Today is a very exciting day because it means it’s time to start sewing our Doris Dresses! Woohoo. If you’re not quite ready for this stage, head to our previous post on choosing fabric, gathering supplies, measuring yourself and cutting everything out. If you’ve got all that sorted, let’s get going!
Making sure you have transferred all your notches and pattern markings onto your fabric, unpin your pattern from bodice dress pieces.
To prevent the neckline from stretching out, the first thing we’re going to do is staystitch around the neck on the front and back bodice pieces. Use a short stitch length for this, and remember to keep within the seam allowance. Aim to sew your line of stitching 1cm from the raw edge.
Once we’ve done that we don’t need to worry to much about stretching the fabric as we work with it, it makes sense to very quickly finish the raw edges of the bodice pieces. With a zigzag stitch, overlock the shoulders and sides of your three bodice pieces.
This will stop them from fraying as you’re working with – and wearing – your Doris Dress!
Once everything is neat and your finishing thread tails have been trimmed, we’re ready to move onto the next part: creating the ties for Version 1 of the Doris Dress. (If you are sewing Version 2, you can move onto creating the pleats.)
Creating the ties – Version 1 only
To create the ties, start by pressing each tie piece in half lengthways, making sure right sides are together. There are notches to help you fold accurately – which if you’re using a slippery fabric in particular should come in useful.
Pin the tie along the long raw edge, and the diagonal short edge. Then, with a 1cm stitch these edges closed. Begin stitching at the tip of the short diagonal edge, pivoting once you reach the corner, before stitching all the way along to the open raw edge. Do this for the second tie piece.
To reduce bulk, it’s a good idea here to trim your seam allowances down by half, to 5mm.
So that you can turn the point of the tie our neatly, it’s also a good idea to trim off the tip point.Snip as close as you can to the stitching, without actually cutting into them.
With the help of a knitting needle or rouleaux loop turner, turn both ties right sides out and give them a good press. For a neat, professional-looking finish, make sure the seam is right on the edge of the ties.
Sandwiching the ties in the back bodice pleats – Version 1 only
Whilst you’ve still got your ties to hand, let’s create the pleats in the back bodice. The raw edges of the ties are very cleverly sandwiched within the pleats. So neat!
Check that you have transferred the crosses from the pattern to your fabric. The pleats will sit between these, so it’s important that you get this bit accurate. With your back bodice piece facing right sides up towards you, place the open raw end of one tie between the crosses, with the raw edge pointing towards the centre back. Make sure the tie pieces do not sit below the lowest cross, otherwise they will be caught in the seam allowance of the waist seam.
With a long stitch length, machine tack each pleat in place, with a 1.4cm seam allowance.
Stitching the pleats in the back bodice
Change your stitch length back to a standard 2.4m. Matching the notches, fold the back bodice right sides together at the pleats, and pin them in place. Stitch from the notch up to the circle, remembering to backstitch at the beginning and end. Repeat for the other back bodice pleat, and press both pleats inwards towards the centre back.
If you are making Version 1, your ties will now be anchored into the seam, and look all lovely. Press the ties towards the centre back on the outside of the dress.
Stitching the front bodice pleats
Now we’re going to do the same thing for the front bodice. Fold the bodice piece right sides together at the pleat, matching the notches, and pin. Like before, stitch from the notch to the circle.
Press the pleats towards the side seams.
Stitching the shoulder and side seams
Place the front bodice pieces and the back bodice right sides together and pin at the shoulder seams.
Stitch the shoulder seams, before pressing the seam allowance open.
With the front bodice pieces on top, pin the bodice pieces at the right side seam only (as if you are looking at it – see booklet illustrations.) Stitch this seam as normal, sewing from the underarm to the waist.
Because this seam will be taking a lot of strain at the underarm, it’s a good idea to reinforce it here. Directly on top of your line of stitching, sew this seam again at the underarm curve. This will make it nice and strong.
Press the seam allowance open.
If you find your seam allowance isn’t sitting flat, you might like to do some small snips into it at the curve at this point. We don’t recommend this if you’re using a fabric that frays a lot, but a stable cotton will manage fine.
