Welcome to the first construction post in our Blanca Flight Suit sewalong! This series will walk you through the construction of this versatile boiler suit from start to finish, and will help supplement the instruction that came with your pattern. Let’s get started!
MARKING BACK BODICE PINTUCKS
Our sewing adventure begins with assembling the back! The back bodice is cut on the fold, and the pintuck line needs to be clearly and accurately marked on both left and right sides. We’ll show you a few ways to do this. The first method is to trace the pintuck line using a continuous speed tailor’s tack through both layers. At first glance, this way might seem the most time consuming but honestly, it is worth the extra care and attention in the end. Hand basting and tailor’s tacks offer so much more control and precision than chalk and pins. We are hand-sewing converts here at the studio!
If you’d like to try your hand at a tailor’s tack to see what all the fuss is about, thread a long needle so you’ll be sewing with a thick double layer of thread. Fold the back bodice (B) with right sides together along center back and pin the pattern piece in place. It’s best to mark this pintuck line as soon as you’ve cut out this piece to avoid the fabric from shifting too much. Take a short stitch directly through the pattern’s marked pintuck line, leaving a long thread tail. Ensure you are catching all layers in your stitch. Continue stitching along the pintuck line, spacing the stitches every 1-2″ apart, leaving about 2″ of slack between each stitch (they should look like loops). The spacing between stitches for a continuous speed tack will depend on your project. If you’re marking a sharp curve, for example, you may need to sew the stitches closer together to mark the curve more accurately.
When you thread your needle for a continuous speed tack, you want to use quite a long piece of thread so you don’t have to stop and re-thread, but you also don’t want the thread to tangle. The pintuck line is quite long, so I needed to mark it in two passes for this sample. Once the line is marked, snip into the slack thread between each stitch.
Gently remove the pins and the pattern piece to reveal your stitches.
You’ll see the thread tails on the top side and the stitches on the back, if you’ve successfully sewn through all the layers.
Carefully separate the two layers of fabric and snip the thread between the layers. Don’t lift the top layer too high, or you’ll lose your stitch in the bottom layer and you won’t mark both sides.
As you continue snipping down the pintuck line, you should have a little “tuft” of thread on either side.
Unfold the back bodice to reveal two symmetrical pintuck lines! This marking method was perfect for our blue denim sample. The twill weave made it tricky to accurately mark this narrow line with chalk.
The purple linen we used for our other sample was a little more shifty, so we tried marking the pintuck line with dressmaker’s transfer paper and a tracing wheel. If you are using this method, mark the right side of the fabric since you’ll ultimately be sewing the pintuck from the right side of the back bodice. Here we have the back bodice folded right sides together, with a double layer of transfer paper sandwiched in between the fabric layers.
When you’ve traced the line with the wheel, you should have symmetrical markings on either side. Ensure the color of transfer paper you choose will not stain your fabric. Always test a swatch first! If it will leave a permanent mark, mark the wrong side – it will be a little trickier to ensure you’re folding the pintuck at the right spot, but this way you won’t have to worry about seeing the mark on the right side of your flight suit.
You can also trim your pattern piece along the pintuck line and use it as a stencil to mark this construction line. It will take a little more effort to make sure both sides match perfectly but this works too!
SEWING BACK BODICE
Time to sew! Wrong sides together, fold the back bodice along each pintuck line. You can press the fold line with an iron or your fingers as you go. I’ve pinned the fold line in place to secure.
Here’s a close-up of what this fold line will look like if you’ve marked the pintuck with a continuous speed tack. The little tufts of thread marking the pintuck are where I’ve folded the fabric.
At your machine, use an edgestitch foot to sew 1/8″ (3mm) along the folded pintuck. The illustration in your instruction booklet will depict stitching with the wrong side of the back bodice facing up. You will actually want to sew with the right side of the bodice facing up, with the sides folded under so you can have the needle thread facing the world instead of the bobbin thread. This is essential especially if you are using topstitching thread like we are.
There is a notch just next to the pintuck at the shoulder and waist of the back bodice. After you’ve stitched the pintuck, fold it towards this notch to form a small pleat and press. Secure the pleat in place by stitching about 1″ directly over the existing topstitching of the pintuck.
Below you can see I’ve basted the pleat in place before topstitching to secure.
Do the same thing for all the pleats at hem and shoulder. The center portion of the back should be flat, with the pleats pointing towards the neckline. Once your pleats are sewn, give the back a good press, ensuring your pintucks are pointing toward the side seams. The pleats act a bit like a dart, so when everything is pressed flat, the pleats will taper off towards the middle of the bodice – here the pintucks should be relatively smooth and flat.
ASSEMBLING BACK LEGS
This is an extra step that could be useful, especially if you’re using a light fabric that frays easily. Finish the raw edges of the back patch pockets (L) with a serged or zig zag stitch. Next, press the top edge of the back pocket down at the notches. Fold the raw edge under by 1/2″ (13mm).
Topstitch across the folded top edge of the pocket at about 1″ (25mm). Press the remaining sides of the pocket under by 1/2″ (13mm). If you see the raw edges of the pocket peeking out at the top, trim the exposed corners at a 45 degree angle. If your fabric is super thick and the bottom corners are too beefy, try clipping where the sides overlap, but don’t clip too close to the edge of the pocket or you may have fraying down the road.
If you are sewing the 14-30 range, sew the darts on the back leg and press them towards center back (we are sewing a sample form our 0-20 range which doesn’t have darts in this area). We cover everything you’ll ever need to know about how to do this in our in-depth post on how to sew darts!
