Time to start sewing! The Eloise dress is a quick and satisfying sew, with so much mix and match-ability in her variations that no two dresses will be alike. Throughout this sewalong, we'll be breaking down the making of your Eloise into detailed step by step instructions, accompanied by photos and plenty of extra tips and tricks. First up, we're sewing the darts, shoulder seams and discussing different ways you can finish off your seams.
In this post we will be:
- Stitching darts
- Closing the shoulder seams
- Talking about different seam finishes
STITCHING THE DARTS
The key to a successful dart is all in the prep.
Before removing the pattern paper from your fabric after cutting, make sure that you have carefully snipped into all the notches. Remember that you only need to make a little snip - 5mm max! - as you don't want your snips to extend past the seam line 5/8" or 15mm in from the raw edge.
Take your dress front piece, still with the pattern paper pinned into place.
Take a pin and push it through the dart point that corresponds to the size you have cut, going through all three layers - paper, and both layers of fabric.
Keeping the pin in place, gently peel back the pattern paper to reveal the fabric, and the pin. Mark the point that the pin enters the fabric with a tailor's pencil/chalk or fabric marking pen of your choice:
You need to be marking out your darts onto the wrong side of your fabric, and on both layers of the fabric so that you end up with two identical darts.
We're now going to mark out the dart legs. Remove the pattern paper completely. Using a ruler and your tailor's pencil, join the dart point with the two notches that indicate the end of the dart legs at the side seam. Repeat this for the dart on the other side as well.
Now that your dart is marked out, go ahead and fold your fabric - right sides together - so that the notches at the side seam match up and the fold of the fabric runs through the centre of your dart. Pin into place along the dart leg, checking that the pin also goes through the dart leg on the other side.
We now have a foolproof guideline to stitch along! Starting at the dart point, and not backstitching there, stitch your dart out to the side seam along the marked line. Backstitch when you get to the end, and tie off the threads at the dart point with a secure double knot. The reason that we don't backstitch at the dart point is that too much thread and needle action can cause the dart point to turn out puckered, distorted, or even worse for delicate fabrics, damaged and holey. The goal is to create a dart that has a smooth point that effortlessly vanishes off to nothing (which does take a little practice.... but don't worry - most dart point issues can be corrected by a good press!).
Press the dart downwards.
And this is what it should look like from the right side:
CLOSING THE SHOULDER SEAMS
We now need to join the front and back dress pieces together at the shoulder seams.
Lay your dress back pieces on top of your dress front piece, right sides together. Pin the shoulders into place.
TIP: Always pin your fabric as shown, with the pins pointing perpendicularly into the fabric, so that they lie horizontally when the fabric is fed through your sewing machine. Like this, they will be easier to whip out as you stitch, and will be less likely to get crunched down into your machine if you forget to take one out than if they were inserted vertically.
With our usual 5/8" or 15mm seam allowance, stitch the shoulder seams.
FINISHING THE SEAMS - 4 WAYS
After stitching a seam on our sewing machine, it's really important to 'finish', or neaten off that excess seam allowance to prevent it from fraying, to keep things looking neat on the inside, and ultimately to create a long lasting garment that won't start falling apart prematurely. There are a number of ways to finish your seams...
Clockwise from top left:
'Pinking' means trimming down the excess seam allowance with pinking shears, or put simply, zigzag scissors. This is not the most effective finish in that it won't add any strength to your seam, but it will help prevent the fabric from fraying, at least in the short term.
Definitely our favourite method, but it will require you to have an overlocker (or a serger as they are known in the US), which is a whole new machine. If you are going to be sewing garments regularly, then it is a worthwhile investment! An overlocker uses two needles and four spools of thread to essentially bind the seam allowance, while trimming the excess away, for a stronger seam that will not fray, and looks neat and professional af!
Some regular sewing machines will have an imitation overlock stitch setting which basically does everything that an overlocker does, except for trimming away the excess fabric at the raw edge. This strengthens and neatens, without having to have a whole new machine.
If you don't have an overlocker, or any fancy stitch options on your machine (and some of the very best vintage machines will only have straight and zigzag stitch options), then a zigzag stitch will do the job. Simply zigzag next to your seam and trim away the excess. Lots of handmade vintage clothing is sewn in this way, and has survived the test of time, so if it was good enough for them!
NEXT UP ON THE ELOISE SEWALONG...
In the next post, we'll be showing you two different ways to finish off your neckline - one is super easy, the other a little more challenging.