Thursday, December 13, 2018

Week 5: Constructing the Bodice Part 1

We are moving on in the sewalong to tackling the bodice of our 1940 McCall dress.

The instructions show a pictorial illustration of the construction. The numbers on the diagram not only correspond to the order in which you should construct the seams but these numbers are also on the pattern pieces, making it easier to match up pattern pieces (particularly being able to tell top from bottom!)

There are two key skills that we will cover in this sewalong post: 1) gathering and 2) sewing a lapped seam.

First the gathering. There are six areas of targeted gathering on the bodice and they are represented on the pattern pieces by either 'gather between the crosses'--which is usually at the top of a given pattern piece OR 'gather along the lines'.

The key to gathering is to set a longer stitch length. I usually set it at 4.5 on an electronic machine or go in the medium stitch length on some of the vintage machines:

I mark the area that I want to gather with pins. I then do the first line of gathering about 1/2 inch from the edge. I have a very light weight fabric and it starts to bunch up a bit with the longer stitch length. So I just try to straighten it out as best as I can.  You then want to sew another row of a long stitch close to (but not crossing) your first line. This will ensure that your thread doesn't break when you are pulling up the gathers (more useful for medium and heavier weight fabrics):

So you will now have two rows of long stitches close to each other. The important thing is to NOT backstitch at the beginning or end and to leave longer strands of thread at both ends.  You can then pull the two threads on one side/end to start gathering :

Here's some more resources on gathering:

1) a step-by-step guide to gathering

2) a youtube video on gathering

For this pattern, we gather two sections on the bottom of the upper waist front and then two sections each on the top and bottom of the lower waist front.

Once we have our gathers in place, we then need to attach the upper waist front to the front band and also attach the front band to the lower waist front to create our bodice front.  The method of attaching the seams is a classic 1940 method (this is used throughout for bodices in all my 1940 patterns!) called a lapped seam:

The first thing I do is iron under about 1/4 inch on both sides of the front band:

I then line up and situate this front band over the bottom edge of the upper waist front and the bottom part of the front band over the upper part of the lower waist.  The pattern calls for basting these sections together (by hand or machine, to learn about basting, check out this post).  I don't really like basting as I inevitably sew over my basting threads and then I find it really hard to get them out. So I do the same thing with pins. The point is to try and hold your fabric in place so that you can sew it!

You can see that I've put two pins in vertical on my fabric. This is just a note to myself that I don't want to sew this small area on the bottom of the front band because our little bow will slip through for the time being we leave it open but continue sewing the front band after this space.

Here's a visual representation of why we keep that small area in the middle unstitched for the time being, as we will slip our bow tie into that space:

Now that I've secured everything, I can go to my sewing machine. We will then topstich on the front band (which as you remember each end has a bit folded under--so it's basically laying on top of the bottom of the waist front pieces).  The key is to move your sewing machine needle so that you are sewing close to the edge:

As we get to the gathers, I tend to go slow:

Here's a short video of me doing the lapped seam between the front band and the top of the lower waist front:

Of course you can always sew these seams in the 'plain seams' way if the thought of top stitching is not something you want to do! Here's a guide on sewing different kinds of seams and plain seam would also work for this.

We have two more steps for the bodice which will come in different posts--one on the neckline and one on attaching the bodice fronts and backs and attaching to the skirt!


1 comment

  1. Moving right along! (BTW, hope you enjoyed My Man Godfrey. It's one of my favorites.)


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