Sewing the curves of any princess seam can be challenging, especially in more difficult and sometimes unforgiving fabrics such as satin. Mastering this just takes a little practice. In this post I walk you through each step with tips and detailed photos. If this is your first time sewing princess seams I would advise you to try it first with a fabric that is a little more forgiving, such as a suiting weight wool, or another natural fiber such as medium weight cotton sateen or linen.
It is also incredibly useful to press the curved seam and most seams of this dress using a **TAILOR’S HAM. I use mine almost every time I sew so I highly recommend that you buy one for great, professional results.
I also recommend that you pin your pieces together placing your pins perpendicular to the seam and pinning along the seam allowance, which in this case is 1/2″ (1.3cm).
Pattern Instruction STEP 1:
With right sides together, pin the BODICE FRONT (1) to the BODICE SIDE (2) matching the notches. Stitch. Press the seam open. Clip and notch the curve of the princess seam.
Make note of the right and wrong sides of your pattern pieces. My fabric looks the same on the right side as it does the wrong side, so one trick I use is I place a pin on the right side, so I always can tell the difference. This prevents sewing two left or two right sides of the bodice by accident. When I have it all together I just remove the pins.
With right sides together, and working with the BODICE SIDE (2) up* match one of the notches of the curve. Here I am starting with the notch closest to the armhole of the bodice. Pin perpendicular to the seam as shown and along the seam allowance which is 1/2″ (1.3cm). *TIP: It is easier to pin and sew with the BODICE SIDE (2) up.
Place a second pin where the seam will end. Because of the angle of the armhole you will see that the pattern pieces do not line up evenly, but they should INTERSECT at the 1/2″ seam allowance (1.3cm).
Continue to pin between the previous two pins, trying to pin along the 1/2″ (1.3cm) seam allowance as if it is being stitched together. This makes sewing along the seam allowance much easier, and prevents puckering and allows you to ease the curve around the presser foot.
Next, match the notches on the other end of the princess seam, which, in this case, is the notch closest to the midriff. Place a pin to hold the notches in place repeating the same pinning technique – pinning perpendicular to the seam and along the 1/2″ (1.3cm) seam allowance.
Place a second pin where the seam will end at the midriff, lining up the raw edges of the bodice.
Place pins between these two pins, continuing to pin along the seam allowance.
Next, ease the two raw edges together at the curve of the apex.
Gently cup the fabric over your hand to ease the two curves together.
Continue with the same pinning technique easing the raw edges of the two curves together and pinning along the 1/2″ (1.3cm) seam allowance to hold it in place. This may take a couple of tries to get just the right amount of ease, requiring you to pin, and re-pin between the two notches.
Begin stitching 1/2″ away from the raw edge, back stitching to secure the first few stitches. Be careful not to sew any folds into the seam, and remove the pins as you come to them. This requires stitching slowly, and stopping to smooth the fabric underneath away from the presser foot. Back stitch when you come to the end of the seam.
Turn your work to the right side to check to make sure there isn’t any puckering or folds in the seam. If there is, you can remove a few stitches on either side of the pucker or fold, ease the fabric into the curve, and stitch over it again, being sure to overlap your stitching to secure it so the seam won’t pull apart later.
Repeat for the other side, working with the BODICE SIDE (2) up, just like before.
When pressing the curves of the princess seam try to use a TAILOR’S HAM for best results.
Press open the princess seam working one side of the curve first, using the curve of the ham to help mold your fabric gently.
Move the bodice piece to press the seam open on the other side of the curve, again using the curve of the ham to gently mold your fabric.
Do no over press as this will leave an indentation of the seam allowance on the other side of your fabric. If you are concerned about this you can even place strips of paper between the seam and the wrong side of the bodice as you go to prevent this from happening. This is not really an issue with the wool in this tutorial, but if I was sewing satin, I would probably take the time to do this.
On the outside of the curve you will notice that the seam is being pulled or seems a little tight. Clip along the raw edge of the seam about 1/4″ deep* to release the tension on the curve. *TIP: I DO NOT recommend clipping all the way down to the stitching as this can compromise your seam, and it is not necessary to do this.
On the inside of the curve, you will notice that the fabric is slightly bunched and almost folds on itself. Cut several notches of fabric out about 1/4″ deep* in the shape of little triangles along the curve to remove some of the extra fabric. *TIP: Again, I DO NOT recommend cutting the notches all the way down to the stitching as this can compromise the seam, and is not necessary.
Turn the bodice so the right sides are up to check your pressing and making sure that everything looks smooth.
Pattern Instruction STEP 2:
With right sides together, pin together the two BODICE FRONTS (1) and stitch the center front seam to the circle at the neckline, and back stitch to secure. Press seam open.
It is very important to transfer the circle at the center front neckline that is on the pattern onto your fabric. Here I have used a non-wax marking paper and tracing wheel to mark my fabric.
I placed my first pin at the circle so I am sure not to sew beyond it. This will allow for a crisp V shape when it is turned later on. Pin perpendicular and along the seam allowance.
Stitch, being sure to back stitch at both ends to secure.
Stitch to, but not beyond, the circle that you marked from the pattern at the neckline. This will result in a crisp V shape at the neckline when it is turned later on.
Press the seam open*. *TIP: Even though this is not a curved seam I still use my pressing TAILOR’S HAM. The curve of the ham prevents the seam allowance from leaving a harsh line on the right side. I cannot stress enough that it is a great practice to use a pressing ham.
This completes the tutorial on how to sew and press the front princess seams