After stitching together the body of the tea gown, it was time for the center panel. I cut my center panel lining out of my favorite ivory cotton sateen (I bought 12 yards of it a while back and it’s perfect for this kind of thing). It was actually cut in two pieces with an extremely large seam allowance in the center, just in case I need to let the gown out in the future. I hemmed the top and bottom edges with a narrow hem.
I cut the bodice and skirt sections of lace separately, figuring that I’d want a lot more fullness in the skirt. Then I ran a line of hand-stitched gathering stitches along the top and bottom of the bodice section, then at the top of the skirt section. I laid the panels wrong side up over the cotton lining, set my hems so the border matched up at the bottom and top, then drew the gathering threads up until they matched the dimensions of the lining at the neck and waist. I hand-basted the top and bottom lace pieces together through the gathers at the waistline, then trimmed the excess.
I thought about simply stitching up both sides and turning the whole thing right-side out so I’d have two finished edges to attach to my tea gown. But then I decided that I’d prefer to minimize bulk in my seams, so instead I only stitched one side before removing all of the pins and flipping the layers to the correct side. Then I topstitched down both sides– the side where the closures will be is now clean-finished, and the side that will be attached to the tea gown has raw edges (but no extra layers from seam allowances).
I machine-stitched over the neckline and waistline to hold the gathers in place, leaving the very top and bottom edges loose.
I had a little trouble when it came to attaching the panel to the front edge of the gown– I’d neglected to realize that the gathers (which were pretty vertical) wouldn’t necessarily work with the curved/angled edges of the gown opening. It took a little wrangling to make it look right, which basically rendered all of my earlier careful mockup fitting and seam-shaping useless. Oh well. I basted the panel to one side of the gown, right sides together, catching all those raw edges. It looked pretty good.
However, I realized that it would be best to attach the facings to the gown at the same time so I’d be able to use a single seam. But before that, I’d need to attach the collar. See how it worked in the next post!
Note: I realized too late that I made an error in the gathering process for the skirt portion of the lace. I gathered the entire width of the lace to the narrowest part of the waistline, when what I should’ve done was gather it more to the width of the widest part of the hem. When gathered to the waist the folds fell straight down, leaving flat spots at the sides of the skirt that had to be fiddled with when I attached the center panel to the main body. If I’d gathered to the width of the hem (cutting off the excess after stitching all around) I’d have been able to preserve the folds all across the skirt panel, which would’ve looked like a full underskirt. See the difference?
Luckily the visible lace section is relatively narrow so it’s hard to tell exactly where the folds are, and there’s enough extra fabric to disguise the issue, but I’m still annoyed at myself for not catching that.