November 13, 2015

Girl's Smocked Dress Sew-Along #6: Bodice shoulders and sides

Happy Friday the 13th, friends! What a perfect day to cut into that smocked bodice piece you labored over, yes? Mwa ha ha haaah.

Today, we march into familiar territory: assembling a dress bodice. But wait. A few special tricks will be applied to this particular garment. For example, have you ever done thread tracing before? If not, by the end of this session, you'll have that in your repertoire.

Construct the back bodice (piece 22)

Nothing to see here. Just a bit of standard bodice construction - with some embellishment thrown in.

Sew center back seam; Stitch this as you normally do, up to the mark. What mark, you say? The one on the BurdaStyle printed pattern. You did trace this important mark on your piece, didn't you? No matter; you can just approximate it. Ssshhhh, no one's looking. It's about 1 3/4" to 2 3/4" from the bottom seam line of the bodice back.

The printed BurdaStyle sheet from the magazine shows where to stop stitching the center back.

Iron and finish: Press the seam open, extending the fold through the un-sewn portion, up to the neckline.

Finish the raw edges of the center back seam (not the neckline) using the method of your choice: rayon seam binding, serger, pinking shears, hand overcast. I like rayon seam binding.

Rayon seam binding finishes the raw edges of the center back seam.

Embroider: Working from the right side of the fabric, secure the folded edges down with a topstitch or machine embroidery stitch. For fun, I used the same machine embroidery stitch that appears on the pockets of my dress.

Dorbs little embroidered asterisks, all in a row.

Prepare the front bodice (piece 21)

So. We have in our hands a labor-intensive smocked front bodice piece which has not been cut yet. And we're going to wait even longer to cut it; in fact, scissors will not come near this thing until a couple of important seams are sewn.

Prepare: Meticulously pin the front bodice (piece 21) to the smocked rectangle. Remember to use the bodice piece that does not include a seam allowance. Use plenty of pins. Go pin-crazy, in fact.

Pin this piece with every pin you own. It's gonna want to slip and slide during the next step.

The game's a foot (bwah!): If you're one of the lucky sewists with a walking foot at your disposal, now's the time to install it. What's a walking foot? Head over to Made By Rae's website for a quick video explanation.

Important security measures: Using a short stitch length, sew along the edges of the pattern piece, a millimeter or two outside where your seam line will eventually be. This will both secure the smocking and give us a guideline for the seam when we attach the other pieces.

Thread tracing: Your sewing machine will "sketch" the cutting lines. This is known as thread tracing. Cassandra describes the technique over at The (not so) Dramatic Life.

So here we go: with a long basting stitch, thread-trace lines 5/8" outside of lines you just sewed, all the way to the edge of the fabric. This is the seam allowance on the smocked piece. When we attach the other pieces that include a 5/8" seam allowance, it'll be a little easier to ensure everything is lined up properly.

The short stitches are the "securing" stitches; the long stitches are the "thread tracing" stitches for the 5/8" seam allowance. At the top, you see the seam allowance stitches go off the fabric. That's okay; we just need a general guide for the next steps.

Sew bodice front (21) to bodice back (22)

Don't cut the seam allowance on the front smocked piece yet. We'll be stitching the straight lines of the shoulder and side seams with everything intact.

Pin-feel-pin: Pin the bodice front to back, right sides together. Well, yeah. Duh. But here's a tip: call upon your keen tactile sense to feel the thread tracing on the bodice front (the 5/8" seam allowance basting), and align these with the raw edges on the bodice back. If you're pinning along the seam line, align your pins so that the pin heads are on the front side of the bodice. If you're pinning perpendicular to the seam line (pictured), you can pin either side, but make sure the pin heads won't get mowed over by your machine.

Line up the bodice back's raw edge with the thread tracing on the front. If pinning perpendicular to the seam line, keep the pin heads far away from your seam.

Sew, baby! With the smocked front side of the bodice facing up, sew the shoulder and side seams. Make sure these stitches are just inside the tight security line we sewed earlier.

Eyeball the security stitches as you go, and sew the seam just inside them.

Cut and finish raw edges

Oh man, are you as nervous as I am?










Cutting into the smocked piece is basically the same as seeing Bob at the foot of the bed.

No, but. It's all gonna be okay. Those tight security stitches, and the seams, will keep your work from unraveling. So, sharpen your scissors and muster all the gumption you have at your disposal.

Do it: Using the 5/8" seam allowance thread tracing as a guide, cut the smocked piece on all edges: shoulder, side, armscye, neckline, bottom (optional).

Breathe a sigh of relief.

Apply the seam finishing method of your choice to the shoulder and side seams you just sewed. Don't finish the neckline or armscye yet.

Bodice seams finished with rayon seam binding. Also, the bottom seam allowance isn't cut yet; it's a fairly straight seam, so sewing it with a little extra seam allowance won't hurt.

Hooray, we did it!

In this bodice-focused episode, we continued to apply a number of techniques: machine embroidery, security stitching, thread tracing, construction, and cutting into our precious smocked fabric.

And nobody got hurt.

Were you nervous, or mellow through the process? Got any questions about the techniques? Ask and share knowledge in the comments.

And get ready to set in the sleeves, as this sew-along continues.

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