swing dress sew-along

02.22.11 | sdsa: not so scary sleeves!

For most of my teenage years I had disaster after disaster with sleeves, particularly the set-in sort. I used to joke that I’d rather move to a tropical island and never have to sew another sleeve than wrangle with them. Well, fast forward a number of years and I think I hit the lightbulb moment when I finally figured out how to adjust sleeve patterns to actually fit an armhole. Many set-in sleeve patterns curiously have far too much ease, meaning them don’t ease smoothly and pucker-free. But after adjusting patterns and learning how to sew a set-in sleeve properly, it’s made a world of difference! So I hope perhaps this little section of the sew-along will help a few of you who also struggle with set-in sleeves as well (assuming there are others out there who were in the same predicament as I!).

02.22.11 | sdsa: not so scary sleeves!

We’ll need to do a little prep work before we get to actually sewing the sleeves to the armholes. Firstly, make sure you have some shoulder pads made up (I’m planning on covering mine with underlining fabric, but just had them in the intial, muslin-covered stage for this). You’ll also want to have one of the pressing aids* pictured above on hand; the large one is a pressing ham and the other is a sleeve roll. I prefer to use the sleeve roll for this, because my sleeve cap area is small and didn’t fit easily over the ham. But other will work.

02.22.11 | sdsa: not so scary sleeves!

Begin by running two lines of gathering stitches between the dots marked on the sleeve cap on either side above the notches. If you’re using a 1/2″ seam, run the first line of (basting-size; I use about a 4 on my machine) just shy of 1/2″ and the next about 1/4″ from the cut edge. Then follow the directions for sewing elbow darts (3/4 sleeve version only), the side seam and finishing the bottom edge as instructed in the directions for the Swing Dress.

02.22.11 | sdsa: not so scary sleeves!

Turn your dress right-side out, and pinning the sleeve to the armhole right sides together. (With the way the dress is positioned, this means that the sleeve is inside the dress.) I always start at the underarm seams, matching those and then working up to the beginning of the ease stitches that run along the cap of the sleeve.

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February 22, 2011 · 32 lovely thoughts
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I had to resist the urge of my inner-nerd to title this post “sdsa: what has it got in it’s pocketses?“. But because I am (somewhat) merciful and won’t subject you to the fact that I was once an LOtR geek, I decided to just be normal and have a sane-sounding title. haha!

02.19.11 | pockets (and a skirt too!)

the dress so far (excuse the messy shelves behind… lol.)!

Time for attaching the skirt! Isn’t this getting exciting? It’s at this point in almost every dress project that I start to go from being excited to really excited about the project, because it’s starting to look like something I’ll wear. After we left off in the last sdsa installment, we stopped at attaching the midriff pieces and skipped steps 6 and 7. If you aren’t attaching a side seam pocket on the right side, go ahead and complete those steps to attach the back to the waist. The principles for basting and carefully topstitching are the same; just go slowly and work on an even line of stitching. Also go ahead and sew the skirt front pieces together as indicated in the directions (or skip to the section below about patch pockets if you opted for those).

02.19.11 | pockets (and a skirt too!)

Pinning the side seam pockets. (Don’t laugh, but I wasn’t paying attention and stitched these to the left side first! Don’t repeat my mistake–attach the pockets to the right side seam!)

If you’d like to add that side seam pocket, here’s the procedure to do so, which you’ll want to do before attaching the skirt pieces to the bodice (but go ahead and sew the darts on the skirt back first). Pin one of the pocket pieces to the right back piece, matching notches.

02.19.11 | pockets (and a skirt too!)

Sew from the top to the bottom of the pocket piece (I had a 3/4″ side seam allowance). Repeat for the right side-front and remaining pocket piece. Press seams toward the side seam. Construct the skirt back as directed, and attach to bodice as directed in step 7. Piece together the front skirt pieces (steps 9 and 10), being careful not to accidentally catch the pocket piece in the seams! Attach the midriff piece to the skirt front as indicated in step 11 (same rules apply as for sewing to the bodice).

02.19.11 | pockets (and a skirt too!)

Close-up view here.

