Welcome my lovelies, to this impromptu, bonus Sew-Along!! Yes, as well as the Dimpsy T Sew-Along for my own newest Sewing Pattern I just couldn’t resist when asked by Simple Sew to create this Tutorial!
Have you spied the glorious English Tea Dress by Simple Sews free with Love Sewing Magazine recently? If you would like a lovely, easy breezy Summer Dress to make up look no further, I stitched one up in a couple hours the other day and I hope this Tutorial has some handy tips to help you stitch up your own!
Firstly, measure yourself and cut out the size Pattern which best suits. Alternatively you can trace your Pattern size off, using Pattern Paper or even Swedish Tracing Paper if you’re feeling fancy, and want to check the fit first! Tracing a Pattern will will allow you to change the Pattern (lengthen or shorten etc), but still preserve the original.
Once cut or traced, and using the Cutting Layplans’ on the Instruction Sheet, pin the Pattern to your Fabric then cut the Pattern out. You will need to pay close attention to the Grain Lines as they need to run exactly parallel to the Selvedge or folded edge of the fabric.
At this point it’s a great idea to make a cuppa and have a read of the Pattern Instructions, just so you know what’s coming and can google any unknown terms.
Once cut out, cut any notches- the Triangular shapes along the edge of the Pattern pieces- and mark all of the Tailor’s Tacks on the Circle markers across the Pattern pieces.
Once you have made marked the Notches and made all of the Tailor’s Tacks, pull the Pattern off carefully holding on to the Tailor’s Tack threads so they don’t come out. Separate the Fabric pieces and snip the Tailor’s Tack in between so each piece has little thread markers. .
Remove every pin that is keeping the rest of the Pattern pieces on the Fabric, and then pin the Pattern pieces back on with just one pin. This means that you’ll still know what each piece is, but as you are sewing you won’t have to stop to un-pin every time you start to work on a new piece of the Pattern.
The first pieces to be sewn are the Front Bodice and Back Bodice. Un-pin them and, with right sides together, on each Dart match the Notch on the Seam then fold the Fabric so that the fold goes through the centre of the Tailor’s Tack. Pin.
I like to pin everything I can, then start sewing. I find it’s a quick way to make the sewing process quicker.
To sew the Dart first pull the Top Thread on the Sewing Machine very long, next- and whilst holding the Threads in place so they don’t tangle- put the Machines Needle down next to the Notch, lower the Presser Foot and then reverse stitch back and forth to start yourself off. Take hold of the Top Thread again and pull round and under the Presser Foot until it is lying in line with the Tailor’s Tack. Start Sewing along the line made by the Top Thread. When you reach the end sew ‘off’ the fabric then pull out of the Sewing Machine. Do not reverse stitch but cut the Threads long, then hand tie and snip close. Hand tying the end threads of a Dart will ensure a neat finish.
Sew all Darts in this fashion, and then Iron into the top of the Dart before ironing the bottom as illustrated. Iron all Darts towards the Side Seams. You cannot iron over a Dart in it’s entirety as it’s not flat anymore!
To beautifully Hand Finish your Darts see this handy Tutorial.
With right sides together, join the Front Bodice and Back Bodice at the Shoulder Seam with 1.5cm Seam Allowance. Zig-Zag neaten the edges as illustrated then iron. Repeat for the Front and Back Facings pieces.
Lay the Bodice out with right side up on your sewing table. With right sides together lay the Facing on top. Match the Shoulder seams- push one seam one way and the other seam the other way to reduce the bulk as illustrated.
With 1cm Seam Allowance, sew the Bodice and Facing together. When you reach the ‘V’ leave the sewing machines needle in the fabric, lift the Presser Foot, and then turn the fabric for a clean sewing line.Once sewn, Zig-Zag neaten the Facing outside edge.
Once sewn, snip into the ‘V’ as illustrated, then continue to snip all the way around the Neckline Seam Allowance, each time as close as you can to the stitching. This is super important as the Neckline will not turn out neatly unless the seam is clipped.
You will next need to Understitch the Neckline for a neat finish. On the Facing side of the Seam, sew through the Facing and the clipped Seam Allowance as illustrated. This needs to be sewn as closely as possible to the original Seam, as you can see.
Understitching is magical and helps the Facing ‘roll’ to the back so you won’t see it as you’re wearing the Dress!
After Understitching, iron the Facing in position. This is sometimes easier if you pin into the ironing board to keep everything where you need it to be.
Attach the Front Bodice to the Front Skirt. Pin and sew the left side, but stop sewing when you reach the Centre Front point as shown. Reverse stitch to secure, then snip into the Skirt seam allowance until you almost touch the stitching. This will allow the seam allowance to ‘relax’ so that you are able to pin, and then sew the right hand side of the Front Skirt to the Front Bodice.
