March 28, 2016 by New Capel Street: Fabric Division
…and by plan I mean garment.
Nearly there, folks! The next Academy of Eblana event is right around the corner – my house recently turned into AoE Central, while the gang printed out and laminated character cards, set things on fire, plotted PC doom and generally got shit sorted out way ahead of time. (Good job Team Eblana, rather you than me). If you play, and you’re reading this, well let’s just say that there was cackling. Lots of it. I was down with my parents for Easter until quite late on Sunday, didn’t get home until around 10:30pm and there was Still. Cackling. Hope you like doom’n’stuff, just sayin’!
With that in mind, and following on from the links roundup on how to sew seams, this week’s post covers sewing (and finishing) the seams on your tunic.
Before you sew:
Your front and back pieces are, at this point, identical. It’s time to pick which one will be your front, and choose how you’re going to make the neck opening. There are literally dozens of ways of styling a neckline/neck opening, but I’m going to focus on the easiest. A keyhole neckline is simple, looks good when you’re tidy about it, and is easy to adapt to make a neckline/opening that laces or buttons shut. We can look at that another day.
Here’s what I did. I took the pattern piece that was on the top of my pile, and folded it in half along the centre line. Then I picked a point about three inches from the neckline, and cut down the fold to that point. If it turns out that I can’t fit my head through this opening later, I can make it longer. Easy peasy.
Take a look at your cut pieces, and decide whether they need a quick iron. If they’re wrinkled, it’s best to do it now rather than after you have sewn them together. This avoids things being sewn together arseways and not sitting right.
Next, you’ll need to pin your pieces together. I’d follow the same principles as when pinning a pattern piece to your fabric – pin at a right angle to the edge rather than lining up with it. It creates less distortion in your fabric, and it’s a lot easier to pull the pins out as you get close to them if you’re going from side to side rather than towards you.
Using your chosen method, stitch your sleeves from the wrist opening to the neck opening. If you are machine sewing, don’t forget to backstitch for a few stitches at both the start and end of your seam line to avoid your stitches undoing themselves. Trim the loose threads off at each end immediately! Okay, full disclosure time. You don’t have to trim them off immediately. But it’ll save you a lot of tears at the end if you have less tidying up to do, and it looks prettier.
Next, stitch from the wrist opening, around the curve of the armpit, to approximately a foot down from your waistline. Why? Because if your tunic is closed-skirted all the way down, it can impede your movement. Having slits at the sides makes moving, accessing pockets, and hoiking your kit out of the way to go to the loo, much easier. Don’t forget to really backstitch carefully here – this is a point on your seams where you will probably find a lot of stress occurs, so take your time and do it right. Trim your threads.
The next step is something I really wish people had told me when I started sewing. Press your fucking seams. For this tunic, we’re pressing the seams open. For ease, do the shoulder/sleeve seams first and press these, then stitch and press the side/sleeve/underarm seams.
For the shoulder seam, go to your ironing board and spread the tunic pieces out over each side, so the seam lies along the middle of the board. Spread the seam allowances (the short edge between stitches and raw edge) open, and lie your iron down on it for a few seconds. Pick up the iron, lay it down a little further along. Rinse repeat until you have the whole seam pressed open. As you can see, your seam allowance should lie nice and flat now, with the stitching line neat and straight.
See the difference that makes? (Right is pressed, left is not)
Sew your side/underarm/sleeve seam. Take your scissors, and clip into the seam allowance until just before the stitches. This releases the tension on that curved edge and makes it less likely that the seam will pop.
Pull the skirt/body part of the tunic over your ironing board so that one layer is stretched over the top. Press the seams open, and at the unstitched end near the bottom, press back your seam allowance.
For the sleeves/underarm, take a hand towel and roll it up. Stuff it up the sleeve, and place the filled sleeve on your ironing board. Press the seams flat.
You might have noticed since starting to move your fabric around that some loose threads are coming out and unravelling. This is normal, but we do need to address it if we want the garment to last. What do we do? Finish the seams. There are, again, tons of ways of doing this. I’m going to focus on a simple technique for sewing machine users, but you can also buy a fray-checking sealant in Hickeys or WM Trimmings for relatively cheap. If you’re using that, make sure it’s in a ventilated area as the solvents will make you loopy otherwise. (NOT A GOOD THING, KIDS). My simple sewing trick is this:
Sew a row of zigzag stitches along each seam allowance, about half way across the seam allowance. Then trim the remaining fabric until just before the zigzags. You can also buy pinking shears – scissors with zigzag blades.
Et voila – you have seams! You’re nearly there! Hang up your tunic – before you hem, you need to let any curved or bias edges stretch out, and to let the weight of the fabric settle.
Next time, we’ll cover hems! Any questions, comments or queries just leave a comment below!