Monday, 12 August 2013

Pinterest Challenge - Can I sew a dress from 4 rectangles?

A while ago I pinned this to my "things to make" board on Pinterest:



Underneath the original pinner had written

"So easy to sew: it's just 4 rectangles. Measure shoulder to hem length, then girth at widest part (hips?) and divide by 4. Add seam allowance. Sew allowing for neckline, arm holes. No pattern needed. 1/2 hour, max! ---- Gorgeous dress"

So I wondered, is it really that simple? What's the best way to approach the neckline? What sort of fabric would work best? If I want pretty fabric I know there is one place to head near me - Flo Jo Boutique on Gloucester Road in Bristol. Its not a big shop but they have a lovely range of stock - as you can see from my Google+ photo album here.

I ended up buying a gorgeous Tana Lawn for Liberty fabric - its so light and floaty its perfect for a summer maxi. At £24 a metre its certainly the most expensive fabric I've ever sewn with, but its so pretty its worth it. As its so expensive and this is a bit of an experiment I started of with a toile made of an old sheet. Stupidly I thought the only issue would be how it fitted on the hips, so I made a shortened toile. We shall learn more of that mistake later....

Sizing decided it was on to cutting the real fabric. I decided the secret to this dress would be really accurate rectangles so I ironed a measured crease into each section as a cutting guide, which made cutting really easy, although probably took up the entire 1/2 hour time limit the original pin had suggested.

Onto the sewing. The original pinner made no mention of how big to make the arm/neck holes, so I decided to measure from shoulder to mid-bust, which would be a bit low-cut, but once the shoulder seams had been sewn the bottom of the neck would be lifted to about the right height.

Side and shoulder seams sewn I tried it on - which is where my mistake of a short toile was revealed; the way the dress hung after it passed my hips was all wrong. It was like I was wearing a bustle. I could arrange it under the belt to make it hang right, but the moment I moved my arms it pulled extra fabric into the top, making the top baggy and the skirt unflattering.


I needed to do something to make the waistline stay put. I decided to sew elastic across the back to gather it in a regular fashion, which is stupidly hard when its already attached to the rest of the dress - I ended up unpicking it after sewing the dress to itself at one point. I made a matching tie rather than using the cinch belt as suggested on Pinterest and decided to make it empire line so it was more flattering on the hips.


I do now have a wearable dress, although it probably does require more alteration (I might lop off the sleeves), but I have learnt my lesson. If the pin on Pinterest doesn't have a link to a tutorial, think, is that dress actually made the way the comments suggest? Looking back at it now the flare of the skirt is so much larger than the width of the shoulders. There is no way the pinned dress could be made the way its suggested, much less in half an hour - this dress ended up taking several afternoons.

I had thought that this dress would be really simple for a beginner - all straight lines and no pattern to follow, but my suggestion to a beginner would be get a pattern, don't ad lib. It won't work as you planned - and fixing it is really hard.

14 comments:

  1. You did a great job! I've always wanted to have a go at making my own clothes like my mum used to.. Maybe I'll give it a go (with a pattern!).

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    1. I certainly don't advise going "Off-piste" for a first attempt!

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  2. And that's why I don't sew! Well rescued - empire line is so flattering

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    1. It still needs a bit more rescuing. I think it will be more flattering if I cut off the sleeves

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  3. At least you know what to do when things go wrong, I would have just cried and cut it up into dusters! It IS lovely fabric.

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    1. I very nearly did!! I might shorten it into a tunic and make something else with the off cuts

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  4. Lovely, lovely fabric. you did a really good job - I could never tackle anything like that! Jo x

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    1. Maybe I shouldn't have attempted it myself!!

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  5. You've done brilliantly, might have a go at that myself x

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    1. I would try and find a pattern that gives a similar result - there isn't enough swish in this skirt.

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  6. Dress and fabrice is looking good and graceful.. :D
    Thanks
    Pakistani Fashion Clothing

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  7. Thanks for sharing your experience! I'm so glad I read this before making it my first attempt at anything but hems and buttons. But I do love what you did with it.

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    1. I would go for a pattern for your first few dresses. I just bought the Great Britsh Sewing Bee "sew your own wardrobe" book, and its got some excellent advice. Read that, then buy a pattern

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  8. Thanks for sharing your experience! I'm so glad I read this before making it my first attempt at anything but hems and buttons. But I do love what you did with it.

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