Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Tutorial: Sweet Summer Dress

You can make this for any sized little girl. (I've made it as small as 4 months.) I also have a white under-dress that I made to go with these. (I purchased the pattern from here, it is called the Lulu {Peasant Style Top Or Dress}.)

You also can make the straps: spaghetti, narrow, thick, or from ric rac or ribbon!

 Or you could also make it a tunic or top!

 Either way...when you are are going to have one sweet little dress.

All you need are a few measurements to get started. (My measurements are in blue an for a tall 9 - 12 month old.)

1. Length. Since this dress has straps, just measure from under her arm to desired length. (For a tunic or top, it will just be shorter.)
Then add 2". This allows for the hem and folding under the raw edge at the top.)
Final Length Measurement: 16"

2. Chest Measurement #1. Measure around her chest.
Then add 1" for seam allowances, which will be 1/2".
Final Chest Measurement #1 : 19.5"

You can also measure really quick on your girl how far you want the shirring to come down. This will be helpful in step 13.

How much fabric? Purchase yardage that goes with your length measurement. ex: For a dress that measures 18" long (including hems) get at least 1/2 yard. You can use the Yardage Card as a guide to help you. I like to get a 1/8 - 1/4 extra to account for shrinking that can occur during prewashing/drying.  (I ALWAYS wash/dry and press my fabrics before I make clothing.) However, some of my favorite dresses I've made like this have come from the remnant rack and there is only 18" so that is what I use.

Just put the length and chest measurement #1 together. Now cut two pieces of fabric to this size.

Pictured are two dress pieces and thick strap pieces.

Depends on what type you would like.

Spaghetti Straps 
I used this tutorial.

Narrow Straps 
Size of Dress          Cut Two Pieces
NB - 12 months              2.5" x 11"
18 months - 24 months   3" x 13"

Thick Straps
Size of Dress                   Cut Two Pieces
NB - 12 months              4" x 11"
18 months - 24 months   4.5" x 13"

Ribbon or Ric Rac
Size of Dress                  Cut Four Lengths & Seal the Ends

NB - 12 months              10"
18 months - 24 months   12"

Note for spaghetti or ribbon/ric rac straps: I like to always make my straps longer, the measurements give room for that. Once I am done, I try the dress on my girl, tie straps in place then cut to the appropriate length. Then you can remove the dress and seal the ends once more.

Note: I use a serger on my dresses. However, I gave measurements for making a dress WITHOUT one. When folding your raw edges under, just repeat to cover your raw edges. You will see me only doing it once. To finish exposed raw edges, just zig zag stitch close to the raw edge.

1. Place dress pieces right sides together. Sew down the length sides, the 16" sides in my case. Press seams. (Zig zag side seams to finish.)

2. Turn under 1/4" from the top edge and press. Turn under 1/4" again and press.

3. Turn under 3/4" from the bottom edge and press. Turn under 3/4" again and press.

4. For thick or narrow straps turn under 1/4" on all sides and press. Repeat. (Do the ends first then the sides.) Top stitch around the entire strap about 1/8" from the edge.

5. Time to do a little shirring.

For more detailed directions check out this tutorial

Remove the regular thread from the bobbin and replace with the elastic thread bobbin. Change your machine settings for shirring. Line up the INSIDE edge of your presser foot with the top stitching of the strap. Hold down the tails of the threads and start sewing. Backstitch several times to secure the elastic thread. Continue shirring and backstitch when you get to the end. Repeat for other side and other strap. (For the narrow strap, I just did one row of shirring.)

6.  For thicker strap, do one more row of shirring. This time line up the INSIDE edge of your presser foot with the row of shirring you just did. Shirr as you did in step 5.

7.  Now shrink or snich up the straps by steaming with your iron or spraying it with water then ironing.  The top strap is before and the bottom is after.

 8. Pin the straps in place. You may need to measure where the straps will fall on your dress. I usually place mine about 3.5" - 4.5" in from the side seams. (Yes you still haven't top stitched around the top yet.)

9. Remove the elastic thread and replace with regular thread. CHANGE YOUR MACHINE SETTINGS BACK TO THE REGULAR SETTINGS. :)

10. Beginning from a side seam, top stitch the top edge of the dress about a 1/8" from the edge.  There is no front or back to this dress, but I like to mark one side as the back. I just cut a piece of ribbon, fold it in half and sew it under the top edge as I am top stitching. You will be top stitching and securing your straps in place at the same time.

11. For the bottom edge, top stitch about 1/2' from the edge. This gives it a nice thick/wide hem. I love thick/wide hems.  At this point your dress should look something like this:

12. We are almost done. Remove your thread from the bobbin and replace with elastic thread. (Sorry to make you do it twice!) Set your machine settings for shirring.

13. This time you will do the same process you did for the straps. Except this time line up the OUTSIDE edge of your presser foot with the top edge of the dress. Start shirring at a side seam. Hold down your thread tails and back stitch at the beginning and end.  After the first row, just line up the OUTSIDE edge of your presser foot with the previous line of shirring. I do about 5 - 6 rows for my 9 - 12 month dresses. (You can also measure really quick on your girl how far you want the shirring to come down on this dress.)

14. When you are done your dress will look something like this:
(before steaming with an iron)

15. After.

Done. So sweet!!! Let me know if you try it out!!!!


  1. Thank you for sharing
    I made one with spaghetti straps, so your tutorial about thick straps is a great find for me :)


  2. Thanks for sharing your tutorial! I just love all of your creations! One question--are you using the complete width of the fabric for the dress? Or measuring your little girl and cutting some of the width?


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