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For the month of September we’re hosting a Sew Along with our good friends at Coats & Clark, FreeSpirit Fabrics and Tula Pink. Each week we’ll be posting steps for our Halter Dress Pattern courtesy of Peter Lappin! Click through for Peter’s continued instructions for this sassy project and stay tuned for more steps and info throughout September!

Hello, BurdaStyle sew-alongers and welcome to my 2nd sew-along post for Burda Halter Dress #116!

NOTE: I have been told that the skirt for #116 is the same as the skirt that Gretchen’s making in her sew-along. If you’re making both garments, therefore, you don’t have to download both patterns; you can use the halter dress pattern for both.

When we finished last week, I had just tried the bodice muslin on Leah. Here she is:


The bodice fit well in front, but the back was too snug, leaving no seam allowance on the side to insert a zipper. I will need to add 1.5 inches to the bodice width when I assemble it, as well as a roughly 1/2 inch to the length. It’s a simple enough adjustment that it doesn’t warrant making another muslin, in my opinion. To see how I did it, keep reading.

First, let’s look at our fashion fabric and prepare to cut our fabric.


I study the design of my fabric carefully. Is it directional (can it drape in one direction only)? To my eye, it is not directional. (If you can view the pic upside down, you’ll see what I mean) In short, I can cut this fabric in either direction (following the grain lines of course). Most of the pattern pieces for this dress include a designated grain line. The ones cut on a fold do not.

Readers, this step requires the most attention: once you’ve cut your fabric, it stays cut!

Right now, I’m cutting only my outer bodice; I’ll cut the lining later. I cut each piece separately — no double layers, though this would save time. This is because the pattern has large flowers on it. Poor placement of these flowers — directly on top of the breast, for example — would spoil the look of the dress. Below you can see how I use a ruler to line the pattern piece on the grain line, which I take from the selvage.


When all seven bodice panels are cut, I lay them next to each other (folding the seam allowance under), before stitching. How do they look lined up this way, with regard to the floral print? To my eye, they look fine.


Now I’m ready to start stitching.


One of the perks of leading this sew-along is that, in addition to receiving beautiful fabric from Free Spirit, Coats & Clark provided the notions. Since I already use Coats & Clark thread in both my sewing machine and serger (and sometimes serger thread in my sewing machine but that’s our little secret), this was a special treat, since they sent much more thread than I’d need for the project and didn’t ask me to send back the extra — not yet, anyway!

This is the color I’m using for most of the dress:


Rather than tweak my pattern pieces, to widen the bodice, I simply narrow the back and side seam allowances (remember I’d added 1" seam allowances to my pattern) to add the 1.5 inches I need to make the bodice fit Leah. I distribute this width evenly so that the matching side panels end up the same width.

I stitch my princess seams very carefully (and slowly), gently easing in the curve along the stitch line. I find that stopping frequently and readjusting my fabric layers, along with keeping one hand on the bottom (slightly wider) layer and crimping it in a bit, helps a lot.


Here’s a tip: unless you’re using a walking foot, your presser foot, which has direct contact with your top layer of fabric, is going to be pushing that top layer toward you. The feed dogs, which have contact with the bottom layer, are going to be pulling the bottom layer away from you. Knowing this beforehand, you can use the sewing machine to help ease two pieces of fabric together even though one is slightly longer than the other. Keep the shorter layer on top, and the longer layer on the bottom.

Again, don’t be afraid to stop, lift the presser foot, and readjust the two layers of fabric. Don’t forget to lower the presser foot again, however, or you’ll mess up your stitching! (Ask me how I know…)


When I finish my princess seams, I trim them down to roughly 1/4 inch, clip them (so they lay flat) and press the seam open over a tailor’s ham, to maintain the curved shape.


Here’s how the inside of the bodice is now looking:


Next, we’re going to test it on Leah. First I fold down the seam allowances:


Here we go…


It fits!

Readers, that’s all for this installment!

If you have any questions, please ask below. Next time we’ll be working on the skirt.

How’s it going so far?



  • Missing

    Sep 13, 2011, 08.34 AMby tinuvielle13

    Hi! I’ve started on the dress. Your instructions are very helpful, better than the magazine’s. I do wonder, what are princess seams?

