Sew Techniques

  • Flat Lining with a Serger

    I have a friend who recently purchased a serger.  She wasn't really sure what to do with it.  So Tonya, this one is for you!

    Flat lining with a serger, the comprehensive photo guide, step by step.

    1- Of course the very first step is to cut out your pattern, in both the fabric and the lining fabric.  I like the cut the lining first, and then the dress fabric second.  The reason for this is that when you cut the pattern the first time, cutting through the paper along the lines, you get the cleanest cut.  Subsequent cuts will usually be less precise as the paper separates itself from the fabric and the exact edge is harder to follow.    This means that my lining is the best version of the pattern, and the fabric layer can just be close.  Using the lining as your master is best, as often your fashion fabric will be slinky or easly get out of shape. The lining is usually a fabric that will hold it's shape well. This will become important later on.

    This also means, I never trim my paper pattern  to the cutting lines, before cutting the fabric.   It just works better if you don't.  If my scissors get dull faster cutting the paper, so be it.  I can always buy a new pair or get them sharpened.  The garment will come out better, and that to me is more important.

    2- On the ironing board, press the lining out as flat as possible.  In my photos, I am using tea-dyed muslin, which seems to have some permanent fold lines I can't press out.  No worries;  do the best you can, though.  When pressing, try to move the iron only with the grain, or the cross grain.  Pressing diagonally may cause the piece to stretch on the bias.

    Flat Lining with a Serger

    3-  Lay out the fabric over the lining, with the correct side facing up.
    Flat Lining with a Serger

    4-  Match up all the edges as best you can.  It will most likely not be a perfect copy of the lining, and will usually extend out in places, or may come up short in others.  If you have a slinky fabric, like the one I am using  here, shift the bias around as needed to get the fabric back into the original shape matching the lining.  Press the fabric smooth.

    Flat Lining with a Serger

    5-  Pin through the pieces to the ironing board, about 1 1/2" in from the edge, with the pin heads towards the inside.  I like to place my pins every few inches or so, and be sure to get every corner  and high spot.

    Flat Lining with a Serger

    6- Gently, one pin at a time, lift the fabric and pin the pieces together without removing the pin, or disturbing the other pins.  This will keep the fabric layers from shifting and keep everything as smooth as it was when you pressed it flat.  The tips of the pins should be at least 1/2" away from the edge of the fabric, or it will jam the serger cutter bar.

    Your piece should look like this on the front side:

    Flat Lining with a Serger

    And will most likely look like this on the back side.  You can see the uneven edges not matching.  This is why I cut the lining first.

    Flat Lining with a Serger

    7-  Take your piece to the serger.  Treat it gently on the way, so as to no separate the layers.  Start at a corner, any corner.  You will be using the LINING layer edge against the cutting bar as your sewing guide.  Begin by lifting the front tip only of the foot and sliding the fabric under the front of the foot, just short of the cutter.   There is never a reason to lift the presser foot up completely, just lift the tip and go, then run the fabric out from underneath at the end.

    Trim off any excess fabric with the cutter.  You can usually see the lining edge through the fabric to know where to run the cutter.  If you have trouble seeing this edge, then flip your fabric over, and sew it with the lining side up.

    Flat Lining with a Serger

    Do not trim any parts where the fabric is shorter than the lining.  The lining is always your guide.

    Flat Lining with a Serger

    When you come to a corner, run the fabric straight through and make a 3" thread tail.  You usually have to pull the threads a bit to get the tail to form.  Pull the threads only, not the whole piece to keep from stretching the fabric.   Turn the fabric to start the next run.  This will make loops of thread at each corner.

    Flat Lining with a Serger

    Flat Lining with a Serger
    Flat Lining with a Serger

    8-  Once you have completed going around your entire piece, take it back to the ironing board.  It will most likely look rumpled and sad, like this.

    Flat Lining with a Serger

    But it will look great again once you repress it flat.  Sometimes your layers may have shifted a bit, so carefully press it all back out to the perfect match you had before.  If you can't get it back to perfect, press the excess to the serge stitching, and it will be hidden later in the seam allowances.

