There's a moment in the process of everything that I sew, where I'm sitting with this ball of frayed edges and sticking-out strings in my lap, and I'm fed up with it and I just want to throw the whole thing in a corner and give up. But every time, I sew just a couple more seams, clip, turn, press, shake it out, and oh! the thing becomes a dress. Or the pants I was envisioning. Or a shirt...
That moment. That's why I sew. The moment when the parts I cut out of flat fabric come together, stand up on their own, and become something more than bits of fabric joined by seams.
This week I've finished three baby dresses for my three (!) nieces being born this fall.
And since I've already talked about the back placket and the puffed sleeve, now let's go through the process of sewing a basic yoke dress, shall we?
These dresses have a mid-height yoke seam, puffed, bias-bound sleeves, a straight gathered skirt, and a lined bodice.
Here are the pieces you'll need:
(2) Bodice back and lining: The bodice back is cut in one piece with the lining. There will be a center back opening, with buttons, and the bodice back will wrap right around and become the lining.
(2) Skirt: The skirt should be two rectangles, with the length being the desired dress length minus the bodice length, and then with hem and yoke seam allowances added.
(2) Bodice front: One of these will be the bodice front lining.
(2) Sleeve: Puffed sleeves.
(1) Placket: A straight-grain rectangle, twice the length of the desired finished placket, the width to be two seam allowances + two finished widths. Mine was 1 1/2".
(2) Sleeve binding: Bias-cut rectangles, seven times the desired finished width, length = child's upper arm measurement +1 1/2".
Here's what to do:
-Skirt side seams-Sew one skirt side seam. Turn up the hem. Mine was a 3" deep hem with 1/2" to turn under at the top. Blindstitch this, or if you plan to cover the stitching with embellishment, straight stitch along the folded edge.
-Add skirt embellishment-Pintucks, ruffles, ruching...whatever you can come up with makes for skirt-hem fun. My ruching (on the purple dress) is bias-cut strips 1" wide, ruffled down the middle with a shirring foot and then sewn to the skirt along the gathering thread.
-When you've added any embellishment, sew the other skirt side seam, catching the raw edges of the embellishment in the seam.
-Add a continuous bound placket in the center top back of the skirt.
-Loosen the sewing machine tension and sew two gathering threads along the top of the skirt. One of these should be at your proposed seamline, the other halfway between the seamline and raw, upper skirt edge.
Now hang the skirt up somewhere where you can see it while you work on the top of the dress.
Sew the shoulder seams: Sew each bodice front shoulder seam to a bodice back shoulder seam. The finished neckline should be make a complete circle.
Sew the neckline: Fold each bodice back in half along the center back, right sides together. Match shoulder seams and center fronts. Pin the neckline:
and sew from the back edge to the back edge. Press this, clip the seam allowance to, but not through, the stitching, and turn the bodice right side out. Press the neckline again. Don't use steam here or the fabric may shape itself to the spaces you clipped in the seam allowance. Just kinda looks funny.
Sew the side seams, making sure to match lining to lining, and bodice front to bodice back.
Place a pin at the point where the bodice back becomes the bodice lining, on the waistline edge. Do this on both sides.
Take the skirt down from the hanger and pin the bodice lining to the wrong side of the skirt. Match those pins you just put in the back of the bodice to the edges of the placket. Also match the bodice lining side seams to the skirt side seams. Match the center front of the skirt to the center front of the bodice lining as well.
Sew the bodice lining to the skirt.
Now wrap the bodice around one side of the placket and pin the waist seam as far as you can go. Match the bodice side seam to the lining side seam. Wrong sides together. The bodice and lining sandwich the gathered skirt edge between them.
Sew this seam as far as you can, then press it, turn it right side out, and repeat for the other side.
You'll be left with a little opening on the outside like this:
Fold the seam allowance in and pin.
Beginning at the left upper side of the placket, topstitch very close to the edge of the waist seam, on the bodice fabric:
around the waist-
up the center back and around the neckline, then down the other back edge to where you began. Make sure, as you sew, that there are no folds of the lining caught in your stitching.
Pin the bodice armholes to the bodice armhole lining and baste the armholes together.
Turn the dress inside out. Pin the sleeve, right side out, in the armhole. Match the center top of the sleeve to the shoulder seam, the underarm seam to the bodice side seam. Place a pin at each end of the gathering threads.
Pull the bobbin threads until the sleeve fits the armhole. Adjust the gathers so they're distributed around the armhole. Wrap the bobbin threads around the pin.
Stitch the sleeve into the armhole. Press and finish the sleeve seam.
Turn the whole thing right side out and press it a little wherever it needs it.
Put horizontal buttonholes where the arrows show you, one about 1/4" below the neckline, one at the top of the placket, and the third halfway between.
Sew on sweet little buttons and you're done.
Excuse me while I go find pink tissue paper and bows...