Hi! I’m Rachel and I have a recently-rediscovered passion for sewing.
My experiences with Anna v1 inspired me to undertake a bodice fitting journey which started with understanding my bodice and continued through the making of Simplicity 8523 E and Belladone. Anna v2 is a culmination of all of those experiences.
Today I will be providing you with a little more detail on fitting the Anna bodice. Having made quite a mess of the bodice for my Anna v1, I had a wealth of experience to drawn upon by the time it came to Anna v2.
As a general disclaimer, if you thought I talked too much about my assets in Sunday’s post you may want to skip this one!
General Sizing Notes
Anna v1 was cut to a size 12 all over without taking into consideration to curves of my body shape. The resulting bodice was too small at the lower back, struggling to meet at the zip and gaping at the neckline. To overcome the majority of these fitting issues I let out the side seam allowance, removed the back darts and reduced the size of the front pleats. These amendments reclaimed the fabric and allowed me to fit the bodice around my torso.
The below photo shows my attempt at inserting a zip on Anna v1, despite my recovery job it did get very tight at the join with the skirt!
I overcame these issues with Anna v2 by cutting the shoulders and neckline to a size 10 corresponding to my bust size. I recalled from Anna v1 that the seam allowance was quite tight across the bust despite the additional room provided by a size 12. This was likely to be a consequence of my slightly larger than average cup size. To avoid this fitting issue second time around I followed a trick I had attempted with my Myrtle top in bringing the sizing of the dress up to size 14 through the arm holes, thus allowing for extra give around the bust and centre back.
As a quick note the v neckline was also a much better fit for the bustier lady, I do find that the fabric on the straight neck is more likely to ripple when worn.
I decided not to lengthen the bodice for both Anna v1 and v2 as I liked the point where the bodice and skirt met. Choosing not to lengthen the bodice did leave me with some issues with the front pleats. Anna’s front pleats are intended to “open like a flower” at the bust, however on both occasions the pleats were too long and somewhat squished my assets like so:
Utilising an incredibly sophisticated method of visual assessment, i.e. looking and measuring with fingers, I decided to reduce the height of the pleats by one inch. This reduction in height would allow the tip of the pleat to sit just beneath the bust and allow the pleats to open as required.
You can see those reduced pleats and their effect just here:
Admittedly these aren’t great photos but hopefully you can see my point!
I wasn’t able to completely avoid the gaping neckline second time around but I did save myself from the masses of excess fabric found in v1. To amend this and ensure the right fit for me I followed exactly the same steps I tried first time around.
Firstly I assessed the amount of excess fabric like so:
Using this excess and some strategically placed pins as a guide I moved the left side of the invisible zip over to right to create a larger seam allowance at the top of the dress. This is allowed me to effectively fit the dress to my body using only the zip.
Due to the volume of excess fabric with Anna v1 I trimmed the seam allowance but do not do this second time around.
My latest make, the Chardon skirt, presented me with a dilemma: should I cut along the length wise grain ensuring the skirt structure is strong and draping correctly or do I take a risk and cut on the cross grain, thus preserving the design?
As we now know I chose the latter and luckily for me that risk paid off. I would not have taken that risk were it not have been for the help and advice of fellow bloggers and my trusty Reader’s Digest so for those of you also struck with this decision I thought it would be useful for me to share my grain line research.
Understanding grain line is one of the most important concepts for dressmaking and can be one of the most confusing for the beginner.
There are four key terms for understanding grain line:
The above diagram provides a handy illustration of the direction of the grain line.
The Reader’s Digest suggests that when folding and preparing your fabric for cutting it is important that your fabric aligns on three sides, if this is not the case or the edges align however the corners do not form right angles, then your fabric is skewed off line and must be realigned. If you are struggling to identify your grain line this fantastic post by Sarai at Coletterie provides a great guide to finding your grain.
By far and wide the best advice I received when aligning your fabric to the grain line is that it is important to follow the shape of the fabric as opposed to the direction a print. It is possible and relatively common that a print may be designed off grain.
The above is folded ready to be cut on the CW grain, the below image is folded ready be cut on the LW grain.
This brings us neatly back to the dilemma which inspired this post: should I cut on the cross wise grain to preserve the design and potentially risk the structure of my fabric?
I searched the internet far and wide for bloggers able to help me with this query and to summarise there seemed to be roughly a 50/50 split between those who believed that the fabric should be cut on length wise grain 100% of time and of those who felt it was OK to dabble with using the cross grain. This debate on Tasia’s blog Sewaholic was of particular help in understanding both sides of the argument.
