The Search for Sewing Advice After Hours

Colette Patterns tutorials (left), BurdaStyle techniques, Threads Magazine How-to
Colette Patterns tutorials (left), BurdaStyle techniques (top right), Threads Magazine How-to

When I made a dress from BurdaStyle Sewing Vintage Modern, I added my own adjustment to the pattern, such as lining the bodice of the dress. Though I had made a couple lined vests for my husband and lined a jacket, I hadn’t lined the bodice of a dress before. It had seemed like a simple thing but when I began to put the lining and fashion fabric together, I got confused. It was late at night so I couldn’t stop by my local fabric store for advice. Naturally I turned on my laptop and began my search for sewing advice.

I typed “how to line a dress” in Google and got a tutorial on How to Line a Sleeveless Dress on Blithe Stitches. This post had helpful photos and clear step-by-step instructions so I could easily figure it out.

The web is a great resource for sewing advice. Many sewing enthusiasts, designers, publications, and companies have sewing tutorials on their blogs and websites. So if you ever get stuck on something, fire up your computer and start your search. You’ll be amazed at the plethora of instructions, both written and video, out there.

A few of my go-to places for instructions and tips (in no particular order) are:

Colette Patterns Tutorials — Sarai Mittnick, Colette Patterns founder and designer, author of The Colette Sewing Handbook, covers a variety of topics, ranging from working with fabric to fitting and adjustments. She has a nice explanation on installing invisible zippers.

BurdaStyle’s Techniques section — If you click on “Resources” on the home page, you’ll see a wide array of sewing techniques and tips posted by BurdaStyle, members, Burda Style magazine, and others, including advice for beginners.

Threads Magazine‘s “How To” pages include everything from garment fitting to sewing techniques but some content isn’t accessible unless you are a “Threads Insider.”  To view those tips you need to join ($32.95/year for online membership or $12.95 for print subscribers).

Where do you get your online sewing tips?

Nitty Gritty Dress Details

Clockwise from top left: Gathering the skirt, detail of hand sewing the lining around the invisible zipper, the hook and waist stay near the zipper, waist stay attached to bodice
Clockwise from top left: Pinning gathered skirt to waist, detail of hand sewing the lining around the invisible zipper, the hook and waist stay near the zipper, waist stay attached to bodice

Yesterday I wrote a post about adjusting the neckline and lining the dress I was making from the book BurdaStyle Sewing Vintage Modern. I also mentioned that I would be writing more about the dress details. So here’s the nitty gritty.

After I sewed the lining and the fashion fabric together, I turned the pieces inside out (wrong sides together). See this tutorial on Blithe Stitches for step-by-step directions on how to line a sleeveless dress.

Three-quarter view - turning in dressI sewed a couple inches down the left side seam below the armhole to leave room to insert the side invisible zipper. My next step was to prepare the skirt so I could attach it to the bodice. I sewed the right side of the back and front skirt pieces together so I had one long rectangular piece of fabric.

Then I sewed yards of seam tape to the bottom edge. The book instructs you to finish the hem edge by serging or using a zig-zag stitch. I don’t have a serger and I don’t really like the look of a zigzag stitch so I used seam tape.

[Side note: Britex Fabrics is only a couple blocks from my office so I went there on my lunch break to get seam tape but they didn’t have any in the off-white color I needed! Next I called Discount Fabrics and asked them if they had any in the color I needed – nope. My last hope was Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics in Berkeley, which is about a 15-minute walk from where I live. I called and they checked to see if they had off-white seam tape and they did! Yay – but that meant I needed to leave work early enough to get there before it closed at 6:30 pm. I got there about 10 minutes before closing. Thank you Stonemountain & Daughter!]

After that was done, I machine basted two rows of stitches at the top of the skirt, which would then be pulled to gather the fabric at the waistline. The book had a great tip — break up the gathering into four sections, which makes it easier to manage. You just take the front and back pieces, divide them in half, and baste each section separately.

After I pinned and sewed the gathered skirt piece to the bodice, I sewed up the left side of the skirt, leaving open several inches for the side invisible zipper. I pinned and sewed the invisible zipper to the bodice and skirt sections, carefully keeping the lining of the bodice out of the way. I found the  tutorial “Installing an Invisible Zipper” on Coletterie to be very helpful.

Once the zipper was in place, I realized the bodice lining might be a tad short to fold over the waist seam so I attached seam tape to the hem of the bodice lining. Then I ironed a crease in the lining so it lined up with the waist seamline and hand sewed the lining to the waist just over the seam and around the invisible zipper. When I hand sewed the lining to the zipper tape, I made sure that it wouldn’t get caught on the zipper teeth when the zipper was going up or down.

