I made this gown for a military ball. It cost $30 in fabric, and I loved the way it turned out. Follow these steps to learn how to make this fabulous gown, or get some tips on how to work with satin.
Step 1: Step 1: Test the Pattern
Before cutting out and sewing your expensive satin, I recommend finding a cheap fabric to test the pattern. This is where you can work out the quirks of the pattern, customize the design, and most importantly make sure the dress fits.
In this step, you don't need to worry about the finishing details. No need to add lining, hem the dress, or worry about mistakes. This step just ensure this is the dress you want before cutting out expensive fabric.
I altered my pattern to have a tear drop cut out in the back, and I added pockets. I added a pdf of the pocket pattern if you would like to add pockets to your gowns.
Step 2: Cutting Satin
It is a good idea to check the fabric bolt to see if you can wash the satin. Not all satin can be washed, and in general satin is not a fan of water. However, certain poly-satins can be washed in warm water and tumble dry on low heat. If the satin you are working with is able to be washed, this will help remove some chemicals used during processing and make the satin easier to work with.
The particular patterned I used was purchased on the internet, so I had to cut and tape the pattern pieces together. When you are cutting out satin, give it a little extra seam allowance since satin frays. Remember its easier to take fabric in than add extra fabric to the dress.
Avoid pinning satin, since the holes will remain in the fabric. I prefer pattern weights and using a small rotary cutter. Sharp fabric scissors work well too. Also, when you fold the fabric, add a layer of tissue paper in between so that the satin does not slide.
Step 3: Step 3: Adjusting Sewing Machine
To cut satin, you should reduce your tension and increase your stitch length. Test your stitch on scrap satin fabric and adjust as necessary. The goal is to be loose enough not to have the fabric pucker, but tight enough to maintain the stitch quality.
Step 4: Sew Any Darts, Pleats, or Gatherings
I like to go through all the pieces in the pattern and sew up any darts, pleats, or gatherings. Once this step is out of the way, it is easier to piece the pieces together and make sure all the darts line up properly.
Step 5: Step 5: Sew Lining of Top
When sewing the lining, sew the front to the front lining. You want to sew the neckline and armholes, but leave the shoulder straps and bottom. This will help you turn it inside out, and these places will be stitched together later.
Repeat the same with the back and the back lining. Turn both the front and back right side out and iron well. It is not ideal to topstitch satin, so a good heavy iron goes a long way. Make sure you do not use steam when ironing satin.
Step 6: Step 6: Shoulder Straps
Now we are going to join the shoulder straps. Working with one side at a time, turn the front inside out and keep the back right side out. Thread the back through the front strap. Line the straps up and sew together. Trim the tips by cutting the corners, this provides a relief so the corners are not warped. Now turn the front right side out and you have your straps sewn together nicely.
Step 7: Step 7: Cutting Reliefs
It is ideal to cut small triangles out of all curved seams. This provides what is called a relief, so that the fabric doesn't overlap and bunch when the seam is pressed.
Step 8: Step 8: Sewing the Invisible Zipper Into the Skirt
The skirt portion of the dress will need an invisible zipper. This particular pattern has a lining for the skirt, so sewing the zipper is simple. You place the zipper between the two layers and sew it on with your machine's zipper foot. I find it is easier to sew a zipper that is unzipped, just be sure to line up which side the zipper goes on before sewing.
Step 9: Step 9: Adding Pockets
To add the pockets, you simply sew them onto the side seam where you would like them. It is best to find the positioning on your mock up first. I like to measure the distance from the top of the skirt down to make sure all the pockets are positioned accurately. You will need to cut out 4 pockets from the satin (or 2 if you just want pockets on one side). Once you attach the pockets to the side seam, when you sew the skirt sides together, you stitch around the pocket. Finally you just turn it inside out and press it very well. The pockets will seem almost invisible unless you are using them.
Step 10: Step 10: Hemming
I find the easiest way to hem a satin dress is to do a zigzag stitch along the bottom, or serge the bottom if you have access to a serger. Then simply sew the stitch an inch up. Typically I do a more elaborate hem, but satin does not like to be messed with. This simpler approach avoids any messy puckering or bubbles.