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General Sewing Instructions
Copyright ©1998-2000 Leena Lähteenmäki, Järvenpää
Preshrinking the fabric
When you buy your fabric, ask how much it will shrink when washed. In all cases, when the fabric is washable and when you are not sure that the fabric won't shrink, it is safe to wash and iron it before cutting. Don't forget to preshrink lining as well.
Cutting the pattern pieces
Cut pattern pieces on folded fabric, right side of the fabric folded inwards. Make the necessary marks on the fabric with chalk or pencil.
If the fabric is plaid, striped or checkered, align the hem lines at the same point on the repeating pattern. For sleeves, the repeating pattern should match where the bottom of the armscye and bottom of sleeve cap meet. Vertical centerline of sleeve should be placed at a vertical stripe or at center of a plaid square. Jacket, blouse and dress front center should be placed the same way.
Transfer notch marks from your pattern to the fabric by cutting snips (depth 0.5 mm /1/8") into seam allowances. When joining garment pieces, place corresponding notch marks in the two pieces together.
Cut and iron interfacing to under collars, facings, waist bands, slit facings, blouse and shirt button extensions and sleeve cuffs. Using interfacing at jacket's hem seam allowance makes get a neat hem.
If you sew a patch pocket and don't line it, attach interfacing to it also.
Always trim interfacing to eliminate the seam allowances
Cutting the lining
Cut lining along with garment patterns without space for facings (but remember to add seam allowances) and hem seam allowances. Do not cut lining for collars. Lining fabric usually is not as elastic as garment fabric, so cut it with about 1/8 inch (0.3 cm) wider seam allowances than for the garment pieces.
Use the longest possible machine stitches for basting. It is quick and the stitches can easily be removed.
HINT : In some cases you can use two-sided fusible interfacing for basting purposes. If you need to keep two garment pieces on top of each other and prevent them from shifting when you sew - like pocket on the garment, put small pieces of two-sided fusible interfacing under the pocket piece and iron the pocket lightly. After you have sewn the pocket in place, remove the interfacing between the pocket and the garment.
Finishing the garment
You will get the best result if you always press seams and darts as you sew. First iron seams or darts flat without turning them to either direction. Then press them towards center, side seam towards front. Two-piece sleeve seams are both pressed towards shoulder mark. Use a steam iron. If you press seams from right side of the fabric, use pressing cloth if necessary.
Edgestitching gives a well-finished look to garment, but only if it is straight and even. Long stitches of 1/4 inch (4-5 mm) look best in edgestitching. Sew edgestitching only after you have ironed the seam.
To tame facings at garment edges use technique understitching. It prevents the seamlines from showing on the outside of the garment and keep the seam allowances in the desired position. Refer to explanations of used terminology at the end of these instructions.
Here is an easy way to sew a professional looking bound edges to neck openings, sleeve cuffs and hems of casual garments as well as to lingerie and outdoor garments. In the example illustrated here the edging is sewn to the neck opening of a sweater
Cut a strip of fabric 4 times as wide as the desired finished width of the edging and approximately as long as the edge to which it is to be connected. In the picture the finished width of the edging is 1 cm. So the width of the fabric strip in this case is 4 cm.
Fold the fabric strip lengthwise in two, wrong side inside, and iron. Sew it to the wrong side of the neck opening raw edges matching. Stretch the edging a bit when sewing.
Start sewing 5 cm from the CB of the neck opening and leave another 1 cm of edging free (for the CB seam of the edging). Stop sewing 5 cm from the CB of the neckline and leave 1 cm for seam allowance. Sew the CB seam of the edging. Fold the edging in two at the CB of the neck as elsewhere and sew the rest of the connection seam.
Trim seam allowance to half. Open the seam well by iron the edging and the seam allowances away from each other. Turn the edging around the edge to the right side of the garment along the stitch line. Be sure not to leave the stitch line visible at the right side of the garment. Edgestitch along the folded edge. Sew slowly. Only even edgings with straight stitch lines are neat.
If you find it difficult to sew such a narrow edging - especially if your fabric is thick - you can try cutting the fabric strip a bit wider, for instance 6 times of the desired finished width of the edging (in the example garment it would be 6 cm. It is easier to turn a wider edging around the edge and the connection seam can be left well inside of the garment. In the sample garment the fabric strip for the edging at the neck opening is 4 cm and at the sleeve cuffs 6 cm.
