Self drafted sleeveless Summer Dress

A simple Summer Dress based on the one in the previous post: a shift dress with some shaping in both the side seams and the back. Pockets. And I did a new thing to add some shaping in the front: I gathered under the breasts with some elastic and two buttons to keep it in place.
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two long darts in the back, they’re more like princess lines. (one still wonky on this picture, I unpicked it and redid it)

To add some shaping to the front, to prevent “tent like appearance” I gathered some of the fabric right under each breast.
There’s a horizontal dart running across the front panel, it angles upwards near the sides (but not on the first picture, this sat awful on my body, I remedied it after the picture).
I threaded a double thread of thin elastic through the outer most 20 centimeters of this dart.
I gathered the elastic and secured it with a button on each side. So 4 buttons for the whole dress.
Zomerjurk met zakken en soort van empire waist line

Zomerjurk met zakken en soort van empire waist line

The buttons where first put in to anchor the elastic while I could still adjust it. Then I thought: why not keep the buttons?

It follows my own body shape: fairly straight outlines but quite curvy when seen from the sides.

(the folds in the lower part of the side seam are caused by the pocket)

Edges are bound of with a biais band that I found that matches the fabric very nicely:
Untitled

Here’s the solution I tried for biais band and getting it to sit right and being able to give it nice top stitching while securing the back at the same time.
Start from the wrong side. DON’T SEW ON THE FOLDED LINE.
Instead sew somewhere in the middle of the piece between the fold and the edge of the binding band:
Zomerjurk met zakken en soort van empire waist line
This step is meant to secure the band to the fabric.
Next you fold the biais band like it’s supposed to and you stitch very close to the edge, from the right side. If the band is folded properly it will catch the back side close at the edge too. The back side will not slip because it’s already secured in place.

For the hem I used my antique tool to keep the same distance all around. Fold under and fold under again. The second time I used matching coloured thread. I’ve folded the fabric so you can see the end result.
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I like neat topstitching so much, I tried it on the bust dart. I put on the dress and determined where and how it should be. Then I just pinned it down and stitched very careful.
Zomerjurk met zakken en soort van empire waist line
A top stitched bust dart.
It was prompted because I tried on the dress, determined where the dart ought to be and then had difficulty transferring that information to the inside of the dress and stitch it there.

An alternative is probably to put on the dress inside out and determine where the dart should be.

French seams. Including the pockets.
Zomerjurk met zakken en soort van empire waist line

And to end with the beginning: this is how I cut the fabric. I used the green dress as a template. Added a generous seam allowance along the sides for French seams. Added no seam allowance along the arm holes because I knew I was going to bind them in biais band.
Again with a brushy reminder to cut pockets.
Zomerjurk met zakken en soort van empire waist line
When I sewed the side seams and tried it on for fit I had to take out nearly all the curvyness: at the bust and at the hem. I had weird “bingo wings” flapping at the side seams there.

Bantam dress in linen.

Finished:
Started as Bantam shift dress.
backside:
Started as Bantam shift dress.

Two days ago I managed to prepare for yesterday’s sewing:

  • measurements of dress: bust 106; waist 98; hip 106 cm. Backpanel perhaps a bit less wide. Use green cotton shift dress as a template.
  • cut pockets right onto the panels
  • in the evening I made 8 m of biais band, following this tutorial that merely visualises The Dread Pirate Rodgers’ genius.

 
Making biaisband by hand

Yesterday morning I started with inspecting the biais band and fixing the last details.
Then I read through the pattern for Bantam Dress carefully, it’s in Merchant & Mills Workbook.
1. staystitching
2. hem
3. French seams
4. bind the edges
Oh how I love that measurements are in centimetres! Instructions are very clear, both in text and image. I especially appreciate that reasons are given for directions.
I live so much better when I understand the why.

Planned modifications: altered outline of the pattern pieces (add some shaping, a different neckline because I like my bra bands covered and add pockets); sew some back darts after stay stitching and before hem.

