Today, a new chapter of my writing begins. I am privileged to have joined the team of bloggers supporting Simple Sew and will therefore be writing regular tutorials to complement a variety of patterns.
The Charlotte Dress appealed to me as soon as I saw it. The sleeveless version that I will describe here – view B – is fitted at the waist with a neat pencil skirt and has a scoop neck and invisible back zip. An alternative, neckline, and two sleeve options mean that there are six different possibilities from one pattern pack. I have used 1.5m of cotton lawn – a little more than specified to make pattern matching possible – with medium weight interfacing, a 22″ YKK zip and Gütermann sew-all thread.
**I find that I need to make some minor adjustments when using Simple Sew patterns, and so cut out a size 12 overall, narrowing to a size 10 from the underarm, tapering back to a 12 above the waist and keeping the darts for size 12 so that they would match up. I found it easiest to cut the paper pattern to the full size 12 and fold back the paper before cutting the fabric. **
Launder and press your fabric, if possible, to reduce the likelihood of further shrinkage. Fold your fabric on the largest flat area available to you (for me, this is a completely clear desk or the sitting room floor at present as our dining table is in storage) and lay out the pattern pieces according to the instructions and secure in place using pattern weights and/or pins according to your preference.
** In this case, I cut out the three front pieces and back facings from the folded fabric but then cut out only one layer of fabric for the back pieces, to enable me to match the pattern as accurately as possible. I confess that pattern matching is not my forte, but this method seems to have worked here. Having cut the single layer of the two outer back pieces (I didn’t attempt to match the facings!) I then opened out the remaining fabric and laid the paper pattern and fabric pieces out, folding the paper pieces along the centre back seam line, and matching the pattern as closely as I could along this line. I then reversed the paper pattern pieces, pinned them in place and cut them out.
Having cut out all the fabric, cut the interfacing for the front and back facings and press it in place according to the manufacturer’s guidance.
You may find it helpful to take time now to finish any edges that will be exposed in the finished garment. I used a three thread overlock stitch, but a zigzag or other edge stitch would be absolutely fine if you don’t have an overlocker (serger). Until recently I always did this at the end of the process of making up, but it is often easier to finish edges on a flat piece of fabric than on a garment and it means that there are fewer annoying tasks at the end, when you just want to be able to wear what you’ve made!
Seam allowances are 1.5cm except for the neckline and armholes, which require a 1cm seam allowance.
**From here onwards, the step numbers match those in the pattern instructions**
1,2: Mark the darts in the front and back bodice and skirt. There are several methods, and I often use tailor’s tacks but for this fabric I found carbon paper and a tracing wheel was neater. I marked both pieces/sides of each pattern piece together, so sandwiched the carbon paper (folded with plain sides together) between the layers of fabric, retaining a few pins to steady the layers, then used a wheel and ruler to mark the lines according to the pattern, on the wrong side of the fabric.
Pin and stitch the bodice and skirt darts in place, from the widest to the narrowest point. I find I get a neater finish if I backstitch about 1cm (3/8″) from the edge, then stitch right over the point and sew in the ends thoroughly by hand. Press the bust darts downwards and the waist darts towards the side seams (away from the centre).
3: Join front and back facings at the shoulder seams; press seams open.
4: Join dress front and back bodice pieces at the shoulder seams; press seams open.
5: Lay the dress out flat, right side up, and lay the facings over it, right sides together. Pin around the armholes and neckline, using a 1cm seam allowance. Trim the seam allowance to 0.5cm and clip carefully around the curves, making little snips every 1-2 cm, close to but not into the stitching. This can feel fiddly but it makes for a much neater, smoother curve when it is turned right sides out.
6: Turn the facings through to the right sides, pulling the back bodices through the shoulder spaces.
7,8: Pin and stitch the front and back skirt pieces to the bodice, aligning the waist darts (pins can be used to match them up and keep them in place while you sew).
9: Open out the armhole facings; pin and stitch the side seams from the top of the facings to the lower edge of the skirt.
If you are unsure about the fit, it may be worth machine basting these seams and the centre back below the zip notch with a long stitch so that you can try it on and see where adjustments are needed, if any. Press the seams open.
**I use pins to align the underarm/facing seams and waist seams to give the neatest possible finish, placing them through the seams as seen here. It’s best to remove them as you sew rather than sewing over them, which can damage you and/or your sewing machine!**
11: Turn your dress right sides out and lay it flat, with the facing flipped upwards. Place the left zip tape, right sides together, on the left dress back, pin in place and machine or hand baste (tack) it in place with long stitches. Using a presser foot suited to your zip – here I have used a YKK foot for concealed zips – stitch from the top down, as far as you are able to.
To align the zip at the waist seam, close the zip, mark the waist point on the right zip tape – I used tailor’s chalk – and then pin the tape to the right bodice at this point first, then working up to the top, down to the lower edge, and tack/baste in place as before. Check the alignment, then stitch in place on your machine.
12,13: Place the skirt backs right sides together, pin the back seam from the base of the zip to the lower edge and, using a zip foot, stitch from the lower edge up to the base of the zip stitching (or vice versa if you prefer). Press the seam open.
14: Fold the neckline facings back over, right sides together with the dress back. Using the zip foot, stitch through all the layers, along the zip tape, about 0.8cm from the edge of the facing. Trim the corner, just outside the stitching, and turn right sides out. Repeat on opposite facing.
15: Turn the dress wrong side out, and using a hem gauge, ruler (being careful not to melt it!) or tape measure, turn up the hem by 1cm and press it in place. Turn up a further 1.5cm, press in place and stitch around, ensuring that you catch the folded part.
**When sewing a hem, for a neater finish, you can choose not to backstitch, but cut long thread ends – approx. 10cm is enough – and sew them in by hand, as seen here, where the stitching started and ended at the side seam**
Give your dress a good final press – I find using a tailor’s ham (diy tutorial here) helps give a good finish on the hip curves and facings – and it’s ready to wear!