Monday, September 23, 2013

Lining a Sleeveless Sheath Dress by Machine

Thank you for your kind comments on my Vogue 8828 dress.  And I am happy to see many of you entering the blogaversary giveaway from my last post.  You have until October 1 to add a comment with your choice of gift.  
Let's get down to lining details...careful, this is very picture heavy.  I learned how to do this lining from Trena's blog  The Slapdash Sewist  and it's made my sewing life much easier and my sheath dresses so comfortable.  
stretch silk lining
lining back
I decided that I did not want facings and a lining on this dress.  But facings, since they are usually interfaced, add a nice stable edge around the bias curves of necklines and armholes.  So I decided to use a lightweight interfacing on those areas.  
Interfaced lining at front edge where facing would usually be.
My lining is a stretch silk charmeuse from Fabric Mart, another find from years ago that has been aging in my resource center.  It has a crepe backing with a shiny front, at least 20% stretch and is rather "beefy" in weight.  My interfacing was also a stashed piece labeled as "Sewer's Delight" and I bought it at Louse Cutting's now closed fabric shop.  Louise has the most wonderful selection of truly couture interfacings so even though this one is no longer around, check out what she does have to offer.  Cutting Line Designs 

The dress is lined to the edge but since the turquoise silk was the perfect match for the color in the dress, I made piping to go around the neckline and armholes. I used rayon rat tail as the filler, cut 2" bias strips of silk, stitched with my buttonhole foot close but not tight against the rat tail, trimmed the binding to 5/8" from the rat tail and hand stitched the piping in place since I didn't want it to move when I sewed it all together.
I mark my piping after adding the filler for more accuracy.

Piping basted into place
A you can see from this picture, I've assembled much of the dress already.  I've sewn all the front six pieces together, then the back 8 pieces.  I've joined the dress at the shoulder seam and I have installed an invisible zipper in back.  My piping is basted in place and now I'm ready for the lining.  The side seams have not been stitched together.
I sew all the lining pieces in the same manner, except I keep the back center seam open since there's no zipper there.  Next I sew that back seam edge to each side of the zipper tape, by machine, not by hand.  First I lay out my dress and lining, wrong sides together.  Some people may not have to do that step but I have to see what's happening in front of me....I seem to lack the inner geometry gene.
Now I know that I want to turn under the lining seam allowance along the center seam and sew it to the zipper tape. I pull one section away and pin the other directly to the zipper tape, this time right side of lining to the inside of the zipper tape:
Right side of lining seam allowance pinned to zipper tape
I offset the lining by 1/4" and then sewed the lining, using my zipper foot again and a 3/8" seam allowance down the length of the zipper.
Viking zipper foot and needle position 4.0 to the left
I repeat the same procedure on the other half of the zipper and then sew the rest of the seam from the bottom of the center lining.  Now I have the lining attached to the zipper tape and I am ready to sew the neckline seam, right sides together.  
Lining has been sewn to both sides of the zipper tape
I sew that seam at 5/8" but still use that zipper foot to stay just inside my previous hand basting so I have a tight nice piping on the outside.
Neck seam before it has been graded, clipped and pressed....those steps make all the difference.
Grading the seam, clipping and pressing makes all the difference.

Final step is similar to a yoked shirt "burrito" technique" where you roll up a garment section in order to sew smoothly and then pull the garment through an opening.  In this case, you will sew the right side of the garment armhole to the right side of the lining armhole.
I like to start by laying the dress flat again.
Roll up one armhole, lining and fashion fabric together:
One armhole of fabric twisted together
Now open out the fashion fabric and lining on the opposite armhole and place that rolled "bundle in the middle.
"Rolled bundle of armhole" placed on top of right side of opposite fashion fabric and lining armhole
Pin together the right sides of that armhole's lining and fashion fabric:
Right sides of armhole pinned together with that "roll" inside.

Since I had piped that seam, I made sure to again stitch it with my zipper foot inside the basted piping line.  
Here's the part that might scare you the first time....and the reason why I am always laying out my dress flat to make sure I am sewing the correct sides together.  It's best to grade and clip the armhole seam now, before you pull it through the shoulder.  But if you have any doubt that you haven't done this procedure correctly, then I'd suggest pulling the garment through the shoulder first and checking your work...then pull it back and do that clipping. Take your time and you can clip with impunity...and good pressing and grading on curves means a snug flat seam.  I understitch the armhole lining and seam allowances together also.  If you use your machine you can't stitch all the way but I used a prick stitch and hand stitched the armhole all the way around. You can see the small prickstitch in some of those pictures.

After you have stitched the two armholes, you can then pin the side seams of the dress together, right sides together, and do the same for the lining.  One benefit you will notice from this technique is that it makes it easy to take the side seams in or out on a lined dress.
Easier to show in person but I hope the pics are a help sometime in your sewing future. 
Next time I might try the couture lining technique from  Susan Khalje's article in Threads 125 which uses a lot of handsewing....perfect for cold winter nights in front of the TV with Mr. Lucky,
Speaking of Mr. Lucky, here's proud picture of the new canning expert at our house.  I made our first batch of these Pickled Dilly Green Beans Pickled Dill Green Beans a week ago and they are wonderfully crisp and tasty.  Mr. Lucky helped me while I was working on church course materials over the last few day by making the second batch himself.  14 half-pints of pickles and a proud guy in the house, now that's priceless.


  1. Thanks for this good explanation. I may attempt this the next time I sew a sleeveless sheath. I have never tried Pickled Dill Green Beans, but they sound good:)

  2. Your dress is beautiful and beatifully made!
    I'm a canner too. I came home the other day to find a bushel of apples on the kitchen table. My husband got the job of peeling and coring them and I turned them into 9 pints of applesauce.

  3. I have been sewing a long time but still learn new things from your blog...thank you sew much...what is the best sewing tool we all have...KNOWLEDGE!

  4. This tutorial was a great help to me. Thanks so much!

  5. Thank you so much for taking the time to write and photograph this fantastic tutorial! Having never fully lined a dress before, I used your step by step process to line my new sheath dress made from the most precious fabric. I linked back to your post and wanted to thank you personally. :)


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