1930s Sew-along with Norma: Using hem tape

Update:  Hemming the 1930s styled dress

My dress for the 1930s Sew-along with Norma is coming into the home stretch.  There are many reasons why it has taken me almost a year to actualize this style.  First, my full-time job keeps me very busy and some weekends I’m not up to the level of attention fine dressmaking requires.  Another reason is that when you draft your own patterns it’s a very big adventure.  It takes time to learn how what you see in your imagination will eventually play out with the pattern, muslin and fashion fabric.  Sometimes there are such bad flops along the way it is better to start anew with the hard earned knowledge gained from the mistake.

I have learned so much from this project that I plan to do another 1930s influenced style after the dress is finished.  In that project I hope to create a combination of modern and period techniques based on what I learned from the 1930s challenge created by Norma.  I’m very reluctant to skip along to a 1950s style project since I would lose the awareness and sensitivity gained from this year long journey into 1930s sewing land.

After the flounce was sewn into the bodice gravity not only worked on the hem, but also on the seam that joined the flounce to the bodice.  The pattern goes straight around a point about 10 inches below the hip line.  After the dress hung on the form, I noticed it dipped slightly at the sides.  This might be one reason why the inset flounces on 1930s dresses and skirts  have a curved seam that is higher at Center Front and Center Back and lower on the side seams.  I plan to do my next flounce like this.

My reference books show hems finished with a tape that looks a little like ribbon.  I do not think they had anything like Wrights Flexi-Lace in the 1930s so I went with Wright’s Soft and Easy Hem Tape to finish the hem of the flounce.  It was very stiff when I took it out of the package so I washed it.  I hung it to air dry until slightly damp.  Then I pressed it with a steam iron.  In the close-up of the hem, I’ve already machine sewn the hem tape and basted it in place for the final hand stitching.

The rippling comes from the circular hem.  I’ve pinched in excess fabric where needed.  After hand stitching and light steaming the hem will flatten.  When seen from the right side the hem is smooth so I think this hem treatment will work out.  To stabilize the joining seam of the flounce and bodice I hand stitched into place Wrights Flexi-Lace all the way around.  Tiny running stitches at the top and bottom of the lace were the best choice to sew it in place.

At the French Fashion Academy, we rarely if ever used either Flexi-Lace or Soft & Easy Hem Tape.  Seam edges were zig-zagged and sewn in place with a catch stitch when a flat hem was needed.  Even so, I like the look of lace hem tape because it does look a little retro as do pinked seams.  If I have a choice, though, I prefer Flexi-Lace because it is softer and accommodates curves much better than the Soft & Easy Hem Tape.

Progress Photos

The dress is turned inside out so you can see the finishing for the hem and the joining seam of flounce and bodice.

Close-up of hem finished with Wrights Soft & Easy Hem Tape.

Close-up of the flounce hem, from the right side of the dress.

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4 thoughts on “1930s Sew-along with Norma: Using hem tape

  1. The hem tape has a retro look. I have used very soft bias binding for difficult hems but I haven’t seen any in a shop for years so would have to make my own. My modern favourite is a machine rolled hem – i really got into them when altering evening dresses. Bit stiff for your dress I would guess?
    Your techniques are a real education – i am enjoying the process

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  2. Yes, Norma, it is a bit stiff. I don’t like it but I’ll make do. Nobody will see if. The plus side is that it gives the flares some body so that they hold their shape very well. But next time I will make bias hem tape from poly-organza.

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