This is part one of a two part series on making this dress. Taffeta is a dressy fabric you can find in most craft stores. This particular fabric you will need is two-toned taffeta. You will be able to tell it apart from other taffeta fabric because one side will be one color and the other side of the fabric will be a totally different contrasting color. For this tutorial I chose a black and pink combination. The technique in this tutorial is called "smocking" or "shirring." And it's a very useful sewing technique to add to your repertoire! Here we go!
How much fabric do I need? I usually buy 2 and a half yards of fabric to make a dress. I have a 38D bust and I probably only end up using about 2 yards in length. I buy a yard and a quarter to make dresses for my nieces (aged 4 to 7). It's never bad to have extra fabric so I would err on the side of caution. Select the two tone taffeta you like and get your yardage cut!
What materials will I need? Scissors (regular cutting and scalloped), elastic thread (Buy STRETCH RITE and not Dritz...the Dritz elastic thread is terrible for smocking on a machine), sewing machine, thread, empty bobbin, pins, safety pins, measuring tape, and seam ripper.
1. PIN THE BUST HEM: Pin the bust of the hem by folding your accent color (the inside of your garment) over your dominant color. Here, my dominant color is black and my accent color is pink. You want to make sure that any raw edges are tucked in.
2. SEW A STRAIGHT SEAM ACROSS THE BUST: Sew a straight seam across the bust where you just pinned. This doesn't have to be particularly straight. I'm an impatient person so mine is rarely straight...which is why I love smocking because detail doesn't matter!!!!
3. HAND WIND BOBBIN WITH ELASTIC THREAD: Hand wind your bobbin with the elastic thread. You don't need to pull on it or stretch it out when you wind. I have a Bernina machine and a bobbin filled with elastic thread will last me about 5 rows for 2 and 1/2 yards of fabric and about 10 rows for 1 and 1/4 yards. You need to be able to gauge this before you begin sewing (or check as you go) because it is a PAIN to run out of elastic thread in the middle of a row (which is where you would need a seam ripper).
4. CHANGE THE STITCH SIZE ON YOUR MACHINE: Normal stitches are usually between 2 and 4 in setting depending on what kind of sewing you're doing. For smocking, you will need to increase your stitch width to at least 5. It depends on the machine but I've talked to other people who use an 8 setting. Play with a piece of fabric before you actually begin this garment to figure out what stitch size works best on your machine.
5. BEGIN SEWING ON THE DOMINANT COLOR SIDE: Your top thread will be regular thread, and now your hand wound bobbin should be your bottom thread. Make sure you secure the elastic thread by going forward and reversing over the first few stitches at least three times. My dominant color is black so my top thread will be regular black thread, and my bottom thread will be the elastic bobbin thread. You want to start your first elastic thread stitches about 1/4 to 1/2 inches below the top stitch you made for the bust. When you get to the end of the row, secure your stitches by reversing. This is what the accent side with the elastic thread looks like:
6. CONTINUE SEWING FOLLOWING ROWS: You can adjust the space between stitches to accommodate your bust. Some dresses I like to make the smocking rows farther away from each other, and others I like to make the rows smaller. It just depends on what you want your dress to look like. You will continue to smock the rows until they cover your bust area.
I might do one or two more rows, but this is probably how the bust will look:
Stay tuned for Part 2!!!!!!!!!!