Bridgetown Dress in Jersey: Bodice and Facings

Hello stitchers! Today we are starting our Bridgetown in a jersey fabric - in my case, a lovely stretch hemp from Nature's Fabrics, in a colorway called "Everglade".

I made version C - that is, the dress length with the shallow hem. Above, you see my supplies - the fabric, needels (both a ballpoint for construction and a twin needle for topstitching), elastic, and matching thread.

If you are relatively knew to sewing with knit fabrics, you will probably know you want to have the proper needle (ballpoint or jersey are best for most knits) and a strong thread (polyester or cotton-wrapped polyester is a safe bet). For seams, be prepared to sew with a either a narrow zig-zag or a "lightning bolt" stitch. I switch back and forth between the two, and I will explain why as I go. I will lead us through some twin-needle topstitching, too, when the time comes.

Below - the stitch #1 corresponds to a zig zag (use a 0.5mm width and 3.0 length for most knits); stitch #9 corresponds to the "lightning bolt" stitch. This latter stitch is a combination of the strength of a backstitch, coupled with the seam movement of a zig zag. I will also use a straight stitch (stitch #1 on this machine) for the twin-needle stitching.

Below, you can see my layout for the knit dress, which corresponds to the right-hand figure of page 6 (shown below the photo). Notice in the cutting layout, piece D (the Front Neck Facing) can be either bias-cut or cut on the grain. When sewing with a stretch knit, you don't need to cut on the bias: the knit fabric will allow for curvature when you apply this facing to the neckline.

* Note an error was found - the above layout reads 0 - 18 and it should say 0 - 20.

Remember, mark all pertinent notches. I like to clip 1/8" into the seam allowances, right at all the marked notch locations. There are three notches on the front piece A (at shoulder, sleeve, side seam, and center front), four notches on the back bodice B (at shoulder, sleeve, side seam, and center back), four for sleeve piece C, two (or three) notches at front and back of skirt F (at side and center front, as well as hem for versions B & D),  and two for front and back bottom band G (at top, and side). And finally - I like to mark the center front, at the neckline of the front bodice (piece A).

For my Back Facing strips (piece E), I like to separate the strip I will cut them from after I've cut the larger pieces, and really make sure the strips are cut perfectly on grain:

Time to go to the machine! Now it's time to stay-stitch that neckline, for both the Front Bodice, and Back Bodice pieces (page 7). Staystitching will ensure that the neckline does not stretch out over time and wear. Stitch from the shoulder seams down, as illustrated. You can use a straight stitch here, or (as I did) a lightning-bolt stitch:

I like to take these staystitched edges and lightly press them with steam. Then, I pin and sew the Front Bodice shoulders to the back bodice, right sides together (top of page 8). Sew at 5/8":

At this stage, we get to finish our seams. You can pink, zig-zag and trim, or - as I've done below - serge. I don't recommend finishing with a flat-felled or French seam here, as it would add bulk to the shoulder seam, which won't be appreciated when we add our facing.

Now, we join our facing pieces (bottom of page 8) at the short edges. When sewing delicate fabrics or, as in this case, small pieces I don't want to distort, I like to use some washaway stabilizer under the stitch. This enables me to firmly backstitch, without stretching the fabrics:

I then trim away the stabilizer; the tiny amount left will be hidden in the garment, and will wash out upon first laundering:

Then, we take our joined facing pieces, and lightly steam press them with the long edges and wrong-sides together. I first finger-press the short seams open, before pressing with steam.

So here's a fun seam! We pin our facings to the entire neckline of the bodice pieces, right-sides and raw-edges together. Since I plan on sewing with the bodices against the machine, and the facings facing up, I pin that way. Notice - as per the verbiage on page 9 - the facings extend a little past the bodice. This is fine - they will be trimmed later in the process. 

Stitch at 3/8":

Next, I trimmed this seam allowance. Because this jersey is a little bit bulky, I trimmed the  facing seam allowance to 1/8", and the bodice seam allowance to 1/4":

At this point, you can press the facing and seam allowance away from the garment, and understitch (top of page 10). I skipped this step, as I knew I could finger-press my facing nicely. But in general, understitching is a really excellent method for facings.

Now, we're going to turn that facing to the wrong side of the dress (step 6 on page 10). We will then be topstitching from the right side of the dress:

My shoulder seam - even with trimming and clipping, was a little bulky. I used a clapper to further flatten it:

Then, I tested my twin-needle setup on scraps of my material - folded to make three layers, as that's what I'd be sewing for the facing. In general, I find I need to lessen my top tension, and lengthen my stitch length, to get a good effect. If you haven't used twin needles before, do a little research and a lot of experimentation - and remember to change to a straight stitch!

As you can see (above), the zig-zag effect of the bobbin thread between the two top threads, is what makes this stitch a "stretch stitch", even though it is a straight stitch.

Here are my results:

And - we're all finished! I hope you enjoyed today's work. Tomorrow we tackle our sleeves and side seams!

We want to see how you're doing! You can post pictures of your creations either here, Instagram #bridgetownbacklessdress - or on the Facebook page!