Miss Julie’s Jubilee

The brief: to design an elegant and delicate summer dress for my friend Julie.

The design: a sleeveless bodice with Princess Seams going from the waist to the armscye. 5cm-wide shoulder straps.  Waist seam.  Back zip.  The skirt has inverted pleats in place of darts. The inverted pleats meet the princess seams.  The design is  based on the Peggy Georgia dress that I made for my part in the Mad Men Dress Challenge, only with less pleats and with a natural rather than lowered waist.

The fabric: 2 metres of Liberty Tana Lawn “Pauly Parrot”.  The birds are lined up in columns and rows, with every third little guy on the right-hand side sporting a Mohican-like crest.  I think of him as Pauly!

The colours are champagne, pink, red and violet.  In these Julie noticed a subtle parallel to the Union Jack colours which are around a lot at the moment, hence the title “Miss Julie’s Jubilee”.  The fabric is light and therefore underlined throughout with a white cotton lawn which makes the design of the parrots stand out more crisply.  The bodice is also lined in white lawn: the three layers which make up the bodice mean that this is quite a warm dress, perfect for Summer 2012.  Both fabrics came from Classic Textiles, 44 Goldhawk Road.

The fabric sewed beautifully and smelt delicious when pressed!  Having said that, it took some planning at the cutting stage as the pattern of the parrots had to line up vertically and horizontally.

Sewing a Sleeveless Dress with a Bodice Lining

Here’s the order in which I put the dress together which might help you if you’re drafting a similar design.

Step 1

Construct the bodice (please note that I’m using the Pauly fabric and the white underlining as one).  First sew the princess seams on front and back, then side seams.  Finish side seams. Do not sew the shoulder straps – this will come much later!

Step 2

Sew the skirt: tack pleats in place then sew the side seams.

Edge finish the skirt side seams.  There’re many ways of doing this.  You can copy the method below if, like me, you don’t have an overlocker but want to keep things as tidy as possible without the extra fabric of Hong Kong binding.

Edge finishing

Press garment and one seam allowance to one side.  Aligning the presser foot edge with the seam, sew a straight stitch down the seam allowance.  Repeat on the other side.

The stitches will guide you as you press under.

  Press under along the stitch lines (left seam allowance).

Zigzag the folded edge (right seam allowance).

Step 3

Stitch bodice to skirt.  I start by sewing from the centre front to the side, then flipping over and doing the same from the centre front to the other side: I think this stops the top fabric from walking too far (I don’t have a walking foot, yet!).  Fit the zip.  Pin the straps and carry out a fitting.

Step 4

Sew lining the same as the bodice: princess seams followed by the side seams.  Edge finish the bottom of the lining.

Pin lining to bodice, matching all seams.  Fold lining back 0.5cm before the zip and pin (as above).

Fold zip back over lining and pin.

Stitch the front neck, armhole and back neck seams.  Carefully mark the stitch lines in the straps to ensure that you stitch 1.5cm from the top of the strap and 1.5cm from the side of the strap: being as pedantic as possible at this point will make things easier when you sew the straps in the next stage. Trim seam allowances and turn to the right side.

Step 5

The straps, at last:

On the outside, fold and pin back the fashion fabric.  Stitch the lining along seam line, making sure you don’t catch the fashion fabric.

  Tuck the lining seam allowances inside.

Slipstitch the folded edges.  A slipstitch (not to be confused with a slipknot, banish the thought!) is meant to be an invisible join of two folded edges.  Pick up a single thread under one folded edge, pass needle 0.5cm inside and in between the folded edges and repeat on the opposite side.

Step 6

Hand sew the lining to the zip.   Here’s what the garment looks like on the inside.  As a final step, secure the lining to the waist seam by handstitching at the side seams and on the inner pleat folds.

 

 

Get Ham!

A tailor’s ham is an essential piece of kit, used for pressing curved areas, for example in shaping princess seams or bust darts, and for moulding collars.  It takes no more than an hour to make so if you’re a keen dressmaker with some rags to spare, get yourself a ham!  Sooner or later, a project that requires it will land on your sewing table.

These instructions are based on those in the Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing.

You will need:

Rags (I use old toiles, cut to shreds, old socks and tights).  Or sawdust.

Two pieces of calico, 45cm x 35 cm each approx.  This is for the lining.

Two pieces of outer fabric, sized as above.

Step 1

Place your iron on the calico and draw around it.

Step 2

Enlarge this area all around by 7cm to an egg-like shape and cut out.  Repeat.  Cut two more from the outer fabric.

Step 3

Using the outer fabric and lining as one, stitch together the two pieces, right sides together and leaving a gap of 10cm open.  Stitch again: the reinforcement is important as the ham will be tightly stuffed!  Turn right side out, stuff with rags and slipstitch the opening securely.

Done!

Ham in action

For pressing princess seams: place the curved seam on the curve of the ham.  It’s useful to have one of these not just for constructing the seam but for pressing the completed garment after laundering.

For moulding the undercollar of a jacket: fold along the roll line and pin to ham, interfaced side out.  Press against ham.  Seam press if appropriate for your fabric and allow to dry before continuing.

When attaching a collar, rather than working on a flat surface, insert tailor’s ham inside the garment and pin the collar to the neckline.

P.S. You can’t put these in sandwiches, you know!