Attaching zipper to pants or skirt
Sew seam to the point where zipper begins and continue zipper's full length with basting (picture 1). Press the seam open. Remove basting stitches. Mark front (or back) centerline with basting.
Fold one seam allowance of zipper placket at about 1/4 inch (0.5 cm) distance from front (or back) centerline) (picture 2a). Sew one zipper edge under the extended seam allowance (picture 2b).
Close zipper placket temporarily with pins on right side of garment (picture 3).
On wrong side pin other zipper edge flat on seam allowance (picture 4). Make certain that the zipper is straight and lies flat at an even distance from edges of seam allowance.
Remove pins from right side. Sew from wrong side through all thicknesses, across bottom (picture 4) and up the pinned edge of zipper near zipper teeth.
If you want to, you can sew a second row of stitches one presser foot's distance from the first one picture 5). If you are making jeans or other pants that need to be very strong, strengthen bottom of zipper placket with tight zigzag (barrack) on right side.
If you want to create a LESS NOTICEABLE ZIPPER PLACKET, sew zipper directly onto garment seam, placing zipper upside down on a basted seam on wrong side of garment. The distance between the seam and the zipper stitching is the width of the presser foot. Basting is removed after sewing. This kind of a zipper is good for a dress back seam and is also widely used in skirts.
Attaching waistband to skirt or pants
Overlock edges of waistband. Fold waistband lengthwise, right side in and press. Unfold waistband and sew its one horizontal edge to garment, right sides together (Picture 1). Space for button and buttonhole extends beyond center front mark at each end of the band. Garment's waist should always be slightly larger than waistband. Easestitch garment waist to fit waistband.
Fold waistband lengthwise, right side in, and sew across one end (buttonhole end) and the distance for buttonhole (distance between arrows in Picture 2). Trim corners and turn waistband right side out.
Press seam allowance upwards (it will be inside waistband when finished). Turn the buttonhole end of the waist band right side out. Fold seam allowance of the other end of the waistband in about 5 cm / 2" from end (Picture 3). Leave rest of waistband seam allowance flat. Stitch on ditch on the right side of garment. Sew buttonhole starting from CB mark of the pattern. Sew on button.
Sewing back slit to skirt or dress
Overlock back center seam. Baste seam for zipper (Picture 1a), sew back center seam between zipper and slit, and baste folding line for slit (Picture 1b). Press seam open. Cut seam allowance diagonally at upper end of slit (Picture 2).
Fold vertical seam allowance of one half of slit inside, and edgestitch (Picture 3). Press flat (Picture 4). Fold other half of slit (along right side of back centerline) inwards and sew across bottom at hemline (Picture 5).
Turn slit out to its correct position. Strengthen top of slit with horizontal or diagonal stitch line thorough all thicknesses on right side (Picture 6).
Cut an opening for the back slit at the back hem of the lining as in picture 7.
Sewing a button placket
Iron interfacing to vertical half of the wrong side of the button placket.
Turn the front edge seam allowance of the placket of the right front piece in and baste ( Picture 1a ). Overlock the front and the bottom edges of the placket of the left front piece.
Put garment front pieces on top of each other right sides together and sew the front CF seam from hem to where the button placket begins Picture 1b ).
Fold the button placket of the right front piece along the fold line marked on the patterns right side in and sew the across the bottom edge from the fold to the center front . Cut seam allowance diagonally. ( Picture 2 ) Pin the top edge of the button placket. Fold the placket of the left front piece along the fold line right side inside. Pin the top of the placket.
Iron interfacing to the wrong side of the neck facing and sew the shoulder seams of the facing.
Place the neck facing to the neck opening on top of the button placket. Sew the neck facing to the neck opening with distance of seam allowance from the edge. Cut clips to the round parts of the seam allowances. Understitch through the facing and the seam allowance.
Turn button placket right side out and sew along the basted placket seam allowance. Place the button placket of the right front piece on top of the button placket of the left front piece (the left front piece is inside the garment). Sew across the bottom of the button placket on the right side of the garment. ( Picture 3 )
Fasten buttons and sew button holes.
