Thursday, March 14, 2013

Let's make a sleeveless sundress (Simplicity 2938 - View A)

For our second project we're going to go incrementally harder than our first project. Simplicity 2938 View A will make us a sleeveless sundress (sleeves are on their way, don't worry), that uses interfacing for the collar, and a side-zipper. Like the sleeveless tunic we made earlier, the sundress will include a gather around the neckline, however, rather than using an easestitch, we will be working with pleats.  It will also include a tie belt. I've made this pattern a few times and it's a great "first effort" pattern: plenty of challenges without being insanely difficult. Now that I've gotten it more or less down, I'm making it this time for a friend who is knitting me a pair of wristies in exchange, and I'll also be making her the matching jacket (view C--next!). Because the jacket and the belt will match, however, I've cut out the jacket and the belt together just to make sure that everything fits on the fabric.

If this is your first effort, here are a few must-reads for sizing your pattern and purchasing the matierial:
Because the pattern has pleats and some subtle gathers in it, this is not really appropriate for verticle lines--go with a solid color, or an organic or abstract design. No checks or plaids. Also note, the model shows off the dress we're going to make (the larger picture, of course) and the tie belt is in a contrast color. If you make this and you want the tie belt to be a contrast color, you will have to get an additional 1 yard of fabric in that contrast color or print, as it is not indicated on the back of the pattern envelope. 

Pattern, fabric, matching thread, bias tape, and zipper
Not shown: contrast fabric and thread for tie belt
Otherwise, make sure you get all of the proper notions: Thread, ½" Wide Single Fold Bias Tape (matched to the color of your dress), and a 12" or 14" zipper (depending on the size you will make. If you're making sizes 10-18, get a 12" zipper, If you're making plus sizes, get a 14" zipper). Again, match the color of the zipper to the dress. Get a regular zipper, not an "invisible" zipper or of course, a jeans zipper. Take your fabric home and prepare it (see the link above) and we're ready to get started! If you're making the belt in a contrast color (or you're planning on making the matching jacket), make sure you get some thread in the contrast color for the belt!
Cutting Layout
In some ways, this layout is a bit more complicated than the cutting layout for the sleeveless tunic, and in some ways it's easier. Unlike the sleeveless tunic, not every piece aligns to the fold line, but most of the cutting layouts can be accommodated by a single-fold and you won't have to re-fold your fabric midway through like you did for the previous project. If you haven't read it already, here is a detailed post about cutting out patterns.

A few interesting notes: this pattern does contain "dots" that need to be made after you've cut out--remember, if you're using white tailor's wax, it will come off under the heat and steam of an iron. If you're using black tailor's wax, it won't iron off (it will come out in the wash however). Because you'll be ironing the pieces, it's a good idea to not use white tailor's wax to mark your dots.

When I made this, I found that the fabric I bought was so wide that I could stack all of the pieces within one fold. So my video is definitely "different" than the cutting layouts presented.

You might want to trace the pleat lines with your tailor's wax. These pleats are relatively small and we fold them first-thing, so it's not necessary like it might be in a dress with a pleated skirt.

Note on the facings that where you line up the pattern piece to the fold is going to be determined by the size. Check where the arrows are pointing to on the foldline.

Don't forget to cut out your interfacing!


Now that we've cut out our fabric and interfacing, it's time to get going!

Step 1: To makes pleats in front, on OUTSIDE, fold along solid lines. Bring folds to broken lines; pin. Baste across raw edge.

Unpin and unfold the front center piece from the pattern piece and lay it down right-side-up. If you've traced the lines, fold the broken line toward the solid line (if they're both solid, check the pattern piece -- it goes "outside to inside") and press down. I like to put a pin in it further down the fold so that it keeps its pleat while I'm sewing but won't interfere with my stitching, but of course you'll want to pin close up in order to do your baste-stitch. Do put a pin through the pleat at the edge to secure it in place. Then, machine-baste across the raw edge to hold the pleat in place while you work on the rest of the garment.

