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!



Great Gatsby Fail


Earlier this month, I signed up for the Great Gatsby Sewing Challenge over at Miss Crayola Creepy.  It was perfect timing because at the time, I was planning to attend a 1930s themed birthday party, and I promised myself I would wear something I’ve made.  I am a bit of a fancy-dress fiend, as you might have noticed.  I’ve only posted a couple of finished garments on here so far, and they’ve all been costumes!  I swear, I also make normal stuff.

My original plan was to make a navy blue version of these Burdastyle wide legged linen trousers to wear with an art-deco blouse and fabulous dripping jewelry.  I kept putting the project off, however, until the very last minute.  Two days before the party, tragically, this happened.


I can’t very well make a pair of trousers out of that.  I didn’t have anywhere near enough fabric, so…  panic-time!  Frantically, I tore through my belongings, and managed to find a dress I’d made for a Prohibition event last year, using a Burdastyle pattern for a beautiful velvet dress.

I had intended to make my version from a luxurious navy blue velvet.  However, I didn’t want to take the chance of buying velvet online, because it’s so hard to tell what it’s like from a photo.  There was also the problem of matching the fabric to a chiffon, which I can’t do confidently from a computer screen.  I went to my local fabric shop and could not find a non-stretch velvet anywhere.  I finally settled on a navy blue poly satin, with a seriously beautiful white chiffon with a shimmery but very subtle flower pattern.  When I finished the dress, I declared it an ill-fitting abomination of low-quality materials, and I hated it so much, I didn’t even take a proper photo.  I did wear it to the party, and I have never been so grateful in my life for dim lighting!  At the end of the night, I dumped the dress in my Wupsie Pile (where all disasters go to die), and never thought about it again until last week, in my last-minute panic.


Although the shape of this dress suits the Gatsby era just fine, it didn’t suit MY shape at all.  It bagged out in the mid-section, the straps were too far apart and tended to fall off, and the dress was far too tight at the hips.  I took a massive three inch swipe out of the back of the bodice, moved the straps closer together, and added gores from the waist on either side of the skirt.  I added some metallic embroidery thread to the front bodice, but I have so little patience for embellishments, that I stopped after I’d made two sparkly diamonds.  I tried the dress on and, although it was improved, I still didn’t like it much.


I don’t even like this dress well enough to take a decent photo.

The day of the party, I put my dress on, took one look in the mirror, and just felt… awful.  I do not like this dress, no matter what I do to it.  The photos I’m showing you do not do it justice at all – I don’t hate these photos at all.  It’s the awful poly satin, it just doesn’t look good at all.  I felt like a complete hobo in this dress, so at the last minute, I changed tack and dressed as a fancy depression-era hobo.  Problem solved!


Hobo-me with my friend. She came up with the name for this blog and is generally a pretty funny lady.

I made this dress, too, and the kerchief on a stick, so at least I kept my promise to wear something I’d made.

Better luck next time, eh?

Woodstock dress

Here’s a dress I made ages ago, in the summer of 2011, I think.  What a long time ago!  I had originally bought this fabric for a jacket lining, but around May that year, my priorities shifted.  I had been invited to a Woodstock festival themed summer party, and I didn’t have anything to wear.  This print seemed to fit the bill, even if the fabric was a bit too stiff for the style of the dress.  Actually, I love the print on the fabric with all my heart.  Unfortunately, though, the weight of it is more suited to upholstery than to dressmaking.


Do you like my hula skills?

I drafted this pattern myself, and it was pretty easy to make up.  I took my inspiration from this dress, which I had seen on Burda about a million years ago.  I couldn’t find a pattern, although I didn’t look very hard.  There was a bit of discussion on the Burda forums about the dress, and no one there had found a pattern either.  I think it might be the first pattern I ever drafted from scratch, and I managed to get it right with only one trial-make of the straps.  Then I whipped out my fashion fabric and started cutting!

The construction is pretty simple, and I didn’t do any fitting at all.  This dress is literally just a tent gathered onto a couple of straps.  The straps were the biggest construction challenge, because of the cross over in the front.  I really would like to see how a bought pattern would construct the crossover, because my way felt extremely clumsy.  The dress pulls on and off over my head, so I didn’t add a closure, although maybe it would have benefited from a little zip under the arm.

I didn’t finish any of the seams because, as I recall, this was a very last-minute project.  I only intended to wear it once for this party, and because the fabric I chose was not appropriate for the shape of the dress, I will never wear it again.

Recently, I was looking on the Map the Sewists map, created by Another Sewing Scientist, and came across a couple of other sewing bloggers in my area.  To my surprise, I came across a project by Elena at Tea for Two which used the same fabric.  I think she put the fabric to much better use than I did.  However, I kept my dress, thinking I might harvest the fabric for another project.  There’s always that jacket lining from my original plan…