December 8, 2015

Washington Dress sewalong: Preparing pattern and fabric

Right, today we have to do the preparations to our Washington Dress pattern and fabric so we can be ready to cut tomorrow!

Prepare your fabric

Always pre-treat your fabric in the way you’ll eventually clean your garment. If you bought machine washable fabrics, then pop them in the washing machine and dryer first, and that will take any shrinkage out of the fabric. If you’re using hand wash fabrics, then do that. For dry cleanable fabrics, personally I don’t bother pre-treating them but if they’re super special you may want to get the fabrics dry cleaned first.

Choose your size

It’s best to use the body measurement chart to pick your Washington Dress size, because there’s negative ease in this pattern which means the finished garment measurements will be smaller than your body measurements. This is really common in Ready to Wear garments – if you measure a fitted knit dress or t-shirt that you wear, you’ll find it’s significantly smaller than your body!

image (1)

That said, the Washington Dress is designed with a close fitting bodice, so if you’d rather a looser or more skimming fit (especially if you’re using a thinner or slinkier jersey) then you should go up a size.

To choose your size, start with your waist and hip measurements (don’t worry if they’re in different sizes, we’ll get to that in a second!). Then, choose the bust size. 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.

My measurements are 48″ – 40″ – 47″ at the moment, so for the dress I’m making for the sewalong (which has a slightly slinky jersey for the bodice) I sized up to the 20 G/H for the bodice (two cup sizes bigger than my body measurements), then used the 20 yoke grading down to the 18 skirt.


Prepare your pattern 

Alrighty, if you bought the Washington Dress paper pattern, all you need to do is trace your size and you’re done! Boom! (Or, if you’re being a naughty naughty sewist you can just cut your size and live on the wild side).

If you bought the PDF, you have a little more work to do. One route is to take your copy shop file down to your local copy shop and have them print it out for you – easy peasy. If not, you’ll be printing at home. Download your cup sized file (there are 3, so you only have to print yours) and use Adobe Acrobat (or another PDF reader – but not your internet browser) to open it. Make sure your file is set to 100% scale, and print the first page – make sure that the background grid has 1″ x 1″ squares exactly. Then, print the rest of the file.

First, trim the right hand side and bottom margin from your sheets (I highly recommend using a paper cutter – recommended cutter below). Then use the grid to line up your sheets, and tape or glue them together – I first make strips using the letters (all the As, all the Bs), and then attach them to each other.

At that point, you can either cut or trace your pieces.

Grading between sizes

Do your measurements put you between sizes? No problem. It’s possible to grade between sizes to get you exactly where you need to be.

If you need a different size at the bust and waist, you’ll be grading on the bodice. To do this, make a mark on the pattern piece at the bust size notch, and at the waist size you need. Now, join up those lines, making sure you maintain a curve from the bust to waist. Remember to do the same adjustment on the bodice front and back.

Here’s what it will look like if you’re going from a larger bust size to smaller waist size:

Cashmerette Washington Dress

And here’s what it will look like if you’re going from a smaller bust size to larger waist size:

Cashmerette Washington DressNext, if you have a different waist to hip measurement, you’ll need to grade at the yoke. Again, follow the same process: mark the waist size and hip size you need on the yoke, then join them up, maintaining a curve.

Here’s what it will look like if you’re going from a smaller waist size to larger hip size:

Cashmerette Washington Dress

And here’s what it will look like if you go from a larger waist size to a smaller hip size:

Cashmerette Washington Dress


Tools & Notions 

Finally, gather up the tools and notions you’ll need to make the dress.

  • Thread.
  • Clear elastic for reinforcing the shoulders.
  • Stretch or ballpoint needle, and a universal needle. You definitely need to use a stretch/ballpoint needle for sewing the bodice and yoke sections, because they push through knit fabric rather than tearing it. For the skirt, theoretically you should switch to a universal needle, but it will depend a bit on your woven fabric – sometimes the ballpoint needle is still Ok, but if your woven fabric is thick or densely woven you’ll need to switch out. I love buying needle in bulk – I stock up on big boxes of them when they go on sale on Amazon.
  • Scissors or a rotary cutter and mat. I use this rotary cutter and mat – I find rotary cutters much more effective for cutting knits, not to mention faster!
  • I love Dritz Wonder Tape when I’m sewing knits – it’s much more effective than using pins, and it’s great if you’re using slinky or lightweight knits. It doesn’t gum up your needle and it washes straight out! (so don’t use it on dry clean-only garments…)
  • And here’s the paper trimmer I use to make PDF assembly a cinch.

OK, our Washington Dress is all prepared! Do you have any questions after today’s little adventure?

Disclosure: this blog post contains some affiliate links

15 thoughts on “Washington Dress sewalong: Preparing pattern and fabric

  1. heather Walters says:

    really confused what size to cut my measurements are 50/48/50

    1. Hi Heather! I think you should go with the 22 G/H and grade out to the 28 at the waist, using the method I explain in this post. Hope that helps!

  2. Heather Walters says:

    Thank you that’s brill X

  3. Martha says:

    What can I do if my waist and hips are bigger than the 28? My bust puts me in a 26.

    1. Jenny says:

      Hi Martha – then you’ll need to grade up. There’s a tutorial on how to do that here:

  4. Louisa says:

    When sizing up to work with a slinky jersey do you just recommend increasing the cup size or the waist as well? I’m thinking I will do a trial of just the bodice, but I’m not sure that I will be able to tell the fit very well without the skirt attached.

  5. Jenny says:

    Hi Louisa! I go up a full size – so instead of making the 18 g/h I’d made the 20 g/h – you can easily grade back down to the 18 at the waist if you need that size. Going up a full size gives you a bit more room through the front and the back (if you just go up a cup size there will be no more in the back)

  6. Sew'l Sista says:

    Boy am I confused. I really tried to figure it out- but it just did not work for me. LOL
    My measurements were a 44-42-46 and none of the sizes are near each other.
    I am thinking an 18 c/d but afraid to cut it wrong.

    1. Hi – I would start with the 18 C/D, and grade up to the 22 at the waist.

  7. Sara A. says:

    I’m really excited to make this dress, but I’m not quite sure what size I should go with. I’m very much a pear-shape, 5’10”, 40-37-51. My bra size is usually 40b (sometimes c). What sizing do you recommend I try? Thanks!

    1. Hi Sara – I’d make the 18 C/D and grade out to the 20 waist and hips. Thanks!

  8. Toni says:

    Jenny- I am making a few of these and a couple for my daughter- the 14 works fine for both of us – except for top. She needs to go down a cup size- to a b most likely. Do you have or can you recommend a tutorial for going down a cup size for this pattern? Love the pattern btw. super fast and awesome results.

    1. hi Toni! Did you already try the 14? The top runs a bit small so there’s a possibility it would work. If not, I’d suggest going down a size to the 12, and grading out to the 14 at the waist. Alternatively, you could do a Small Bust Adjustment like you can see here, but going down a size is probably easier!

  9. Kimberly Muzquiz says:

    As many have posted I’m struggling with what size to make. Full bust is 41. Waist is 38. Hips are 43. That’s a 12 e/f or 14 c/d bust, 18 waist and lets say 14 hips. Should I do the 14 c/d and grade out to an 18 waist and grade back in to a 14 hip? Thanks.

    1. Hi Kimberley – I’d do the 14 C/D bust and grade out to the 18 at the waist. Because of the way it’s constructed, I would not grade at the hips to begin with, sew it up and see how it fits. If it’s too big at the hips you can easily take it in at the side seams.

Let me know what you think!