Step 2: Stay-stitch side front neck edges 1/2" (1.3cm) from cut edge in direction of arrows. This stay-stitching stays in permanently and helps prevent stretching on curved edges. Stay-stitching will not be shown in the following illustrations. To ease side front between notches, stitch along seam line and 1/4" (6mm) INSIDE seam line, using a long machine stitch.
Unpin the front side pieces from their pattern piece and separate them. The armhole is the "big scoop" and then the neck-hole is the "little scoop" on these pieces. Starting at the shoulder edge position your needle at ½" from the raw edge and, stay stitch toward the center raw edge. Do the same thing with the other front side piece (start at the shoulder and stitch toward the center--it's ok to flip the fabric over and work from the other side, just make sure you stitch in the right direction!). Remember, each piece is individually stay-stitched, and this stitch will not join these two pieces of fabric -- the stay stitch is only there to prevent the fabric from pulling and stretching at the collar as you build the garment.

Similar to the stay-stitch will be the ease-stitch between the two notches on the inside of the side front. This is not unlike the ease-stitch we did in the previous project, but this ease stitch is much more subtle and should not result in a "ruffle" when you're done -- it will simple help to ease in the curve of the bodice.

Step 3: With RIGHT sides together, pin front to side front. Pull up with ease stitches on side front to fit. Baste. Stitch.
This is a plain seam. Before you do this step, it's not a bad idea to finish the raw edges of the side front and front where you are about to seam them, unless you plan to finish by pinking (in which case you will pink after you've gotten the seam into place. If you're going to finish with a stitch like the zig-zag or overlock, make sure that you don't do the finish stitch over the ease-stitch, or it will prevent you from gathering.

Use the diagram as a guide -- make sure you match your notches (you'll have a bit of a bulge with your ease-stitching that we'll need to ease in), and then pin baste from there.

Unlike the ruffle that was created with the ease-stitching in the previous project, this is going to be a very subtle gather to pull these two notches into place. When you stitch the pieces into place, use your finger and your presser foot to "flatten out" the easestitch as much as possible, so you don't get a weird crease in the middle of your bustline. You might still see a very subtle gather towards to the center front piece when you're done, but we want this to be very minimal and of course, as symmetrical as possible.

When you've finished the seam, press them open with your iron. The eased section will want to "puff up" a bit but it shouldn't be such a severe curve as to require a tailor's ham.

Step 4: Stay-stitch back neck edges 1/2" (1.3cm) from cut edge in direction of arrows. This stitching stays in permanently and helps prevent stretching on curved edges. Stay-stitching will not be shown in the following illustrations. Stitch center back seam.

For the stay-stitching, we're basically doing the same thing we did in step 2 for the back pieces, except we don't need to do any ease-stitching on the back.

When you're done with that, finish the back panels where you are about to seam and then pin-baste (match the three notches first) and stitch the back panels together down the center seam and iron the seam open. You now have to two primary pieces of the dress, and we're going to put them together in the next step.

Step 5: FOR VIEW A - Stitch front to back at shoulder seams. Stitch front to back at RIGHT side seam. Stitch LEFT side seam leaving an opening between large dots. Back-stitch at openings to reinforce seam.

Another plain seam. If you're doing a stitch-finish, you can finish between the two dots, it won't wreck anything to have that part finished even if you're not going to seam right through it.

Put your right sides together -- make sure that the pressed open seam allowances are on the outside on both sides as you put this together.. As you can see from the illustration, we're leaving a bit of a "gap" in one side of the side-stitching. This is where the zipper will go, so we want to leave that open for now, and it's also why we're back-stitching at the dots to reinforce the seam -- because the zipper is going to be where the seams get their stress, the pattern is telling you to use the reverse button to go over your seam for a few stitches to really reinforce the seam.

This is for View A -- if we were doing View B (the tunic), we would only do the small stitch on the left side and not do the long stitch underneath.

