Finishing a dress with hand-sewn details

Blueberry crush dress - Butterick 5602 - lining pinned to zipper tape

Thanks to a relaxing weekend at home, my blueberry crush dress is moving right along.  I wanted to highlight a few of the hand-sewn finishing details in this post, mainly for two reasons: (1) I think details like this are a nice touch for a handmade garment; and (2) I have a lot of room for improvement in my hand-sewing skills!  Perhaps we can all learn from each other.  : )

First up, hand-sewing the lining to the zipper tape.  In the photo above, I’ve pressed under the 5/8″ seam allowance on each edge of the cream lining fabric, and I’ve carefully pinned the lining to the zipper tape.  (Note that I had already inserted the invisible zipper into the fashion fabric in a previous step.)  To avoid any stitching lines on the outside of the garment (and to keep the zipper as invisible as possible), the pattern (Butterick 5602)  calls for hand stitching the lining to the tape.  Ugh, what a task!

Blueberry crush dress - Butterick 5602 - lining beforeBlueberry crush dress - Butterick 5602 - lining after

Begrudgingly, I did it.  Ah, how hand-stitching drives me crazy!  On the left you can see the “before” shot with the lining pinned in place, and on the right is the finished, sewn-in lining.  I have to admit that it looks pretty neat and professional once it’s all said and done, but that doesn’t mean I enjoyed doing it.  : )  Note that the top edge still needs to be finished… more hand-sewing, but I just didn’t have it in me today!

Blueberry crush dress - Butterick 5602 - handsewing closeup

And how exactly did I do the hand-sewing?  You can see my stitches and needle position above.  I took small bites out of the lining edge and the zipper tape (being careful not to grab the fashion fabric underneath), and the bites line up with each other.  This technique produces a diagonal stitch on the outside of the lining (and you can see on the right side of the photo).  While not ideal, I found that taking diagonal bites (to produce a straight stitch) was just too awkward for my hands.  Any tips on how to do this properly?

Blueberry crush dress - Butterick 5602 - zipper bottom beforeBlueberry crush dress - Butterick 5602 - zipper bottom after

I stopped stitching at approximately the position of the zipper stop, leaving a bit of a hole to be closed beneath it.  Here, I simply used a mattress stitch to close the gap.  It didn’t come out perfect, but it’ll hold together.  Close enough.  : )


Blueberry crush dress - Butterick 5602 - neckband facing before

Next up, hand-sewing the interior neckband facing to the lining — again, to avoid a stitching line on the exterior of the neckband.  Above you can see that my usual army of pins is out in full force.  I just love the security of pins!  Unlike with the lining and the zipper, however, here I *did* take diagonal bites so that the finish product would be a straight stitch.  For some reason it was much less awkward here, so I went for it.

Blueberry crush dress - Butterick 5602 - neckband facing afterAnd behold, the finished interior facing with tiny little straight stitches holding it all together.  I admit that it looks pretty polished, but MAN did all this hand-sewing give me a brutal hand cramp!  Ouch!!  Perhaps I need to handle hand-sewing in small bits, a little each day, as opposed to the marathon I did today.  Then again, it’s kind of like wearing heels, right?  Sometimes one must sacrifice for the sake of fashion.  : )

Anyway, I do like the idea of hand-finishing garments, if only for the couture look and feel of it.  Granted, my garments are a long way from couture, but little bits here and there don’t hurt, right?

What do you think of finishing garments by hand?  Worth it, or too fussy?  Does it depend on the garment?

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6 thoughts on “Finishing a dress with hand-sewn details

  1. I think it depends on the human doing the hand-finishing! It took all the patience I could muster to reconnect a section of the fabric of a zipper (I’m sure it’s got a name, but I don’t know it!) to the side of my favorite (cat) fabric handbag from which it had come separated. I would never attempt a project like yours, by hand OR by machine! But more power to you, Carolyn, and you did a fantastic job!

    • Thanks Sophia! I think it’s called the zipper “tape” – the thin piece of fabric attached to the zipper teeth, right? And congrats on repairing your handbag; that definitely counts as hand sewing. : )

  2. I love your choice of colours, I think the hand sewing on the collar looks great! I’m not sure I’d have the patience to hand sew a zipper though!

  3. I think handswewing can be relaxing and Ive spend many an hour with my victim inside out on Ms Holloway while Ive stitched down facings and such. This dress of yours is really hopping!

    • Thanks prttynpnk, I do like the bright colors. : ) I’m glad you have the patience to hand sew your “victims” properly. I wish I enjoyed the process more!

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