Friday, December 30, 2011

The Ruby Slip #6 - Sewing the Lace Bodice

In #6 of the Ruby Slip Sew-along we are going to sew the lace bodice - isn't it pretty?!

Let's start at the centre front.  Lay the R and L Centre Front Bodice face up, then lap the R side over the L, matching the CF dot at the neckline, and the CF notch at the underbust seam:

Machine baste the two layers together along the underbust seam:

Then stitch following the outline of the scallops on the R side overlap to attach the two layers together:

From the wrong side, carefully trim away the underlap of the L side piece:

Now admire how pretty it looks - see how the CF neckline is a mirror image on both sides?

Stitch the side seam.  For this lace I decided to do French seams because it is very fine and overlocking would have shown through.  To French seam, place wrong sides together and sew at 4mm:

You can see the lace border will match perfectly at the at the stitching line when it is sewn at 1cm:

 Then turn the panels so the right sides face together, and stitch at 5mm:

When you press the seam allowance to the back, you might have a bit of seam allowance sticking up:

Fold it down so that it is hidden between the seam allowance and the shell and tack it in place.

Because this lace is so sheer and the seam allowances are visible, I like to topstitch the seam at 4mm - you can hardly see the topstitching, and it holds the seam allowance in place so it doesn't flip to the other side and always looks straight!

Now French seam the Side Front to Centre Front:

Because the scalloped edges meet at a sharper angle here, you end up with a bit of a knob at the top edge:

Turn it back on itself and tack it in place between the seam allowance and shell, as neatly as you can:

Topstitch the seam as before.  You should end up with a continuous scallop shape around the upper edge:

Here's the completed bodice, all ready for straps and skirt to be attached:

If your lace is thick in parts, then a French seam is not suitable.  For my black embroidered net I sewed a normal seam:

Matching the scalloped edge perfectly:

I overlocked the seam allowance, trimming it to 5mm:

 Leave a tail:

Back at the sewing machine, turn the overlocking thread tail down and tack it in place:

Tack it so that it is enclosed between the layers:

Ensure no parts of the seam allowance show above the top edge:

I topstitched my seam at 3mm:

Topstitching makes the seam really flat, so you won't need to press it every time you wash it!

If you have chosen to use a heavy weight lace, it will need to be open seamed to reduce bulk.  I would overlock each edge, trimming it to 5mm, then sew the seam at this narrower width, and edgestitch each seam allowance open.  (Heavy weight laces are often not as suited to cut and sew techniques like I've demonstrated, but are usually ideal for cut and overlap techniques similar to the CF seam.  However each lace is totally unique and it takes some experience and planning to do this - I am probably not going to be much help from my laptop!)

We're almost finished - remember you can ask questions in the comments if you have any!  I hope to have the post on variations to the bodice up next.  In the meantime here is a summary of Ruby Slip Sew-along posts so far:

Happy Sewing!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Gone Fishing!

We've taken a few days out to go camping on the Coromandel - a peninsula of bush-clad mountains and sandy beaches just 90 minutes drive from Auckland.

This is gorgeous Whiritoa Beach, just south of Whangamata on the east coast - on Boxing Day before the hoardes of holidaymakers arrive!

I'm sure you can understand that sewing isn't really on my mind while I'm here, but I'll be back with the rest of the Ruby Slip Sew-along soon!  Hope you are all having a wonderful holiday season too!

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Ruby Slip #5 - Sewing the Bias Skirt

Let's start sewing the bias skirt pieces together!  I'll show you how I do this - along with a few tips and some troubleshooting. 

Assembling the Bias Skirt:
  • With right sides facing, sew the skirt side seams from the hem up, matching all notches:

I recommend using the flatbed of your machine to do this as it prevents the fabric slipping all over the place.  

Stretch the fabric slightly in front of the needle as you sew, so that the finished stitching is not tight.  Tight stitching will prevent the side seam dropping, and cause the seams to hang shorter than the CF/CB at the hem.

