Friday, October 12, 2012

Quick Sew-Along Tip: Directional Stitching on Flared Skirts

How are your coats progressing, readers? Are you ready to stitch your skirt seams? If so, you'll be following steps 10-15 in the instructions. Don't forget to sew your pockets on with a 1/4" seam allowance rather than the usual 5/8". Your pockets always go on the side with the circles you marked.

After the pockets are stitched on to the side front and side back pieces you'll be sewing the seams of the skirt. This is pretty simple, but I did want to give you one tip before you start. Remember how I mentioned directional staystitching yesterday? There's also such a thing as directional seam stitching. This is the correct direction in which to stitch seams to avoid stretching the bias. On straight grain seams, you don't have to worry about this, but our skirt seams are anything but straight! In fact, this skirt is a full circle, making those skirt seams very slanted.

In the case of a flared skirt, you always want to stitch from the bottom up, as indicated by the purple arrow below.

The reason is that this direction keeps the threads the most stable, rather than stretching them along the bias. Susan Khalje told me this when I took her Couture Sewing School last year, and I thought it was the craziest and awesomest thing I'd ever heard. Since then, I've seen directional stitching referred to in several vintage sewing books, included the much-respected The Bishop Method Clothing Construction. (This blogger shares more details.) Directional stitching! Who knew?

Also remember to clip the back seam allowance just below the pocket. In case you missed that minuscule clip in the instructions, I'm calling it out with a red arrow here.

This clip allows you to press the pockets toward the coat front, and then press the seams open below the pockets.

Okay! This weekend we'll be moving on to steps 16 and 17!

P.S. Thank you for all the input on my collar fabric yesterday! I am almost completely decided on the black contrast trim.


  1. Just to be difficult, now that you're close to making a decision, I would like to cast a late vote for the "Solid Black Contrast" collar rather than the "Black Contrast Trim." Either would be spectacular, but WOW! That swath of solid black would frame your face beautifully.

    1. I agree, with a great black hat(a little veil/netting), and yes I have a husband, but a think back seamed stockings would look great with black pumps

  2. Great tip! My Mum taught me to ensure that I always sew seams in the same direction - even on a relatively straight garment as there's almost always a curve for hips and waist that takes the seam off the straight of the grain, even for a short length.

    It always ensures that you avoid those awful wrinkles running at an angle from one side seam to the next.

    Oh and if I'm allowed, I'd like to get in a last minute vote for a fully black collar too - it looks so elegant and creates a great frame :)

  3. It is fascinating and I have never heard of this before either, I think I do it the right way for the tops/shirts but not skirts. I am going to take a look at my last skirt project and check for wrinkles! It is a pencil so i may have gotten away with it.

  4. Ahh, directional stitching on skirt seams! I've gotten in many an argument with fellow seamstresses on this topic. In college, my professor taught me that I should always sew skirt seams from the bottom to the top because it's stronger and sort of pushes all of your biases back together rather than stretching them out. Imagine my frustration when a week later a substitute teacher told me that no, I should have sewn all the seams of that bias-cut skirt TOP to BOTTOM! I still prefer bottom up, but after arguing this back and forth with colleagues over the years, many of whom swear by the opposite technique, my takeaway is that what's really important is just to sew all or your seams in the same direction, because that does indeed really affect the finished look of the garment.

  5. This is the first time I have ever heard this! Thanks for the tip.

  6. just found your fab blog today- so glad I have!
    I'm a patchworker and we always sew using directional seams. When we piece long rows of squares etc together to form a quilt top we sew UP one seam and DOWN the next to keep everything aligned. Never applied it to dressmaking though.


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