Grace Dressmaking
'The unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit,' 1 Peter 3:4

This is our completed sew-along for Vogue1239, like all our sew-along patterns this pattern is available widely available from many sewing stockists and online stores. You can join and follow our current sew-along on our blog.

Vogue 1239







































Let's begin! But before we do, a preface: all commercial patterns come with basic instructions. Pattern instructions will help you create a wearable garment. On this page I'll be sharing dressmaking skills which will ensure a perfectly executed design, flawless finish and prevent costly mistakes. As a dressmaker I am constantly learning from others so if you have some techniques you'd like to share please post them in using our 'Contact us' page.


Firstly, the fabric requires preparation; once the fabric is ready you're ready to follow the cutting layout on the pattern instructions. Following cutting, overlock all edges using your machine to avoid any chance of fraying. Before continuing to sew now is the best time to make a duplicate pattern.

Thread Tracing

Having made a duplicate pattern you will be able to thread trace all of your seamlines and markings on to your fabric. Begin by marking your seam allowances on your tissue patten. Remember not all seam allowances are 1.5cm: reread the pattern instructions and look carefully at the pattern markings as you pencil in. On each seam line note how much you have removed, this is a useful reference for later. In this patterns pay especial attention to collar, necklines, front facing and front edges as many of these are 1cm. Check twice, cut once. Now you are ready to cut off the seam allowances.

Remember to cut notches facing out

Once you have removed the seam allowances from the tissue pattern you can thread trace in the seam lines and markings. Again this is a process which takes time but prevents mistakes and ensures optimum accuracy at the fitting stage: all 'hands' in couture houses thread trace, this indicates how invaluable this process is for a perfect finish. The pattern needs to be re pinned to the fabric; to ensure accurate placement check the seam allowances against how much you cut from the tissue and noted in the previous stage. Mark out using running stitches.

When marking darts remember not all edges are straight. For a curved edge: tailor tack the points on the legs of the dart, use a french curve to establish the grade of the curve, faintly mark this in pencil on the fabric and thread trace over the pencil line (above). When the dart leg is straight: tailor tack the points on the leg, use your thread to establish a straight line between points and sew along this line (below).

Corner points should be marked in one of the ways above so the point is clear on the right and wrong side.

Reinforcing the corners and darts (pattern instructions 1)

The pattern only advises reinforcing 1 corner with a fabric square and using reinforcing stitches on the other 2; although it is tricky to reinforce darts with fabric it is a far more professional method. Moreover using the main fabric (as the instructions advise) will create far too much bulk. It is preferable to use a lightweight fabric with a stable grainline, I have used china silk, you could also use silk organza or silk chiffon.

Reinforcing the darts as well as the inner corners with fabric will be more secure.

Ensure your reinforcing squares are cut on the bias.

On rightside of fabric place the fabric square's grainline in line with one seam and baste. Remove thread tracing, machine stitch and remove basting.

Clip corner, gently pull reinforcing fabric through to the wrongside of garment and lightly press.

Pattern instructions 2 and 3, if you decide to reinforce your dart as I have done this is how to proceed.

Slash centre line of dart to square, baste from the wide end to point, press flat, machine stitch (start and end with a knot rather than machine reverse) and remove basting. Trim and overcast all raw edges. Complete left front in the same way.

Pattern instructions 4, press seam flat and then directed as pattern instructions. Only ever press the dart seam; if you press over the whole dart you will get an ugly indentation. Top baste then edge and topstitch.

The pattern instructions finish seams in stages, if you do this it is impossible to fit and alter the garment if necessary. Baste all seams up to pattern instruction 18 fit the garment and make alterations where required. Do not remove any of your seam thread tracings at this stage because in order to top and edge stitch the seams some basted seams will need to be unpicked and re-sewn. When fitting and making alterations to the garment make the corresponding changes to the pattern tissue.

Once you are happy with the fit you can begin to finish the seams: complete pattern instruction 5

Pattern instructions 6-9, take out all side front seam basting and leave only what's below the notch, as in the picture below. This leaves the arm, underarm and the bottom corner of the pocket open. If you were to follow the pattern instructions here you would have edge and topstitched the pocket closed. You need to edge and top titch the pocket before fully sewing the seam; this way when you are edge and topstitching you can slide the sewing machine arm through the small opening you have left in the seam.

Once your garment looks like the above picture you can turn it to the right side, press, edge and topstitch the pocket opening. Before machine stitching this side seam we need to finish our reinforced corner. Following the pattern instructions here will produce an acceptable finish but the best way to stitch an inverted, reinforced corner seam is as follows: having clipped the corner, gently pulled the reinforcing fabric through to the wrong side and lightly pressed, top baste the corner.

With right sides up baste the side to the front at the corner only. Fell stitch and remove basting.

Rebaste the parts of the seam which have been left open, remove thread tracing, press and machine stitch. Remove basting, press flat and then as directed in the instructions. Finally edge and topstitch this seam. You will need to be careful to line the stitching up at the pocket edges. At the inverted corner you will need to really slow down and 'walk' the machine across rather than using your foot pedal.

Pattern instructions 10-16: continue as directed remembering the following:

10 Points for perfect seams

Unless otherwise stated, this is the process for all seams:

  1. Threadtrace seams

  2. Pin seams

  3. Hand baste seams

  4. Remove threadtracing

  5. Press seam

  6. Machine sew

  7. Remove basting

  8. Press seam flat then press to the side and pin

  9. Hand top baste

  10. Using a double needle, machine edge and top stitch

Pattern instructions 17-18, if you sew the whole of this seam together as directed how are you going to edge and topstitch the seam without sewing the sleeve shut? The seam below the notch has to be left open. You treat the seam above the notch as directed in the pattern instructions. Below the notch you need to edge and top stitch before fell stitching the seam closed.

Complete pattern instruction 19

Additional notes for pattern instructions 20 through to 23. Before we sew the shoulder dart we need to top baste the neck edge seam at the reinforced corner (see below). Only top baste the side of the corner which is part of the neck edge: the side of the corner which is part of the dart will be sewn as a regular dart is. Repeat this process on the opposite neck edge corner seam.

Completing the shoulder dart

Neck Edge Seams

Neck edge, reinforced corner seam

To close the neck edge seam: from the right side baste the seam corners (as shown above) and then fell stitch the corners. Turn fabric to the wrong side and complete the seam as you normally would.

The pattern instructs you to edge and topstitch in stages but it is safer to ensure all seams are perfectly aligned first. Once both shoulder darts and the neck edge seams are finished pin and top baste (as below). The edge and topstitching can now be completed.

Continue to follow the instructions. At pattern instruction 28 I found the skirt hung better when I clipped the upper band rather than lower band. At pattern instruction 49 both the right and left upper front band linings are shorter than those of the main fabric.

Attaching the Lining.

Pattern instruction 58, when sewing the seams the corners need to be trimmed and finished as below to prevent bulk.

Pattern instruction 59, this is tricky so hopefully the following images may add clarity.