Thursday, 9 May 2013

How to Sew a Simple Shift Dress

I took a trip this morning down to Leon's with Julie and came back with some lovely slightly scrunchy tie-dyed pink velvet. So anyway, this purple shift dress (bought from a shop in Affleck's Palace about thirteen years ago or so) is my favourite piece of summer clothing and the plan is to make a dress using this one as a pattern. 
I simply lay it out on the fabric and drew around it with tailor's chalk, leaving a small gap for the seam allowance. (If you want to try drawing your own pattern on tracing paper the dimensions are: length 130cm, width at hem 90cm, narrowing to 48cm at armpit then narrowing again to 32cm across shoulders, width across neck opening 26cm. This fits me and falls to mid calf length; I am roughly UK size 10 and 5'5" tall. If you are not sure about cutting the armholes cut them too small, you can always make them bigger but you can't put fabric back once you have cut it off.)
I cut out two pieces (they started out the same even though the front has a lower neckline). I also cut two pocket shapes as the one thing the purple dress lacks is a pocket. 
 To insert the pocket you sew one pocket piece to each of the body pieces (right sides together), ensuring they are at the same distance from the armhole (I just held it up to my body to judge the position.) Then, with the right sides of the fabric facing each other, you pin and sew the side seams (or baste first if you are pedantic about these things), positioning the pocket so it is sticking out to the side and taking the seam around the edge of the pocket (and leaving the opening free). Because I was a bit slapdash about the cutting out one body piece was slightly longer than the other but I chose to leave it like that so the dress is slightly longer at the back. I also stopped the seam about 4 or 5 inches up from the bottom edge. 
Then I sewed the shoulder seams and turned up a small hem all the way around the bottom edge going up each of the side seams where I had left them open. Next I tried it on and I trimmed the front neckline to a shape that I liked (again do this cautiously as you cannot make it smaller again once it has been cut). The purple dress has a bias binding around the neck and sleeve edges. This fabric however has a stretch to it and also bits of embroidery and sequins, and it did not take well to being folded, and the lumps and bumps kept getting caught in the machine, so I simply sewed a narrow hem around the neck and sleeve edges. The original dress also has narrow ties to draw it in at the waist but I decided against. You could easily add some by making long tubes out of strips of fabric and then sewing them in position when you do the side seams.
Voila! Total cost - fabric (1.5 metres) £7.47 + thread £1.60 = £9.07

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