The Sew Weekly Sewing Circle

Hello Lovely Sew Weekly sewing circle people! I need your help.

I'm making a dress after a vintage sewing pattern that you can see here. (I'm making a short version of view 3) I've added lining even though there's no mention of it on the pattern. This isn't really important but I feel I should introduce my problem properly :)

Everything was going well until I finished the dress and tried it on: the armholes are too tight! It isn't too bad but I know it is going to be uncomfortable to wear and there are 2 little creases forming by the armpits that aren't very pretty. (I think I generally tend to make my seam allowances too narrow)

 

Here's a picture of the bodice (before I realised my mistake) so you can get an idea of its shape:

So here's where I need your help: is there a nice way I could widen the armholes without having to undo everything? I don't want it to look bulky, or odd... The reason I'm reluctant to undo everything is that I've used a serger for the first time. I got carried away with it and used it everywhere (well, the dupion and lining do fray so it helped!) There are a LOT of stitches to cut through! But apart from that, it is just the bodice and lining: I didn't use the facings.

I mainly wanted the lining for the skirt but I'm not sure it's really needed for the bodice: should I just get rid of the bodice lining and use facings instead?

 

I feel like a right idiot for not noticing before I finished the dress. I haven't been sewing for long and am self-taught so I was wondering if there was a technique I don't know of or if any of you would have tips to remedy this? You've always been so helpful on here!

Many thanks!

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I'm not sure how I would fix this, I'll probably just try to unpick the seams where you want to enlarge the armhole ( in the side seams directly under the armhole) and then sew it close by hand... maybe someone else has some better advise.

You could insert a Gusset....there are all kinds of tutorials on line about how to do this successfully.

I've done that before...no worries!  All of us do these things! You could try making a slit in the material, stitch it to the lining to keep it from fraying and trim it...make it a "feature" and don't tell anyone what you did. I did it with a lined top and made an ease spot that way...everyone complimented me and though it was cool...just make it look on purpose with a trim or lace.

60's patterns are always tight in the armhole!

I would  -

draw your new armhole shape + 6mm seam allowance on the outside of the garment.  eg. in 1cm at the shoulder and down 1cm at the underarm & draw new curve. (you may not even need this much.. up to you)

Pin along the line so that the lining doesn't slip out of place.

Cut through the lot! (yeah I hate unpicking!)

use some satin bias binding turned to the inside to finish the armhole, treating the lining and outer fabric as one.

Thank you ladies for your help and advice. I'll take another day (and maybe night) to think about it and decide which tip to follow. It's not the end of the world if I mess it up as the fabric was a cheap remnant (the lining ended up costing more) I could always buy something similar to start again but for some reason I'm scared of getting started and making an even bigger mess. You learn from your mistakes right?

It really depends upon how much larger you need to make the armholes.  Personally I would undo the stitches, the key to making this easy is to understand the formation of the stitch, if it is a 4 thread stitch it will look like this

if you only used a 3 thread serging stitch ignore the dark green line.  Starting at the end (preferably, but you can cut yourself a starting point anywhere) put the point of your seam ripper,  (I prefer to have the blunt side towards the thread), and pull the stitch out, move on about 3-4 stitchs and repeat (ad nausem)  if you want a change try pulling the needle thread until it breaks, but then you have to find the needle thread again amongst the tightened stitches, which can be a bit tricky, but can give you a bit of variety in what you are doing whilst unpicking :)  With a 4 thread stitch, it can be possible to do both threads at once, but the works seems to go slower than if you do one at a time - you have to find out what works for you.

 

For future reference, before serging multiple layers together, straight stitch and check fit, or you could try pin fitting the pattern - that is pin the pattern pieces together and try them on, this can indicate possible problems.  When doing armholes however, do remember that you will be losing the seam allowance from the edge, it can be quite easy to cut off the seam allowance so that it fits nicely, but then when you sew it up, the armhole is now too large.

 

Seam Allowances - if the pattern says stitch it at 5/8", do so.  Years ago I made a 4panel flared skirt with waist band, I thought the seam allowances were too generous so I sewed them about 3/8", at which point the skirt panels did not fit onto the waistband and rather than re sew them, I put in a pleat on either sideseam to get it finished.  It didn't look good, but I learnt my lesson and future skirts were stitched with the proper seam allowance!  If you progress on to drawing your own patterns you can make the seam allowances any size you want :)

Thanks Rosemary, this is very helpful. The seam allowances are actually marked on the pattern! There is a seam line and a cutting line: I have no excuses. I do usually try the 'project' on before sewing but tend to pay attention to the general fit. Now I know I need to look out for armholes and collars too!

I think I'll do what Casey suggested even though I've never used bias binding.

If it doesn't look good, I'll unstitch the whole thing and start again. I've got time anyway - I don't need to wear the dress before a family wedding in May! What could possibly go wrong? ;)

Bias binding does give a very good finish, since you are new to it when putting on the first stage do not stretch it out to fit around the curves, if you do when you come to fold it over for the second stitching line you will find that it is not as wide as it ought to be.  Therefore 'ease' or 'push' a bit more under the needle as you go along, but not so much that you get a tuck (if the bias is on the bottom, next to the feed dogs they will do this for you, to a degree), by doing this the second stage is much easier.  I would suggest you have a try of both methods on a scrap first, to see the difference it can make,  but personally I am usually too eager to get on with the actual item to bother (which is probably how I found out about this in the first place) 

But the more care you put into the the first 'pass' ( pinning is good, tacking/basting is gold star award time:), the easier the second pass is!

I did it!! 

So I:

- re-opened the sides

- sewed the bits of facing that I haden't used around the armholes

- cut out the excess fabric from the old too tight armholes and notched the remaining seam allowance

- turned the facings in and pressed them into place

- closed up the sides

- hand-sewed the facings to the lining so it stays into place

... and it works! Ok, it doesn't look too nice in the inside but who's going to see it?

 

Here's the final result:

The bodice is tight and the skirt loose but it's how it's meant to be (I think). There is a small crease at the back, by the armpit but I'm going to leave it as it is. I might sew it again as I love the design, but I won't bother with lining next time.

 

great job! Looks great! Don't let mistakes throw you off too much. After sewing for almost 30 years I had to seam rip 3 times yesterday. It just comes with the territory, you probably won't make the same mistake again for a long time! Have fun!

Before you completely swear off doing linings in dresses altogether, remember they can be very useful, particularly if you are using a lightweight &/or pale coloured fabric,  also they can help with how a dress hangs & moves on the body and 'wears'  In the case of this dress, I can imagine that it will also help the skirt to not 'seat', that is to show that you have been sitting for any length of time due to the combination of body heat and pressure, a skirt/dress that has not been lined (depending upon cloth) can show this when you get up and keep the sitting creases in it.  Good job, and if you do remake this pattern, you will have a great head start on fitting  and making methods - actually remaking a pattern, and changing up one or two things each time is a great way of learning but also being confident that you should be able to end up with a wearable garment.  

Your finished dress turned out great!

One last note for future reference:

Using a serger is fast and fun, but when you plan to line anything, that cancels out the need to use it.  Sew with that machine when your seams will be exposed and might unravel.  Otherwise, plain straight stitch seams are fine, and won't add bulk to your garment's seam lines.  In the end, straight stitch single needle seams are really the best way to sew an armhole seamline, since it will need to be clipped.  This makes the curves smooth when the fabric is turned and pressed.

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