Sewing a shirt collar with stand
Fold the seam allowances of the button extensions to wrong side and iron. Fold button plackets right side against right side along the fold line marked in the patterns and sew along bottom ends.
Turn button extensions right side out. Iron and sew along folded seam allowances (Picture 1).
Iron interfacing to both collar and collar stand pieces (Picture 2a).
Sew round the collar, cut corners of seam allowances and turn the collar right side out. Iron and edgestitch along the outer edge of the collar (Picture 2b).
Fold seam allowance of one collar stand to the wrong side, baste and iron. Sandwich collar between the collar stand pieces raw edges matching and sew through all thicknesses (Picture 3). Cut the corners of the seam allowance and turn the collar to its right position (Picture 4). Iron.
Place the right side of the collar stand (with the unfolded seam allowance) against the wrong side of the blouse neck and attach the collar to the blouse neck opening. Turn seam allowances inside the collar. Pin the other edge of the collar stand (with the folded seam allowance) to its final position and sew near edge of the folded seam allowance.
Sew buttons and buttonholes on the CF-line of the button extension and the collar stand.
Another way to attach the collar is described in the drawing to the left (Picture 5).
Fold the button extension of the blouse right side against right side. Unlike in the instructions above, do not fold the seam allowance of the collar stand. Sandwich collar between the folded button extension and the blouse . Sew the collar stand to the neck opening of the blouse. Overlock the seam allowance with seamster or with zigzag.
Stitch button extensions across bottom edges. Turn button extensions and collar out and sew along folded seam allowance edge.
This technique of sewing the collar to the neck opening is not as neat as when sewing the seam allowance inside the seam. Usually the inside of the garment neck is, however, not in sight, so it does not matter.
Sew buttons and buttonholes on the CF-line of the button extension and the collar stand.
A third technique worth while trying
Fold and sew button extension according to above instructions.
Prepare the collar and sandwich it inside the collar stand pieces as above. Leave raw edges of collar stand flat. Place right side of the collar stand to the wrong side of the neckline raw edges even. Sew along the neckline (Picture 6a).
Fold collar stand pieces right side against right side encasing collar and neckline edge inside. Sew along raw edges for distance of about 2.5-5 cm / 1-2" from the end of the collar stand (Picture 6b).
Trim seam allowance to reduce bulk at the end of the collar stand. Then turn the collar and the collar stand right side out. Fold the rest of the seam allowance of the collar stand in and topstitch along the outer edge of the collar stand.
Sewing and attaching a blouse collar
For the collar, cut 2 pieces of fabric and 1 piece of interfacing. Iron interfacing to under collar. The under collar piece is on the inside, hidden by the upper piece, when the garment is completed.
Fold button placket inwards along fold line and sew along bottom and top ends from fold line to front center. Cut seam allowances diagonally at point where seam ends, so that button placket can be turned right side out.
Turn bottom seam allowance of under collar inside, baste and iron (Picture, a). Place collar pieces with right sides together and sew along edges (Picture, b).Trim seam allowances and cut corners. Turn right side out. Sew raw edge of upper collar to shell's neck from front center to front center, collar's right side against blouse's wring side. Press seam allowance upwards and pin basted edge of under collar on top of previous seam. Sew. Edgestitch if wanted.
Sewing and attaching a hood
The hood piece in the pattern makes one half of the hood. Cut 4 pieces, 2 of garment fabric and 2 of lining fabric. The lining pieces can also be of same or similar fabric, if desired.
The openings for the drawstring are sewn like small buttonholes at right side of hood 3/4 inch (2 cm) from front edge and 1 1/2 inches (4 cm) from bottom edge (Picture 1a ). To strengthen button holes, iron interfacing to wrong side of fabric before sewing button holes.
Sew both outer pieces together, right sides together (Picture 1b). Do the same with the lining pieces. Snip the seam allowance along the curved section at back of hood at intervals of about 3/4 inch or 2 cm (Picture 2).
Turn neck seam allowance of hood lining inwards and baste. Place lining and hood right sides together and sew along front edges (Picture 3 ). Turn hood right side out.
Sew hood to neck of shell,right sides together, from center front to center front. Press seam upwards and pin the basted edge of hood lining onto seam. Sew near edge.
