October 19, 2015

Appleton Sewalong Day 1: Preparing Your Pattern and Fabric

Hey everyone! Welcome to day 1 of the Appleton Dress sewalong! If you haven’t already, make sure to pick up your pattern. You can get it as a PDF here if you want to jump right in, or you can order a paper pattern here.

If you’re still deciding on your fabric, check out our inspiration post and join up with us when you’re ready to get started!

  • Preparing your Fabric

Make sure to pre-wash your fabric whatever way you plan to launder your finished garment. Personally, I can’t be trusted not to toss my me-mades into the washing machine, so I always wash my fabric on delicate and tumble dry on low. Knits are prone to shrinkage (which I learned the hard way when my first maxi skirt magically became tea length) so if you notice quite a bit of shrinkage, a second trip through the laundry can help prevent unhappy surprises after you’ve finished your dress.

If your fabric specifies that it should be dry-cleaned or if it feels particularly delicate, I always recommend testing a small square in the laundry to see how it holds up. If you do decide to go the dry-cleaning route, you should still pre-launder your fabric by getting the yardage dry-cleaned.

Still looking for fabric ideas? Check out some options here.

  • Choosing your Size

We’re going to choose our size now – and if you have a PDF pattern, you only need to print your bust size pattern. Start by measuring your full bust, waist and hips.

image (1)

We’re all going to have a few choices to make.

First, try to choose a size based on your waist and hip measurements. If your measurements span between two sizes, I’d recommend choosing the size based on your hip measurements. Spanning more than two sizes? You can grade between sizes for a custom fit (See below for more details on grading).

Once you’ve chosen your size based on your waist and hip measurements, let’s take a look at the bust measurements. For each size, we have three bust options: C/D, E/F, or G/H. Choose the size based on your actual measurements rather than your bra size. For example, if you have a 38” waist and a 48” bust, use the size 18 G/H.

TIP: If you want a little more coverage up top, try going up a cup size.

Here’s where my measurements put me:


As you can see, my waist and hip measurements, put me in a size 12, but my bust is not quite large enough. Because of the negative ease in this pattern, that’s no problem, so I’ll make a straight 12 C/D.

  • Preparing your Pattern

If you made the decision to purchase a paper pattern, congratulations! Your pattern is prepped. You can sit back smugly and drink some champagne while we PDF folk toil away.

Okay, PDF pattern friends, let’s get this party started. Make sure to print your PDF at 100% scale. The background grid should be 1” x 1” squares so print a test page before you print the whole thing, and check that they’re the right size.

Start by cutting the right side margin and bottom margin off all your sheets.

TIP: If you use a lot of PDF patterns, an inexpensive paper cutter can change your life!

Once your pieces are trimmed, use the grid to help you line up your sheets. Tape or glue your pages together, and now your pattern is prepped too!


  • Tracing or Cutting your Size

Paper pattern peeps! Time to put down your champagne and get back to work! Trace the size you chose using tissue paper. Make sure to transfer all markings and notches to your tracing. Label your tracings with the size, pattern piece, and any alterations you’re making. Be sure to transfer the grainline, too. If you printed a PDF pattern, you can either trace or just cut your size out of your assembled pattern.

  • Grading Between Sizes

If your measurements put you in different sizes, you can grade between sizes for an even more customized fit. In this pattern, there is negative ease in the bust  (and a little bit in the hips), so make sure you are looking at the body measurements when making your choices.

Before you go the route of grading between sizes, double check your different cup options to see if you can get closer to your measurements using a different cup size – don’t worry too much about whether it matches the size bra you wear – if the pattern fits you, it fits!

If you do decide to grade, you’ll either be grading out from a smaller size at the bust to a larger size at the hips or in from a larger size at the bust to a smaller size at the hips. For tips on grading between sizes, check out this post.

  • Gather your tools and notions

You don’t need any specialist tools to make the Appleton dress, but here a few things from your sewing room you may want to have on hand, or consider buying if you’re a beginner sewist:

  • Thread.
  • Clear elastic for reinforcing the shoulders.
  • Stretch or ballpoint needles. As we’re sewing with jersey, you should use these type of needles because they push through the knit fabric rather than tearing the fibers. Here at Cashmerette Towers we use so many of these needles that we stock up on big boxes of them when they go on sale to make sure there’s always a fresh one available.
  • Scissors or a rotary cutter and mat. We prefer using a rotary cutter and mat for knits, but really a personal preference. Here’s our favorite set: rotary cutter and mat.
  • Not essential, but if you’re dealing with slippery jersey, then Dritz Wonder Tape can be a godsend! It’s a double sided sticky tape which you use to baste your seams shut instead of using pins. It doesn’t glue up your needle, and it washes away the first time you launder the garment. It makes life a lot easier for lots of sewing tasks, especially hemming.
  • And finally, here’s the type of paper trimmer which makes PDF assembly go way, way faster!

