Thursday, September 22, 2011

Make It: 4 Seam Maxi Dress

Can we talk about how obsessed with maxi dresses I've become? I could not love them more for their comfort, ease of wear, and simple ability to be dressed up or down with a single accessory. Super versatile, super great. Once again, I've had this fabric for years. I know I got a good price on it at the time but I sure couldn't tell you now what that price was. It's a stretch jersey probably of a polyester nature, definitely not cotton. You could probably make this dress in non-stretch materials but you might need more yardage.

Want to make this dress?

Here we go!

  1. Lay your fabric out flat on the ground.

  2. The width should be 1 1/2 times the widest part of your body, usually your hips. For me, I needed it to be 60 inches wide. (40" x 1.5 = 60") However, I was a few inches short and it didn't matter in the end. It's still loose and flowy. I think I ended up with a 54" wide piece after I trimmed off the selvage.

3. In order to determine the length, you'll need to measure from just above your bust down all the way to the floor. I wanted mine to skim the top of my feet. You also need to add 9 inches to the length for the foldover (You'll see in a minute, your added amount may be more than 9). I'm tall so I think my length was considerable. Something like 68" probably with the additional amount. This step is also a lot easier if you have a buddy to tell you what the number at the bottom of your tape measure reads. If you don't have a buddy, step on the tape and use the number at your foot.

4. Once you've determined the necessary length, lay the fabric wrongside up on the ground. Fold down one end of the width. This will be the top of the dress. It's going to form the tubes for your elastic and will give you an extra layer of coverage around the bust, an added bonus if your fabric is a little thinner than modesty allows. I folded mine up 9 inches, allowing for 1 inch to be turned under at the bottom (so the finished measurement here was 8".) You'll want to measure from just above your bust, where the top of the dress and elastic will go, to just below the bust, where the other elastic tube will sit. I do not have a large chest. If you do, the amount you fold to create this part will be a lot longer than 9 inches.

5. After you've folded this part, turn the bottom under 1 inch and pin. Then measure an inch from the new turned under bottom, and pin again as a guideline. Also, measure an inch down from the top of the dress (sorry no pic of this). These are going to be your elastic channels, one to hold the dress up from the top, one to give a little more shape under the bust. The pinning may seem tedious and unnecessary but in addition to giving you some guidance while sewing, it also helps keep the fabric from slipping while stitching.

6. Now, it's time to start sewing 3 of your 4 seams. If using a stretch fabric, I recommend switching to a ballpoint needle. I used a normal straight stitch. I've read various tips on using stretch stitches but for this dress, I don't think it's necessary. Look at my fancy sketch! Those vertical lines are where you'll stitch. There is a faint light blue line towards the top, stitch there too! I couldn't change the color when I was drawing it.

7. Once you've sewn your elastic channels, fold the dress in half length-wise (like a hotdog bun), right sides together. Sew up the side seam sewing over the first elastic channel (yes, essentially closing it off) but stop just below the top channel. You'll need to rip out a couple stitches of the channel below the bustline so you can put the elastic through it.

8. Elastic time! I used 3/4" woven elastic. They sell non-roll elastic, pick that! It'll help stave off potential twisting. If you can't find it, that's okay. I've got another fix for twisty elastic. Anchor one end of the elastic at the opening with a safety pin. Put a safety pin on the other end as well to help you work through the channels. It helps if there's something more solid to grip. I never measure my elastic. I just thread it through the channel and out the other end, pulling to my desired stretchiness and then cutting it.

9. Once the ends of your elastic have met up on the outside, stitch them together so you don't lose them inside the dress. You should now have perfectly elasticized channels at the top and under the bustline of your dress.

10. Last step! At the top of the dress (where you didn't stitch the side seam up the whole way) tuck in the raw ends of the channel. Then, overlap them a bit so cover up the elastic. Stitch. Not only does this cover the elastic but, stitching the elastic to the dress will help it from twisting. You'll want to stitch the elastic in the dress on the other side as well. That way it'll be anchored on both sides giving it plenty of ease to stretch but keeping it flat within the dress. Do the same with the bust line elastic channel as well. I didn't bother hemming the bottom because the fabric won't unravel and the print is busy enough that it doesn't look unfinished. If you feel you need to hem the bottom, please do so. Although it does turn the dress into a 5 seam maxi. Still, not bad for an hour's work!

Put it on and enjoy!

I'm so pleased with the outcome. This dress is definitely coming to Mexico with me. If I could wear it everyday, I would. I want to make 10 more, but that would involve buying a lot more fabric. It's a vicious sewing cycle.

Did you make this dress? Let me know how it turned out!

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