Tuesday, July 17, 2012

maxi dress with lettuce edge hem

this is the tutorial for the lettuce edge hem maxi dress that i contributed to the summer sundress series at melly sews, and was also a part of my "sewing for 'the girls'" series. i'm reposting here for anyone who missed it!

so it’s true. when melly asked me to be a part of her summer sundress series i immediately agreed, and just as immediately began figuring out which daughter i wanted to make a dress for.

because that’s what i do—i sew for my girls. sometimes my boy. and like many mommy-blogger-stitchers i can whip out a girls’ sundress in no time. practically with my eyes closed.

but this week over on my blog i’m talking about sewing and altering to fit a fuller bust. (which i have) and melly’s sundress series was just the push i needed to leave my comfort zone and sew something for me—and my “fuller bust”. ;)
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i’ve had this fabric in my stash for a while. a $2/yard walmart buy of unknown fabric content. it’s some sort of interlock knit from what i can tell. and while the pattern isn’t necessarily something i would generally pick for myself, it’s kind of cool. hey—look at me stepping out of my comfort zone in a SECOND way! woot!

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i love the idea of maxi dresses for summer. i feel so “earth momma” and organic puttering around the grocery store with my herd following behind me. but many of them have tiny straps or—even worse—tiny cups in the bodice! eek! i needed something for ME. these are my qualifications:


o1) straps wide enough to cover a bra
o2) neckline and backline high enough to be modest and not show 7” of cleave (eeek!)
o3) not too tight or pulling across the bust area, buuuttt…
o4) a high waistline that cinched in to define my waist so i don’t look like a box

now you see why i don’t usually sew for myself, right?
but i did it, and i’m happy with the end result. an easy sew, with three simple pieces. in order to get a custom fit, you do have to do some measuring (ugh—math. boo) but it’s not difficult, and the end result is worth it.


*supplies* 2 yards knit fabric (something with a decent amount of stretch. this has no zipper or buttons, it slips over your head) matching thread

i started with seven basic measurements.
meet Busty Betty. she saves me from plastering myself all over the internet with awkward arrows drawn on ;) (not that this is what i look like in my swimsuit…maybe in my dreams hehe)
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P: top of shoulder to underarm (a comfortable height that’s not binding or pinching but higher than your bra)


B: around the fullest part of your bust


W: high waist around (directly under your bust)


C: from high waist up to wherever you’d like the lowest point of your neckline to be


S: top of shoulder, over the fullest part of bust to your high waist line


H: height of desired waistband


L: length from bottom of waistband to desired finished length

*if you have an assistant it may be easier to get measurements S, H, and L all in one shot. hold the tape at the top of your shoulder and note each measurement.


every piece is cut on the fold. so we’re cutting the back and front at the same time and then assembling all three pieces. at the end you’ll sew up one big seam from armpit to hem.
using all your measurements you’re going to cut your pieces as follows:
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BODICE: fold your bodice piece in half again. find the center along the top edge and mark it. i made my straps 3” wide, so i marked out 1.5” in either direction.
now down one side measure and mark measurement P.
either freehanding or using a french curve connect one of your top marks with measurement P in a gradual curve to make your armhole.

down the opposite side mark measurement C up from the bottom. then angle from that mark to the other top strap mark.

there’s your armholes and neckhole. cut both.

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(ignore that rectangular piece on the right hand side…it’s something i changed my mind about ;) )

when you open up your fabric you’re going to have something like this:

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(pssst…THIS is why you see more drawn instructions than photo instructions in my tut ;)

now you need to finish the edges of the armholes and neck. since you’re working with knit you can just leave them raw. you can enclose them with bias tape. or (the option i chose) zigzag the raw edges, turn them over 1/4 inch and sew them down.

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ASSEMBLY: this is the easy part. you have your three pieces--

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your bodice and skirt are w i d e r than your waistband. gather them to fit the waistband either by using a simple gathering stitch to make them the same size or (the option i chose) gathering the excess into the center front and center back.

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either way, once they’re gathered, sew the bodice to the waistband top and the skirt to the waistband bottom, right sides together.

then fold your dress in half (right sides together) and sew your long seam from armpit to hem, taking care to match your seams in the waistband.

finally sew your straps together at the shoulder seams.


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turn it right side out and amaze yourself!

now with hemming, again the options are: leave it because it’s knit, fold over and stitch, zigzag…or, for a little extra sumpfin sumpfin i did a lettuce edge. if you’d like to see how to do that—even without a serger—check out the tutorial HERE on my blog!

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and that’s it! one custom fit maxi dress.

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yay for maxi dresses that fit and cover! (okay, actually i was “spinning like a princess” per the directions of my three year old)


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i’m always nervous wearing things i’ve made myself…you know we’re always our own worst critics. but i got two compliments from random people within an hour of being out in my new dress!
melly—thank you so much for having me as part of your summer sundress series! you forced me do something i should have done long ago!
now if you’ll excuse me, i’m off to go gather berries in the woods in my flowy new dress ;)
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