March 20, 2017

Dartmouth Sewalong Day 1: Choosing your Size, Preparing Fabric and Pattern

Hi all! Carrie here! Welcome to our Dartmouth Top sewalong! Still looking for fabric? Make sure to check out our kits; these are some super soft and special jerseys that we found on our most recent fabric sourcing trip!

Cashmerette Dartmouth Top

Today we’re going choose our size, grade between sizes if necessary, and get our pattern and fabric all ready to go, so we can start sewing our Dartmouth Tops next time!

The first decision to make when sewing a Dartmouth Top is which size to choose. Thanks to the three cup sizes it’s more likely that you’ll fit in a “straight” Cashmerette Pattern than many other companies, but of course we all vary and chances are you may not be perfectly in one size. The good news is that sewing gives you tons of flexibility, and it’s easy to grade between sizes.

How to choose your size

There are two measurement charts: one is the Body Measurement chart, and the other is the Finished Garment chart. The Body Measurement chart helps you choose your size based on what numbers you get when you measure your body with a tape measure – it has numbers for your bust (around the fullest part), waist and hip. The Finished Garment chart shows you the size of the actual sewn garment – the difference between that and the Body Measurement chart is called “ease”, and it’s the amount of extra room in the garment that the designer recommends for the clothes to fit well and allow movement.

Generally, you want to start by comparing your measurement with the body measurement chart. However, if your measurements are between sizes you can take a look at the Finished Garment chart to see if you can fit in just one. The Dartmouth Top is designed with negative ease at the bust and a tiny bit of ease at both the waist and hips.

As with all Cashmerette Patterns, the best bet is to start with your bust measurement – you should use your full bust measurement, which is around the fullest part of your bust. Because of the cup sizing, you may find you could fit in two different bust sizes – in which case, you want to pick the overall size that’s closest to your waist size. So for instance, if your bust is 44″, you could theoretically be a 14 G/H or a 16 C/D. Which one should you pick? Take a look at the waist measurement – if yours is closer to 34″ (size 14), then go with the 14 G/H. If yours is closer to 36″ (size 16), then go with the 16 C/D.

Don’t fret if the cup size doesn’t match up with your bra size – there is so much variation in bra sizing that it’s not possible to perfectly line them up. Use your actual full bust measurement and you’ll be fine.

Grading Between Sizes

If your bust, waist, and hip measurements end up in many different sizes, you may want to grade between sizes. If you are making view A with the ruched front, you’ll want to keep in mind that your grading may affect how much fabric is gathered in the elastic section. If you’re grading out to a larger hip or waist, you’ll have more fabric gathered. If you’re grading to a smaller hip or waist, you’ll have less gathers. Make sure you still use the same elastic length so that the outer front side seams will line up with the inner front. For a run-down of how to grade between sizes on a knit, check out this tutorial here.

Preparing Pattern and Fabric

Now that we’ve chosen our size and graded if necessary, it’s time to prepare our pattern and fabric so that we’ll be all ready to sew next time!

Here’s your checklist:

  • Wash and dry your fabric, to make sure it’s pre-shrunk and you’re not going to get any nasty surprises later! This is especially important with knits. They can shrink an incredible amount!
  • Press your fabric so it’s nice and flat. Check to see if you get any iron shine when you press the right side. If so, you’ll want to use a press cloth when pressing between steps.
  • If you’re using a printed pattern, either cut or trace off your pattern pieces – if you’re making adjustments or are going to make any tops in other sizes in the future, I definitely recommend tracing.
  • If you’re using a PDF pattern, you’ll need to print and assemble it. Here are some pointers to help you.
  • Transfer all the markings to the fabric. For the notches, make a little snip into the fabric, within the seam allowance (so no more than 1/4″/6mm).
  • Cut all pieces, following the layout diagrams in the pattern.

Next time, we’ll get right into sewing!

