It’s been a few weeks since we released the Vintage Shirt Dress pattern and my gosh, we have been overwhelmed by the lovely reception she has had from you all. Seeing them out in the wild (check out these amazing ones from Winnie, and testers Fiona, Jane, Marie, Vicki and Emmie) has been such a highlight of the past few weeks. We are so excited to see more popping up!
As the Vintage Shirt Dress Competition deadline is fast approaching, we thought for anyone getting a bit stuck on the collar and the facing (it is a bit of a tricky one), we’d go through it sewalong-style with you on the blog. You’ve got until the 8th July to enter so let’s get it nailed!
This tutorial starts just after you’ve sewn the bodice to the skirt. Done that? Then let’s start with the collar…
Assembling the collar
To give the collar some stability, iron on fusible interfacing to the wrong side of the top collar piece. Depending how stiff and crisp you would like your collar to be, you’ll want to use a light to medium weight interfacing for this.
Interfacing tip: it’s always worth buying the highest quality interfacing you can get your hands on. After a few disappointments, we’ve found out the hard way that cheaper interfacing can sometimes crumple in the wash and ruin the look of your lovingly-made garment. It’s worth investing in the good stuff. (We sell the good stuff if you’re in need!)
Place the collar pieces right sides together and match up the notches. Pin the pieces and using a 1cm seam allowance, sew around the longer curved edge. Go slowly around the curves – you might find it easier to use a shorter stitch length than usual here, as it will force your machine to go slower, and give you more time to manoeuvre the fabric as you go.
Once you have sewn the collar pieces together, trim the seam allowance down by half. This will stop the collar from becoming too bulky.
In order to turn the collar out nicely, you’ll need to clip triangles into the curves. This will stop the fabric from buckling, and allow it to sit flat.
After clipping the triangles, turn the collar the right way out and give it a good press.
To get a really professional-looking finish, you’ll want to slightly roll the seam to the underneath of the collar. This can be quite fiddly but go slowly and use lots of steam.
That’s your collar constructed.
In order to keep everything in its place while we’re attaching it to the dress, it’s a good idea to tack the open edge together. To do this, set your machine to a long stitch length and sew the opening closed, staying within the 1cm seam allowance.
Now it’s time to attach it to the dress.
With the underside of the collar facing the right side of the bodice neckline, match the notches and pin together. Each end of the collar should meet up with the pivot point at the top of the lapel on the bodice.
Again, staying within the 1cm seam allowance, machine tack the collar and dress together using a long stitch length.
Now we’re ready to move onto the facing!
Assembling the facing
Start by interfacing all of the facing pieces. You’ll want to use a fairly lightweight interfacing for this as you probably won’t want a stiff facing. (Nobody wants that, right?) As we mentioned above, the higher quality the better for this.
Matching the notch, pin the upper and lower facings together at the waist seam, making sure right sides are together. Using a 1.5cm seam allowance, stitch the seam in place. (Now that you’ve stitched this part, we’ll now refer to these pieces as the “front facing”.)
Using an overlocker or a zigzag stitch, finish the seam allowances together, before giving it a good steam press downwards.
Repeat this process for the other side of the dress.
Now, with right sides together, pin both front facings to the back neck facing piece. Using a 1.5cm seam allowance, sew this little seam. Finish the seam allowances together with an overlocker or zigzag stitch, before pressing to the front.
Are you ready for a mass zigzagging session? It’s time to finish the whole outer edge of the facing. Start at the hem and zigzag or overlock all the way around the outer edge, right back down to the hem on the other side of the front facing.
Attaching the facing to the dress
Place the facing and the dress right sides together and match the notches at the waist seam, shoulder seams and collar.
You should find that the collar should meet the start of the lapel.
Pin the facing in place, all the way around from hem to hem.
To stop the facing from shifting whilst you are sewing, we are going to sew it to the dress in two parts.
So, starting at the centre back and sewing down to the hem, stitch the facing to the dress using a 1cm seam allowance.
When you get to the pivot point where the collar meets the start of the lapel, remember to stop stitching, lower your needle, lift your presser foot and pivot the fabric. Replace the presser foot and carry on sewing.
Go slowly around the curves, reducing your stitch length if you want your machine to go even slower.
Now repeat for the other side, starting at the centre back and stitching to the hem.
Once you have attached the whole facing you’ll find the collar is now sandwiched between the dress and the facing. Nice and neat!
Finishing the facing – reinforcing stitching and clipping
You’ve sewn the facing in but the fun doesn’t stop there. To help it sit nice and flat there are still some things you need to do.
Firstly we’re going to reinforce the corner at the pivot point where the collar meets the lapel. At 2cm either side of the pivot point, sew another line of stitching over your original stitches. Remember to backstitch at the beginning and end. Because we’re going to clip into this corner in a second, this part of the dress is structurally weak so reinforcing the stitching will help to give it strength.
Once you have reinforced the stitching it is time to start on the aforementioned clipping. This is an essential step – if you try and turn your dress the right way out now you will understand why. No skipping on the clipping!
At the pivot point, snip into the seam allowance into the corner, getting as close to the stitching as you dare. Just one good snip will do.
Next we’re going to clip little triangles into the seam allowance, all the way around the curved lapel edge. Again, go as close to your stitching line as you dare.
More clipping now as we head to the neckline, all the way around the back neck facing.
Finishing the facing – grading your seam allowances
Now that all your seam allowances are clipped and snipped, it’s time to grade!
What is grading? Grading means trimming your seam allowances down to different widths, as this helps to reduce bulk.
Let’s start with the shoulder seams. Trim down both seam allowances to 5mm. Then, just on the seam allowance of the facing, trim this down again by half. This is quite tricky, especially when the seam allowance has already been clipped, but it is an important step in getting the finish of your dress tip-top.
Next, on both sides of the dress, grade down your seam allowances between the lapel notch and the hem in the same way.
Finishing the facing – understitching
Understitching is the number one most important facing finishing technique we know. Stop your facings from rolling out by anchoring it to the seam allowance on the inside of the dress – it’s genius!
We’re going to start by understitching the back neck facing between the shoulder seams.
Open out the dress from the facing and press the seam allowances towards the facing. With the facing right sides up and the seam allowance underneath, stitch them together at 2mm from the original seam. Be very careful that you’re not catching any of the front of the dress as you sew.
Then we’re going to do the same thing for the front facing.
Before you go in all guns blazing, remember to slightly roll the seam from the lapel notch to them hem to the inside of the dress before you start understitching. You’ll want that seam to sit slightly on the inside of the dress when it’s finished, so we’re getting ready for that now.
When you’re all pressed, starting 2cm below the lapel notch, understitch the facing to the seam allowance down towards the hem. Again, don’t let any of the dress get in the way!
Pressing the lapels in place
Just one last thing to do before the facing stage is complete: pressing the lapels in place.
Using the lapel notch as the bottom of the lapel, fold open the lapels to the outside of the dress. Give them both a good press in place, remembering to roll the seam slightly to the back of the lapel.
And then you’re done! We’ll see you tomorrow when we’ll be going through the buttonholes and the hem!
Need some help?
Need some Vintage Shirt Dress inspiration? Then make sure you check out our Vintage Shirt Dress board on Pinterest – it’s brimming with lots of inspiration as well as a few of your makes! Go have a look!
Oh and don’t forget about the Vintage Shirt Dress competition – you could win a Janome overlocker! We use these ones in our classes and they are seriously the bomb. Find our more information and how to enter here. Good luck!