From my research it appeared that cutting on the cross grain was most successful with fitted garments with a strong structure as the fabric did not have chance to twist and skew. The strong structure provided additional strength to the weft thread which was bolstered by the use of interfacing. Following this advice I analysed my Chardon pattern and decided to press ahead. You can see that make here.
Hopefully this post can go some way to helping you with your grain line questions, I would whole heartedly recommend taking the time to understand your grain line in order to get the best out of your garments.
One of the biggest milestones of my fledgling dressmaking career was putting in my first ever invisible zip. The invisible zip is legendary in it’s infamy, the most painful of all pains in the butt, but when put in correctly the invisible zip is sexiest and slinkiest of all notions. My aim for today’s cheatsheet is to demonstrate that the invisible zip need not by a source of fear but rather the means for achieving an effortless modern look in your garments.
For today’s tutorial I will be diverting from my pattern and adding an invisible zip to my Chardon skirt. My reason for doing this is that I do not want to distract or break from the strong geometric print. I am a big believer in the hiding or disguising of anything which doesn’t add to the design of a garment. The choice to add the invisible zip here allows for a continuation of the fabric pattern and leaves the garment feeling clean and uncluttered.
Without further ado let’s get started on today’s cheatsheet.
1. Making your nip (optional)
To begin, we will need to follow a similar route to the exposed or channel zip tutorial in ensuring that we mark the nip in your fabric. For those of you who are following a pattern this should already be marked for you however if you are drafting your pattern or need to make an adjustment you will need to add this step.
Lay your zip flat on the fabric, the top of your zip should meet the top of your fabric. With your tailors chalk make a mark roughly 5cm or 2 inches prior to the end of the zip to create a short tail. The tail is one of the key differences of the invisible zip and is vital for keeping the mechanism as invisible as possible.
2. Sewing your seam
Readers of the exposed zip cheatsheet may experience a slight feeling of deju vu for this section.
Once you have marked your zip you are ready to sew your seam. Taking care not to exceed your mark, stitch from your nip to your seam to leave an opening the same length as your zip. For the purposes of this tutorial my seam is 1.5cm.
Once this is complete press your fabric open. I like to press the entire seam here, including the zip opening, as I feel it comes in useful later on when lining up the zip to the seam but it’s entirely up to you.
If you have not done so already, secure your seams with an overlocker or a zigzag stitch – it will be a real pain to try and do this later on!
3. Press your zipper teeth
Technically this is optional but I would strongly recommend pressing back the teeth of your zip at this point as it will be incredibly helpful when you come to attach your zip to your fabric.
You are aiming for the following effect:
3. Aligning your zip
With the right side of your fabric facing upwards, open the zip and place it face down on to the fabric. Just to note, you will need to leave your zip fully open for the duration of this process and only close once finished.
Next up, this is where your pressed zip comes in very handy as you will need to line up the pressed edge of your zip with the folded seam of your fabric like so:
Once aligned pin and/or tack the left side of the zip to the right hand side of the fabric. The tail of your zip should be moved out of the way to the wrong side of your fabric.
Take care at this point to ensure your zip is flat against your fabric so as to avoid any unwanted puckering.
4. Attaching your zip
This tutorial uses an invisible zipper foot, also known as a concealed zipper foot, for attaching your invisible zip. You can order one online here or alternatively visit your local sewing machine supplies shop. UK readers, I purchased mine from the ever handy John Lewis (you’ve got to love John Lewis). I would definitely recommend investing in the concealed zipper foot as I feel it provides you with a greater level of control than the standard zipper foot and stitches as closely as possible to the zipper teeth.
Your concealed zip foot, once attached to your machine, looks like this:
The two gaps at the bottom of the zipper foot are for inserting your zipper teeth. Place your fabric and zip underneath the gap and bring the foot down to meet the fabric. I often find at this point that the pressed teeth do not want to go into the gap, if you are having the same issue unroll the zip as if to press flat and then bring the foot down quickly to trap the teeth. You may have to try this a couple of times before the teeth are secure.
Now is time for my favourite bit, stitching the zip into place. As you stitch you will see that the foot literally shows that invisible zip whose the boss, forcing the teeth out the way whilst stitching as closely as possible to them.
Here I go, take that zipper teeth! I must admit this bit gives me a bit of a power trip but you aren’t obliged to feel the same way!
Back to the stitching, sew your way down the zip stopping a couple of millimetres prior to your chalkline so as to give space to zip and unzip your garment – this is very important!
5. Aligning and attaching the right hand side
Turn your zip over and repeat steps 3 and 4 attaching the right hand side of the zip the left hand side of the fabric (as your look at it from the right side). I sometimes actually prefer to turn my fabric over the wrong side for this bit but this is up to you.