When you press open the seams, don't bother pressing open the part between the dots that you left un-stitched -- we'll get to that later.

Step 6 is for View B only, so we're going to skip it.

Step 7: Apply fusible interfacing to WRONG side of front and back facing sections following manufacturer's directions. Stitch shoulder seams to facing sections. To EDGE FINISH unnotched edge... stitch 1/4" (6mm) from edge, turn under along stitching and stitch OR zig-zag over the edge OR overlock/serge over the edge.

Because putting the facing collar on is pretty much the same for any single-piece collar is fairly standard, I've abstracted out these next few steps to their own posts for references. For more of a detailed, step-by-step guide to putting this interfacing collar together with videos, see the two interfacing posts: Working with fusible interfacing and Finishing a raw edge with a facing piece.

This is the start of building the interfacing on the collar. There's a lot going on in this step, so let's take it apart step-by-step.

  1. Fuse the interfacing to the WRONG side of your front and back facing sections. With a nice hot iron, lay the "bumpy" side of the interfacing against the wrong side of your facing pieces, match your notches and have the edges as even as you can. Then, firmly press the iron to the interfacing's woven side (do not apply the iron directly to the bumpy side) for a few seconds until the glue melts. Lift the iron, place it on another spot, and press down firmly again. Only after you've done this for all parts can you "push" the iron around -- if you push it before you've fused the glue, you risk having the interfacing slip off of where it's supposed to be. If you have any extra interfacing hanging off of the fabric facing piece when you're done, trim it away.
  2. Put the two facing pieces together (rights sides together, interfacing sides out), match the notches, and then seam them together with a standard seam. 
  3. Once the interfacing is adhered to the collar and the collar is stitched together to a single piece, we need to finish the outer edge of the facing. You can follow the turn under instructions (where you turn ¼" of the right side under to the interfacing side along the outer edge and then stitch along this allowance to finish the outer edge), or you can overlock the outer edge. In either event, make sure that you don't crumple the shoulder seams you created in the previous step.

Step 8: With RIGHT sides together, pin facing to neck edge, matching centers and shoulder seams. Stitch. Trim seam; clip curves.
This may seem counter-intuitive, but like the bias tape step in the previous pattern (which is coming up!), the point of this is to finish the neck edge with this facing, and all will be made clear in the next couple of steps. With your dress turned right-side-out, pin the facing around the collar, so that the interfacing side is facing out. Match your shoulder seams and then your notches and then ease the rest of the collar into place, pinning as you go. Then, make a standard ⅝" seam around the opening of the collar.

Once you've done that, it's time to trim the seam and clip the curves. To trim the seam, cut about half of the seam allowance away, holding your scissors at a 45° bias to help ease the fold. Give yourself at least ¼" of a remaining seam allowance. Then, in the remaining seam allowance, cut notches in at the curves, being careful not to break your seam. This will help ease the fold and prevent bunching.

Step 9: To understitch press facing away from garment; press seam toward facing. Facing side up, stitch close to seam through facing and seam allowances.
This is a little tricky the first time you see it, and I know the first few times I saw the picture I couldn't quite figure out what was going on, but basically, what this is doing is reinforcing how the collar is going to lay. The first thing I like to do is fold the facing piece to the inside of the garment and give it a good press, rolling the seam just under the collar piece so that it isn't visible from the outside. Once you've pressed the collar into place, turn the garment inside-out and lay the collar out flat. The seam allowance (the one you trimmed down and notched at the end of the last step) should want to lay on top of the interfacing collar. You want to do a straight stitch through the seam allowance and collar to create an understitch. The stitching should NOT go through the outside of the garment.

Step 10: Turn facing to INSIDE; press. To keep the facing from rolling to OUTSIDE, secure it at the seam allowances by tacking it by hand, stitching in the ditch, or using a small piece of fusible web.

