Practical Hints upon Dressmaking


The following instructions were taken from Godey's Lady's Book February/March 1885. They cover only part of the whole process, but those two issues are all I have.

The lining of your dress having been fitted, it is necessary to rip it all carefully apart, crease all the seams down, and proceed to cut out the material. For silk, woolen, or cotton, the material should always be double, so that you cut the corresponding parts together. The lining has now to be pinned closely upon the material. If you are using a figured material, with an up-and-down pattern, take care that the pattern is right before cutting, or you may waste a good deal of it. If striped, be most careful in cutting, so that the stripes meet where the seams join in the centre of the back, and at the side piece next back.

Now, when all the separate parts of the bodice are pinned upon the material cut, unpin the fronts, and place the material upon the lining, back to back; pin the material to the lining at the shoulder and neck, material towards you, and smooth with the hand from the shoulder downwards, pinning as you smooth, so as to slightly stretch the material upon the lining. After having thus stretched it downwards stretch and pin it across in the same manner, smoothing it with the hand. After having pinned each piece of the bodice in the manner described, commence the tacking.

You must now have the lining towards you. Tack with white or any odd lengths of colored cotton that will show upon the material. In tacking, be particular to follow all the creases made in the lining from the first fitting; it is also often necessary to take small plaits in the lining to make it fit properly, that are not put in the outside material; these should be sewed before the material is basted on. In tacking the material upon the lining tack with short stitches.

Proceed to tack the bodice together, following the rules given last month; be particular that the rounded part of the side piece next back, if long seams are not used, should be shorter than the corresponding part of the back. The object of this is to make the back set perfectly. Be very careful that the little fullness is equally divided, so that when tacked and stitched, it is imperceptible. The corresponding side piece must be treated in the same manner. Our experience is that it is much better to have your material on the right side, that is, outside, as it will be worn for this final fitting, as it allows for the size taken up by the seams when next you.

Slightly notch all the seams at the waist to allow for the curve of the figure, and your bodice is now ready for fitting. It is quite possible that, however well your pattern may be cut, and however carefully you may have tacked it, the difference in the elasticity of the material may slightly affect the fit, and some alterations may be needed. Notch the turnings at the waist three times at intervals of about one inch, cut open the bust plaits to within an inch of the tops, and notch in the same manner.

Put your bodice on gently, so that you remove no pins, and break no tackings. ilave a large snp ply of good pins at hand. Begin your fitting from the throat by pinning the front of the bodice, observing to put the first pin at the neck. Pin to the tacking threads down the front of boice, making no alterations at present, unless the bodice is too tight, when, of course, you let it out so as to meet comfortably down the front.

Pass the hand from the front towards the side piece under the arm, and smooth the bodice so as to see if it fits sufficiently close to the figure; do not make it extremely tight, as the stitched seams will not give to the same extent as the tacked ones. Care shonld be taken to let out both the seams of the sides you are fitting to the same extent. If the bodice appears to be very tight, let out a little from the front, as, if too much increase is made at the side piece seams, the armhole will be too large. Now pass the hand from the bust to the shoulder upwards and remove the pins, if there is need of alteration.

Look well to the bust plaits, and alter, should they be too high or too low. Sometimes there is need to take in a little at the middle seam at the back. Place a pin exactly at the bend of the waist, back and front; that is, if the tacking-thread is not already at the right place. See that the tacking-thread at the throat is in the right place; if too high or too low, mark the line it should be with a few pins, and notch within a quarter inch of the fitting line.

The armholes of the bodice should not be shaped until the last, as hey so easily stretch; notch them all around, and raise the arm of the person being fitted, so as to cut away all the surplus, in order to conform to the proper shape and size of the arm. In some cases you may find that your bodice fits perfectly, when the following observations will not be needed; but should this not be the case, we will give you directions to follow closely, to correct any misfitting part. This is done by tacking to the line of pins before removing them.

Be sure, before removing any pins, to tack closely; after that, remove all pins. You will have fitted only one side of the bodice, which should be the right-hand side. Now correct the left-hand by the right-hand side, pin all the original tackings of the two sides, to correspond exactly with each other round the armhole, the neck, and the under arm seams. If the bust plaits have been altered, pin the seams very carefully together, and pin round the corrected tacking; turn the left band front towards you, and tack to the pins. Next month we will give directions for making the bodice that is now ready for sewing.

