Sunday, March 04, 2007

I don't do it like the books say...

I don't know about you but I don't consider myself a sewing expert...a sewing enthusiast maybe...a fabricaholic definitely but a sewing way! To me sewing experts are, "The Sewing Divas" or Kathryn (fxzdoc on Stitchers Guild) or Liana (Sew Intriguing) or Ann Rowley on Stitchers Guild but not me. So when people ask for sewing advice I am a little leery about giving it. To me there are just sooo many others out there that do it better and IMHO should be giving advice.

I also think that I approach and solve sewing issues in non-traditional ways. Take for instance lining a sleeveless dress....conventional methods tell you to leave one of the shoulder seams open in the lining and turn the lining through that teeny tiny opening. Once the lining is turned you then press and handstitch the opening closed. I hate that method! Moving all of that fabric through that small opening and then wrestling it flat just drives me bananas.

So after several tries at doing that and wanting to tear my hair out I came up with my own method...this method is not on any pattern instruction sheet or in any sewing book but it works for me.

1. First I machine baste a 5/8" seam allowance on my armholes.
2. Then I press the 5/8" seam allowance down. I do this on both the dress and the lining.

3. Then I attach the lining to the dress at the neckline...clipping the seams and pressing the entire thing down...

4. Sometimes I edgestitch the inside of the lining seamline only and sometimes I edgestitch the neckline of the dress including the lining...sewing the entire front piece together.

5. Then I sew the side seams of the dress and the side seams of the lining separately.

6. Press the each set of seams open and turn the entire thing.

7. Next I take the pressed down armhole seams and give them one more press turning the lining seam allowance in just a little more.

8. Finally I edgestitch the armholes closed - sewing the lining and dress fabric together.

9. Press once more and I am done.

This is totally unconventional and works for me. I have been lining sleeveless dresses this way for so long that I forgot that its not traditional until today when I was working on a dress for my SWAP. And it got me to thinking....I can't be the only one who sews some part of the garment making process in my own manner.

So do you do have a sewing technique that isn't traditional? If so, what? Why did you deviate from the pattern instructions? And most importantly does it work for you? Tell me...I would really like to know that I am not alone in "personalizing" sewing techniques...

Finally here is a teaser picture of one of my SWAP dresses....

Talk to me people & enjoy the sewing journey!


  1. I like that - "sewing enthusiast"! I can't think of anything off hand that I do, but I don't always follow directions either. I do what works best for me or what I know that I can do without having to rip out a bunch of stiches! I'm anxious to see what others, say, though. Maybe I'll pick up more good tips.

  2. I like your method! It probably involves too much precision pressing, etc. for the instructions, plus I don't think they've updated their directions for 40 years at least.

    I'm not sure I agree with you about my "expert" status, but thank you so much!!

    I do lots of things a little differently, but I don't know that they're anything that anyone else should do. They're just things that I think are better for me, or easier. I've lately been making thread eyes when I use a hook. Overcast with buttonhole stitch. They're really stronger and much longer lasting, not to mention better looking than a metal eye, plus they fit on a narrow band much better! I like hand sewing, so I don't mind doing some or a lot if I think it's going to work well.

  3. I consider myself a sewing enthusiast too, not an expert by all means; there's still so much to learn! I do lots of things differently, that's because I'm a self taught sewer too. I believe there are many ways to do the same and the right way depends on several factors, including what really works for us. I also love learning from others even if I don't do things their way. I enjoy reading your blog!

  4. Sewing enthusiast. Yeah. I like that as well. I don't know if anybody else out there does this, but I don't necessarily layout patterns according to the instructions. In fact, I never do. Oftentimes I purchase fabrics according to how I feel about them at the time and don't really have a particular garment in mind to make...just a vague inclination. I do pay attention to the nap of the fabric, however. I totally agree with your take on the talents of the bloggers you've mentioned, from what I've seen and read, their sewing skills are the best.

  5. I'm definitely no expert, but I am enthusiastic! :)

    I like seeing advice and tips from all levels of experience, capability and taste. This is in part because the experts are so far in advance of me that can't even begin to do some of the things they are doing.

    So while I also love to read their stuff, I find that many times I have to file it away for future reference.

    As for doing things differently from the instructions, I pretty much started that on day 1. Not in big ways mind you. Just little things like using a different technique than what's listed to set in a sleeve.