Sew a 3/4 inch (2 cm) wide tube for strings at front edge (Picture 4).
Sewing and attaching cuffs to sleeves
Iron interfacing on sleeve cuffs. Fold seam allowance to the wrong side at one long edge of the cuff. Baste and iron. Fold the cuff pieces horizontally into two. Sew along short edges. Cut corners of the seam allowances and turn the cuffs right sides out. Iron.
Fold in seam allowance of one long edge of sleeve cuff and baste (Picture 1).
Fold cuffs horizontally in two, right sides inside, and sew along ends (Picture 2 ). Note that seam allowance of one edge has been folded in, but the other is unfolded, so the edges don't meet. Cut seam allowance diagonally at corners and turn cuffs right side out.
Cut slits at ends of sleeves and overlock edges. Turn seam allowances inside and edgestitch on right side (Picture 3). Fold slit with right side inside and sew a small triangle at the bottom of the slit (Picture 4).
Fold ease of sleeve ends into soft pleats near split. Sew raw edges of cuffs to sleeve ends with right side of cuff against wrong side of sleeve. Turn seam allowance inside cuffs and press. Pin basted edge of cuff onto previous seam and edgestitch from right side.
Sew buttonholes. Sew on buttons.
Another technique: sewing a bound slit
Bound slit is best suited to sleeve hems but it can also be used to sew a slit to front or back neck opening, or to side slits of tunic hem.
Mark the height of the slit to the wrong side of the garment with pencil (Picture 1 a and b). Machine baste along the lines to transfer the markings to the right side of the garment.
Cut two bias strips of fabric three times as wide as you want the binding strips of the slit to be. Place them on both sides of the machine basted line right side under to the right side of the garment 0.3 cm / 1/8" from the line (Picture 2).
Sew 0.7 cm / 1/4" from the basted vertical line (Picture 2, c-d and e-f).
Cut an opening along the basted line (Picture 3g) and diagonally at the corners (Picture 3h and i). Be careful not to cut the binding strips.
Press the binding strips and the seam allowances toward the slit. Turn 1/3 of the long edges of the binding strips in and wrap the bindings around the raw edges of the slit (Picture 4).
Fold back the wrong side of the garment to expose the triangle at the end of the slit opening and sew across the end to the slit catching both binding strips (Picture 5j-k).
Do final ironing and attach cuffs or collar or whatever you need to attach to this place of your garment.
Third sewing technique: cuff placket with overlap (shirt placket)
Shirt placket is finished with two separate pieces of fabric to create a wider lap.
First construct the underlap. Cut a 8 x 10 cm piece of fabric (picture 1). Fold the piece into two as in the picture, right side out. Fold one vertical seam allowance (1 cm) in and press (picture 2).
Then make the overlap. Cut 8 x 10 cm piece fabric (picture 3). Fold the piece into two wrong side out. Sew along top as in picture 4. Trim seam allowance and turn overlap right side out. Fold one vertical seam allowance (1 cm) in and press.
Mark placket on the right side of the sleeve cuff (picture 6).
Pin underlap on the left side of marked placket and overlap on the right side of the placket as in picture 7. Edges meet at the center of the placket. Sew along the marked vertical sides of the placket, stop at corners.
Cut along the center of the placket and vertically at the top corners as in picture 8. Fold and press seam allowances inside underlap and overlap and the top triangular piece to the wrong side of the sleeve upwards.
Fold laps to right position, underlap to the wrong side of the sleeve cuff and overlap to the right side of the sleeve cuff and edgestitch laps from the right side (picture 9). Topstitch the top part of the overlap through all thicknesses
There are darts at the upper part of the pocket bag and lining of pants. There are similar darts at the pants' waist.
HINT : If wanted, the darts can be moved from the top to the bottom of the pocket pieces. Cut the pocket patterns vertically from the dart apex to and across the bottom edge of the pocket pieces ( picture, a) and pivot the pieces to close the darts at the top edge of the pockets (picture, b) and to open them at the bottom edge of the pockets.
