Today I will show you how to sew a great dress. This will be the last so complicated tutorial for a while – through the Summer I will work on a new project – I will write more about it soon. And in autumn I will start to develope the basics section, so this blog is helpful not only for those who already can sew, but alo for those who just discovered this adventure called sewing :) So during this Summer, there will be silence on the blog. And Autumn we will start with all the “first steps with the sewing machine”, sewing zippers, presser foots and all this stuff, that you need to know when you start. And next, probably around early Winter, I can’t wait to show you how to sew a shirt, pencil skirt, jogging pants, we will work much more with woven fabrics, and on top of it I dream to get acquainted with embroidery – this is all to come yet.
And today for the season closure we will make a dress with princess panel in bodice and skirt made of full skirt. For the first time I will use ready pattern – so there will be no math and geometry! I got it from Aga who runs Good Matter (it is a wordplay “matter” in Polish sounds very similar to “fabric”) a place in Warsaw, where people can learn how to sew, and rent a sewing machine. We met, when one of my students from Men’s Sewing Classes decided to sew a dress for his girlfriend – he announced it on Facebook, and Aga offered to help him with design and pattern making. And by the way we decided ( Aga and me) to do something together as our businesses complement each other. And this is it:
Aga runs also The Costiumer a brand under which she makes and sells patterns and accessories for home sewing passionates, but also for proffesionals. I always wanted to show you how to sew a true well fitted dress with darts, but I had no idea how to simplify pattern making (it is really tough one) – and I found in Aga’s offer a perfect form, so here we go, let’s get started:
Prepare the patterns:
In parcel from The Costiumer you will find a great sheet of paper with all the elements of pattern printed on it. The elements do not overlap, so you don’t have to redraw anything, juts cut out of paper all you will be needing. Each element is decribed, so you will easily recognize which part of the dress it is. Under the description, you will see a mark for straight grain – a line with quadrat arrowhead on the end – it marks they way you should put the form on the fabric – straight grain should overlap with lengthwise grain in fabric, the little quadrat arrowhead marks the top of the pattern. All the elements are outlined with 1 cm seam allowance, so you will be 100% precise. And additionally on each element you will find markers for sewing – small lines across the seam allowance – they show you which parts of two different elements should overlap when you sew them up.
This is special kind of paper, it has repositionable glue on one side – it means, that you can glue the paper forms to fabric, using hot iron. It makes cutting really easy, and after that, you just remove paper, the glue should not stay on the fabric, and if it does, you will wash it away in first laundry. And the paper with glue is reusable :)
After you cut all the elements, cut the markers – cut out a little triangular shapes in seam allowance, where the markers are. And gently remove paper from the fabric.
Ready – lets start sewing the bodice. If you are using woven fabric first secure all hems with an overlock. My knit is perfect because it doesn’t fray so I will leave raw hems.
Start with the back elements. Put the side part on the middle part so, that they touch with the right side of fabric, and the markers in each element overlap. Pin the elements together at the marker point, and at the bottom and top of seam. Next add few pins between those already pinned. Sew it up. Use single stitch – it will be easier to iron the seam. If you are using knit, which is very elastic, sew using overlock or zig zag seam on a regular machine. Sew 1 cm from hem.
Now sew up front elements. Here arch is more bended, so there are two markers. First pin the lower marker and the bottom of the seam. Next pin top makrer and top of the seam, and finally add few pins between those already pinned. Sew it up.
After sewing iron the seams. Good ironing is 50% of a nice seam :) check on the photo below, on the left side is ironed seam and the seam on the right is before ironing. To make it easier to iron, cut the seam allowances across, on the arch at bust. Iron seam allowances to the sides.
And now a secret of nicely ironed arches – ironing cushion called in Polish PRASULEC :) – I got mine from Marzena – a girl who quit working for a big corporation and started her own business, can you believe that she makes them her self!! A true hand-made piece.
Lay front part of the bodice on the cushion in such a way, that the arch of the bust cup will be filled by the cushion, iron seam allowances to the sides, use no steam. And next, turn the bodice to the right side, find perfect arch on cushion, and iron seam with steam to make it really flat.
Now sew both back elements to the front part. Sew them up on shoulders.
Prepare Facing. I will install all in one facing, made of contrastive fabric. Front part is made of one piece, back part is made of two pieces. The whole back of the dress is cut in half, so you can install a zipper there, but even if (as me) you don’t instal zipper, this cut is necessary to adjust the dress to the shape of the back. On photos below, the back part of the facing have a little fabric protruding, it is because I cut of the seam allowance accidently when I was cuting paper – so don’t mind it.
The facing has to be lined with interlining to make it a little stiffer. It helps to avoid turning up of the facing panel, and it also keeps the shape of neck-hole and arm-holes nicely. Cut out the shapes of the fabric, then cut exactly same shapes out of interlining. For such precise tasks I am using self-healing mat and roller cutter.
