Wednesday, June 25, 2014

How to make dress shields - removable and reusable!

Dress shields attach to the underarms of a garment protecting it from perspiration stains. I make and use them regularly for garments made in precious fabrics I don't wish to wash/dryclean more than necessary, such as "Jeannie’s wool houndstooth dress".
Claire B Shaeffer briefly describes how to make them on pages 132/3 in her book "Couture Sewing Techniquesbut I have a slightly different technique worthy of a tutorial.
First, gather your materials. You'll need a dress, blouse or jacket pattern (any womens' size, armhole scyes are pretty much consistent), pen or pencil, paper (newspaper will do), pins, soft cotton fabric (I'm using old pillowcases here), thread, sewing machine, sewing needles, and 8 domes (sew on snap fasteners). Plus a garment to attach them to!

Take the front and back bodice pieces of your pattern and pin them together at the side seam. Pin onto the paper (newspaper) and trace the underarm seam from front (B) to back (A) notches (approximately 18cm/7 inches).

Remove pattern pieces and from the centre point (C), mark down about 10cm/4 inches (D). Freehand draw a nice scoop between points A, D and B. It doesn't need to be perfect - no one's going to see these! When your happy with the shape, cut it out.

Cut 4 of this shape out of your cotton fabric. Add an extra 1cm (or 1/2 inch) to the scoop edge and cut another 8 - if you're making shields to use in a jacket, you can cut half of these out of lining. This will make one pair of shields.

Place a small piece onto a large piece, matching armhole seams and sew around scoop edge. Do this to all 4 small pieces. Then sew 2 of these pieces together along armhole seam; and again for the other two. Sew the remaining pairs (without smaller bits) together along armhole seams. Clip and press seams open.

Now make a pair of shields by matching the halves with smaller bits to the halves without. Make sure the smaller bits are sandwiched between the layers. Overlock/serge or zigzag around the whole outside scoop edge.

Next, make a cup of tea, put on your favourite DVD and put your feet up for some hand sewing! Sew one side of domes (snap fasteners) at points A, B and D (there will be double D's (tee, hee) on each shield) and its partner onto the garment in the corresponding points, which should be approximately 10cm down each side seam, 10cm down each underarm seam, and at front and back armhole notches. Snap together and you're done!

If you need a bit more protection you can increase the number of smaller bits sandwiched in the middle, or use a layer of winceyette or light towelling instead.
Also, sewing the shields in thread the colour of your garment makes it easier to match back to the correct garment when they come out of the laundry.