I would like to preface this instructable with a little warning. I am the kind of person who makes a lot of things and is fairly comfortable with my tools and my work style. What that means is that I don’t always work from patterns, I don’t always pin my fabrics, sometimes I just make things up as I go along, sometimes I don’t think through the tiny details and just solve little problems as they arise.
If you are the kind of person who wants a downloadable pattern that scales to sizes, or exact measurements on the seams, or perfect descriptions about which pieces are sewn together, I am probably not the guy to read. If you want to follow along as I whip up a sweet dress for my girlfriend and walk you through my process and how I work and solve problems then let’s go!
- Something like 2 yards of fabric. I made it out of scraps so, hard to say exactly. You should have enough fabric at home that you have to shove it in the closet and close the door before it falls out anyway, so no worries here. If not, buy 10 yards.
- Black thread. I use Gutermann. You can use whatever you want but it probably isn't as good as Gutermann.
- Chalk. Don't go buy fancy sewing chalk(yes this exists). Chalk is chalk, I use crayola.
- Measuring tape
- A pretty girl
Step 1: Inspiration
So, I knew I wanted to make a simple dress for my girlfriend, but was not really sure exactly what I was going to do. Time to raid her drawers for inspiration.....
Step 2: Cool Shirt
I found a cool shirt in her drawers. The neck line was really neat and I thought the exposed back would be a change from your typical simple dress, where the most interesting part tends to be how thick the shoulder straps are. At this point I really had to decide what the rest of the dress would look like and how much I wanted to change. I felt like the best addition would be a bigger circle skirt rather than just continuing the shape downwards like a cocktail dress or something. Skater dress it is.
Also my dog was pretty interested in what I was doing at this point so I let him stay in my pictures.
Step 3: Getting Started, Top First
So now you have your inspiration and an idea of what you want it to look like. I could have done a sketch but since it is a simple project I didn't think it would be necessary.
I am going to build this dress in two halves. First we will construct the top and then we will make the circle skirt and sew the two together.
First dump all of your scrap fabric all over the living room. This is important for the creative process, and for making sure all of your roommates know you are in craft mode.
This pile of shiny stretchy material leftover from another project is just begging to be used on this dress.
Note: This stuff is 2-way stretch fabric, which means that it stretches lengthwise but it does not stretch width-wise. This is important to note because I have made things in the past with 2-way without knowing this and ended up with a garment that stretched up and down but not around the body. I had made it to fit snugly and it couldn't stretch so it was totally useless. I ruined the last of the pizza fabric. Don't waste your time or your fabric, pay attention to the direction of the stretch and cut your pieces accordingly.
Step 4: Neckline
The really important part of this to me was the neck line. This is really the main feature of the garment and I want it to really draw the eyes, so we want to do this right...ish.
With the shirt, this piece is doubled over and the body of the shirt is inserted in the seam(this later becomes one of those weird little problems to solve...we'll get there). I measured the piece and doubled the height in my "pattern".
After that you want to go through the shirt measuring all of the important seams and fill in the drawing with the right measurements. You can see my final drawing with the front and back measured out, as well as a few notes about the construction. The original shirt has darts on the bust, which I ended up removing because when she wears this shirt it actually looks a little weird and I think it would be better without them. The waistline measurement is just the length of the bottom on both sides put together. That should be intuitive, but I figure I would mention it in case it wasn't.
Step 5: Fabric Time!
Grab your chalk and trace out your "pattern" on the fabric. I usually leave about 1/4 inch everywhere for seam allowance.
You will notice the line down the center of the chest piece in these photos. The reason for this was that I wanted to make sure everything is, well, centered. The top of this piece is shorter than the bottom and so without marking your center with chalk it would be pretty easy to end up with that being out of line and basically ruin the entire thing. So start with the bottom line when you are tracing it out, find center and do the top line based on that.
For the curve on the side I just drew it out on one side, folded it in half and cut them both at the same time. Woo symmetry.
Step 6: Sewing Machine Time!
Funny that we call this sewing, step 6 and we just pulled the machine out.
I didn't take a ton of pictures of actually putting it together, honestly they would just be pictures of fabric in the machine and you wouldn't really be able to tell what was going on anyway. Let's walk through this.
I started with the curves on the front shape, just folding them over and making a nice edge. Use an iron here if your fabric will allow it. Mine is shiny plastic and would melt, so I just went without the iron. Set that aside now.
The neck piece presented me with my first challenge with this project. I didn't want to have a visible seam and my sewing machine is kind of shitty. Maybe someone more skilled than me has a better way of doing this but I did what seemed to work, and it worked. First, I flipped it inside out and sewed the edges. Then(with my center marked) lined up the chest piece and sewed that on to one side of the neck piece. Still inside out here, I sewed the two halves together along the opening but left about an inch in the middle as a gap. Then I flipped it all right side out through that gap and very carefully closed the gap, staying as close to that seam as possible. In the end, if you get real close to it, you can see that there is about 2 inches of visible seam, but it is black thread and it it's incredibly hard to see because of how close to the seam it is.
The rest is fairly straight forward. Sew the bottom on the cheat piece, set that aside. Sew the two back pieces together, then line the sides up and sew the back to the front. Boom you have a top.
You could stop here, finish the bottom seam, and tell everyone that you made this awesome shirt from an Instructable you found. You would be praised highly, and given measurements from all of your friends asking you to make them one.
You could also click next and turn it into a dress....
Step 7: Hmmmm.......
My girlfriend decided she wanted the skirt to start higher up than we had originally planned. That is probably because we didn't really plan, and once she had it on it made sense that the skirt should start here.
I also added the clasp on the back at this point. I didn't take any pictures, so I have included a stock photo of the hook and eyes that I used. They go in the back of the neck.
In the first photo I am measuring how long the skirt will be(that's in the next step don't worry). You also want to measure how much fabric you want to leave. I went from the seam, I think it was like 3 inches.
Flip it inside out, measure that distance, make a line, and nervously cut it off, hoping you didn't just f*** this whole project up.
Step 8: Bottom Half!
This part is much easier than the top, so if you have made it this far, good job. You deserve a beer. If you already know how to make a circle skirt, just do that. If not, you are about to learn.
There are a few ways to go about making a circle skirt, but this is probably the easiest. First step is to measure the waist of the person who is going to wear it. Take that number and divide it by 6.23... Don't ask me why 6.23, that is just what you do, and it works. Maybe a math person can tell you if you ask. Call that number X. I think that's what math people call numbers.
Now take out your measuring tape, and put it at the corner of your fabric. Make a dot X distance from the corner. Keep the measuring tape held to the corner and shift the end you are measuring up a little, and make another dot. then connect all the dots and you should have a quarter circle in the corner.
Measure on your model how far down you want the skirt to come. Call that Y if you want. Do the same thing you did with X, with Y.
Cut this out, trace it 3 more times and cut those out too. You should have 4 quarter circles.
Sew the edges together so you have a full circle....skirt... see, it's a circle skirt.
Step 9: Put It Together!
You have a top, you have a bottom, lets put them together.
Check out your skirt. It has four seams, and we want to make sure they don't look wonky when she is wearing it.
If you put a seam in the front, back and one on each side, your girlfriend is going to ask you why it looks like the dress has a vagina. Not good.
You want the seams to be spaced evenly where they are equal distance from the sides and kind of sit along the thigh.
Now just sew along the waist from the inside all the way around.
One the edge of the skirt do the same thing you did to the top of the back and the curves on the chest. Fold, iron if necessary, hem. Boom. Dress. Tell your friends they can make their own, you aren't running a sweat shop here.
Thanks for reading along.
Runner Up in the
DIY Dress Contest