If you are adding waist ties, follow step 12. Pin and sew left side seam as indicated in step 13, being sure to leave the opening for the zipper! On the right side, pin together the side seam and around the pocket as shown. You’ll also want to mark at the top and bottom where to pivot at the dress side seam and stitch around the pocket. I’ve allowed for a 1/2″ seam around the edges of my pocket pieces, which meant I stitched down about 1/2″ from the top of the pocket along the side seam, pivoted and stitched around the pocket edges, stitched to meet the 3/4″ stitch line at the skirt side seam, pivoted and continued sewing the side seam. (See the diagram below.)

02.19.11 | pockets (and a skirt too!)

Once you have sewn this seam, press the side seam open. You’ll need to clip at the back side seam, right above and below the pocket to allow it to press open properly (below).

02.19.11 | pockets (and a skirt too!)

Conversely, if patch pockets are in your design, refer to this post on how to sew those to the side-front panels before sewing the skirt seams.

Judging by comments in the previous post, I’m going to give everyone a few days to work on things. Please don’t worry if you’re “behind” the sew-along; it’s not a race! I know everyone has busy lives and muslin-fittings don’t always go as planned. So feel free to take your time. I think because of this, the final “dress party” post sharing the finished garments will be a bit later than I had originally planned, so that hopefully it’ll give everyone a bit more breathing room to complete their dresses to share. Sound good? Up next: sleeves! I’ll be devoting an entire post on how to sew set-in style sleeves properly (I’m shooting for putting the post up late Tuesday afternoon), so if you’ve never sewn sleeves before don’t miss this post!

I’d like to give a big thank you to everyone who has been leaving helpful comments on the sew-along posts, as well as the Flickr group–I am so thankful to have all the input and ideas from everyone! Also, the lovely Gina has finished a red version of the Swing Dress–isn’t it gorgeous?!

February 19, 2011 · 22 lovely thoughts
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So how is your Swing Dress coming along? Apologies this post didn’t go up yesterday; I ran into some technical difficulties (my camera battery died and I had to wait to recharge it to unload all these photos!). So far I’ve underlined all the dress pieces, serged the edges, constructed the shoulder seams, interfaced the midriff and topstitched it to the bodice–it’s starting to look like a dress instead of a pile of pieces! Since I already covered how to sew the tricky shoulder yoke, I thought I’d show a bit about the midriff piece today. Now, the directions say to stitch the skirt back to the bodice before attaching the midriff, but I find it a lot less cumbersome to attach the midriff first and then move on to the skirt. So I’m assuming you’ve completed up to step 5 in the directions, and we’ll skip 6 and 7 for now.

02.16.11 | sdsa: the midriff

Cut out the midriff from interfacing. If you’re using sew-in, simply baste (by hand or machine) the interfacing to the wrong side of the midriff. If you’re using a fusible, trim away 1/2″ (or the seam allowance you decided on) from all edges and follow the manufacturer’s directions to fuse the interfacing to the wrong side of the midriff. If you’re worried how it’ll look on the inside with the exposed interfacing, don’t worry! Anna shared with me a little secret she uses to finish the midriff area. After constructing the bodice and attaching the skirt, she simply cuts another midriff piece from the fashion fabric, folds the seam allowances under, and slipstitches it to the inside of the dress, covering up the interfacing (and also neatly concealing all the edges). Brilliant! So keep that in mind if you’d like to neaten the inside a bit further along in construction.

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February 16, 2011 · 18 lovely thoughts
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How is cutting out your dress fabric coming along? I thought this would be a great time to discuss seam finishes, as this is something you want to consider before you start sewing. (It also is a great time to do some seam finish samples with your fabric scraps!) I’ve listed a variety of options for finishes, but of course I’ve probably neglected some and would love to hear what your favorite finishes are for a garment of this type!

Hand Overcast This is a good option if you have a very soft, supple fabric where seam finishes could show through the right side of the fabric as a ridge. Simply whipstitch the seam allowances, about 1/4″ deep after stitching the seam. Can be done either with the seams together or singly if pressed open.

