Hello again! In the first post of this series, we covered a lot (make that a LOT), mostly about choosing fabrics and combining them in various ways to make a truly unique skirt. Hopefully, you’re now ready with your skirt pieces cut. Today, I want to show you some special seam and hem techniques that work especially well for sheer fabrics. Remember the one I’m using?
Since the sheer-fabric techniques do take a little longer, I’m going to start my skirt by assembling the sheer part, which in my case is the longer layer of the skirt. I’ve decided to sew the sides together with French seams.
Glossary: French seaming refers to a technique where the same seam is sewn twice, resulting in a completely enclosed raw edge. First, the seam is sewn with wrong sides together (the opposite of sewing a regular seam), with 1/4″ seam allowance (assuming a total seam allowance of 5/8″). Next, the seam allowances are pressed to one side, and raw edges trimmed to about 1/8″, followed by pressing the seam again along the stitching line, right sides together. Finally, stitch the seam again, 3/8″ from the folded/stitched edge. (Don’t worry, I’ll show you all this!)
All that’s left to do now is to press your beautiful new French seam!
Tip: French seams can theoretically be used on any seams (and any reasonably lightweight fabric), but they’re not really suited to curving seams, such as armhole/sleeve seams. As in my sheer skirt example, this technique is particularly effective where cut edges would show through to the right side.
P.S. In case you were wondering, the 1st 1/4″ seam allowance + the 2nd 3/8″ one = the standard 5/8″ seam allowance.
Once you’ve completed both side seams, we’ll move on to sewing the narrow hem on the sheer layer.
Glossary: A narrow hem generally refers to an edge finish that involves turning the raw edge under, usually 1/8″-1/4″, and pressing in place, then repeating this, so that the edge has been turned under twice. This technique works really well on curving hemlines like circular skirts; I show how to do a special version of a narrow hem for the asymmetrical skirt I’m making now.
Whether you’re using a sheer fabric or not, this hem is a little tricky because it has both inside and outside curves— this makes it necessary to create the narrowest-possible hem, or you’re risking a ripply edge that won’t lie smooth and flat.
My sheer fabric, like most sheers, is relatively loosely woven, making it liable to both stretch out and ravel. And in the course of manipulating the fabric to make the narrow hem, it’s all too easy to find yourself fighting with it. Make it easier on yourself by starting with this 1 additional step:
Tip: Make sure your stay-stitching isn’t too tight; you don’t want the stitching to pull the fabric in, especially around the inside curves, and you don’t want to stretch it out around the outside curves. Try a slightly longer stitch length than you’d normally use for seams.
If you find, when you’re done stitching, that there are areas that feel too tight when you gently stretch along the stitching line, you can snip a stitch (carefully!) here and there until the fabric lies really flat.
It’s always a good idea to test your stitch length and tension on a scrap of your fabric.
Again, for a regular narrow hem, you wouldn’t do this stay-stitching step; you’d just fold the edge under, press, fold it under again, press, then sew. So you’re only adding this 1 step to that process. And it’s really not necessary for most fabrics; I just find that it really helps me when working with sheer and/or very lightweight fabrics. That stitching line acts like a guide for pressing your first fold line, thus:
Tip: When you’re pressing the hem under, especially the second time, you’ll be able to feel if there’s resistance, like you’re trying to make it lie flat and it won’t cooperate. If this happens, apply a little heat to the area, and gently stretch the stay-stitching line; this should help. If it’s really tight, carefully snip a stitch here and there. This is most likely to happen around the inside curves.
Oof! Believe me, I know how frustrating it can be, working with fabrics like these, but the only good solution is to be patient (I confess, never easy for me), and give your special fabrics this couture treatment— they deserve it, and so do you!
Be sure to let me know if you’re having problems with any of these techniques (comment below), and/or if you’ve come up with a better idea; it helps all of us if we all share our issues and suggestions. And I’d also love to see photos of what you’re working on!
Coming up next, we’ll get into various elastic-waist options. This may be split into 2 parts; we’ll see how it goes. Homework: Finish sewing both skirt layers (seams and hems), and baste these layers together at the waist!
Want more sewing stuff from Colormusing? Check out myBratelier (lingerie sewing, including bras!), and Changing Your Clothes, which covers everything from repairs & alterations to dyeing and remaking thrift-shop finds.