You’ve knitted the bodice, blocked the pieces and sewn the seams and now it’s languishing in the ‘to do’ pile for want of a skirt. If you are more au fait with the knitting needles than the sewing machine we thought a photo tutorial would help the process along. Panic not – Liberty Tana Lawn is bliss to sew and very forgiving if you make a mistake and have to rip out.
I’ll use the same headings as those printed in the pattern so you can jump in at any point you like. The pattern instructions are shown in blue and the explanations and tips in black.
Sew the Side Seam
The side seam is sewn with a ‘French Seam’ this encloses all the raw edges and gives a neat finish on the inside. Use a fine machine needle rather than the chunky one you last used to hem jeans.
With wrong sides together fold the fabric in half, short edge to short edge and sew a 5mm seam. (Fig 1).
The right side of the fabric will be facing you as you sew the short edges together. I use my machine foot as a guide for the measurement. You might have 5mm marked on your base plate or you could mark the base plate yourself with removable masking tape or washi tape and line it up with the raw edge of the fabric.
Press the seam open.
Fold the skirt right sides together.
The wrong side is now facing you – I press the fabric flat along the sewn seam and press again after sewing. In fact I press at every stage, I like the exercise!
Sew a seam 1cm away from the joined edge enclosing the previous stitching. Press the seam flat to one side. (Fig 2).
Move your masking tape marker, if using one and sew another line of stitches 1cm away from the joined edge. Press the seam to one side – it doesn’t matter which.
Hem the Skirt
Decide which way up your fabric should go. For one of the fabrics Louise decided it went one way and I had sewn a dress with the pattern facing the other way. Both finished dresses looked right, so study the design and pick which ever direction you prefer.
Fold up the the raw edge at the bottom to the wrong side by 3cms, then fold again, stitch close to the upper fold. (Fig 3).
I use a handy hem marker but a piece of card with a wedge cut out at 3cms works just as well.
Then fold again, press then stitch close to the upper fold. Fig 3.
Gather the Top Edge
At the top fold down the raw edge to the right side 0.75 cm, then fold again, press then stitch close to the fold.
Make a narrow fold along the top edge of the fabric in the same way as the hem but this time press the raw edge to the right side. The measurement isn’t critical, I just eyeball three-quarters of a cm, a notch narrower doesn’t matter just make sure it is an even depth and not too thick and clumsy. Make a second fold enclosing the raw edges and press well before sewing close to the upper fold.
Loosen the upper tension of your machine and make the stitch length longer. Then with right side of the fabric facing sew two parallel rows of gathering stitches 1.4cm and 1.6cm from the long top edge of the fabric. Cut the threads leaving them long.
Return your stitch length and tension back to its usual setting!
Again use the markings on the machine foot and base plate as a guide or reposition your masking tape. To keep track of which thread is which I sometimes change the bobbin thread to a contrasting colour. Start the gathering stitches at the side seam as a slight flat area is not as noticeable when the dress is being worn. Remember when you return your stitch length and tension back to the normal settings replace the bobbin thread to the one that matches the fabric.
Measure the circumference of the bodice just above the bottom border. Gently pull the gathering threads on the wrong side of the fabric until it is the same circumference. Secure the gathers by wrapping the threads around a pin and spread out the gathers evenly. (Fig 4).
Gather the fabric by pulling on the bobbin threads, the ones on the wrong side of the fabric and in a contrasting colour if you changed the bobbin. You can pull up the gathers from both ends but wrap the end you are not tugging on around a pin in a figure of eight. You don’t want to pull the whole lot out. Remember always pull the bobbin threads, if you pull the top thread the stitches may lock up and not pull evenly.
Attach the Skirt to the Bodice
Using a contrast colour sew long loose tacking stitches around the top edge of the bodice border.
Fold the skirt in half with the side seam on one side. Place a marker pin on the other side.
Make sure both the back and front of the skirt are the same width and adjust the gathers if necessary. Double check the skirt width by laying it against the bodice.
Match the side seam of the skirt with one seam on the bodice and the pin marker with the other side seam, tuck the skirt (right-side up) under the bodice. Line up the tacking stitches down the middle of the gathering stitches. Tack the skirt to the bodice. (Fig 5).
I usually pin the bodice to the skirt then take them out one at a time as I tack the bodice and skirt together. Remove all pins before you start to sew on the machine.
Change the top thread to match the knitted fabric then sew close to the top of the border from the right side, using a zipper foot if you have one. Remove the tacking stitches and gathering stitches.
This is where the handy contrast tacking stitches come in useful. Just sew along the dotted line. There is no need to change the bobbin thread as that matches the fabric.
Sew slowly and straighten the gathers of the skirt as you go. Check occasionally to make sure you are not catching in any other part of the dress.
When you have finished sewing and before you remove the gathering threads or tacking stitches check that you haven’t caught in anything you shouldn’t. If you have just unpick that section, no need to do the whole lot, and re-sew.
Pull out the tacking and gathering stitches. You will probably have caught some in with the stitching so use a pair of tweezers to give them a tug. Just make sure you don’t pull on the sewing you have just done!
Tidy up the ends and give the dress a good press to smarten it all up. Take the nose of the iron into the gathers rather than across them you don’t want to flatten the gathers after all the effort of putting them in!