Let’s start with the collar. If you’re leaving the collar out, you can skip over this section – start reading from ‘Neckline facings’ below…
Sew the collar
You should have four collar pieces – the two collar pieces that you interfaced earlier will form the top collar, the other two will be the under collar. Trim the outer edge and short sides of the under collar pieces down by 2mm, tapering to 0 at the corners. Trimming the under collar will help the seam lines roll to the underside of the collar so you don’t see them when you’re wearing the dress.
Lay each top collar piece over its matching under collar piece, right sides together. Pin these pieces together at the outer edge and short sides. With the interfaced piece facing up, stitch these three sides of each collar piece, pivoting 15mm (5/8in) from the corners, leaving the neckline unstitched. If you find it tricky to tell where to pivot, you could draw the corners onto the interfacing, 15mm (5/8in) in from the raw edges.
Trim the seam allowances down to about 5mm. This should be enough to create a smooth seam allowance on many fabrics. But if your fabric is on the heavy side, you could trim one seam allowance a bit more than the other to make them less bulky, and you could also clip into the curved part of the collar.
If your fabric is light- to medium-weight, fold the seam allowances neatly at the corners and turn the collar right sides out – folding the corner will create a nice and sturdy corner that won’t form a hole. If your fabric is on the heavier side, folding the corner might make it a bit bulky, so snip diagonally across the seam allowances instead, being careful not to cut through the stitching line, before turning the collar right sides out. Use a pin to gently ease the fabric at each corner out into a point.
Press the collar pieces, rolling the seam lines slightly to the underside of the collar (the uninterfaced side) so you won’t see it from the top.
Now we can attach the collar to the dress. Lay one collar piece over the dress at the neckline, the under collar against the right side of the dress. Pin, matching the centre front notch on the collar to the one you snipped on the neckline earlier, matching the shoulder notch on the collar to the shoulder seam line, and matching the end of the collar with the end-of-collar notch on the dress. If your neckline has stretched out slightly, you may need to stretch the collar a little bit while you’re pinning it to get the notches to match up neatly.
Baste (tack) the collar to the dress neckline using a 10mm (3/8in) seam allowance. Now you can position the other collar piece on the other side of the neckline in the same way. The two collar pieces should overlap at centre front, intersecting 15mm (5/8in) down from the neckline.
Whichever version of the Francoise dress you’re making, you’ll now need to sew the neckline facings. You should have cut one front neckline facing piece on the fold and two back neckline facing pieces, and interfaced them all.
Pin the front and back neckline facings together at the shoulder seams, right sides together, matching notches.
Stitch them at the shoulder seams. Trim the seam allowances to about half their width and press them open. Finish the outside edge of the facing with zigzag stitch or an overlocker (serger).
Pin the facing to the dress at the neckline, right sides together (on top of the collar if you added it), matching the centre front notches and shoulder seams. Stitch. If you added the collar, check the stitching line meets the point where the two collar pieces intersect at centre front - you might want to stitch this bit first and check the stitching is in the right place before sewing the rest of the seam.
Trim the seam allowances. Press the facing (but not the collar) away from the dress towards the seam allowances. Understitch the facing to the seam allowances – this means sewing the facing to the seam allowances close to the seam line to help keep it on the inside of the garment. You can use a groove of your presser foot as a seam allowance guide to keep the understitching close to the seam line. Hold the fabric nice and taut either side of the seam line as you’re understitching so you don’t get any wrinkles.
Turn the facing to the inside of the dress and press, rolling the seam line slightly to the inside. Understitching the facing should hopefully keep it on the inside of the dress but, depending on what fabric you’re using, it may still want to pop out to the outside. If it looks like it’s doing that, you can hand stitch the facing to the shoulder seams – just a few little stitches should do it. Similarly, if you find that the collar is trying to turn to the inside of the dress, you can stitch the under collar to the dress by hand near each point of the collar, being careful not to stitch through the top layer of the collar so the stitches stay hidden.
And that’s it for today! Your Francoise dress should be looking lurrrvely now. Take a look at some of the dresses that are already finished - gorgeous! In the next post we’ll get the zip in...