    Flat Lining with a Serger

    9-  Be sure to make a left and a right hand side.

    Flat Lining with a Serger

    And there you have it, perfectly shaped and flat lined, ready for construction!

  • Creating a Layered Vest

    Lately, I have gotten a lot of interest in this particular bodice.   So I have decided to start off my Sewing Tips series with details and images of how achieve this fairly easy effect from any basic vest pattern.  This bodice specifically was made from the TV463 - 1884 French Vest Bodice.  

    Creating a Layered Vest

    The layered effect is all built onto the vest portion itself, before the vest is sewn to the rest of the bodice.  Of course, since this bodice is already completed, the pics will show all the pieces attached to the bodice, instead of separate as you construct it.

    Let me start with a quick rundown of how this is put together.  There is a fitted lining made from the vest pattern piece under what you see on the outside, and closed with hook/eyes down the center front.  The gathered "blouse" portion is added to this lining.  And lastly, a vest with working buttons/holes is laid over the lining.  So now you know where we're going, let's get to it!

    (view from the inside)

    Creating a Layered Vest

    First thing is to figure out the shape of the vest you want to make.  After fitting your mock-up, mark on the vest exactly where you want the vest to end and the "blouse" to begin.   Transfer that line to the vest pattern, and add 1/2" above that line for the cutting line of your over vest.  Add 1 to 1 1/2" below that line for the cutting edge of the blouse portion.

    Creating a Layered Vest

    Next step is to create the vest lining.  For my bodice, I was using tea-dyed muslin as my flat lining.   I  cut 4 of the entire vest pattern piece out of the muslin.  I also cut the point off of the bottom about 1" short at the side and straight across.  This would help separate the hems, keep the lining from showing, and make it easier to do the finish facings on the main bodice.   After they are cut out, sew the vests pieces right-sides-together, along the center front and bottom edge.  To make the center front edge just meet (instead of over lap for buttons) sew the center edge with a 1" seam allowance.  Clip, turn right side out, and press.  Baste the neck and side edges together just to keep it all organized.  Sew the hooks and eyes to center front edges.  I spaced the hooks farther apart under the outer vest, knowing that the outer vest would hold that part of the bodice. Yeah, ok, you caught me... I really just plain ran out of hooks/eyes.

    (the bottom point, from the inside.  Under my finger is a bone casing sewn to the vest seam.)

    Creating a Layered Vest

    And now on to the "blouse" portion.  Take your vest pattern and extend it wider to about 3x the width of the pattern piece.  If you can, cut the center front on the selvedge, and cut 2.   Fold the front edge under 1" and press.  Gather the top edge  and the bottom edge to fit the lining.   Baste along the gathers.    I like to zigzag over the bottom edges to hold them down smooth.  Be careful sewing over the hooks and eyes.

    (blouse portion sewn to lining and the over vest folded back.)

    Creating a Layered Vest

    Lastly, the outer vest.  Cut 4 of the shortened vest pattern.  Sew them right-sides together along the top and center front edges, 1/2" seam allowances.  I left the bottom edge open to be finished later.  Turn the right side out, and sew the buttons and button holes along the center front, 1/2" from the edge.  Lay the over vest pieces onto the vest lining pieces matching the side edge.  Check to make sure that the vest properly covers the blouse gathers.  Baste the layers together along the side edges only.

    Creating a Layered Vest

    Now you just have to sew the completed vest to the rest of the bodice.  Add the collars as per the instructions.  Add boning and everything else, as normal.   I did not do a full lining, and instead ran bias facings around the hem and inside the neckline.  The back had wide facings the depth of the pleats.

    Creating a Layered Vest
    Creating a Layered Vest

    And there you have it, a fabulous layered look! See, easy!!

  • The Battenberg "Table Cloth" Blouse

    The one thing I really love about the 1903 Edwardian Blouse pattern is that the originals were so often make out of battenburg lace.  I am not able to make my own lace, so I went on a search for some battenberg yardage.  I found bits and pieces, but nothing of any size.  And then I went to Ebay, and started looking for tablecloths.   Still, most of the tablecloths had only a little lace around the edges, the bulk being a solid fabric.

