Saturday, August 31, 2013

McCall's 6074-Summer Sew Along #2, Day #2

Today we'll put together most of the dress! You should have already cut out your fabric, based on day #1 (click here) of this sew along. This is a quick sew because there are only 4 long seams, 2 shoulder seams, some hemming, and the gathering in front.  However, because you have to sew each seam twice, I think it takes more than an hour (the pattern envelope says one hour)! I'll split the sewing into four days, with today constituting the majority of the dress, tomorrow focusing on the front gathering, and Monday focusing on the hemming. I'll try to post both tomorrow and Monday's sew along instructions tomorrow in case you want to do it all at once.

I recommend that you glance over a few tutorials on sewing with knits. The pattern instructions recommend to stretch the fabric slightly while sewing. You want to retain the stretch of the fabric (if your stitching is tight, it won't stretch!), but I've found that if you stretch the fabric, the stitching looks bunched up. I have read quite a few tutorials and decided to hold the fabric taught but not stretched. It's very important to use a stretch stitch, though! If you use a regular stitch, then you'll lose the stretch of the fabric. On my sewing machine, the stretch stitch is #5. If you don't have a stretch stitch, I've read that a narrow zigzag stitch will do.

Check out these two helpful tutorials/descriptions of how to sew with knits: this one from Birch Fabrics and this one from Sew Mama Sew. I didn't do everything they suggested due to lack of supplies, but the general tips are very useful. I used a regular narrow needle (though one did snap into pieces at one point). I also didn't try to do the mock coverstitch thing (will come into play Monday) because I didn't have the special needles. I apologize that both examples focus on children's clothing! I guess there are just a lot of knit kids clothes.
The stretch stitch on my machine. The
number on yours will likely be different.
Look for the lightning bolt shaped stitch.
Remember, I'm following the instructions for view A! Some of the instructions in the actual pattern itself are mislabeled (for example, the sleeve instructions say they're for View C, when on the pattern envelope, View D has the sleeves). If you're making sleeves, it really doesn't matter which view you chose, just find the correct instructions! I am not providing sleeve instructions here.

I'm going to walk through the steps on the pattern instructions and include my own commentary and photo descriptions as we go. I'll also indicate what you'll do differently if you're making one of the two variations I listed (reversible or maternity). Before starting, read the "Sewing Information" on the front page of the pattern instructions, next to the pattern layouts. This defines words and diagrams the pattern instructions will use.

1. Stitch the outer seam of BACK (1) using a double-stitched seam. Press seam allowances to one side.

This means you're going to sew one 5/8" seam, and then afterwards, you'll sew another seam so the seam allowance can't roll and add bulk to your dress. I chose to make my second seam an overlock stitch. In theory, you could trim your seam allowance before starting and use ONLY an overlock stitch, but I felt more comfortable doing a regular stretch stitch first.

Here's where I probably added a LOT of time (but also made my final product look nicer): I pressed the FIRST seam open and then back together before sewing the seam allowance together! I did this because once you've sewn the second row of stitching, you can't get into that first seam with the iron to really make it lay flat. I use my standard pressing technique: press over the stitching, press the seam one way from the right side of the fabric, press the seam the other way from the wrong (visible seam) side of the fabric, and then finally press the seam open. Then I just pressed it flat again before sewing my second seam. This added a lot of time, so it's totally optional, but it looks nice.

I previously described the overlock stitch here.
Pin together the two back pieces, right sides
together. Remember to match up the piecs
using the notch you cut!
Sew the seam with a stretch stitch (looks like a lightning
bolt on the sewing machine). This is what the seam will
look like. I then pressed this seam open and closed again
before doing my second row of stitching.
For your second row of stitching, the instructions indicate
to do a second row of stitching (again, use your stretch
stitch) 1/4" away from the first, a zigzag row of stitching
1/4" from the first, or to overlock the seam. I chose to
overlock the seam. This is what it looks like.
If you

choose either of the first two methods, you'll need to trim
your seam afterwards. Then, press your seam to one side. 
The overlock stitch on my machine

2. Stitch FRONT (2) to back at shoulders and sides using a double-stitched seam. Press seam allowances toward back.

*If you're making your dress reversible, do not sew your shoulder seams this way! Leave the shoulder seams open for now if you're doing a reversible dress.

I'm not including pictures for the side seams, because the process is exactly the same as what you just did for the back seam. The side seams are going to be much more difficult! You're sewing in stretchy direction of your fabric! Be careful to keep the fabric taught, but no more than a tiny bit stretched. Otherwise, your seams will end up wonky/squiggly, and the right side of the seam might look bunchy. You want the seam to allow for a bit of stretch, but you don't want to make it gather when it pulls back on itself.

I modified the way I did the shoulder seams, for better or for worse. I used a French seam for a more polished look and so the seam allowance didn't have a chance to bunch up on the shoulders. If you're not familiar with a French seam, just follow the pattern instructions. In retrospect, I would have just followed the instructions and THEN sewed the seam allowance down after pressing it to achieve the same effect from the outside. Here's the process for the French seam if you need a quick refresher:
With the WRONG sides together, sew a seam with only
1/4" seam allowance. This is for a French seam.
I'd honestly recommend just following the pattern
instructions and treating this just like any other seam,
but stitching the final seam allowance in place could
be helpful.
Press that seam open/flat. Trim off the 
edges close to the stitching line (not 
pictured). This is for a French seam.
I'd honestly recommend just following the 
pattern instructions and treating this just 
like any other seam, but stitching the 
final seam allowance in place could
be helpful.
Make a fold along that first seam (press it) so that the 
right sides are together. Sew ~1/4" from the edge. Press 
this seam toward the back of the dress. This is for a 
French seam. I'd honestly recommend just following the 
pattern instructions and treating this just like any other 
seam, but stitching the final seam allowance in place 
could be helpful.
Topstitch 1/4" away from the seam, so the
seam allowance is trapped. Hopefully
you can sew straighter than I can. I would
do this regardless of whether you choose
to do a French seam or a regular seam.
3. Finish the neck edge with a 5/8" narrow hem.

*If you're making your dress reversible, all of this will be a seam, not a hem. You'll lay your two dresses on top of each other, right sides together, and sew the neckline with a 5/8" seam. Sew this seam just like the other seams. The important difference will be how you handle the shoulder seams. I recommend watching my video from the coffee date dress and following the Burda Style tutorial to connect the shoulder seams in a way that looks very professional. This is only if you're doing the reversible dress!

As the glossary indicates, the instructions mean you'll fold over the fabric ~1/4", sew it into place, and then fold it over agin before sewing that down. That way, you won't be able to see the raw edge of the fabric. If you traced the dot for the center front, that will help you find where the final fold goes (it's 5/8" from the raw edge).
This is the narrow hem from the outside. It goes all the way
around the back and finishes at a point at the center
3. Stitch center seam of front.

*If you're making your dress reversible, sew the two front seams as one continuous seam. This will allow for a nice point on your v-neck. You'll want to trim the excess seam allowance at this point, though.

Stitch this using the stretch stitch you used on your other seams. However, this seam does not indicate that you should double stitch. You should just do one line of stitching and press the seam open.
Center front seam, stitched and pressed open
(make sure you line up the top, bottom, and
the little single notches).
Now might be a good time to try on your dress! The casing and elastic step is next, followed by all the finishing (hemming the armholes and bottom of the dress).

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