I like to press the seam allowance so any ripples are flattened, but I don't press the seam open at this stage:

  • Check the hang of the skirt on the stand.

If you don't have a dress stand or a helpful friend, you will need to leave this step until the bodice and straps are attached, or you could try pinning it to a slip you are already wearing.

Pin the skirt evenly around the top and examine how the fabric falls naturally.  You can already see how the R side wants to curl to the front, and the L side to the back.  This is minor though, and within my acceptable limits.

My hem looks fairly level all around - hey, this fabric is behaving!  My black version - in the same fabric quality - wasn't nearly as obedient.  With most bias skirts I aim to get the hem level to within 1cm - trying to get it 100% level will drive you crazy!

I leave the skirt hanging for 2-3 days like this to let gravity do its thing, before levelling the hem.  Usually the CF and CB drop slightly, but any skewed seams will become more obvious too - which is why it it best to sort them out first (see below), so the dropping happens evenly.

  •  Finish the seam allowances
I usually overlock them together and press them towards the back.  Take care when overlocking that you don't stretch the edges and cause excessive waviness - I usually get some minor ripples like this:

...and they should be pressed flat, following the shape of the pattern:

  • Now for the hem

My favourite hem finish is a handkerchief hem, so that's what I'll demonstrate here.  Turn the hem to the inside as narrowly as you can (about 2-3mm) and edgestitch the fold:

As you sew, try not to stretch the hem - try to keep the fabric in the hem area flat as you sew.

You also need to be careful as you cross the side seams that the fabric is unstretched or you could end up with a kink in the hem.  

Press this first fold of the hem to flatten any ripples, and trim away any corners of seam allowance protruding above the raw edge, so the second fold will turn evenly.

Fold the hem up again 2-3mm and stitch around once more, in the line of previous stitching:

 You are done - it's that easy!

Bias Skirt Trouble-Shooting:

If skirt does not hang properly it could be due to the following:
  • It was not cut on the true bias, ie the grainline arrow was not parallel to the selvedge
  • The grainline was not square throughout the piece, this often shows as little disobedient flippy bits at the hem corners! 
  • the stitching line is too tight, as mentioned above
These three things we can prevent by taking care when cutting and sewing.  However the next two are beyond our control, unless you are prepared to do multiple samples.  Most home sewers don't have that luxury, so I'll show you what to do instead.
  • The fabric weave is not even - I mentioned earlier that most dress fabrics aren't evenweave - usually the lengthwise grain is more dominant.  If you study the grain of your bias skirt, the lengthwise grain is pointing upwards at 45 degrees on one side, and downwards 45 degrees on the other side - this can result in the sides dropping by different amounts when they hang.  Most often this results in the side seams twisting around the body with a slight curl at the hem.  My sample above is doing this to a minor degree, but more severe cases will need to be fixed.
  • The skirt is too small - this is very frequently misdiagnosed as too large by the untrained eye!  If you are experiencing a horizontal 'bump' or series of bumps down the side seam, then the skirt is too small.  It will not feel tight like a straight cut skirt would, but this is the nature of bias cut fabric. A small skirt could be caused from choosing the wrong hip size, or because the fabric has dropped excessively on the bias.  When fabric on the bias drops with gravity, it gets longer and narrower  - therefore smaller in size.  Loosely woven fabrics cut on the bias will drop to a larger extent, and consequently you may need to cut a size larger to get enough finished width in your skirt.
When the fabric weave is causing the side seam to twist, it will look something like this: 

Unpick each side seam and let it fall naturally:

If your side seams are unbalanced, the front will drop more than the back, or vice versa.  Pin them together so they sit correctly and resew.  The notches and hemline won't match but ignore them - and that is about the only time you will ever hear me say ignore notches!  For now we pay attention to how the cloth wants to fall instead.

We start sewing the bodice next - exciting - I love seeing how the lace comes together!