    And then I found it!  A round tablecloth (72" diameter) with a lot of the lace throughout, and it was in black, no less!  There was only the one, so I bought it and hoped it was big enough for a blouse.

    The Battenberg "Table Cloth" Blouse
    The Battenberg "Table Cloth" Blouse

     So I fold the cicle in half, matching the lace patterns as much as possible, and layout my pattern for cutting.  The cloth being round, means that the grain line was really the radius of the circle, from the center to any given point of the outside edge, and top being the center.   The fold will be the center front and center back and the rest is in a big arc.   I started with the front piece, and layed it out maximizing the lace around the neckline.  I would have prefered to have the solid fabric band a little lower, but then I ended up with the solid center getting into the shoulder seam.  I had to settle with what would fit.  I then placed the center back, to line up the solid parts to the same level as the front.  I was worried that the sleeves would not fit, and I would have to make the sleeves 3/4 length.  But they fit perfectly, once I placed the sleevehead evenly on the solid center bit.

    The Battenberg "Table Cloth" Blouse

    I know that I need to stabilize the neckline first thing, or it will stretch and do horrible things.  So I quickly finish the center back edges, and do up the shoulder seams.  Because of the lace, I did french seams to make them neat and actually hold a seam.  I made the collar out of a cotton broadcloth, and put it on.  This will be covered up with a stock collar that buttons on, so I am not worried about it not matching.

    The Battenberg "Table Cloth" Blouse

    The side seams are next, and now its on to the sleeves.  One seam, and gather the wrists to fit a cuff.  For the cuffs, I started out with just the broadcloth.  But it really didn't match well.  So I added an overlay of the batternberg edge, with the edge just a tad longer than the cuff proper.  Then sewed the sleeves to them.  I love how the cuffs came out

    The Battenberg "Table Cloth" Blouse

    I also cheated with the cuffs, and made them slip on rather than button closed.  I didn't want to have to play with button holes in the lace and everything.

    Sewing the sleeves to the blouse proper was the most difficult part, I think.  Half of the armhole is lace and stretching all over the place, and the sleeve head needed to be gathered to fit.  The gathers fit perfectly onto just the solid fabric portion of the sleevehead, so that worked out perfectly.  I kep thinking "shrink" as I pinned the sleeves in, to combat the stretch factor, and in the end it wasn't as hard as I thought it would be.  Though I think I may the shrunk a little too much; the armhole seems a bit snugger than it should be.  Hopefully, this won't be a real issue.

    This just leaves putting the waist band on and gathering the front to fit.  Again, I used a broadcloth band. It will be covered up with a belt anyway.  I still need to add hooks and eyes.  And here it is, all put together.  I made up a short stock collar with a battenberg overlay..  But for some reason, I forgot to put in on when taking the pics. 

    The Battenberg "Table Cloth" Blouse

    Now I just need to make a back corset cover, and a black skirt and petticoat.  And a black chemise and drawers.  Yay, more sewing!

  • Making a Chemisette with Lace Insertions

    Making a Chemisette with Lace Insertions

    I was looking through my copy of the 1863 La Mode Illustre, when I ran across this beautiful chemisette.  It is made with a lace and insertion section at the neckline which would fill in a half-high neckline.  I do not read French, so I am not sure if this makes a dinner dress suitable to afternoon wear, or if it is merely a pretty way to fancy up a dinner dress.  But I really like it, and want to make one up. I decided to go with black, rather than white, and to use an all over lace and some sheer ribbon

    This project took me about 6 hours total time to make up.  I used black cotton broadcloth for the chemisette body.   I will say now that I made a big error in the logistics of how to put this together.    I found out in the middle, that I missed a step I should have done at the very beginning.  That step was to finish the closure BEFORE doing anything else.  So the pics below show me not doing this until later.

    Step 1.  Cut out your fabric using a high-necked chemisette pattern.  I am currently working on a new pattern for the 1860s and this is sort of the pattern test for that pattern (minus lower neckline.)  You can also use the chemisette pattern TV104.  After I cut out the pattern, I drew in the top square necklines to show where I want the edge of the lace to be.  I then used the pattern TV440 as a guide as where to start the lace.  I came in 1" inside the TV440 lines, so the edge of the lace would be 1/2" under the edge of the bodice.

