Posted by Edelweiss Patterns on August 22, 2011
Week 2 of the 1950s Dress Sew-Along
Hello Ladies! I am excited for us to start sewing our 1950s “walkaway” dresses! Does everyone have their patterns fitting properly according to the instructions I gave last week? If you have any questions about the fit, I am more than happy to answer them, so please don’t hesitate to leave a comment if you need any help before sewing your dress. Butterick 4790 is a bit harder to fit than some patterns simply because it does not have an actual side seam, so if you choose to fit your tissue patterns in the future it will probably be easier for you the next time around.
So let’s start sewing! This week we will sew the darts, skirt seams, and shoulder seams. (You will definitely want to follow your pattern instructions for this dress, as these notes are added as a supplement to the pattern, not necessarily as a substitute.)
Sewing the Darts
Butterick 4790 has a total of eight darts between the front and back pieces. There are two vertical darts in the back which are very simple, and four vertical darts in the front sheath piece in addition to the two regular horizontal bust darts. While darts are not hard to sew, I used to find myself dreading the tiresome process of tediously marking the darts onto the fabric one pin prick at a time! So after years of using traditional methods for transferring dart markings, I finally decided just to slash right through the darts and draw on the lines with a fabric marker!
How to Sew the Darts
2.On the wrong side of your fabric, mark where the dart lines are with your fabric pen. (Test on a swatch of your material first to be sure the marker will erase.)
(For the vertical darts, it doesn’t matter which end you start at, but for the horizontal bust darts you will want to start sewing at the side, finishing at the point.)
4. Using a regular length machine stitch, sew until you get about 1/2″ away from the stopping point. Now shorten your stitch lenth and sew the remaining length of the dart till you reach the fold of the fabric.
5. Once you reach the edge of the material, do not backstitch. Lift your presser foot and needle, and pull the fabric away from the needle for about 1″. Lower your needle into the dart’s seam allowance approximately 1″ behind the apex of the dart. Now stitch for 1/2″ or so using very short machine stitches.
6. There’s no need to backstitch since the tiny stitching will not unravel. Clip the threads and press your dart, then proceed to the next one. (I learned this method for sewing darts from the Palmer/Pletsch School of Sewing, so I can’t take any credit for it. ) : )
The next steps are all going to be so easy!
Sewing the Circle Skirt
1. Take the two half-circle pieces and pin them together at the side seam with the right sides together. (Now it will just look like one half-circle, with one long side pinned and one left free.)
2. Sew this seam and press it well using the Five-Step pressing method I give instructions for here. You may, of course, choose to leave your seam allowances unfinished, but it will only take an extra minute to serge or zigzag the raw edges and will greatly improve the appearance on the inside!
4. Stitch this seam, press it well, and finish the raw edges.
Now that your skirt is on, you will want the dress to be hanging on a hanger (the padded type is best) at all times when you are not sewing it. The reason for this is that the bias needs to set on the skirt, and in a few days from now you will notice that the hem is no longer circular! Most professional seamstresses let their skirts hang for at least three days before they hem them to be sure that the bottom edge won’t turn out all warped.
And finally, sew your shoulder seams.
This step is a piece of cake, of course! Pin the front and back pieces together at the shoulder seams, and stitch them closed starting at the neckline edge and going out to the shoulder edges. Press the seams and finish the raw edges.
That’s it for this week! I was able to do the above steps in one hour, so I may finally be able to make that “Three Hour Dress” goal after all! Back in the 50s women were supposedly able to “start the dress at 9:00 am and wear it out at noon”, but if they were good seamstresses they would have let their skirts hang for a few days first.
Next week we should have no problem finishing the dress binding and hemming, and the following week we’ll post our pictures just in time for National Sewing Month!
As always I am happy to answer questions, so let me know if anything is unclear to you. Keep up the good work – I can’t wait to see what everyone comes up with!