Strand Dress/Top / Sewing Notes and Tips
Today, I'm continuing in a series on the Halfmoon Strand Dress/Top pattern by Meghann Halfmoon from Making No. 9 / SIMPLE. You can find the previous posts in this series here: Halfmoon Strand Dress/Top pattern. In this post, I'm sharing my sewing notes and tips. Keep reading below for all the details!
Something I love about Meghann is that she's passionate about sustainability and simplicity and that she loves natural fabrics as much as we do here at Making. While perusing her website, I came across a list she put together of ethical fabric suppliers, which is such a great resource. I'd highly recommend checking it out!
Depending on the type of fabric you're looking for, some of my personal favorite places to shop online for natural fibers include Purl Soho, Fancy Tiger Crafts, Merchant, and Mills, Stonemountain and Daughter, Crossgrain Fabrics, Blackbird Fabrics.
As I mentioned in my first post, I'd been dreaming about making this dress in linen, which is what I ended up using. Linen, to me, embodies the spirit of summer more than any other fabric, and since Meghann designed this dress for that summertime feeling, I think using linen is a great option. For my dress, I used Purl Soho's Watercolor Linen in Rock Salt, which is very lightweight but stable linen that softens with washing. It worked well for this pattern, especially at the strap area, since those pieces benefit from a fabric with some stability.
Some examples of linen that would be beautiful for this dress include Merchant and Mills' range of Laundered Linen, Purl Soho's Handkerchief Linen, Nani Iro linen, solid version of this fabric can also be found here.
Silk noil is another wonderful fabric for this pattern and is what we used for two of the samples featured in the issue: the tan top (page 58) and white dress (pages 58, 67, 74). Both fabrics are from Fancy Tiger Crafts and can be found here; we used the colors, Sand and White.
Lightweight cotton such as Liberty of London Tawna Cotton Lawn is an excellent choice for this pattern. As I mentioned above, the strap design of this dress will look best when made from fabrics with some stability. Even though interfacing is applied to the straps, using a material that has stability will help the straps maintain their shape. The clay-colored tank that was featured in the issue on page 62 is made from lightweight cotton from Crossgrain Fabrics.
Most other woven fabrics will work well for this pattern, including cotton and linen blends, rayon, and others. The last sample featured in the issue on page 61 and worn by Maker Model, Jacqueline, was made from a 100% rayon. I also think it would be lovely made from this Merchant and Mills tencel, which comes in a variety of colors and can also found here.
I didn't use interfacing on my muslins, which is why the straps look a little wonky on the dress form. In some patterns, you can choose to eliminate the interfacing, but with this pattern, I would highly recommend sticking to the pattern and applying interfacing because it's essential in helping the straps maintain their shape. I used fusible midweight interfacing (Pellon 931TD), which worked well with my fabric as it's ideal for linen and similar material. The instructions say that it's perfect for yokes, which is how I used it in this pattern!
Marking the Staystitching Line on Straps
When working with thin, loosely woven fabrics like the linen I used, sometimes I find it challenging to sew evenly along an edge. I found this to be the case when sewing the staystitching line on the strap lining pieces in Step 1. I decided to mark the stitch line with a removable pen so that I had a specific mark to follow, which helped my line of stitching come out more even here.
Additional Stay Stitching
When working with lightweight or delicate woven fabrics, sometimes it can be helpful to sew additional stay stitching. Stay stitching is a line of stitching sewn somewhat close to the edge in areas that may stretch out, such as around necklines or armholes, to help them maintain their shape. I added stay stitching on the front bodice at the underarm to keep this area from stretching out. An added benefit is that it gives a little extra security when working with fabrics that unravel easily like linen.
Two Basting Lines
When I first started sewing on my own, I didn't want to bother with sewing two basting lines for gathering, so I only did one. I was told that two are better than one because if one breaks while you are gathering the fabric, there will be a backup. I've had the one line of basting break before, but it wasn't until I tried two lines as an experiment later on that I realized how much better the gathering looked in the end, which is what made it worth it to me. When you sew two basting lines, it's easier to get the gathers to stay the way you position them, whereas, with one line, the fabric shifts back and forth on the thread easily. I like to sew my basting stitches based on the seam allowance so that one line will end up on the left side and one on the right side of the seamline when sewing, making it easy to stitch right on top of the gathers.
Sometimes it can be helpful to use a drastically different color thread for basting so that it's easier to see. I usually don't do this because I don't typically spend the time taking out gathering stitches at the end, unless they show, which is one benefit of using the same color thread as your fabric. But I gave it a try on the skirt portion of this project and found it to be very helpful. It even made things easier when I was placing the gathers and making sure everything was even.
Sometimes when the gathered piece is being sewn to another, like when the main skirt pieces are being sewn to the bottom tier, if using a regular foot, the fabric can appear as if it's slightly pushed in one direction. To solve this, I like to use a walking foot as it keeps the material nice and flat as I sew.
Lastly, I'd like to encourage you not to be afraid to finish challenging sections by hand; I do this a lot! When completing the straps, topstitching around the outer edge at the part with the most significant curve (underarm area), it may be difficult to catch both the outer piece as well as the lining if you're trying to stitch evenly along the edge. When I sewed one of the straps, even though I had the edges of the main strap piece and lining piece pinned together, I wasn't able to catch the lining in a small area. Instead of taking out stitches and trying to force the fabrics to meet, I left it as is and went back and secured this small area with a few hand stitches.
I hope these tips were helpful! Please let me know if you have any questions or if I can be of further help. In the next post, I'm sharing Beginner-Friendly Tips. Happy Making! - Emily