Thursday, August 2, 2012

the obi dress

here's the dress i contributed to the "sewlebrity" series hosted by rach h. at family ever after!



okay, so let’s just get this out of the way RIGHT NOW—despite what rach h. may think or say, i’m NO “sewlebrity”.

i’m just your typical mom of 5 who’s probably got a little bit of ADD and so i jump from one thing to the next fast enough to make your head spin. i love to sew—and so i make the time for it—even at the expense of my children’s regular need to eat and my home’s regular need to be cleaned. (ugh. such annoying time-suckers.)

but it keeps me sane—and a sane mommy is always a good thing. right?
anyway, i’m honored to be here, and i’m sharing a dress i made for my ava. there are a lot of elements to this dress…but “the one-shoulder tie-waist contrast-pocket pleated-skirt dress” just doesn’t really roll off the tongue. so we’ll go with…


the skirt fabric is one of those where the idea for the dress jumped right into my head as soon as i saw the fabric.

obi dress-02_edited-1
wee woodland by keiki for moda + mustard kona cotton + dark brown kona cotton

i love it when that happens.

the final dress only had one change from my original sketch.

obi side by side

when i tried the first half of the bodice on ava for fitting, she asked for it to stay one-shouldered. i was happy to oblige. ;)
and i think it was a good call.

the playfulness of the skirt—with it’s mushrooms and snails and bunnies and llamas…

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is kept from being too babyish by the clean, modern lines of the bodice.

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she is almost 8, after all. ;)

and i love how the contrasting tie on the waist mimics the look of an obi tie on a kimono.

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want to make your own?

supplies (for girls’ size 7/8):
+ 1 yard skirt fabric
+ 1/2 yard each of two coordinating fabrics
+ matching 12” zipper
+ matching thread

we’re going to start by creating a one shouldered bodice pattern from an existing bodice pattern.
trace your bodice pattern onto a piece of freezer paper that’s double the width. along the center edge (where it would say “cut on fold”) fold your paper in half and trace your side seam to make a mark on the opposite side of the paper.

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darken that mark so you can see it, and then connect your lines.

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* you may want to take note of the boobies. if you draw your new neckline at too steep of an angle there may be some unfortunate peekage. so make sure your neckline is high enough to deter any janet jackson moments.

once you’re happy with it, cut it out. you now have your new pattern piece.
cut FOUR from your main bodice fabric (2 for lining, 2 for bodice outsides)

obi dress-07

sew together at shoulder seams, giving you one big lining piece and one big outside piece that look like this:

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press your shoulder seams, then place your lining and outside right sides together, matching necklines and shoulder seams.

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pin and sew the neckline and armhole from edge to edge.

now you should know something—i’m a cheater. a shortcut taker. a professional fudger. i don’t pin, i don’t baste, i don’t even measure if i can get away with skipping it.

but there is one area in which even i NEVER EVER EVER SKIMP:

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that right there is the secret to a garment that looks finished and professional, versus one that looks “home-made”.

ALWAYS clip your curves and corners.
ALWAYS press the living daylights out of every seam.

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now we need to add the brown waistband to the bodice. cut 4 rectangles of fabric the same width as your bodice pieces and whatever length you think looks good. i divided my bodice basically in thirds: 2/3 mustard yellow, 1/3 brown.

sew a brown piece to each section of your bodice, right sides together.

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don’t forget to PRESS!
now it’s time to close up the underarm seam. open up your bodice and match up the front and back pieces, right sides together from the bottom edge up through the armhole and continuing into the lining. sew that in one continuous seam, then CLIP-TURN-PRESS.

make a one inch tie for the waist by cutting a long strip 2 1/2” wide by as long as you need. sew it right sides together with a 1/4” seam allowance and turn it right side out. PRESS.

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i make way more than i think i’ll need and trim it at the final fitting. cut it in half and stitch down one raw edge in the center of the brown waistband at the zipper side opening.

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moving on to the skirt: my daughter is the perfect height for one yard of fabric to make a nice skirt. i simply cut it in half along the length and that gives me a front and back piece.

to make the pockets sketch out a pocket shape on the brown fabric:

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cut out FOUR identical pocket pieces and sew them right sides together onto your skirt pieces, three inches down from the top edge. (one front left, one front right, one back left, one back right)

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press the pockets out to the sides as if your skirt pieces have big ears and match your skirt front and back right sides together, matching top and bottom edges and pocket top and bottom.

sew the first side together from top edge, around the pocket and down to the bottom.


the second side is almost the same, except you’re going to start sewing just above the pocket this time (leaving an opening for the zipper)


CLIP AND PRESS those bad boys—you’re in the home stretch now!

we’re going to attach the skirt and bodice. you can gather the skirt to fit and sew them together if that’s what you’re comfortable with. i chose to do a pleated skirt.

now, you can do a nice even pleat—requiring math and multiplication, division and measuring (shudder). but regular readers of my blog know I DON’T MATH. EVER.
so this is how i do it.
match up and mark 4 spots on your bodice and skirt:
left side, front center, right side, back center

(obviously on one of those sides it’s still open for the zipper. i just match up the edges and pin them)

then i gently pull the bodice and skirt apart to find the center of a space between two pins…

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and pin those two new centers together.
i keep going like that—pulling gently to find the centers, matching up and pinning—all the way around. the sections get progressively smaller…

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and smaller…

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until i can just eyeball the center and stick a pin in.
eventually you have this:

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fairly even pleats pinned all the way around—no calculator (or headache) necessary.
then sew it up—pressing the pleats all in the same direction as you run it through your machine.

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i’ve learned to stitch my bodice and skirt together a few times. ava likes to lean on the skirt and rip it apart. grrr……

to finish up major dress construction you’re going to put in an invisible zipper on your open side seam. for a tutorial you can visit my blog {HERE}. don’t be scared of invisible zippers—believe me when i tell you that they’re EASIER than standard zippers!

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(i did run another line of stitching around my zipper—so it’s not truly “invisible”, but i wanted to make sure the ties didn’t get caught in the zipper)

final touches:
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and finish your tie ends. i just cut them to a good length once ava tried the dress on, folded over twice and stitched back and forth a couple of times.

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and there you have it—your very own…

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or, you know, the obi dress. whichever.

obi dress-35_edited-1obi dress-50_edited-1

rach—thanks SO MUCH for inviting me to be a part of this series! it’s been a blast!
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  1. Love this! I want to make a "big girl" version of this for myself!

    I love the color combinations too.


  2. I so so so so love this dress <3. I live in japan btw

  3. awesome dress. wish I had some little girls to sew for.

    1. thanks! I think it would work for us big girls too though!

  4. If you understitch your bodice facing, it will stay crisper. Also, I'd fit that bodice back---maybe with a dart?--so it doesn't gap. It's a really cute idea, the devil, as my mama always taught me, is in the details.

    1. thanks for the suggestions :) the back actually fits pretty well...think it was the way she's standing in the pics. :)

  5. Love this dress too! You are amazing. I'm your newest follower drooling over your creative genius!

  6. Thanks so much for the wonderful tutorial! I did a modified version over on my blog (and linked to you:)



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