how to: line a sleeveless dress

One of my favorite classes in college was the senior capstone course called mass marketing. It was the class where all of the skills we had learned came together, and we were required to design, produce, and present a six-piece ready-to-wear collection. The focus was on knowing your target market, identifying your customer, and designing a spring or fall collection to meet her needs. Spec and cost sheets were part of the final presentation, along with full color sketches, a marketing plan, and styled photos, and we learned about industry standards in manufacturing and pattern making, sourcing, and the elements of a successful collection. It was one of the most stressful semesters of my college years, but it was definitely the most fun. I loved every second of that class.

A couple of us had lined, sleeveless dresses in our collections and questions came up about how to close the armholes. I remember very vividly one student exclaiming that she knew how to do it and all you had to do was open up the shoulder seam and . . . this was the point that I looked over at my professor (my absolute favorite teacher who knew everything) and saw her sort of roll her eyes and say, “No, no, no. That’s not the proper way to do it.” Class was over at this point and we all had to be elsewhere, so my professor told me she’d call me the following morning and explain it to me.

So there I was the next morning, which happened to be a Saturday, sitting on my living room floor finishing up some hand sewing and watching a cooking show on PBS when my phone rings. My professor, who to this day remains the best seamstress and biggest source of fashion knowledge I’ve ever known, explained to me how to line a sleeveless dress in about five minutes. I did it later that afternoon, and have done it since hundreds of times.

This tutorial shows you this method. I’ve never seen it explained this way in commercial patterns, so I hope this is helpful. Sleeveless dresses are such a big part of our wardrobes in spring and summer, so why not know how to make these garments truly shine?

(Quick note before we get started: by this step in the process of lining a dress, I have already attached the lining to the neck and understitched it, and the skirt lining has not been attached to the bodice lining. I like to do this after the armholes are closed.)

Firt step. In this photo, we’re looking at the right shoulder seam on this dress. You can see the raw edges of the armhole on the right.

Fold the armhole seam allowances under and hold in place. It’s alright if what you pinch isn’t exact, we’ll get precise once we get underneath.

Putting your hand into the dress, pinch the seam allowances that we just folded under. Your hand is sandwiched between the lining and the fashion fabric.

Here, a different angle showing me holding the seam allowances together.

Still pinching the seam allowances, carefully pull the seam allowances towards you and turn it wrong sides out. This is when we can re-match the shoulder seams if things got wonky as they got turned. So, now I’m holding the shoulder seam allowances, right sides together.

Carefully sew the armholes closed, using whatever seam allowance you have in this area. You can pin as you go, or just match your notches along the way. I usually keep an eye on my notches and pin the side seams together as I get closer. Sew all the way around the armhole. It may get tricky around the shoulders if you have a narrow shoulder seam, so be mindful that a shoulder seam 1.5″ or narrower will be a challenge. I’ve got about 4″ at the shoulders on this dress, so it was a breeze.

I like to backstitch at the shoulder and side seam for a little extra strength in those spots. The arrow in the photo points to the front armhole notch, which I’ve made sure matches the notch on the lining underneath.

Once you’ve sewn all the way around, trim the excess seam allowances down to 1/4″.

Clip the seam allowance about every 5/8″. This step is essential because it’s what allows the armhole to spread properly once it’s turned right sides out.

The armhole will look like this after it is sewn.

Then, press and understitch the armhole just like you would understitch any other area. And remember, if your shoulder seam is narrow you may not be able to understitch all the way up to the shoulder so just go as far as you can. (This step is shown on a different dress.)

As for your pattern, there are a couple of easy adjustments you can make to ensure that the lining “rolls under” correctly. Lining pieces shouldn’t be exact copies of pattern pieces, they should be trimmed in some areas so that they remain hidden from the right side. This example shows a simple sleeveless fitted bodice. Keep in mind that different designs may require additional adjustments.

Begin by tracing the bodice pieces to make a copy. This copy will become the lining.

Around the armhole, trim off 1/8″, grading down to nothing at the side seam. Repeat for the back.

You can see the difference with the lining pattern on top of the bodice pattern.

Trim off 1/8″ from the waistline. Repeat for the back.

Again, this shows you the difference in the two patterns when the lining is placed on top.

A full view:

And that’s it! Let me know if you have any questions!

