Thursday, June 27, 2013

easy as vintage pie

a couple of months ago melly of the amazing melly sews asked if i would join in the fun of her 30 days of sundresses again this year—and of course i said YES! (SERIOUSLY—the girl is ah-mazing. from her pattern making and publishing, to her techie tutorials and drafting services and sewing abilities and series coordinating…melly, you make me want to be a better person.)

maybe you remember my offering from last year—the lettuce hem maxi dress. it was easy enough…but i wondered if i could do something even easier this time around!


well looky here. an even easier sundress. and i think i may like it even better than last years (which, as a sidepoint—also the last time i sewed for myself i believe.shameful.)


okay, so a lot of us busty gals cry about knits. i know i do! those cute woven shirtdresses are a serious no-go when you’re bigger than a b-cup. but the truth is that knits are a chesty chicks BFF. it’s approximately one bazillion times easier to make something that fits you from knit than woven materials. and if you’re starting with an already made tank? two bazillion times ;)


so, that’s what i did. i started with a basic tank. but when it comes to me + dresses + modesty i feel neck showing + shoulders = no bueno. it’s kind of a one or the other thing. why? i dunno. just how i feel. shoulders + neck = hussy. so i hacked off the bottom of my tank and used it to fill in the neck, creating an asymmetrical collar thingy. then i added a new waistband, which i shirred with elastic thread in the back, and a full skirt with pockets. it slips on over my head—no zippers or buttons to worry about, and i can wear it with or without the belt.

basically…i kind of love it.

now of course, as usual, i wanted to take nice bright photos and work up a photographed step by step tutorial…nope. with five kiddos home all day for summer break it’s just not happening. all the sewing is happening at night.


and all the finished-product-picture-taking is occurring in the rain. oops.

so i made the executive decision to break out the old drawing skillzzz for this tutorial, which i believe may turn out to be infinitely better. for o1) now i can just sew and take notes and go illustrate later, making the sewing process faster and more enjoyable for moi, and (possibly more importantly) o2) i can illustrate myself with the pouty lips and long luscious eyelashes i’ve always wanted. kiss, kiss. mwah.imagelets get serious: this is crazy stupid easy. from start to finish, with no clear plan (just a vague idea), and taking notes as i went—this took me about 2 1/2 hours.

one tank top
2 yards of any kind of matching fabric
coordinating thread and elastic thread
optional: buttons for top and a belt if ya wanna.


i used a red $4 tank from old navy, and this super soft “good fortune” by kate spain for moda that i’ve been hoarding for oooh…maybe a year or so! this could easily be modified using a tank with sleeves if you want even more coverage. and this would translate easily into a girl’s dress too!


* i use a 1/2” seam allowance whenever it matters.

slip on your tank and mark with a pin or fabric marker a point under your bust. don’t stretch the tank, just mark where it naturally settles.


REMOVE THE TANK before proceeding. <---super important

1/2” below your mark cut the tank off in a straight line.


not this crazy wavy line i drew. not sure why i did that.

cut off the hem of the tank also. the hem is lovely, but we don’t need it. discard it. or, ummm…make a bow for your cat.


waste not, want not.

take that middle section of your tank and cut it open at one side seam, trimming off the seam/stitching from the area.


refold it long ways, right sides together, and stitch the short ends closed. clip the corners and turn it right side out. give it a press. this is now your collar piece.

to attach it to the tank top—start about 1/4 of the way up on one side of the neckline. stretch and pin the new collar piece, right sides together, raw edge of collar to neck of shirt, all the way arouuunnnd the collar, back where you started, and overlapping a bit.

i found it easier to pin the beginning, pin the end (overlapping where i began by about 2”) and then stretch and ease the rest of the neckline/collar pieces together.


sew them together with a stretch stitch or small zigzag. flip the collar up into position, press the seam allowance down and top stitch around the edge.image

i tried it on at this point and fiddled with the collar a bit. once i got it laying how i wanted i tacked it in place.

now the waistband:

measure just under your bust.

