Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Tutorial 4: Stretch Yourself With a Hideaway Elastic Waist for the Dolman Dress

Time to do away with the easy sew in the elastic and hey presto waist and on to the more beautiful and neat sew in elastic casing waist! I hate the feel of elastic against my skin as you find with most elastic waist dress so I decided to neatly tuck away the elastic in my waist into its own little private casing. Keeps him all wrapped up and warm and stops it from irritating your skin! This is a perfect way to waist our already cut out, sewn and finish necklined (couldn't think of a better way of putting it!) dolman dress. For previous tutorials please click on the appropriate links:
- 3/8" wide elastic
- Sewing machine
- Serger (not essential)
- Matching threads
- Pins
- Measuring tape
- Scissors
-Safety pin

1. Lay out your bodice and skirt waist seam to waist seam and make sure they are roughly the same length, within 1 or 2cm. Turn the bodice so the right side is facing out and turn the skirt so the wrong side is facing out. Then grab a few pins and mark the center of each of the waist seams using said pins. Not an essential step but it makes it easier when matching together the seams.

2. Put the skirt inside the bodice so that the waist seams are together. You should have right side to right side, double check and then pin at the seam.

3.Sewing machine time! Set your machine to a stretch stitch or a plain zig zag if you don't have a stretch setting. As my fabric was very stretchy I lengthened the stitch length a little to make it easier to sew and used a ball point needle. Here are my settings on my Brother sewing machine:

4. Use a 6/8" seam allowance and as you sew make sure you do not stretch or pull the fabric as this will create a wavy seam which is never pretty. If you have the option use a lower tension on the presser foot to allow the fabric to go through the machine a lot easier or use a walking foot.

Finished seam:

5. Sergers at the ready for this step or sewing machine if you don't have a serger. Set up your serger to the right tensions for your fabric, its always better to test on scrap pieces to make sure its right before going ahead and sewing on the dress. Saves the headache of unpicking! Mine was set to the following and I used 3 threads:

If your using a standard sewing machine set it to a long zig zag stitch.

6. Serge or sew along the edge of the seam allowance sewing both edges together to make the casing for the elastic. Leave about an inch gap when you get the end so you have enough space to slide in the elastic.

Finished seam with gap for elastic:

7. Fold the casing down towards the skirt and pin flat. You can iron it at this point to make it a little easier but make sure you use the right heat for your fabric. Ruined many a garment by not thinking about the iron heat!

8. Back to the sewing machine with the same stretch stitch as in step 3. Sew close to the sergered stitches or zig zags to make a channel for the elastic to go through. Leave a few inches at the same place as the opening for the elastic so you have enough give to be able to finish off the serging when the elastic is in place.

9. Measure out your elastic, it should be 1 inch less than your waist measurement plus 6/8" for seam allowance. Pin one end next to the opening of the gap in casing and put a small safety pin through the other end of the elastic.

10. Push the end of the elastic with the safety pin attached into the casing. Then slowly and carefully push the safety pin through by pushing and pulling fabric over the safety pin. I hope that makes sense! Make sure the pin doesn't come undone from the other end of the elastic. Do this until your through to the other side.

11. Once you have the elastic through pin both ends together so they overlap by 3/8".

12. Join the elastic ends together using a zig zag stitch on the sewing machine. I like to sew horizontally first then vertically to close up both ends of the elastic to make it smooth in the casing. To sew the elastic pull it out as much as possible to make it easier.

Settings on my sewing machine.

Pattern on the elastic. Not extremely neat but it does the job and it will be inside the casing so no one will know.

13. Now you should have the elastic completely hidden inside the casing with gaps in the sewed edges. This is mine from the right side:

Serge the casing to finish off that seam and then sew down the remainder of the casing to the skirt.

14. Last thing to do is neaten out the gathered in the wasitline and you should have something that looks like this:

Wrong side

Right side
And that's the waist finished. Here is what my dress looks like so far:

In my next tutorial I will be showing you how to finish off the sleeves and the hem.

Comment and question away!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Tutorial 3: The Bias Way to a Neat Neckline for the Dolam Dress

Onwards to the neckline! This is quick and easy tutorial on how to finish a neckline on a jersey fabric for the dolman dress.

To make the pattern for the dolman dress go to:

Tutorial 1: Pattern for a Super Easy and Comfy Lone Sleeved Dolman Dress

For cutting and sewing instructions got to:

Tutorial 2: Cutting Some Shapes and Sewing them Together for the Dolman Dress

I always find necklines challenging and difficult to get neat and tidy especially on jersey and stretch fabric. After a lot of trial and error in the past this is the method I came up with for finishing necklines using bias tape. This is my go to method for necklines for most things I make so here it is!