That’s it for today! Great work and we’ll see you next time cutting your fabric.

Do you have any questions about today’s steps?

Note: this post contains some affiliate links. 

36 thoughts on “Appleton Sewalong Day 1: Preparing Your Pattern and Fabric

  1. erniek3 says:

    Wait a minute: I am late to the party here, but you have notch/marks on the seam allowances at hip, waist and bust lines?
    Now that’s some good thinking! My multisized self salutes your pattern grader!

  2. Darcie says:

    An illustration of this part would actually be very helpful, if you can manage it. Thank you!

    “Above the waistline crossing point, smooth the line by curving it gently inward towards the size 12. Below the waistline crossing point, smooth the line by curving it outwards towards the size 16.”

  3. Laurie says:

    i need a little help with figuring out how to make this dress me-sized!

    My measurements are 42-40-42; i’m a giant apple, really! Grading 14C/D – 20 – 12 seems….. challenging. Any advice? Thank you!

    1. Laurie says:

      errrrr… make that 43-40-42. i guess that could put me in 16C/D-20-?? which is better, somewhat…

      1. Hi Laurie – I would go with the 16 C/D as you say, grading to the 20 at the waist. It’s actually “easier” grading this way, because effectively you’re just removing the curve where the pattern goes in at the waist, and really drawing a straight line (more or less) between the bust and the hip. If you find that it’s too big at the hips when you finish the dress, it’s really easy to just re-sew the side seams in a little bit to pull them in. Good luck!

        1. Kaitlyn says:

          Thanks for this, Jenny and Laurie, I have a similar issue.

  4. Danielle says:

    I’m pretty much a complete newbie – so does it matter what size the clear elastic is (if it comes in sizes)? Also, is there a specific type of tissue you use to trace the pattern? And my final question – super happy that the size 28 fits my waist and hips, but my bust is 8 inches smaller than the corresponding bust size. Should I grade between the size that matches my bust and the 28? Or do a small bust adjustment? I’m inclined to a small bust adjustment so that my full biceps have room in the sleeves. 🙂

    1. Hi Danielle! To answer your questions
      1. I usually use quarter inch or 3/8 inch clear elastic, but it doesn’t really matter.
      2. I use this tracing paper: http://www.amazon.com/Birch-Street-Clothing-Swedish-TracingPaper/dp/B00E3DG2KW But anything will do.
      3. 8 inches would be too large of a “small bust adjustment” to do (it’s only really feasible up to 3 or maybe 4 inches), so what I would do is grade from a smaller size at the bust to the 28 at the waist and hips. I’m going to guess your bust is about 48″ based on your description, so what would probably be easiest is to make the 22 C/D bust (you could do that or the 20, but the 22 means there’s a bit less grading), and then grade out to the 28 waist/hips. It is a pretty major grading step so you may have to play around with it a little, but hopefully it can work. I’d recommend trying with inexpensive fabric first in order to check the fit.

      1. Sarah Bailey says:

        Swedish tracing paper, SO good.

  5. JoAnn Clement says:

    Jenny, i’m a size 28 waist and hips but a 16 in bust. is this a dress for me? can you make that big of a size adjustment. i am also of narrow shoulders! 🙁 HELP!

    1. Hi JoAnn – this may not be the right pattern for you, unfortunately. It’s drafted on a block for busty figures, so if you’re significantly pear shaped it’s not been designed for your shape, I’m afraid. That said, you could try! I’m just not sure if you’d get a super result.

      1. Heidi says:

        Hi Jenny. First of all, it’s so kick-ass, that you’ve undertaken to make patterns for the busty shape. Great job. 🙂 What would be your recommendation as to how far you “jump” when scaling between sizes? Is one or two the limit or could one (sucesfully) scale from say 16 at the bust to 20 at the waist and then maybe add some more width to the hip if needed?

        1. Hi Heidi! Grading between 2 or 3 sizes should be totally fine. More than that is possible but you run into more potential issues and I’d definitely recommend making a muslin first. The photo of my model in the black and white bird dress is wearing an 18 grades to a 24!

  6. Wendy says:

    Hi Jenny!

    I have a question about grading between sizes at the waist only, rather than grading in or out from the bust to hips. For example, my measurements are 45-33-45, and I’m thinking of tracing my pattern halfway between sizes 14 and 16 G/H. According to the finished measurements, this would make the waist of the garment 35 3/4,” which is nearly 3″ larger than my actual waist. Is it possible to gracefully grade in at the waistline to halfway between sizes 12 and 14, or would that be too sharp of a curve? I’d really appreciate any advice you might have!

