1930s Sew-along with Norma: Facings, interfacings and seam finishes

I was apartment bound this weekend since the weather was chillyand rainy.  I have a cold coming on so staying warm, rested and of a positive outlook was the top priority.  Between cups of tea and naps I worked on my dress for the 1930s Sew-along with Norma.

The considerations I had to go over before sewing commenced had to do with the kinds of interfacing, facing, and seam finishes to use.  Rayon challis is a fabric with a lovely drape.  I’ve read that it does not work well with interfacings and any kind of structure.  But experience is teaching me this might not always be the case.  I found an interfacing that is a blend of rayon and poly that is working our very well.  The areas where the interfacing are do not look stiff or have any pulls.  The combination is just right as you’ll see in the photos.

Rayon challis is also a very shifty fabric.  It will stretch easily if not handled with care.  For this reason I have hand stitched a 1/4″ cotton stay tape around the neckline and the hem of the sleeve.  I also plan to follow Claire Schaeffer’s couture technique for hand stitching rows of easing thread on a sleeve cap.  I think I will make a tutorial for that since it’s slightly different from the usual way of putting in the ease stitching on the cap.

I am not using tear away or water soluble stabilizer since  I’ve also discovered that using a double strand of mercerized cotton basting thread helps hold the stitching line in place.  Using lots of pins and basting before stitching are worth the extra time as it will give greater control when sewing.

Conditioning the basting and sewing thread has also been very helpful.  I will post more about this in a week or so.  I came up with a simplified version of conditioning the thread because in all honesty I cannot follow Claire Schaeffer’s instructions for  waxing and pressing one strand at a time.  What I’ve come up with might not be exactly as her book instructs because it’s a shortcut but the resulting thread is working as she describes.  As I use the thread in the next sewing session I’ll get a better idea if my “speedy thread conditioning” approach continues to work.

The center back seam will need more stabilizing than the stay tape will give.  Rayon challis does not respond well to steam pressing so a fusible is not something I want to use.  I washed and softened and steam pressed a length of lace hem tape that provides the right support and stabilization needed.  I’m finding that rayon challis requires different treatment in each part of the garment.  For this reason I may have to use different seam finishes on different parts of the garment.

On the sleeve dart I  had to trim the dart after machine stitching.  It has a depth of 3″ at the hem and would be too bulky if left untrimmed.  I used a hand overcasting stitch. to finish the trimmed dart.  Since rayon shreds a lot I made the stitches about 1/4″ deep.  Overcasting is usually 1/8″ from the edge but with a fabric that shreds this much I’d rather go inwards a little more. I’ve recently learned that pinking shears were available in the 1930s so I will use this finish when needed.

The interfacing is on the inside and the stay tape on the right side because I plan to enclose the sleeve hem and neckline seam under the bias binding that will finish them on the right side.  I’ll show how the process works once I start that point of the construction.

And now onto the photos…


Note:  The difference between the end of the dart and where the apex is below it.  This is the first time I’ve used a dart running from the center of the front shoulder down along the princess line.  I found it looks best when the dart legs end exactly 1″ above the apex.












6 thoughts on “1930s Sew-along with Norma: Facings, interfacings and seam finishes

    • Thanks so much! I think the extra time in doing more hand sewing will make this closer to a fine dressmaker’s creation than the ones I’ve previously made. There will be lots of interesting tidbits as I go along. Norma shared some good info with me about hand sewing needles way back. I’ll now be more attentive to the choice of those needles and will post about this, too.


  1. I was so excited to see your dress in progress. I like your use of different support methods for different parts of the dress – interesting way of tackling a difficult fabric.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’ve helped me better understand hand sewing needles and threads from your posts about quilting. I’ll be posting about the needles I’m using next time. The interfacing and stay tape were hand stitched using a running stitch rather than just being basted in. I’ve also found a delightful little booklet on pinking shears and sewing scissors featured in a 1930s sales brochure. I’ll upload the link in a few days.

      Next step for the dress will be the shoulder seams and then onto the neckline.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think my reply has gone astray so I’ll try again.
        I’m looking forward to your posts. This sewalong has increased my knowledge of modern sewing as well as vintage sewing. Your posts and all the discussions have made such a difference.


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