Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Sewing Shift Dresses

      This is my one of my favorite dress styles. It is just so comfy and can be dressed up or down so easily. I always make it with a stretchy type fabric so that it can just be pulled on, and so its simple to sew. This one is made from a double knit. This is a pretty long post, but it really isn't hard. I just took a lot of pictures, to make it as clear as possible. I always sew without a pattern, so these directions can apply to anyone if you know your measurements. All you need to know is the measurement of your widest point, how long you want the dress to be, how long you want the sleeves, and how wide your arm is at the length you want the sleeve.
      Start by cutting your fabric as long as you need it, and as wide plus 2inches. You want the stretch of the fabric to be going width wise.

     Now fold it in half, so it is four layers thick with a fold down the side.

      Now measure down the side (NOT the folded edge) 10 inches and mark it. If you want a more fitted sleeve do 8 or 9 inches.

       Measure across the top 3 1/2 inches and mark it.

      Cut that section out, curving the line between points. This is the arm hole.

       Now measure across the top 3 inches and mark.

     Measure down the fold 4 inches and mark.

        Cut this out, making the line between points a curve.

       This is the neck of the dress. You will want the front to be lower than the back, so cut one layer a little lower.

      I also cut a small wedge shape from off the shoulders. Your shoulders do not go straight across, they slope down. You want the dress to follow the shape of your body as much as possible.

       You can leave it sleeveless or add sleeves. To add sleeves, lay the cut out arm hole on the fold.(fabric should still be folded in fourths.) Stretch out the arm hole so it is a gentle curve and trace it onto the fabric.

       I wanted a short, almost cap sleeve, so I measured over 4 inches. To do a longer sleeve just decide how long you want it and measure over that far.

     I wanted the sleeve to be 12 inches around, so measured up 6 1/2 inches. (the half inch is added in because you will loose some width when sewing)

      Now, cut the sleeve out.

      When you open the sleeves up flat, they should be smoothly curved at the top. You don't want any sharp corners except at the edge.

      Lastly, you need to cut out binding for your sleeve and neckline. You can also just hem them, and not sew on binding. I cut my sleeve binding slightly shorter than the bottom of the sleeve, and twice as wide as I want then result to be. Mine is 6 inches by 4 inches.

       I cut out the neck binding by first measuring the neck of the dress, one side at a time. Stretch out the neck until it is mostly straight and measure. Add the measurements of the front of the dress and the back of the dress. I subtract about 6 inches from that result. If the fabric you are using is very stretchy, you may need to subtract more. You want the neck binding to be shorter than the neckline to draw the neckline in, not longer or it will stretch it out so it is floppy. I cut my binding 2 inches wide, because I wanted the end result to be 1 inch wide.

        Now we get to do the fun part, sew it together! Put the dress wrong sides together and sew the shoulders together first. Then sew the sleeves in like is pictured here.

       I find that it is easiest to sew the sleeve binding on at this point. Fold the binding in half and sew to the edge. It should look like this.

       Now sew down the side of your dress, like so.

      Sew your neck binding just as you did the cuff and hem the bottom of your dress. I like to top stitch around the neckline. I pat it with a hot iron and it helps it lie nice tidy.

      I know this looks dreadfully long, but honestly, you can make one in under two hours. Once you do it, you'll be able to turn out a whole closet full in no time if you wanted. Using this method you can change up the style a bit and achieve whatever look you wish. This is how I made this one as well.

        Sleeveless ones are incredibly fast and easy. I wear them all summer long and love them. If you give it a go, I'd love to see! =)

Philippians 1:6 Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:

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  1. Supper Cute! I haven't sewn a dress for myself since I was in my twenties LOL. I enjoy sewing children cloths, curtains and quilts also crafts.
    Your dress turned out so pretty, you really did a great job.
    Have a sweet day, Elizabeth

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  2. I really like your step by step instruction. i just started sewing (self thought) and this will be my next project. The dress looks really nice.
    Thank you.
    Tina (Hanover, Maryland)

  3. Greetings from the Philippines! Same comment as Tina. So happy to have stumbled on your blog. Great work giving us new sewers detailed instructions! Thanks so much for this! PS..your dresses look super cute! Bonus that its comfy!

  4. Replies
    1. You've probably already made and worn the dress, but just in case somebody else needs to know too, I'd say about 2.5 yards for a knee-length dress (I just made one with this amount), 3 yards if you want long sleeves. Remember to cut carefully if you're using a directional print.

  5. Thank you for the simple, yet chic pattern tutorials. For someone on a very limited budget, this will make my wardrobe needs affordable.

  6. Awesome! love it...its next on my list...thanks fr sharing

  7. Very attractive design and looks very cute while wearing the dresses.
    Shift Dresses

  8. I only have a regular machine. How can i prevent knit fabric from stretching without a serger?

  9. Just gently stretch as you sew using a straight stitch. Then when that is sewed go around with a zig zag stitch.

  10. Wow that is awesome. I want to try something with a no stretch fabric and add a zipper

  11. At the beginning of the instructions you say cut to length and width, fold in half to have to make four layers. Do I cut two pieces then lay one on top of the other, then fold the two layers, giving me four? Sorry to be dense but I'm new to this

  12. Love your dresses. I'm looking forward to making one. Thank you for sharing your tutorial.

  13. Thank you for the instructions! Easy and comfortable for us teachers make this dress perfect! Pearls + dress + cute accessories = perfect day!

  14. Thanks for the tutorial, I will try this and your dress fabric is so fabulous!

  15. i am going to acquire a sewing machine and give this a go. i love your pattern exactly the dress i want to make. also appreciate the step by step instructions. im a bit worried about sewing a stretchy type fabric and thinking to try a cotton fabric first. is the double knit harder to work with?

  16. I also need to know the answer to Nina's question. I guess I'm stupid, but how do you fold your fabric in half to get 4 pieces?

  17. this is very pretty and i love the designs.

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