    Making a Chemisette with Lace Insertions

    Step 2.  This is where I needed to have created the closure.  But I didn't.  So lesson learned.  Create the closure as directed in the pattern!!! 

    Step 3.    Get some sticky water soluble embroidery backing.  This really helped make this project easy.  Note:  you can't get an iron anywhere near this backing or it turns into a sticky wrinkled mess.  Learned that the hard way.  Make sure that the backing covers all the area from below where the lace starts to the edges of the fabric.  Trim the extra backing away around the fabric edges. 

    Making a Chemisette with Lace Insertions

    Step 4.   Cut the fabric only, along the upper line.   Then sew a line of stitching just past the edge of the fabric.  This is just a way of easily marking the top line onto the backing.  I used black thread, to it would be easily seen on the white backing.  

    Making a Chemisette with Lace Insertions

    Step 5.  Sew through the fabric and backing along the lower line.  Trim the fabric away, with about 1/4" to 3/8" allowance.  (shown at left below)  Then fold the allowance over the fabric,  and top stitch the allowance down.  Clip into the corners to get it all to lay smoothly,  (shown at right below)

    Making a Chemisette with Lace Insertions

    Step 6.   Sew a piece of ribbon, or twill tape, just inside the stitching line for the upper neckline edge.  This will provide you with a firm edge for the lace.  And, it will keep the edges of the lace away from your skin.  (I am fairly sensitive to scratchy fabrics around my neck)   You will also see in the photos that I had finally put in the closure by this time.  It was quite a logistical feat.   I chose to make the center front edges of the lace meet, rather than overlap, so inset the lace section 1/2" from the fabric center front.

    Making a Chemisette with Lace Insertions

    Step 7.  Take a piece of your lace, and arrange it over the area.  Line up anything that needs to be lined up.  I noticed right after I snapped the pic, that the lace was angling downwards on the right side.  I fixed that before moving on.  The sticky backing really helps here, as it will hold the lace exactly where you want it.

    Making a Chemisette with Lace Insertions

    Step 8.  Sew the lace down along the openings, and trim away the extra.  I trimmed the upper neck edge to be a little shorter of the ribbon edge.   If you want to add any other ribbon or trims, like the diagonal stripes in the inspiration pic, add them now.  Sew them down through all the layers, and trim away anything extra.

    Making a Chemisette with Lace Insertions

    I chose to do a ribbon pattern which would parallel the neckline, which is best put on after sewing the shoulder seams.  So I sewed the fronts to the back at this point.  Then I layered on the ribbon in the long striped and sewed it down through the backing.  I also placed a lace over the upper edge of the lace, and layered another ribbon over that lace edge.

    Making a Chemisette with Lace Insertions

    9.  Once you have everything sewn down, and trimmed, and the shoulder seams sewn, sew a ribbon or lace over the lower edges of the insert.  And around the neckline, if you haven't done it yet.  Then bind the edges of the chemisette and finish the waist as per the instructions of your pattern.  I had a wider sheer ribbon that I used for the lower edge of the neckline, and for the waistband. 

    Step 10.  Put your finished chemisette into a lingerie bag, and wash it.  The water soluble backing will magically dissolve and disappear. 

    And here is the finished chemisette!  I will use a small broach to hold the top edge of the lace closed.  You can use this same method to make any shape neckline and trim pattern.    There are no limits to what you can do.   I saw several drawings of round necklines with lace above them in a round outline.  

    Making a Chemisette with Lace Insertions
    Making a Chemisette with Lace Insertions

  • The quirks of TVE21 - 1903 Trumpet Skirt

    I would like to talk about a couple issues that have popped up with the 1903 Trumpet Skirt - TVE21 skirt pattern.    One which is entirely my fault, and the other is one which I have seen pop up a few times when alterations to this pattern go wrong. 

