Thursday, April 25, 2013

Not Safe For Church Dress Tutorial

I have lost over 40 pounds in the past 7 months as you may know if you follow my blog or journey elsewhere on the Internet (like Facebook). While exciting, it has brought up the issue of what to wear, as everything is waaaaaay too big to wear. I am a gifted seamstress, I'd like to think, but I can't really make "big people" clothes yet. I am taking baby steps right now with upcycling already made clothes. Still, these clothes are so ginormous I couldn't upcycle them to usable status for myself!

I was a bit over-confident one day and did leap into a dress from scratch using a blouse (that fits) as a template. It actually turned out alright. It actually didn't have 5 sleeves and make my cutie patooty husband barf (of course, he thinks everything I make is so awesome....too adorable).
This will be a picture-rich post, but I like sewing tutorials with lots of pictures and I would assume many novice sewers like me would agree.
I started off with some math. I didn't know when I was cursing my math teacher under my breath in jr high/high school that someday I would actually be using math to make myself some clothes! Oh well. That's why one has do the math for you (either that, get a calculator....hahaha).
My chest measurement is 36 inches (without "bra augmentation"). I knew this dress would require me to wear one of those flimsy bras that are a staple item for summer dresses, so I didn't take measurements with a fancy push up bra! Because this dress would be gathered around the neckline like a peasant dress, I added 10 inches to that measurement. I chose to do a front bodice/chest panel (rectangle shape) and a back one and join them on the sides. For some reason, this makes clothes fit better or be able to be altered later on if you screw up. Anyway, divide 46 inches by 2 (for the two rectangle bodice pieces) and you get 23 inches. I measured myself from my clavicle or shoulder bone to where my bra band ends. It is 7 inches (I didn't measure across my boobs but the flat part on the side).
If you are still following me, this means I need TWO rectangle pieces of 23 inches by 7 inches. I am using jersey knit. It's a medium weight....close to interlock weight, but still kinda see-thru, so I chose to line it. This meant I actually m ade FOUR panels of the aforementioned measurement. You don't have to line it. This was just my paranoid side coming out! Haha.
I also measured my width around my rib cage as this will be an empire waist dress. That measurement is 29 inches. I wanted the dress to hit my knee. The length from the bottom of my bra band to my knee is 27 inches. My hip measurement is 38 inches but I want this dress to be Aline and be flowy and drape loosely. Therefore, I added 3 inches....for a total of 41 inches in the hip. I am going to be cutting on the bias too for the entire dress. It eats up more fabric that way, but you want stretch so you can actually move and sit in the dress and not look like uncooked biscuit dough wrapped in Saran wrap! haha.
As you see in the above and below pictures, I whipped out my freezer paper (it makes very cheap pattern paper and lasts longer than tissue or flimsy paper!) and drew a line 29 inches across, measured 27 inches down, drew a second line 41 inches across, and then joined the two lines to make a Aline shape bottom skirt that will join with my bodice later on.
Clear as mud? Good.

Lace and sheer is all the rage right now. I am all for fashion but if you have had 6 children over the spans of 16 years, and you are almost 40, chances are you will bring mass mobs to vomit violently if you show too much skin (at least that's my experience). Thus, I am going to add a white lace panel of 3 inches long all the way around the bottom of my bodice in-between the bodice and skirt. This will show the area I actually don't have stretch marks, scars, and other undesirable signatures of unsavory life experiences! I think the rib area is like showing your arm....totally innocent and uncontroversial.
By adding the lace panel, I didn't need 3 inches of the length of my skirt, so I chopped off that part.
These are my two bodice panels (above). To make things easier for me, I just folded over the fabric that had the rectangle measurements so it would be lined. Again, you don't have to do that. :)
I scored a ton of baby lace that's stretchy/elastic-like from an online sale and even though it was meant for my shop, I decided it would look completely awesome on this dress.....and I have loads of it left so that's okay. I am highly allergic to everything so baby lace is a good choice since it's soft! By adding the baby lace along the top hem of my two bodice pieces, I was able to make a casing at the same time for the elastic I would eventually thread through to gather up the neckline. I love two in one sewing steps! My casing is only 1/2 inch....I didn't want a fat, bulky elastic band around my chest. Again, that would irritate my skin, even if enclosed in soft knit! I think that would terrible with lightweight fabric anyway.
 One thing I forgot to mention....ALWAYS use a ballpoint needle on knits and fabrics like silk, rayon, chiffon, etc. Otherwise your regular needle will tear up your pretty fabric. Also, don't be a forgetful dork and return the regular needle to your sewing machine after your project with the ballpoint needle. Other fabrics don't play nice with ballpoint needles. :(
Here are two bodice panels BEFORE elastic is thread through the casing. No, they are not sewn together, i just placed them on top of each other for the picture.
As I said before, my bodice panels are 46 inches wide. And, my empire waist (around my rib cage) is only 29 inches. Thus, I would need to gather my bodice panels at the bottom so they would be that 29 inches measurement (of course, give yourself a seam allowance!). That's what you see gathering foot on my sewing machine is STELLAR. It made this step so fast and simple.

