Introduction: Casually Patriotic - a Scarf Dress

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I put this light summer dress together from a bunch of stuff I had laying around (I have a lot of stuff laying around). I've had a collection of red, white and blue scarfs stored for over ten years, but didn't want to simply get rid of them, so I found a way to re-incorporate at least one of them into my wardrobe by means of this dress. It will make a cute outfit for the 4th of July  as well.

I made the dress quick and dirty, cutting all sorts of corners that other seamsters may frown upon. For example, I left  raw, unfinished seams because I don't have a serger and am too lazy to properly tuck and sew them, but I welcome anyone a little more industrious than myself to implement and recomend improvements to the design! And someother modifications you might want to try with this dress include adjustable straps, pockets in the skirt and/or bodice, and extending the zipper to the skirt.

Here are a few ground rules I follow when I sew to balance out my haphazard ways:

1. Leave extra fabric when you cut.
2. Iron everything.
3. Pin sufficiently before sewing.

Step 1: Materials and Prep

One square scarf, at least as wide as the measurement from one side of your hip to the side of your other hip.
Main dress material, which should be at least four times the area of your scarf.
Buttons, cords, lace, razzle-dazzle
12-inch (or so) zipper

Sewing Machine/needle
Measuring Device
Ironing Board

Step 2: The Skirt

1. Cut the scarf into strips. It doesn't really matter how many, whatever makes the most sense with the scarf.
2. Lay the strips out with the material and any lace you want to add to see how the skirt looks.
3. Fold the material under at the bottom of the skirt twice so no edges show and iron. I folded mine as wide as the lace so that I only had to sew it once.
4. Lay the strips and lace out again and pin them in place where you want them along the bottom edge. I placed them a little more than their own width apart, that way I was guaranteed that the skirt would be a little wider than hip to hip on me, since the scarf fit me exactly hip to hip.
5.Sew the lace and strips down along the bottom edge.
6. Measure the width between strips (the light blue fabric pictured). Fold the skirt lengthwise, outside-in, making sure to line the strips up so that both sides of the skirt have the same number of scarf strips with a non-scarf strip centered in the front of the skirt.
7. Divide the width between strips by half.   That is the distance from the scarf straps that your stitch must be to sew up the back of the skirt to make the front and back even.
8. Once you sew up the back of the skirt you can trim the excess material in the seam and then sew  the seam down along the bottom edge of the skirt.

Step 3: The Top

The top was definitely the trickiest part for me, so I had to look at a few different dress and blouse tops before finding a style that suited this dress.

Preparing the Bodice Pieces
1. Find a suitable model for your top piece, turn it inside out and iron flat.
2. Use a large piece of paper (like the back side of last year's Christmas wrapping) to trace the seams of the shirt. Make sure to mark the spot where the pieces match up, like armpit spots and mark. Measure the width of the back at the widest points.
3. Lay the front pieces of the bodice  together, making sure to line up the armpit spots and draw the desired shape of the bodice front top I went with a rounded "sweetheart" shape, but you could also go for a straight edge or even get really futuristic with a Jetsons style top!
4. Fold your fabric in half so that you will use the two bodice front piece patterns and cut out four front bodice pieces.  Lay the two front pattern pieces out on your fabric leaving plenty of fabric around the pieces for a seam when you cut the fabric. For the bodice back piece I measured from the fold half of the measurement I took from my example dress. For example, I needed a total width of 20 inches, so I cut 10 inches from the fold and then cut down the fold.  This should result in two back pieces equal in width and the same length as your front pieces. It doesn't really matter if you cut from the fold or not unless you want to put the zipper on the side, where having one back piece is important.
***When you are done cutting you should have a total of six bodice pieces.

Sewing Together Bodice Pieces
5. Sew right and left side pieces together, leaving the mid-front and mid-back for last. This should result in two mirrored pieces composed of three smaller pieces sewn together.
6. Take the two bodice pieces and sew them together at the front, starting from the bottom toward the top. Stop a few inches before reaching the top. The more you leave unsewn, the more buttons you will need!
7. Fold and iron down the top edge along the entire bodice. Take special care to shape the front when ironing and use plenty of pins!
8. Sew 1/4 inch or so from the edge around to the front slit.
9. Hand sew the buttons and button loops.

Attaching the Zipper
10. Test the size of bodice. It might be helpful to have a friend help you pin/mark where it fits best.
11. Use the pins/marks as a reference to iron the material back and hold the zipper in place on both sides. Sew the zipper on.
12. Trim and fold under extra fabric along the length of both sides of the zipper.
13. Sew the top edge of the extra zipper flap down to the top edge of the bodice.
14. Sew darts in the back as needed to match the contours of your body.

Step 4: Attaching Skirt and Top

1. Try the bodice on along with the skirt and mark where you want to attach the two. For example, I decided to go with a longer bodice since my torso is a little short because I wanted the slimming effect of a longer bodice.
2. Place the bodice and skirt together along with their exterior sides together.  Find your marks and pin together the mid-back (where the zipper is) and mid-front pieces of the bodice and skirt where you want to sew them together.
3. Like I did, you will need to trim any extra material before you can pin it any further. To do this in a straight line I placed a ruler above my marker pin and trimmed above the ruler, leaving the width of the ruler to be included in the seam in case I make a mistake.
4. Once trimmed, pin the sides together, making sure to pin the mid-sides of the skirt and bodice by grabbing the folds when they are laying flat. [See pictures] Basically you want to make sure that the skirt is even distributed in four quadrants of the bodice before you start pinning in the bunches.
5. For my skirt I decided to pin the scarf strips flat, and only pin two small bunches on each of the strips of the skirt without scarf. Make all of the bunches face either all towards the front or all towards the back using the mid-front as a starting point.
***The size of your bunches may vary on the circumference of your skirt. The larger the skirt, the bigger the bunches can be. Make sure to play around with this until you get an even distribution of bunches all the way around the circumference of the skirt before sewing.
6. Sew around the waist, making sure the material underneath doesn't bunch up where you don't want it to.
7. Fold down the extra material at the waist and trim if you want.  I chose to leave the extra material as is in case I want to make subsequent alterations.

Step 5: Straps

1. Cut two strips of fabric for the straps. I like them about 2 inches wide and  2 feet long, but you can vary the width and length as needed and desired.
2. Pin the straps lengthwise,with the outside of the straps facing in [see pictures].
3. Sew the straps lengthwise.
4. Flatten the strap ironing the two sides of the seam apart down the middle.
5. Turn the straps outside is facing out and re-iron with the seam still in the middle of the back side.
6. Pin the lace onto the strap and sew down the middle.
7. Attach the front of the strap to the front of the bodice.
8. Try the dress on to determine where to attach the other end of the strap to the back of the bodice.
9. Sew the strap to the bodice and trim any excess from the end.

Yea! You are all done! Just finish trimming strings and you're ready for the next summer barbecue!

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