OAL: Sewing the Bodice

16 Jun

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 πŸ™‚ 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).

OAL 2014 - Sewing the bodice
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.

OAL 2014 - Sewing the bodice
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!

OAL 2014 - Sewing the bodice
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!

OAL 2014 - Sewing the bodice
OAL 2014 - Sewing the bodice
OAL 2014 - Sewing the bodice
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.

OAL 2014 - Sewing the bodice
Now you can start sewing along the marked line of your dart. Do NOT sew over your pins!

OAL 2014 - Sewing the bodice
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.

OAL 2014 - Sewing the bodice
OAL 2014 - Sewing the bodice
OAL 2014 - Sewing the bodice
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.

OAL 2014 - Sewing the bodice
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!

OAL 2014 - Sewing the bodice
Now press that dart toward the side seams. Use a tailor’s ham if you got one!

OAL 2014 - Sewing the bodice
Finished dart! Do this for both back bodice pieces.

OAL 2014 - Sewing the bodice
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.

OAL 2014 - Sewing the bodice
Start by pinning the side front to the center front, starting at the bottom and stopping when you reach the notch.

OAL 2014 - Sewing the bodice
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.

OAL 2014 - Sewing the 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.

OAL 2014 - Sewing the bodice
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.

OAL 2014 - Sewing the bodice
Now press the seam allowances toward the side front. Again, use your tailor’s ham if you got one!

OAL 2014 - Sewing the bodice
Repeat for the other half of the front bodice. Yay princess seams!

The next few steps are for bodice B…

OAL 2014 - Sewing the bodice
OAL 2014 - Sewing the bodice
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).

OAL 2014 - Sewing the bodice
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!

OAL 2014 - Sewing the bodice
OAL 2014 - Sewing the bodice
With right sides together, pin the facing to the back bodice, matching notches and raw edges. Stitch.

OAL 2014 - Sewing the bodice
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!).

OAL 2014 - Sewing the bodice
OAL 2014 - Sewing the bodice
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.

OAL 2014 - Sewing the bodice
Turn the facing to the wrong side of the bodice back, and give everything a nice press.

OAL 2014 - Sewing the bodice
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.

OAL 2014 - Sewing the bodice
OAL 2014 - Sewing the bodice
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.

OAL 2014 - Sewing the bodice
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.

OAL 2014 - Sewing the bodice
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.

OAL 2014 - Sewing the bodice
Hey look, your bodice is done! High fives all around!

Remaining steps for bodice C…

OAL 2014 - Sewing the bodice
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.

OAL 2014 - Sewing the bodice
Your bodice front should have a nice deep notch, like so.

OAL 2014 - Sewing the bodice
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.

OAL 2014 - Sewing the bodice
With right sides facing and raw edges matching, pin the facing to the top of the bodice, all the way around.

OAL 2014 - Sewing the bodice
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.

OAL 2014 - Sewing the bodice
OAL 2014 - Sewing the bodice
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!

OAL 2014 - Sewing the bodice
This is what your front bodice will look like once you’ve sewn it. Hm, my staystitching is crooked as hell.

OAL 2014 - Sewing the bodice
Now trim all your seam allowances in half, and clip the curves, points, and corners.

OAL 2014 - Sewing the bodice
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.

OAL 2014 - Sewing the bodice
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.

OAL 2014 - Sewing the bodice
Bodice C is finished!

WHEW! Was that the longest post or what!? Promise they’ll get easier from here πŸ™‚ As always, let me know if you have any questions!


35 Responses to “OAL: Sewing the Bodice”

  1. Gmail June 16, 2014 at 7:55 am #

    Thanks for showing me a new clean way to do a dart, without tieing off! Can’t way to try it out! Elaine

    Sent from my iPad


    • LLADYBIRD June 16, 2014 at 3:01 pm #

      It’s really fun! Kind of blew my mind the first time I learned how to do it πŸ™‚

  2. Stephanie June 16, 2014 at 9:13 am #

    Hey Lauren.

    With my dress, I am going to underline it, do I still interface the pieces as per the above instructions.?


    • LLADYBIRD June 16, 2014 at 3:02 pm #

      It can vary depending on your fabric and what you are using the underlining for (if you’re using the underlining to stabilize, for example, you might not need to interface), but as a general rule: I like to interface my facing pieces and not underline them. Play around with your fabrics+interfacing and see what you think works best πŸ™‚

  3. Jessica Hurst June 16, 2014 at 10:11 am #

    Awesome sauce! Great tutorial thus far!

  4. sewgrandma June 16, 2014 at 10:32 am #

    Excellent tutorial. I haven’t sewn with wovens since the invention of Stretch & Sew (mid 70’s). Now I want to make pretty blouses out of silk, gauzy voiles. Your inside construction looks so neat & tidy. I will be using this for sure!

    • LLADYBIRD June 16, 2014 at 3:03 pm #

      Ohhh, silk voile blouses are the BEST! Definitely go make you some! πŸ™‚

  5. karen June 16, 2014 at 10:46 am #

    I have been sewing for years and didn’t know about sewing the dart that way. What a great idea. Your sewing is beautiful and your instructions clear. Love your fabric choices. Karen

    • LLADYBIRD June 16, 2014 at 3:07 pm #

      It’s a pretty cool trick! I can’t take all the credit for it, though, I learned it from Katie at Papercut Patterns πŸ™‚ and thank you! πŸ™‚

  6. RED June 16, 2014 at 11:02 am #

    I’m not terribly new to sewing but the way you sewed the dart just blew my mind. It’s really helpful seeing how someone else puts a pattern together step-by-step. Cheers!