Above, you will see those "peek-a-boo" lace panels I am going to attach to my bodice pieces at the bottom. They measure 29 inches by 3 inches, as I said before.
 Right sides together, I attached the lace panels to the bodice pieces. I DIDN'T top stitch them yet. I will tell you why later. You are welcome to do it now if you like. By the way, the lace I am using isn't as soft as the baby lace, but it doesn't rash me out either. That's always good because no one wants to look like they have a contagious disease all over their trunk!
 This (blurry) picture is showing me threading the 1/2 inch elastic through the top hem of the bodice pieces. I chose to do it later so as to make sure the bodice pieces fit me like I wanted before troubling myself with elastic. I must have tried on this dress a million times before finishing it!
All done with the bodice! I even attached both pieces at the side seams (right sides together).
 Here's another shot of the bodice.....
...and a picture of my 4 1/2 year old who was disappointed I wasn't making something for him. Sorry buddy!
 ....maybe I will get around to making you some do need some in the worst way! (can you tell he has been riding his bike? Poor kid with his German genes gets so ruddy!)
 Here's the bodice attached the skirt panels....from the wrong side.
It's okay for the knit to roll up like that on the edges.....that means you have cut the fabric on the bias and it has lots of stretch and you did everything right!
In fact, many people leave their knit unhemmed because it rolling up is en vogue for many. This was intended or slated for church, so I made a more polished look with lettuce you see above. Lettuce hemming looks so complicated but it's so easy! All you do is jack up the tension on your sewing machine (mine goes from -3 which is very loose tension, to auto which is normal tension, to +3 hyper-steroidal tension. I used +2) and put the stitch length a little higher or longer....however you see it. As you sew, which you do as usual..... back-stitching the first and last stitches too, pull on the knit fabric and it will look like lettuce.....and you don't want it to be like ruffles or gathers, just a flared edge.
I love contrast stitch color....but you may think it's ugly. Do as you wish on your dress. This is a simple dress for even novice seamstresses like me. In fact, this was my FIRST dress and I didn't even have a pattern. I just winged it!

UPDATE: After making the dress, I decided I didn't like the fit of the skirt portion. It fit and it was okay. But it was a little snug despite the stretch. If I were single, it would be hot. But I'm married. So it's not. :P
I chopped off half of the skirt portion where the dress (now more of a tunic!) would go to the bottom of my rear or would hit the bottom of my hips. I then added a generous lace panel that I ruffled and it looks more like a peplum top now. I then added a small lace bow from the same soft baby lace I used around the neckline.
Here's what that ended up looking like....thank you cute, adorable hubby for taking the pics!

As you can see, I also added split, draped sleeves for added was simple really.....two rectangles of 16 inches  by 9 inches, attach them to the bodice (where my bra straps would be) with a three inch seam on both back and front bodice panels so I would have a lot of support....and then after that 3 inches, I cut the rectangles in half for the split. It allowed for an interesting drape effect!

I was informed by a few church members that this dress/top, even with the leggings, wasn't deemed appropriate for church. Oh well. Here's another shirt I made out of silk. I cut circles of the same fabric, burned the edges with a candle to seal the edges so it wouldn't unravel, layered the circles, and viola!  fluffy, lush flowers along the neckline!

I have a feeling that this blouse isn't safe for church either ;P

In unrelated news, I found an AWESOME website for some graphics one can put in their blog and online store. Chances are that you want to update your blog heading graphic...or your online store....but you are having trouble finding the right size one. Maybe you tried to make one on your own and darn! The picture/graphic looks wonky after being shrunk. Ugh. Well, this site has tons of cute stuff and graphics FOR FREE for your shop, website, whatever.
Check it out.....Sweetly Scrapped Art.....this is her store and she has a blog too!


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks mom! And Randy adores both on me! He has such huge faith in me and my business!