This is the part where we basically tell the collar "stay on the inside and stay put." Give the collar a good press after the understitch to give it a temporary reinforcement of where you want it to lay. Make sure the seam hasn't rolled out anyplace and that when you turn the garment right-side-out everything looks as it should. As you can see, the interfacing is enclosed between the fabric facing piece and the dress itself, and the collar edge is now finished, creating a more permanent stitch to hold your pleats from step 1 in place.

The collar will still probably want to "pop out" here and there, so we need to secure it into place by stitching in the ditch or creating a few small "tack by hand" stitches. This is a great garment for stitching in the ditch, as you have not only the shoulder seams, but also the back seam and the two seams joining the front center piece to the two front side pieces. Each one of those seams can have a quick stitch-in-the-ditch to keep that collar in place.

Step 11: Open out one edge of single fold bias tape.
Ah, single-fold bias tape. These next few steps are exactly the same as Steps 11, 12, and 13 from our previous project. You can also see a separate post entirely about finishing a raw edge with single-fold bias tape.

Step 12: With RIGHT sides together, pin tape to armhole edge having crease 3/8" (1cm) from raw edge, turning under and lapping one end at side seam. Stitch in a 3/8" (1cm) seam. Trim seam; clip curves.

Step 13: Turn tape to INSIDE; press. Baste close to inner edge. On OUTSIDE, top-stitch as basted.
I generally pin-baste instead of machine-baste, because I don't like stitching over a baste stitch (it makes it harder to remove the baste stitch, and for a visible stitch like this, it looks a little sloppy).

NOTE: It will be necessary to adjust the length of your zipper to the measurement of the side opening between large dots, less 1/4" (6mm). Use an adjustable zipper foot to apply.

This is a warning that sometimes you'll find that you might find yourself with a little more or less room than anticipated when you go to put your zipper on. If you're not making an adjustment to the pattern, this shouldn't be a problem because you will find that the dots fit your zipper. We'll get into adjusting a zipper's length in a later post. To be perfectly honest, at this stage in the game I'm still getting my feet under me with regard to zippers, so I'm not ready to do more hardcore adjusting just yet.

Step 14: Press under 5/8" (1.5cm) on LEFT front opening edge and 1/2" on LEFT back opening edge. Pin LEFT back edge to zipper tape, placing pressed edge close to zipper teeth and tab end at upper opening. Baste. Pin and baste LEFT front edge to zipper tape, lapping LEFT front 1/8" (3mm) over LEFT back. Stitch as basted, using an adjustable zipper foot.
This is a doozy! Basically, we're putting in our first zipper.  I have a confession: I still kind of suck at zippers, so don't take this as The Best Way To Do It. I'm hoping to get some better tricks and techniques in the future. But we can muddle through. So let's take this in turn...

1. Press under 5/8" (1.5cm) on LEFT front opening edge and 1/2" on LEFT back opening edge. This is fairly straight forward. Turn your garment inside-out and take it over to the ironing station. Extending the allowance from where you made the seams into the opening, press down a ⅝" allowance on the front side opening, and a ½" opening on the back side opening.

2. Pin LEFT back edge to zipper tape, placing pressed edge close to zipper teeth and tab end at upper opening. Baste. Pin and baste LEFT front edge to zipper tape, lapping LEFT front 1/8" (3mm) over LEFT back.

This is us putting the zipper on. This is where it gets a little bit tricky. Position the zipper against the allowances you just ironed--put the tab of the zipper on the top of the opening facing right-side out. You're going to baste through the right side of the garment, through the ironed allowances, and through the zipper tape, trying to keep the fold you just ironed down in the dead center of the zipper teeth. You might need to re-adjust a few times as you work. I generally pin from the outside, because getting those teeth to line up is such a bear. You might need to unzip the zipper while you work in order to position your hands right -- I find trying to pin a zipper I definitely feel like I'm about 1 hand short of what I need in terms of making sure everything is held in place right! But just be patient with it, make sure you remember the orientation of the sewing machine as you pin, and go all the way around on both sides. At the top of the zipper, I generally fold the top of the zipper tape (the part that extends beyond the top of the zipper) under.

