Today's the day where we break out our sewing machines and see some progress! It's also the point where meltdowns start happening on Project Runway. We'll take it slow so there's no crying in the bathroom here.
Before we thread up our machines, I'm going to talk a bit about finishing the inside of your garment. While it's ideal to finish your seams with a serger, the truth is most of us don't have one. Including me! It's at my in-laws house buried in the basement. I just don't have room for it in my teensy space and if I'm real desperate I run into the city and swing by my old work. All I need is a bag of chocolate and I buy myself a few minutes and a few seams. But that doesn't mean you can't finish off the insides so it looks nice and more importantly, holds up through the washing machine.
For the Sew Along I'll be using pinking shears to finish off my seams. It's quick and easy, and much cheaper than the investment of a serger. My only gripe with pinking shears is that they can dull easily and they are hard, if not impossible, to sharpen. Pinking will fray a bit in the wash but it won't shred on tightly woven fabrics like cottons, canvas, and denim. It might not look that pretty on the inside but it will last. I can't tell you how many times I've found a garment at a vintage store with pinked seams. It has staying power!
A second option is the two stitch and pink. After stitching your seam you stitch again 1/4" into the seam allowance for an extra line of defense. Then pink the seams. This is what I used for my wedding dress. It works well for silks, chiffon, rayon, linens- anything with a looser weave or more delicate finish. It doesn't look bulky and will secure the seam a bit tighter than just one stitch. The one downside to this stitch is you can't press open a seam when it's stitched twice. That just means you have to press the seam to one side to get a nicely pressed garment.
Our next option is the closest to a serged seam without using a serger. This seam is a zigzag on the seam. I cut the seam allowance down to 1/4" and then zigzagged down the edge. My stitch width was a 4 and the stitch length was a 2. When stitching down the seam allowance, make sure the needle hits outside the fabric. It will then roll the fabric a bit to encase the raw edges. It's a really great alternative to the serger. But like the previous finish, you can't press open the seams. This is a really good method to finish off the raw edges in an arm hole.
The final method is the serged seam allowance. It is the ideal way to finish a seam if you have a serger at your disposable. It is definitely the cleanest way and most professional looking. So if you can, do it! Are there downsides to a serger? Not really, except for one. A serger works by cutting the fabric right before it binds it with 3 or 4 threads. That blade can be your nemesis. Not naming any names, but a certain patternmaker has been know to get a little careless with her serging and caught a piece of a garment under the blade. It happens and it will ruin your day! So be warned.
It's time to start stitching! NOTE: For the purpose of this Sew Along I used dark pink thread to sew my seams so you can see my stitching. I recommend using a corresponding thread color for your dress, but I also think it's fine to use white on light colored fabrics and grey or black on dark garments if you don't have a matching color. Except for the topstitching, you won't ever see the thread.
Pull out your sleeve pieces and let's start gathering. Our first stitch at the machine will be two gathering stitches on the sleeve cap. Starting at one notch, put your presser foot down so you're stitching 1/2" from the edge. A gathering stitch is the largest stitch length on your machine. That usually means a #5 stitch on most machines. It just needs to be big so you can gather it later on.
After stitching from notch to notch, go back to the first notch and stitch again 1/4" closer to the edge of the fabric. You'll have two parallel stitches for later when you put the sleeves in. Don't cut the threads! You'll be using them next week. And don't pull them either. Just let them enjoy their time as flat threads.
Fold your sleeve in half, right sides together, so you can stitch your underarm seam. I like to pin crosswise and either take out the pins as I stitch, or run over them with my machine. Unless I'm doing a complicated seam where I need more control, I prefer pinning crosswise. But if you're used to pinning along the seam, go for it. I won't be looking!
VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: The pattern calls for 1/2" seam allowance so we'll be stitching all our seams at 1/2".
I stitched my seams at 1/2" and then pinked the edges to finish them off. Make sure you're working on both sleeves at a time. Yeah, I tried to get artsy on this picture and it just looks blurry. Sorry.
Remember when I talked about pressing as we go. Here is where it starts. I'm pressing open the sleeve seam so it opens nicely and will look flat on the right side. I'm trying to only press the seam and not the rest of the sleeve to keep from creasing my sleeve. Do you have a sleeve board? This is a great time to use it. Or just a rolled up towel. Or nothing at all and be delicate like me.
Moving right along. Let's hem these sleeves. Remember the seam gauge I pulled out for my tools picture. This is a good time to get it out. Set it to 1/2" and then hit the fold with the iron.
After pressing up the full sleeve hem, press it up again another 1/2". Do you like the black nail polish? It's covering up my ragged nails.
After pressing the hem up, cross pin again and get ready to stitch along the hem edge.
Stitch around the hem leaving about a 1" opening for your elastic. Here is where you need to cut your elastic for the sleeve casing. Cut the elastic to the exact length that the pattern calls for. I'm making a size 4 so I cut my elastic to 7 1/2". Attach a safety pin to the end and thread it through the casing.
Pull the elastic through the casing being careful not to lose the other end in the casing. Give both ends a good yank so you can pin them together and get them under the machine.
Overlap the elastic 1/2", pin, then stitch an X through both ends to secure the elastic well.
Put your hand into the sleeve hem and stretch it out to help pull the elastic into the casing. Pin the casing closed so you can stitch closed the hem opening. See how I pinned the opening along the line? This is an example of where I would rather pin with the stitch line than cross pin. I'm using the pins to not only keep the casing closed, but to also keep the elastic inside the casing and outside my stitch line.
I stitch my hem casing closed and Voila!, my sleeves are done and ready to be put aside until we get to the end. Doesn't that feel good? You have two pretty sleeves to show for your day.
Now put your feet up. We're making pockets tomorrow!