November 10, 2015

Girl's Smocked Dress Sew-Along #5: Embellish & construct pockets

Last time, we smocked the heck out of our bodice fabric. After all that handiwork, it's time to head back to the sewing machine. On today's agenda: cut out the fashion fabric, apply bias tape to the pocket edge, then embellish the pocket with machine embroidery, and insert the pocket backing. If your machine doesn't do embroidery, no biggie; embroidering by hand, or not embroidering at all, are also options.

Cut out the fashion fabric

Not to shirk my sacred tutorial duties, but you guys know how to lay out pattern pieces and cut the fabric, right? Okay, not gonna waste your time. 

Just remember: don't cut the bodice front piece (21) ... yet. Let your smocking hang out for a while. Admire its beauty.

Apply bias tape to pocket edge

Moving on: we focus on the skirt and pocket pieces, both drafted in the previous session.

My method of applying bias tape is not unique. If you're already a bias tape wizard, skip this section. Just remember that we added a 5/8" seam line to the pattern piece, so your first bias tape seam starts 5/8" from the edge.

Mark the sewing line: With a ruler and a water-soluble pen (or chalk), mark 5/8" from the edge of the pocket curve on the right side of the fabric. This is where you'll be sewing the first edge of your single-fold bias tape.

Mark the 5/8" sewing line on the right side of the fabric.

By the way, the ruler in that picture is one of my favorite impulse buys. I'll let the Nancy's Notions website give you the sales pitch: Nancy's Notions 5-in-1 Sliding Gauge.

Your mark should look something like this.

Sew one edge of the bias tape along the marked line: Unfold one side of the bias tape. Very carefully, line up the fold with the sewing line. Pin in place. Or not. For a short distance like this, I find that pins do more harm than good, but you'll have your own style.

On your machine, sew along the same line. Peek under the bias tape as you go, to make sure you're on track.

Neatness counts for this seam. Sew exactly along the line you marked.

Clip the fashion fabric: Cut away the extra fashion fabric, leaving about 1/8"-1/4" seam allowance. Also, clip the edges so that it can turn crisply and easily.

Chop, chop, chop. This part is always scary. I love me some ample seam allowance, but sometimes it's not right for the situation.

Press the bias tape to the back: Using the bias tape's foldline as a guide, fold the tape to the back. Then, applying ample steam, iron the crease. The edge may want to flop up, because we're working with a fairly tight curve. Go back and further clip the seam, if needed, and give it some more steam. Tilly and the Buttons: Pressing Your Sewing Projects makes a great argument for major steam action in all your creations.

Steam! It's your friend.

Sew the the bias tape in place: This seam will be visible on the right side of the fabric, so take your time. Sew along the un-stitched edge of the bias tape to secure it in place.

Two things to watch out for:
  • Keep your stitches the same distance from the pocket edge, as viewed from the right side of the fabric.
  • At the same time, make sure you catch the folded edge of the bias tape along the whole seamline.

After stitching the tape down, give it another thorough steam press with your iron, if you like. Can't hurt.

Embellish the pocket

Now's the time to play with your sewing machine's decorative stitches. I picked a narrow asterisk/daisy hem stitch, which will mirror the little turquoise knots in the smocking. Practice embroidering the curve on a scrap of fabric, to make sure your chosen stitch plays nicely with contours.

I'm sewing on a BabyLock Quilter's Choice Plus, which has quite a few decorative stitches for a basic machine.

Complete the pocket construction

Now we give some love to the other piece of the pocket — the one that goes behind the curved piece.

Finish two raw edges of the pocket piece: The pocket backing will sit flush against the top and side seams of the skirt. These seams will be finished when you construct the dress. But right now, apply rayon seam binding, or the finishing method of your choice, to the other two edges.

  • If fabric has a nap or one-way pattern, make sure the pocket piece lines up with the fashion fabric. Place the pocket rectangle under the skirt piece, both right side up, and give it the ole once-over. For example, on my fabric, the pink pattern has a slight diagonal slant, which goes from top left to bottom right. Inserting the pocket backing with the diagonal going the other way would look weird.
  • The preferred "visible" side of the seam binding goes on the wrong side of the fabric, since that's the side that will show on the inside of the garment. For me, the preferred "visible" side is the one I sew first, where the raw edge of the seam binding doesn't show.
Here, I used rayon seam binding to finish the two "hanging" edges of the pocket backing.

Sew the pocket backing to the skirt: Line up the pocket, so that the unfinished edges are sitting against the unfinished top and side of the skirt piece. Make sure both pieces are right side up (and wrong side down). Topstitch the finished edges of the pocket in place. Because this stitching will be visible on the outside of the garment, I like to keep that side facing up as I sew.

Pin meticulously, especially if  you'll be stitching on the right side of the fabric.

Aaaaaand we're back to the rectangular shape of the original BurdaStyle pattern.

Baste the un-stitched top and side pieces: Now all that's left is to temporarily secure the other sides of the pocket to their intended destinations, along the seams that will eventually connect the skirt to the bodice, and the skirt front to skirt back. Place these basting stitches inside the eventual seamlines, about 3/8" from the raw edge.

    All done!

    That's enough for today. We've crammed quite a few techniques into this segment: bias tape application, embroidery, seam binding, topstitching. What did you think? Ask any questions or share your work in the comments. I'd love to hear from you!

    In the next episode, we construct the bodice. Get ready to slice into your smocked fabric! It sounds scarier than it is. Get excited.

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