    First up, the problem of.....  What the heck to I do with the Placket Facing piece?  I can't find it mentioned in the instructions anywhere, what did I miss?  Well, you didn't miss anything.  This pattern piece should not be on this pattern.  The long story is that I was mulling over two different means of finishing this skirt;  one way was with the lining skirt attached to the skirt proper, and the other way was to have a separate lining.   In the end, I went with the attached lining, in which case, you do not need the facing piece for the placket.   If you choose to make the lining skirt up as a separate petticoat, then you will need the placket facing.  I should have deleted the extra piece, but left it on there.    I am very sorry for the confusion this has caused so many people.  I really need to delete that piece.

    Ok, so now to the fun part.   On this pattern, I have two back options, a pleated short back, or a long habit (plain) back.  Usually, when I give options like this, I like the cover the bases and draw things so it will all mix-n-match with all the option combinations. 

    Unfortunately, in this case,  the pattern ran off the edge of the paper, so I couldn't do that, and instead of offering pleated back in long or short, I just have the short version.  And this has lead to people asking, "can I combine the two and make the long pleated back?"  I answer with a simple yes, and leave it at that, thinking what could possibly go wrong?  And then I saw the results, and smacked my head on the wall.  I never even saw it coming. 

    Below is the pattern piece I am talking about, and you can see the two options as drawn.  The blue lines are the short pleated back, and the orange line is the long habit back.

    The quirks of TVE21 - 1903 Trumpet Skirt

    So when people asked if they could combine the two, apparently this is what they were thinking was the correct way to do it.  At right, the red line is where they just extended each of the lines they wanted to follow.  The problem is, that this creates a skirt that curved up  shorter in the center back.  Ooops!  How did that happen?  In short, do not lengthen it this way!!!

    The quirks of TVE21 - 1903 Trumpet Skirt

    This is all my fault, of course. I didn't clarify, and I should have. The next diagram, with the green lines, shows how to properly lengthen the pleated back to the longer length. Start by extending the first pleat line to the longer length line. Then from that point, run the new hem lines parallel to the original hem line.

    The quirks of TVE21 - 1903 Trumpet Skirt

    Oddly enough, no one has ever asked about making the habit back in the short length.  But just in case, here is how to do it.  Starting with the short hemline at the first pleat line, continue with a line parellel to the long hemline until you get to the Habit back line.

    Ok, I think those are all the quirks in this pattern.  Hopefully, this will help people get through the pattern without tearing thier hair out over either of these problems.</p> </div>

  • Working with LM100 Laughing Moon Corset

    First, let me say that this pattern is one of the best corset pattern available today. I love this pattern and can fit any size and shape with relative ease. However, is does have a few quirks and can require a few tweaks to get the most benefit out of it.
    The following suggestions are little tricks and quips about my experiences with this pattern. I am listing them here to give beginners a guiding hand.

    A. Which to choose, the Dore style or the Silverado?

    These two styles are both used from 1860 until 1898, so you want to pick the style that is most appropriate to your body type. Basically, the Dore style with the straight seam construction will tend to de-accentuate a full bustline. The Silverado will tend to emphasize the bust line. In my experience, smaller busted figures will greatly improve their figure with the Silverado style. Larger busted figures will generally have a more pleasing appearance with the Dore style. My general rule of thumb: A-cup, B-cup, and C-cup figures should wear the Silverado, while D-cup and larger figures should wear the Dore. The D-cup figure in the Silverado will have the bust line lifted and presented in an un-glamorous position below the chin, which is not the proper look for the Victorian Era.

    Another consideration for which corset to style to choose would be your level of sewing skills. The Dore style is much easier to put together, while the Silverado requires a little more effort. A person making a corset for the first time, who does not have access to assistance, may wish to try the Dore first in order to get a feel for what corset making entails. Corset are not difficult to make, but they are intimidating, and require precision sewing.

    B. How do I choose which size I need?

    This is the hardest part about making a corset, finding the proper size. Once again, for this corset, I have a few basic rules:

    1. You need to pick a cup size.

    For this pattern, the cup sizes run somewhat large. The choice of cup size may be altered by the next step, but this will give you a place to start.

    If you are a very small A-cup, you should choose the A cup pattern.
    If you are a moderate A-cup, B-cup, or small C-cup size, you should cut the B cup pattern.
    If you are a larger C-cup or D-cup, you should choose the C cup pattern.
    If you are a DD-cup or DDD-cup, you should choose the D-cup pattern.

