Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Summer maxi dress (Part 1)

There are so many cute maxi dresses out there, just none that really fit my budget. So I set out to make my own -- and I did, for $6. :)

And you'll have to excuse me; I didn't get to take these pictures, I had to be in them since this dress is made for my measurements... Not crazy about being the model, but hey, it's only going to get more embarrassing when I tell you my size and measurements.

This dress was actually pretty easy, and I used several techniques I've been kind of avoiding because they're intimidating. And isn't that the way to get over your fear? Scared of spiders, so hold a spider? (Which, by the way, I am and I have absolutely no intention to ever hold a spider. I won't even pick them up when they're dead, with a tissue. Eeeewwwwww...)

So I've been avoiding knits, because I wasn't sure how to work with them, my double needle, because two needles are scarier than one, and smocking/shirring (it has TWO names!). If that's still too intimidating to you -- no worries! You can work your way around them. Except I think you should totally do it and learn as much as I did (peer pressure working?).

Ok, come closer: (whisper) I'm a size 12 or so. There. Whew. Not so bad. That being said, I had two yards of this fabric and had exactly what I needed. I was actually too generous and needed to cut several inches off here and there. However, I was kinda not-so-smart when I cut out my fabric and did it by what fit where, not by the way the fabric should actually be cut -- with the little lines in the knit going up and down on all pieces, not side to side. I still think you'll have enough with 2 yards, just pay attention to the grain of your fabric. (*PS -- This also means that you can use whatever fabric you like if you don't want knit. Even though I didn't have stretchy where I wanted stretchy, it fit quite well.)

Grab a paper, a pencil and a measuring tape. Really, I'm waiting. Let's start with the bodice. And just a little note on the bodice: I tried to do it differently and it totally didn't work, but that's where the smocking came in and I like how it turned out, so I'll give you two options on the bodice. Option A will be more of a tube top, straight bodice (not what I have pictured -- easier of the two) and Option B will be my mess-up turned awesome bodice (as pictured) and will include an extra step.

Take the tape measurer and measure across the biggest part of your bust from side seam to side seam of whatever you're wearing. My measurement was 19.5 inches. Do the same for your back; mine was 18.5 inches. Now, please adjust this part based on the size of seams you like to take; I usually like to do 1/2 inch seam allowances (that means you line the edge of your material up with the line on your sewing machine that says 1/2). So that would mean you would add 1/2 inch to each side, or 1 inch total.

So using my example, you'll have a rectangle that's 20.5 inches across for the front, and 19.5 inches across in the back. **Another little note: I was really nervous I would cut off too much, so I was extra generous and cut myself a few extra inches. I totally didn't need it -- it was waaaaay too big on me, but the best part is I just trimmed it down. So if you're a little nervous, add an extra inch or so. You can always take it off later.

So, for Option A (shown in above picture), you'll cut out FOUR rectangles, two measuring 6.5 inches tall by (your front measurement here -- mine was 20.5), and two measuring 6.5 inches tall by (your back measurement here -- mine was 19.5).

For Option B, cut out the back as described (two pieces, 6.5 by 19.5). For the front, cut out two pieces 7.5 inches tall and (your front measurement here -- mine was 20.5) You're then going to curve the front pieces only, like in this picture below. And don't worry about being exact, we'll change the shape when we do the smocking.

Next, the skirt. For the width, measure across the biggest part of your hips, side seam to side seam (I find I get the biggest measurement on this when I'm kneeling; this will give you the most room in your garment). Mine was about 22 inches. I wanted the skirt to not hug me too much, and I wanted enough room around the bottom to walk. So I added three inches, then I added an extra two inches to cover the seam allowances and add an extra bit of gather. So take your measurement and add 5 inches -- 27 inches for me.

For the height, take a measurement from just under your bust and measure where you want your dress to land (for me, just touching the tops of my feet). This was about 47 inches for me, then I added two inches for the hem allowance, so 49 inches long.

So cut out two rectangles (your width measurement here -- mine was 27 inches) by (your height measurement here -- mine was 49).

And finally, the straps, if you want them. You could skip these if you just want a tube top. These you can do in so many ways! Make them skinny or fat, do halter and tie them or make them criss-cross in the back. And the remaining amount of material you have left will also determine the size of your straps (plus I don't think you need to worry about the grain as much on these pieces, so cut them out however you need to). You will need four pieces of whatever size you want to make them.

I cut mine 3.5 inches by 25.5 inches, and they're actually a little too fat for me. If you want to do a halter like me, I suggest making them fat, because they sit well on the front, and tapering them toward the end, so they're skinnier for the tie.

And that's it! You should have four bodice pieces (two for front, two for back), two skirt pieces and four strap pieces. And please save all your scraps, especially you do Option A for the bodice. It's rather plain and you'll want to use your scraps to make it more interesting.

Go find some fun summer material, cut out your pieces and meet me back here next Tuesday for Part Two.

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