- Bodice of dolman dress
- Matching fabric for the the bias tape
- Iron
- Ironing board
- Pins
- Sewing machine
- Matching thread
- Measuring tape
- Clear sewing ruler
- Rotary cutter or scissors
- Cutting mat

1. First things first - lets measure how much bias tape we need for the neckline. Using a flexible measuring tape measure around the opening of the neckline both front and back. The bias tape will be the same length as the neckline. Add 6/8" to the measurement for seam allowance when you sew the bias ends together.

2. To make the bias tape lay out a piece of the jersey fabric and line up your clear ruler so it runs at a 45 degree angle to the grainline. This is called the bias of the fabric - it has the most stretch so is perfect for the neckline finish. Hopefully the picture below explains how to cut on the bias better than in words!

3. Once you have found the bias cut along this line using your rotary cutter or scissors. The width I use for bias tape is 1.5", I would say this is minimum you would want for jersey fabric as it can be tricky with the stretch. The wider it is the easier it is to sew but it just depends how you want the neckline to look as you will see a line of stitching on the front of the garment. With the bias tape at 1.5" the line of stitching will be 1/2" from the edge of the neckline.

4. To the ironing board! Take your freshly cut bias tape and ready your iron. You will need a measuring tape at this point. Fold over 3/8" of the bias tape and iron along the fold all the way along. The wrong side of the fabric is showing in the picture below. This can be tricky as its a small amount but once you get started it gets easier.

5. Sew the two ends of the bias tape together so it makes a circle making sure you do right side to right side using a 3/8" seam allowance. Then trim the seam allowance to 1/8". Place a pin on the half way line of the bias tape - the seam line marks the other half line. Do the same on the neckline using one of the shoulder seams as a mark, which is where you will want to line up the seam in the bias tape.

6. Pin the unfolded edge of the bias tape the neckline with the fold facing up. If the bias tape is a little small just stretch it to fit evenly. If its too big you'll want to take the bias tape in at the seam as you don't want to stretch the neckline and get a wavy finish.

7. Sew the bias tape to the neckline using a stretch stitch (which looks like a wonky zig zag stitch on my sewing machine) with a 3/8" seam allowance. Be careful not to stretch neckline when your sewing as this makes annoying waves in the fabric that are difficult to undo. Make sure you use a ball point needle and use a longer stitch length if your fabric is super stretchy like mine.

8. Cut away the seam allowance to roughly 1/8". This reduces the bulk around the neckline. If your neckline is very curvy cut a few small triangles in the seam allowance on the most curved bits to make a smooth line being careful not to cut through any stitches.

9. Iron the seam open to get a nice neat finish on the edge of the neckline. Fold the bias tape to the wrong side and pin. Make sure that the fold you made with the iron previously stays folded up. So you should not be able to see any raw edges at this point. The picture below shows the wrong side of the fabric.

10. Sew along the edge of the bias tape as close to the fold as possible, roughly 1/8". Again use the stretch stitch on your sewing machine and a longer stitch if you are having trouble with the fabric stretching as you sew. Use a ball point needle.

Wrong side 

Right side
Voila! That's your neckline finished nice and neatly. Iron lightly to make sure its nice and flat and your done.

Next step sewing the elastic into the waist and getting top and skirt united into one dress! Stay tuned for my next tutorial!

Questions and comments are always good with me!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Tutorial 2: Cutting Some Shapes and Sewing Them Together for the Dolman Dress

Onto the most fun part of making a dress - the actual sewing! Here is a quick guide on how to start to put together the dolman dress for the pattern in my first tutorial, which you can find here: 


- Pattern
- Jersey knit fabric: 2 yards
- Sewing machine or serger
- Matching thread for fabric
- Scissors
- Rotary cutter and mat (not necessary but makes it easier!)

Ready steady sew!!!!

1. Fold your fabric in half making sure it is down the grain line and then lay and pin the top pattern on the fold of the fabric. Cut it out using scissors or a rotary cutter if you have one. 

Cutting out my top after taking the pattern off. 

Completed top - front
2. Now we need to do the same for the back of the top. If you want to make the neckline higher in the back, which I normally do, you can just add some extra fabric to the neckline when you cut it out by using a shallower curve.

Comparison of my front and back necklines

3. That's the front and back top done, now for the skirt. Fold the fabric again down the grainline and place the skirt pattern on the fold of the fabric and cut out the skirt. Repeat this again so you have both the front and back of the skirt pieces.

One skirt piece cut out on the fold
Now you should have two top and two skirt pieces cut out.

4. Here comes the fun part. Pin the two top pieces right sides together and sew along the side seams and the shoulder seams to create the bodice of the dress. You can do this using either a serger or a regular sewing machine with a stretch or zig zag stitch. 

5. Sew the two front and back skirt pieces together making sure you sew right side to right side. 

Dress top and skirt sewn together

The dress is finally taking shape. The next steps are to finish the neckline, sew in the elastic and waist seam of the dress and finally the hem and sleeve finishes.

In my next post I will go through how to sew in a bias strip into the neckline to get a nice clean finish. Comments and questions welcome :-) 

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