The first dress is made out of cotton jersey, no lycra and the fabric was bought from ebay seller sophie162223. I adored the mix of colors the moment I saw them. I chose Burda WOF 04/2008 dress 116 for this fabric.
I liked the way Burda has you sew double strips at armhole and back neckline, than turn them back and topstitch (see below) but I think I'd rather have simple strips. Double strips look more finished but they add bulk. I pounded the seam allowances with a rubber hammer to reduce the bulk but I would still prefer simple strips for next time.
I once again refer you to the Burda workshop about jersey - very useful, especially the part about stabilizing necklines and armholes with bias fusible tape, staystitched with a chainstitch, but I would like to add a few things about sewing with knits (I read all of them some place or another):
- It is very important to cut your knits on grain (well, it is very important to cut all your fabric on grain). See the Burda workshop where they explain very well how to find the grain on a knit. Have you ever had one of those store-bought t-shirts that you really like but after a couple of washes your side seams are totally crooked? They become diagonal and you have one seam showing in front and another one showing in the back? That's because the knit was not on grain.
- A walking foot helps with knits (that is my experience). It avoids stretching of seams (although you can also avoid that by reducing your foot pressure, if your machine has that option) and it crosses easier bulky seams (for some of them you don't even need to use a jig to level your foot with the fabric), thus keeping stitches equal (you know how your stitch length shortens when you sew on a bulky part and don't use a jig to help your foot?)
- I always use a stretch 75 needle or Microtex needles (70 or 80) for difficult to sew fabrics (slinky comes to mind)
- Since I discovered the stabilizing bias fusible tape (Vilene Bias Tape), I use it to stabilize the shoulders also and thus I don't need to catch a strip of fabric, nylon tape or other stuff in the seam. Love this tape, just ordered 50 m of it from SewEssential.
- I really love the look of deeper hems and try to have 4-4.5 cm (1 3/5 - 1 4/5") hems if the amount of fabric available allows it.
- For hemming, I always use a twin needle (I covet a coverstitch machine!), I prefer the needles with 2.5 distance between the needles but a 4 distance needle works just fine too (it gives a sportier look in my opinion). I have a separate bobbin shuttle dedicated to hemming knits and bobbin work. It has the tension reduced to 0 (unscrew the bobbin screw as much as you can without it falling). You can play with your tension on your bobbin shuttle if you have just one but I remember reading that if you do that too often you risk ruining your shuttle for good. I always use woolly nylon in the bobbin (I have black, white and beige and these go for almost everything; I would love to have coordinated colours, but that's what I could find). Wind the bobbin by hand or, if you're lazy and easily bored like me, wind it by machine, bypassing all the tension guides and setting your sewing speed to the lowest setting possible. Otherwise, the woolly nylon gets too stretched during winding and looses its stretchability. And you do want it in your hem for its stretchability! Since I hem like this, I never got popped stitches in my hem and believe me, I can get pretty brutal to my clothes when undressing, especially if I'm very tired or in a big rush.
- also for hemming knits, I've been using this tip by Sewing Diva Gigi for quite some time now. Great tip, it definitely improved the appearance of my hems. Her tip is for a coverstitch machine, but it works equally well when you sew your knit hems with a twin needle, on your regular machine, like I do.
- I used to cut 0.6 cm (1/4") seam allowances on all knits and sew them directly. I'm good with a serger (at least that's what I like to think) but still, this method is not the best for more complicated models, with draping details and so on. Now I cut 1.6 cm (5/8") allowances, sew them with a stretch stitch on my regular machine (I don't really like the specialised stretch stitch on my machine, the one that looks like a lightning; I prefer a zigzag stitch, 2.5 long and 0.5 wide) or with a basting stitch (make sure you take the stitching out after finishing your seams in this case) and then serge it away in total confidence.
- For more difficult hems, I use Steam a Seam to fuse them in place. By the way, I don't know about you, but the European versions of Steam a Seam I found are the kind that you iron on the fabric, fold the hem in place and iron again. They do come apart most of the time in washing and you have to press them back. Well, my dear friend Marji sent me some genuine Steam a Seam and wow! It adheres to fabric without ironing. You only iron it in place to make the bond permanent. And it is permanent - it doesn't come apart in the wash! One remark however, whether you use Steam a Seam or other similar stuff for knits, make you sure you get the light version (Steam a Seam Lite), otherwise it makes your knit stiff. The light stuff is totally unnoticeable.
This is the vintage swimsuit from Burdastyle, mixed with the bottom of the green Burda dress (without the back darts). There are several problems with this pattern, Cidell highlighted them in this post. There were (there are now, they updated the pattern) no notches for the gathering, so I did it "by eye" as we say here. The back straps should be cut on fold and if you want to tie them with a bow like in the Burdastyle photo, you should also lengthen them (you see that I can only tie mine with a knot). I also had to shorten the long strap by 9 cm (4 3/4") and the front strap that brings together the gathering in the bust insert by 5 cm (2").
The dress is made out of a gorgeous jet black viscose lycra bought from ebay shop fabric-fabric. I bought several viscose lycra knits from them and I absolutely love them.
I inserted bra cups (this pattern is so adequate for bra straps because you have that back tie strap that really helps, it give the effect of a bra: cups+back strap), again by using this very useful tutorial by Diva Gigi on the Sewing Divas blog. I only attached the cups at the underbust part and left the upper part unattached (because the insert is gathered at sides and center).
The viscose lycra is a heavy stretchy fabric and even if stretched the long band as much as I could, I still felt it would need to hug my body better therefore I added clear elastic on the entire length.
Remember to stretch the clear elastic a few times before inserting it, otherwise it would stretch in the garment and you end up with a wavy edge insert of a body-hugging one. Clear elastic is very good because it tends to adhere to naked skin (like those silicon strips on bra elastic, for strapless bras).
A deep hem again...
And because I will use this dress a lot for salsa dancing, I'm wearing it with my new dancing shoes in the picture. Here's a close-up from the manufacturer's website: