Monday, June 23, 2014

Sewing a dress

In my 101 in 1,001 list#71 Sew a dress

This one's done!

When I started assembling my list of 101 goals in late 2011 (nearly three years ago now!), I included several sewing projects, and this has been a fun area of learning and growth for me in the past couple of years. I've made quilts and robes and have also gotten into embroidery more. But for some reason, sewing a dress seemed like a much bigger challenge.

Well, I guess I know why it seemed like a bigger challenge: it was, at least for awhile!

A few mishaps unfolded along the way. It all started simply enough: I bought a pattern (McCall's 6744) for a really simple dress that I guess you would call a faux-wrap style. It called for a knit fabric (the kind with a little stretch) and I didn't feel particularly confident about working with knits, so I wanted to start with cotton for this project. I found a pretty print - an ivory cotton fabric with a sort of lavender-gray chevron pattern - and brought it home.

Then I figured out that 1) I'd purchased the wrong size pattern and 2) the pretty chevron fabric was more sheer than I expected. I forged ahead and bought a swath of plain ivory cotton fabric with which I could line the dress later if needed, and then made the adjustments to modify the pattern to my estimated size (I learned along the way that each piece of the pattern is one inch wider or narrower as the size goes up or down). Then I really botched the fabric by making a freehand adjustment that resulted in sized-to-fit shoulders and a waist that wouldn't actually fit my ribcage. Oops! And the other complicating factor was that I was realizing just how tricky it would be to properly line up the chevron pattern in the finished product.

I was in over my head, but that whole process wasn't as arduous as it sounds - I messed it all up (and realized it) pretty quickly, so I still have big scraps of the chevon fabric that I can reuse later. Back to the fabric store I went, in search of a darker fabric with a smaller all-over print. I found a blue cotton fabric with a little (calico?) flower print that I figured would be much easier to manage.

Then I let it sit in my sewing basket for awhile, and all of a sudden this week, I wanted to try again. I started cutting out each piece of fabric for the pattern, a process that went much faster when I didn't have to worry about matching zigzags. I began assembling the bodice and threaded elastic through the shoulders to gather the fabric, and at that point, I cheered a little because I had gotten past the step that had thwarted me the first time. I sewed the skirt's pieces together and then had to pin the bodice and skirt together, which was a little trickier. Then I sewed that together with two seams about one-half inch apart and then threaded more elastic through that section for the waistband. (This step was not unlike what I remember from making pajama shorts in middle school.)

I think this all took about three hours from start to finish. Time was flying by as I got drawn into the project, and by the time I was nearly finished, it was late but I really wanted to complete the last couple of steps.

And here it is! This is my "I can't believe I did this!" face. I mostly like this picture because of the emphatic hand shadow.

And here's my new dress on the hanger:

Is it perfect? No. Absolutely not. Make no mistake: I learned so many lessons through trial and error, and I see things in this dress I'll do differently next time. But I liked being surprised by how proud I felt to finish the dress, be able to put it on, and realize I liked it enough to wear outside my home. I'm happy I put this goal on my list.


  1. Nice work! I'm so impressed that you're teaching yourself. I still have nightmares about matching plaids, so I would have ditched the chevron too. Super cute dress and perfect for summer!

    1. Thanks, Steph! (My eyes widened at the words "matching plaids" and I didn't even get very far at trying to match the chevron!)

  2. OMG> SO adorable! I want to see it in person and then put in my order! I miss you BRB!