This is the sleeveless dress from my senior collection. This dress is umpteen layers of various silks with an empire bodice and boning in the side seams, an inner belt, a ruffle that took forever, and a sash belt. After a few tweaks to the design, I’d make this again in a heartbeat!

sweet sleeves: mccall’s 7542

Spring seems to be the season for blouses. I’ve made more new tops this season than I think I ever have before, and that’s a good thing. If there is one thing my closet needs, it’s versatile tops that I can wear with jeans and different skirt styles and linen pants this summer. I’m well on my way to having lots of options, so I’m happy about that. Plus, I’m using a lot of fabric from my stash or end pieces of new cuts to make these little tops, which is icing on the cake. Feels good to bust through that stash!

This top came about as a solution to a styling issue I was having. I made a pair of white linen pants a couple months ago (and you saw a preview of them in this post from last week), but they pose an interesting styling challenge, thus the reason you haven’t seen them in a post of their own just yet. The pants sit at the natural waist and have a nice wide leg, so the best top is something that hits at the natural waist or something more fitted, like a tee or cute woven top. Enter, McCall’s 7542. (Side note: I have an idea or two for blouses to make for these pants. Coming soon!)

This pattern is from the spring collection, and I liked it right away for a number of reasons: the neckline is high enough to cover that pesky scar I’m always talking about, it’s not too fitted through the bodice but not too baggy either, and there are a lot of sleeve options. It’s also shorter than most other tops (but you can always add length to it if you want), so I thought the proportions would be ideal with the linen pants.

I made the blue version first (100% cotton shirting from my stash), in a size smaller than I normally go with, and I really like it. It’s incredibly easy to sew, the fit through the bust is nice and flattering, and I like the facing and hook and eye finish around the neckline. I know there are a lot of people totally averse to facings, but I like them every now and then. (My skirt is a denim pencil skirt from Madewell a couple years ago.)

I happened to have just enough of my cocktail dress fabric left over to cut another one of these tops, and I really like this one. It’s the fabric, really. It’s almost impossible to not like anything made out of it. I cut this one in my normal size. (The smaller size is nice on, but boy is it ever a task to put on and take off.) I like this one, but it is a little boxier through the bodice. Both tops are a challenge to put on and take off, but that happens sometimes with tops like this.

I tried both tops with the linen pants, but something about that combination didn’t sit right with me. Because the top is on the boxy side and it sits just below the natural waist, it almost cut me in half and there was no definition in the torso. I don’t love this combination as much as I like some of the other ways to wear this top. What do you think?

I may be on the fence about the linen pants pairing, but there are a lot of ways to wear a top like this, because it’s quite versatile. I wore it a couple weekends ago to run a few errands, and it was really comfortable and cute. A boxier cut like this goes well with a more fitted bottom, which is why this is one of my favorite looks. Comfy skinny jeans, a hat, some cute sneakers and you’re good to go.

This brocade is fancier than the blue cotton version, which is a nice option for this top. Different fabrics automatically give it a different feel. I like that this version can be paired with comfy white boyfriend jeans and flats and still feel put together, and it can also go with a pretty coral skirt and heels for a more intentional dressed up look.

Boyfriend jeans are Levi’s.

Skirt is J. Crew from last year.

Incorporating trends into our off-duty clothes is one thing, but it’s quite another to do that at the office. Sleeves and ruffles and flounces are making waves this year, and the way to enjoy those details at work is to do it in a traditional color or fabric, especially in a more conservative workplace. If you’re lucky enough to work in a creative environment, go all out!

Here, I’ve paired the blue version of this top with a classic black skirt and pumps. It’s not too flashy or over the top, which is perfect for the office. Plus, you still feel on trend and cute, which is the best part of wearing clothes.

With all the time we invest into making our clothes, I’m always the most pleased with the garments that feel the most “me” or that are the most versatile, and these two tops definitely fall into the latter category. If I make this blouse again, I will go with the pleated sleeve, lengthen it to make it a tunic, and add a sash belt.

If you’ve made this top, I’d love to hear what you think. Have a great week, and I hope you’re able to squeeze in some sewing!

a spring collection with the DESIGNER JADE 35™

I’ve been excited about this post for weeks. Since February, I’ve had the DESIGNER JADE 35™ and today I can finally show you each and every piece I’ve made using it. I’m probably most pleased with the variety of garments and fabrics in this group, because being able to sew effortlessly on a lot of different fabrics is a true test of a sewing machine’s salt. In all, I made 13 (thirteen!!) garments on this machine, which is to say nothing of the handful of other garments that saw at least some action on it. Dresses, tops, and a pair of pants in cotton, linen, brocade, ponte knit, and rayon challis make for some seriously fabulous new clothes. (I played dress up all weekend!)