11 thoughts on “Dartmouth Sewalong Day 1: Choosing your Size, Preparing Fabric and Pattern

  1. dimorr says:

    With your patterns I wear a 16CD so if I chose the 14GH wouldn’t the cup size be too big for me?

    1. The actual bust measurements for the 14 G/H and 16 C/D are the same, in the same way that the measurements for a 36C and 38B bra are the same. However, the 16 has a slightly broader upper body/shoulder area, and a bigger waist/hip. So, it depends on your figure: do you have a smaller frame and larger bust (14 G/H), or larger frame and smaller bust (16 C/D)?

  2. lynl says:

    This is my first time with ‘custom cup’ sewing coming from a Big 4 bust measurement background. In ‘those’ patterns, my bust measurement did not necessarily correspond with my cup size so I would often need to do an FBA even though the bust measurement ‘matched’ my own OR I would size DOWN a couple of sizes so actually never sewed anything in the size that my actual bust measurement indicated (if that makes sense). With Cashmerette, do we still use the bust measurement for the size (the actual real number) and just use the appropriate cup piece? This is exciting-I can’t wait! Thanks 🙂

    1. You should use your full bust measurement, and use the cup piece that is linked to that measurement. No need to do an FBA or size up or down!

  3. Excited about participating – was an intermediate + in late 60’s (high school). Now that I’ve retired, I am studying sewing again. And especially since my body has changed shape! So, the fabrics, machines, everything is so different – I love learning “new” things, so this will be a wonderful, fun challenge. You have a great company and blog – thank you for your dedication and hard work bringing lovely clothing to all of us beautiful, curvy women!

  4. Mary Ann says:

    So, (once again) late to the party, but gonna do this SAL for Dartmouth, starting in the morning! (I’ve been needed to create gifts for my sweet husband’s birthday, which was today, & fulfilled that, so the rest of the week belongs to ME!) And I’m feeling a black top made from a draped rayon/cotton knit for my 1st Dartmouth, plus a Dartmouth hack dress coming on. I have the cutest Boho brown/white printed knit that has been ‘aging’ for a couple of years that will work perfectly for a hack of this pattern.

  5. Deanna Cork says:

    I’ve sewn for a long time, but I’ve never done a sewalong. I’m excited to participate in this!

  6. Rebecca says:

    Hi Jenny – I just ordered the Dartmouth pattern, and am trying to figure out what size to make. I know this is an old post, and Carrie is the one who wrote it, but apparently I need to complicate everyone’s lives – Ha ha! Here’s the thing, I made the Appleton, and it totally didn’t work for me. The shoulders came down too far in the front, and the waist was much too high for my bust. BUT – I had great luck with the Concord. In both cases, I went with the size 12G/H and graded up to 14 for waist, back down to 12 for hip. By you’re recommendation, I should be choosing the 14C/D and then grading down for the hip, but I’ve been afraid to do it that way. A danger with the Dartmouth is that the crossover will be too short to fit elegantly under my bust. The pictures of your versions (Jenny’s) look perfect, and I have long thought that we share a similar body type. I’m wondering, if it’s not too personal, what size or grading did you use for your versions? Thanks.

    1. Hi Rebecca – the Dartmouth sizing is very similar to the Concord, so if you go with a similar sizing you’re likely to be fine. Personally, I wear an 18 G/H graded out to a 20 at the waist these days.

  7. etarnove says:

    I just finished my first Dartmouth and love it. It fits like a dream and is very flattering. However, I noticed that the cutting lines for the 3/4 sleeves were short and my sleeves ended at the *elbow* (not my best length).
    Just thought I’d post a warning here for others getting ready to cut out the pattern. (I’m going to do a wide cuff to add length to this one – will cut sleeves longer for the next one).

    1. giniger says:

      I’m SLOW to this sew-along. I hope someone is still checking comments! I’m making View B, but the pattern layout diagram shows the different pieces for View A. The instructions don’t say, but I assume I should flip the front piece for View B?

Let me know what you think!