Here is a detailed tutorial on constructing facings and understitching them. It has great line drawings that are easy to understand.
Understitching is a technique you can use on any faced opening, i.e. neckline, sleeveless armhole opening, waistband. It causes the facing to curl to the inside of the garment and gives a nice stable edge on which to press the seam to the inside. Understitching is a technique that gives a very professional looking finish.
I saw a blouse like this at Nordstrom, it was around $200-$250 and I didn’t like the colors it came in, royal blue or kelly green. I couldn’t find a pattern to use to copy it, so I made my own.
I started with Butterick 4658, I’ve used this pattern as the beginning of many blouses.
First, on the front pattern piece, I drew on a v-neckline. I measured how low I wanted the new neckline to be and drew a a straight line from the shoulder to the center front. Then I gave the v-neck a nice curve.
I had to shorten the back shoulder seam to match the new front shoulder seam and scoop out the back neckline too.
Then I cut 2″ front and back facings off of the front and back pattern pieces. I added seam allowances to the facings and the front and back neckline.
I slashed the front and added about 4″ of ease (1″ between each cut). See photo above of front pattern piece. I drew 2 parallel lines 1″ apart and 1″ from center front and slashed and spread the pattern here. I wanted to keep the shirring close to the center front.
I folded out the dart because I had plenty of ease with the new width I was adding. Then I arranged the slashed front pattern piece, with the spacing between the slashes and placed a piece of pattern material over it and traced the new front.
I shortened the sleeve 5 1/2″ to just below the elbow. I added a 2″ wide cuff, measuring my arm for the finished length.
The construction went smoothly. As always (see my post on sewing with silks in “Tutorials”) I covered my cutting table with a sheet and pinned the pattern pieces to the fabric and the sheet. This keeps slippery fabric under control. I finished the seams with pinking shears. I have a serger, but the thread showed through to the right side when I pressed the seams. The best way to finish the seams would’ve been with french seams. I marvel at and appreciate all of you who finish you garments so beautifully on the inside. But I’d never get anything finished if I were that perfect. If I’m the only one who is going to see the inside, I finish in the fastest way possible. When I’m sewing for others I make it look good inside.
I constructed the facings, understitched the neck edge and top stitched it. Then I sewed the fully constructed facing unit to the front and back, sewing with all of the raw edges together then pressing toward the garment. Turned out pretty good, if I do say so myself. In this picture you can see my pinked seam allowance at the back neckline.
I love this hem–I first saw it at Donna Karan and the Derek Lam skirt in my Spring ’08 Wardrobe Part 1 post (in Design Inspiration) uses it too. It’s basically a cuff added to the bottom of the blouse. It eliminated the problem of narrow hemming the slippery silk fabric and it adds a little weight to the blouse and makes it hang nicely.
I cut 2 front and back band pieces,with a finished width of 4″. I sewed the side seams and sewed them together at the bottom edge. I underdstitched and pressed the band. I sewed the band on to the bottom of the garment, sewing all the raw edges together. Then I finished the seam and pressed it toward the top. (This time I finished the seam with a zig-zag stitch–don’t ask me why!)
The blouse looks great over skinny jeans or black slacks. And it’s great for those “fat” days!
My tailored jackets look limp. Any suggestions? To duplicate the look of a hand tailored jacket with fusible interfacing, you have to use layers of interfacing. If the fashion fabric isn’t too bulky, each pattern piece should be fully interfaced with a lightweight interfacing like Easy Knit. Subsequent layers of interfacing can then be added without showing through to the right side. Fusible hair canvas, with seam allowances trimmed away, should be added to the under collar from the roll line to the neck edge, on the lapel from the roll line to the outside edge, at the hem of the sleeve, front, back and optionally across the back. The Easy Knit gives the jacket body and the hair canvas causes the lapel and collar to turn gracefully.
How can I find a good fitting pants pattern? Unfortunately, the best fitting patterns seem to be found by chance and many not so good patterns must be suffered through. A few things can increase the odds of achieving a good fit. Compare a pair of pants you love to your pattern. Try to match the width of the leg, length of the crotch and waistband/hip measurement.
Add 1″ to the center back seam, easing into the crotch. Cut the waistband in two pieces, adding 1″ to the center back. This will give you some “wiggle room” for fitting the waist. Apply the waistband and finish it before sewing the center back seam. Try the pants on, check the fit and adjust at the center back seam. (The center back seam makes the pants easy to alter if they need to be tightened or let out at a later date.)
How can I pick the best fabric for a garment? First, look at the suggested fabrics on the back of the pattern envelope. Fabrics are listed in order with the best-suited fabric listed first. If you are considering a fabric not suggested by the pattern envelope, think about the drape the design requires. Heavy, stiff fabrics are best for tailored styles that fit close to the body. Designs with gathering or fullness need fabrics that are lighter and drapey. Bias cut skirts require fabrics with some weight, so they fall gracefully.
When using stretch woven fabrics, should I use a pattern designed for knits or wovens? Patterns made to use with woven fabrics work best with stretch wovens. Patterns designed for knits generally don’t have enough ease. Designs like slim fitting pants and skirts without much fullness are a good choice. Be sure to fit as you go as you may not need as much ease as the pattern gives.
I’m having trouble with skipped stitches on my sewing machine, any suggestions? First, make sure your machine is in good mechanical shape. Clean and oil it regularly at home and have it done professionally once a year or more depending on use. Be sure to remove lint around the bobbin case and under the throat plate. Use the right needle size and type for your fabric. Size 9, 11 and 14 are most commonly used for light (silk) to heavy weight (wool) fabrics. Sharp needles are used on wovens as they pierce the fabric cleanly. Ball point needles are designed to slip through the knitted stitches of stretch fabrics. Make sure your needle is in good shape, I use a new needle every time I start a project and if I nick a needle on a pin, I replace it. This is especially important when sewing delicate fabrics. Check your thread tension – start at a medium setting and adjust up or down until stitches lock in the middle then loosen it a little when topstitching. Try not to fool with the bobbin tension, have a repairman do that if necessary. If it’s possible on your machine, adjust the pressure on the presser foot so the fabric moves through the feed dogs easily. Sometimes there is a finish on the fabric that causes skipped stitches (a good reason to pre-wash).
Pattern sizing is so confusing, how can I find my size? Patterns base their sizes strictly on measurements so they are very consistent. Compare you most relevant measurement to the pattern size; i.e. if you are making pants compare your hip measurement or a jacket your bust measurement. These measurements are the most critical for fitting and so should be as close to the pattern as possible, other measurements can then be altered. As a general rule of thumb, go up 3 sizes from your ready-to-wear size. (Don’t freak-out! It’s only a number.)
What can be done to keep facings from popping-out? I avoid facings when possible by lining the garment or using a bias strip to finish the edge. Facings stay put best when they are understitched and tacked to seam lines by “stitching in the ditch”.
Why do my hand-stitched hems look puckery? Take long, very loose stitches, almost loopy, and only catch a thread on the right side of the fabric.