At this point it is a good idea if you have not done so already to make some notes on your Pattern Record Card regarding your order of construction for your garment, especially useful if you plan to make this again in the future. By doing this you will be running through in your mind how you want the final detail to look and what is the best order to do this in, by doing this you are less likely to forget something. You can find my completed Pattern Record Card on the Downloads Page which you might want to use as a starting point.
With all pieces of fashion fabric cut out the construction is very straight forward.
At this point you have your pattern referenced on the silk organza underlining, however this is not projected to the anterior side of the fabric so a little thread tracing is in order. We did thread tracing on the Test Garment by machine but the fashoin fabric needs to be treated with a little more finese so this is going to be done using a running stitch by hand. This will all be removed later in the process so you don’t need to use knots or back stitch. The size of the stitches are really personal choice and to some extent are stipulated by the fabric that you are using.
The thread tracing should be done around each piece on each sewing line don’t worry about the notches you can see them marked on the silk organza and this will be sufficient, its better not to make too many unnecessary holes in the fabric for these.
You can see here that I have started thread tracing on this piece but I have also thread traced the hem fold simply because I did not cut my organza long engouh and I want to hold this in place, it will also position my tacking line for this hem fold at a later date.
Here is the Front Skirt Panel and Bodice side panel thread traced to have a look at.
Once all pieces have been thread traced then everything can be tacked and joined together ready for a final fitting.
The thread tracing will help this go along much faster as you will be able to join the pieces better by touch, it really helps with the pinning and tacking.
Starting with the skirt panels pin them together joining notches and then tack the pieces together using a smaller stitch than the thread tracing as this will need to hold the pieces together during the fitting. I use a different colour this time a red thread to match the fabric then if I decide not to pull it out it will be fine to leave in there.
Here you can see one sewn pinned in the foreground and behind that another seam already tacked using red thread.
Here is a photo of the skirt panels all tacked together with the huge and wonderful seam allowances spilling out which will be left in place until after the fitting, just in case any of this fabric is needed, which in this case it really was even after doing the Test Garments to get a more perfect fit using this fabric.
…….and just because I really like this photo here is a photo of the other side!
For the final fitting on this dress I fitted the skirt and the bodice seperately and the waist panel would come along for the ride with whatever decisions were made I did not join the waist panel to the bodice or the skirt.
The client and I both agreed to add in a little extra from the generous seam allowances on both the bodice, waist panel and skirt for a little more comfort and to allow for sitting to increase the side seam by 3/8” and the centre back by just over 1/4”. But be careful with this assessment, don’t forget that you have lots of seam allowance sitting inside taking up lots of space especially if you are using a thicker fabric. As for the rest I determined that I was really happy with the fit even though it is a little tricky with all the seam allowances all over the place. If you are in any doubt and feel it necessary and that you wont jeopardise the fit then trim the seam allowances down a little if you want to get a more accurate picture.
Here you can see the front skirt which will look a little unpressed at this stage but you are starting to see it all come together now.
Here is the side view and you can see how I have unpicked the tacking and added in the extra fabric needed.
At this fitting you should now be fine tuning, hopefully at this stage there is nothing too drastic happening. If you have made any alterations remark the pattern pieces with the new sewing lines and this could be done in another colour to keep track of what you are doing and most importantly consider writing these alterations back to your master pattern pieces.
Now you should be more confident with the fit so sewing should be pretty straight forward. You could stitch the garment by hand however you are going to have lots and lots of hand stitching shortly so its really not necessary so if you have a machine then stitch all of the seams.
Starting with the skirt pieces for no particular reason stitch the side seams, considering any alterations and following the correct sewing lines. Then check both sides of the stitching on the seam to ensure that you have been accurate (if not unpick and restitch), then remove the thread tracing and tacking on the sewn seam only. If you don’t remove the tacking then this may affect the accuracy of the pressing.
As you sew press each seam, sandwich press on both sides then open the seam and press open using a pressing ham for curves then carefully with a pressing cloth press the anterior side of the seam.
Review Auxiliary Reference Information - Sewing - Using an Iron if you would like a refresher on how to do this.
Then stitch the Bodice pieces keeping the Centre Back unsewn as this is where the zip is to be positioned.
Be careful of the Princess Seam in the bodice it will probably be the hardest seam to stitch so make sure you have your concentration head on. It may may need a little clipping to get the curve accurate, be careful not to clip too far just clip as minimally as you feel you need to get the result before sewing then control the clipping a little more as you press the seam. No doubt it will slip a little and you may never get it perfect so determine how close to perfect you are willing to accept. Here you can see how I have also used the quilters pins to ensure that there is minimal slippage during the stitching
Just for fun here is the machine at work.
And the sewn seam.
Here it is on the right side.
