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.

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:

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.

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.


Finished! Summer Dress Butterick 5603


Tadaah from the side:
Nice fit eh? Perhaps still a bit too much fabric in the back but it follows the small of my back nicely. It is quite comfortable too!

From the back, also Tadaaah:

For a first dress this is a very nice one. I am glad!

Let’s dance!
trali! trala!

Summer Dress: Charles 2nd prevents finishing…

There were still two problems with the pink flowery dress that still needed to be solved: I had crooked up the neckline and something was amiss where the bodice was attached to the skirt (lots of layers and ugly bulging).

Since discovering I love handstitching I solved the neckline by stitching it by hand.

For the bodice-skirt-problem I unpicked the seams. I opened the seam and pressed it. The pattern says to flip both sides to the top but that looked terrible. I now have one side looking up and one looking down.

In the back I could finish both seams using the lining. Here the lining was long enough to fold it under the seam allowance that was pressed downwards towardds the skirt. I had my sewing machine have a look at it and that was that. The last 3 cm I stitched by hand, making sure I did not have to undo the seam that holds the zipper (and the lining) but still protect the lower part of the seam properly.
The lower part is rolled a bit and kept in place by hand stitches while the lining travels upwards towards the zipper seam, also assisted by some hand stitches. No fraying. I put a pin in it to show you:
Modeled by my lovely assistant Lillepoes who is quite opinionated when not snoring or shedding…

It is really weird, the dress was on the table for just a second. I turn around to get a pin, turn back and there’s a cat on it!

In the front the lining is not long enough to cover the lower part of the seam. So I just folded it under and sewed it to the upper part, protecting that from wear and fraying. I sewed it by hand. It only took one episode of Horrible Histories, a British children’s show about history and an absolute blast.

They have amazing sketches and songs based on modern songs, this is one of my favourites:

Charles the second, King of Bling!

The actors really are amazing, they can take on so many different flavours and personalities. Go look at a clip or better yet watch the series!

For the front part of the dress I’ll have to insert an other solution to keep that seam allowance from fraying. I have opted for binding with a piece of ribbon. I have not thought this through yet…
Here’s a piece of purple satin ribbon (that came with a box of chocolates. Those are THE GOOD RIBBONS!).
It’s not bias band and I have to think about how many lines of stitching this requires. The idea is the edge of the fabric will be caught in the folded ribbon but I don’t want to make it too bulky or stiff.

But can’t think now, have to watch the rest of the series Horrible Histories nr4!

Summer Dress: Still some finishing left.

Here’s the dress, nearly NEARLY finished:

Look at the ridiculous darts I had to put in in the front to have the neck line behave.
Still some details to finish: the neckline did not come out symmetrical. Have to adjust it by hand. Still contemplating if I should loosen the lining for that or not.

Also: when I fastened the lining in the back it made for a nasty thick seam allowance, which I turned upwards as per pattern instructions. It now looks like I’m carrying a sausage around my waist or a lazy cat stretched out. The form fitting against my back is distorted.

So there you are. Still no proper pictures as there are still problems to be solved. I am getting tired of this too so the dress has to take a time out every time I encounter another problem.
But hey, I’ve got the dress here, with me. I’ve found a clothes hanger to hang it on. And my husband is here for another day and he can take a picture, even if I don’t solve the back and the neckline soon. So there will be modelling pictures this weekend!

Summerdress: final adjustments.

Joehoe, I’m back in the city near pins and sewing machine.

I’ve taken out a bit of the length in the back, at the (raised) waist seam. No more blousing effect there.
I’ve inserted small bustdarts at the armpit because there was loose fabric there. For this I had to loosen the lining including the understitching. This was ok and I felt easier loosening it in other places too.
That’s when I inserted some big darts in the front:

it now lays flat. I will pick apart the whole stitching at the top of the frontpanel, cut a nicer line, seam lining and fashion fabric together again and topstitch it again.

In the sides there had to be a little bit of additional shaping. It was a fingers’ width I needed on both sides and only at my waist, not at my ribcage. On one side seam I used the sewing machine. On the other side I used the zipper. I handstitched the fabric and used it to add shaping.
Untitled Untitled
normal people might think I was just cross eyed when keeping the fabric in place but actually it was a bright eyed decision… Whether it’s a good one we’ll see when I wear this dress.