In addition to the collection, I’m going to cover some embroidery basics, because it’s an excellent feature of this machine. I’m still relatively new to the embroidery game (why I was so nervous about it before I’ll never know), and I’ve learned a lot about it over the past couple of months. Now I’m really, really excited to get into it more because quality embroidery never goes out of style, especially here in Texas–land of cowboy boots, fringe, leather, and embroidered clothes.

As soon as I unpacked the DESIGNER JADE 35™ I had a little blouse in my projects pile to sew, so this rayon challis top was the first garment I made on this machine. Like I mentioned a couple weeks ago, all I did was tell the machine was I was working on, and it did all the work. I used a size 70 needle and the woven light fabric setting on the machine. Whipped up this cutie in an afternoon. (The pattern is Vogue 9002.)

This linen blouse is one of my favorite pieces for spring. I used the woven medium setting with a size 80 needle. The narrow hems and bias tape on the neck were a breeze to sew. This is McCall’s 7573.

For this brocade top, I utilized the blind hem stitch which gave the top a nice, clean finish. The pattern is McCall’s 7542, and I also made it in blue.

I made this rayon/nylon ponte knit dress–one of my favorite dresses of all time–with a size 80 stretch needle on the stretch medium setting on the machine. It was so much fun to sew, and there’s a blind hem on this one too. This is Vogue 8825.

I made this cocktail dress for an event in Florida last month. There’s an invisible zipper at center back which I inserted using the zipper foot. Easy! (More about this dress here.)

These three tops are all the same pattern, and sewing the trim was easy and fun. I used a zigzag stitch to attach the white floral trim. No special foot needed!

This gingham linen dress (Butterick 6446) was made with the woven medium fabric setting and a size 80 needle. There’s an invisible zipper in center back, and it’s fully lined.

I am loving these linen pants! They were a blast to make. There’s a fly front zipper, bar tacks at the pocket edges and bottom of the zipper (I used the decorative stitch foot for this), a button, belt loops, back-button flaps, and a stitched hem. Pattern is Vogue 8836 (out-of-print).

This dress, one of my favorite patterns, was the most recent make. The skirt is gathered, and there’s a centered zipper in the back. Again, it was as easy as using a size 80 needle on the woven medium setting.

Before I became a HUSQVARNA VIKING® customer 10+ years ago, buttonholes intimidated me like you wouldn’t believe. I never had successful buttonholes until I invested in my first HUSQVARNA VIKING® machine, and now I don’t expect anything less than perfect buttonholes every time. On the DESIGNER JADE 35™ you can do buttonholes two ways: manually or with the buttonhole foot. I used the buttonhole foot to make the 12 buttonholes on this blouse, and they’re beautiful. This pattern is Vogue 8772.

Now, a few basics about embroidery. First things first, don’t be intimidated. I certainly was, and there was no need to be. I paid a visit to my local HUSQVARNA VIKING® dealer (in a local JoAnn Fabrics & Crafts), and I chatted with a professional one evening about all things embroidery. Here’s the main thing to remember: embroidery is a lot like sewing. Different fabrics require different needles, and there’s an element of experimentation that goes along with it. Stabilizer is also important, as is buying good quality embroidery thread.

#1. Always use bobbin thread in your bobbin for embroidery projects.

#2. Choose the right size needles. The embroidery in this post was done on cotton poplin, and I used a size 80 titanium embroidery needle. (Titanium is the new thing in needles. It’s supposed to make it stronger, and I definitely didn’t have any issues on this project.)

#3. Read your manual. I promise, the step-by-step instructions will not lead you astray, and setting up the machine for embroidery is a breeze.

#4. Choose a quality stabilizer. For this project I used INSPIRA® Tear-A-Way Stabilizer, and it worked like a charm.

#5. Included in the accessories pack of the DESIGNER JADE 35™ is a USB stick with embroidery designs and HUSQVARNA VIKING® DESIGNER JADE 35™ sampler book. I simply plugged it into my computer, looked through the sampler book, and picked a design. Because I’m a newbie, I went with a design that was one solid color to avoid thread changes. Later this summer, you better believe I’ll be doing embroidery with tons and tons of colors!

The design I chose is #43 in the sampler book, and I went with a pale pink embroidery thread. I love it!

And there you have it! I can’t say enough about the DESIGNER JADE 35™, and I’m beyond pleased with the garments I made with it. I even sent my dad a bunch of videos of the embroidery in action. It was so much fun to watch!

I hope you’ve enjoyed following along as I used this fantastic sewing and embroidery machine. I’ve had the best time, and I can’t wait to see what I get to sew with next!