1930s Sew-along with Norma: Rayon Faille and Bias Seams

Introduction

Here’s my update on the 1930s Sew-along with Norma.

The flounce for my 1930s inspired dress was cut with the center front on the lengthwise grain.  The flounce is a semi-circular shape with side seams falling on the bias.  The fabric I’m using is rayon faille.  It has a lovely drape and feels very light next to the skin.  It is not slippery but very shifty.  And since the side seam of the flounce is on the bias, this part of the construction required some thought and adaptation of familiar techniques.

What I show here is a solution I came up with based mostly on the needs of the fabric.  The purpose is to encourage you to take those techniques you know and, when required, use them as a starting point to your own solution to a sewing challenge.  It’s impossible to always find an answer in a book since the combination of styles, fabrics, sewing machines and time available vary from one sewista to another.  This is why creative thinking is a good thing.  Books are there to guide us but it is experience that is our greatest teacher.

Basting the side seams of the flounce

In Couture Sewing Techniques , Claire Schaeffer writes about a basting method used in couture sewing called lap basting.  It is used when sewing a bias seam and permits the grain to settle when the garment is hung on the dress form for a few days before sewing.  I used this technique when sewing a denim circle skirt and it worked out perfectly.  The basting was one as described by Claire:  I used a single strand of conditioned thread that was knotted and had a 2″ more or less, tail of thread behind it.  With this I basted from the top down for about 6″ more or less.  Then I cut this length of threa leaving another 2″ tail.  Another length of conditioned basting thread was used and a new row of basting stitches continued where the other left off.  This new row of stitches started slightly above the previous.  From there it continued down about 6″.  Then it was cut and the process repeated.  The only knot was in the first length of thead starting from the top.

The cotton denim skirt then hung on the dress for for a few days.  The threads permitted gravity to pull the fabric down as the grain settled.

I tried lap basting on a scrap of rayon faille only to find it did not hold the fabric well enough to prevent shifting when I machine stitched it.  Since the side seam is on the bias I did not want to use tear away or even water soluble stabilizer.  When sewing on the bias I find less is more.  I decided to do something different which I’ll show in the photos that follow.

Basting rayon faille when the seam is on the bias

I’m using a scrap of muslin since the print of the dress fabric prevents the basting stitches from showing up.  I use two different sizes of hand sewing needles.  To condition the basting thread I used a new dryer softener sheet.  My advice is to change the dryer sheets often and avoid using ones you’ve already put into the dryer.  I find them to have no conditioning and softening effect on the thread.

The solution I came up with was to baste two parallel rows of basting stitches next to the seam line of the side seams.  One length of stitches was longer, for which I used the #8 Sharps.  The second row consisted of smaller stitches which filled in the spaces between the longer basting stitches.  For the smaller stitches I used the #6 Between hand sewing needles.

I’ve learned that rayon faille response better to a double strand of basting thread.  The seam remains stable enough to sew without the need for a stabilizer.  In the photo above you can see the lap basting on the top.  Below that is the solution I used to baste the side seams of the flounce.  The knot at the start of the line of stitches  worked out very well since the top remained stable and the stitches after it did not come undone.

When machine sewing, I used a medium stitch length and stretched the side seam only a little.  None of the basting threads broke and the seam did not pucker when the basting stitches were removed.  After pressing the seam was flat.

Finishing a side seam on a bias flounce for any fabric

My sewing teacher taught me a way to stabilize the side seams of a bias cut skirt or flounce.  This will lessen the tendency of a bias cut seam to continue to stretch even after the garment is finished.  We used cotton twill tape that was washed and then steam pressed while damp.  When the tape was dry it was catch stitched to just the seam.

Cotton twill tape is too weighty for rayon faille.  I went into the stash I keep of different hem tapes and trims.  This 1″ wide piece of lace was just right.  After pre-shrinking I catch stitched it to the side seams of the flounce.

I then pinked the edges of the flounce to keep them from fraying.  Since the bias is very tricky to handle I believe this was enough of a finish.

Once the flounce is sewn in I will photograph the way the flounce and bodice side seams hang so you can understand the reasons why these different finishings were applied.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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11 thoughts on “1930s Sew-along with Norma: Rayon Faille and Bias Seams

  1. Very interesting technique. So the stabilising is added after the fact? I have some bias cut camisoles on the horizon, and I was thinking that I might french seam the side seams. Do you think that would go OK? Or would it create too much weight? I hadn’t even thought about that…

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    • I’ve seen French seams on bias cut camisoles. I’d experiment on a scrap and give it a try.

      The lace strip used on the bias seam is to prevent further stretching after the seam is sewn. I only used this on a bias inset flounce on a skirt when I was in school and it worked. I do not believe the application is suited to every type of bias cut garment or seam.

      I found the rayon faille very floaty and in need of just a little weight so that it would hang the way I wanted. This entire dress is a learn-as-it-goes experience for me. We’ll see if all these details are successful when it’s completed.

      This is a good topic you brought up, Naomi–how to finish a bias cut camisole. I have a bias cut one piece from Victoria’s Secret. I should take it out of the storage box and take some photos of the finishings and put in my blog. It is well made and might contain some lessons for us.

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  2. It’s been my experience that bias cut dresses and lingerie can continue to stretch after being sewn. The worst thing to do is put them on a hanger and leave them like that. The stretch will continue slightly. That is why folding and storing them in a box with tissue paper or in a drawer will prevent the sagging and stretching. I hope this explains the purpose of the lace strips on the side seams. It’s a bit hard to get across, it’s something you learn as you work with the bias and learn how to manage and care for it.

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  3. I like the lace strips idea – pretty as well as useful.
    My new contribution to the 1930s sewalong is another 1934 skirt – pinstripe Irish linen, made on a modern machine, hand inserted zip.

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