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sewing a princess seam

A princess seam, just so we start out knowing what we're talking about, is a seam that helps shape the bodice of a garment to the torso of its wearer.  When we draft a pattern with princess seams, we remove the dart entirely, and end up with two pieces where we formerly had one.  

All of this is explained in the lesson "Drafting Princess Styles" on the lessons page.  Naturally.

Now, as I said, you begin with the bodice back (and bodice front) and end up with a bodice back and a bodice side back (and a bodice front and bodice side front). 

Here's the bodice back and side back.  The little one is the "side back":

You can tell that it's going to make a pretty, curved seam, but sometimes this seam is a little tricky to make, on account of the fact that one of the curves is concave, the other convex.  It's a bit like marriage, this seam.  We know that these two different things are going to come together to make something sturdy and beautiful, but sometimes it's really tough to see exactly how.

Never fear!  A little staystitching and clipping are all that's needed to save your marriage!  (Er...princess seam.) 

First of all, when you drafted your princess seams, you included crossmarks on the pattern to help you match the seam back up later.  This was just before you sliced the pattern pieces (mercilessly) apart.  The time to use those crossmarks is now.  Transfer them to your fabric.  

In the pictures above I've marked the crossmarks with a tiny little marking pen mark in addition to the clips, because in a minute I'm going to make more clips, and don't want my crossmark clips to get lost in the confusion. 

Staystitch just outside the seamline on the concave curve.  

What this'll do is hold the seamline rigid even though we're going to stretch out the seam allowance. 

Clip the seam allowance to, but NOT THROUGH the stitching, about every inch along the curved portion of this piece.  

Now, match the crossmarks on the concave curve (the bodice back) to the crossmarks on the convex curve (the side back).  Right sides together.  Pin pin pin all along that seamline.  

If it isn't going to fit exactly (I know, but sometimes for some reason it doesn't), you want it to match at those crossmarks before it matches at the waist or armhole.  In a perfect world it'd match everywhere.  If you have to choose, choose the crossmarks.  You can trim the armhole or waist edge. 

Now just sew that seam.  If you sew just a hair inside the staystitching, everything should stay in place, and the staystitching will do its job and get out of the way (all marriage similies ended above this point, I think I ought to mention.)

When you've sewn that seam, press the seam allowance toward the center (since it seems to want to go that way) and you'll end up with this:

And on the right side, this:

If you're sewing an unlined bodice, expect to sew four of these seams, two each in the front and back.  If you're lining the bodice, you'll need eight princess seams.  Good thing you know how to do them now. 

Happy seaming!


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