    • LLADYBIRD June 16, 2014 at 3:28 pm #

      I kind of really enjoy doing step-by-step posts like this, so I’m glad you find them helpful! Also, yeah, that dart trick is MAGICAL! I was sooo excited when I first found out about it haha πŸ™‚

  7. Michelle June 16, 2014 at 11:47 am #

    Oooo! I love your method of dart stitching! I’m eager to try it!

    • LLADYBIRD June 16, 2014 at 3:29 pm #

      It is awesome! Although I can’t take credit for it – I learned it from Katie at Papercut Patterns πŸ™‚

  8. LinB June 16, 2014 at 12:07 pm #

    Here’s another “pro tip”: instead of clipping curved seams, then trimming them down, trim them with your pinking shears. They’ll automatically be clipped, and thus lie beautifully flat when you press them. You can still understitch the facings with this method.

    Also, instead of trimming each part of a seam separately when you grade a seam, just turn your shears at a slight angle as you cut the seam one time. The bevel of the blades will automatically cut each part of the seam at a slightly different width, enough to make the seam edges blend into one another and not leave a hard edge showing on the right side of the garment. Saves a … let us say “bucketload” … of time and aggravation.

    • LLADYBIRD June 16, 2014 at 3:30 pm #

      Great tips! Thanks for chiming in πŸ™‚

    • beckyleethompson June 17, 2014 at 6:24 am #

      Love this method! It’s the way my gramma graded her SAs before the day of the home serger. All her aprons and house dresses had these seams.

  9. Aimee June 16, 2014 at 6:38 pm #

    Thanks!!! Your post is just the right length. I love all the pictures, they are very helpful….keep them coming.

    • LLADYBIRD June 17, 2014 at 5:37 pm #

      Awesome, I’m glad you find it useful!

  10. Jo June 17, 2014 at 1:53 am #

    I have only just discovered your fantastic blog via Untangling Knots. As basically a knitter who has just inherited a lovely old Bernina sewing machine I am determined to teach myself to sew as well. Just a couple of months of some serious house renovations to go then hopefully I will be set fair.

    • LLADYBIRD June 17, 2014 at 5:39 pm #

      Welcome! (to both my blog, the Bernina Family, and the dark neverending rabbit hole of sewing ;)).

  11. beckyleethompson June 17, 2014 at 6:19 am #

    I was going to do the notch neckline but after this fabulously long post, I’m doing B. Question: My bodice will be made from a white linen that I plan to underline. Would you underline it and use facings or just line it and opt out of the facings? I’m doing cap sleeves.

    • LLADYBIRD June 17, 2014 at 5:44 pm #

      It’s totally up to you! I’d personally underline and use facings, but you can line if you want the seams to be covered. I think underlining with facings is the simplest/cleanest way to finish the bodice, plus I always like having a facing at the bodice (even if it’s lined); I love the way that finish looks πŸ™‚

  12. Aleksandra @ Liveaboard Takes the Suburbs June 17, 2014 at 4:26 pm #

    Woah, you just BLEW MY MIND.

    I never knew that staystitching was supposed to be done in shorter stitches. I have always done staystitching with basting stitches (4.0-5.0).

    Man, how many years have I been doing that wrong? Hilarious! I’ll try your method on my next dress. πŸ˜›

    • LLADYBIRD June 17, 2014 at 5:58 pm #

      Haha! I think there is a pretty firm divide between the short staystitch crowd and the long staystitch crowd… I see opinions on both sides. My personal stance is that it’s supposed to keep the bias from stretching, which won’t happen if you’re using long stitches πŸ˜› but, I could be wrong (and I’m ok with that!).

      That being said, YAY I love blowing minds! πŸ˜€

  13. Laura Poehlman June 19, 2014 at 3:41 pm #

    I love this colorway of Amy Butler Twilight Peony so much that I have three garments that contain it (one is merely trace elements though), and the minute I saw it again I thought. Maybe I need another dress from this fabric! (my other dress only uses it as an accent, and I have a Ginger of it)…LOVE.

    • LLADYBIRD June 19, 2014 at 10:12 pm #

      You ALWAYS need more of this fabric. It’s so gorgeous, I mean, why would you deprive yourself? πŸ˜‰

      • mommylap June 23, 2014 at 2:55 pm #

        Yeah I bought some in the azure colorway to make a dress after I saw this, so it’s at least a different colorway..Thanks (as always) for the inspiration. I did a status post about it on FB, (cause I’m trying to babystep back into the blogging waters) and realized you didn’t have a FB page for LLadybird when I wanted to tag you. More hip than ME!

        • LLADYBIRD June 23, 2014 at 4:59 pm #

          Hahaha oh lordy, if I had a FB page for my blog, I’m afraid it would be just as full of tumbleweeds as my Twitter page is πŸ˜› I can barely bring myself to manage my personal FB page as it is, never mind a blog one! Props to you for keeping up with that; social media can be a lot of work!

  14. Rox Guillemette June 26, 2014 at 1:40 pm #

    Hi Lauren! I’m super excited because construction of this dress is going smoothly, thanks to your great tutorial.

    I have a question: I have a 3 thread mini serger that does not cut the fabric as it serges. I am at that stage in construction where I should finish the edges of the facings. I was wondering if I should trim the edges of the facings before serging them so they won’t be wider than the shoulder straps (and since there is no loss of width). Am I making sense!?

    Thanks again!

    • LLADYBIRD June 26, 2014 at 3:38 pm #

      I would trim/finish the way you normally do for facings (i.e., if you don’t normally trim before finishing the edge of the facing, I wouldn’t worry about it!). The facing at the the shoulder straps will actually get caught in the seam when you finish the armholes (whether you bias bind them or attach sleeves), so you don’t need to worry about trimming that seam allowance as it’ll all get sewn and trimmed later on anyway. I hope that makes sense! πŸ™‚


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