If you find yourself with extra zipper at the bottom, it's not the end of the world, I had about 2" dangling off the edge from where my zipper hole was. In later projects I hope to show how to trim down a zipper, but for now, we'll leave that as-is and hand-tack it to the allowance later.

3. Stitch as basted, using an adjustable zipper foot.
Put the zipper foot on your sewing machine and line up to make sure that everything fits and is comfortable. The idea is that the zipper foot should use the zipper teeth as a sort of fence to guide you along. My only complaint is that it seems to want to pull the fold away from the teeth, so I tend to take it slow. If you can move your sewing needle to the side so that it's further away from the zipper teeth, so much the better. Then, just straight-stitch through where you've basted. You might find that you might need to adjust the zipper itself, I generally leave it open for the majority of the stitching, but then when I get down to the bottom, I pause, leave my needle down, lift the presser foot, and zip up, so that the zipper tab doesn't interfere with my presser foot and throw my guide off balance. When you get to the bottom of the zipper, leave your needle down and then lift up your presser foot to pivot on the needle, then march across to the other side of the zipper, then back up and go back to the first side, then stitch again across. This will re-enforce the stitch and help prevent the zipper from accidentally ripping through our seam. Now again, leave your needle down, pivot, and march up the other side of the zipper. At the top you do the same thing you did at the bottom, and you're done.

If you find you have a little extra zipper hanging down at the bottom, go ahead and hand-tack it to the seam allowances. You don't want that "floating" on its own or it will create a sort of "pull tab" in the laundry and rip your seams right off.

Step 15: Mark length. Press up hem along marking. Mark depth of hem; trim evenly. Press under 1/4" (6mm) on raw edge. Stitch close to inner pressed edge.
This is our hem, same as last time. If you're going to mark your hem, put the dress on, stand on a chair, and have a patient family member put a pin in at the place where you want the hem. Otherwise, you can use the standard 1¼" hem. This is basically the same as hemming the last project. With the garment inside-out, press up your bottom to 1¼", then press under ¼" and baste. Use a straight-stitch along the turned-under part to secure the hem in place.

Steps 16 and 17 is for View B only, so we're going to skip it.

At this point, the dress itself is done, now we just need to make the tie belt! If you're doing the tie belt in a contrast color, you might want to give your dress a quick once-over just to make sure you don't need to reinforce a seam or re-do a stitch, otherwise, you can swap out your thread and bobbin with the tie belt contrast color, and we can take it away!

STEP 18: Stitch notched ends of tie belt sections in 3/8" (1cm) seam. Fold belt in half, lengthwise, with RIGHT sides together. Stitch in 3/8" (1cm) seam, leaving an opening to turn. Trim seam and clip corners.

This is a two-part step. First, with the right sides together and the notches matching, we want to stitch the square ends together, press the seam open, and then fold the belt in half lengthwise, again, wrong side out, give it a press and a pin-baste, and stitch along the outside. In both instances, we're doing a ⅜" seam. Once you've stitched, take your scissors and clip the stitched corners at an angle, getting as close to your seam as possible without breaking the stitch. This will allow you to get those belt corners to pop out and not be mushy.

STEP 19: Turn belt; press. Slip-stitch opening edges together
Now we turn the belt inside out from that center opening. Fish your fingers into those corners to get and puckers out. Then, take the belt over to your iron and give it a good press. At this point, you want to press that opening closed as if it had been stitched -- this will make the slipstitch easier. To do the slipstitch, follow the directions here.

Step 20 (unlisted): Trim stray threads, clean your machine, pack up your pattern!
Just like last time, we have to get in the habit when we've finished a project to clean up your stray threads, and then to take your cleaning brush and give your sewing maching a quick cleaning to prevent bunny buildup.

That's it! Go try on your new dress!

Next: we make the matching jacket that goes with this dress!

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