  6. Oh. By the way. Here's a little sewing technique that I'm trying out for the first time. I sometimes like seeing no stitching on front placed patch pockets- so they appear to "float" on the garment. I don't line these patch pockets, but do cut the seam allowances at one inch rather than the standard five- eights. Baste the bottom and side seams of the pockets a scant thread width inside of the s.a. Allow for the required amount of fabric on the top portion of the pocket. Fold down the top portion first, then press and fold the remaining s.a's in. To sew the pockets on begin by sewing the bottom seam first but BE SURE and leave one half inch unsewn from both corners. In other words, Start by sewing a half inch in from the first corner, and stop sewing a half inch from the second . This is to allow room enough to be able to turn under the side s.a's. Now,do just that. Turn under both side seam allowances. Pin. Hand baste the s.a's from inside the pocket to the garment front. Carefully machine stitch the pocket side seams next to but NOT on top of the fold of the fabric. ( the pocket will be pulled too tight width-wise if stitched on the fold) Stitch as far down into the pocket as your machine will allow. The remaining quater inch or so will be hand-tacked from the inside of the garment. Give the pocket a press with your iron and a press cloth. If you're satisfied with the look of your pocket, trim the seam allowances and enjoy! Oh! One thing more. It's best to use a zipper foot on this application, the narrow foot seems to manuever the small spaces better.

  7. I do a lot of stuff differently. Having never taken a sewing class, you come up with all sorts of little things. It certainly makes for interesting sewing and forces you to learn something.

  8. I think I do things differently too. Back in the old days I would follow the pattern EXACTLY. Now, I follow tips and advice from the experts and also learnt to be more creative and just go with what I feel.

    PS, the dress looks pretty darn nice!

  9. Hi Carolyn!
    YES, I have another way of lining a sleeveless dress that keeps the shoulder seams intact. This comes from instructions for making a lined vest, but if you simply imagine that an elongated vest is a lot like a dress with a zip closure (and a closure in back instead of in front), this method works. It requires almost no hand sewing and no edge- or top- stitching (all the seams actually get done right sides together, the conventional way). You do have to turn the top fabric and lining inside out THROUGH the shoulder seams, but they are machined perfectly. Here’s how: Assemble the lining, including shoulder seams, but do not close the center back and do not sew the side seams. Assemble the top fabric of the dress the same way (sew the shoulder seams , but not the side seams or the center back where the zipper needs to go later). This is a good time to make fitting adjustments. Now place lining and top fabric right sides together and sew the neckline and the armhole seams. Clip and press them to make a nice rounded finish, but it’s better NOT to try to topstitch the lining just inside the seam. (If you do, you will have trouble at the shoulder seam, and you will also have to avoid the area at the center back where the zipper will close and the bottoms of the armholes where the side seams will be later.) NOW turn the whole thing inside out. You will be pulling the back right and the back left through the shoulder seams to do this, but the shoulder seams are sewn perfectly. If you are going to use an invisible zipper in the back, put it in now (putting the back left and back right together), and finish the rest of the center back seam below the zipper as well. (This is also a perfectly good time to put in a conventional zipper if you prefer.) Now you can sew the back right and back left pieces of lining together at the center back also, from the bottom of the zipper down. You will need to hand-tack the lining to the inside of the zipper. Do a final fitting. NOW you can sew the side seams: one long seam connecting front right to back right of the top fabric, continuing across the armhole seam to connect front right to back right of the lining fabric. Now do the left side seam the same way. You now have a complete dress except for the hems (and you can do them with the blind-stitch if you like). The neckline and armholes are sewn perfectly on the inside, and the bottom of the armhole seam should give you a perfect intersection where top fabric ends at the armhole and lining continues.
    Meg in NC

  10. Hi Carolyn!
    I thought of someone you would LOVE to meet. My fabric store has had Louise Cutting come to do seminars a couple of times and she is funny, fantastic, and absolutely full of great ideas about sewing tricks (to get perfect seams, Armani pockets, fantastic bias edging, etc). Her web page is great and her patterns are probably the best in the business in having all the sewing instructions fully spelled out (and in having fitting "moments" pointed out clearly). If she ever does a seminar near you, take it! Her trunk show alone is worth it. She often goes to Saks or Bloomingdale's in New York, visits the high-end racks, and spies on the internal construction of the clothing for engineering and design ideas. So maybe she seminars in the NY area too (she lives in Florida).

    Meg in NC

  11. Thank you for the mention, Carolyn! I'm just pleased that you like what I do...
    I suppose I am a bit - a lot - of a traditionalist. I know I do quite a few of things slightly differently, but I've been doing that for so long that I've rather lost track of what's considered the "correct" way.
    I line dresses as described by Meg - works well for me too.
    And may I add that I'm seriously impressed by the speed at which you work, and the volume you produce.


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