Make Yourself a Dress, Part 4: The Bodice
This section really ought to be titled "Do Whatever Your Pattern Says To". The entire remainder of the process could fall under that banner, actually. So we'll now diverge a bit from this series masquerading as a true how-to, and instead I'll just share what steps I've been muddling my way through.
1. Baste. Basting is the process of loosely hand-stitching the pieces together as marked (including darts), sort of a dry run, so you can try the bodice on for fit. If the fit's off or you make a mistake, you can simply pull out the stitches as opposed to having to laboriously seam-rip a machine-stitched hem. [Romance authors, insert bodice-ripping joke here.]
2. Actual sewing! Once you're satisfied that the garment fits, follow the pattern's instructions and begin sewing the bodice together for real, including darts. Pay close attention to where any closures will need to go. I recommend ironing the seams once you're done, to "set" them. Before finishing any seams (folding them in and stitching them together to prevent fraying) try on the garment again to confirm the fit's still looking good. Now is also the time to decide if you might not just prefer to keep the dress as it is—in my case, as a fashionable owl-patterned belly shirt.
|You too can be the proud owner of an owl-patterned belly shirt!|
3. Facing. The next step for my dress was to attach the sleeve and neckline facing. Facing is a piece of fabric that lines the openings, giving them a tidy, more tailored look (as opposed to just turning down the edges). I thought this was overly fussy and complicated at first, but I changed my tune when I saw how nice the sleeves and neck ended up looking.
4. Finishing. Finishing your seams can be done a few ways. I went with a method where you fold any raw, joined edges in one each other, and sew them together (then press them with the iron). For the facing, I added another step, using bonding tape. Bonding tape is basically heat-activated glue, which comes off its spool resembling a spent dryer sheet (you can see my spools in the photo below). You lay a strip of it between the fabrics, then press with a hot iron to bond them. My facings were a bit gnarly, sticking out at awkward angles no matter how much I pressed them, so I found this step very helpful. Two notes about bonding tape, though—stick with a very thin/fine variety (you'll still be able to separate the fabric if you screw up) and TEST IT FIRST on scraps of the fabric you're using, to make sure it doesn't darken or discolor the material.
|Here you can see the inside of the back collar, where I've finished and bonded the collar facing.|
And now your bodice will be nearly done, with the possible exception of a zipper or other closures. In the next step, I'll be talking about assembling the skirt.