Cut the pocket pieces according to Picture 1: Pocket height is marked in the picture. Add 5 cm/2" of height to the pocket pattern for self-facing and iron interfacing to it as in the picture. This part of the pocket top will be turned inside when the pocket is complete. If the fabric is very thin or elastic, iron interfacing to wrong side of whole pocket. Always trim interfacing to eliminate the seam allowance to avoid bulk.
Cut pocket lining 10cm/4" lower than the pocket piece. Cut the lining pieces also otherwise slightly smaller (0.3cm / 1/8") than the pocket piece so that the seams will not show when the pockets are complete. When sewing the lining to the pocket seams, slightly stretch the lining.
Sew lining to the top of the pocket piece as in picture 2 leaving an opening for turning the pocket (picture 2 a-b). Fold pocket and lining right sides together raw edges matching and sew along sides and bottom. Notch seam allowances at intervals of about 1cm / 1/2" at the rounded curves of the pocket and trim corners diagonally. Turn the pocket right side out and slip stitch the opening closed.
Topstitch pocket mouth at a distance of 4cm / 1 1/2" from the top edge (Picture 3a).
Attach the pockets to the garment.
HINT : Machine baste the pockets in place diagonally from corner to corner (Picture 3b). When sewing the pocket to the garment push the pocket away from the seam and stitch along the edges of the lining. That way the seam does not show on the right side when the pocket has been sewn to the garment.
Pocket with flap
NOTE: The method used here to attach flap, welt and buttonhole pockets is called windowpane opening method. It is one of the easiest ways to sew this kind of pockets successfully.
Cut 4 pieces of pocket flaps. Iron interfacing to two of them. Sew flaps two and two together right sides inside along sides and bottom edges. Notch seam allowances at intervals of about 1 cm / 1/2 " at the bottom curves. Turn flaps right sides out, open seams well, iron and edgestitch along sides and bottom.
Mark the the pocket opening to the wrong side of the garment with pen. Machine baste along the marked lines to transfer the marking to the right side of the garment (Picture 2 a). Iron a 5cm/2" wide strip of interfacing to the wrong side of the garment at the pocket opening line.
Place pocket flap upside down raw edges along the pocket opening line (Picture 2 b).
Cut 2 copies of pocket bag (garment fabric) and 2 copies of pocket linings (lining fabric) 10cm/4" wider than the pocket opening and two times as high as you want to pocket to be. Pin pocket bag upwards right side against right side on the pocket mouth line and the lining downwards right side against on top of the pocket flap on the pocket mouth as in picture 3 and sew a rectangle around the pocket mouth line (Picture 3 a).
Cut through center of rectangle and diagonally at the ends (Picture 3 b). Cut only the garment fabric, do not cut the flap.
Turn the pocket bag, the lining and the flap through the opening to the wrong side of the garment and finger press the seams well. On wrong side of the garment Understitch the seams of the opening, first the long sides and then the short sides.
Press the rectangle area from the wrong side. Turn the pocket bag downwards edges matching the lining. Sew and overlock sides and bottom of the pocket bag.
Turn the flap to its correct position and topstitch at width of presser foot from the top of the flap (Picture 4).
Pocket with welt
Sew pocket with welt according to instructions for pocket with flap. Place the welt, however, upside down from the pocket opening line downwards (Picture 1a) and turn it upwards when ready (Picture 2 ).
Buttonhole pockets (Bound pockets)
Cut two pieces of pocket bags from garment fabric and two pieces of pocket linings from lining fabric. Mark the pocket opening to the wrong side of the garment with pen.
Pin pocket lining on the garment (Picture 1a). Sew a rectangle around the opening line on the wrong side. Cut through center of rectangle and diagonally at the ends (Picture 1b ).
Turn the lining through the opening to the wrong side of the garment and finger press the seams well. On wrong side of the garment understitch the seams of the opening, first the long sides and then the short sides (Picture 2).
Cut 4 pieces of pocket binding strips. Iron interfacing to the wrong sides of them. Fold them lengthwise in two (Picture 3a) and zigzag two and two together like in the picture (Picture 3b).
Place the binding strips under the pocket opening rectangle and edge stitch along the edges of the rectangle. (Picture 3c). Press the rectangle and the binding strips from wrong side.
HINT : Try fuse-basting to keep the pocket binding strips in place when you sew around the rectangle. Fuse-basting is explained above .
