Straight off the bat, I have to tell you something important. Tragedy befell my sewing room last week. My iron stopped working. (Insert appropriate scary music or Dawson Leery crying meme here.) My trusty 15 year old Rowenta. And by “stopped working,” what I really mean is, “spit rusty brown water all over a white linen skirt and no way am I trusting you again.” I’ve worked with many professional gravity feed and boiler irons at various shops, but as long as my old girl was still with me, I didn’t have to think about whether I should upgrade at home. And this week I was forced to make that choice. I didn’t go super fancy, but I am over the moon excited for this new tool to make it’s way to me sometime this week.
A Pacific gravity feed. (And $10 off right now through Wawak if you’re in the market.) Pretty entry level pricing for a more professional iron, around the same cost as higher priced home model Rowentas. I’m so excited to get crisper presses on the linens and cottons I’m working with now. And in fall when I want to FINALLY make Miss Cakes the Oliver + S School Days coat I’ve been thinking about for years (literally bought the pattern two years ago), I won’t have to visit a friend’s shop just to clap the wool flat in the bulkier turns. I’m salivating just thinking about it.
Why am I telling you this upfront? While I had finished sewing and photographing the Lil’ Red dress for today, I wasn’t able to sew the cat print/linen version. I’m hoping the new iron is up and running for me to finish both for Thursday, but there may be a delay if it doesn’t arrive timely. I’ve written out the instructions today for both versions, but no pictures of the cat/linen shirt. (I’ll either come back to edit them in later, or post them by themselves upcoming.) Apologies! I actually stood in Target with a low end Rowenta in my hand debating if I needed an iron just to get me by for a few days, and then had to put it down to stop Miss Cakes from biting off the end of a roll of Rolos. So wait it is.
Onto today’s work and getting these dress panels attached to the yoke! Ready to roll?
Dress or Blouse top panel assembly
- Right sides together, pin and sew the dress’s large body panels at 1/2″.
- Finish the seam allowances using your preferred method of serging, pinking with a pinking shears, or use French seams. I serge off 1/4″ when I serge, due to the extreme curve of the underarm. This helps the seam allowance lie a bit flatter. I tried french seams on the blouse version, and while they’re quite nice, in quilting cotton it’s a bit bulky. I’d rather use a french seam on a looser or lighter weight fabric like tissue linen, lawn, batiste, or organdy.
- Turn right side out and press the seams to the back of the dress. At the underarm, press flat along the curve and use steam to help stretch the seam allowance.
Hem the sleeves
- Sew a basting line at 1/2″.
- Fold and press the raw edge to meet the basting line. I trim away the seam allowance at an angle to meet this foldline to reduce bulk.
- Fold again, tucking the raw edge to the inside and press. This essentially creates a double fold 1/4″ hem along the sleeves. You can skip the basting etc. if you can accurately turn this yourself, just make sure you use 1/2″ exactly so the yoke will fit onto the dress piece top edge. Edgestitch in place.
- Remove the basting. (The pattern says here to repeat on the second side; I always do both at the same time.)
Attach the dress’s top panel to the front yoke
- Stitch two gathering rows at 3/8″ and 5/8″ from the top edge of both the dress’s top front and back. Begin and stop the gathering 3/4″ from the finished sleeve edges. I mark this with an invisible marker or pencil so it’s accurate. Don’t backstitch or tack at the ends of these rows so that you can pull the tails of the threads, and dial your stitch length up as long as it will go. For me this is 5.0. Leave long thread tails so you can pull them for gathering. Make sure at this point that you have symmetrical double and single notches marked on each side of center of both the front and the back. You won’t be able to remark them once you start pulling the gathering threads. *Seam allowance on this seam will be 1/2″. The pattern has you gather in these places so that the gathers will be controlled perfectly when you stitch the yoke in place, and the lower gathering line will be removed later. If you prefer to gather all inside the seam allowance, place your lines at 1/4″ and a scant 1/2″ instead, and you won’t have to remove anything later.
- This will be different depending on whether you’re following the pattern as written, or switching the construction order like I talked about when prepping the yoke last time. I’ll be doing the Lil Red fabric as written, and the linen/cat fabrics in the opposite order. For Lil Red/ as written: Pin the wrong side of dress’s front panel to the right side of the front yoke lining (the raw edge piece). Match the notches and hems and place pins at each of these locations. The front side of the dress is the side with the pockets, the back doesn’t have pockets. The front of the yoke is the V notch, the back has the button loop. Pull the gathering threads until the pieces fit together between every set of notches. *If you haven’t gathered before, simply pull both threads from the backside of the piece at the same time and gathers will form. When it’s adjusted to the right size, knot the front and back threads together so it can’t pull out. For linen/ alternate method: Align the dress’s right side and yoke right sides together, following all the above.
- Dial your stitch length back down to your regular stitching length, for me this is 2.4. Stitch the pinned seam at 1/2″, making sure you don’t catch the folded edge of the other yoke and arranging your gathers as you go. It’s easiest to sew with the gathers and dress body side down against the throat plate of the machine, with the yoke facing up. You’ll easily be able to see where to stop and start perfectly against the folded edges at the ends, the gathers won’t push out of the way as you sew, and you can handle the folded yoke edge out of the way.
- For Lil Red/ written method: Press and steam the seam allowances towards the yoke, careful to not hard press the gathers down. Pin the folded edge of the yoke aligning with the stitch line perfectly. (The lower gathering stitch line will still be visible if you placed your gathers at 3/8″ and 5/8″.) Edgestitch in place, finishing the yoke on the front side. For linen/ alternative method: Press also towards the yoke. Pin the folded edge of the yoke on the backside to align with the stitch line if you plan to finish by hand stitching in place, or rolling it a bit out and covering the stitch line if you plan on stitching in the ditch from the front side. Stitch in the method of your choice. Remove any of the lower gathering threads if visible, using your fingernail to lightly scratch any tiny holes back into place.
Attach the dress’s top panel to the back yoke
- Pin the wrong side of the dress’s back panel to the right side of the back yoke lining, matching all notches and hems as you did for the front. Pull on the gathering threads to adjust to fit again. For linen/alternate method, follow the same order as for the front.
- Stitch the top back panel at 1/2″ as for the front. Make sure you stitch exactly at the tack where the folded edge of the outer yoke ends.
- Clip the seam allowance of the dress panel at the center back, where the yoke is split, up to but not through the stitching. This will allow the seam allowance to turn inside of each side of the yoke. Sometimes I end up trimming just a small triangle out of this area, so there’s less bulk and strain against the edge of the yoke and to help it fit more neatly.
- Press the seam allowances towards the yoke as before, pin, and edgestitch. If you work with a table extension, at this point the dress is easier to maneuver if you convert your machine to a free arm and slide the dress over the arm.
- Remove the lower gathering stitches that are visible if you placed your gathers at the 5/8″ line, scratch with your fingernail to remove any pinholes, and steam.
I’ll admit, getting the center back yokes to fully cover the seam allowance on the dress is still something I struggle with. It always looks perfect from the side where you stitched first, which can be a reason for me to switch up the order and sew in the alternate method instead of as written. Just tuck as much as you can, pin in place, walk your machine through slowly, and rip and try again if you need. And if you can’t get the whole seam allowance tucked in, you can always put a drop of fray check or some clear nail polish on the bottom of the clip to keep it from fraying or tearing.
Almost to the finish line! Cross your fingers that my new toy arrives in time to put on the lower bands by Thursday. There’s so little left, I’m impatient to finish and try this on an even more eager little girl. Have a great week!
Happy sewing (and ironing, ahem),
Also in this series: Sew-along announcement