You might remember that I proudly used French seams on the skirt. I have now faced the problem of inserting a zipper is placed in a french seam:

as I handstitched my way down the zipper I brought the two sides together, just below where the zip ends. I sewed it together, all four pieces (2 fashion fabric, 2 zipper tails)
I used what in knitting is called a mattress stitch.

Below that I sewed with my sewing machine, from the inside. I folded the two sides of the fashion fabric twice and stitched them together. The fraying ends are caught in the seam. It’s a Faux French Seam.
Where it transfers to the actual French seam I had nicked the fabric so it would open up and allow for folding the other way around.

in short: I fudged it untill it was secure.


  1. make the neck line in the front beautiful
  2. small additional adjustment at the side seam
  3. attach the lining to the dress around the midrif section
  4. hemming

all in all I can already tell you the fit is very good. It’s much better than in the previous post. When it’s all finished I’ll find someone to take pictures from me in my beautiful Summer Dress πŸ™‚


PS what is the acceptable way of securing the loose threads from the sewing thread? 3 knots and weaving the end under doesn’t sound very ‘couture’ to me…

anybody knows? I’ve got lots of ends to secure, what with all the alterations.

I have a shell! It’s a dress!


I am satisfied with it πŸ™‚

It is not finished yet. It requires some finishing in hand stitching:

  1. zipper and its side seam
  2. the lining of the bodice needs to be tacked down
  3. skirt hem

and it requires some magic I have yet to invent. The neckline has too much fabric at the moment (I redrew the neckline from the original pattern, I wanted it higher):

But look at the fit around my waist!! I have a waist! And the little curve in my back!

At the back of the bodice, where the empress waist connects, there’s a tad too much ease. As you can see in the picture below.
The last minute ‘hunch back alteration’ I did worked beautifully, the bodice lies flat against my back at the top. I’ve altered my pattern block already.

All in all I am happy πŸ™‚ Just a few more things here and there and I will certainly wear it.

I think on a next dress I prefer fabric with a little bit of elasticity. This non-elastic fabric really makes you stand on your toes. Well worth to buy nice, good fabric though. Beautiful stuff. If you are going to pour so much energy and attention into it, you might as well work with the very best you can afford.

fixing the body

Pressing did wonders for the understitching of the bodice. It looks really ‘real’ now!

I closed the side seam and the center back seam. I tried it on and the back stood very wide away from my back. So I altered the pattern, gave it more of a hunch back line (which I seem to have).
In the front there’s something wrong too. Too much fabric at the neck line. I know not of fast solutions for than on so I’ll leave it as is.

The fit under the bust is fine. That’s why I will just tailor the darts from the skirts to the fit of the bodice. I have lost interest in alining the vertical seams exactly. I’ll do the best I can but right now I’d really like to work towards a finished dress!

another thing I noticed when trying on the bodice:
I’ve got stars at inconvenient places….

I think I can still claim innocence though.

Sewing the Dress: on to the bodice

I checked out the skirt and it lines up with the bodice bust darts acceptable. Certainly for a first dress!
The French seams look great!
I haven’t pressed them yet. Neither did I do the darts yet. I plan to use them to fine tune the ease.

I sewed the side seams of the skirt. Stopping halfway on one side to allow for the zipper. This presents with an interesting problem further along the line: how attach a zipper when votre seam est Francais??
I’ll figure that one out once it’s zipper time…

for now: the bodice.
I pressed the lower seam of the lining. Put the right side together and seamed the neckline and the arm holes, keeping track of the 1,5cm seam allowance along the way. Only on the fashion fabric though. The lining is so thin and flimsy than I cut it roughly.

Now I’m here to remember what ‘understitching’ is.
I think it’s when you fold over the stitching -after you’ve trimmed and notched the edges to be enclosed- and then you sew it a bit from the right side but so that the lining doesn’t show. Me, I would use my darning tool to make that crisp fold again but I would make it ‘askew’ so that the fashion fabric is a bit higher than the lining fabric.
I believe I saw an example of understitching in the dress my mother made me:

you see some at the arm hole: the fashion fabric extends beyond the lining, when looking from the wrong side. And some that could be improved in the front: the lining is visible from the right side.

