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How to get seams to line up?

rhaazz | Posted in Teach Yourself To Sew on

I have a Pfaff Hobby 1022.  I cannot get the speed to slow down; it’s either going fast, or stopped.  I am trying to make Vogue Pattern 8576, which is constructed of a number of triangle-shaped pieces of fabric that are joined so that the tips of the triangles meet. 

The seams have to be perfect and precise or it’s just a mess.  But the machine’s slowest speed is too fast for that kind of precision: it’s like trying to parallel park in a tight space in a car whose slowest speed is 25 mph or stopped. 

So, what do I do?  Do I get a different machine, that permits me to modulate the speed more precisely?  Do I sew the dress differently, STARTING the triangles at their tips instead of stopping there so that I can place the needle precisely at the point where they all meet?  Do I just accept the fact that I’m a novice sewer and too inexperienced to tackle this pattern?   Do I just sew the darn thing by hand?   I can’t figure out whether the problem lies in the equipment or my technique.  I know other people have sewn this dress and no one else has complained about this problem, so I either have a bottom-of-the-line bad machine or lack skills.


  1. marymary | | #1

    rhaazz, is this the same question you asked earlier? I know this forum is very hard to follow.  If you look on the left side of the screen, scroll down to Recent Discussions and you will see all the catagories.  Click on 'Teach Yourself to Sew".  It wil open to show your questions about seams.  There are three answers there.

    But, an answer about the triangles.  When you sew triangles, you should start where the seams meet, not at the edge of the fabric.  Just imagine the triangles without seam allowances and match those points.

    1. rhaazz | | #6

      Yes, you're right!

      I've been so frustrated with this dress, for so long, and have been seeking feedback in so many places for so long, that yes, I think I did lose track of my having asked this very same question in this very same forum.  Thank you for kindly directing my attention to the replies there, which were very helpful.

  2. marymary | | #2

    rhaazz, I just looked at your pattern.  How Vogue could classify that as Easy is questionable.  It is a lovely pattern, but does require some experience to get all those triangles to match up.  I will try to help.  Mark the end of each sewing line.  You will have had to cut this out very precise or it will not go together well.  Match and pin together the ends of each seam, not the end edges of the fabric,  then pin the middle, then the middle of each of those sections.  Keep doing this until you have enough pins to be comfortable.  This will be hard since you will be working with bias edges.  Bias edges stretch.  Baste each seam.  I know this is a lot of work, but you are a beginner and bias stitching can be difficult. Don't expect the fabric edge at the ends of each seam to necessarily match up.  You want the seam ends to match.

    I have a few questions...What fabric are you using?  Are you lining this?  Explain why you can't change the speed of your machine.  I am not familiar with the Pfaff Hobby 1022. 

    1. User avater
      JunkQueen | | #3

      mary, I'm glad you posted this

      I had the same impression about that pattern when I looked it up.   Not what I'd call Easy, especially for a beginner.   I was thinking the construction should be handled like a quilt, and that sound like your instructions, which are quite clear.  Hopefully this will be helpful to her.  There is so little participation these days, it's hard to get the heop we once could anticipate here. 

      I just noticed on Pattern Review, a couple of reviewers rated this pattern as "Difficult, But Great For Advanced Sewers".   That said, if I were inexperienced and wanted to make this dress, that would not stop me, and Mary's hints could very well be just the ticket to getting it done.  Hang in there.

      Hope you have a good day.


      1. marymary | | #4

        Lovely Vogue dress

        JunkQueen, my first impression of the pattern was "patchwork"!  Patchwork is not difficult, but you don't want to start learning by sewing triangles.  If rhaazz is determined, she can make this dress.  It will just take her a little longer than it would if she had more experience.  By trying things a little beyond our expertise is how we learn.  It wouldn't be fun to just do the same thing over and over.

        Waiting to hear about her progress...

    2. rhaazz | | #7

      Bias seams

      Thank you for your explanation that I should "[not] expect the fabric edge at the ends of each seam to necessarily match up [but rather] the seam ends to match."

      Yet, it's lined.  I was using a silk dupioni because its stiffness and tooth makes it easy to work with, and I was cutting strips of iron-on interfacing (lightweight) and ironing them to every wrong-side edge to stabilize the fabric & prevent raveling.  I cut that thing SO precisely, oh my goodness, you'd have thought I was trying to accomplish nuclear fusion.  I bought rotary cutters & self-healing mats & used weights not shears so as to make sure I cut the pieces EXACTLY as the pattern required, and then I was FANATICAL about maintainin the 5/8" seam allowance -- so much so that I would pick out part of a seam if I noticed that I had strayed by even a hair's breadth.

      I say "WAS using" a silk dupioni because I made the whole damn thing, after measuring myself very carefully while in the foundation garments I planned to wear and carefully choosing the "correct" pattern size for me per the instructions (according to Vogue patterns, I wear a size 16, but according to Banana Republic, I wear a size 8.) 