now take a realllly, REALLY deep breath and check the measurement again.
divide that number in half, add 1” and that’s the length of the front half of your waistband.
that number in half plus 6” is the length of the back half of your waistband.

that 6” you’re adding is to give you the space you need to slip the dress off and on. if your bust to underbust measurements are significantly large (and i mean really, REALLY large. because mine is pretty large. so you must be a boobie monster)  you may need to increase it a smidge. i can wiggle myself into this—it’s not loose, but i’m not worried about busting stitches—and i have about a 7” difference between the fullest part of my bust vs. just under my bust.

i made my waistband 6” high, making it about 5” finished size. i kind of wish i had done it at 5”, giving me 4” finished size. look in the mirror with your tape measure and see what you think looks best.


so let’s say you measure 30” around just under your bust. then you take a deeep breath and it’s 32”. you’d cut one piece at 17”x6” (half + 1”)  and one piece 22”x6” (half + 6”). got it?

save yourself some trouble later and mark the center of each waistband piece, top and bottom. just fold it in half and put a little snip in.

now, we shirr.

wind the elastic thread on your bobbin. why yes, i do put my bobbin on my machine and hold the thread in my hand and wind it that way. most people say to wind it by hand. i’m a rebel. plus i’m impatient. ain’t nobody got time for dat. if you need more help on sewing with elastic thread, there are good references HERE and HERE.

sew lines of shirring across the length of your longer waistband piece. i did 10 rows of shirring spaced approx. 3/8 of an inch apart. that gave me about 3/4" seam allowance top and bottom.


then sew your waistband pieces together at the side seams, right sides together.


hmmm…sew at side seams. possible sewing blog name?

now you’re going to sew your waistband to your top. match up the side seams and the center front and center back (remember those little snips i told you to put in?)

you’ll probably have to ease the tank into the front a bit, and ease the waist band into the tank back a bit. remember: you want to attach the tank top ABOVE the first row of shirring! you want the tank and the waistband to all stretch when you’re putting the dress on!image

press your seam allowance up and top stitch. use a stretch stitch or a long straight stitch and gently stretch the fabric as you do this.imageSKIRT
cut two pieces of fabric: width of fabric x whatever length you want plus about 3” for  hem and seam allowance. better to go a little longer—you can always hem it shorter but it’s harder to add fabric back on. i cut my pieces 27” long.

again—mark the center of your back and front skirt pieces with a small snip.

if you want pockets cut out 4 pocket pieces also. what shape are pocket pieces? glad you asked. go HERE to see my instructions on pockets.imagesew your pocket pieces to your skirt, and your skirt sides together. run a gathering stitch around the top of the skirt.

i like splitting my gathering stiches into 4 sections—side seam to front center, then to the other side, then side to back center, and back center to the other side. i find it’s easier to control my gathering if it’s divided up a little more.imageonce your skirt is gathered to the same size as your top, fit them right sides together, lining up your center marks and side seams.


sew the skirt and top together. remember to sew the skirt to the waistband in the back BELOW the last row of shirring, so the skirt will stretch when you slip your dress on.
i generally do at least two rows of stitching on the waist, just for safety’s sake ;)
press your seam allowance down, and finish it off however you desire (pinking shears, overlock, leave it be…whatever floats your boat.)

imagelast steps: hem that bad boy and give it a final press. i do a 1/4” turn up and press, then a 2” turn up and stitch down so there’s no raw edges.
i put two buttons on the collar just for looks, but that’s totally optional.

thus concludes your sundress tutorial, as illustrated by googiemomma. i’m available for commission illustration work, fyi.

stick a fork in it cause that trash is done.
maybe not a fork. that’s weird. plus you did a lot of hard work. bare minimum: high five yourself.

i didn’t initially intend for this to have such a vintage look. but i guess a full-skirted sundress just kind of gravitates towards a vintage look. i don’t mind..add a big high sock bun and red lips for days and there you have it: one super simple sundress.




i am yelling at myself: STAND UP STRAIGHT!!!


