Wednesday, 4 June 2014

A Dress for Meg - 5 - Bound Armhole Seams

Having assembled the bodice I now have to attach the sleeves.  I have hemmed the sleeves and added the rick rack trim already - it is easier to do so at this stage rather than wait until they are sewn onto the bodice.

To absorb the fullness at the head of the sleeve I have decided to do tucks, arranged box pleat style. This is how I did the sleeves on the 1940s blouse, and it is much quicker and easier than doing gathers or a set in sleeve.  Avid viewers of the Great British Sewing Bee will remember that this is the method used by Chinelo when the contestants had to draft a pattern piece and add sleeves to a sleeveless dress.

The tucks are held steady by tacking stitches.  The centre of the tucks is at the top centre of the sleeve.

The top centre of the sleeve has to be matched with the top centre of the armhole.  These points are marked on commercial patterns.  Because this is a home made pattern there are no markings, but centre points are easy to find by just folding the sleeve and armhole opening in half.

The seams are matched together under the arm.

There is still a tiny bit of fullness in the curve of the sleeve, but not so much that it can't be eased flat.  At this point the cut at the edge of the sleeve is on the bias of the fabric, so it can be flattened with a bit of persuasion.

Once the sleeve has been pinned into place it can then be tacked.  I stitch about half an inch from the edge.

The curved sections towards the underarm are probably the trickiest bit to tack.  This is where you can end up with annoying little folds because the bodice pieces want to pull taut and the sleeve has a bit of fullness.

Next I machine stitch the armhole seam, sewing about an eighth of an inch from the tacking stitches.

Now I can pull out the tacking stitches and work on enclosing the raw edges.  None of the books I have show this process - I checked through them when I was making the little red daisies dress. This is a process I learnt thanks to doing needlework at school.  Rather a long time ago.

I usually use one inch bias binding - this binding was actually a little wider, at an inch and a quarter. To reduce bulk where the binding begins and ends when sewn onto the seam allowance, I do a diagonal folded down edge at the end that is to be attached first. 

Here is the binding machine stitched in place around the armhole seam.  I aim to get this line of stitching just beside the first line of machining, just inside the seam allowance.

Next I trim down the excess from the seam allowance.

To reduce bulk I trim off a tiny fraction more from the bodice seam allowance.  In this photo you can see how the two lines of machine stitching lie side by side.

Now the binding can be easily folded over.  Hair grips are much handier for keeping it in place than pins.  The grip on the right is keeping down the folded edge at the beginning of the binding where it overlaps the end of the binding.  I do this in much the same way as when I overlap binding at the edge of a quilt - the only difference is that here I have cut the ends of the binding on the bias.  I always put this join in the binding at the lower back part of the armhole, clear of the join of the seams under the arm.

Now the binding can be stitched down by machine.

Here is the bodice so far.  Rubbish focus - late afternoon on a cloudy day - but who cares when you have two sleeves attached...

... and bound seams that can withstand the rigours of a washing machine?  And the colour matches the dress, even though nobody will ever see it.

Linking up today with Kelly's blog My Quilt Infatuation for Needle and Thread Thursday
and Sarah's blog Confessions of a Fabric Addict for Whoop Whoop Friday


  1. That is very interesting. I have never seen a sleeve bound like that. Thanks for showing all the details.

  2. Ooh I do like tips - and your one to use hair grips to keep the binding in place is brilliant! I've got some Clover clips which are really useful in similar places but they are quite pricey. I can have hundreds of hair grips for the same price! A box of hair grips will soon be added to my sewing table. Oh and lovely work too!

    (Another) Lizzie

  3. Very nice! I have always had trouble finishing sleeve seams, and did not like the rough way they looked. THIS bound seam technique looks so neat and wonderful! Thanks for sharing. I will use it on my next project.

  4. wonderful tute and don't you just love the great British sewing bee? We can't get it on youtube this year, boo hoo.
    LeeAnna Paylor

  5. Thanks for showing how you did this. Learned a lot!



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