Deborah Moebes of Whipstitch is a pattern designer and expert instructor. She showed us how to sew In-Seam Pockets with French Seams. Deborah also taught us How to Be a Better Craft Teacher in her six-part series and shared her thoughts on Why It’s Worth It to Sew a Hem by Hand.
Deborah’s back with a Quick + Easy Dress Waistline Seam tutorial featuring her Flip Flop Dress. If you want to make multiple garments at a time– or if time is of the essence– this approach looks lovely from the outside of the dress, and gets the job done efficiently and well.
The Flip Flop Dress is enormously versatile, which means I have made a LOT of them. I originally developed the pattern when I was manufacturing children’s clothing, which meant that I would often make a dozen at a time. For that reason, I borrowed quite a lot of techniques from manufacturers for reducing time and bulk when constructing a garment. Those techniques have their place in every sewist’s tool box, and the one I’m sharing today can be applied to a whole range of dresses and tops!
When constructing the Flip Flop Dress, one of my favorite features is that the entire interior of the dress is nicely finished–the pattern pieces are designed to allow you to sew the dress with the opening either in the front OR the back, and either way, every seam allowance an edge is hidden from view. The fully lined bodice means that none of the seams are visible; even on the sleeveless version, there are no facings to peek out; and by using French seams on the skirt, the whole interior is lovely and professional. The finishing technique shown in the pattern for completing the waistline seam, though, can be unusual if you haven’t worked it before.
In the pattern instructions for this dress, when the lining is added to the bodice the lower edge is pressed up to the wrong side; the lining is folded under at the waistline. The skirt and bodice are stitched to one another through the main fabric only, with the lining pulled away. This allows you to tuck the waistline seam allowances inside, between the main fabric and the lining, so they’re concealed in the final garment.
Because this dress does not have an opening below the waistline at the skirt, though, the button openings of the bodice cross over one another above the skirt. This means that to completely conceal the waistline seam allowances in the lining of the bodice, you have to snip the seam allowances apart, tucking one side under the button underlap, and the other side under the button overlap, like this:
There’s a faster way to complete this style of seam that’s more common in off-the-rack, ready-to-wear garments that you might be accustomed to seeing. It’s not as clean or as pretty because the seam allowances remain visible, but it’s faster and still satisfying. Generally, for garments that I don’t consider “investment” pieces (a dress for a flower girl in a wedding, for example, or something that I would save after it’s outgrown to hand down), this is the finish that I would choose. It’s super fast, and completes in a single step a whole range of tasks. Additionally, this technique can be used on ANY garment where you’re attaching a skirt to a bodice with no opening below the button placket!
To complete this technique, you’ll treat the bodice and the lining as one. That means that once the lining is added, you’ll pretend you’re working with a single piece of fabric for the remainder of the sewing. For the Flip Flop Dress, complete the construction up through stitching the bodice and lining together but skip the part about pressing up the lower edge of the bodice. There’s also no need to stop stitching 1/2″ above the bodice lower edge; just sew all the way off the edge of the fabric.
Tip from the Flip Flop pattern instructions: With a dirndl skirt like this, take a hint from manufacturers and hem the skirt BEFORE you install the gathers or attach the bodice. It’s always easiest to work with your fabric flat for as long as you possibly can throughout the assembly process!
Place the skirt and the bodice right sides together, matching the side seams and drawing up the gathering stitches until the circumference of the skirt and bodice match. Pin in place. Remember– You’re treating the bodice and lining as one, so the main fabric of the bodice will be right sides together with the skirt, and the lining will be pinned to the wrong side of the bodice fabric. Take care that there are no wrinkles or lumps in the bodice or lining as you pin.
Stitch through all thicknesses, in one giant circle, all the way around the waistline edge. Sew across the button overlap and underlap, anchoring them in place.
Tip from the Flip Flop pattern instructions: Install the buttons and buttonholes FIRST, before attaching the skirt, so that you’re certain the underlap and overlap are correctly placed when you sew the waistline seam.
Once the waistline seam is sewn, finish off the seam allowances. I like to use my serger, but you can also overcast the edges or use your pinking shears to make a clean finish on the inside of the waist.
With those seam allowances finished off, press the waistline seam UP toward the bodice. Be sure you’re drawing down on the skirt as you do to avoid any puckering or lipping at the waistline seam. Give it plenty of steam!
Finally, topstitch the finished seam allowances flat by sewing through the bodice from the right side, parallel to the waistline seam, through the seam allowances. This will keep the seam flat as your girl wears the dress, and avoid any itchy issues on delicate skin.
Either of these finishes– with a lining that covers the seam allowances, as described in the Flip Flop pattern or with the lining and bodice treated as one, as described here– is lovely, and they’re identical from the exterior of the garment. The first is more appropriate for dresses that represent an investment, like a baptism, bridal party or holiday dress. The second is more manufacture-friendly, and perfect for when you’d like to decrease your sewing time or when you’re making a LOT of dresses all at once.
Have fun sewing, and share your Flip Flop finishes on Instagram and Facebook with #theflipflopdress!