Sew much to do, sew little time..

Its FINALLY done!!

I first cut out the basic panels for this simple dress as far back as August 3rd and have since been struggling to find the time to finish it. Various interruptions and annoyances, including sleeping, eating, a full time job, working on weekends and occasions or events with friends have kept me from completing my beloved project. I have had to ration out an hour at a time from busy days to finish what should have taken me a weekend at most.

I’m almost so sick of looking at this fabric, I can hardly stand to wear it anymore! This is not to say I have spent inordinately long hours staring at it – I have simply had it in my possession for several weeks now and am simply bored of it. You see, this is the previously mentioned ‘predetermined’ fabric that I bought for a very specific purpose soon after my first project.

From Sew What

It is a gorgeous lemon yellow seersucker cotton blend with teeny gingham checks that struck me as the epitome of happy shiny summer days when I saw it. Another plus is that it is almost opaque enough not to require lining and while it’s light and airy, it has a natural crispness to it which I quite like.

I knew I wanted to make a simple, almost potato sack like dress so I set about  first cutting out two panels, identical in all measurements and then sewed them together, right sides in, to form one side seam.

From Sew What

I arbitrarily picked a top and bottom half and as I went along, I was careful to leave gaps for side slit pockets. When I reached what would be the bottom of the arm hole, the rest of the seam was left open. For proper finishing, I hemmed the pocket slits and arm hole openings.

From Sew What

My clever scheme to sew a single side seam first was motivated, once again, by wanting to sew in straight lines as much as possible. Once the two panels were joined thusly, I was able to hem the bottom in one fell swoop.

From Sew What

Thereafter I turned my attention to the top edges of the panels. The plan was to hem them wide enough for them to serve as channels for a drawstring or elastic to run through, thus gathering up the neck line, almost toga style. A simple hem stitch would have bunched up and the threads would have scrunched up or hung loose once the drawstring was through and it would not have been strong enough. So, I chose to do a back stitch for a sturdier hold. However, a back stitch looks like a stem stitch on the reverse and so I sewed with a back stitch on the right side of the fabric, very carefully and neatly.

From Sew What

I then sewed up the other seam, once again leaving a pocket slit and armhole opening and the basic structure of the dress was complete.

From Sew What

I then cut out a 5 inch strip of the same fabric, hemmed both horizontal edges and gathered it up to make a ruffle.

From Sew What

The ruffle was then attached to the hem of the dress with a simple back stitch, being careful not to come through the other side. In case you’re wondering why I did not attach this ruffle before doing the second seam – thus allowing me to once again stitch in a straight line – I did not want a repeat of the waist band fiasco with my first skirt and could not be sure that the ruffle would..well..ruffle wide enough if I did in fact do it that way. It all makes sense to me, I promise.

From Sew What

Once the ruffle was on, I had to resolve a long standing debate I was having with myself as to whether I should make an internal drawstring channel, or simply make loops for a lovely sash. The desire for a pop of colour and a smidgen of laziness made me choose the latter. I attached small loops made of navy blue satin ribbon – the same colour the sash was to be – on the top edge of the pocket opening and then sewed that small bit shut, for a nice clean finish.

From Sew What

I then started on the pockets, and while I had a general idea of how to go about it, I did not want to make a mess of them so I looked at various other dresses and pants and fixed on this simple shape for them.

From Sew What

Initially, I was not sure whether to make them from the same fabric or from a white broadcloth, but after a few tests, I settled on the same fabric as white was somewhat visible underneath the yellow material.

Attaching the pockets was simpler than I imagined. I sewed the pieces together, hemmed the top edges for cleanliness and matched the opening of the pocket to the opening I left in the seam of the dress. I then just sewed all around with a blanket stitch till I was pretty sure it wasn’t going anywhere.

From Sew What

By this point the dress was pretty much done except for some finishing touches, the sash and drawstring at the neck line. I lost a few days in this process, firstly because there was MUCH deliberation about a ruffle or lace detail down the front and secondly because I was kept away from my beloved sewing for hours and days at a time in the pesky pursuit of livelihood and rent. I finally gave up after my third attempt at a nice ruffle and just tried the whole thing on to see what it needed.

At this point another important decision was made – what to use as the draw string on the neck line. I had bought some white cord early on, but abandoned that idea when I incorporated the sash. I toyed with the idea of elastic, which would then necessitate sealing up the top edges. I decided against this as the fall of the dress would change for the worse. I finally settled on a thin navy blue ribbon drawstring. This ribbon, bought when I decided on the sash is much sturdier than previously estimated and really holds its own against the weight of the fabric.

From Sew What

Post trial with the ribbon it still needed something – the dress looked too empty. After a few discussions/monologues with and kind suggestions from the manly man, I decided on attaching the same thin navy blue ribbon to the top of the ruffle, to balance out the whole thing and add a little pop. It was a surprisingly painless process, even though I hesitated a great deal at first as the ribbon was so very thin.

From Sew What

The absolute last and final step was stringing the sash through.

From Sew What


From Sew What

I think its super summery and even somewhat cruise-y. I hope to debut it soon on on our annual anniversary harbour cruise – IF I can wait that long!


14 responses to “Sew much to do, sew little time..

  1. Fantastic! It definitely has a maritime feel thanks to the navy ribbon. How did you seal the ends of the sash?

    You do a mean backstitch, BTW. Mine looks like a plate of spaghetti.

  2. Many thanks for the compliments!

    And good question! I forgot to mention, any ‘satin’ ribbon is usually 100% polyester and hence does not burn, but melt. So I usually very carefully run the edge close to a candle flame. Works like a charm. I did this for all ribbons used on this dress.

  3. Wah…! Bravo! Well done! Now… paper patterns! 🙂

  4. I do the same with satin, hence the question. 🙂 It comes out a lot cleaner if you use agarbatti instead of a flame.

  5. I wasn’t sure how it was turning out when I saw the tutorial. But lookie how nice it looks when modeled. The ribbons are a great touch

    • @ educatedtatya – I wouldn’t call ANYTHING I post here a tutorial, but thanks. I was quite happy with the end result!

      @inopiate – Agarbatti is an awesome idea! A controlled flame as opposed to a flickering one! WAH!

  6. WOW! This is so pretty! I love it so much.
    You did such a great job!!!! Fantastic shape and I love the color!!!

  7. Thanks babe! I thought it was nice and summery…now summer is running away!

  8. Thanks hon! I appreciate the compliments!

  9. This business of sewing the backstitch from the right side — an easier option I find is to do a plain length of running stitches and repeat in the reverse direction. Looks like back stitch and is much faster. Just as strong. Can be made stronger if you knot before reversing.

  10. Agreed Sue! But by that point I think my hand was ready to fall off. Hehe!

    Now I have a machine so everything is easier, though I like to hand stitch just to relax sometimes.

    • Tell me about it. I am finishing an over-ambitious dress pattern and find myself aligning all the odd details by hand sewing. The invisible zipper I double-running stitched, just couldn’t figure out how to do it on my machine without having it gape. I’ll leave you the link to the photo when it’s up. 🙂

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