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Swishy Sundress
Swishy Sundress

Created by: by Nicole Blum & Debra Immergut

Be sure to give us feedback on this project below.

Level: Intermediate
Time: 3 Hours

A swishy lightweight jersey makes up into a cool summer gown. The stitched lines at the empire waist are both graphic and functional, adding interesting detail and shape at the same time. The amount of yardage required depends on the desired length of your finished frock; consider a maxi length for a stylish variation.

Janome Supplies Required

  • Any Janome Sewing Machine

Fabrics and Notions Required

  • 1 1/2 to 2 yards of lightweight jersey fabric (we recommend a bamboo/Lycra blend)
  • 1 spool of contrasting thread
  • A T-shirt that fits you well (This should be one that you won't mind cutting up. You will be using it to make your pattern. More experienced sewists may not need to cut theirs.)

Making a Torso Pattern Piece

1. Cut a sheet of kraft paper, or the plain side of wrapping paper, a few inches larger all around than each of the two pieces — you can also cut open and flatten a paper grocery bag or two. Iron the paper gently to remove any creases.

2. To make the torso pattern piece, cut your T-shirt apart at the side seams so that you have two halves. Then cut off the sleeves, if it has any. Fold the front panel of your T-shirt in half lengthwise and align the fold with the edge of the paper. Pat out any wrinkles until the panel is flat and aligned. Trace around it, adding ½" for the seam allowance along the armhole, shoulder, and side (don’t add seam allowance to the neckline, since it will be finished in a variety of ways). Cut along the marked lines with paper scissors, and label the edges “center” and “side seam” to help you remember which is the pattern piece’s center line and which is the side seam.

Tip: If you’re an experienced sewist and know a lot about shirt construction, you can probably make the pattern just by tracing the shirt carefully rather than cutting it apart; if so, go for it.

Sewing a two-panel dress
1. Determine the garment length by holding one end of the measuring tape at the shoulder seam of the shirt you’re wearing and step on the tape’s other end to hold it taut. Note the measurement at the desired hem location.

2. Measure, mark, and cut the first panel. Fold the fabric with the right sides together, leaving enough width to accom-modate the pattern piece and the additional length and flare of the garment, as shown on page 37 (the grain will run the length of the garment). Pin the pattern piece as shown, with the fold edge of the pattern along the fabric fold. Use a measuring tape and chalk to mark the following design lines directly on the fabric:
Bottom edge: Measure straight down from the shoulder seam to the desired length (our garment is unhemmed, but if you’d like a hem, add 3/4" and then mark). Draw a horizontal line marking the garment’s bottom edge, but extend it 3" beyond the side seam of the pattern piece to add flare to the panel.*
Side seam and neckline: Trace the pattern piece, extending the line of the side seam down at an angle to meet the marked end of the bottom edge.
*The hem or bottom edge design line varies with how much flare you want. For a tunic, adding 3" on either side of the garment’s center line (6" total) is average. For a roomier garment, add more. For a dress, 31/2" on either side is a good starting point. (For more about flare, see chapter 2, page 26)
Remove the paper pattern. Cut along the marked lines through both thicknesses of fabric.

3. Mark and cut the second (back) panel. Refold the remaining fabric. Lay the cutout piece (still folded from cutting), flipping and rotating it to fit on the yardage. Trace around the cutout piece with chalk. Remove the cutout piece. Cut along the marked chalk lines through both thicknesses of fabric.

4. Join the panels. Align the panels with the right sides together; with a straight stretch stitch, sew at the shoulders and side seams with a 1/2" seam. Turn the garment right side out. If you like, decoratively topstitch over the seams with a tricot stitch. If you allowed extra length for hemming, hem the bottom edge.

Finish the edges
Using an overcast stitch, edgestitch along the raw edges of the neckline, armholes, and bottom.

Stitch the lines
Have the wearer put on the dress. Mark the desired location for the top center of the empire waistline shirring (it’s usually right at the bottom edge of the breastbone, where the ribs come together). Have the wearer remove the dress and lay it out with the right side facing up. Using your mark as a guide, draw a line from side seam to side seam at the marked level. Using a straight stretch stitch, sew along the guideline. With the edge of the presser foot as a guide, stitch six more parallel lines at 1/4" intervals below the first line (our waist stitching is 11/2" from top to bottom stitching line).

Excerpted from Improv Sewing (c) by Nicole Blum & Debra Immergut, Photos (c) Alexandra Grablewski, Illustrations (c) Ryan McMenamy, used with permission from Storey Publishing.

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