Hindsight is an exact science.
~ Guy Bellamy
How did I not know this?
I went back to my TNT Hawaiian shirt pattern for my husband - you know, the one I've made about 30 times already - and applied my newfound knowledge of using the feed dogs to help ease different sized pattern pieces together for the first time.
First, the shoulder seams. The back shoulder has always been just a smidge longer than the front shoulder, and I always assumed that it was due to a lack of cutting precision on my part. This time, I lined up the 2 pieces of fabric on one edge and put the longer piece on the bottom (next to the feed dogs).
Then, as I sewed, I pulled a bit on the top layer of fabric.
Sure, enough, they came out perfectly evenly matched!
Next up, the sleeves. This pattern has a flat sleeve cap, so it is put in before the side seams are completed. Usually I pin the heck out of the 2 pieces. This time, I only used 2 pins - one at the beginning and one at the center.
Then I put the sleeve (the longer piece of fabric) against the feed dogs and kind of stitched it in 2 phases. First I focused on the first half, and gently pulled the top layer of fabric (shirt body) as I stitched. I worked it so that the 2 pieces were aligned perfectly at the pinned center point.
Then I did the second half, this time stretching the top layer so that the 2 pieces ended up aligned at the end of the seam.
When I say that I did it in 2 phases, I didn't take it out of the machine or anything. I just focused on one half at a time.
I will say that it was slow going. (It may get faster with practice.) But they came out perfectly! No bubbles or tucks and perfectly aligned! No fabric hanging over that needed to be trimmed!
From there, finishing was a snap. As usual, I had fun with the pocket alignment. My husband calls this his stealth pocket:
He loves the shirt and looks (IMO) irresistible in it! ;)