Basting for Better Bodices Tutorial

IMG_2905Have you ever been frustrated by sewing princess seams? It seems I always get at least one pucker each time I sew gathered curves of any kind. You have one piece that’s already longer than the other and gathered by pins to the shorter piece, then you have to sew and try to feed both pieces in evenly so the longer one doesn’t slide down and create an unwanted ruffle.

I used to be much more impatient when sewing. In college when I was learning, I would skip steps and take shortcuts which led to pumping out a garment quicker, but not necessarily growing as a seamstress. This time around, I’m determined to put extra effort into planning, prepping, pressing, marking, cutting, and basting. Those things are so key in sewing and for me, this year is dedicated to learning how to sew as well as possible. (Click HERE to see my post Becoming an Expert Seamstress.) So little of sewing is actual sewing, and most of what goes into it are items from my previous list. The prep work is important and vital. Ever try to sew without pressing thoroughly? Betcha won’t make that mistake twice.

I’m finding also that the prep work I’ve avoided for so long really saves time! Making sure to do things right the first time is really pivotal to the process. It takes a lot longer to rip out an entire seam and re-pin and re-sew it than it does to hand baste before sewing.

I had never tried hand basting a gathered seam before stitching it before, but it really worked like a charm! This is a method I’ll be using from here on out because it eliminates a lot of the problems I had sewing this type of seam before. Primarily, I had trouble with the longer fabric being pulled by the machine and then buckling beside the pin. I’ve tried sewing with both sides down and had the issue both ways. It’s so simple to hand baste before and you know your fabric’s in the right place and you don’t have to deal with all those pins.

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Step 1: Pin the pieces together, gathering the fabric with the longer edge so they fit together. I don’t use many pins on straight seams, or even curved seams that aren’t gathered, but a gathered and curved seam is no place to skimp on pins, I can tell you that much!

IMG_2901You can see in this picture how it would be easy to get puckers when sewing!IMG_2903

Step 2: Hand baste the pieces together, taking the pins out as you go. My seam allowance was 1/2 inch and I tried to baste about 1/4 inch from the edge. You don’t want to stitch over the basting because it makes it hard to take out.IMG_2904Step 3: Sew using your actual seam allowance. I sewed with the gathered fabric underneath. If you do that, just make sure it’s not folding up on you under there or you’ll end up with a mess.

IMG_2905This is how it looks after sewing.

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Step 4: Cut off the knot at the end of your basting stitch.IMG_2907

Step 5: Remove the basting.IMG_2908

Here’s the finished seam. I love this method because you know it’s going to turn out well, since the fabric can’t shift as you sew.IMG_2902Step 6: Iron your seam, using a tailor’s ham if you have one. They make it so much easier to iron curve areas.IMG_2951Tailor’s Ham: A Handy little pressing tool!

I really hope this method helps you guys as much as it did me. Thanks for reading!

2 thoughts on “Basting for Better Bodices Tutorial

  1. Thanks for the tutorial. Very helpful. When I was learning to sew I used hand-basting a lot as that was how I was taught. As a returning sewer, I’ve been taking more short cuts but the old techniques can be so useful and a way of taking time to save time! Do you notch your seam allowances when sewing curve like the one above?

    • I didn’t notch on this because it was just a mock-up and on the real dress, I used a French seam, so it was so narrow I didn’t need to clip. I’m posting pics of the actual dress tomorrow. A lot of times I finish seams by serging really close to the stitch line (or just serging only) so the seam allowance is so narrow that it doesn’t interfere when pressing, even on sharp curves like necks and armholes.

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