Monday, December 12, 2022

"Free-hand" Sewing Series: Post #2: Measuring And Cutting! (Plus, a change of plans!)

You've designed your dress and picked out fabric to sew it with. Now what?

If you're sewing with me, just grab:

A pencil or fabric marker


A t-shirt that fits you

Your fabric yardage

To begin, fold your fabric in 1/2 lengthwise.

Hold the folded fabric up to your shoulder and mark the desired length of your dress. 


Fold the fabric over at the point you marked. The fold is now the shoulder of your dress, and the edge you were holding up to your shoulder is the hem. Cut the remnant of the fabric off, but keep it handy. 

Next, lay your fabric out on a clear surface and fold your T-shirt in 1/2. Place it on the two folds, and tuck the sleeves in to show the shape of the armhole.

NOTE: you can also hold the fabric up to your shoulder and simply mark on it where you want the neckline, shoulders and armholes to be. The T-shirt method may be more successful for a beginner, though.

Using a T-shirt that fits you will help the neckline, armholes, and shoulders be custom-tailored to YOUR size.

Cut around the BACK of the shirt's neckline. (You can also draw it onto your fabric first and take the shirt off before you cut). 

DON'T try to cut around the shoulder of the T-shirt, because the fold is your shoulder. 


NOTE: You can cut a neckline bigger, but you can't cut one smaller! Err on the side of a smaller neckline when you're drawing and cutting it out. Keep in mind that sewing the facing on (in the next post) can enlarge it up to 1 1/4 inches.

Make a mark at the FRONT neckline.

 Next, draw a curved line 2-4" away from the armhole, that looks like this:

 Remove the shirt and cut from the shoulder to the armpit as shown.

Next, cut from the armpit to the bottom corner of your fabric. 

 Unfold your dress like this:

Cut a curved line from the front neckline mark you made up to the back neckline:

By unfolding the dress first, you didn't make the mistake I have made in the past - of cutting a back neckline to the same depth as a front neckline.

To be honest with you, I had planned for this dress design to have sleeves. But then I put it on my dress form with a white shirt underneath it...Oh, it was so pretty as a jumper! So, I am taking a piece of my own advice and listening to my fabric.

My fabric is begging to be made into a jumper, not a dress with sleeves of the same material! A white accent is like an anchor to the bold, red print.

So, I'll show you how to make a jumper and a dress with sleeves, and you can pick the one you like best!   

There are so many variations of sleeves you can do! But the basic sleeve shape looks like a bell when unfolded.

 Cut two of these on the fold of your fabric.

If you've decided to make a long sleeve, cut out the curved line only, and hold the top of it a little above your shoulder. Bend your arm with the fabric over it and smooth it to the shape of your arm. Make a mark between your wrist and your knuckles, and cut a straight line across the fabric at that point. Cut from the sides of the curve straight down to the line for a puffed sleeve, or a slightly angled line for a straight sleeve. Just don't make it too tight!


At this point, you're almost through cutting the pieces for your dress. Let's finish up this post with the neckline facing!

Take a piece of fabric that is 6" larger than your neckline in all dimensions, and fold it in half. With your dress still unfolded the long way, lay it on the fabric, with the neckline opening on the fold. 

Trace the neckline onto the fabric, remove the dress, and cut the shape. 


Next, cut a 3" border around your original cut. Unfolded, it should look like  this:

If you want, you can cut out a matching tie for your dress.

That's all for now! I hope you enjoyed reading this post. If you're following along, drop me a line! I enjoy receiving your comments.

To God be the glory,

 Miss Humphrey


  1. I’m trying to work up the courage! My trouble has been the sewing machine itself. I’m not at all mechanical. I do, however, like to create things without fussy instructions. 😁 Thank you for sharing your wisdom and experience. Looking forward to seeing more from you, my dear.

    1. Sewing machines can be troublesome! Have you thought of hand-sewing?

  2. I am able to follow along quite well. Thanks for the simple instructions.

  3. Hi! What a great first post. Welcome to the wonderful world of blogging! I hope you'll do a follow-up to this post so we can see about the sewing and finishing.

    1. Thank you! I plan to post the sewing part next Monday :)

  4. I second the hand-sewing method. So much less stress than managing a machine.

  5. Thank you Miss Lilian for creating this blog. I’m so amazed at your creativity and so glad you’ve chosen to share your dressmaking methods with us. I’m planning on making my first dress using your no pattern method by using muslin fabric first, so if I mess up, I won’t be wasting valuable and pretty fabric. If the muslin turns out well, I’ll dye it and use a pretty print next time.
    Thank you again for sharing☺️
    Mrs. Westrup


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