Then I read this page about sewing with linen written by Carolyn from Sewing Fanatic
– remember to press linen with a cloth, otherwise it will shine.

CUTTING
I folded the fabric twice so the sideseams would be mirrors. I took the bust measurements (106 cm) as a guide. The fabric is four layers and 51,5 cm wide + a little extra for seam allowance.
Started as Bantam shift dress.

I put an odd item at the point where I have to stop following the template and have to cut a pocket.
Started as Bantam shift dress.
Started as Bantam shift dress.

Two panels cut. Only room for pocket on one side.
Started as Bantam shift dress.

STAYSTITCHING
Started as Bantam shift dress.

PUT IN DARTS in the back. Freehand (after measuring and marking important points with red pins)
Started as Bantam shift dress.

CHECKING MEASUREMENTS before putting in FRENCH SEAMS. I have 1 cm seam allowance. That’s not much.
I pin precisely. Because I have cut precisely I can probably sew the two 0,5 cm seams.
Started as Bantam shift dress.

FIRST PART FRENCH SEAM. Following the last steps of Deborag Moebes’ tutorial about the pocket.
Started as Bantam shift dress.
trim where necessary and clip corners
Started as Bantam shift dress.

At the bottom of the side seams I leave a vent. I fold the edge under and again.
Started as Bantam shift dress.

FOLD HEM UNDER. First part. The fabric is already starting to fray, even though I do not handle it much.

PRESS ALL THE SEAMS. Trim and grade where neccessary.
Started as Bantam shift dress.

LAST PART FRENCH SEAM and HEM.
This happens so often with my French seams: bristles escaping from the finished seams. I ought to take my final seam allowance a little better. Or trim better before hand.
It’s because I work on an antique foot treadle machine: I can work slow and precise. That lures me towards too small a seam.
Started as Bantam shift dress.

SHOULDER SEAM and try it on for FIT
Ugh. Way too tent like. I’ll shorten the shoulder straps. Add more dart in the back. And a small dart at the bust because the armhole is flaring unflattering. The pocket is too deep, I’ll stitch it smaller (but won’t cut away the excess fabric because it lays nice and flat now).

I do get that free flowing feeling that shift dresses provide. I feel elegant and fluid.

Now I’ve amended the darts in the back, see how much extra I needed to take them in, I pointed both stitch lines out with my tools:
Started as Bantam shift dress.
These are not darts anymore, they are princess lines. They could even go deeper but I’m worried it will make the waist too small and I won’t be able to slip the dress over my bust.

BINDING neck- and armholes.
2 helpful tutorials on sewing bias binding by The Haby Goddess.
Make sure you catch the back.
Follow the curve.
Victorypatterns.com shows how important pressing is.

pinning the biais band around the neck hole. It’s very tempting to just stitch it on in one go. But this step is meant to determine the length and to close the loop.
For sewing on I want to press it properly, so it will lay flat.
Started as Bantam shift dress.

This is how far I got yesterday. All done except for the second arm hole. I just finished binding that.
How fast a finishing with biais band is! I really like that I made my own.

I still don’t understand biais band though. You cannot stitch in the fold of the back and then turn it over and expect the front to catch the back, if you like neat stitch lines close to the edge. Quilters promote to “stitch in the ditch” but how that catches both sides of the band is still a mystery to me.

I tried to solve it in the neckline with two lines but it makes the finishing look T-shirt like. Oh well.
Started as Bantam shift dress.

The split at the sides. Maximum usability.
Started as Bantam shift dress.

I still need to finish it properly: tuck away loose threads and give it one more press. But pretty soon the heat will be here so I’m slipping it on instead and enjoy my new Summer dress!

Shift dress based on Bantam dress
Shift dress based on Bantam dress

The measurements work really well, I only have to raise my arms and the dress glides right over my body. It wears very comfortable too, no need to tuck in my stomach (or keep a good posture… shift dresses might not be good for humanity after all)
I still look fatter than I am in it but who cares, you’re meant to move in a dress like this and the movement will flatter your body shape.