Place pocket bag under the pocket lining raw edges matching. Sew and overlock bottom edges of the pocket (Picture 4a).Pin sides (Picture 4a) and center front (Picture 4c) of the pocket. These will be attached to side and zipper seams later. Unravel the zigzag stitches from the pocket binding strings and do the final pressing.
HINT : There is a handy device for sewing buttonhole (double welt) pockets. Clotilde's sewing notions catalog offers a Double Welt Pocket Maker. It is fairly simple to use and with it it's easy to sew narrow and even welts for double welt pocket. I bought mine in a Fabric shop in Seattle - the name of which I have forgotten - but as far as I remember it correctly the price for this device was about US$ 30.
The device is sold with clear instructions.
Cut the pocket corner off the pants front piece (Picture 1) Cut two pieces of pocket bags and two pieces of pocket linings. Place pocket lining on the right side of the front piece pocket mouths matching. Sew along pocket mouth(Picture 2), turn pocket lining to the wrong side of the garment (Picture 3) and iron.
Edgestitch pocket mouth (Picture 4). Place pocket bag under pocket lining raw edges matching. Sew and overlock the bottom edges of the pockets (Picture 5a). Pin side (Picture 4b) and CF-edges (Picture 5c) of the pocket to the garment. These edges will be attached to garment seams when sewn.
Cut 2 copies of pocket bags from garment fabric and 2 copies of pocket lining from lining fabric pieces for pockets.
Place pocket lining piece on the garment, right sides together. Sew along pocket mouth (Picture 1a-b). Cut seam allowance at the ends of pocket mouth. Turn pocket lining to the wrong side of the garment and topstitch pocket mouth Picture 2).
Place pocket bag piece under the pocket lining raw edges matching (Picture 3). Sew and overlock along the curved outer edges. Pocket back piece is attached to side seam when sides are sewn. Use care not to catch the finished edge of pocket mouth in the side seam.
Press the pocket toward the front of the garment and side seams toward the back. If you want to create a very durable pocket mouth for this kind o a pocket, bartack both ends of the pocket opening.
Edgestitching is used to finish the garment edges, such as edges of collars, jacket lapels, shirt button plackets etc. Change a straight stitch for edgestitching foot to your sewing machine and sew near the folded edge or seamline. Use 3-4 mm stitch length. Long stitch length looks better than short. If you do not have an edgestitch foot, use a zigzag foot and reset the needle so it is on the extreme right-hand side.
Topstitching is used to strengthening or embellishing garments details such as pocket mouths, facings, princess seams etc..
Understitching is a single line of stitching to seam allowance close to the seam line preventing facings and linings from rolling to the outside of a garment.
After having sewn the facing or the lining to your garment, grade and clip the seam allowances with the garment's allowance wider than the facing's, then press the allowances to lie flat toward the lining or the facing. On the facing straight-stitch close to the seamline through all thicknesses. Use your fingertips to feel along the seamline in front of the presser foot to ensure that the seam allowances lie flat and to one side.
Understitching is good idea to be applied when sewing a window pane pocket openings. Understitching the pocket facing makes the opening crisp and accurate.
Easestitching is used in seams where the edges to be joined are not equally long. This kind of a situation is e.g. easing the sleeve cap to fit to the armscye. Sew easestitching with distance of seam allowance from the edge i.e. along the seam line. Sew easestitching using the 4-5 mm stitch length i.e. long but not the longest possible. You notice that the fabric is automatically eased as you sew. You can intensify the easing by tightening the strain of the upper thread of the sewing machine.
Usually the waist band is somewhat shorter than the waist of the garment. Sew easestitching to the garment waist before attaching the waist band to it. Sew the easestitching with distance of seam allowance from the edge i.e. along the seam line. If the garment has a lining, sew the easestitching through the garment and the lining.
Easestitching can also be used to join seams which curve to different directions e.g. the princess seams of the bodice. Sew easestitching to one of the seams with distance of seam allowance from the edge. Place the pieces together and sew along the easestitch.
Easestitching can also make it easier to attach a collar to the neck opening of the garment. Sew easestitching with distance of seam allowance from the edge to the neck opening of the garment. Place the collar and the garment together and sew along the easestitch.
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