    I have not yet found a person who needed a larger than D-cup pattern. And I have fit many large figures. You will have to possess an extreme figure to require the DD and DDD cup patterns.

    2. Looking at the size chart.

    The size chart as given on the envelope is basically for the B cup size patterns only. If in step A above, you chose a different cup size, you will need to make adjustments to the measurements on the charts. The reason for this is that the A cup pattern will remove 2" of fabric from the standard B cup size. The C cup pattern will add 2" of fabric to the standard size. The D cup pattern will add 4" to the standard size. These changes are not reflected on the single size chart provided in this pattern.

    Below, I have created the separate size charts needed for each cup size.

    Working with LM100 Laughing Moon Corset

    3. Finding your size on the size chart.

    Now it is time to compare your personal body measurements, non-corseted, to the charts to select a size. Looking at the size chart for your cup size, follow the general rules below:

    • You want to select an individual size for each part of your body to achieve a good fit. The corset should conform to your body, not conform your body to a corset. You may be a size 18 bust, a size 16 waist and a size 20 hip. That is fine. You should trace your pattern out on a new piece of paper, fading in and out to the various size lines as needed.
      If you need to enlarge the hip area to a bigger size, change only the seams at the side and back of the corset. Do Not enlarge the front seams below the waist, as this will cause the tummy part of the corset to swell outwards.
    • This pattern generally runs large. This is caused by stretch of the fabric, and compaction of the body by the corset. As result, if you need a size 14 or larger, reduce the pattern by one size automatically. For example, If you you match the size 18 on the chart, cut out a size 16 instead. Very large sizes may need to reduce the pattern by 2 sizes.
    • If at any time, your chosen waist size is larger than your chosen bust size, reduce the cup size to the next smaller size and start the selection process over. A D-cup figure combined with a large waist will require a smaller pattern cup size.</li> <li>If you want to be able to tight lace and reduce your waistline, be sure that the hip area is large enough to allow for the change. When tight lacing, the waist is compacted, which will relocate the body both up into the chest area, and down into the hip area. If the top and bottom of your corset do not allow for this expansion, you will not be able to pull in the waist.
    • The top of the corset should come up to mid-nipple level. If you corset is too short, lengthen the pattern by cutting and spreading the pattern where marked to the needed length. If the corset come up too high, I like to shorten the pattern by simply cutting the top to the desired height. The reason is I find that the point at which the corset begins to expand for the bust is somewhat low. If you cut and shorten the pattern in the middle, this will drop the bust area to near the waist.
    • The bottom of the corset should end high enough so that it does not dig into your legs or pelvis when you sit down. Shorten the corset by cutting it off at the hem as needed for a good fit.

    C. Other general fitting notes.

    • The corset should have a 2"-3" gap at the center back when laced. If you have too small of a gap, you should make the corset one size smaller next time. If you have over 4" gap, you should make the corset bigger next time.
    • When laced, the center back edges of the corset should be fairly straight, top to bottom. If you have wide differences in the gap, the corset will tend to pinch and be very uncomfortable. For example, If you have a 3" gap at the top, 1" gap at the waist, and 5" gap at the bottom, you will be miserable. In this case the waist needs to be made a smaller size and the hips a larger size, to achieve an even 3" gap top to bottom.
    • The more bones that are in your corset, the more comfortable the corset will be to wear. The bones should be placed at every seam, and between the seams as needed to make the distance between the bones to less than 3". Larger figures may require more bones than smaller figures.
    • Spiral steel boning should be used in the front of the Silverado corset, to curve around the cup gores. You can use the spiral boning everywhere else as well, EXCEPT at the center back on either side of the grommets, which must be spring steel.
    • Use only 1/4" wide steel boning. Anything less will not hold properly. Using wider boning will not add support but will be uncomfortable. The largest figures will have full support with the 1/4" wide bones.
    • I personally like to use the 00 size of grommets. These are smaller than the normal size, which allows the fabric to be stretched, rather than cut, to make a hole. This will give a stronger grip on the grommet.