Trying to sew this in one go will result in bunching at the Centre Front.
Attach the Back Skirts to the Back Bodices. Zig-Zag neaten all seams then iron.
Sew the Side Seams with right sides together, Zig-Zag neaten and iron flat.
To sew the Sleeves, you will need to double check that you have the Notches cut as shown.
With 1cm Seam Allowance, and using the longest straight stitch on your Sewing Machine, sew from one notch to the other. Reverse stitch to secure beginning and end. Sew a second line of stitches at 2cm Seam Allowance so you have two channels of stitching as illustrated. Reverse stitch beginning and end as before.
With 1.5cm Seam Allowance, and with right sides together, sew the Side Seams of the Sleeves. Zig-Zag neaten the Seam and iron as before.
Turn the Dress inside out, and the Sleeves right side out.
Ensuring the Single Notched side of the Sleeve faces the Front, pop a sleeve in an Armhole and match the Sides Seams. Pin.
Continue pinning the Bodice to the Sleeve on each side until you reach the beginning of the Gathering.
With a large pin, ‘pick up’ a stitch from each line of gather stitches and pull to gather up. Continue gathering until the Sleeve fits the Armhole. Tie the two stitch loops together to secure then ‘shuffle’ the gathers along until even. Once you are happy, continue pinning the rest of the sleeve in then stitch in place, Zig-Zag neaten and iron.
Carefully unpick any gathering stitches you can see on the right side of the Sleeve.
To insert the Zip, iron the 1.5cm Seam Allowance in place as shown. Unfold and lay the Seam flat, place the top of the Zip high up and close to the edge of the Neckline, then pin one side of the Zip with right side down against the right side of the fabric.
Attach the Zipper Foot to your Sewing Machine, and then sew down the Zip, ‘rolling’ the teeth away so sew underneath and following the line made by the iron. It is in this action that the Zip becomes ‘invisible’.
Stitch right to the end of the Zip, and reverse stitch at the end to secure. You can also draw in the Seam allowance line with some Tailor’s Chalk if you wish. There is a more in-depth Invisible, sometimes called a Concealed, Zipper Tutorial here.
For the other side, do up the Zip (and admire your handiwork so far!) and pop a Pin in the un-sewn side of the Zip at the Waistline.
Undo the Zip, and match the top with the other side of the Bodice as before but ensure you match the Waistline with the Waistline marker pin. It is very easy to mismatch the waistline unless you do this. Pin along the Zip and then stitch in as before.
When the newly inserted Zip is done up the Waistline and Center Back line should for a cross as illustrated.
Turn the Dress inside out and with right sides together, next to the Zipper stitching as illustrated, start sewing about 2cm above and next to where you stopped sewing the Zip in. Continue sewing to the Hem, reverse stitching to secure beginning and end.
The Zip, once done up, should be invisible with the edges of the Fabric rolling to cover it.
On the inside of the Back Seam fold the Facing back, and at an angle. Pin in place, then Slip Stitch down to the Zipper Edge. Try not to go through to the fabric on the other side.
Zig-Zag neaten the edge of the Skirt Hem, and both Sleeve Hems. Iron, then turn up .5cm and pin in place. Stitch the Hem and both Sleeve Hems in place.
Alternatively, for a beautiful Hand Finished Hem you can use a Herringbone Stitch which is wonderfully invisible!
Iron your lovely new Dress to finish, and wear it immediately… not forgetting to share a pic with us first!
Thank you for joining me, I can’t wait to see what you make!
If you are in the Bristol area and are having issues with fit, why not join me for my Fitting Evening? Bring along something you have made to fit properly, discuss fit and what you can do yourself to create better fitting garments and measure yourself professionally. You’ll go away with a full Measurement Chart to use in future Dressmaking adventures, as well as notes on fitting.
If you want to delve deeper into creating that perfectly made garment you may wish to join the Measuring and Pattern Evening where we will be discussing how to measure yourself then adapt a Pattern to fit before any fabric is cut!
Both are just £10 and include refreshements. You can book here, or click on the links above the links above to find out more.
x Laura x
I’m so excited about this Course you guys! Book here with just a £10 deposit!!
Are you as excited as me about the Sewing Bee? And have you seen my first crazy challenge?! I have had many, many enquiries recently about all sorts of Sewing related projects so I thought I would pop a few Sunday Sewing Bees in on the Calendar to help everyone out!
You can book up here, and they’re only £25 for the whole session or £5 an hour. There are six spots for each Sunday. I think they’re a super way to create your own course- book two and make yourself a Dress or something new and lovely to wear whilst joining in with Make Me A Wardrobe!!
They will also be a chance to learn at your own pace, without having to keep up with a class, and whenever you want! Alternatively, if you have been inspired by last years Sewing Bee, one of the many glorious Sewing Magazines or have a Sewing Machine secreted away somewhere, use them as a way to dip your toes and see if you like this crazy world!
