Yikes, I'd actually forgotten I promised to post about the
Summer Dresses. Been enjoying this sudden return of sunshine
the past few days and clean forgot I was supposed to unearth
these saved posts and click the "publish" button. These were
actually made before the skirts, and I decided, on a crazy
whim, do some skirts first. Thought maybe skirts might be
easier starting-projects for people wanting to make some
summer clothes for girls . So down to the bottom of the list
went the dresses while I was maniacally making the skirts.
Honestly, I initially thought I'd do just two skirts. Ended up
with six. Made myself stop there or it would have gone on
and the dresses would never have seen the light of day.
Till maybe winter when they'd have been defunct.
New word my brother coined years ago that
I use on myself for situations like this:
def: a person who is skilled at being daft.
But enough of me. On to the summer dresses.
These are very basic dress styles. So basic that you don't
really even need a commercial pattern for them. Forgive
me if you were expecting coordinating designer fabrics,
snazzy trims and applique. Here we will be making three
basic dresses and if nothing else, perhaps you will take
away with you the techniques of making these, and then
go make your own and personalize them with said funky
fabrics and other lovely embellishments. I chose these
three styles for their simplicity, yes, but mostly because
my girls could put them on and take them off all by
themselves. Any garment that does not elicit a "mommy
can you zip this up?" or "Mommy, there's a button! I can't
get the button off! I'm stuck!" is a godsend when a person
already has 459 other tasks to do.
First up is the basic spaghetti-strap shirred-bodice sundress.
at fabric stores and just sew up the side seam but here's how
to do it from scratch. So you use up actual stash fabric!
What you need:
- Generally, 3/4 - 1 yard of typical 44-45" width fabric is sufficient for a dress like this.
- Also elastic thread and regular sewing thread.
- Measuring tape.
- Measure around the chest of your child. Multiply this by two and add 3-4 inches for good measure. Call this measurement X.
- Measure also the length of the dress you want, from the armpit to where you want the bottom hem to be. Call this Y.
- Cut out a piece of fabric of length X and width Y. Y should be parallel to the selvedge, especially if it is a knit or some other stretchy fabric. This is so the fabric stretches sideways when worn (i.e. along X) and not vertically. Vertical stretching makes for an uneven hemline over time.
Here is a piece of fabric before shirring, and another piece
(just very slightly smaller, because it was for a smaller child)
For the actual shirring process (like how to get the elastic thread all stretchy), see my friend Jen's tutorial on her blog, for nice instructions and a pattern for making an adult shirred tube top.
For this dress, I
- first finished the top edge with the serger on a rolled-hem setting. You can fold it over and top-stitch with a regular sewing machine instead.
- then sewed 6 rows of shirring 1/2" apart, beginning the first row 1/2" from the finished top edge. The rows of stitches were parallel to the finished top edge i.e. X. The entire shirred portion was about 3" wide, because I wanted this to be baby-doll-ish. You can add more rows of stitches if you want a longer shirred bodice. Remember to backstitch at the start and end of each row of shirring.
This is what the front and back look like.
- Grab your child, wrap the dress around her to desired snugness and to determine the final width. Do NOT cut away the excess fabric yet! I beg you - for the love of all things sacred!
- Sew the side seam with a regular sewing machine, with right sides of the fabric facing each other.
- Reinforce the seam with the shirred portion with more stitches, preferably of different stitch length to be sure to catch all the elastic thread.
- Then serge or cut-and-zig-zag the seam allowance. Doing this before sewing the seam with a regular sewing machine is disastrous (guess what I did) and will unshir all your shirring and leave you devastated and dangerous around sharp objects. Sniff.
But anyway, anyone notice that the dress looks like a dress already?
- Finish the bottom hem.
- Make straps - either with ribbon, bias tape (sewn shut) or make your own with the same fabric as the dress. The spiral in the picture is the strap(s) before I cut it into half for each shoulder. This strap was sewn like double-fold bias tape, except it was not cut on the bias because the knit fabric already had some stretch. If you have a serger, you could cut a long strip of 1" wide knit fabric and do a stretch rolled-hem (so it ruffles) on both edges. This makes pretty wavy-edged shoulder straps.
- Fold in about 1/4" of the the raw end of the strap and sew the end of the strap to the wrong side of the fabric, just above the first line of shirring. Again, I had the wearer model the dress and marked out where I wanted the straps to be, and how long to cut them. Shirring (like other ways to elasticize something) is very inexact - and different outcomes will happen for different fabrics, types of elastic thread, bobbin tension, width of original unshirred piece of fabric etc. So the most accurate way to ensure the bodice fits right, and the straps are positioned correctly, is to try them on the wearer and measure as you go.
This is 15-month-old Kate wearing her dress. This dress
will last her at least one more summer because I used a
knit fabric, and knit fabric+shirring = superstretchy.
So it is also superlong to take into account how
Time it took to make: 45 minutes - 1 hour.
More time was spent running after the wearer
for her dress fittings than actually sewing.
Next: Armhole variation on shirred dress.