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First we had 5 blouses, then 3 skirts and now it’s time for dresses! We’ll have 4 dresses, not at once obviously. You’ll start with a Marilyn Monroe beach dress version! Next week, I will show you how to make a panther print party dress, then magenta city dress. In the end of the summer, as a farewell to the heatwave, we’ll make a dress dyed on ice cubes (I know, it sounds exotic – don’t worry, I’ll explain it all to you later). Let’s start with the beach one:

 

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I wasn’t sure which length to opt for, but Justyna helped me instantly by saying: ‘You can’t have them all short’, but what she probably meant, between the lines, was: ‘C’mon dude, there’s no time for shortening the frock – I’m starting my holidays in 2 hours’ time!’  Can you imagine? She dropped in to have the dress photographed on her, even if she could already feel the see breeze on her skin! That’s what I call a muse! All right, enough talking, especially that I’d like to start my holiday shortly too. I’ll arrange the August posts, and after having worked continuously for the last three months I’m going to be away for a whole month – I’m not even going to keep my mobile on. By now, however, as long as the day is not over – let’s get to work!

 

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Prepare (the usual items ;):

  •  2 m of fabric, preferably a knitted, lightweight fabric, but chiffon is suitable too, or any other lightweight, gossamer fabric. I’m going to use a lightweight sweatshirt knitted fabric made of viscose and polyester blend, grey with vivid orange on the wrong side. Of course, I’m going to make my dress using the wrong side up, which, I think is much more attractive.
  •  Measuring tape, fabric pencil, scissors, drawing pin, threads, pins.
  •  1 m of elasticised tape 2cm wide, or a strap of knitted fabric.

 

Pattern making and fabric cutting:

The dress pattern is based on two squares and is cut on the bias. Fold the fabric in two, so that one  side is 1 m long. Draw a square (1m side) and add a belt along the bottom line – this will be a shoulder strap (I made it 3cm wide, still a part of it will be cut off with an overlock machine) In the spot where the square meets the belt (at the square angle) draw a nice curve – this part will be a neckline, but if you make a dress of a fabric which is not elasticised you should shift this part under the armscye – more details about it later on. Cut it out without any seams allowances. (You can use the remains of the fabric to make a tunic or a skirt for your daughter or, even better, a miniature version of your dress)!

 

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Now fix the end of the measuring tape to a square’s corner with a draw pin and using it as a compasses draw the arch with the 1m radius (as you can see in the photo my measurements weren’t very precise – ugh, that’s how it works with elasticised fabrics). You’ll get two symmetrical elements, as in the picture below.

 

 

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Sewing up:

Secure the straight edges and a shoulder strap with overlock. Make sure you adjust the thread tension properly since these seams are going to be visible.

 

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Sew up the front. Put together the elements right sides inside. Pin together the edges 18cm below the square:

  • if you’re using the knitted fabric pin the edges so that, at the shoulder strap, it transforms into the arch (as in the picture below), thanks to that the neckline will look neater.
  • If you’re using non elasticised fabric pin together the opposite edges, then the arches will be in the armscye.
  • If you have large breasts start sewing up the fabric even lower (20-21cm) so that the cups are larger – see the pictures below.

 

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Sew up the two elements starting at the point where you pinned them (18 – 21 cm from the square’s corner). Since I’m making my dress out of heavier knitted fabric and I made my stitch right along the edge – I used the upper transportation presser foot: this practical kind of foot helps sewing up thick, multi-layered fabrics. It has built-in “teeth” which cooperate with feed dog to help precise feed of the fabric. It is also useful when you sew up slippery and lightweight fabrics or the edges of any knitted fabric. If you sew along the edge only one row of feed god is feeding the fabric which may result in fabric “escaping” the presser foot. To prevent this you can feed the fabric diagonally (see the picture). Of course, we use zig-zag seam to sew up the knitted fabric.

 

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When already sewn up, draw the arch between the edges using the measuring tape, pins and a draw pen. The radius of this arch should be equal the distance between the corner of the square and the spot where the stitching you’ve just made begins. It sets the line where you sew on the tunnel along (you’ll pull the string through this tunnel and crease the excess fabric – this way, you’ll make the cups). With larger breasts, this arch will be situated lower, making the cups much bigger.

 

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Now you need to copy the shape of the arch onto the other half of the dress. Fasten both layers with pins along the arch (pin them densely, one next to another). Turn the dress to the other side – using the pins as the guidelines draw the arch.

 

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When you unfold the dress you’ll get a semicircle (to be precise, in the picture below the dress’ parts are not sewn above the semicircle).

 

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Pin the strap or tape along the arch (I’m using a strap made of thick punto knitted fabric, viscose and nylon blend, because it is very flexible and doesn’t fray).

 

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Sew on the strap along the edge: this seam will be visible on the right side, under the breast. However, it will be creased, so you don’t have to be super precise here.

 

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Fold the dress in two and sew the edge, start sewing up about 18-20 cm below the tape: the further from the tape you start the deeper the back neckline will be. I suggest you try it on first before you decide the depth of the neckline. Once you’ve sewn up these edges the dress is almost ready.

 

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Now secure the bottom-line of the dress  with overlock. If you like things precise, some tips about sewing up things that are cut on the bias: most fabrics, lightweight one specifically and knitted fabric work or stretch along the diagonal line (I’ll tell you more about it in September, when I publish the post on the basics of sewing). In this dress that means that the fabric stretches most along the diagonal of that square out of which you cut the dress. According to the rules of the craft (which I’m not following since I sew for pleasure mainly) items of clothing cut on the bias should rest over the night hanging on the hanger so that they take the final shape thanks to the gravity.  Only then can you finish the bottom line hem. Once the article of clothing has rested you can see that along the diagonal the fabric has loosened and is longer – only now can you cut the bottom line along the straight line and secure the edge with overlock. In this particular dress it’s not necessary since the seam along the front will keep pulling it upwards and once you adjust the shoulder straps’ length  it will cause the bottom-line to go wavy – no worries, after all it’s a beach dress :) After all imperfections have beauty of their own :) That’s it when it comes to an uneven bottom-line.

Let’s continue. Fold the shoulder straps’ ends and stich them on the wrong side and then turn to the right side (hiding the excess fabric inside). In the picture below, the right side is the orange one while the wrong side is the one with more grey colour in it.

 

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Cut out a narrow strap of knitted fabric, secure the edge with overlock if necessary. Pull it at both ends so it rolls inside or prepare some other decorative strap. Draw the strap into the tunnel by means of a safety-pin. Crease the excess fabric at the neckline!

 

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Marilyn’s beach dress is ready!  … TAH-DA! It’s quite … hmm … easy, isn’t?

 

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And in the end, even Justyna is spinning around in the new dress gleaming with happiness – so, keep  dazzling people in the beach with your new dress!

 

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This tutorial was prepared for you by Janek

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