The A-Line Dress Sew-A-Long – Darts, Back Bodice & Invisible Zip

The A-Line Dress Sew-A-Long

Welcome back! We have been looking forward to today and we can’t wait to get started sewing the gorgeous A-Line Dress today!

Still haven’t got the pattern? Buy your version here and join our Sew-A-Long:

Need some fabric inspiration? We’ve sourced some gorgeous options for this pretty dress – have a look here!


If you’ve just joined us you can catch up here:

The A-Line Dress Sew-A-Long Start

Layplans, fabric, pinning and cutting

Overlocking and final preparation


Today we are covering DARTS and the INVISIBLE ZIP.

If this is the first time you are putting an invisible zip in to a garment do not be afraid! Our application is so easy you will never look back! We will say upfront that practice makes perfect so, if this is your first invisible zip, why not do a test run on some spare fabric? You can always unpick it and reuse the zip if you only have one zip. The more times you do an invisible zip the better and easier it will get.

Last suggestion – when you do get to the zip section, read the whole section and look at the pictures and then start from the beginning. Sometimes, something makes more sense when you have seen how the whole thing comes together.

Remember – feel free to tackle everything in one sitting or take your time and split it over the next few days. Also, if you get stuck at any point reach out to us either by commenting on our posts or pop us an email to hello@theavidseamstress.co.uk (we love hearing from you so don’t hesitate!)

Right, let’s get started..

You’ve already marked your dart notches and point (if you haven’t – quick! go do it!)

To help illustrate the next step we’ve drawn the whole dart onto the garment. This shows you the “triangle” of fabric that you are going to be pinching and sewing. If you put a pin into the dot and then pinch the two “notches” together you’ll be able to fold the piece to create the sewing line. Those two lines should meet up on either side to create the perfect dart.

Here’s a little cheat guide… we like to draw the dart sewing line to get the perfect straight line. With a ruler and a fabric marker draw from the dart “notches” to the dot, making sure that the line extends perfectly off at the dot. When you sew this dart, sew from the notches to the dot, making sure that you don’t panic at the end and go off the edge with a curved shape (we’ve done it plenty of times and this means you’ll have a little bulgy dart on the right side). Sew confidently and right off the edge of the fabric .. but here’s the tricky part… we need to close off those last stitches. You can do this by:

  • giving yourself long threads and then tying a little knot at the end of the dart point. Do a double tie and then cut (not too closely) to the threads
  • if you are feeling more confident, as you are sewing towards the end of the dot, do a quick reverse stitch – you only need to reverse two stitches!

Don’t forget – practice makes perfect with sewing! The more you sew the better you get! If this is the first dart you are sewing why not practice on some scrap fabric first and start with the waist darts before venturing on to the front bodice darts. Waist darts always get ironed/pressed to the side seam. Darts are a staple step in many clothing constructions so the practice will be worth it.

Now, on to the bust dart. With a bust dart, there is more fabric that forms the dart. Using the same technique as above, place a pin in the dot and two pins at your notches/lines. Then, pinch the two lines together so that they meet. You want to work on the side of the dart that means you can sew from the side seam to the dot.

Sew the bust darts and then press them down towards the waist. You can now overlock this side seam edge. Take your time when pressing this as getting the dart crisp will give your bodice a more professional look.

When you look at your dart from the front can you see how it creates a bust shape? The tip of the dart isn’t creating a bulge – this is down to how you sew the tip on the wrong side of the fabric.

BACK BODICE

Ok darts done! Let’s move on to sewing our back bodice pieces on to our back skirt pieces. Ensure that you sew the CB (centre back) notch of the back skirt to the CB side of the bodice. In other words make sure the side seam side of the skirt is matching up with the side seam side of the bodice. Pin, ensuring that your edges are perfect on each other and sew using a 1.5cm seam allowance.

TIP – it’s really important that you start and stop sewing on an accurate 1.5cm seam allowance, otherwise these two back bodice/skirt pieces aren’t going to match up together which is going to affect your zip (nobody wants that!). Take your time, sew as slow as you need to. It might take a little longer but you’ll thank us when your pieces match up perfectly.

Once you have sewn the two back bodice pieces to the two back skirt pieces, place them together and check that they are exactly the same. You can now press open the seam allowances.

INVISIBLE ZIP

Deeep breath. We are now going to do the invisible zip! In our instruction booklet the instructions to insert the zip have been done using the standard zipper foot for a sewing machine. For this tutorial we are using a invisible zip foot. The differences in finish between using an invisible zip or a standard zip foot are pretty remarkable. This little gadget isn’t expensive and it going to turn your invisible zips into works of art!

Here’s the little beauty now, sitting alongside an invisible zip.

The A-Line Dress tutorial image by The Avid Seamstress

Preparing the zip
When you unzip an invisible zip you will notice that each side of the zip “rolls” to the side. With an iron and on a warm, but not hot setting, iron the zip so that each side lies very flat.”