If you still want to join the Ruby Slip Sew-along it is not too late - you can download your free pattern and instructions here, and check out all the previous sew-along posts too.

How are you proceeding with your Rubies - do you have any questions, and are you getting any pre-Christmas sewing time?  I had hoped to have most of the posts up by now, but this time of year is not called The Busy Season for nothing!!  I promise to keep on posting as fast as I can write...

Cheers, Sherry

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Ruby Slip #4 - Full Bust Adjustment

The Ruby Slip bodice is drafted for a B cup, and in this post I'll show you how to enlarge the cup size for a larger bust.

For each increase in cup size, you need to add an inch to the front.  Because the pattern pieces are only half a front, we need to add half an inch total to the pattern pieces per cup size.  If you regularly do an FBA, you are probably already aware of how much to add!

Altering for a full bust involves adding not just width to the pattern, but length as well.  This is because a larger bust has a longer Neck Point - Bust Point - Waist length than a smaller bust.

Here are the pattern pieces:

I've cut my pieces directly from the pattern sheet, so excuse all those lines!  You can ignore all lines except the Centre Front Line.
On the Bodice Centre Front, square across from the Centre Front Line to the notch at the bust point (red line):

Do the same thing to the Bodice Side Front, this time squaring from the side seam:

  Mark the 1cm seam allowance at the side seam, and slash to this point from both sides:

Spread the pattern the amount you need to add vertically to the cup, and tape in place:

About 1/2" per cup size should do it.
The next step is to add some width to this piece:

Add 1/4" per cup size to the bust point, tapering to zero at the upper and lower edges.
The same amount of width is now added to the Bodice Centre Front:

The last major step is to increase the Bodice Centre Front length.  Determine the amount it needs to increase by first lining the pieces up at the lower edge as if you are beginning to sew...:

...then pivot the pattern along the seamline (not cutting line) - I press down with a pen on the stitching line as I pivot the upper pattern piece along the seam:

When you reach the end, the difference in length of the stitching lines is the amount we need to increase the CF length by - in my case 15mm:

Slash along the red line and spread the pattern by this amount:

Square a line up from the slashed line (arrow) so you don't move the piece sideways as well
Redraw the CF neckline, starting at the upper stitching line, and intersecting the CF dot - so this point on the body does not change:

Notch the Side Front at the bust point:

And pivot along the seamline to determine the notch position on the Centre Front:

Here are the final pieces:

The angle at the side seam should really be filled and smoothed into a gradual curve - this example only needs about 1mm but larger increases will require more.

Sidenote 1:
Now, if you are enlarging by more than a couple of sizes, the new shape of the seam on the Bodice Centre Front will start to look too accentuated.  The shape of this seam is important as it will be how the seam appears on the body.  If this is starting to look too curvy for your liking, add the 1/4" not just to the bust notch but to the upper edge as well, like I have done in green:

To retain the same fit along the upper edge, you will need to shave this additional wedge off the Bodice Side Front. Yes, this piece gets even curvier, but that is cool - it is your shape!
Note that this also widens the strap placement, so consider that if you have narrow shoulders.

Sidenote 2:
Another important point to mention for larger cup sizes is that the underbust seam has to be large enough to slip over your bustline.
To check this, measure the pattern from the Centre Front Line to Centre Back Line, omitting seam allowances, and double it.
Wrap your tape measure around your under bust area and holding it fixed at the pattern measurement, slide it up over the bustline.  If it doesn't go, you need to add more to the underbust line!

To add an extra 1" total to the underbust, add 1/4" all the way down to the underbust seam, as shown in red here:

If you do this you will also need to alter the Front Skirt by cutting the part above the waist in the next size, and tapering the side seams gradually to your true skirt size at the waist/hip.

Well, that must be one of the most colourful patterns I've produced!
Don't forget you can whip up a quick bodice calico if you want to check the fit before cutting into your lace - it will only take a few minutes and will ease any lace-cutting nerves.
Good Luck!