Saturday, March 20, 2010

Sequin Dress - the pattern

Making the pattern:
During the internet-less snowstorm, I picked up the Spring 2008 issue of Sew Stylish magazine and got inspired by an article called "Draping 101" written by Judith Neukam.  She explains the basics of draping and the article is illustrated with nice clear photographs.  I was so inspired that I chose my targets (daughter and niece) and then set about to practice my pattern-making skillz on them.
It was surprisingly easy and effective!  Supplies needed: muslin fabric and a sharpie
  • I took a flat piece of fabric and marked a line through the center (along the foldline crease in the fabric).  This would serves as the vertical center front and center back lines during the process.
  • Cut a small hole for the neck and cut open the center back seam just enough to get her head through it 
  • Apply to daughter's body.  Kid around and say "so this is how your sequin poncho will look" 
  • With scissors, carefully enlarged the neckline until it fit Laura's neck perfectly
  • used duct tape to join the center back seam. 
  • pinned the shoulder seams, taking care to place them where the garment would hang evenly in the front and the back. 
  • At this point, the crease in the muslin fabric was now serving as vertical center front and my center back lines.
  • pinned out bust darts on the side
  • pinned out side seams
  • pinned out vertical darts in the back
  • pinned out one more small bust dart in the armscye (to be rotated to the side)
  • determine finished length of dress
  • carefully remove from guinea pig and move to the work table for next steps
Note that I am creating a sheath block, not a sloper.  A sloper is fitted like a second skin and one must add ease for wearing comfort and to define the style of the garment.  A block is fitted to be a basic wearable garment.
I like working with a pattern block because I know it will fit. I find it easier to add design features to a block than to fit a commercial pattern. It is not fool-proof; one must consider how the fabric will work with the pattern and adjust accordingly.

Here is the basic sheath block:
Now, when I first laid out the muslin fabric and folded it in half to create my pattern piece, it was not symmetrical.  The darts and the shoulder seams were similar on both sides, but the side seams weren't.  So, I just split the difference.  One side was trimmed down and the other side needed extra width. 
Then I laid my tracing paper over the muslin and traced the pattern onto the paper.  For this, I used a very lightweight sheer paper purchased from an art supply store.  It comes on a huge roll and lasts a long time. 

To adapt the block for a knit pattern, I want negative ease.  The fabric stretches and I want the neckline & armholes to be snug, so I want the pattern to be just a little smaller than the body in the upper half.  The lower half can stay just a little looser.  It is not a hooker dress, after all.

Basically, I made a small bust adjustment -  pinched out almost an inch (maybe 2.1 cm) horizontally and removed over half an inch (1.6cm) from center front and from center back at the neckline.

Oh, and I scooped out the tank neckline as we had marked on the muslin.  Here is how the actual tank dress pattern looks:

I should have sewn a test garment next, but didn't feel like it.  And I am the boss of my sewing.  I dove in and cut the sequin fabric.
The dress is about half finished and I got a quick fit check yesterday and I am really happy with the fit (yippee!) In my next post I will show how I am dealing with the seams and the sequins.  It is just as fun as I expected.  There are sequins everywhere :)
happy sewing!


  1. How fun is that!?! The fabric is super fun.

  2. It sounds like a great approach. I look forward to seeing the final dress.

  3. WOW you are definitely making this fun. The pattern looks great and it is so nice to hear that it is working out for you. I can't wait to see the finished garment.

  4. Is this one of the Korean fabrics. Liked the explanation of the draping technique.

  5. Wow! that is so cool. You made it sound so easy! Can't wait to see it finished.

  6. I am always intimidated by the idea of draping. I think that it will be so complicated and time consuming, but his looks really within my grasp. Of course I'd need a fit model, which I am missing at the moment.
    I remember reading something about putting down a sheet under the sewing area when sewing with sequins. but, how do you move your chair around? Not a very practical solution. a good vacuum is probably the best solution.

  7. Hi Robin,
    I really enjoy your blog. I have nominated you for a new award which you can pick up from my blog (if you have time).

  8. I am yet to sew sequins, I have a top in mind for winter so I am eager to see how your works out.


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