This is the last post for the Modern, Old-Fashioned dress. At last! It’s been a busy Sunday morning trying to finish up this lesson. This post is very image-heavy so please don’t despair if this takes forever to load! (And sorry for the blurry first image, this is the only one.)
This post finishes up the dress, modified Built by Wendy pattern #3835, with the customized elasticized waist and ruffle hem.
When I’m sewing for myself, I find it helpful to wear a full slip. This way I can put on and take off the dress I’m making with ease and I can feel like I’m “decent” at my sewing machine, between fittings. Of course, this is purely optional and if you enjoy sewing in your underwear, more power to you.
Ok, put on your dress and take the tie/sash that you plan to use as a belt. I’m using 1″ Petersham ribbon; I’ll turn under the raw edges and hand sew them. To finish your belt, you could also pink the edges or use Fray Check (But be careful because on some fabrics, Fray Check darkens the colors).
Tie the belt around your natural waist, snugly but not too tight.
Lift up your arms to pull up on the dress; the top part should blouse over the belt just a little (or more if you’d like). This will ensure that you’ll have some room to move around once you give this dress a defined waist.
Pin around your waist, approximately in the middle of the ribbon. Be sure to place a pin in each side seam, 1 in the center front and 1 in center back.
Now you are going to transfer some of the marks to the dress: Take another pin and pin the dress, underneath the ribbon, exactly where the belt is pinned in place. Then remove the pin from the belt. Do this for the pins that are holding the belt to the front and maybe even the sides of the dress. You can leave the belt pinned to the back unless you are quite acrobatic and can manage to transfer the marks there too.
Carefully remove your dress, being careful not to poke yourself in the eyes with the pins. Finish transferring the pins to the dress. Turn dress inside out and lay flat. At this point we’re going to draw/mark the waist line. To make sure your line is even start measuring the sides, from the underarm (armscye) to the pin. Measure the other side seam. If they are close enough in length take the average and mark your dress with a fabric marking pen. For example, if one side is 9″ and the other is 9 1/4,” mark each side seam at 9 1/8.”
You want your waistline to be relatively straight and not wonky. If there is a pin way out of line, just ignore it and mark below or above it so you’ll get a nice even line across your dress. Mark the center front along the waistline.
Elastic: I used 1/2″ wide elastic the length of my waist minus 1.” With the marking pen, mark 1/2″ from each end (mark on the softer side of the elastic if there is one). Fold the elastic in half and mark the center. Then fold the elastic to match the center mark with one of the end marks to find the quarter. Repeat for other end.
Sew the elastic directly on top of your waistline with a wide zigzag stitch. To start, place one marked end at the center back and pin. Place the following quarter mark at the side seam and pin.
When you sew, your left hand should hold the already sewn part of the waist while your right hand holds the part yet to be sewn; keep the fabric taut (flat) while feeding the fabric through the machine without pulling too much. As you sew, pin the marks to the corresponding locations on the dress. This is what it looks like from the outside when you are done:
Put your dress back on. Determine how long you want your dress to be. Cut your dress 2 1/2″ shorter than the desired length. (Why? Because the ruffle is 3″ wide and we’ll attach it to the dress with a 1/2″ seam allowance.) It might be helpful to have a friend mark the length. Remove the dress. Mark the center front.
The ruffle is in 2 strips, a front and back. It’s 1 1/2 times longer than the width of the dress and 4 1/8″ tall (Unfinished). So, if you measure the front bottom edge of the dress and it’s 22″ wide, then each strip should be (22 x 1 1/2) + 5/8 + 5/8 (for each seam allowance). The total is 34 1/4″ for each strip.
Cut out your strips (parallel or crosswise to the grainline, it’s up to you). Sew the strips together, making French seams, to form a loop. Hem one side of the ruffle: turn under 1/4″ then again 3/8.” Mark the center front and back on the raw edge. Then gather the raw edge: sew 2 rows of stitches, at 1/4″ and 1/2″ from the edge, using the longest stitch on your machine. (For some machines it’s a good idea to loosen the thread tension a little too.)
Pin the ruffle to the dress, right sides together, matching the side seams with the ruffle seams, the center marks to each other, and the raw edges. Starting with the back, pull the the bobbin threads so that the fabric bunches up, or gathers, until the length of its raw edge matches the length of the dress. Use your fingers to smooth and even out the gathers. Pin in place. Repeat with the front. With the ruffle on top, (and making sure you’ve switched your stitch length back to normal) sew the ruffle to the dress.
Encase raw edges: trim the ruffle’s seam allowance to 1/4.” Starting at a side seam, sew hem tape or seam binding to the seam allowances as close to the stitch line as possible.
Press seam allowances and seam binding towards top of dress (up). Then sew the other edge of the hem tape onto the dress, encasing the raw edges of the dress hem and ruffle. (If you are using seam binding that is not wide enough to encase the seam allowances, trim the seam allowances before you begin sewing).
Turn dress right side out and press.
That’s it! Now you have a pretty and comfortable dress to wear during the remainder of the Summer season. If you make one like this, please let me know, I’d love to see it!