Monday, March 12, 2012

Girl's Easy-to-Wear Summer Dress Tutorial

Spring-like weather always finds me ready to make summer dresses. They are my favorite thing to sew because they are simple, cute, and practical! This dress is my rendition of a dress I saw a picture of, but needed some adjustments (a ruffle on the bottom and to tie at the waist instead of around the chest). This dress used less than 1 yard of fabric for the main print, and some scrap pieces of the solid (enough for a couple long strips 3-4" wide). You will also need a piece of fabric to make a casing for the waist ties that will go around the inside of the dress (see step 6).

 1. Start by cutting two equal-sized rectangles of fabric. 
The Height = how long you want the dress to be from the chest to the bottom (not including any ruffles you might put on the bottom) + seam allowance. The top seam allowance needs to be big enough to fold over for a casing for elastic.
The Width = your child's waist measurement + seam allowance
 2. Sew up the sides of the rectangles, right-sides together, and fold over and press the top edge approx. 1.5". The fold at the top needs to be big enough to sew down and channel elastic through, so this measurement may need adjusted to fit the width of the elastic you're using. You may also want to fold over the top 1/4" and press before folding it over again if you want the bottom edge nice and finished off looking. It's inside the dress and won't show, so that's up to you and how much work you want to do!

3. Sew down the folded over top edge along the bottom, leaving a small gap to feed your elastic through later.

Optional 3.5. Sew around the top of your casing about a 1/4" from the top. (This is just to create a little ruffle above your elastic and is purely decorative)

 4. Measure your child to determine how far down from the top of the dress you want to put the waist ties. Find the center front of the dress and mark this spot. Mark 2 spots, equidistant from this center front mark on either side of it. This is where your button holes will go for the ties to come out in the front. Use your judgement to determine how far apart to put them.
 5. Make your buttonholes. I used the largest buttonhole size I could make!
 6. Make a casing strip for the waist ties. I cut a strip of fabric (longer than I needed), pressed under both of the raw edges, pinned it around the inside circumference of the dress (right over the buttonholes--where the waist is), and then cut the strip a couple inches longer than where it met. I then sewed the two ends of the strip together, creating a loop the exact same length as the dresses circumference.

7. Sew the casing down on both the top and bottom, going all the way around the dress. Leave a small gap at the buttonholes through which you will feed your waist tie through later. Technically you don't have to leave a gap because you can feed the tie through the buttonholes themselves, but I found this easier.

8. Create a ruffle for the bottom of your dress. This is of course optional! To make a ruffle, cut a long strip of fabric (the circumference of your dress doubled works well for a full ruffle), the width being how tall you want the ruffle to be (approx. 2-3" works well) + seam/hem allowance. Sew the ends together to create a loop (be careful not to twist it!) Hem the entire length of it on one side, then sew a gathering stitch through the other side (a long stitch you can pull to pucker up the fabric).

9. Attach the ruffle to the bottom of your dress, right-sides together, pulling up your gathers until it matches the circumference of the dress, then sew it down.
 Once it's sewn, this is what it should look like!
10. Insert your elastic into the gap left at the top of the dress. The elastic should be measured and cut to fit your child snugly (but not too tight--there will be straps to help hold the dress up!). Feed it through using a safety pin, sew the ends together, and sew the gap shut! (If you want to put a decorative strip at the top--see step 12--do this before you put elastic'll be much easier!)

11. Do the same in the casing behind your buttonholes, except feed your waist tie ends out the front of the buttonholes. I originally just made one long strap, using my daughter as a guide. Another option is to make two straps attached together using a length of elastic, for a more stretchy comfortable fit (I later went back and did this, although it doesn't change the look of the dress whatsoever)

11.5 Making a waist tie/shoulder straps--cut a rectangle of fabric twice the width you want the finished strap to be. Fold it over and sew the raw long edges together. Turn it right-side out and iron it flat. I then like to top-stitch down both edges of it to make it look crisp and finished, but that's up to you.

 I also went back and added a strip of green to the top just for decoration.

12. Attach your shoulder straps. This picture shows them pinned to the outside, but I obviously sewed them on the inside. That's just how I pinned them while fitting it on my daughter :-)

Here's the finished dress! My daughter loves the ruffle and bow!