    1. Hi Wendy! I would start with the 16 G/H and then grade down a 14 at the waist. Given the way that wrap dresses tie around the body, it’s not going to make a huge difference to have a 12 or 14 at the waist, and this way the curve won’t be too acute. Good luck!

  7. Daiga says:

    I have a question: am I right thinking that Appleton dress pdf pattern version has an option of printing it on A0 size paper (in a copy shop)? That would save masses of time.

  8. Daiga says:

    Some useful info for the UK dressmakers: Mailbox etc which has branches all over the country does A0 prints for £2.8 per page and in 5 mins. Useful for those who like me cannot face gluing together 45 pages of A4 🙂

  9. tigerb says:

    You may think I am crazy, but I’ve just ordered your pattern with the idea of turning it into a wrap peplum top. I don’t really wear dresses of this length (I prefer maxi style) but I am so intrigued by the way you have dealt with the bust sizing that I MUST try it out.

  10. Emma says:

    Hi Jenny – I received my kit for the black dress with polka dot sleeves in the mail today! I have a couple quick questions: are there any specific washing instructions for the fabric you provided? Also, do you have any suggestions for a nice finish for the mesh portion of the sleeves that I could do on my sewing machine? (Something akin to a french seam for knits?) Thanks!

    1. Hi Emma – I recommend hand wash or dry clean, because of the mesh sleeves. For the sleeves, you can do a french seam, or you can zigzag and then trim close to the edge to finish. Hope this helps!

  11. Barbara Covey says:

    Looking at the finished garment measurements on the pattern there is nearly 8 inches of negatatvie ease in the bust. Is this correct? Seems as if the dress wouldn’t close with that

    1. Hi Barbara – yes, that’s correct, and why you need to use a fabric with at least 50% stretch. Wrap dresses are by their nature low cut, so if you’d like more coverage, then I’d recommend going up a size.

      1. Sarah Bailey says:

        Good to know, thanks!

  12. Paula says:

    Hello! Love the look of this dress. I was going to use the Christine Jonson wrap pattern but this one looks like it will fit me way better. My only question is if I can make the skirt with a bit more swing. Yours looks pretty straight. Do you think I could just cut it with more flare at the sides? I’m a pretty experienced sewist…

  13. jojo says:

    I made a toile of this in an inexpensive jersey and love it but as I’m quite tall I need to lengthen above the waistline. Do you have any tips on that? I need to add 2-3 inches to drop the waist to hit my natural waistline.

  14. Nikki Gervais says:

    Hello! I’m waiting on tenterhooks for my paper pattern to arrive! It says to trace the pattern onto tissue paper, is there a reason that I can’t cut simply out the paper pattern pieces? I’m still learning so I want to make sure I’m not missing something. Thanks! 🙂

    1. Nikki Gervais says:

      *can’t simply cut out

    2. Sirkku Tiira says:

      I believe tracing is recommended in order to save the original tissue pattern, in case you need to cut a different size. I do that to save my patterns for future projects, let’s say if I gain/lose weight or if I’m sewing for someone else.

    3. Jane says:

      I also have this question! The first version I made fits great, except that the waist tie hits about 0.5-1″ too high. I already lengthened the dress overall, can I just more the side hole down and make the slope of the wrap slightly more steep?

  15. Toni Shepherd says:

    I’m very excited to get going on a full on stretch fabric dress. Can I use a non stretch fabric as a toile ?
    Also I am a bit confused as to the size to make. My big “fail” with my sewing is usually FIT.
    My measurements are 41″, 37″ and 48″ so that seems to be 12 E/F cup with 18 waist/hips. Have I interpreted this correctly?
    Is this grading up from the 12 or grading down from 18?
    Thanks in advance, Toni x

    1. Ayelet says:

      Hi Toni,

      You should use a stretch fabric to muslin/toile your Appleton Dress–a nonstretch fabric would not work.

      Based on your measurements, that’s what we would suggest as well: a 12 E/F graded to an 18 in the waist and hips. We have more information about grading between sizes on a pattern like the Appleton here: https://blog.cashmerette.com/grading-between-sizes-top-or-dress-with-no-dart

      If you have other questions about fitting our patterns to your measurements, you can write us directly at hello@cashmerette.com.

      -Ayelet at Cashmerette

  16. Elizabeth says:

    Like the concept, but my first attempt was a horror, as it ended up tying under my bust and not at my natural waist. Please could you give guidance on how to correctly lengthen above the waistline, as I need to add around 2 Inches for it to sit properly.

Let me know what you think!