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Little Dreamer: Side Seam Drawstrings

While I adore the Little Dreamer as is, it's always fun to add a little flair to my creations. I wanted to try something new, something I hadn't done for a top before so I turned my attention to the internet and started looking through pictures. I came across a picture of a top with side drawstrings to make the length adjustable and knew I needed to recreate it.

I knew I needed to create a channel on each side of the seam to thread a drawstring through. There are two ways to do that: extend the seam allowance where I want the drawstring to be or sew a length of fabric centered over the side seam after construction is complete. I decided to try both option to see which I liked better. I started with extending the seam allowance. I use a projector, but the same process can be used with a paper pattern as well.

Extending the Seam Allowance

For this top I wanted something bright and cheery so I used Quinn DBP, it makes me smile every time I see it with the bright large flowers.

Before cutting grab a ruler and something to mark your fabric with, I use a washable marker. Project or place your paper pattern on your fabric as if you were ready to start cutting. Decide where you want the channel to start and stop: make a marking on your fabric: I started at about 1" above the bottom to allow for hemming and 1" below the lengthen/shorten line. Using your ruler measure and mark several places 3/4" from the edge of the pattern, redraw the side curve and the ends of the channel. This will extend the seam allowance out to 1": I wanted a channel wide enough to easily gather when the drawstring was tightened. Cut out your bodice piece and repeat for the other side.

Measure your channel piece so you know how long to cut your drawstrings. For this top the channel was a little over 4.5", I cut my drawstrings 1.5" wide by 16" long (4.5 x 2, plus a little extra for tying off). We're ready to start sewing! The side seams are the only part of the construction that carries from the tutorial, so that is what I will detail here.

If desired, finish the long, raw edges of the channel: this isn't necessary but it helps stabilize the edges for sewing later.

When sewing the side seams we are going to start at the channel, with a regular sewing machine: they can be finished with a serger. Starting just outside the channel, using a stretch and 1/4" seam allowance start sewing down the side seam, as you enter the channel your seam allowance will change to 1". Because I ended the channel so close the hem I finished the seam with my sewing machine. Repeat the process on the other side seam.

If you are using a sewing machine only you can sew the entire seam in one step. If you are using a serger starting at the sleeve end of the side seam serge until you are close to the channel, snip the seam allowance at the top of the channel and fold it out of the way, continue stitching until you reach the snip in the seam allowance and remove from your machine. I do so by lifting my presser foot, turning my project away from the needles, and serging until I can snip the threads.

Press open the channel pieces and pin in place. With your sewing machine sew along the long edges of both channels, backstitching to lock your stitches in place. Now are channels are done! Finish the rest of your top as written in the instructions, the drawstrings will be added last.

If you are making your own drawstrings sew or serge them, right sides together along the length: I added clear elastic to the seams for added strength. Turn your drawstrings right side out: I use a tube turner, but a chopstick or dull pencil work well too. Thread your drawstring through your casing and knot each end. While unnecessary, stitching the drawstring to the seam at the top of the channel may be desired. Not only does this prevent them from coming loose in the wash, but if the wearer is young it prevents the drawstring from being removed if they tug too much.

Adding a Channel After Construction

The second way I created a channel for drawstrings was by cutting pieces of fabric and sewing them on after I had completed the side seams of my top, this is on a Dream Tee for myself, but the same process can be done on the Little Dreamer as well. Measure the side seam to determine how long you need to cut your fabric strip. Cut your fabric 2" wide by the length you decided on, finish the edges if desired to help stabilize for sewing. My Dream Tee is in Tencel, which is a very lightweight fabric so I serged all the way around.

Press your side seams towards the back, this is an important step, best not to skip. Press the channel pieces in half lengthwise. Lay the folded side of the channel piece along the side seam, taking note of placement, I decided to move mine up a little bit to 1.5". Open up the channel and pin in place. Sew along the long edges with your sewing machine to secure the channel in place, then from the right side, sew along the side seam to separate each side.

If you're making your own drawstrings remember to cut them twice as long as your channel length plus several extra inches. Sew your drawstrings, turn right side out, and thread them into channels. If you want, tack them down at the top of the channel on the seam so they don't slip out when they're not tied.

Have fun trying out different lengths and sides for tightening the drawstrings, I know I did!

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