And the inside after snipping and pressing. I don’t think you need to be too precious about the snipping and the shapes you make as the seams allowances are being splayed on either side of the seam, bu the idea is to cut only what is necessary and if you can remove a little bulk at the same time so the cut areas don’t have to sit on top of each other through the curve then that can only be a good thing. Just be careful how close you get with the snips the worst thing would be to cut too close to the seam and have this cut visible on the anterior side. You can see in this photo that I have not needed to get any closer than 1/4” to get the fabric laying how I want it with a little pressing using steam and cohersion it’s a perfect shape.
Don’t forget the Waist Panel, ensure that the alterations were made if you have any and then sew up the two seams.
Prior to seeing on the Waist Panel to the bodice and the skirt it is worth finishing some of the seam allowances while you have access and to help reduce a little bulk. This process can take time but it is one of my favourite parts of making a garment, especially delightful in this dress a little remeniscent of sewing a corset and although this is all going to be hidden away with the lining I know it is there it’s my secret pleasure!
Firstly I overlocked my edges down to just over an inch (cutting with the machine) and there is no need to be precious about this trying to get all the seams the same size, use what you have and make it work. Now I would usually do this by hand but as this fabric frays quite a bit and the extra bulk of the thread does not cause a problem it’s a simple decision to make.
Now before you begin just consider that there will be lots and lots of hand stiching. To make life easier it is well worth the effort of wax coating your thread, it seems like and extra step but believe me the time you will save with tangled thread and knots will be more than worth the effort of doing this.
Get your thread and run it through some beeswax a couple of times, although it might not look like it is coated it will be. Place the waxed thread in some folded muslin or cotton and iron it. This melts the wax into the threads and creates a thicker more stable thread for you to work with. Wrap your waxed thread on a spare bobbin to keep it safe until you need it and prepare as many threads in this way as you can stand to in one sitting. When I do my household ironing I will do some of these at the end and keep them stored for future use, so I always have black waxed thead to hand.
Once cut down and stitched the seam allowances can be locked into place using a herringbone or catch stitch and as you can see I have used what I would call medium length stitches, just because I like what they look like but you could get away with much bigger stitches to hold the seam allowances down. You must be extra careful with the catch stitching only to go throught the underlining and not to take the needle to the anterior side. If you catch any threads of the fashion fabric you will see them on the anterior so check every stitch if you have to! Yes unpick if you notice this at any point.
Here you go here is another one!
Here is the finishing on the Princess seam which is a little more tricky but follow the curve and try to capture the snipped pieces and hold them down.
Here the Bodice hase been sewn to the Waist Panel then pressed and snipped a little to relax the seam allowances (important to do on this band) you can hear the fabric sigh as you snip into it and relax into place. This seam will also get caught down.
Then joined to the skirt. Yummy, I truly know that Threadelicious was the right name for us when I sew garments like this, I think I was literally drooling over the inside of this dress!
Here is a long shot for good measure.
At this point you need not do anything to the hem we will start looking at the hem when you come to consider the Split.
One last thing to do on the dress before moving on is to stay stitch the Necklines from edge to edge on the Front and the Back, down the sides of the Neckline Front and Back and the Armholes. Just stitch directly on the stitching line for this and use a smaller stitch length around 2mm should
Here is a photo of the Armhole staystitched. You can also see here that I have attached a little Silk Organza selvage to create a Stay and fitted it along the strap using a runing stitch.
This was done on all of the straps just to give it a little extra strength to ensure the strap does not stretch out during wearing.
You can then start to press the Necklines getting ready for the lining to be attached
at a later stage.
You may find a little clipping is in order especially if you did draft slight curves to the Necklines Base and sides. Again I like to be minimal with my snipping, as any snip will take strength away from the fabric but you need the snips to get the fabric to relax. This is really where you do it by feel a little snip and look at the fabric can you see it relax down and the snip open up, don’t snip right down to the stitching unless the fabric dictates that you need to.
In the armhole you have a tigher curve so the snipping gets a little more serious to get the fabric to fold inside, press a little snip a little press a little until you have the result you desire, easy does it here.
The Centre Back seam is a little convoluted as we have a zip a seam and a Split to contend with. With an invisible zip the zip would be installed first then the seam sewn so it really makes sense to get the Split sorted out ready although the order is of the tasks are really up to you.
Before starting just check that the seam allowance on the Split is around 1” wide as this will fold back onto the Split extension so it makes sense to make it around the same width but if you did cut it smaller it’s no big deal it will be covered with lining anyway at a later stage. I did overlock this edge as a finishing before starting, at this point you could finish the edge of the whole Centre Back including the top of the Split which will get a snip in it at a later point to help it lay a little flatter.
After working through this split I feel that I may need to write a unit on how to sew Splits and Vents so I will make a note of this for the future.
