Wednesday, 24 July 2013


Ahoy sew-alongers! Welcome to the Billie Jean sew -along. I hope you are as excited as i am to start the Billie Jean sew-along!?

Today's post we will cover the basics to get your started on the right track with sewing yourself a fabulous Billie Jean dress or two!

We will be covering in this post:
  • Finding your size
  • Making a muslin
  • Tracing your pattern pieces
  • Lay the pattern pieces onto your fabric, ready to cut
Important stuff first....YOUR FABRIC! I recently did a blog post about suggested fabric ideas and some fabric inspiration for sewing up the Billie Jean pattern  but if you already have some fabulous fabric, hopefully you have pre-washed it and have it ready to go... 

Finding your size:

The bodice of the  Billie Jean dress has been designed to be form fitting, and without very little ease, so in saying in this i recommend just checking your measurements, before you begin.

Using my lovely lady below as a visual guide, grab a a measuring tape, and note down your bust and  waist  measurements. For dress 1- the wiggle dress,  you will  also need to measure your  hips.
 Dress 2- the full gathered skirt, it isn't necessary to note down your hip  measurements due to the amount of  gathers in the skirt design.

OK, so you should have the below measurements, for each dress:

Dress 1 - Wiggle dress

Dress 2 - Full gathered skirt

Now that you have your measurements for your Billie Jean dress, refer to the size chart  on the pattern packaging back to determine your size. Compare all three of your measurements you have noted down i.e bust,waist & hip to the sizing chart measurements. 
Don't panic if you find that you are in between sizes here and there, and don't match the sizing chart sizes exactly, because i will be showing you in the upcoming sew-along post how to adjust the pattern, and it is very common to overlap into different sizes. 
OK, so at this point, just note down your measurements you have found on the pattern packaging back.

Tracing the pattern:

Due to the fact that you may have to make some adjustment to the pattern pieces, i do recommend tracing your Billie Jean pattern. Even if you don't need to make any pattern adjustments, its a great way to keep your pattern a lot longer and in their original state, for future use.

When tracing your pattern you can use pattern weights, basically anything heavy, i use whatever cans of food are in the pantry, it works a treat! In regards to paper you can use to trace your pattern pieces, i use brown pattern  tracing paper, which is transparent enough but also sturdy as well. You can use whatever paper you like, as long as it is transparent, baking paper from the kitchen works just as well as the expensive stuff. 
So to start with trace off your chosen size ( The sizes you noted down from the back of the pattern packaging), if you found you were in between sizes you will need to overlap into different sizes. It is important to trace each pattern piece as accurately as you can, this is where if you have some curved rulers they will come in handy. Make sure to copy down all the important info and pattern markings, and notches. It is also a good idea to label each pattern piece, and the size you are using, and any instructions they have i.e cut on the fold, grain lines etc

Once you have done all that, cut em out!

Making a muslin:

I highly recommend making a muslin for the Billie jean dress bodice - for both of the dresses. Why?
It is a very form fitting bodice and completing a muslin before you cut into your fabulous fabric you have picked out, will save you a bucket load of tears and swearing down the track... trust me on this!

 Making a muslin will allow you make any changes you may have to the fit of the bodice or the style of the pattern, before you head down the road of tackling your main fabric. It  may seem like another step in the road before you get to sewing up your Billie Jean dress, but i assure you  it will be worth it in the end! And once you have your muslin down and all the adjustments done and  the right fit you will be able to come back next time and sew up a Billie Jean dress in no time at all. 

The basics of making a muslin is to  pick out some calico or cheap fabric that is a similar weight and drape to your main fabric you have picked out. If you have managed  to  find some cheap fabric that isn't fluro,1980s inspired and completely gross, you will also score your self another dress, also called a 'wearable muslin'. My suggestion is to make a muslin only for the bodice of the Billie Jean dress, and possibly  also for  the skirt of the wiggle dress,  if you are finding your sizes differ greatly in your waist and hip area. Don't bother making a muslin for the dress  2, full gathered skirt either, or lining the bodice, or  wiggle dress skirt, the muslin is solely to get the fit right and make the appropriate  adjustments to get that perfect fit.
I also think  making muslin's for your sewing projects, gives you a better insight into fitting your body,understanding your body shape more  and a better understanding about making pattern adjustments and getting that perfect fit for your body shape with all your sewing projects.

Cutting your fabric:

*If  you have found that you will need to do an Full Bust Adjustment (FBA) to your bodice, just skip this part for now, the next post will be how to complete an FBA, to give your girls a bit more room!

Below are just a few fabric lay plan suggestions, basically they are just that  'suggestions'. They are  just  to give you an idea on the  possibilities of how you can lay out your pattern pieces onto fabric.
Use these images as a guide only, depending on your fabric selection, fabric width, size etc you may have, and probably will  to work out your own fabric lay plan. Remember to place the pattern pieces as economically as you can, so then you can make yourself a matching 50s head scarf with the leftovers! Remember to keep in mind the grain line and nap of the fabric.
Once you have placed your pattern pieces on your fabric and your happy with it, you can start cutting them out! Remember to cut or mark the notches! 
*Repeat the same process for cutting out the linings.

That's it for the first post for  Billie Jean sew-along, next up i will be showing you how to do a Full Bust Adjustment ( FBA) on the Billie Jean bodice, which sounds scary but is pretty straight forward and i will be showing you step by step! 

Until the next sew-along post share your progress, ask any questions you may have or just share the sew-along love!

You can keep on the  Bluegingerdoll Facebook , post your pics onto the Flickr group or Tweet me @bluegingerdoll and use the hashtage #billiejeansewalong





  1. Can't wait to see all the great dresses! :)

  2. Great pattern! If I had the time I definitely would have signed up :)

    1. Thanks lovely! No worries the sew-along posts will be up on the blog FOREVER! ;)


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