Hey OAL-gers! Today is the day we get to start SEWING! Yay! Just a warning – this is a VERY long, picture-heavy post! Seriously, there are like 50+ photos in this post. I considered splitting it into two posts, but I figured anyone who is bored with sewalong posts will probably be more pissed that there are two of them. So, long post, apologies in advance.
Part of the reason why this post is so long is because I decided to make two versions of the dress! I wanted to cover both of the bodices (well, both basic shapes – I won’t be covering that weird yoke thing. SORRY), as well as sleeved and sleeveless versions. Not to mention, I want two dresses out of this :) So, in this post, I’ll be going over the construction for both bodice B (v neck and shoulder straps) and bodice C (notched neckline).
The very first thing we will want to do is staystitch our necklines so they don’t stretch out of shape. Staystitching is one of those really important steps that frequently gets skipped over – and I admit, I was one of those people for a long time! – but you really really should not skip it. Staystitching prevents the bias edge of the neckline from stretching out over time – which can happen more quickly than you’d think, especially when you’re manhandling your bodice into submission while you’re sewing it. Please don’t skip the staystitching!
Ok, soapbox rant over – your instructions will tell you what direction to staystitch. For bodice B (and A, I guess), you are going from the center front to the outer edges. Bodice C and also the back bodice are staystitched from the shoulder to the center front. Pay close attention to what direction you will be stitching, and follow that.
To staystitch, reduce your stitch length to be slightly smaller than the standard on your machine (my machine stays around 2.5, so I staystitch at 2.0), and sew at 1/2″ seam allowance. Don’t forget to backstitch at each end. That’s it!
Next, let’s tackle those darts in the back bodice (I know, I’m skipping around the instructions – I like to do the “prep” sewing first to get it out of the way. Just roll with it). Start by marking your dart with your preferred method. Here I used wax tracing paper and a rotary marking tool; but you can also mark the legs and point and connect the lines with a ruler. Whatever works for you!
Start by pinning the legs of the dart together at the bottom. I pin horizontally along the marked line, this way I can check both sides to be sure the lines are matching up. Continue all the way up the dart until you get to the point, and mark that with a pin as well.
Now you can start sewing along the marked line of your dart. Do NOT sew over your pins!
Here’s a fun party trick I learned from Papercut Patterns – when you taper out to the dart point and have about one thread left before your needle sews off the fabric, stop and lower your needle.
With the needle down, lift your presser foot and rotate the fabric 180*. Lower your presser foot and sew down the inside of the dart until you’re about halfway down, then backstitch.
Your dart should look like this. I love this method because you don’t get a weird bump at your dart tip (which can happen if you tie it off or backstitch at the point), and the dart is nice and secure thanks to the backstitching. Pretty cool!
Now press that dart toward the side seams. Use a tailor’s ham if you got one!
Finished dart! Do this for both back bodice pieces.
Now let’s sew up our princess seams! Princess seams can be a little tricky at first if you don’t know what you’re doing, but they don’t have to be! You should have two front bodice pieces – the center front, and the side front. See how the side front is bigger than the center front? Those two pieces will ease together.
Start by pinning the side front to the center front, starting at the bottom and stopping when you reach the notch.
Now pin the two pieces together at the top, again, stopping when you reach the notch. You should have a small section of not-pinned bodice.
Gently manipulate the fabric of the center front piece to curve along with the side front, and pin into place. Try not to include any wrinkles or puckers. I’ve found these particular pieces ease pretty well without needing to cut notches, but if you are having trouble getting a smooth curve, you may want to snip a few small (1/2″ max!) notches into the curve of the center front piece, which will help the seam allowance spread out and lie flat against the side front curve.
Stitch the curve along the seam allowance (PROTIP: the side that needs to be eased – the side front – should be on the bottom; the feed dogs will help ease it in!), and then finish as desired. I used my serger for my dress.
Now press the seam allowances toward the side front. Again, use your tailor’s ham if you got one!
Repeat for the other half of the front bodice. Yay princess seams!
The next few steps are for bodice B…
Take your yoke front and stitch it to the bodice back, matching notches. Finish the seam allowances and press toward the back (or press open, depending on your method of finishing).
Fuse your interfacing to the back facing (I also interfacing my front yoke facing, since this rayon challis is pretty spongey!) and sew to the front facing, matching notches. Finish the long unnotched edge of the sewn facings – in this case, I used my serger, but you could use pinking shears, turn the seam allowance under and stitch, or even bind with bias tape. Whatever you want, it’s your dress!
With right sides together, pin the facing to the back bodice, matching notches and raw edges. Stitch.
Trim and clip your seam allowances so they’re not so bulky – I trim mind in half, and clip the curved edges so they will lie flat when pressed (note – I notched these so you can actually see where it’s notched – but you actually only need to clip the curves. Take small snips and don’t cut into your stitching line!).
Finally, you’ll want to understitch your facing so everything stays in place and rolls to the inside. This is really easy – just open the facing up away from the bodice, and push all the seam allowances so they’re against the wrong side of the facing. Sew through the facing and seam allowances, about 1/8″ away from the seamline.
Turn the facing to the wrong side of the bodice back, and give everything a nice press.
Take one back bodice and one front bodice, and pin the two together as shown, matching your dots and raw edges (yes, I know, the instructions have you sew the center front seam before this. I forgot. Oh well.). Baste into place, about 1/2″ from the raw edge.
Sew the two front facing pieces together up to the marked dot, and backstitch to secure. There will be a small space above the dot that is unsewn – this will make it easier to sew that slight v-seam. Press the seam open and finish the edges of the long unnotched edge.
Do the same for your center front pieces – sew up to the dot and backstitch. Finish your seams separately and press them open.
Same as with the back facing, match the front facing to the front bodice, right sides together and raw edges matching. Spread the unsewn sections of the bodice and facing apart; when you get to the dot, lower your needle, pivot, and continue sewing back up the v.
Understitch the seam allownace to the facing, turn the facing to the inside, and press.
Finally, sew up the side seams and finish the edges.
Hey look, your bodice is done! High fives all around!
Remaining steps for bodice C…
With ride sides together, sew the center front pieces up to the dot, and backstitch. Finish the seam allowances separately and press open. Sew the front bodice to the back bodice at the shoulders, finish seams and press.
Your bodice front should have a nice deep notch, like so.
Fuse your interfacing to your facing pieces. Sew the front facings together at the center front, up to the dot (same as with the bodice front), and stitch the front facing to the back facing at the shoulder seams. Press all seams open and finish the long unnotched edge.
With right sides facing and raw edges matching, pin the facing to the top of the bodice, all the way around.
Sew the facing to the bodice at your normal 5/8″ seam allowance. When you get to that center front notch, sew all the way to the corner, lower your needle, and raise your presser foot.
Pivot the fabric and continue stitching until you reach the dot (where you joined the front pieces and stopped stitching). Go very slowly and be sure that the fabric is completely flat underneath the presser foot – you don’t want to sew any wrinkles!
This is what your front bodice will look like once you’ve sewn it. Hm, my staystitching is crooked as hell.
Now trim all your seam allowances in half, and clip the curves, points, and corners.
Understitch your facings (scroll up to view B if you need more info on how to do this!) all the way around. You will not be able to understitch all the way into the center front notch – that’s ok! Just go as far as you can.
Turn the facing to the inside and use a tool (I have a point turner, but you can use a knitting needle or chopstick or even a dull pencil) to push the notch points out. Give everything a good press.
Sew up your side seams and finish the edges as desired.
Bodice C is finished!
WHEW! Was that the longest post or what!? Promise they’ll get easier from here :) As always, let me know if you have any questions!