This project is an excerpt from Improv Sewing by Nicole Blum and Debra Immergut and published by Storey Publishing.
This simple tube of fabric is finished with shoulder straps and machine sketching, allowing you show off your shoulders and your artistic talents at the same time.
What you’ll need
1 1/4 yards of cotton jersey
Fusible tear-away or wash-away stabilizer
1 spool each of coordinating and contrasting thread
2 decorative buttons
1. Determine your fit
With a measuring tape, take the following measurements:
Chest: snug around your body, under your arms where the top band of the dress will lie
Waist level: from underarm to waist
Length: underarm to desired hemline (hold the measuring tape at your armpit while stepping on the other end to hold it taut, then note where you’d like the hem to fall)
2. Measure, mark, and cut
Fold the jersey with the right sides together and the straight grain running the length of the dress. Measure, mark, and then cut the following lines through both layers of fabric:
Top edge: Subtract 2″ from the chest measurement, then divide the result in half. Center this line on the fabric.
Sides: Starting at each end of the top edge, draw vertical lines equal to the length measurement. Along these lines, make a mark at the waist level.
Bottom edge: Draw a line connecting the sides, and extending 21/2″ beyond them on either side so the bottom edge is 5″ longer than the top edge.
Flare: Connect each end of the bottom edge line with the waist point. When cutting out the fabric, follow these flared design lines.
Also mark and cut the following:
Top binding: 1″ × 2″ smaller than the top edge measurement (cut on the cross grain)
Straps (cut 2): 4″ × 18″ (cut with the straight grain)
3. Sew the side seams
Straight stretch stitch the side seams with 1/2″ seam allowance.
4. Attach the top binding
Following the instructions in the chapter 4 intro, page 61, use the binding to make a binding loop, joining the ends with a 1/2″ seam.
Pin the binding to the top edge of the dress. Using a small zigzag (we set our stitch width at 3), edgestitch the binding to the dress.
5. Make the straps
Fold one strap in half lengthwise and press. Edgestitch both sides with a zigzag. Press the strap so the seam is in the center and can be positioned on the underside of the strap, when the strap is sewn in place. Repeat for the other strap.
6. Fit the straps
Have the wearer put the dress on and pin one end of a strap in the desired location on the front of the dress with 1″ extending beyond the top edge of the dress. Pin the opposite end of the strap inside the dress in the back (if you are wearing the dress, it’s helpful to have a friend to do this), making sure it hugs the shoulder snugly.
Remove the dress. Measure the distance between the side seam and the strap, and use the measurement to pin the second strap in place on the dress’s opposite side.
With the dress right side out, topstitch each strap in place. Trim away any excess strap length and finish the strap with a zigzag.
Sew decorative buttons onto the front of the straps at the point where they meet the binding.
7. Sketch your design
Cut a piece of stabilizer a little bigger than the area you’d like to decorate. Following the manufacturer’s instructions, fuse it on the wrong side of the dress at the desired location.
With chalk or a vanishing fabric pen, freehand draw a leaf and bud design (ours extends from the front of the dress to the back).
Straight stretch stitch (our stitch length was 2 to 2.5) along the lines using the Sketching with Thread technique (see page 134).
Stitch twice over the leaves and buds, and a few more times over the stem.
Tear away the stabilizer, and then wash the garment to remove any bits and pieces caught between the stitches.
Stitching tip: The stabilizer gives the fabric a bit of added structure, making it easier to draw.
Cutting tip: Feel free to adjust the flare to your liking. For a looser fit, try a bottom edge that’s 8″ wider than the top edge.
Want to go slinky? Omit the flare and make a totally straight tube if you like dresses that accentuate your curves. If you’re lucky, your backside is bigger than the rest of your measurements, so a dress that fits your hips will get pretty snug around your butt, but if you’ve got it, flaunt it!