Before we get into the Split which will involve the hem we should work on the Hem a little, finish the edge if you feel it necessary with your fabric, I overlocked the same as all the other seams and also it will help if you catch the underlining and fashion fabric neatly together, it’s even more important for me to do this as my underlining is too short.
All it is going to take is a little basting or prick stitch through both layers along the Hem Fold Line. You can see here that I am using a matching thread to the fashion fabric as this stitch will show on the other side although it will be at the bottom of the dress when all is said and done. The majority of the thread is on the posterior side with only a little pinch of fabric going through to the anterior side. Can you see how the thread shifts along the (new altered marked in pencil) Hem Fold Line. When stitching keep the stitches relaxed and don’t pull them taut you don’t want to put any strain on the bottom of the dress, it is simply to hold the pieces together because the thread tracing will be removed after completing the hem.
Here you can see it completed across the hem from the inside.
And also from the anterior side where you really cannot see the pinched stitches although I think it helps that the picture is slightly out of focus, whoops!
Press the Hem upwards into place along the Hem Fold line.
So back to the Split, just for reference purposes this is what the Split will look like when finished from the anterior side of the garment. The left side lays over the right side and they Overlap if you look at the base. The Split line runs into the Centre Back seam seamlessly and the split is caught in place by a diagonal line of stitching at the top which also gives the seam a little extra protection from being split open when walking.
If you lift the Overlap up you can see what the Underlap is doing.
One of the most important things to do is to mark the overlap and the Underlap so that you do not get confused as you do different things to each side. Before you start decide how you are going to do this, you could simply write on the underlining to label each side.
Press along the Split Fold Line on the Overlap side. You can see I did press the Underlap side by accident but this will be hidden by the Overlap flap, once pressed it’s not easy to iron out a crease so marking the sides is important.
With the posterior side of the fabric facing up the overlap split will lay on the right and the Underlap will lay on the left of you. (Incidentally some patterns make each side a different size and the Underlap is always the larger of the two).
This explanation warrants a little diagram to clarify things and make it as simple as possible to understand.
Imagine this diagram shows both sides of the skirt with the posterior side facing upwards with the centre back stitching line marked leading down to the horizontal seam line for the top of the split and this leads down to the sewing line for the Split and down to the Base of the skirt. It shows where the fold line is on the split and you can see a Hem showing a Hem Fold Line.
The diagram also points out that there is Seam Allowances for the Centre Back Seam, the top of the Split and the side of the Split.
The Under Lap and the Over Lap sides are both marked clearly to avoid any confusion.
Sewing the Underlap (left of you on posterior side)
The first thing to do on this side is to fold the Hem to the wrong side, you usually fold the Hem up and stitch it down but you are going to fold it to the anterior side with both anterior sides facing folding along the Hem Fold Line and stitch down the Split Sewing Line for the Seam Allowance for the length of the Hemline.
To show this in a diagram imagine the Under Lap side flipped over showing its anterior side facing upwards. With the Hem folded over to this side you can see the Hem Fold Line now at the bottom of the diagram. The stitching is made along the side joining the Hem to the Split on the sewing line for the Hem and the Split joining the two parts together. The arrows indicate the start and stop points for the stitching and the area to stitch is shown by a dotted red line. Backstitch at the start and the end of the stitching to secure it.
To help with bulk this bottom corner can be snipped away the area to snip off is indicated by the green line here, be careful not to snip into the stitching.
Finally this little pocket of Hem and Split can be turned to the Posterior Side (I use a crochet hook to push out the corner) and then pressed down. Here is what the diagram would now look like from the posterior side, as you turn the rest of the Split seam allowance will naturally fold in and the Hem folds up into position.
Once pressed the folded Split edge can be caught down just like all the other finished seams and the thread tracing removed.
Sewing the Overlap (right of you on posterior side)
Just to orientate this piece here is the Overlap diagram with the posterior side facing upwards.
The seam allowance is folded on top of the Split Extension posterior sides facing.
This is what it looks like on the skirt, you can see how the seam allowance is folded back and also you can see how I have marked this side with an ‘O’ to confirm that this is the overlap side.
At this point you can catch the seam allowance all the way down the Split.
The fabric is then turned so that the anterior side is facing upwards (the seam allowance just turned is now on the other side).
The Split is folded down the Split Fold Line with Anterior sides facing and pinned in place. The Hem Line is stitched from the fold to the end of the Split shown here as a red line.
To reduce bulk in this area you can remove the top little square of fabric and simply cut it away, double check the area before you cut.
Here is what it looks like on the fabric so far.
The corner then gets turned out (I use a small crochet hook to poke out the corner), as you turn the Split Folds back to the posterior side and the Hem flips up.
Joining the Split together
The overlap lay is placed on the table anterior sides up and pull out the flap of the Split at the top. The Underlap side is placed on top of this so anterior sides are facing and line up the Split seam at the top of the Split and pin and line up the Centre Back seam and pin.
