machine stitch!

I did some experimenting and the thread does not snap when pulled as far as it will go.

I do highly recommend this product, it comes in lots of colours too.

The next most important job is to stay stitch the pattern pieces along the neckline to stop them from pulling out of shape. By the way never leave your stretch garment on a coat hanger or dressmakers dummy until the neckline is finished as it could well be pulled out of shape by the weight of the fabric.

The pattern instructions look complicated and I admit to reading them through a couple of times until I understood them. Basically what it is telling you is that fit is vital in this garment and to achieve a great fit you must in addition to paying attention to the points above, try it on at intervals through the making process.

It advises you to machine baste everything together wrong sides together before trying on. It does not really matter if you tack it together right or wrong sides together,but to me it made sense to tack it right sides together so that if the fit was correct I did not have to undo the work and I could then go straight into machining it.

When trying the dress on make sure that it hangs correctly and does not pull anywhere. Look at the back and ensure that the centre back seam hangs straight down, and make sure it does not pull anywhere or indeed is too loose. This pattern is meant to hug your figure when worn. When trying it on make sure that you are wearing the underwear you will wear with the garment, if necessary you may need a smoothing all in one garment if you feel that you wish to smooth out any lumps and bumps.

Also do not forget to press each seam as you go.

I have pinned the dress together after stay stitching the neckline pieces and the construction is now a lot clearer. I tacked it and tried it on. Because I took my measurements correctly, and chose the right pattern pieces for my actual size it needed no adjustments whatsoever.

Stitch the dart and make the pleats in the front according to the pattern instructions

The next job is to insert the sleeves by joining the sleeve seams. These are Raglan sleeves so they are easy to insert as long as you match up the pattern markings correctly. Press each seam and then overlock the edges. The pattern gives you the choice of either over locking (Serging) the entire garment but I prefer to do a straight seam and then overlock the edges afterwards. Personally I feel that it gives a nicer seam finish.

The neck edge has to be faced with Bias Binding. If you are used to using Bias Binding you will know that it does not actually stretch very much! This new product, again from Minerva Crafts is brilliant! It is a stretch bias binding and it is perfect when used with the stretch thread. It stretches easily but springs back into shape instantly too.

Prepare it for use by measuring it against the guides included in the pattern pieces. Then press it open to get rid of the folded edges. Fold it in half down the centre and pin the strip to the neck edge stretching it slightly as you go. Stitch it with a narrow seam allowance all the way round the neck edge.

Press the seam open and fold the entire binding to the inside. Press again and top stitch in place.

You now have a bias facing on the inside of your garment as in the photograph above.

The link to this wonder product is here.

At this stage I do some more over locking and neaten what seams are not finished off yet. Also attach the tie belt to the edge of the wrap over part of the bodice. Neaten the edges and top stitch the seam along the dress edge. (The tie belt is easily made by joining the seam, clipping the corners, turning right sides out and pressing).

Pin the other tie belt to the position marked on the pattern on the outside of your fabric.

Join the side seams from sleeve edge to hem in one long seam, matching all markings and making sure that the sleeve seams are aligned.

It is easier when doing the side with the wrap-over to baste (tack) it in place first then pin the whole side together and stitch in one long seam as before, enclosing the wrap-over.

This is what you now have! The wrap over part ties beautifully at the side of the dress.

Finish it off by trying it on again in case there are any more adjustments to be made. Overlock the side seams and put it on again to measure the hem. In my case I put it on my tailors dummy to measure and pin the hem.

For the bottom and sleeve hems, overlock the edges and fold up to the desired length. Top stitch. Give it a final press and it is finished.

This is the view from the side showing the tie belt and the pleats.

As a final touch I added my own label to the dress. Dont forget that Simplicity own the design rights and you cannot sell any garment which has been made from one of their patterns!

The pattern envelope shows only suggestions of how the dress could be made. I think that if I make this pattern up again I may put gathers in the side of the wrap-over section which will make it narrower and fuller. It is your choice how you interpret a pattern which is why tacking it together and trying on before sewing is so important. It is at this stage that you can add your own touch to the design. The pattern has sleeve variation too. I chose the three quarter length straight sleeve so that I may wear it under a jacket. For a special occasion the flutter sleeve would look amazing.

The fabric is very easy to care for and drapes well. It is worth purchasing a good quality fabric if you want a garment which will last you for many years.

Check to make sure that it is fine when you sit down, common problems are that garments ride up when sitting, or they are too tight and therefore uncomfortable.

This is me sat wearing it for the first time. It is extremely comfortable, and it fits like a dream.

I hope that if you have never sewn with stretch fabrics before you will have a go at making this dress. It is extremely flattering to all figure shapes.

Thank you for reading this,