Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A new dress pattern for you

Would you like to make this dress? It isn't hard. I've put together step-by-step instructions so that you can make it with your own measurements. Why is it easy? It doesn't have a closure (i.e. buttons or zipper) and has makeshift darts, so there is nothing very technical about the construction.

Another dress made from the same pattern

As a side note: I designed this pattern. As always, it's free and you may use it for any purpose (i.e. selling a dress you made), except you can't reproduce the pattern to sell. If you want to use this pattern on your blog, just link back to me.

What do you need?
Note: This is designed for a size small/medium. If you are a larger size you may wish to make a mock-up before cutting your fabric as you will likely need to add a few inches to the width of the bodice and skirt. Someday when all of my dreams come true, I will get a adjustable dress form so I can try out patterns on larger sizes so that I can include additional measurements for you.

* About 2 yards of fabric. I would recommend something that is soft with a gentle drape.
* 1 yard of fabric to line the bodice.
* 7 inches of 1/4" elastic (you can use a thicker size if you wish)
* Though optional, The collar really makes this dress what it is. I got mine from Etsy for about $3.00. You could check at a local craft store or use a vintage doily/handkerchief. There are also a number of tutorials online (like this one) of how you could make your collar from the same fabric as your dress.
* Also optional, buttons for embellishment.

The pattern pieces in both of the pictures are a little longer than 15 inches. That is because I have these patterns to customize for other things.
I used a dinner plate to help make the curves in the neck. I would recommend cutting out your pattern with newspaper before cutting the fabric. This way you can mark it up and make changes without harming your fabric.

There isn't a picture, but cut out a long strip of fabric (you could use a contrasting color if you want). The total length is 68 inches. I like to divide mine up in three sections. Since the waistband will be sewn to the dress I like the front piece to match the seams on the sides of the bodice, with longer pieces in the back to tie. I cut two pieces that were 27 inches long and 3 inches (give or take to your preference) wide. The third piece was 14 inches long and 3 inches wide. A wider band makes it easier to hide the seam where the bodice attaches to the skirt, but it may be more bulky in the back.

Also, cut two rectangular pieces- 41 inches wide and 24 inches high for the front and back of the skirt.
I cheated and used the finished edge of the fabric along bottom of the skirt, so I didn't have to hem it.

Sew together the top of the shoulder pieces to connect the front and back bodice for both the main fabric and the lining. 

Then sew around the neck line (inside out) to connect the lining to the main fabric.

In case you noticed, this is not a picture of this dress. I had to borrow it from my other pattern because I missed getting a picture of this step. :)
Clip around the curves so that it lays flat when turned right side out.

Adding a side stitch beneath the arm hole (at a right angle) will make it a lot more durable.
Sew the sides of the bodice for the main fabric and lining. The lining will be loose inside the bodice- that is fine for now. I measured my arm hole to be 7 inches from the top of the shoulder. Test it by putting your arm through.

Turn right side out. Tuck in the raw edges of the arm hole, pin, then top stitch, making sure to back-stitch over the underarm area.

This is an easy time to hem the lining.

Press the seam around the neckline. You will notice that the neckline is absurdly large and hideous. It's ok! Now we are going to add a nice tuck to the back to give it more form.

Once your pins are in place, top stitch around the neckline. You could do a zig-zag stitch in a contrasting color if you are into that sort of thing.

If you know how to make darts (we will be improvising darts later on) and wish to, you can add them now.

Now it is time to make the skirt. I used a french seam to attach the side pieces. That way you won't have to worry about horrible hanging threads if you don't have a serger. French seams are extremely easy. If you don't know how to make one, you can read this article.

At first, I was going to pleat the skirt, but then I thought I would just baste it. Since my last projects I have learned that it is much better to baste three seams when you are making a ruffle. This gives the ruffles a much more uniformed look. I tell you, the time you spend in sewing two extra basted seams will be well worth it. So, baste and ruffle the part of the skirt that will connect to the bodice.

To go quickly, pull all three threads at the same time.

Pin to the bodice (but not the lining!) It might help to pull as much of the lining out of the neck hole at this time to avoid accidentally stitching it.

Sew a sturdy stitch to connect the pieces. Check for ruffles that fold over at the wrong angles into the seam- that will make an uneven looking drape in the skirt.

You are getting close! If you want to go to a homeschool prom you can just stop here.
JOKING. I was homeschooled and went to prom-like events and didn't wear clothes like this, haha.

Sew together the long strip of fabric for the waistband. Please, please, iron this. I skip ironing as much as possible, but this part is really important to iron.

I wanted the seam to be hidden, so I ironed it with the seam in the middle.

