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Cali sewalong: sewing the bodice

Getting started and assembling the bodice

Now we get down to some real sewing! If you need a reminder on how to wind your bobbin and thread up your machine, have a look at our quick YouTube videos below.

So you've got your machine set up, let's get those darts in our bodice pieces. The front bodice, which we cut on a fold, has two bust darts and two waist darts. The back bodice pieces have one waist and one shoulder dart each. Here follows a quick breakdown of how to go about sewing a dart.

Sewing darts

Locate your dart markings on the edge of your fabric and match them together, with the right side of the fabric facing in.

Mark your dart

Match your markings

Pin your fabric together up until the apex of the dart, which we marked with a little dot. Essentially, the dart is creating shape in the garment by "sewing out" this triangular section of fabric.

Shape of the dart indicated by a dashed line

Begin stitching the dart from the bottom edge of the fabric. To secure the thread at the beginning, use your reverse lever to go forward and back a stitch or two. Sew slowly – don't be too worried about rushing. Slow gives you more control!

Reverse lever

Stitch settings

Gradually taper your line of stitching out towards the apex of the dart. Try to make this line of stitches as smooth as possible. This avoids a very pointy dart, which can mean Madonna boobs on the bust if you're not careful.

Taper the dart

Gently knot off your stitches at the point of the dart. I find this less bulky than reverse stitching again at the end. Repeat this process for all the darts on your front and back bodice pieces.

Knot off to finish

Pressing darts

Using your iron on a low heat setting, gently press your darts to the side. As a general rule, horizontal darts like bust darts are pressed toward the waistline, while vertical darts like the waist darts are pressed towards the side seams.

Press your bodice darts

Press bust darts towards the waistline

Sewing the shoulders

Your bodice is taking shape beautifully! Place your bodice front right side up on your work surface. Then, place each back bodice piece right side down onto the bodice front, matching up the shoulder seams.

Finished bodice front

Place back pieces, aligning at the shoulders

Pin the shoulder seams in place and sew together.

Pin the shoulders

Sew the shoulder seam

Using your iron once more, press the shoulder seams open.

Press the seam allowances open

Working with facing

The neck edge of any garment is subject to quite a bit of strain from movement – facing helps to stabilise this area and add a bit of structure. Your facing is going to sit along the neck edge of your bodice, so think about it as a miniature version of exactly what you have just sewn.

Place your front facing right side up. Then place your back facing pieces right side down, matching up the shoulder line. Pin and sew in place.

Pin the bodice facing

Finish the edge of your shoulder seams to prevent fraying and press open. For this dress, I've used a combination of pinking, bias binding and French seaming to finish my raw edges. Don't worry if this sounds complex! Use whatever method you are most comfortable with. For beginners, this will most likely be overcasting with a zig-zag stitch or trimming with pinking shears. Perfect.

Trim using pinking shears

Place your facing right side down onto the right side of the bodice, and pin all the way around the neckline. These sentences are always complicated to read, refer to the image below! Always match up your shoulder seams – making sure that the seam allowances are pressed open.

Pin neckline facing in place

Press seams open

Once you have sewn all the way around the neck edge, clip into the curvature of the neckline – taking care not to snip into your stitches. This makes it easier and less bulky to flip the facing to the inside of the garment.

Clip curves

Turn your facing to the inside of your bodice and gently press in place with your iron. Note that where you see white bias binding in this picture, yours might look a little different – maybe you've used pinking shears, a zig zag stitch or an overlocker – totally cool, it won't affect the final result!

Turn facing to the inside

Tackling your side seams

Last bit for today! Pin your side seams together from the underarm to the waist edge and sew together.

Pin side seams

Once again, press your seam allowances open.

Press side seams open

Job well done!

Cool! Pat yourself on the back and take a well-deserved break. That's it for today, and now we have a snazzy-looking top half taking shape! During the week, we'll finish the armholes and move onto the skirt.

Remember, you can share your progress with us on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook using the hashtags #calisewalong #calidress and #afternoonpatterns

Running behind? Catch up with what happened last time when we cut out our pieces: Laying out and cutting out your pattern