To make your bodice, begin by stitching the front plaits, and be very careful to do this with precision, observing carefully the tackings. The fronts are for the present to remain detached from the side pieces and shoulders until the back and side pieces seams are stitched, the button-holes made, and the buttons sewn on.

Next take the buttonhole front, that is the right-hand front; take the button part of the bodice towards the right hand. Turn the front down a quarter of an inch outside the original front tacking thread, and with a needle and thread tack as you turn. Now, according to the material of the dress, take a piece of satin, silk, or silesia for facing; turn the inside of front of bodice towards you, and hem your facing just a shade nearer the edge of front than the tacking thread; be most careful not to take a stitch through to the right side. When you come to the bend of the waist you must full the facing slightly to give the proper spring when this is hemmed down to the bottom of the bodice. If the material of the bodice is thick, you must turn up the facing and cut away the material and lining to within an eigth of an inch of the facing hem. If a thin material, cut only the lining in the same way. Now cut the material so that when the facing is hemmed down the second time, it covers the edge, and makes the front neat inside. With the second hem of the facing, as with the first, be careful not to take any of your stitches through.

Now turn the outside of body uppermost, throat towards the right hand, take an inch tape measure, and according to the size of the buttons, measure for the hole; the small fashionable buttons used at present will take a half-inch buttonhole. To be sure of the buttonhole being the correct size, however, it is safer to slip the button through the hole after it is cut. To insure the buttonholes being correctly cut to one size, you must place a pin in the inch tape to the required measure; lay the pin on to the front edge tacking-thread, anid tack a line down to the end of the measure, till you get to the bottom of the bodice.

It is always well to have proper tools for your work, therefore you will find that a pair of buttonhole scissors will cut much better bottonholes than an ordinary pair of scissors. When you have cut a buttonhole to the measure, turn the bodice round, with the front edge opposite you, and cut a tiny triangular piece out of the top of the buttonhole by making two slanting cuts of about an eighth of an inch, and then a straight cut acrosswise. For small buttons the buttonholes should be about half an inch apart. In this you must, of course, be ruled by the size of the button.

Now to work a buttonhole properly, take the front edge of bodice towards you; have a needle threaded with the twist with which you intend working the buttonholes. Begin at the left side close end of buttonhole (not the end from which the triangle is cut), and sew over all around, taking care not to stretch the edge of the buttonhole ; now bar the buttonhole all around by taking a stitch from the narrow end to the broad end; put your needle back above the opening of the triangle, and work a bar above it just the width of the cut ; work to the close end of the other side, and repeat, so that you have a double bar of twist to work over, which raises and strengthens the buttonhole. Begin to work the buttonhole from the same end as you began to over-sew it, let your left thumb-nail rest just below the bar of twist, and work closely and evenly all round.

The buttonholes finished, take the button side of front, with the same kind of facing as was used for the buttonhole side. Take the neck of front to the right hand, the outer side towards you, hemming the facing one and a half inch from the tacking line; hem to the waist, where full in the same way as you did the facing of the first side ; then continue plain to the bottom of the bodice. Now turn the inside of front to you, and cut off the surplus part of front to within a quarter of an inch of the stitches of facing ; turn the right side of bodice towards you and turn down the edge of front, so that the facing is just edge to edge with the material.

Now tack the facing down through from the outside just at the tack of the button line; hem the facing from bottom to top of bodice; taking care that no stitches appear through. To mark for the buttons, take the two fronts, neck towards the left hand ; put a pin throngh the top stitch of buttonhole side of tacking thread; where the tacking for throat begins, put the pin throngh to the corresponding tacking of button side of front; pin firmly together. Now get someone to hold the bodice just where you have pinned it, or pin it to something firm; put a pin into the center of the triangle at the top of buttonhole, and through to the tacking line for the button exactly opposite it. Continue to place the pins through all the buttonholes for the entire length of the bodice, holding the buttonhole side rather tightly.

Buttons without shanks must be sewn on loosely; the cotton should be left about an eighth of an inch as a substitute for a shank, and after sewing the button strongly twist the cotton several times around the threads that form the substitute for the shank. A button with a shank can be sewed on tightly, or have small eyelet holes worked in the bodice, the shank passed through, a cord run through them upon the wrong side, and each one fastened; this is convenient if persons desire to use different sets of buttons for one dress. Next month we will complete putting our bodice tegether.