I’m really glad with the pocket (keeping earplugs and cortisone pills handy) and my alterations. It wears so pleasant!
The fabric is very cool too. I wonder if this is actually linen… it doesn’t wrinkle much. Was I a gullible costumer?

Dress = a tube + shirring + shoulderstraps

I’m sewing a simple dress to wear under this knitted “overgooier”, pinafore:

This knitted tunic is quite heavy, even though it’s spun in the airiest of spinning techniques: Long Draw. It’s also warm.
It’s fitting in the back, follwoing that lower back curve I like to show off. So it needs a dress under it that is fitted there too.

The idea was to take a tube of 100cm in circumference, seeing as my hips and my bust both like this measurement in a dress, it’s me + some wearing ease.
Add shaping by way of shirring which is sewing elastic thread onto the fabric. A kind of mock smocking. This bypasses the need for a zipper which is good because the fabric is very light: cotton batiste. Light fabric = French seams and a fine rolled hem.
Cut holes for head and arms and treat them well. Voilá!

Dress from a tube shaped with shirring
(arm holes still need to be treated)

Sewing with elastic thread is easy! Just wind it onto the bobbin and loosen the tension a bit.
I used this tutorial amongst others:
http://www.makeit-loveit.com/2011/11/sewing-tip-shirringsmocking-with-elastic-thread.html

Beautiful fine hem (that’s the tip of my embroidery scissors, for measurement) and French Seam:
Dress from a tube shaped with shirring

I bound the neck hole with satin biais band, which follows curves and is soft enough for next to skin wear (opposite to cotton biais band):
Dress from a tube shaped with shirring

But I’m having a little trouble: the neckline stands up. Somehow the biais band has not enough width on the outer curve to lay flat. And the fabric is too light to stretch it.
It’s a common problem.

BIAS BAND? BIAIS BAND? OR BAIS BAND?
Certainly not “bais band” because that would be a group of musicians from one of the four cities in the word called Bais or a troupe singing in Bai, the Tibeto-Burman language spoken in the Dali region of Yunnan.

Still, “bais band” is a common spelling mistake over here. It’s comes from the same faulty logic that makes people call their son Brian but make them write their name as “brain”…

“Bias band” and “Biais band” mean the same thing: something going diagonally across the grain of fabric. Bias band is English, Biais band is French.
Since in my country we have the French pronounciation for the stuff, “Bee-yay”, I’m going with writing “biais band”.
Actually, I don’t know how English folk pronounce their band, do you say “bias”= “Bye-ess” or “Bee-yay”? I shall have a listen on the next round of the British Sewing Bee.

Back to my dress. I used the biais band as a facing, following these tutorials:
http://sewoverit.co.uk/ultimate-shift-dress-binding-armholes-with-bias-binding/
http://grainlinestudio.com/2012/02/15/sewing-tutorial-getting-flat-bias-necklines/
http://whoeverhasthemostfabric.blogspot.nl/2012/06/how-to-use-bias-binding-to-face-armhole.html

conclusions:
– biais band is excellent for sheer fabrics
– a neckline needs stabilizing and hem treatment, biais band is good for both.
– it automatically involves staystitching which is a good thing
– some advice to clip the band before you turn it under.

Why my band stands up I have not figured out yet. It may be too wide for that curve.
Cutting it into half would solve that problem. For now I just clipped it in a bit at the worst places and will just wear this dress and avoid any Sewing Police that comes in sight 😉

I made a study dress first, btw, and it did not have its bands turn hooray. Well, not much now that I look at it closely:
Dress from a tube shaped with shirring
(the neck line still needs finishing)

It’s really nice to be able to take a piece of cloth, sew it into a tube and make a dress from it!
It feels like sewing is not a big thing and is very logical. I like that.
A next dress I’ll use facings again, I like those too. I found some excellent video tutorials how to attach facings to the top halves, with square necklines: FashionSewingBlogTV.

This cloth is batik and had a nice looking edge. I chose to wear it at the front. (yay for french seams!)
Dress from a tube shaped with shirring