sorry for the wonky colors in these pics—my camera was very unhappy with the bright reds + dull grey bricks + overcast skies. and it literally started pouring as soon as we got out of the car. as you can see in the above shot.

one last sidepoint: i had another spot in mind for photos, but ran out of time in the morning and didn’t get to go until after my kiddo’s dentist appointments (yes, i went to the dentist like this. i felt so 50’s housewifey). and by the time we left elliot was an hour late for her nap and the meltdown clock was ticking. so we went right across the street to the now-empty old walmart building. i thought the grey bricks and green grass would be cool.
well, i was right…the backdrop was fine. HOWEVER. i think we found the local drunk hangout, because the smell of pee was so unbelievably overwhelming that it was all we could do to get these quick shots before taking off. it was TERRIBLE.

which is also why i have to cut my face off in most of these shots. it’s me, throwing up in my mouth. blerg.

MELLY—thanks so much for letting me join the SUMMER SUNDRESS SERIES again! it’s so much fun! all you readers—have you checked out all the other awesome sundress action happening over there? you should!!

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  1. Thank you! This is brilliant. I've been looking for something easy, comfortable, and casual-cute to wear. I can't wait to try it. Love your humor.

  2. I love it!! I posted on Craft Gossip with a link to your tutorial:

  3. Finally a sundress tutorial for someone who is not a stick! I'm arm conscious so I think I'll make mine with a t-shirt, but I love it. Thank you so much.

    1. I kind of wished I had gone with a t after I started. I'd love to see your finished product!!

  4. This is awesome and you are cracking me up. I am your newest follower, us busty girls need to stick together. Love it.

    1. busty gals unite! what should our secret handshake be? ;) thanks!

  5. Fan-Flippin-Tastic!! I totally agree with Terri Sue, I just happened upon your blog this AM and I'm lovin' it :)

    1. sooo...I'm the McDonald's of the blog world? ;D heehee thanks!


    1. whoa. busty bottomed too? this dress is made for you!

  7. You are awesome, thanks for participating and cracking me up! PS - two words for nightime tutorial photos - daylight bulb. I picked up a 4 pack of those puppies at Home Depot and my night tutorials on the white background look a whole lot better.

    1. GENIUS! you're like the wind beneath my wings, melly. thanks again!!!

  8. Gorgeous! Just found you via craft gossip... off to checkout the rest of your blog now ;-)

  9. Love it! Wish my sewing machine could handle the whole elastic thread thing :(

    1. no go? bet you have the dreaded brother...:(

  10. Love it! I'm going to raid my fabric stash right now :) Fab pics! Thank you for sharing x

    Best wishes
    Jane x

  11. I love this and think you look great. I am very pear shaped in that there's no way I can wear a sheath dress - LOL - bottom half is so much bigger than my top, so the reason I really like this dress is not only the full skirt but also the collar. I think for me anyway it might give more weight to my top half. Is there any reason this wouldn't work for an AA cup woman? Thanks for the tute!

    1. none that I can think of. just start with whatever sized tank/tee you'd normally wear and go from there. you should have a nice fitting top and a full skirt on the bottom!

  12. what a great tutorial - and I've just got some fabric for me!! I don't often make for myself - but this is fabulous. I'm not terribly busty, but very hippy and this is just the right cut for me. Thanks so much for sharing xx

    1. glad you like it! thank you so much, and I'd love to see the finished dress!

  13. Cute! The dress is lovely, too. ;)

    I particularly love that you're making a total Gigi face in that final pic. Adorable!

    1. haha! they do have at least *some* of my genes, right?

  14. Cool tutorial! I love the outcome. Just to clarify, the waistband is cut out of the skirt fabric, correct? I thought so, looking at the photos, but just wanted to clarify. I think I'm going to make one of these for myself this weekend!

    1. yes ma'am! made the waistband from the same material as the skirt. I'd love to see your dress!

  15. I want to make this like yesterday BUT I'm afraid of the fit after baby comes lol. Darn wanting to make myself a dress while 6 months pregnant! I will just have to wait and make it in a few months!

  16. Wow what a great idea! Love it ! looks awesome on u


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