Afternoon is on holiday! All orders placed will be posted on 10 May 2022.

Cali sewalong: welcome!

Welcome and introduction to the basics

For the rest of the month, we'll be tackling each step involved in making the Cali dress from start to finish. With lots of pictures and more in-depth explanation, I hope it will inspire you to sew with confidence!

Basic equipment

Let's go over the basic equipment you need – make sure you have the following on hand:

  • Sewing machine
  • Fabric scissors
  • Dressmaking pins
  • Tailor's chalk or fabric marker
  • Sewing thread (make sure it matches the fabric you've chosen!)
  • Measuring tape
  • A big table for laying out your pattern and cutting (I find a clean floor to be just fine if you're short on a good table)

Cali dress requirements

Now, let's break down the requirements for the dress itself!

1,7m lightweight dress fabric at 150cm wide

When you go into most dress fabric shops in South Africa, fabric is sold off the roll. For a soft and feminine Cali dress, good fabrics include rayon, cotton lawn or very soft denim. For something a bit more sharp and structured, consider a wax print or taffeta. Don't be scared to ask the shop assistant to help you! Once you see and touch the fabrics, you'll be able to choose based on what appeals to you.

Once you've found the fabric you love, ask the shop assistant to cut you 1,7 metres. Before they snip in, confirm the width of the fabric – we're aiming for 150cm here. It's likely you won't have a problem as that's the width of most dress fabrics.

For this sewalong, I'll be making the Cali dress in this gorgeous double gauze fabric by Japanese design house Nani Iro. Go to her website at your own risk, you will swoon from loveliness!

Nani Iro double gauze

A 55cm invisible zip

Invisible zips look a little different from regular zips that you might be used to seeing on jeans or bags. The teeth of the zip are concealed so that the zip can be inserted into the seam of a garment without being seen. If you have a dress from somewhere like Topshop or Zara that zips up at the side, that's most likely where you will have seen and used an invisible zip.

Invisible zip

Invisible zip foot for your sewing machine

This nifty little foot makes it easy to sew an invisible zip! While it's not strictly necessary (I will demonstrate how to put in your zip without one), it does make it MUCH easier, so I do recommend investing in this little guy.

Invisible zip foot

Choosing your size

Afternoon follows an alphabetised sizing chart. I feel that too many people are focused on what size they are, when really what's important is that you love what you're wearing and you're comfortable in it. Bear in mind that most people will fall across one or two sizes, so choose your size based on your largest measurement. For example, if your bust fits a size C but your waist is closer to a size B, rather use size C. You can always nip it in!

Cutting your paper pattern

If you're sewing from a digital download, follow the guidelines here on how to print and collate your pattern pieces.

For those of us working off a printed pattern, take out your pattern sheet and lay it down flat. Now to trace off your size! Only cut out of the original pattern sheet if you're very, very sure that you won't won't to make another size for you or a friend in future!

Baking paper for tracing

I find that regular household baking paper works perfectly for the purposes of tracing off your sewing pattern. Use a sharp pencil to trace around all the lines and pattern markings. The paper should be translucent enough for you see what you're tracing.

Trace off your pattern pieces

Use a ruler for the straight bits and – if you have one – a French curve for the curvy bits. It's not really a piece of stationery most of us use on a regular basis, so a dinner plate will do as a good substitute!

French curve

A plate is useful if you don't have a French curve

Just flip your plate over and use the rounded edge as a guide for making neat, curved lines.

Use the curve of the plate to trace your lines

While you're tracing, remember to transfer all your pattern markings like the grainline and lines that show where to cut on the fold. You're going to need these later. Also make a point of labelling each individual piece. For example, "Cali Dress, back bodice piece, cut 2". This is so that when you come to use it again (sometimes months later!) you know what you're looking at.

Well done!

We've laid some solid ground work for the next stage of our dressmaking adventure. See you back here soon for more!

In the meantime, share your progress with us on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook with the hashtags #calisewalong #calidress and #afternoonpatterns

Still don't have your pattern?

It's never too late to join! Pop on over to the online shop here or on Etsy and pick one up.

Side view of the Cali dress

Buy the pattern