1920s | 1930s

Help needed: 1920’s housedress with bound seams

March 8, 2012

I need some advice.

This pattern only has five pieces, one of which is for the tie ends, one for the back, and another for the pockets, which means it really only has two pieces that matter: The front sides and center.

However, the instructions were printed on the back of the envelope, which is in poor condition.  A big chunk of it is missing.  Of course, it’s the chunk that included all the not-so-obvious assembly steps (not the ones like “insert tie ends in seam” and “hem”).

I realize that this can’t possibly be that difficult but I’ve never bound seams that weren’t on the outside edge of a dress before, and I’d like to mess it up as little as possible, so I’m asking for input in case anyone else out there has made a pattern with bound seams (that is, with the binding on the outside, as trim).

Oh, and it’s not a pattern of which I can just run out and find another copy.  It’s “904”, and I’m guessing it’s from somewhere between 1928 and 1931, so not only does it not have a manufacturer’s name, but it’s really old.

No-name, probably mail-order.

The issues:

1) Somebody cut down the kimono sleeves to either make it sleeveless or to make armscyes for inset sleeves.  Annoying, but remediable.  Of course, she didn’t save the pieces she cut out, so I have to wing it.  Thank goodness I can see the original shape on the cutting diagram, right?
2) The seams.  I know that it has bound seams.  Doesn’t that basically mean that the seams are inside-out, so there is an external edge to bind?  Or do you bind the edges of the center front first and then topstitch it onto the side panels??  And there are pockets in the front curves, which complicate the whole piecing thing (I have a suspicion that the original instructions were vague, anyway, and sort of left the seamstress to figure it out on her own). 
3) It closes with snaps at the front neck, so the top part of the front center panel has free edges for at least a few inches down from the neckline.  The front is three pieces: Two side panels and the front center panel.  The pockets are set in the curves between the two panels (the model has her hand in one of them).
It says to sew up the front seams first, leaving openings for the pockets, and to sew the pockets’ side seams before you insert them into the dress.  But that would mean that one side of the pocket top edge was in a “normal” seam (seam allowance inside the garment) and one was “inside out” (allowance outside the garment, where it could be bound), which would necessitate leaving the top 1/2-inch or so of the pocket side seams unsewn, and it doesn’t say to do that (that I can tell).
Or is the binding just appliquéed over the seam, and not actually encasing the seam allowance?

I’m running errands tomorrow and plan to stop by the fabric store to see if they have any apron patterns with bound seams, but I doubt any of their apron patterns with bound seams will have inset pockets and stuff, so the instructions might not be very helpful.

  1. Check out Simplicity 3544 (vintage reprint) which is an apron with bound seams and inset pockets. That pattern calls for bias tape to bind the seams externally.

  2. Yes, that looks like bias tape seam binding. While at the fabric store, see if a packet of bias tape has instructions on the outside of the packet. Or if they have a book section, check it out. Once you see it, it will suddenly all become clear… this is a beautiful dress by the way – I’d love to see it completed!

  3. I did check the apron patterns at the hobby store. They bind the edges of the pieces and then topstitch the pieces together. We’ve (myself, my mother, and my sewing-adventurous friend) have come to the conclusion that this is the only way not only that makes sense, but that is humanly possible.

    We’ll see how it goes. I have to trace and resize the pattern first, but after that, it should be pretty straightforward. Famous last words, right?

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