Place the left side of the back dress with the right side facing you (follow the picture). Place the zip right side down on to B and place one pin in place at the top (the neck line). The unpinned side of the zip will be on the left. Look strange? bear with us!

As you see from the image above the edge of the zip should lie against the edge of the fabric. You really don’t need to pin the rest of the zip here as the zipper foot will feed it through and the pins will just get in the way!

Put your invisible zipper foot on to your sewing machine. When you bring the top part of the garment to the zipper foot can you see how it just fits “on top” of the zipper teeth? There’s an image below to illustrate this if you don’t know what we mean. If it isn’t feeding through the foot easily, iron the zipper so that the teeth of the zip are flat.

Create a few stitches and then reverse stitch. If you are finding that the zipper foot doesn’t “want to move easily” – pull gently on the threads at the back and gently push the zip under the teeth of the foot. If your foot is placed correctly on the zip the stitches should be very very close to the teeth of the zip. Can you see that the right hand side of the zip is flush with the edge of the garment? Now, you can sew down to the bottom of the zip, keep the edge of the zip against the edge of the fabric. Sew as far down as you can and then reverse stitch.

The A-Line Dress tutorial image by The Avid Seamstress

The A-Line Dress tutorial image by The Avid Seamstress The A-Line Dress tutorial image by The Avid Seamstress

How was that???

Zip up the zip to just past where the skirt & bodice join and make a mark on the unsewn zip where the bodice and skirt join (see our red mark below). This will ensure that when you sew the other side of the zip, both sides match up beautifully.

Unzip the zip again and place the back dress pieces right sides together. Take the loose zip side and pin it along the right side edge of the garment. You are only pinning the zip and edge of the fabric.

Ensure that:

  • The top of the zip is flush with the top of the garment. You want the top of the zip to start at the same place as the other side you have already sewn.
  • The mark made on the zip lines up where the bodice joins the skirt.

Then you can pin the rest of the zip. Can you see the directions my pins are facing? This is because we are going to start sewing from the bottom of the zip up to the top..

The A-Line Dress tutorial image by The Avid Seamstress

Start sewing from the bottom of the zip (roughly the same point where you stopped sewing the first side of the zip) to the top of the bodice. Check that when you get to where the bodice and skirt join the mark you made on the zip matches up.

The A-Line Dress tutorial image by The Avid Seamstress

Zip up the zip and check that:

  • The top of the zip/neck edges match up where the bodice meets the skirt
  • Both sides are the same

Do a little dance if they are the same! Woo hooooooooooo

OK, now on to the bottom of the skirt. Turn your dress to the wrong side and pin the unsewn remainder of the skirt on the CB edge, matching up the notches and bottom hem.

It may help you too see how this piece looks when we are finished, in order to help us explain how to do it:

Can you see how there is a row of stitching just above and to the left of the previously sewn zipper stitches?

This is how you do it:

Put your “normal” zipper foot on to your machine so that when you are sewing, the stitches will be on the right side of the zipper foot.

  • Manoeuvre your piece so that you are as close as possible to the previously sewn zip stitches – the closer you can get the better. You need to ensure that when your zip foot is on, your stitches are on the right of the foot.
  • Start sewing just above and to the left of the sewn part of the zip. It looks tricky but it works!
  • Keep your fabric flat and push the unsewn zip end to the right so that it is out of your way.
  • Then, as you are sewing, move gradually towards sewing on a 1.5cm seam allowance and complete the bottom section of the skirt. Don’t forget to reverse stitch!

The A-Line Dress tutorial image by The Avid Seamstress

  • Iron/press open the seam allowance.

When you turn the dress to the right side you will barely be able to see where the invisible zip stops and the back seam starts.

Didn’t work out perfectly the first time?? Don’t be too hard on yourself. It took us LOTS of tries before we started getting it right. Practice practice practice!

Wow! Can you believe you’ve done all that already? Your A-line dress should be taking shape nicely. Be sure to come back and join us next week where we will cover: joining the dress at the shoulder seams, and constructing, attaching, under-stitching and finishing the neck facing. It’s going to be jam packed! 

How has it been so far for you? Which fabric did you choose? Do you need any help??

Don’t forget to share your progress with us either with comments or if you’re sharing your pics with us on social media use the hashtag #sewingthealine or sewingthea-linedress and tag us @theavidseamstress so we can follow what you are making!

See you next week!

Posted by

Founder of London based indie sewing pattern brand - The Avid Seamstress

2 thoughts on “The A-Line Dress Sew-A-Long – Darts, Back Bodice & Invisible Zip

  1. This is a great sew a long and amazingly I am up to speed! I made a tiny error which I think others may benefit from- The 2nd half of my zip was not quite (2mm?) flush with the fabric at the centre back and when I zipped up once finished there was a wee bit fabric showing at one side, so did it again-much much smarter finish. Its all about the details isn’t it?! All the best sewing fans xx

    1. Ah we love that you did it again, a perfectionist like us! Yes, it’s all about the detail and when you get this part right, the feeling of satisfaction is amazing!! Glad you are joining us! xxx

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