Pin the pockets in place on the back leg, using the match points on the pattern piece as a guide. I’ve marked these match points with my trusty thread tacks. You can also use a glue stick on your seam allowances here – it helps prevent the pocket from shifting, especially helpful if you’re sewing a lightweight fabric.
Topstitch the pocket in place by sewing a first line of stitching 1/8″ (3mm) around the perimeter of the pocket, backstitching at beginning and end. To make it easier to know where to turn the corners when sewing the second line of stitching, draw a diagonal line at each corner with chalk.
Sew a second row of topstitching 1/4″ from the first row, again backstitching at the beginning and end.
Right sides together, pin the back legs together along the center back seam. Stitch together 5/8″ (16mm) and finish the seam with either a serged or zig zag stitch. This seam should be trimmed a bit since it’s curved, so when you’re serving or zigzagging try trimming off a little under 1/4″.
Press the seam towards the left leg, and sew a line of topstitching 1/4″ (6mm) to the left of the seam to secure seam in place. If you trimmed too much here, you may have trouble catching this seam in your stitching, so try sewing a bit narrower than 1/4″.
SEWING THE WAISTBAND WITH BELT LOOPS
If you would like to omit the belt loops, scroll down to skip ahead to the waistband assembly.
Finish one long raw edge of the belt loop piece (S) with a serged or zig zag stitch. Fold the belt loop into even thirds lengthwise and press. The finished edge should be on the outside.
Topstitch 1/8″ (3mm) along either side of the belt loop to secure, then cut three belt loops approximately 3.5″ (9cm) long from the longer piece. We recommend cutting long belt loops that can be trimmed down to size later to ensure the belt will fit through the loop.
Baste one belt loop within the 5/8″ (16mm) seam allowance at center back on the waist of the back bodice. We recommend basting the remaining belt loops approximately 1/2″ (13mm) from either side of the pleat, but the actual placement will depend on what size you are making. If the belt loops look too far apart, try moving the left and right loop to the other side of the pleat.
Prepare the waistband. You will need two waistband pieces (E); the outer waistband should be interfaced. If your fabric is very thick, you may choose to cut the waistband facing (or inner waistband) from lighter lining fabric.
The top of the waistbands have a double notch at center back, and will be sewn to the back bodice. Sew a line of stay-stitching at 1/2″ (13mm) along the bottom edge of the waistband facing. Press this edge under using the stay-stitch line as a guide.
Right sides together, pin the top of the outer waistband to the back bodice at the waist, matching the notches to the pleat and center back. Baste in place within the 5/8″ (16mm) seam allowance. If you are adding belt loops, they will be sandwiched between the outer waistband and the back bodice so make sure they are laying flat.
Turn the back bodice over and pin the unpressed top edge of the waistband facing to the waist of the back bodice, right side of facing to wrong side of bodice. Stitch in place through all layers at 5/8″ (16mm)
Press the outer waistband and waistband facing down along the seam away from the back bodice.
Now it’s time to attach the waistband to the back legs. Right sides together, pin the bottom edge of the outer waistband to the waist of the back legs, matching the notches. Stitch at 5/8″ (16mm).
Press the seam up away from the legs and grade the seam allowances. Remember, whenever you grade a seam (which means trimming it in successive layers so you get a nice, flat seam) the longest layer should be touching the outside layer of the garment, with the shorter layer against your body. In this case, you want to trim seam allowances of the back bodice, waistband facing and legs. The seam allowance of the outer waistband should be left untrimmed. Trim down the ends of the belt loops to reduce bulk.
Press the waistband facing down, and from the right side of the garment, pin the folded edge in place along the waist of the back legs. I admit, I used a hell of a lot of pins! You can also use a glue stick here.
Ensure the folded edge of the facing conceals the seam from the wrong side.
At your machine, stitch in the ditch along the waistband seam of the back legs to secure the facing in place. Ensure your stitching is catching the facing. While I’m sewing, I use my fingers to ensure I can feel the folded edge of the facing extending past the waistband slightly. If I can’t feel it, I’ll remove a few pins and tug it over to make sure the needle catches it.
You should have a beautiful concealed finish on the inside. If you’re not a fan of stitching in the ditch, you could also topstitch the facing in place as an alternative.
Time to finish the belt loops! You may choose to wait until you have finished sewing your belt before stitching the ends of the belt loops in place to ensure the belt fits through them, or you can double-check the finished width of the belt fits through the loops later.
Press the belt loops down towards the waistband. Fold the ends of the belt loops under by about 1/2″ (13mm) and press. Your finished belt will be 1.5″ (38mm) in width, so the opening of the belt loops needs to be this wide, with a little wiggle room especially if your fabric is thicker. Trim down the ends of the belt loops as necessary and pin in place. Before you head to your machine, you may need to hammer the seams down to flatten the thick layers. (Yes, with a real hammer!)
Secure the belt loops in place by stitching 1/8″ (3mm) along the tops and bottoms. If your machine will cooperate, a bartack at each of these locations will be even more secure. I was able to sew bartacks using regular thread in my needle. My zig zag stitch was about 2.7 wide and 0.3 long. There were a few places where the layers were really thick and I had to use my hand wheel to nudge the stitch along, but it worked! Phew!
The back of your Blanca Flight Suit is now fully assembled. Next up: sewing the bodice and attaching the breast pockets.