Bra strap holder and snap
Bra strap holder and snap

Next I hand sewed the hem in place — by this time I was getting really tired of hand sewing. And then I had two final details I wanted to add — bra strap holders and a waist stay. My mom first showed me how to make a bra strap holder many years ago. She grew up in Thailand, which has hot and humid weather so sleeveless outfits are the norm. Thus she was an old hand at adding bra strap holders to her clothes. She made them by crocheting a thread carrier and attaching a snap at the end. (See this post on Design & Style for how to make a thread carrier.)

But I didn’t have a crochet hook, it was after midnight and the photo shoot for the dress was on the following morning. I was out of time so I improvised. I looked through my stash of ribbons, bias tape and twill tape and found some off white twill tape that I could use in place of thread carriers. I sewed one end to the shoulder and sewed a snap to the other side.

I got the idea of adding a waist stay from a reissued 1957 Vogue dress pattern I bought a few years ago. I made the dress (it used four yards of fabric!), which got me really interested in construction details that I don’t usually see in modern patterns. A waist stay helps the dress keep its shape and also take away some stress from the zipper. You hook the waist stay before you zip up. The waist stay (I used Petersham ribbon for mine) has little ease in it so it brings the fabric edges of the zipper opening close together.

I attached the waist stay in seven places – near the front and back of t he zipper, at the two front and back darts and at the right side seam. I hand sewed it in place with small stitches at the top of the ribbon at the waistline. And then I was done with the dress.

On Friday, I’ll write about the photo shoot for the dress, how I found a photographer, and what it was like to be a model for an hour.

If you want to see more photos on the dress, see my BurdaStyle project page. My dress is a finalist in the BurdaStyle Sewing Vintage Modern Sewing Contest! To see the 20 finalists, go to this page. My dress is on slide 13. You have until Sun., Feb. 24, 5 pm ET to vote.

 

 

Making a Dress from the Book: BurdaStyle Sewing Vintage Modern

Construction Details A
Clockwise from top left: Muslin of bodice, pinning darts in fashion fabric and lining, pinning fashion fabric and lining at neckline, attaching neck and armhole facings to lining

In December I bought the book BurdaStyle Sewing Vintage Modern at a sewing event at Britex Fabrics and I had also interviewed the author, Jamie Lau. Naturally, I had to make something from the book! And when BurdaStyle announced a sewing contest using a pattern from the book, I had some incentive to get going. But first I had to think about what to make and wrote here about my initial criteria and what I was considering. After I looked over the fabric in my stash, I knew that making a dress from the book would be my best option.

At first I thought I would use the pattern for the Jamie Shift Dress because I had some great wool crepe that I could color block. But it would have taken me a lot more time (and muslins!) to adjust the pattern so it would be more flattering to my curvy figure.

So I finally decided to use the master pattern for the Elizabeth Gathered-Waist Dress. It’s from the chapter that features fashions from the 1950s, an era when dresses had full skirts and women wore crinolines.

Audrey Hepburn in the 1957 film Funny Face

This pattern has a square neckline but I decided to give it more of a boat neck, which is a style I really like. That neckline always makes me think of Audrey Hepburn and the dress she wore in the 1957 film Funny Face, which also stars Fred Astaire who plays a fashion photographer.

To change the neckline of the Elizabeth Gathered-Waist Dress, I traced the neckline of the Jamie Shift Dress but made it wider at the shoulders.

I made one muslin of the bodice but once I tried it on I realized I made it too wide. It didn’t look right and my bra straps showed. So I traced out another pattern but only made it about an inch wider than the Jamie neckline — much better!

My other adjustment to the bodice was that I decided to line it. The pattern uses facings. So using my muslin, I cut out the bodice twice – once from my fashion fabric, which I got from Discount Fabrics in San Francisco, and a second time from my lining fabric (a lovely Bemberg rayon lining from Britex).

I pinned and sewed the front and back darts on all the pieces and then I pinned the neck and armhole facings to my lining front and back. My fashion fabric has a soft hand and I wanted it to give it a little more stiffness around the sleeves. I used a very lightweight interfacing on the facings.

Next I attached front and back at the shoulders of the lining version and the fashion fabric. To put the two pieces together, I followed the clear instructions in the tutorial “How to Line a Sleeveless Dress,” which I found on the blog Blithe Stitches. Though my dress wasn’t exactly sleeveless and it also had a side zipper, the directions still worked for me.

Tomorrow I’ll be writing more about how I finished lining the bodice, dealing with the side invisible zipper, and additional construction details.

In the meantime, you can see more photos of the dress on my BurdaStyle project page and you can vote for my dress here. My  dress is one of 20 finalists in the contest! So please check out the contest entries and if you’re a member you can cast your vote. It’s free to join!