On the left side of the bodice, pin the front and back together at the underarm, just between the sleeve edge and the zip notch. The Doris Dress has a side zip, so we are leaving a space to insert it.
Stitch this little seam, before once again reinforcing it with a second line of stitching. Press the seam allowances open.
Creating the facings
To make it easier for you to see what’s going on, we have made our facings from white cotton voile. This is a good option if you are using a light coloured printed fabric for your dress, as it will prevent the facings from showing through the front of your dress. Plus using cotton voile alongside a rayon or crepe will give it added structure – and make it easier to sew!
We’re going to start by strengthening all of the facings with a lightweight fusible interfacing. If your fabric does not have a distinctive right/wrong side, pay close attention to which sides you are fusing your interfacing onto.
Then with an overlocker or zigzag stitch, finish the raw edges on the unnotched edge of the front bodice facing pieces.
Finish the short edges of both front and back neck facing pieces.
Taking the front and back neck facing pieces, pin them together at the shoulders with right sides together. Use the notches to help you line them up correctly, before stitching.
To reduce bulk at the shoulders, press the seam allowances open. You now have one big neck facing piece.
Overlock the long outer edge of this new neck facing piece with an overlocker or a zigzag stitch.
Now let’s join the neck facing to the front bodice facing. Place these pieces right sides together and match the double notches. Pin together before stitching in place.
Open the facing out and press the seam allowances towards the neck facing.
Now you have one HUGE facing piece!
Attaching the facing
With right sides together, place the facing and bodice together at the neckline. Match the shoulder seams together and pin, before matching up all the notches at the centre back, around the neckline and down the centre front. Pin the whole facing in place.
To avoid distortion, we are going to sew this seam in two steps, each time starting at the centre back, sewing down towards the waist. Begin on the left side, sewing from the centre back, all the way around the curves of the neckline. Once you reach the centre front, put your needle down, lift your presser foot up and pivot the fabric, before lowering the presser foot and continuing down the front of the bodice to the waist. Then repeat for the right side.
To help the bodice seams sit beautifully flat, trim down the seam allowances to 5mm.
At the neckline, use small scissors to make tiny little snips into the curved parts of the seam allowances. Snip as close to the line of stitching as you can get, without actually stitching into it. Trim off the little corners at each centre front edge of the bodice. This will help to create nice pointed corners once the bodice is turned the right way out.
At this point, press the seam allowances towards the facings.
To make doubly sure that the facing are going to stay put on the inside of your dress, it’s a good idea at this stage to understitch them in place. Understitching is a technique in which the facing of a garment is anchored to the seam allowances, preventing the seam from rolling out. Because it is physically impossible to understitch the whole facing, we are starting 2cm in from the front bodice corner.
Lay the pressed seam allowances over the facing pieces, and starting 2cm from the corner, understitch from the top of the front edge down to the waist on both sides of the bodice. Do the same around the whole inside neckline edge.
Fold the facing to the inside of the bodice and give it a good press with lots of steam. For a professional finish, at this point slightly roll the seam to the inside of the dress, so that it’s not visible from the outside.
And that’s your gorgeously neat facing sewn in place! Just one more step today…
Tacking the bodice closed
In order to sew the next stages (which we will do next week!), the front bodice needs to be tacked closed.
Make sure the bodice is the right way out. Imagine you are wearing it, and fold the right hand side bodice over the left hand side. Line up the notches so that the bodice overlaps by 3cm. Pin this little overlap, before machine tacking it shut with a long stitch length. So that is it not visible when the dress is finished, remember to keep within the 1.5cm seam allowance.
And breeeeaaaathe! That’s it for today! Well done to everyone who has got this far. Your bodice is 99% complete!
You have got the weekend to get this far, and we will be back on Monday when we’ll be creating the skirt and attaching it to the bodice. We can already see it’s coming together! A new Doris Dress will be hanging in your wardrobe before you know it.
Have a great weekend everyone. Happy sewing!