Bring a Pattern and Fabric or use The Midnight Atelier’s extensive Pattern and Book collection to trace off a Pattern to make for just the price of the Pattern Paper!
Contact me for ideas and suggestions, or join the Bristol Sewing Club’s Facebook Page and talk to the group! Alternatively, you could use them to learn a specific skill… ever wanted to try your hand at Pattern Cutting? Designing? Embroidery? Have you liked a Course I have been running but couldn’t make the time slot? Come now and learn at your own pace!!
Find out more information or book here, and I look forward to seeing you soon!!
My lovely new issue of Love Sewing Magazine has just arrived- a much anticipated event!- and I have just been reading the article written my Sarai of Colette (click here to see my Interview with Sarai last year) about making their free PDF Sorbetto Top. It reminded me that I wrote a little about making my Sorbetto up earlier this year for The Great Bristish Sewing Bee!
I am completely in love with this Pattern! The scoop neck is just right, the armholes and straps fit wonderfully- they’re a pretty interesting shape to be honest, and the fit and flair of the side seams is just perfect. I decided to Self Bind, meaning I hand made Bias Binding from the same fabric to finish the Neckline and Armholes however the hem is simply neatened and machined. Simple, and all sewn up and hand finished in under two hours!
As I said, this is a free PDF Pattern and I highly recommend it! The BEST thing? It only took an hour, yippeee!!
The essential tricks needed for a simple top like this are basic machine skills, good ironing and some simple hand stitch knowledge. Any top like this will only have two pieces- a front and a back- so a lot of the work you do will be in the neatening of the raw edges about the armholes, neckline and hem. Facings are one way to go however; Bias Binding is a another choice which I feel can make the garment look a little more unique. You can choose to Self Bind as I have, use a contrast, satin or even a lace edged binding!
Pin, and stitch the Bias Binding Right Sides Together on to your garment (Colette’s pattern instructions for the Sorbetto take you through this step in detail). Lay flat, and push the Seam and Bias Binding away from you as illustrated above right.
Fold the top of the Bias Binding down by the amount of Seam Allowance you have (normally 1.5cm/5/8″), and pin. Then fold again to lie next to your original Seam. Pin parallel as shown.
Thread a needle with thread twice as long as you need. Fold in half. Thread the loop through the Needle, and pull longer than the other threads (above left). Take a stitch through on of your machine stitches, and a small amount of the Bias Binding (above right) and, before the thread has been pulled though entirely, thread the needle through the loop and pull tight. this will anchor your thread.
Continue down the length of the Bias Binding, taking stitches through the machine stitching and edge of the fold of the Bias Binding. Do not worry about making them teeny tiny, even lengths are better and mine are normally about 1cm or 2/8″ long. When you come to the end or need to re-thread simply thread your needle through the loop of a stitch to tie a knot.
And there you have it, a nice simple Slip Stitch to finish any garment beautifully.
Pressing- not ironing!- is also essential and I have found a wonderfully demonstrative article on why ironing should be a firm part of your Sewing knowledge here. She makes quite the case doesn’t she boys and girls?!
A few notes on pinning (which was hotly contested during The Great British Sewing Bee!) and why even this Seamstress still does it… … it means you often don’t have to hand tack pieces together. It is also a great way to keep things in place as you sew that may alternatively slip out of place. You can use Pins to easily control ease in a garment. They’re gorgeous, have you seen Merchant & Mills selection recently?! They’re invaluable when sewing darts and finally, they are often what helps a beginner or intermediate Sewer create a more professional garment. About the only time I don’t use pins is on straight seams I am piecing quickly. Having said all of that, use pins wisely as they can mark delicate fabrics- so pin in and parallel to the Seam Allowance- and sewing machines can snag on them.
Finally, to Under Stitching. A sadly neglected art I am afraid, and even I am guilty of doing this and just pressing the Neckline down! No more! Here is my Tutorial to make us all Under Stitching superstars!!
Pin the Facing to the Neckline and stitch the seam according to your Pattern Instructions. If you pin at a right angle the sewing machine will happily sew over the pins- especially useful when sewing curves! Remove the pins, and clip in to any curves.
Fit the Zipper Foot on to the sewing machine and, on the Facing side, and making sure the clipped seam lies underneath the facing, stitch round nice and close to the edge as illustrated.
The Under Stitch will immediately make the Facing ‘roll’ towards the back so that, with a little press, the facing will sit invisibly behind the front. Lovely!
The image to the far right clearly illustrated the technique of sewing the Seam Allowance at the same time at the Facing.
Don’t forget to take a peek at Laura After Midnight on Pinterest, I have a great collection of free patterns and sewing projects over there from all corners of the globe! Remember that all Laura After Midnight Patterns are also available at PDFs here!