Progress Report on Pretty Little Dresses Pattern 32101, And What I Have Learned This Week

I have added a facing to the neckline of dress 32101, sewed it on, and found out that there was a better way to sew the collar. I sewed it on as you would a Peter Pan collar, but as it turns out, I ought to have sewed the point then turned it RS out, and then sewed the collar to the dress. Anyway, I have done it my way now and it's okay (if a little stiff), because I have put the bow on the front and covered up the points of the collar that were sticking out.

The white parts are actually paper to test some design changes. The collar is the same at the front. I thought it needed lowering or widening, but I think it looks better the way it is. The pockets that I have sewn on are too small and too level so I made a paper one that's wider, with rounded corners and pinned it on at a slight angle.

You can see in the picture that the back of the collar is too short for the design, so I "pin-drew" a new collar shape in (the same as I did for the pocket), measured the extra length, traced the existing collar pattern and extended the back part of it. I cut it out of paper and pinned in onto the dress. I think the new length would be better, don't you?

So my lessons this week?
  1. Before making a pattern for a design feature I have never sewn before, I mustn't assume it's the same as something similar; look for specific instructions (the instructions for sewing a Sailor collar are not in any of my sewing books, even the Reader's Digest one!).
  2. Always include a neckline facing pattern even if you can just turn the top collar seam allowance in and slip stitch it, just in case the sewist wants to use a thicker fabric.
  3. Check the proportions of the collar on the design drawing to make sure they end in the right place on the pattern, i.e. how near the outer edge of the collar is to the shoulder, and how far down the back it is.
  4. When sewing an invisible zip (this was my first one) machine-baste the zip in before you sew in it properly; then really open the coil so that it is more or less a 90 degree angle, have the needle at the very edge of the adjustable zipper foot (I don't have an invisible zipper foot) and sew at an angle so that the zip uncoils itself.
  5. When sewing the facing to the dress at the zip opening, have the seam allowances of the dress free (i.e. not sewn back against the dress), so that you can sew all the way up to the corner by machine.  
  6. Clip the seam allowances in the fold of the hem to give a better edge. (I learned this by watching one of Angela Kane's free videos on her website.) 
  7. When hand sewing a seam or even part of a seam, use a doubled thread (a lesson from my wonderful Mum from when she could sew) and make firm stitches. (I still prefer machine stitches because my hand sewn seams are never firm enough except on muslin.)
  8. Using a thimble takes some getting used to, but can save your middle finger from getting sore. It is also very helpful and appreciated when you have to hand sew or baste through thick fabric or several layers of medium-weight fabric.
  9. When sewing corners, don't take too many stitches at an angle or you will get a rounded point. I think maybe two would be enough on this linen fabric.
  10. Sit in a comfortable place when hand sewing; hunching over a hem while sitting on a small stool does one's tummy no good.
  11. Don't hand sew for too long, and do rest your eyes or things start getting blurry.
  12. Commercial sewing patterns cheat when it comes to sailor collars. Instead of using an inset they just leave the bodice as a crew neck and have the front of the collar flop over it so that it looks like it has an inset.
That's quite a lot when you write it all out!

I'm wondering whether to "cover-stitch" the hem on my sewing machine (I've already done a hand cover-stitch). I have also sewn in the inset which was very tricky, but once I had one side in right the other side was easier to do. I couldn't stitch in the ditch of the collar seam because it never worked out right, so I have stitched it to the dress with the stitching hidden under the collar.

So how do you like the design? Please note that this is the fabric I used because it's the fabric I had. If I were making the dress to match the design, I'd have used cotton: navy for the dress, white for the collar and bow, and red for the tie. Plus, I'd have trimmed the hem with ribbon as in the illustration.

What sewing lessons have you learned this week? Please share them below. : )

Until next time, happy sewing!
Sabrina Wharton-Brown
The Sewing Corner Haberdashery, Hornsea


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