So you only bought seven yards. You need eight. Of course. Because you didn’t check the yardage listing before you went shopping or the store only had the seven.
But you’re determined to make the dress anyway….
When you’re a bit short on fabric, the [historically accurate] method of Making It Work is to piece the fabric. Here’s how:
Piecing is simply sewing two lengths of fabric together to make one larger piece of material in which to cut pattern shapes that don’t fit on the one width. The two lengths can be sewn either vertically or horizontally depending on your particular garment project.
Piecing itself occurs in areas where the pattern is too large for a narrow bit of fabric. This is generally near the hems of skirt panels, wide sleeves (like the gigantic shapes of the 1830s and 1890s), and longer bodices where the bottom hem is fairly wide to cover full hips. Trains are notorious users of the piecing method. As are full length capes and cloaks.
But it’s not just main garments that may need piecing. Period chemise undergarments were often pieced at the lower side seams so as to provide enough hem width for wearing comfort but still keeping within the narrow cloth selvedges.
Most any garment can be constructed with piecing. However, when you need to piece, keep the seams in areas that will be less visually noticeable or will be covered with trims.
Important note: with piecing, cut the added patches of fabric on the same grain as the garment piece you are sewing to.
For more in-depth piecing of fabric panels use this tutorial:
Lay the larger panel of fabric on the table. Following the same grain, overlap the piecing panel on top and match any stripe, pattern or plaid. Fold under the raw edge of the top piece.
Slipstitch the top fabric to the main panel by running the needle through the fold of the top piece and picking up a few threads of the main panel. You’re simply basting the two pieces together here.
Fold back the top panel and machine stitch this piecing seam following your slipstitch threads.
Press seam flat then press open.
If this piecing seam will not be enclosed or hidden by facings or linings, finish the raw edges with pinking or light hand overcast stitches to prevent fraying. If your fabric in prone to fraying, I’d suggest finishing the edges even if they will be turned to the inside of the garment.
Lay out your pattern on the now-bigger fabric area and cut out. Treat the cut fabric piece as one during the rest of construction.
As selvedges are stiff and more tightly woven than the rest of the material, it’s not advisable to use them in your piecing seams. In other words, don’t use the straight selvedge edge to sew to the main fabric piece. Cut off the selvedge first then sew together.
Have you pieced fabric before in garment sewing? Any particular projects you’re proud of?