Sewing the Dress: French Seams

The try-out of the French seams in cotton looked very good. Not too bulky.

So handy I did a try-out first because it took a bit of practice to figure out the relation between how wide the seam will be and where to sew.

The gap between the edge of the fabric and my green tape sewing guide is how wide the actual seam is going to be. I will have to cut the fabric even a little smaller than this gap, before folding it.

I started sewing the real fabric! As this is a batic fabric it took a lot of looking and flipping over to determine the right side from the wrong side. But I figured it out. And promptly sewed the left front panel to the right side of the center front panel…
not a darning tool in sight!

So I chose to sew the back panels first, get some more practice at French seams, while my husband picked up a darning tool as he was in the city anyway.

Sewed the first seam of the back panel. Pressed the seam to one side and cut the fabric close to the seam. Scary!
(what a blessing sharp scissors are!)

I then pressed it again and tried to make a neat fold to stitch along. Stitching, using the memory of how narrow the seam is supposed to be:

End result seen from the right side:
it’s a French seam!
I like it. I liked making it and I like the look of it. It’s very neat on the inside. No fraying! (I’m already thinking silk and chiffon and pongΓ©)

I did make a beginners mistake: you see some fraying from the raw egde peeping through. I did not make the seam wide enough at that place or -more probable- I didn’t dare to cut the fabric away so close to the seam.

For the next seam I did not press the seam before cutting the fabric. I found it easier to sew the wrong sides together and then trim directly. Getting more courageous by the minute:
I folded the fabric over and used the darning tool that had by now arrived at my house to make a line in the fabric along it would fold easily:
you see the left side which has already had received a stern pressing with the tip. On the right the seam as is, straight after trimming.
It folded over beautifully, with a crisp fold. I did not use my iron, I just pressed with my fingers.

I took apart the two wrong sewed panels and attached the left one on the left side. For the width of the final seam on the other side of the front panel I laid the dress top close by to get an idea how broad I should make the seam.

you can see the holes that remain from the wrong stitching. It serves as a guide. The finished seam needs to be a little broader so the first stitching of the seam needs to be a little closer to the raw edge. Also: only at the very top needs this line to be so precise in order to match the lines of the bodice.

I stitched it by eye. Now front and back of the skirt are in possession of French seams!

(I forgot to take a final picture of the lining up of the lines -I’m not even sure they do!- I just cut the threads and went to have a sit down and blog about it. By now you have probably figured out that I’m working with brain fog many a day, what with all the silly mistakes I make and things I forget. You’d be correct. It is caused by Adrenal Fatigue and sleep depravation. It’s OK. I’m a stumble bumble bee but I get there eventually)

started sewing my dress

I forgot that metal thing that makes for easy seam allowance at the cabin. Electric tape to the rescue:
seam allowance = 1,5cm

Because I also forgot how smartly structured I wanted to do it and I cannot find it back on this blog -which lacks in both smartness and structure- I am following the Butterick instructions instead.
first off: sew and press darts in the top
Here’s where I started doubting already. When I folded the dart along its centre line, the under sides didn’t line up as you can see here. To the left, one side peeps from under the other one. I was worried that the bottom line that will eventually be attached to the skirt will not have one continious curve.

So I fudged it a bit… made the lines lie more together. By doing this I changed the vertical angle of the bustdart, it now points a bit to the side instead of the apex. Looking back at the picture I see the bottom line would be continious, had I sewn it the way it was intended and is folded here. We’ll see what I’ll end up with instead….

I then sewed the bodice both in fabric and in lining. Of course I sewed the shoulder parts of the lining from the wrong sides. The neat part of the seam is now on the wrong side.
As I also forgot my darning tool at the cabin I decided to view this mistake as a chance to practice a flat fell seam.

trim one side shorter:

fold over and over again. Sew close from the right side.

on the second shoulder I discovered my top thread had escaped the needle. So I threaded it and sewed the seam again. Which is when I discovered the bottom thread had not been carried along.
Which is when I knew I was too tired to go on. Time for chocolate, tea, lying on the couch and doing some simple knitting.

Tomorrow I’ll pick it up again. I’ll include a little trip into town to get a new darning tool. I’m sure I’m going to need it.
(Hey, while I’m there I can buy that seam allowance tool)