Today's post for the Lottie Dress & Shirt Pattern Sewalong is a rather beefy one. We are getting into the heart of the construction today and things are really starting to take shape. Everything up to this point feels like prep, even sewing the darts and pockets, but now we are shaping the garment itself. First I will walk you through how to add the 3/4-length sleeve extension on View B, then I will show you how to sew the shoulders on all three views, and lastly, I will help you sew a perfect neck binding. Okay, let's get started!
3/4-Length Sleeve Extension: View B
Technically this is part of View B, but of course, you can add it on to your version of View A or C too, depending on how you are mixing and matching the elements of the pattern. We are starting here, because in the next step, sewing the shoulders, the sleeves need to already be attached.
Sewing the 3/4-length sleeve extension is quite simple, but the key is to make sure you have actually sewn the correct part of the sleeve extension to the correct side of the Lottie. For the sleeve front, look for the single notch of the extension to match with the single notch at the short sleeve, and the triple notch goes up toward the shoulders.
For the sleeve back, look for the double notch of the extension to match with the double notch at the short sleeve, and the triple notch again goes up toward the shoulders. You see how important correctly cutting your notches is right now!
1. Once you have your pieces sorted out and the correct sleeve extensions paired with the correct side of the dress or shirt, pin the sleeve fronts to the dress or shirt front, and pin the sleeve backs to the dress or shirt back. I suggest pinning at the ends and the notch first, then pin in between as it's a slight curve.
2. Ease the sleeve to fit and sew in place. Be very careful not to stretch the whole seam out, so when you are easing, be very gentle as this is on the bias.
3. After sewing on all four sleeve extensions, finish the seams as desired and press the seam allowances toward the sleeve.
4. Top stitch 3/8" from the seam on the sleeve side of the seam. You will be sewing through your seam allowance, securing it in place. Repeat on all four seams.
5. Give the sleeve seams a final press (you might want to use your ham for it) and now we are ready to sew the shoulders!
Shoulder Seam: View A
Each shoulder seam is slightly different, but many of the same principals apply. I will show you how each one looks based on the three views. First up, View A.
1. Pin the shoulder seams with right sides together. Pin at the ends and notch first, then pin in between.
2. To sew the shoulder seams, start at the neckline opening, then sew towards the short sleeve hem. Repeat on the other side by flipping the fabric over and sewing from the neckline to the hem.
3. Finish the seam allowance as desired.
4. Press the seam allowances towards the back if finished together, or press them open if finished separately. Use a pressing ham while pressing to take the place of your shoulders.
Shoulder Seam: View B
For View B, the key difference is that there is the 3/4-length sleeve extension sewn on, but the steps are basically the same as for View A.
1. With right sides together, pin the dress or shirt front to the back along the shoulder seams. Pin at the sleeve hem, the neckline, the shoulder notch, the sleeve notch, and the extension seams first, then pin in between.
2. Sew from the neckline opening towards the sleeve hem on each side. Be cautious as you go over the sleeve extension seam, as you will want those to line up!
3. Finish the seam allowance as desired.
4. Press the seam allowance open if finished separately, or press them towards the back if finished together. Use a pressing ham to take the place of your shoulder.
And that's it!
Shoulder Seam: View C
The shoulder seam on View C is even easier, as it's quite a short distance from the neckline opening to the armscye. Here we go!
1. Pin the dress or shirt front together at the shoulder seams, right sides together.
2. Sew the shoulder seam from the neckline opening toward the armscye on each side.
3. Finish the seam allowances as desired.
4. Press the seam allowances open if finished seprately, or press them towards the back if finished together. Use a pressing ham under the seam while pressing.
Finishing a neckline opening with bias binding is a very common practice, yet I often hear from my students that they struggle with getting this part to look perfect and professional. There are three main tips: 1–Press a lot and use a ham! 2–Try not to stretch the neckline or the binding during this whole process. And 3–Be as precise as possible, as there isn't a lot of room for error. Go slow and take your time.
I tried to help out the beginners by not reducing the seam allowance when sewing on the binding, as I've seen in classes that things can go terribly awry when you ask a new sewer to sew binding on at a 1/4" seam or something equally tiny. You still need to be on the money with your 5/8" seam, but I think it eases the mind to have all that extra fabric to hold on to during the process. Okay, ready? here we go!
1. Fold the neck binding in half, right sides together, and line up the short ends. Pin them together and sew. Trim the seam allowance in half.
2. Press the seam allowance open. Fold the neck binding in half, wrong sides together, and press. Make sure your raw edges are line up perfectly. These two pressing steps are much easier done with a sleeve board.
3. Divide the neck binding into four equal parts and mark with pins or a water soluble marking tool.
4. Divide the neckline into four equal parts and mark as well. If you didn't snip the center front and center back during the marking process, find the center front and center back by placing the shoulder seams together. Be careful not to stretch out the neckline during this step. Find the remaining two points by working from the center front and center back. Note that the shoulder seams are not the midway point between center front and center back. They will be forward of the shoulder seams.
5. Pin the binding to the neckline by matching the four quarter spots. The raw edge of the binding should be facing up and the fold should be down.
6. Continue by pinning in between the four anchor points, lining up the raw edges around the neckline opening. If you didn't stretch anything out and cut and sewed your binding and shoulder seams correctly, there should be no easing necessary. They should line up just right.
7. Sew the binding to the neckline at a 5/8" seam allowance. Take your time and be consistent as the binding on the left of your needle needs to be equal all the way around your neckline.
8. Using a pressing ham under the neckline, press the binding up toward the neckline opening. Really open the seam and press it flat.
9. Understitch the neckline by sewing through the binding and the seam allowance only. Your stitch will be directly to the right of the seam from the last step. Go slow and sew as close as you can to the seam without crossing over.
10. Trim away the excess seam allowance from inside the neckline. This is a great moment for 5" scissors. It's also a great moment to be very careful as you don't want to cut anything but the seam allowance!
11. Turn the dress or shirt wrong side out and place a pressing ham under the neckline. Fold the binding to the inside of the neckline, rolling about 1/16" of the fabric along with it. The understitching will help you fold this easily. Press very well all the way around the neckline and pin in place for stitching.
12. Sew the binding all the way around the neckline. Sew as close as you can to the edge of the binding. This is when you see that if your binding isn't consistent, your exposed topstitching will be uneven. It pays to be slow and accurate!
13. It's really key to press the binding well after sewing. I often see photos of bindings that are standing up on necklines, but that's because they aren't pressed well. Turn your dress or shirt right side out and place the pressing ham under the neckline to take the place of your body. Press the binding well, working it around the curve of the ham. It should be flat and smooth, not standing up away from the neckline.
And you should now have something that looks like the image above! Feeling uneasy about this process? Practice it first on some scrap fabric or muslin! Once you do it a few times it will be easier to be perfect, but just do your best. Also, slippery fabrics are not your friend when it comes to bias binding. If you're new to this, I highly suggest making your Lottie in something stable like cotton.
Well done! That was a lot today. We will meet up next to sew our side seams and the vent openings on the shirt and maxi versions. See you then!