Close your zip and press your fabric. If required use your iron to force the fabric over the invisible zip on the right side of fabric, this will disguise those teeth.
You should now have a very happily attached invisible zip like so:
That’s all for today but pop back on Sunday to see my completed Chardon skirt.
Enjoyed this post? Feel free to post your own tips and tricks for invisible zips below.
After suffering what can only be described as a brain freeze when putting in the pleats for my Belladone dress I have decided that I need the practice and so have put together a little tutorial which I hope will be of use not only for myself but for my readers as well. Today’s Cheatsheet is the first of a series of posts walking you through the humble pleat.
To begin we will be looking at the inverted box pleat which is a key feature of my next make Deer and Doe’s Chardon skirt. The Chardon features no less than nine inverted box pleats making it the perfect opportunity for pleat practice!
Inverted box pleats are formed on the wrong side of the fabric, therefore we need to ensure all foldlines and pattern markings are made on this side of the garment.
Continuing to work on the wrong side, fold the fabric so that each set of foldlines meet to form a seam or underfold; the Chardon includes some very useful arrows to help with this. Pin and/or baste the fabric together at the foldline to secure the seam ready for stitching like so:
It is worth taking your time at this point so you can ensure that the folds are straight and correctly matched. I tested my pleat by folding it to one side of the fabric and checked to see that the top seam matched the top of skirt piece.
Once you are happy with the placement of your pleats it is time to stitch them in place following the instructions in your pattern.
Stitching complete, press the underfold of your pleat flat against the wrong side of the fabric. Turning the fabric to the right side, press again.
Here are my well pressed underfolds:
To keep those pleats firmly in place I would recommend topstitching on both sides of the foldline. With tailors chalk or a strategically placed pin, mark your starting point on the fabric. I would recommend starting from the bottom of the foldline and working your way upwards towards the waistline. This will flatten out the fabric and prevent any unwanted puckering.
Here I am topstitching my skirt with a 0.25 inch seam allowance.
Happy? Your pleats should look like so:
Have you tried making inverted box pleats? Let me know how you got on.
On today’s Cheatsheet we will be learning the basics of free machine embroidery or as I like to call it drawing with the sewing machine. I have to say I’m very excited about this post as once you’ve mastered the basics that’s where the real fun begins.
This post assumes you are all set up, embroidery or darning foot attached, feed dogs down and ready to go. If you need some further guidance on what you will need and how to cover your feed dogs if they will not drop, just click here.
Ready? Here goes.
First up, we need to decide what we will be drawing. For more advanced embroiderers this may come from the imagination or may even be a sketch made on the machine. For beginners I would recommend drawing or printing your image or text ready for sewing. The print out should provide a clear line and direction to follow with your machine, at this stage simplistic designs are best. As a word of warning for any sketchers out there, we will be ripping our paper away later so make sure you have copies.
Once you have decided on your image, I would recommend cutting away any excess paper so it will not get in the way of your sewing. You will then need to pin the paper to your fabric. Regular readers may recognise the fabric I am using today from my Anna dress – I hope you haven’t had enough of polka dots just yet!
In my previous post, I recommended purchasing an embroidery hoop as this will make moving the fabric even easier and will make the embroidery process a little safer. In this post I will not be using an embroidery hoop as I prefer working without one unless stitching an area with heavy detailing. This is a little risky so if you decide to follow this route just make sure you keep an eye on your fingers in the relation to the needle!
If you do decide to use embroidery hoop now is the time to attach it your image.
Once you have secured your image you are ready sew. Position your image underneath you needle and begin to stitch. Use both hands to gently move the fabric underneath the needle, pushing and pulling in the direction in which you wish to draw. It is important to go slowly at first, any hand movements should be careful and precise. Sudden hand movements may cause the thread to catch and lead to an unhappy sewing machine!
When moving between letters or sections in an image my technique is to turn the hand wheel so the needle is at its highest point and lift the foot. I will then move the fabric to the next starting point, drop the foot and turn the hand wheel so needle goes through all layers and continue to stitch. Once my sewing is complete I will return to my image and cut all connecting threads.
An alternative method would be to cut the threads and start afresh with each letter or section. I am not an advocate of any particular method as this is really a matter of personal preference.
Now your sewing is complete it is time to reveal your image. Carefully tear back the paper to reveal the text or image. Here’s mine:
Tearing is my favourite bit of the process as I think the result, even if only part way through tearing, can be fantastic. I personally love the above and it isn’t even half way through!
If you have managed to resist stopping mid-tear and you have torn away the majority of your paper you will find that you have some pesky bits left within your stitching. If you decide that you would like to remove these remaining pieces all you need to is to run the fabric under the tap like so:
And voila! You’ve just completed your first free machine piece.