Simple Summer Dress

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I brought some lovely seaside print fabric at our local market at the start of the summer and thought I’d better get sewing whilst the weather is in our favour!!  I wanted to make a simple summer dress – no buttons or zips to contend with and I am so pleased with the result.  It came together a treat so I thought I’d put together a step-by-step sheet to remember just how I did it!!!

1.  Start with two pieces of fabric, one for the bodice and one for the skirt.  My fabric was from a roll that was around 130 cm wide.

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The depth of the bodice was the measurement from armpit to waist plus a bit either end for my seam allowance (approx 3cms for seam allowance):

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The length of the skirt was measurement from waist to mid-calf plus a bit again for my seam allowance (again approximately 3 cms for the seam allowance):

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Place right sides together and sew both pieces of fabric together:

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Trim the bodice seam to about 5mm but keep the skirt side of the seam long:

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Then fold/roll the longer seam over to create a neat edge and sew – I used zig-zag over the folded edge to neaten this seam up:

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Then finish the top edge of the bodice again by rolling over the seam to create a nice neat edge – again I used a zig-zag stitch across the folded edge:

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Now you’re ready to start the shirring!! This bit takes a little time but is really easy as you are just sewing straight lines!

Set up your machine by winding shirring elastic onto your bobbin.  Apparently this is best done by hand as your machine will pull your elastic thread too tightly.  It doesn’t take too long!!  I pretty much kept my sewing settings the same as I would for a normal length straight stitch.

REMEMBER TO SEW YOUR FABRIC RIGHTSIDE UP – your elastic needs to be on the inside of the fabric and your cotton shows on the right side of the fabric.

I did my first row close to my zig-zag stitch at the top edge of my bodice:

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This first row is still very loosely gathered so don’t panic!  It looks like the bodice will be huge!!  Each row you add slowly starts to pull the fabric in.  Line the foot of your machine against your first row of stitching as a way of keeping your next row an even distance from your first line:

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And keep going!  Even when I had done about 10 rows I kept thinking that the finished width of my fabric was going to be too big for the bodice:

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Keep working those lines and concentrate on keeping a nice even distances between rows.

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When I finished the shirring my bodice measured 28 inches wide:

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But you’re not finished yet!  Now you need to iron the shirring!  Good hot steam is what’s required next!

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Amazingly the heat from the iron shrinks the elastic pulling the shirring tighter still:

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The width of my bodice shrank from 28 inches to 23 inches!!  Perfect!!

Time to sew up the dress – right sides together of course and away you go!!  I allowed around 1.5cm seam.  Press your seem open.

That’s the bulk of the dress sorted out and you just need to add some straps.  You could be really lazy and use some nice chunky ribbon!  I made 4 straps by cutting a further 10cm strip of pink spotty fabric (I again used the full width of the fabric (130cm wide) which I folded and cut into quarters).  I sewed each strap section together using a small 5mm hem and then turned right side out, finished the ends and then pinned these to my bodice and sewed in place.  I like the idea of having an adjustable strap that can be altered for comfort and growth but you could just as easily put in two fixed length straps or a sheered elastic strap even!:

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To finish my hem I decided to used my pink spotty fabric again as a trim.  As with the sleeves I cut a 10cm strip.  Match the right side of the spots to the wrong side of the skirt (this always seems a bit odd to me!!) but you end up turning the right side of the spots over to the outside of the skirt.  I find this a really useful and neat way to finish off  the skirt as it conceals all your raw edges:

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That’s it!  Simple!  And a very happy girl to boot!

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