Thursday, February 14, 2013

Free-motion Sewing Tutorial

Tutorial time! and this one is on one of my favorite sewing techniques: free-motion sewing. I learned how to do free-motion sewing at my last job, where we would have to take off yards of lace trim on a tulle gown, and then re-sew it on after the hem was altered. Of course hand stitching all that lace back on the hem would have taken forever. One of the nice ladies at my work who had sewn her whole life taught me how to sew free-motion.

Free-motion sewing basically means appliqueing lace or other materials (but mostly done with lace) with your sewing machine without using a foot. You read that right... free-motion sewing is done without any foot on the machine! It is just the needle and your hands keep everything flat that sews the lace to the fabric. If the foot were used, there would be a lot of shifting going on to the fabric that is being appliqued, which would result in a poor-looking garment for sure. Free-motion sewing is a proper method for appliqueing lace onto other fabrics that is long lasting and looks really good.

Steve bought me this black lace for Valentine's. I had my eye on it at Tissu since I 1st saw it there two weeks ago. It is a non-beaded corded black lace that has a beautiful floral and leaf motif. It goes perfectly with the chambray dress I made up last week, which is the same pattern as this dress. I love this pattern so much-- oober flattering tres chic in cotton chambray fo sho.

I wanted to just add the lace to the back of the dress, much like my jacket I made last year with the lace detail. The easiest way to drape lace is to use a dress form. Having your daughter/friend/mom/other loved one stand there while you accidentally poke pins in them for 45 minutes per side would not be fun. But draping like this doesn't work on a hanger either-- you need to be able to mimic the curves of the body to make sure the lace is placed correctly. A dress form like Sophie is vital

Note: I draped the lace on each side of the dress in one piece-- lace is malleable and stretchy enough to drape around a body without having to add darts-- especially on the back.  

The first thing I did was place the dress on the dress form, zipped up. I am larger than my dress form, but that doesn't matter for draping and placing lace on a dress-- if need be, you can always pin the dress excess out of the way if you feel you need a tighter fit. I did this each time I draped the back sides.

I then draped the scalloped edge of my lace down the center back, overlapping the zipper slightly, and pinned it in place. Make sure you leave enough length at the top to ensure that you have enough lace to go up to the shoulder seam.

Once the Center Back is pinned in place, I then smooth the lace over the shoulder, pinning that in place while also cutting away what I need to in order for the lace to wrap around the neck.

Then, I moved down the armscye, smoothing out the lace and making sure that the lace going across the back is smooth, but not too tight that is pulling. 

At this point, there was too much extra lace to work with, since I was still working with the entire yard and a half Steve bought me. This is the time to cut off the rest of the lace that is not needed, however, I made sure that I had enough lace past the dress's side seam to make sure I wouldn't be short-- I probably left 5" past the dress's side seam just to be sure. I also cut off the extra lace past the waist seam of the dress, but left about 3" past to also be super dooper sure. 

Then I pinned the lace down the side seam of the dress. I shifted the lace piece a lot a this point, but never unpinned the lace scallop down the Center Back-- that has to stay in place no matter what. The point is to make sure that all the lace is smooth over the garment. 

It took a lot of shifting to make sure the lace was smooth. I had to readjust the armscye and the shoulder seam pinning. That's just how it is- readjusting until it's perfect. After that, I pinned the lace across the back like crazy to ensure no movement once the lace is sewn. I trimmed off any excess lace, but left about a 1" allowance around the entire piece to, once again, ensure coverage JUST IN CASE.

Now for the fun part. Time to sew. I took the dress off the dress form very carefully and set up my machine for free-motion: removed the foot, is all, really. For my machine and the fabric being used, I didn't need to adjust anything-- not the tension or the stitch length. On other machines and other fabrics, these two elements will have to be changed sometimes. How will you know? By testing different setting on scraps of fabric. That's the best way to make the best decision for your garment. 

I even made a handy dandy tutorial video for ya'll. It's just showing what it looks like really, and how using both hands to keep the fabric nice and flat is essential. As are the pins. 

You may have to stop and pick out some of the stitching because bubbles in the chambray start to form, which is not good. The lace must be pinned securly in place and the held while sewing with both hands to help the bubbling. Once the sewing is done (seriously, like 4 hours later) there will be some slight bubbling since only the motif part of the lace is sewn down and not the tulle. Give the lace a good press with lots of steam and that slight bubbling will go away. This is what it looks like all done:

I have the scallops on both sides of the back meeting at Center Back, hiding the zipper. But all the raw edges of the lace aren't looking to pretty. So what I did was cut out individual motifs from the lace and place them over the raw edges to create a nice pattern on the waist, side seams, and shoulder seams. I did the entire process again, with pinning like crazy, free sewing, and pressing really well. 

I then hand stitched a length of scallop from the lace to the neckline for a cute detail. 

It was a lot of sewing yesterday-- about 10 hours. But so worth it. My dress is amaze-balls. I'll be showing it and my jacket that I finished last week tomorrow!!!!!!!!

happy v-day.

1 comment:

  1. Wow this is awesome! It looks like a lot of work but way quicker than doing it by hand. I'll have to try this next time I sew with lace. Thanks so much for the tutorial! I can't wait to see the dress and jacket!