It will now look like this.
Stitch across the top of the Split on the stitching line and turn the corner and sew up the Centre Back Seam Allowance for a couple of inches, back stitch at the
beginning and at the end of the stitching to
Lay the skirt down anterior side up and press the Split then pin the flap along the diagonal sewing line.
That line then gets stitched through both layers of the split to hold it in place either by hand or by machine, if you stitch by hand you could get creative with some satin stitch and create a little shape here.
Installing the Zip
Refer to Auxiliary Reference Information - Sewing – Closures for instructions of how to install an invisible zip.
The zip needs to end exactly on the Back Neckline as no hooks are going to be used on this dress.
As an overview the zip is placed facedown onto the anterior side of the fabric with the centre of the zip lined up on the sewing line, this is pinned then stitched.
Then the other side of the zip is stitched.
The Centre Back seam is then stitched from just before the end of the stitching for the seam when working on the Split up to the zip.
The seam is then pressed and catch stitched down. However in order to press it flat open you will need to make a diagonal snip into the Split to allow the fabric to fall open. Shown here by this green line cut from the edge down to the sewing line but not through the stitches.
Finishing the Hem
If you have been following along in this document order you will have already edge finished the hem, done a running stitch on the Hem Fold Line and pressed the hem up. It will also be positioned at the Split by the Split into position. You can now catch stitch the hem down and give it a final press after removing the thread tracing.
Construction and Attaching the Lining
Before constructing the Lining ensure that seam allowances have been trimmed down to between ½” to 1” or more if you prefer and I have using pinking shears to reduce the fraying as overlocking will shred the silk. Next deal with the darts or in this case fold them into pleats to put less strain on this thin fabric and create a little room for movement inside.
The pleats are pinned, you could also so this if you prefer tack them or stitch them down or just wait until you attach the band and ensure the pleat is stitched in with the seam. You can see here how I have placed the bulk of the pleat to the side to reduce any bulk in the front of the dress.
The pieces will now go together quite quickly they are all stitched together;
The lining side seams
The lining centre back from the zip position down to the top of the split
The Bodice seams
The Waist Panel side seams
I also stay stitched the Necklines, the Armholes and the Waist Panel on the top and bottom stitching line and the Skirt Waist Line. I stitched directly onto the stitching line as this point will be turned to the posterior of the garment out of sight when attached it will end up being 1/16” smaller than the garment.
As the silk here is very fine I used a larger than usual stich for my stay stitching as I know it is going to draw the fabric in and tighten it up and I want to control that a little I don’t want my lining to end up being too small but I also don’t want it to stretch out of shape so it’s a fine line to judge this.
The lining is attached in three pieces to the garment, you could join all of the sections together and set it all in as one piece but I want to secure the lining to stop it slipping around so much as this is a tailored dress. By splitting the assembly you do get a little more control over each area as well and it does make the hem easier to do as you only need to determine the length from the waist rather than have to take into consideration everything you have done from the shoulder.
The skirt is now slipped inside the lining to start attaching this section with the seams of the lining facing the seams of the garment with everything hidden away.
The lining is pinned along the stitching line, ensuring that the side seam is folded under at centre back and this is pinned close to the zip (but not too close it needs to be able to close easily without catching on the lining).
Here you can see how the lining is lined up at the zip.
The lining at the zip is stitched to the zip tape using a flat fell stitch.
This is done on both sides of the zip.
The skirt lining is then sewn using a running stitch just under the stay stitching along the seamline obviously not stitching through to the anterior side.
For the bodice press the Neckline and Armhole seams into place which may require some snipping as before then it can be laid onto the garment ensuring that your seams are hidden away on both the fashion fabric and the lining fabric hiding all of those wonderful finished seams.
The lining is then pinned into place across the Necklines, Straps and Armholes.
The lining is attached using a flat fell stitch lining up the seam along the zip as with the skirt and stitching all across the Neckline.
From the front you would not know that all of this stitching is in place.
Apologies for this next photo as it is a little out of focus……after fell stitching the lining to the garment in order to hold the lining down so that it does not travel back to the anterior side you can under stitch it down about ½” from the edge using a pick stitch, pinching a little from the lining side then a longer stitch into the layers but not going through to the anterior side of the garment. This is a little tricky to do without catching the front layer but take your time with it and keep checking that you are not going through to the other side and picking up threads. I would do this all the way around the Neckline, Straps and Armhole.
Just prior to stitching the straps ensure that the folded seam allowances have been caught down and a final press will help to keep everything in place and nice and flat. You may need to remove a little excess seam allowance on the straps depending on how much fabric you allowed. You really do not need overlap the seam allowances so cut them back a little.
The lining then gets pinned and flat fell stitched down.