Tuesday, February 17, 2009

One Hour Sundress Tutorial

You may read the title and scoff... but seriously, if you possess any sewing skills at all, you can make one of these darling sundresses in about an hour! The one shown (child's size 3) uses only a yard of cotton fabric. Larger sizes use more... but I will help you figure out how much. No pattern needed, just a few simple measurements! No kidding!

You will need a chest yoke measurement, a girth and a length measurement. For the Chest Yoke measurement, the easiest way I can explain it is to hunch your shoulders forward (or have the child do it), and put your thumbs in the hollows that are formed. Leaving thumbs in place, straighten shoulders back up, and measure from thumb to thumb. Measure the person the garment is for, around the chest (Girth) and from armpits to where you want the garment to end in length. Note for adults, these make cute sun tops!

Now for a *little* math (an I mean very little!)
______________ Yoke measure + 1 1/4" = _____________ (A)
______________ Length measure + 3 1/2" = ___________ (B)
The only reason you need a girth measure is this: if the person is less than 30" around, you can make the whole dress out of the width of ONE 44" wide piece of fabric. If the person is larger around than 30", you will need to purchase the length twice, plus enough for the additional pieces (about a foot).

The length of fabric you need is the length measure (B) above (or twice that if recipient is more than 30" in girth) plus a foot.

You can use a rotary cutter for the cutting if you are handy with one! Lay the fabric down. I kept the center fold and folded it to the selvege edge again. You will cut:
  • one strip about 3" (or for adults, maybe 4"). This strip will be cut into your yokes.
  • one strip 1 1/2" (for adults, 2 strips). You will cut this strip into 4 equal pieces for shoulder ties (for adults, cut each of the 2 long strips in half for 4 pieces).
  • one strip 6" wide. You will cut bias strips and yoke interfacings from this (more on that later).
  • One piece the length desired plus 3 1/2".

    Just a few more cuts:
    From the 3" (4") strip, cut 4 pieces to measurement (A) (yoke plus 1 1/4").
    From the 6" piece, cut 3, 2" wide strips on the bias (diagonally). From the scrap that is left, cut 2 more yoke pieces. These will be used as interfacing, which is an inner lining that helps stiffen the piece. You will not see these when the dress is finished.
    From the length piece, for a child, fold the center fold of the fabric to the selvege. Then on the resulting fold (4 thicknesses of fabric), cut a curved piece about an inch deep and about 2" long. For adults, cut a similar shape out of the front and back lengths, out of the selvege edge. (not at the fold).

  • Ok! Let's Sew! No! Let's Prep!

    Fold Strap pieces in half the length and sew, starting at the fold one end, curving toward the long raw edge, and down the long edge in a 1/4" seam. Turn these right side out (a bodkin, sturdy safety pin, or knitting needle is really handy for this!

    Sew diagonal ends of the bias strips to each other (they should "point" in different directions as shown).

    Sew the two selvege edges of your length piece (the dress body) together in a 5/8" seam. I actually use a little deeper than 5/8" so I can cut the very edge off the selvege. Otherwise it often shrinks when pressed or washed, puckering the seam!

    Take your straps, bias strips, length, and 2 yoke pieces to the ironing board. Press straps. Press bias strip seams in one direction, and then press long raw edges of bias strips together to make one long folded piece. Press up a 5/8" seam allowance on one long edge of both yoke pieces. Old Seamstress Trick (not that I am an old seamstress!) If you rub the part to be pressed up with a soft soap (shown here: a thin slice of my dh's handmade soap!), when pressed the soap will stick to itself, making your pressed piece nice and flat! Press the seam to the length piece open, so it lays flat.

    Now Back to the Sewing Machine

    Take a yoke piece that DOES NOT have the edge pressed under. Lay it face up on top of a yoke interfacing piece (one cut from the 6" scrap or any other scrap fabric that won't show through). Lay 2 straps down on top of this, with the raw edges up toward one long yoke piece edge, and pin them 5/8" in from either short end, as shown. Now lay one of your yoke pieces that DOES have a long edge pressed up, face down on top of this stack with the raw edge up by the raw ends of the straps, and the pressed edge away from the raw ends of the straps.

    Sew this piece up one short end, across the long edge with the raw ends of the straps, and down the other short end. You will get a sharper point when this is turned right side out, if you take two TINY stitches diagonally at the corner as you sew. Don't ask me why this works, but it does. Repeat with the other yoke sections and other two straps. Trim seam allowances, holding scissors at an angle as they go through the fabric so the resulting edges are each lisghtly longer than the next one (this is called Grading). Trim a little diagonal corner off. Turn pieces right side out and press.

    Next take your length piece. Sew a bias strip to the right side of the fabric, at the cut-out arcs, having raw edge of bias about 1/4" from the raw edge of the fabric. Do NOT stretch the bias as you sew! Sew about 3/8" from the edge of the bias (which would be the standard garment 5/8" from the edge of the armhole. Trim the seam allowance to a scant 1/4". Turn bias to the inside and stitch close to the folded edge to hem it down. Press.

    Next run a line of Gathering Stitches on each of the front (where the fabric center-fold was) and the back (where the seam is) of your length piece. A gathering stitch is slightly longer than a regular sewing stitch, and stitched at about 1/2" from the edge of the fabric. Really good seamstresses use *2* lines of gathering stitch. LoL. Pin the edge of your back to the free seam-allowance edge of one of your yokes. Remember the other edge is already pressed under. Do not pin that edge! Leave it free! Put the armhole edges of the dress at the outer edges of the yokes. Pull up gathering stitches by pulling the BOBBIN thread. The edge will gather right up. Pin it in several places along the yoke edge. Stitch. Trim seam. Tuck seam up into yoke, covering it with the folded pressed-under edge of the inner yoke. Pin this pressed edge down over seam. Turn the piece over and "stitch in the ditch" to sew down the inner yoke. "Stitch in the ditch" means to slightly spread the seam and sew right where the sewn-together pieces meet. Press. Repeat with dress front and other yoke.

    Press under 1/4" along the bottom edge of the dress or top. It will help if you use the soap trick! Then press up about 2" for your hem. I used 1" on the dress shown. You can top stitch this on the sewing machine, or hand hem if you like. And there you have it! A simple, cool, sundress or top using only a couple simple measurements and about an hour of your time.

    And for me for today, bl-eee-bl-eee-bl-eee th-that's all, Folks!


    Mommab@sbcglobal.net said...

    You are so darn handy!!! I adore it!!! Will have to go to my childrens fabric to make some for summer for a few children!!! Thanks a million!!! Huggs Marion God Bless

    SunshineofAutumnQuilts said...

    wow- I will see if I can get all that to work. LOL. I think my problem with be the chest- but will see. Great instructions though! Thanks...
    I am not at all a dress person- but boy is Mekenzei, she will love this.