Summer Sundress Tutorial (part 1)

I’ve had a few people ask me how I made the dress in my profile photo.  I blogged the finished project here, and mentioned that I drafted the pattern myself.  I have to put a caveat on this tutorial:  I have next to no proper pattern drafting experience.  I’ve never even read a book on the subject.  To draft this pattern, I just did what felt right (so, I traced a shirt that already fits me), and I ended up with a pretty decent result.  If you follow my instructions, you should end up with something very similar to what I made.

I’m doing this tutorial from a child’s top, and so I’m going to make the back identical to the front.  You, like me, may know that normal garments that normal people wear aren’t the same on the back and the front, and wonder what on earth I think I’m doing here.  In a child’s size, trust me, you won’t know the difference.  If you’re making it for yourself, though, it might be worth it to draw out a strap for the back that’s different from the one at the front.  Indeed, I did this when I made the dress for myself, and I liked it.  I’ll follow up on this idea in Part 2, next week.


To draft the straps:

Place a shirt that fits onto a piece of tracing paper that you can see through.  Draw a point at each collar, and a point at each underarm.  I realise you can’t see the points in my photo, so I drew arrows on the paper to demonstrate where to draw them.


Remove the shirt. Fold the paper in half, lining up the shoulder points and the underarm points. Open that back up and draw a line down the fold – this is both your centre line and your grain line, so it’s important.

Trace the Left Hand shoulder seam onto the paper, from the collar mark to the shoulder seam. Place a mark on this line to the desired width of the shoulder strap.

Trace the Right Hand side seam onto the paper, from the underarm mark to about three inches down. Place a mark on this line to the desired width of the strap under the arm. It should be at least 25% wider under the arm than at the shoulder (ie. if your shoulder width is 1.5 inches, then the strap under the arm should be at least 2 inches)

Sketch out the strap curve, by connecting the mark you made for the collar to the mark you made for the underarm. Be careful to start and end the curve at 90 degree angles to the shoulder and side seams. Complete the strap by connecting the other two dots with a similar curve. It should look something like this (obviously, you’ve removed the shirt to follow the tutorial, so that will be gone, and you’ll have your pattern piece sketched out on the paper):


Add a ⅝ inch seam allowance , and label this piece as STRAP (cut x8)

To draft the skirt:

Fold the strap at its centre mark, and place it in line with the Left Hand edge of a fresh sheet of paper. Place a mark at each end of the bottom seamline (ie. at the centre and under the arm of the strap, where I’ve placed the red marks below).

skirt 1

Ignore that the strap is labelled front – it is the front AND back.

Draw a straight line at 90 degrees to the Left Hand edge of the paper to the underarm mark. Double the length of this line. Draw a straight line from the end of this line to the mark for the centre of the strap (you can follow the red x’s in the photos – I’ve placed them in the same spots in each photo).

skirt 2

Decide how long you want your dress to be, and place a mark at the left hand edge of the paper. I’ve chosen a length of only 30cm from my horizontal line, as this is for a child. Draw the side seam, ensuring that it is the same length as the centre from the horizontal line. Draw the hemline.  (more detail: the proper way to do this is probably to draw a perfect rectangle, then slash and spread it.  I’m lazy, so I’ve just drawn the side seam at an angle, and estimated what I thought a hemline would look like)

skirt 3

Add a ⅝ inch seam allowance to the top and side.  Add 1.5 inches to the bottom for a hem.

Mark the pattern: SKIRT (cut x2 on fold)

My next post is going to cover making different-shaped straps for the front and back, and the construction. Watch out for the tricky part around the strap!



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s