Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Butterick 5317 - Seams

In many ways my fabric choice was perfect. It is navy, but it's also polka dot - I don't like my clothes to take themselves too seriously, after all I don't. Its a lovely heavy cotton which holds a crease and hangs beautifully, great for the more tailored aspects of this dress. It was less than £8 a metre and did I mention the polka dots?
However. It's a bit unstable, if you look at it the wrong way it slowly starts to unravel. Which was a pain and a half, especially when you consider I don't have a serger/overlocker and my lovely old machine has no attachment to allow zig zag stitch.
So I turned to the sewing bible (and google) and discovered all sorts of alternatives.

  • Pinking shears! Apparently finishing an edge with tiny little zig zags reduces the amount a fabric can fray. However, it's not really extreme enough for really self destructive fabrics like mine. Didn't stop me trying though.
  • Mock french seams. They look like french seams, but they aren't. Neither are they easy to explain with words, I would show you a picture of my attempt, but I'm a bit ashamed of it's wonkyness, so look at this. My fabric was really too bulky for these though, which then rulled out lots of other seam finishes.

So instead I tried binding. By encasing the naughty edges in another layer of fabric the fraying is limited. I bought some cotton bias binding, but I may also be buying some rayon seam binding which is thinner and so better for areas that shouldn't be bulky. I used this for seams and also for hemming.

And this is how I did my hems; first I stitched the binding onto the cut edge of the fabric (1), then I folded the fabric to the correct length and did a line of stitching close to the fold (2) and then I stitched down the binding (3) which encased the unraveling edge in-between two rows of stitching and underneath a layer of bias binding. Hopefully indestructible!

I also did a bit of hand stitching using overcast stitch, which is just a little diagonal stitch over the edge of the fabric which catches the unraveling edge and stops it getting worse. It's almost invisible on my fabric so a photo is next to pointless.
Actually there's a whole host of potential seam finishes suitable for different fabrics. If you look on blogs lots of people seem to only mention sergers/overlockers. Apparently they are both fast and easy. They trim the fabric and neatly encase edges all in one. Well, I laugh in the face of such time saving methods, mainly because I can't afford them. If you can't afford them either don't worry, find yourself a nice big book and find a fancy seam you like the look of. It'll only cost you thread and an extra evening or two.

Lessons learned:

1. I must not kid myself that it's ok to buy cheap fabric because I'm "still learning", I'm going to be learning for a real long time and I will go mad if all my clothes fall apart after one wash when they've taken two weeks to make.
2. Seams take a realllllllllly long time. But, I'm a very happy camper with a needle in my hand, so it doesn't matter too much. (p.s. not actually IN my hand)


  1. Hi! I came over from your PR review. Love the fabric, I'm crazy about polka stash certainly can testify about this, LOL! I did a swatch exercise recently where I cut little squares of fabric and put them in photo slide pages and I can see my preferences clearly!!!

    Anyway, lovely dress. Have you considered that you have narrow shoulders? You might want to use a smaller size for the neckline and armscye/armhole than you do for the bust or bodice. I trace all my patterns, US or EU (like Burda, La Mia Boutique) etc. and I just use the line that is closer to my high bust rather than do one size throughout as I used to do BEFORE discovering the sewing blogosphere.

    Oh, and I read in an older post about your disappearing measuring tape. My trick is to put a safety pin in the little hole mine has in the metal tip. I attached it to the 150cm/60in end and pin it to my clothing. Never lose it again during a sewing session.

    1. Thank you!
      Intriguing. I'd never thought about having narrow shoulders, but it seems there are all sorts of odd body shape issues you never even think about until you try making something for yourself.
      p.s. I shall certainly be pinning my measuring tape to my waistband for the next project!


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