      So, when I finished the thing?  After all that work?  This "fitted" dress HUNG OFF MY BODY LIKE A TOGA.  It was a good three sizes too big.  Why does Vogue tell you that a size 16 matches a 31" waist and a 41" bust if they are TOTALLY LYING?   Even if I had gotten the seams perfect, I would've had to toss it in the garbage or give it to the Goodwill.

      You ask, "Why can't you change the speed of your machine?"  Well, I CAN change  the speed -- but only from "very rapid" to "rapid."  I remember my mother's Singer sewing machine sometimes going so slowly that you could see each stitch being made as the needle moved in and out of the fabric, but my Pfaff does not go that slowly.

      1. marymary | | #9

        Do not rely on the measurements on the pattern.  Buy what you think is your size according to your measurements and then expect to have to alter the pattern.  Getting a good fit is just one aspect of being a good seamstress.  Most patterns are made for a B cup.  If you are larger or smaller, then you have to make adjustments.  The major pattern companies have started making some patterns with pieces for different bust sizes.  I could go on and on, but the best thing to do is find a good fitting book.  Look in your library, find one that you can follow and then buy that one.  Singer has a good all purpose fitting book.

        Pattern sizes do not correspond to ready-to-wear sizes.  Even in RTW there are many variations in sizes.

        I am sorry you had this disappointing experience.  As a beginner, next time, try making a muslin first.  Please try again.  I have been sewing for many, many years and I make muslins when I am using an expensive fabric with a pattern I have never used, even after I do all the pattern alterations.

        1. rhaazz | | #13

          It was quite the adventure

          Marymary, thank you for your wisdom and your thoughtful suggestions.

          When I made it in the silk dupioni, I actually stayed up all night, two nights in a row, to finish that dress for a friend's wedding.  I didn't even have time to try it on the morning we packed; I just packed the unfinished dress, with needle & thread attached, planning to finish it when we arrived in the small resort town (a teensy resort town whose name I forget, near Bend, Oregon) where the wedding was held.  (Of course I couldn't pack scissors because we were flying with carryon luggage; I had to rely on nail clippers to cut threads).

          So we finally get there, and I immediately spend hours hand-finishing the hem (I'm hallucinating with exhaustion at this point and can hardly see what I'm doing), and then I try the thing on, and it's  three sizes too big.  It hangs so loosely that you can see my whole bra above the top of the bodice.

          At this point, my husband kindly and calmly drags my limp, weeping body into the car, and we drive into town.  This little resort town  has nothing but gift and souvenir shops; there's nothing like a real dress store, except for these second hand clothing, novelty, and hippie sorts of stores for tourists.

          We finally find a bridal shop, and we go in there and I pay too much for an ugly, unflattering bridesmaid's dress and I wear that to my friend's wedding.  I feel really awkward because I'm the only person there, except for the bride, who's wearing a full-length dress.

          All in all, it was a pretty tragic dressmaking disaster.  At the wedding, I tried to focus on the thought that what matters in life is friends and family, kindness, connection, and looking past the surface to the person inside.  I mean, I really had to sort of hold these thoughts in my head, like a mantra I was silently saying over and over,  in order not to cry from embarrassment and exhaustion and disappointment.

          But I'm nothing if not determined.  I bought  a beautiful periwinkle lightweight wool crepe fabric (for more than $100!) and I'm going to tackle Vogue 8576 again -- AFTER making a musling first this time! -- and using all the suggestions from this forum.   When I am making the muslin, this is what I'll do:

          1. I'll use weights, and rotary cutters, and self-healing mats again, to make sure that I cut the fabric EXACTLY per the pattern pieces and avoid lifting the fabric from the table while cutting, so that I can be sure there's no distortion.  And I'll be careful not to strecth the fabric when I lift each cut piece off the cutting table;

          2. I'll press directly down with the iron, and lift straight up, instead of using a back-and-forth motion when I iron on the interfacing or starch to stabilize the bias edges on the bodice triangles;

          3. I'll use lightweight blue painter's tape to mark the seams 5/8" from the cut edge; I'll also use that tape to trasfer all the icircles and other marks from each paper  pattern piece;

          4. I'll pin it carefully to line up the SEAMS and NOT the edges and I won't expect the tips of the triangles' cut edges to line up;

          5. I start each seam at the triangle tips and I'll place the first few stitches by hand-turning the needle;

          6. and this time I'll make it in a size 12, not a size 16, even though my measurements and the pattern information would tsteer me to a 16.

          One thing I wonder, though, is this: making the whole thing over again to line it was a real p.i.t.a., as you can imagine.  All those seams!  Gah!  This time, I want to just use bias tape or similar to finish the edges at the neckline  and sleeves.  If the garment hangs better with a slip then I'll wear a slip, but I refuse to go through all that cutting and all those seams to lline the thing.