    1 Reply
    • Jeans_sew_along_best_large

      Sep 24, 2011, 06.13 AMby Peter Lappin

      Princess seams run over the bosom, creating a rounded shape, and then continue down to the waist (or in a one-piece dress, sometimes beyond it).

  • Pics_046_large

    Sep 10, 2011, 03.36 AMby katrena

    Peter can you take a picture of your sewing machine? It looks like a vintage sewing machine. Also, I like the garments that you have created!!

  • Pics_046_large

    Sep 10, 2011, 03.20 AMby katrena

    Hey Peter I am almost done with my dress. I just have to put the zipper and the hook/eye on the neck. I am so excited!!! Here what my dress looks like McCall’s pattern 5580 out of print.


    Once I am done I will have my daugther take a pic of me in the dress. Off to start dress #2!!!

    1 Reply
    • Jeans_sew_along_best_large

      Sep 10, 2011, 06.05 PMby Peter Lappin

      It looks great. I LOVE that cotton fabric!

  • Ghetto_girl_goes_to_colo__large

    Sep 9, 2011, 03.59 AMby turtlegirl00

    I am beginning to feel like the dumbest/most oblivious person on burda. i know I need an invisible zip—any size? I cannot find that anywhere? i looked on patter/instructions/etc. I remember seeing a pic of a zip but now I can’t find that either…

    3 Replies
    • Jeans_sew_along_best_large

      Sep 10, 2011, 06.06 PMby Peter Lappin

      I’m using a 9-inch invisible zipper. It does not have to be invisible, however. You can use a regular zipper and create a placket over it. Depending the length of your bodice, you may need a longer zipper — I’d err on the side of a longer one, which you can always shorten.

    • Thinker_large

      Sep 10, 2011, 09.51 PMby thinker

      I downloaded the German instructions from the burdastyle.de website and it calls for a 40cm invisible zipper, which is about 16 inches. It does seem a bit longer than necessary.. “1
      Nahtreißverschluss, 40 cm lang und

    • Ghetto_girl_goes_to_colo__large

      Sep 13, 2011, 01.14 PMby turtlegirl00

      thank you for the help on zipper length!! :) I bought several when at the fabric store ( i live in the boonies so I tend to “stock up”). I think the 9 inch will be perfect—I have a very short torso. Thanks peter and thinker!

  • Ghetto_girl_goes_to_colo__large

    Sep 7, 2011, 03.53 PMby turtlegirl00

    I am already behind (shocker!) hoping to catch up this weekend but just in case how long will these posts be available?

    1 Reply
    • Jeans_sew_along_best_large

      Sep 8, 2011, 04.29 PMby Peter Lappin

      I think these will be available indefinitely. I’ll find out.

  • Missing

    Sep 7, 2011, 12.58 PMby Anna Nguyen

    I’d like to share a tip on pinning for try-on: I use safety pins. The obvious differences are: the model can try on the garment almost as if it’s finished and won’t get poked, it takes a bit longer to put the pins in and take them off, and the pin’s shank, especially if using bigger safety pins, can leave holes in some fabrics.

    1 Reply
    • Jeans_sew_along_best_large

      Sep 8, 2011, 04.32 PMby Peter Lappin

      I’m not a fan of safety pins for exactly the reason you give, aqn: they’re too thick (imo). With care, nobody should get poked.

      In the worse case, a little hydrogen peroxide should prevent infection! ;)

  • Missing

    Sep 7, 2011, 03.43 AMby bustermommy301

    Since I saw this at step 2, is there a way to see the step 1 post?

    2 Replies
  • E57181cf55341bcc01bda2edd47f98e5444cec52_large

    Sep 6, 2011, 11.22 PMby candisrrt

    I am not sewing along but LORD I am enjoying watching your progress! I am working on some outfits for my 4yo granddaughter. I love to watch you fit and sew things.

  • 058_large

    Sep 6, 2011, 09.30 PMby cuada

    It’s looking good so far -this dress is on my to-do list, hopefully this weekend i’ll get it cut out!

  • Picmonkey_collage_large

    Sep 6, 2011, 06.24 PMby designerroya

    Great job! We all miss your posts!

    • This is a question
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