November 20, 2015

Girl's Smocked Dress Sew-Along #7: Attach sleeves & skirt

By this point, we have sewn some key structural seams on the bodice. Now we start attaching things to it. By the end of this session, you will have something that bears an uncanny resemblance to a real dress. A first glimpse of the finished product! We have a few more sessions to go, but this is the magical moment when the hard work starts paying off. Dig in!

Attach the sleeves

For once, this motion is fairly standard stuff. I'll show you the way I attach sleeves, but whatever your sleeve-attaching modus operandi, we'll end up with a nearly finished bodice. For more about my preferred technique, gaze lovingly upon the gorgeous sleeve seam and tute over on Craftsy (although I respectfully disagree that you generally don't need ease stitching -- I always need it, that's for sure).

Assemble each sleeve: Sew the straight line on each sleeve, forming a sleeve tube. You know, as one does

These sleeves are a little longer than the pattern called for. Personal preference - the recipient critter has long arms.

Sew 2 lines of basting stitches: On the sleeve head, baste a line about 1/4" from the edge, and another line about 7/8" from the edge. These will become our gathers for sleeve ease.

Sleeve ease basting: leave a nice long tail at each end, to grab onto.

Pin sleeve to bodice, pull basting stitches: Starting with the bodice side seam, pin the pieces together up to where the ease stitching begins. Then pull both threads to create gathers, until the sleeve is the same circumference as the bodice opening. Pin in place, being careful not to create any actual gathers or bubbles -- we want a smooth, even ease. This can be a fussy operation, so just take your time and be patient. Re-pin, if needed.

Pull the ease stitches and pin carefully, so that there are no "bubbles" or gathers.

Sew the sleeve: With a 5/8" seam allowance, stitch the sleeve to the bodice. When the seam is complete, inspect: are there any accidental bubbles or gathers, where it's not a smooth seam? Unpick the stitches for about half an inch on either side of the bubble, and re-sew. No big deal. Happens to the best of us.

When you're happy with the seam, finish the raw edges with the method of your choice. In my version, I used my ole fave, rayon seam binding.

Sleeve seam finished with rayon seam binding.

Here's how the seam should look from the outside: smooth, with no obvious gathers or "bubbles". Sometimes this takes several tries. Be patient; you'll get there eventually.

Attach the skirt to the bodice

Again, with all the special prep work we've done so far, this part is extra-regular.

Apply basting stitches for gathers: Just like with the sleeve, sew two rows of basting stitches at the top of the front skirt piece, at 1/4" and 7/8", between the pockets. Leave the pockets un-baste-gathered.

Now, do the same on the back, except baste across the entire skirt piece.

Create the skirt-tube: Along the side seams, sew the skirt front to skirt back. Then finish the raw edges with the method of your choice. As you may have guessed by now, I used rayon seam binding in my version.

Pin and pull: Matching the side seams, pin the skirt front to the bodice. If, like me, you did not cut away the excess seam allowance on the bodice bottom, pay attention to the thread tracing to align the 5/8" seam allowance and seam lines. 

Stop pinning when you reach the beginning of the gathering/basting stitches. Now, pull the basting stitches from both sides to create the gathers. Continue pinning the skirt to the bodice across the gathers.

On the back, pull the basting stitches until the skirt width matches the back bodice width. Pin in place.

Sew bodice to skirt: Remember, on the smocked front bodice, we ran a line of narrow stitches just outside the seam line, to secure the smocking. Therefore, when sewing the bodice to the skirt, do so with the bodice facing up, so that you can see the security line. Sew your seam inside it.

Here, the blue stitches are the securing stitches. Sew inside these stitches -- facing this way, that means sew closer to the bodice (farther from the raw edge)

Finish the raw edge of your seam. For moi, that means more rayon seam binding. 

Steam-press the seam downward, with the finished edge toward the skirt. You can stop here, or you can add a nice little couture detail: on the front, behind the pockets, catch-stitch the finished edge to the skirt. Only catch-stitch where it won't be visible from the outside. Do the same along the side seam, catching only the seam allowance.

The catch-stitching, don't she look purdy?

When you turn the garment right side out, it looks like a dress. Hurrah!

So, where's the pic of my version? Being a basically evil person, I decided not to include one, because it would spoil the surprise. You'll see the whole schmear in the "big reveal" a few days from now. Until then, detail shots only.



That is more than enough for today, don't you think?

Go have yourself an appletini.

We say that at work when we are absolutely through with some grueling thing. It started years ago, after a software launch went pear-shaped. You know the pandemonium, when attempts at fixing it become enmeshed in a rodeo of increasing absurdity as everything falls apart and there is nothing to be done but something must be done, right away. After days of panicked toil, the issue finally got resolved around 7:30pm on a Friday night. As people were packing up to leave, a co-worker passed my cube. The week was written on her face and body, lugging themselves mechanically toward the exit. I think I might have said "hi." Bedraggled, she lolled her head in my direction, threw me a glassy-eyed half-stare, and growled, "I need an appletini."

So, yes, go have yourself one. Meet me back here, and we'll finish the neckline with bias tape and a lovely little button-and-loop closure.

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