          I've always lined garments before; if anyone has tips on closing off neck and sleeve openings without using a lining I'll be interested to hear it, thanks.  And thanks for all the help you all have given me.

          1. marymary | | #14

            rhaazz, before you even cut your muslin, measure the pattern.  Don't guess which size will fit you.  You can also trace off the pattern so that you still have the original intact and can use the traced version for adjusting.  You can also pin all the pattern pieces together and try it on.  That has never worked well for me, but others seem to find it helpful.  I do use a dress-form, but she isn't exactly me.  It does help somewhat.

            If you aren't going to line, you will need to make facings or use bindings at the neck and sleeve edges.

            Learn how to do tailor tacks for marking.  Once you get the hang of them, they are fast, easy and leave no marks.

            Wool crepe will act differently from muslin fabric, if that is what you plan to use.  You might be disappointed, again.  If you can, find a cheap fabric, preferably plain, that mimics the hand of the crepe.  That would be a better fabric for your muslin.

            Don't give up. 

  3. Teaf5 | | #5

    Stabilizing seams

    Previous posters have identified the problem--the bias edges of triangular pieces stretch, and you need to line up the points at which the seams intersect, not where the raw seam allowances end.  To make everything easier,  use spray starch on the fabric (test on a sample first!) and mark all the seams, especially the beginning and end points, carefully and completely.  The starch helps prevent stretching and the marks help you start and stop on the exact point you need.

    Use your hand to rotate the wheel to place the initial stitch or two, then sew straight to within a few stitches of your end point, and then hand-rotate the wheel for the last two or three stitches.  It's actually easier to sew a straight line with the machine going fast; just keep your eye on the outside edge rather than on the needle and where it is landing.  I use a long strip blue painter's masking tape to create a strong visual guide for the seam allowance and concentrate on keeping the fabric lined up against it.

    Hand-rotating the wheel to move the needle gives you that "first gear" you need for accuracy at corners and the points.

    Good luck, and keep us updated!

    1. rhaazz | | #8

      I love your suggestions -- spray starch sounds faster than what I was using (iron on interfacint), blue painter's tape will really help me line up the seams, thank you! 

      1. Josefly | | #10

        bias troubles

        You've received a lot of good advice.  I'm sorry you had a disappointing experience - but keep at it.  You chose a gorgeous pattern, but a difficult one.  One or two tips not mentioned- 

        When working with fabric cut on the bias, even lifting the fabric from the cutting board can cause it to stretch.  Ironing it can cause it to stretch.  Stitching it can cause it to stretch.  It's quite common to compare the pressed, interfacing-fused piece with the original pattern piece and find that it no longer matches at all - this frequently happens with collar pieces cut on the bias, and it requires re-cutting the interfaced piece.  Some careful people thread-mark their bias seam lines while the cut pieces are still in place on the cutting board, without lifting them at all after cutting.  So it's very important to handle the cut pieces gingerly, not allowing the weight of the fabric itself to pull it out of shape, and be very careful not to pull on the fabric at all when matching seam lines, while basting, or while stitching on the machine.  When ironing, use an up-and-down motion to press, not a forward-and-back motion, which might cause stretching. 

        To confuse us all further, there are situations where you definitely want the seams to stretch.  Otherwise, the stitched seamline will keep it's length, while the rest of the fabric in the garment gradually stretches with wearing and hanging on a hangar - resulting in puckered seamlines.  If I remember correctly, there is a video tutorial on the Threads site, concerning sewing bias seams.  You might find that useful.  Determining which seams to stretch is important, of course.  In this pattern, I would guess the small pieces in the bodice would need to be stabilized, but the skirt seams would need to be stretched slightly.  It's a good idea to allow a dress or skirt with bias seams to hang on a hanger for a day or two before hemming, allowing the fabric to stretch in the way that it's going to, then re-cut bottom to even it out before putting in the hem.

        Did you find the instructions in the Vogue pattern understandable and helpful?  I'm just curious if they provided any warnings and solutions for working with all those bias seams.  Did they suggest each piece be fused for stabilizing?  I would also guess that, with those design lines, pattern alterations for fitting might be challenging.  Often, patterns with bias pieces allow much larger seam allowances - say 1 inch - because the garment will lengthen and narrow as it is worn, and the extra seam allowances allow for building in more width.


        1. rhaazz | | #12

          Thank you!

          Joan, thank you for your great advice.  I am so touched that total strangers would take the time to help me.  Your suggestions are detailed, clear, and very hepful.  I really appreciate it.

  4. KharminJ | | #11

    Part of problem with the speed of your machine may be cured, if not caused, by the foot pedal -

    talk to your repair shop, if you can find one...

    I've gotten a "new" pedal for an old Singer for around $20 - made a l;l the difference!


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