Now we are going to make our fake darts. Though the picture is taken on my dress form, if you do not have one, you can do it on yourself in front of a mirror (safety pins!). I tested the theory to make sure it would work, but took the photos with my dress form as it was easier. All that you have to do is pinch two folds of fabric along the waist seam. You will want these two folds to be equal on either side. Mine are three inches away from the side bodice seam. This part is mostly determined by bust size. Just do whatever looks the best on you.

This is another angle of the same thing. Doing this takes out the extra fabric in the sides which creates a more flattering/tailored bodice. 

If you have very good eyesight, you can see where it is pinned.

Now sew the tucks in place. Your stitches will be hidden beneath the waistband.

This is what it will look like.

This step is a little tedious, but not hard. Pin the waistband in place and hand stitch it. Yes, hand stitch. This way your stitches will be invisible. Use a slip stitch.

When you sew the waistband, make sure to not sew the lining. It might help to pull through the neck hole.

Stop sewing when you get to the side seams of the bodice. The sash will be tied in the back, so the rest of it can hang free. I used a machine stitch here to make it more durable.

Mine measure 5.5 inches from the side seams.
When you tie the sash in the back you will notice that the seam where the bodice connects to the skirt is hanging down, exposing those seams. That is because there is still to much fabric in the waist band. This extra fabric is needed to get in and out of the dress without a closure, but not very attractive to have hanging all over the place. It will also give the hemline an uneven look. To fix this we are going to add a strip of elastic to the back.

Mark the area beneath your tucks in the back of the neck (I did this with thread spools in the picture). You are going to sew a little channel for the elastic to go through by connecting the lining to the main fabric.

This is what it will look like. Make sure it is straight! This will also be hidden beneath the sash when it is tied.

Thread the elastic through. I would recommend pinning it in place (with safety pins) and trying it on before you sew so that it is not too big or small.

Next, turn your dress inside out. I added a few hand stitches to the lining to attach it to the main dress so that it is easier to put on and take off.

Now pin the collar in place. I hand stitched this as well. It looks a lot  better than machine stitching. You can also add an embellishment if you like. I used a vintage brass button.

*Sigh* It's not actually crooked in the shoulders, but it was very windy outside and my dress form kept tilting.
I hope you like making it!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Turn an old dress to a maxi skirt

Sometimes the best fabric for making new fabulous things can be old clothing. Ok, so I apologize if you liked the original dress. I do think it could have potential, but it was the wrong size, super low cut and, well, since I already had my wedding years ago, I didn't have use for it. But there it was on the thrift store rack screaming, "I want to be a skirt!" Pretty much everywhere you look there is some version of a lace maxi skirt. I have been wanting to make one for quite some time.

I have been shopping for lace skirts (shopping = looking at them online and being too cheap to buy one) for a long time. Ultimately, I decided to sell this one, so you can buy it on Etsy if you want and I'll be your BFF. This means I am still skirt shopping for myself! I will probably find the perfect one after they go out of style. I like this one a lot- but I would like one more of a off-white color. IDK, maybe I just want to sell it because I paid too much for it at the thrift shop.

But enough of that. Here is how to make one for yourself. It is mostly glaringly obvious, but there are some parts that I had to ponder longer than I would like to admit, so I thought these tips would be helpful to share.

An old dress. The one I used came with a contoured liner and zipper which made it more complicated since I wanted it to be used with an elastic waistband.

Thick/wide elastic- 1-3 inches smaller than your waist.

Now you see how much I paid for it. I would like to note that it was previously on a red tag clearance for $20.00.
Since every dress will be different there are a few things you will want to look for.

Find the waistline. Is it sewn to anything else? Is it lined? Is it already ruffled, or is it an A-line?

In my case there was a thick trim covering the waist. I had to remove it from everything else, so I got to work with my trusty seam ripper.

I saved the trim for something else. It is hard overcoming these fabric hoarding tendencies. Ha.
You might end up using some of the bodice material before you are finished, so try not to cut too much of it.

After separating the skirt, I noticed that the lace was already ruffled, but the liner was contoured to a specific size. This meant that I would have to add gussets to make it big enough so that it could be put on without a zipper.

My next step was to get rid of the zipper. I seam ripped it out and sewed up the opening with two straight seams and one zig-zag stitch.

If your waist line is not contoured, you can skip the next few steps. Time to make those gussets! A gusset is a fancy term for a triangular piece of fabric sewn into a seam to make it bigger. This is where the leftover bodice pieces came in handy.

Since these were not going to be seen, I didn't over-exert myself in making them perfect. You can find out what size to make them by measuring your hips (and adding a few inches for wiggle room) and comparing the size to the waist of the skirt.

