1930s Sew-along with Norma: Hand overcasting


As I’ve worked with the fabric for my 1930s Sew-along with Norma, I kept thinking that it does not really remind me of challis.  I associate challis with scarves and shawls, whether they are rayon challis or woolen challis.  There is something about the way the fabric I’m using is a little crinkled in texture that is definitely different from challis.

I checked the packing slip that is still in the padded envelope where I keep the remainder of the uncut fabric.  It turns out this is not rayon challis but rayon faille.  This explains the slightly crinkled texture and slightly heavier feel of the fabric.

The more I handle the rayon faille, the more it starts to shred.  Simply hand overcasting the seams is not working out.  I have come up with my own solution.  I washed and steam pressed white lace hem tape that has a slight stretch to it.  I’m stitching it by hand to the underside of each seam using a tiny running stitch.  The hem tape is placed slightly in from the seam line so it does not interfere with machine stitching and pressing the seam.  The other edge lines up with the edge of the seam.  I overcast both together.

This adds very little weight to the seam.  I find the seams stay open better which is important since this is a chemise dress with straight lines.  I also stitched a length of seam tape on top of the darts in the sleeves.  This keeps them in place.  I don’t mind the extra work because it is giving me the results I want.  I think it’s also very creative to try new approaches and see the effects.  I’ve added lots of photos so you can get an idea of how this approach is going.

Hand overcasting a fabric that shreds


1.     The smallest needle I’m able to use now is a Size 6 Between hand sewing needle.  I used the same size to sew in the zipper and liked the tiny stitches that resulted.

Hand Overcasting 2.JPG

2.     Here you can see that even though the overcasting stitches are small, the fabric is still shredding.  All the sewing books I have state that overcasting should be done with a single strand of thread.  That didn’t work for me because my stitches did not seem to have any effect on the shredding. I found I was able to make smaller stitches that were closer together when I used a double strand.


3.     I took one running stitch at a time so they would be as straight as possible.  The running stitches used a single strand of waxed and pressed thread.


4.     This is the finished edge of an overcast seam with the lace tape.


5.     Lace tape was also stitched to the upper side of the completed darts in the sleeve to keep them in place.


6.     The sleeves have interfacing and facing to give a little weight so that I can sew buttons along the vertical line of the sleeve dart.  I had finished the sleeve facing earlier and did not add the lace tape to it.  Since the sleeve hem has the interfacing I think the facing  will be ok.


7.     The seams are 3/4″ side.  I decided not to trim them to 1/2″ because they add a little weight to the sleeve.  I think rayon faille is a dream fabric for very drapey styles but requires some thought when making a dress that has straight lines like a chemise.


8.     This is how one sleeve looks after the seam is pressed.  The lace hem tape along with the interfacing give needed support to the fabric.

Steam Pressing Rayon Faille

My advice is to try steam pressing on a large scrap.  The first time I tried to steam press Rayon Faille it became very distorted.  After some experimentation I found using a mister and a warm iron worked to press my seams open.  A slightly damp, white wash cloth placed over the seam also worked.  I placed wide strips of brown paper under the seams so that there would be no impression when the seam was pressed open this way.

I don’t know how I’ll handle easing the sleeve cap in since Rayon Faille hasn’t responded well to steam so far.  Since the fabric is so shifty, I’m doing the ease stitching of the cap by hand.

Ease stitching a sleeve cap by hand


1.     Ease stitches need to be long so I selected a No. 8 Sharp hand sewing needle.  I used a double strand of pressed and waxed thread knotted at one end.


2.     In “Couture Sewing Techniques” Claire Schaeffer says the seamstresses at the couture houses use three rows of stitches along the sleeve cap.  I think this gives more control.  We’ll see more when I get to setting the sleeves in.

The swatches for the contrasting fabric came in today.  I have to see if one of them will work with the dress, the buttons and the belt.  Stay tuned…more to come.



6 thoughts on “1930s Sew-along with Norma: Hand overcasting

    • Well, Naomi, the adventure continues. Slowly but steadily. My job keeps me very busy so I do my sewing when things calm down and I’m focused. The latest development is just how beautiful one of the fabric cuttings works with this dress. It’s a rich green that will look best as a self-fabric belt and fabric covered buttons. This does away with the glass belt buckle and buttons but I will save those for another project. I have to upload some photos I took yesterday. As soon as I get the time. This is a very good lesson in working with solids and prints. I’m inclined to be weak in this area.

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