Carly Rubach

My First Dress

In this week's TCDIY, use the devil-may-care method and plenty of YouTube videos to make your own dress.

By - Sep 16th, 2012 04:00 am
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I’ve always been intimidated at the thought of making my own garments. Patterns can become so complex for a sewing amateur such as myself. So I made the brilliant decision to freehand my own dress pattern, and in the process I learned about the importance of using a pattern created by a professional.

Surprisingly, I still feel pretty okay about wearing a dress that I made in public. I needed to make several alterations as a result of my devil-may-care method, but the result is acceptable, even slightly fashionable.

It took several YouTube video tutorials before I could gain the confidence I needed to start my cutting, cinching and stitching. The sleeves posed the most daunting challenge and trying to create a nice tailored fit proved to be more difficult than my naivete could foresee.

Overall, the dress was relatively simple—it’s no masterpiece by any means but I approached the project as an experiment and tried not to worry too much about being perfect. There were really only four pieces if you don’t include the collar, which I didn’t end up liking anyway. I’m planning to purchase a white lace collar on Etsy to stitch on later.

I highly recommend trying out a freestyle dress if you have some extra fabric handy.

Making a Dress How-to

First, find a dress that you love, the simpler the better. Use chalk to trace the shape of the dress onto your doubled up fabric (you’re cutting out the front and the back at this point). Allow a few extra inches for the seams; I recommend making the dress longer and wider than you might think necessary, and you can always take it in. Try your best to observe the differences between the neck lines and sleeves on the front versus the back. I cut my dress in four pieces to start, so the skirt and top are separate.

Next, you’ll take the front and back parts of the skirt and use an ease stitch or some version of it to create a tailored, gathered look. I was not very strategic about where the gathers gathered, but I recommend that you try to space out the gather folds as evenly as possible. Then, with the right sides of the fabric facing and the bottom part of the top half of your dress and the top of the bottom half of your dress lined up, stitch your pieces together. Repeat with the remaining two dress pieces. Got that?

We move on to the sleeves. Curse you, sleeves! I used a seam ripper to remove a sleeve from an old shirt to get a good idea of the shape that I needed. Trace around the sleeve with your chalk leaving an inch or so for your seams. I found a pretty great tutorial with Psycho Sue that stepped me through the frustrating sleeve process.

Turns out, you have to cinch a portion of the sleeve cap so that it will actually fit into the arm hole and begin to take shape. You’ll repeat the same method used to cinch the waist here. I then began to use an advanced guess-and-check method to figure out how I wanted to the sleeves to lay on my shoulders. I’d try the dress on and pin the sleeves in a bit more in the back or at the top, stitch again, try on again and repeat the process. When sewing the sleeves into the garment, turn the dress inside-out and the sleeve right-side out. Stick the sleeve inside the dress and pin the pieces together around the armhole. You’ll then have to remove the table portion off your sewing machine to you can slip the arm hole over the machine.

Once you are happy with your sleeves, you’ll need to go through and create hems for your neckline, sleeves and skirt. I fold the fabric over twice (about a 1/4″ for each fold), iron and then pin. I create the stitch at the lower part of the fold to be sure that I stitch in all the fabric.

You can then opt to sew in your collar, I had trouble creating smooth, round edges so I plan to remove the collar and replace it with a non-DIY version. Shhhh. Good luck with your garments!

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