Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Summer Maxi Dress (Part 2)

Welcome to Part 2 of our little summer sewing adventure -- you actually get to sew this week!

So all your stuff is cut out right? And you saved all your scraps, right? Then let's get started! First, the straps...

But wait, a little note. No groans please. I'll be brief: There are two kinds of needles -- a universal/regular has a really pointy end, but there's also a needle called a ball-point. This one is rounded so instead of piercing the fabric, it pushes the fibers out of the way. Ball-points are great for knit, and it will be easier on your fabric to use this kind of needle. I found mine at Hancock Fabric... Now back to the project!

If you're doing this on a serger like I did, pull out some of those scraps and test your serger settings. I had mine on a wide three-thread stitch (left needle in, right needle out). And, as always, even if you have the Brother 1034 like I do, every machine will be different and you'll need to test your stitches on a scrap to make sure you have the right tensions, etc.

Here's my settings:
Left needle: 5.75 (normal for me)
Upper looper: 6
Lower looper: 3.5
Stitch width: 3 (normal)
Stitch length: 5 (normal)
Feed differential: 1.6

So when I started, I had to play with the loopers because they were a little weird, and you will definitely need to switch your feed dogs to more gathering because the knit is stretchy. Everything else was normal.

If you're doing this on a regular machine, you can just straight stitch most of this. :)

Put your straps with right sides together and stitch both long sides and one small side. I curved the edges on mine because it's easier not to turn corners on my serger and I was going the easy route. Here's one sewn and one ready to sew...

Turn your straps right side out. Now, hold up your front bodice piece against you and measure about how far you want the straps from the MIDDLE to determine where to place them (you're doing this because if it's too big, you'll be taking off extra from the sides and you don't want to mess up where you put the straps...). Lay your front bodice piece on the floor with the right side facing you and put your straps where you want them, the unfinished edge lined up with the top of the bodice.

Then put the second front bodice piece on top, right side down and wrong side facing you. Pin together along the top, then sew along the top.

If you're sewing the straps into the back, just repeat the above steps. If you're not (like doing halter or strapless), simply put the back bodice pieces right sides together and sew along the top.

Now, this part is a little tricky to explain but easy to do. First, set your sewing machine or serger to gather -- on a sewing machine you will increase the stitch length and you'll need to pull on the bobbin thread to gather. On a serger, you'll increase your feed differential all the way AND increase your stitch length all the way. With knit it doesn't gather like on regular fabrics. I had it cranked up on both these settings and it still didn't gather quite as much as I wanted. **Please note, if you're doing strapless, I suggest doing this part on a sewing machine so you can gather it more.**

Open up the bodice front and bodice back and pin them together along the side seams, right sides together. Make sure the seams you just made line up.

So, as you sew the two bodice pieces together on the serger, you'll also gather them at the same time. If you're doing this on the sewing machine, I suggest once you get it like you like it, go back and stitch it with a regular stitch over your gathering stitches. Once you sew both side seams, it should look like this (this is the right-side view).

Go ahead and turn the bodice right side out and fold half the bodice in. Notice the puckers in my side seam? That's the gathering. This is what it should look like...

Now for your first fitting. Go try this part on to make sure it fits. Mine was huge!! If that's the case, try to approximate how much extra you have, then unfold it and turn it back to the wrong side and redo the side seams, coming in however much you measured. Try it on again and try to get it just how you want it.

Now for the skirt. We're going to gather the front skirt, but just in the middle. Plus your machine should already be set up for it. :) I left about four inches on both sides and gathered everything in the middle.

Now, you can simply repeat this for the back if you want the same amount of gathering. I didn't want too much gathering in the back, so I trimmed a little triangle from the edges of the back so it would match the shape of the front (I came in about four inches along the top and trimmed it down to the widest part of my hips, so about six or seven inches). Also, make sure to shape better than I did -- try to smooth out the edges and make it gradual at the hip part of the triangle. Mine hung a little funny along my hips because I didn't...

Then sew the skirt front and back together along the sides, right sides together (make sure to set your sewing machine/serger settings back to regular sewing).

Now we'll attach the skirt to the bodice. Turn the skirt right side out. Hold the bodice upside down and slide the skirt into the bodice, so the unfinished edge on the bottom of the bodice meets up with the top of the skirt. Start to pin it together (I like to do this on the inside) by matching up the side seams as illustrated below -- the skirt is on the inside and the bodice on the outside.

Once you've got it pinned at both sides, then just take it in halves. Start with the front and try to make the gathers even as you pin it in place.

Now do the same with the back. I didn't gather in the back, but it's still too big to lie smoothly, so I kind of just gathered the fabric as I pinned it in place.

Sew the skirt to the bodice. As you can see in the pic below, I pinned it on the inside so I'm basically sewing along the bottom of the circle of the skirt (this makes it easier for me to see what I'm doing), instead of the traditional method of sewing along the top/outside of the circle and having it go under the arm of your sewing machine. But do it whichever way feels better to you.

If you're serging, you should be good on your stitch -- the three-thread overlock provides a good amount of stretch. If you're using your sewing machine, you may want to switch to a narrow zigzag and increase the stitch length a little.

And now your maxi is all put together!

Join me next Tuesday and we'll go over hemming the bottom and then smocking/shirring the bodice. :)

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