Thursday, May 12, 2011

Marking and Making Tucks: A Tutorial

One of the things I had to figure out for the First Communion dress was how to mark and make the tucks on the sleeves and bodice. Usually, when sewing tucks, the pattern will have you mark each tuck with two parallel lines. After transfering these lines to the fabric, you're supposed to bring the two lines together and then sew along the lines.

But it's actually much easier to sew a tuck if you only mark a single line representing the center fold of the tuck. So my first step was to trace the pattern piece substituting a single solid line exactly midway between each of those dotted lines which you see above.

But how would I transfer the lines to my fabric? Naturally, I didn't want to use pencil, chalk or dressmaker's carbon paper on white satin. So I decided to mark my tucks with thread.

First I traced the position of the tucks onto a piece of pattern paper. Using blue painter's tape, I attached the paper onto my cutting table. Then I taped a piece of fabric, large enough to cut out the sleeve, over the paper template. I was able to see the black template lines through the fabric. (In the photo I'm using a piece of bleached muslin, but I was able to see through the satin equally well.) I sewed a line of running stitches over the marked lines being careful to sew only through the fabric and not the paper underneath it.

After thread tracing the tuck lines, I removed the fabric. I pinned the sleeve pattern piece onto the fabric, lining up the tuck lines on the pattern with the lines I had marked on the fabric in blue thread.

To make the tucks, I folded along the first blue thread line and ironed it down.

Then I sewed a seam that was half as wide as the distance between the two tuck lines on the original pattern. (Rather than do any complicated math to figure this out, you can take your original pattern piece, bring those dotted tuck lines together, and then put the pattern piece under your presser foot just as if you were going to sew a seam along the tuck line on the pattern. Sink your needle into the sewing line and see which guideline the fold falls along. Or, if your machine allows you to shift your needle position, you can put the fold against the nearest guideline and then move your needle left or right until it's in the right spot to sink into the sewing line.)

In my case, putting the folded edge at the 1/4 inch guideline on the needle plate and moving the needle to the right just one click proved perfect. To keep from forgetting the proper setting, I wrote it down in pencil on my sample sleeve.

After sewing the tuck, I pulled both threads to the wrong side of the fabric, knotted them by hand, and clipped the thread tails.

Here are the finished tucks. Once they were all done, I removed the the blue thread. No marks were left behind.

I followed this procedure with the satin, and was able to easily mark and sew the tucks without having to worry about about having to remove any markings from the fabric.

Here's a picture of the completed satin sleeve.

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