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February 10, 2011 · 24 lovely thoughts
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It’s getting so exciting–we’re just about ready to start cutting the fashion fabric*! One thing I would like address before we get started is the side seam allowances. The pattern calls for 1/2″ wide seams, and while this is doable particularly if you are using an invisible zipper (though still a squeeze!), I have found that adopting the vintage method of extending my side seams to 3/4″ works a lot better. I would do this to the skirt side seams, bodice and midriff pieces (just the side seams–no need to have super wide seams on all the other edges!). This is especially necessary if you plan on inserting a placket-style zipper (which I will be posting about!), since it requires a bit more fabric to work with. (But, if you’ve already cut out the dress with 1/2″ seams, don’t worry–you can always extend those seams with some extra fabric.) So if you want to do this, now is the time to adjust your pattern as necessary (I just tape on a bit of extra paper to extend the seams an additional 1/4″).

02.08.11 | finalizing the muslin

Adding the new side seam allowance to make it 3/4″ instead of 1/2″ wide.

But first: how do you transfer all those changes you made to the muslin onto your paper pattern? It sounds a bit tricky, but I promise you it really isn’t. You have two options in regards to how you approach this.

02.08.11 | finalizing the muslin
02.08.11 | finalizing the muslin

Unpicking the muslin. Unless you made different changes to each side of the pattern, you only need to use one half of the muslin.

Use your muslin as a pattern. If you’ve made signifigant changes to your muslin, this might be the way to go. Simply unpick your basting stitches, marking your final stitching line on the muslin as you go. Press all the pieces flat and lay on your cutting surface. Measure from the stitching line to the edge, marking the new seam allowance (the pattern calls for 1/2″). Trim the muslin down to this seam allowance as needed. Of course the downside of this is if you have to add additional width/length to your final pattern; in that case I’d recommend going with one of the other options below.

02.08.11 | finalizing the muslin

The old seam line (solid), new seamline (small dashes), and new cutting line that takes into account the seam allowance (large dashes). Be sure to remark those notches if you’re using your muslin as a pattern!

You can now treat that muslin as a pattern piece; just be sure to transfer all markings and such to your fashion fabric after cutting out as you would with a paper pattern. Just be careful not to pull the muslin around so it throws the original shape of the pattern piece off (since fabric is obviously more flexible and prone to distortion than paper). Bonus: because using muslin has a bit of “grip” to it, your pattern pieces won’t slide around as much on your fashion fabric!

02.08.11 | finalizing the muslin

Reducing the curve under the bust gathers on my bodice front piece. I measured the length and width that I pinned out on the muslin, marked this on my paper pattern, and cut it off. Easy!

Transfer all changes to your paper pattern. This is a great option if you don’t have major changes, although you can still do this if you have quite a few–it may just take awhile. There are two ways I approach this. The first is to measure and mark the amount I need to let out/take in on the muslin, and then go to my paper pattern and mark this new line as well. This works well if you have a short space or “landmark” on the pattern so the difference gets marked from the muslin to the paper evenly.

02.08.11 | finalizing the muslin

Adjusting the hem.

The other option it to unpick your muslin, marking adjustments with a marker as you go. Iron any wrinkles and seam-folds out of the pieces, and lay your pattern overtop to mark any changes. This is a great option for changes that may be a little more involved to mark.

02.08.11 | finalizing the muslin

A good idea is to mark on the pattern pieces/muslin the month and year that you fit this. If you want to make this design again in the future, you know whether you’ll need to check for fit again or not (I usually only do this if my weight has fluctuated greatly).

*So that pretty much wraps up the muslin portion of the sew-along. How does it feel to have finally finished fitting this garment? Have I converted any of you to the muslin-process or made you want to go screaming into the night? lol. I’m going to go ahead and cut out my fabric this week, and will be back Thursday with a post on seam finishes that would be appropriate for this project (with pictures and samples!). Then on Monday we’ll officially start construction of the dress (though you are more than welcome to jump ahead of course!). The real fun begins now!!! Here’s a little checklist of things to remember while cutting the garment fabric:

  • Garment Fabric: be sure to follow the grainlines carefully on the pattern and use the cutting layout as a guideline for how to treat your placement of pattern pieces. Cut all pieces, including facings and pockets if you decided to go with them.
  • Interfacing: cut the interfacing for the midriff piece as well as the back neckline facing (this is optional, but I find helps).
  • Underlining: if your fabric is lightweight and you wish you underline it, cut all pieces out of the underlining material as well (except for pockets and the back neckline facing). The underlining is basted to the fabric and then treated as one piece. I’ll touch on this a bit more later in the week.

February 8, 2011 · 19 lovely thoughts
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