Sunday, May 12, 2013

How to make a dress without a pattern

I started wanting to make this dress two toned green and it turned into something totally different.  I wouldn't say I love it--which happens with a lot of projects.  I feel like a darker color would have been better for me and absolutely something with a pattern.  Oh, and I need to learn how to do actual finishing of garments because when you see what I did to the neck of this dress you might pass out.  You have been warned!

Another thing that has been clear through this process is that I desperately need a dress form.  I'm having a hard time getting those shots of what the dress should look like on me (lack of full length mirrors without laundry in the background, short child arms, caffeinated shaky hands, and general disdain for how the outfits look on me.)  It looks okay on the floor but you can't see how it drapes...

Anyway--to the tutorial!  (Which I have to finish quickly since it's Mother's Day and we have a whole bunch of gardening/crafting/hiking planned!!!)

How to make a dress without a pattern:

You will need:
1.  Sewing machine;
2.  Matching thread;
3.  Scissors;
4.  Sewing machine,
5.  Equal fabric for lining and outer fabric;  (You will probably need somewhere between 3 and 4 yards of each lining and outer fabric--how do you know for sure?  Pick a dress out of your closet you love and you will need about an extra 10 inches or so to hemming, etc., from the shoulders to the hem--so measure that dress and then add 20 inches to the measurement and buy that length);
6.  Trim (I used some old lace for the neck line);
7.  Pins;
8.  Belt to cinch waist (or you can sew a corresponding sash either to your neckline trim or the inner lining.


1.  Start by selecting your fabrics.  In this case, the dark green is going to be my lining fabric and light green fabric is my outer fabric.  These are soft cottons.  I had to do a lot of ironing.

 2.  I laid my fabrics length-wise on my floor and then doubled up the fabric length-wise.  I slipped the lining fabric inside the same way.  You could also lay them on top of each other.  Don't you love you can do this anywhere!?  Guerrilla sewing!  (I have a cutting table but it is COVERED in stuff from my last crafting classes).
 3.  Have your dog come help you sew.  Hey Ralph!  Lay your dress that you're using for your pattern against the fabric.  And cut around the shape of the dress.  You can always cut more later--I'd urge you to keep it longer than you think.
 Here's what my dress looks like cut.
 And then I open it up.
 4.  Here's the neck hole.  I pinned along where I wanted the shoulders to be and stitched the lining to the dress.  This actual shoulder detail when sewn will appear about 1 to two inches below your actual shoulder and closer to your bust than your back.
 5.  Sew.
 6.  Try the dress on.  It will be a crazy armless caftan thing.  I tried it on with clothes underneath to help me figure out how much armpit I wanted to show.  Pinch and pin on each side where you want your arm hole to end.
 I don't have a dress form--I just pinned directly onto myself.
 7.  From that armpit hole, pin down the sides of the dress and sew!
8.  Try on again and adjust the length to about 2 inches below what you want it to ultimately be.  Try it on with a belt before you make this determination because the gathering at the waist will make it shorter and I don't want to be blamed for you flashing your girly bits at the office!

Oh look!  A wonky thing happening!  I've never seen that before!  (Not!)

 9.  Pin your bottom edge and sew.  You could also add trim here if you're up for it. but don't do it all at once.

10.  Try your dress on again.  Cut your neck hole down to where you want it.  For those of the larger breasted persuasion, I would recommend a higher neckline, especially if this is a work dress.

11.  Finish your neckline and arm holes.  Don't say I didn't warn you--what happened here!  That is my neckline.  I was not drunk when I sewed this I just don't always know what I'm doing.  So I decided to cover the neck with lace.
 12.  I started up at the shoulder line, a bit behind the stitch I made in Step 4.
 I sewed from the left down to the center of the top and back up and around.
 Here is the end of the trim.
 I folded it over and continued sewing.
 And you're done!
 Here is the finished product--yes I need a dress form:

 If I had to do it over again, I would use a darker color with a pattern and maybe try a knit fabric.  Enjoy!

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