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.

 

 

The Trench

The Trench

This coat is the first thing I made from Christine Haynes‘s book, Chic & Simple Sewing. It has only has five pattern pieces: jacket front, jacket back, sleeve, pocket, and bias tape. And the last two items are optional as you can make the coat without the pockets and you can buy bias tape rather than making your own. It’s pretty easy to make and looks great.

I had a few yards of this rich dark grey wool fabric that I got at the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse, a cool nonprofit organization in Oakland which sells all kinds of things that people donate (art supplies, fabric, furniture, beads, yarn, baskets, small appliances, you name it). I only paid $2/yard for this fabric! I also found a yard of lightweight herringbone tweed wool fabric at the Depot. So when I was looking at my fabric stash, I thought those two fabrics would make a good combination – the dark grey for the coat and the herringbone for contrasting bias tape. (For more info, check out this post “Fabric at the East Bay Depot” by yours truly.)

This was the first time I made my own bias tape. Before I bought Christine’s book, I had been reading about bias tape in Anna Maria Horner‘s beautiful book Seams to Me. Her instructions and diagram on making bias tape were very clear and easy to follow. (For an online tutorial, see Coletterie’s “How to make Bias Tape”.) I hadn’t thought about making my own bias tape before and Anna Marie’s book used bias tape tohttps://csews.com/clothes/the-trench such lovely effect, I was hooked. I went out and bought a couple different sizes of bias tape makers. I really wanted to make something with my own bias tape. And then I saw this coat in Christine’s book and realized this would be the perfect thing.

Like the title of Christine’s book, this coat is simple to sew. After you cut out the pieces, you sew each front piece to a sleeve piece and then the back edge of the sleeve to the back piece. It has raglan sleeves as you can see from this photo below.

The Trench has raglan sleeves.

It only became slightly tricky when I wasn’t quite sure which side was the “right” side because the fabric I was using was the same on both sides.

Once I sewed the main coat pieces, it was on to the bias tape along the front opening of the coat and then around the collar. At this point in my sewing life, I had not used things like Steam-a-Seam or other fusible webs, which make it easier to get nice looking seams. So I blithely sewed the bias tape to the front edge and soon realized that the lightweight herringbone I was using for my bias tape didn’t look so good. The seam didn’t quite lay flat and was a little puckered in some areas (darn it). My solution? Rick rack to the rescue! I bought some black rick rack that I sewed right over the seam, which made a nice transition between the herringbone bias tape and the dark grey of the main fabric.

Then I had another problem. The coat flopped open instead of staying upright like the one in the book. It was the fault of the fabric I choose plus the bias tape and rick rack added a little more weight that made it “flop.” So I decided that I needed a covered button to keep it together at the top. I put the button on one side and made a loop out of black corded elastic for the other. Click on the photos below to see larger versions of the rick rack and button. (Christine chose a medium-weight cotton fabric for her coat. I’ll be making another version of the coat using a heavier weight purple cotton fabric and striped bias tape.)

Bias tape, rick rack detail
Covered button detail

 

 

 

 

 

 

The last step was to hem the bottom and sew on the patch pockets, which are really useful. I love big pockets. The Trench has pockets large enough to stow your cell phone, a paperback book, wallet, and keys. I wear this coat a lot in the Bay Area. It’s perfect for cool weather here. But when it gets a little chillier, your arms will get cold because the sleeves are 3/4 length. So heave some arm warmers ready or wear a sweater underneath.

If you make this coat, you’ll be sure to get compliments on it. Thanks for a great pattern, Christine!