Now remove gently the paper form, and put interlining on the fabric so, that they touch with their left side – on interlining it is the shiny side with the glue.
Using a press or an iron, glue the interlining to the fabric. If you are using iron, first check the temperature on swatches – set it between wool and cotton – it has to be high enought to melt the glue, but not too high, to avoid melting of interlining. Do not slide the iron, press it in one spot for about 10 seconds to melt the glue and stick it properly to the knit fabric. Then move to another spot.
Now sew up the elements of the facing. The facing is a replica of top parts of the bodice, so sew it in the same way as the bodice – sew the back parts to the front part at the shoulders.
Iron seam allowances to the sides. Now put the facing on the bodice in such a way, that they touch with the right side of the fabrics. Facing should perfectly overlap with the neck-line and arm-hole line of the bodice. Pin them together along neck-hole and arm-holes, remember about the markers.
Sew the neck line and arm-hole lines up, 1 cm from the edge. Pay attention to seam allowances at shoulder seams – they should stay flat, be careful to not turn them up during sewing.
Now cut the seam allowances across, on each curve. You make it to avoid wrinkling at the seams, after you will turn it to the right side. Be careful, and do not cut the seams.
Now turn back part, through the arm strap (arm seam) to the right side. Next turn another back part to the right side. The bodice will wrinkle a little, but you will have to iron the edges of the facing anyway.
After turning it to the right side, iron the edges of the facing. If this instruction wasn’t clear enough check out this video: LINK.
As a matter of fact we are close to the end. Cut of fabric three elements of the skirt: half of a circle for front and two quarters of a circle for the back. Now pin bottom edge of front bodice part to the edge of small arch at the top of the skirt.
The markers will help you do this properly, first pin the middle, and then the left and right end of the seam. Bottom of bodice is almost straight, and top of skirt is an arch, so use a lot of pins to connect them. If, like me, you don’t instal zipper keep in mind, that this seam will be stretch a lot, when you will put the dress on, so it has to be elastic – use an overlock or a zig-zag stich if you sew on a regular sewing machine.
Sew quarters of the circle with the back parts of the bodice in the same way.
Now sew up the front and the back of the dress. Start on side seams – turn the facing up, and make seam on the side edge of the dress, sew also the facing edges. After turning it down, seams should be hidden under the facing. Exactly same way sew up the back (the middle seam on the back) but if you use woven fabric, this is the right time to install a zipper, check the video instruction I found on youtube LINK. I will post instruction of 3 ways of sewing zipper in the upcoming basics-section of the blog.
When side seams are done, try the dress on. It’s time to set the length of the dress. When you decide on the length, finish the bottom line. I skip this step, as my knit fabric doesn’t fray. But if you have to finish yours, there are two ways: first is a binding cut from bias – but I don’t recommend it – it would have to be a very long binding – not easy to sew. Other way is to fold just a narrow edge, like 0,5 cm and sew it up. I usually do it by overcasting edge with overlock machine first – this seam will make the very edge of the circle a little stiffer than the rest of the fabric, it makes it easier to fold and iron so small piece as 0,5 cm. It has to be small, because if you sew up a wider part, the seam will wrinkle. This is edge of the circle, so the circumference of the very edge is bigger than the circumference of the line where you will make a seam. The bigger the difference, the bigger the wrinkles.
When you try the dress on, also check the waist. If you wish to fit it more in the waist, make it on the side seams (I will have to do it for sure, Justyna’s waist is soo tiny!). But you can also adjust it by a sash tied in waist. So let’s cut it.
I decided that I will use a contrastive color for one side of the sash – same as for facing. Cut of the fabrics the elements of the sash – in paper forms it is cut in two symmetrical forms. If you have enought fabric you can make it of one piece. And before the cuting, check if the length of the sash suits you – If fabric is thick, you will have to lengthen it, to be able to make a proper tie and a bow.
Sew up the elements so, that their right sides are inside. Don’t sew the short edge in the middle of the sash – you will turn the strap to the right side through it.
So after turning to the right side we have the top layer – the printed one, and the underlayer – the light green one. Lay both halves of the sash on each other with the top layers touching. Pin only the top layers together. Now fold the endings, just like you would fold the socks ;P Pin the whole top layer’s edges and a little of underlayer’s edges, if possible.
Sew up edges which you managed to pin. The strap will protrude from the not sewn part of the underlayer. Now stretch both parts of the strap to opposite sides, this will make the edges (which you have just sewn) to fold inwards, leaving just a slit on the underlayer. Now iron the edges of the slit and sew it up – use threads in matching color, as this seam will be visible.
And the dress is ready!!! This was really fun, I must admit – I never liked ready patterns, as I think it is better to make something to your measure – it fits perfectly, and you can design your own piece. But not everyone likes pattern making – math and geometry can be tough, so I decided to give ready pattern a try – and I am suprised how pleasant the sewing was – sooo much less thinking :) I will try this more often.
So good luck with sewing!!
this tutorial was made for you by Janek