Seam rip some more to make openings for the gussets.

I used French seams when I added the gussets to prevent fraying. Gah, I have been French seaming almost everything. I will get a serger one day!

At this time, you are nearly finished! Since the lace was already gathered, I had to rip it out and baste it (to gather it again) so that I could remove the basted stitch after it was sewn to the elastic. It would be nearly impossible to remove if it wasn't resewn. Baste both the lace and the liner (if your dress/skirt has one) and gather to fit your waist band.

Sew your waistband so that it is 1-3 inches smaller than your waist. Use an elastic stitch if you have one. If not, do multiple rows of zig-zags.

Sew the skirt to the waistband using a zig-zag stitch. If you use a straight stitch it will not stretch. Try not to sew over your basted thread as that makes it a lot harder to remove- which you must do after sewing to the waistband. If you can't get it all, that is OK. Just make sure it can stretch.

I like to finish my skirts by adding elastic lace to cover the hideous seams. Of course, it is not that anyone would see it, but isn't it nice to know that it looks good on the inside? You can find very cheap elastic lace on eBay.

And voilĂ , you are done!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Make your own easy top

The Spring Top Pattern

I never made a top before and in the past few days I have made two. It is addicting! You see, a while ago I decided to rummage though my "summer" clothes in storage as I couldn't find anything to wear. Well, that was when I found out I didn't have summer clothes in storage. Consequently, I needed more!

This has been modified by making the top longer and omitting the sashes in the back.

At any rate, this time I made my own pattern that is easily reproducible, so I thought I would share the steps with you.

What you need:
1. About one yard of fabric for the outside and another for the inside lining. I used an old curtain for the lining of this one. The fabric for the outside was given to me, so this was basically free to make.
2. 16 Inches of thin elastic (I used 1/2 inch)
3. (optional) 40 Inches of lace trim

I bought a shower curtain from the dollar store and have been using it to make patterns. You could do this so you have something to use again, or you could just be super careful and cut the fabric using these measurements. I am roughly a small/medium. Just add a little if you are a size larger. Remember, since the front is made with elastic, you can adjust the size there.

So, from the top to the bottom, measure 28 inches. The front panel is 23 inches wide while the back panel is 17 inches. I cut the straps at 4.5 inches, but kind of wish I had made them a teensy bit wider. It is up to your taste. From the top of the shoulder to the neckline is 6.5 inches in the front and 6 inches in the back. I have given generous seam allowances (about .75 inches per seam). In order to get the best fit, I try the top on several times while sewing so that I can go back to make adjustments if needed.

Katherine likes to help!
Cut one of your printed fabric and one for the lining of each piece. If you want a tie in the back, cut this piece now. A good size would be a long rectangle of 20x3 inches (cut two of these).

Sew the tops of the shirt together (The seam that runs along the shoulder)

Next, sew the inside (around the neckline together) of the printed fabric and lining together. After that, press the seams. This will give it a crisp look and will be much easier to work with.


Before turning right side out, clip along the edges of the seam in the back. Since it is curved, clipping the edges will help it to lay right. 

Now that your shirt is pressed and turned the right way out, you will make a place for the elastic to go in the front. Sew a seam on the front of the shirt between the shoulder straps. You will need one along the very top and another two seams just below the bust. To get the right fit, try the shirt on to determine where you want the second strip of elastic to be. 

Using a pin to thread the elastic makes it a million times easier. 

Thread the elastic through the tunnel you have just made. I used about 8 inches of elastic for each part. You can try it on to make it fit your size perfectly (use safety pins to hold the elastic in place). If the elastic is too long, your undergarments may show. After threading the elastic, sew it in place by making a small stitch on the outside of the shirt. If it helps, look at the next picture to get the full idea. You can email me ( or leave a comment if you need more explanation for this part).

Um, yes, that is a slightly uneven stitch on the bottom. *cough*cough* Don't do that.

It will look like this!

I forgot to take a picture of the arm holes, but it isn't really necessary. Just turn the raw edges in and do a top stitch around them.

Next, sew the sides of the shirt. Add the ties at the same time. I put then level with the second strip of elastic.

 Leave about five inches at the bottom for a slit on each side. This will make it easier to move in. 

For both the slits and the sleeves, I sew a little line at the edge to make it much more sturdy.
Now, sew the slits at the bottom of the shirt. Do this by turning the raw edges in and sewing a top stitch over them.

You are almost finished!

Add the lace as you turn the raw edges and top stitch the bottom.

You are done!

It was so easy to make!

The tie in the back helps it to fit a variety of sizes.

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