In the last couple of years every summer I’ve been a huge fan of maxi dresses and skirts. They’re the perfect thing to wear during the Estonian summer. They’re light enough for warmer weather, but keep your legs warm in case of a sudden change in temperatures (not at all rare around these parts) or in the evenings.
I had already two me-made maxi dresses for the summer and a maxi skirt, but they were getting so much wear that I knew another maxi was in order. So here’s my third maxi dress. This time in jersey fabric. Since I own both a serger/overlocker and a cover machine, it only took me about 2 hours to complete.
I’ve already worn it so many times that I’m thinking about making another version in a different fabric, but I’m not sure I have enough fabric in my stash. We’ll see…
The process was rather simple, although the directions are long. I just want everything to be as clear as possible.
Step 1. Measuring the fabric
I measured the length of my dress (from the top of my shoulder to the ground, plus add seam allowances) and cut my fabric to that length. I used a tube fabric, meaning it was knit in the round, and the tube was the width needed for the hem (bottom circumference), so I only had to cut the fabric into on dress-length piece.
If you don’t have tubular fabric, that’s fine too. Here’s how to measure the fabric you need:
1) Measure the length of your dress (= length from top of the shoulder to the ground + seam allowances [1cm for the shoulder seam + 3cm for the hem]). Then calculate the circumference of the widest part of your dress. This will probably be the hem, because you need to be able to step comfortably in that dress. One way to get that measurement is to take a big step forward with one foot, and then stand like that and measure around your ankles. Or, another way would be to add about 40-50cm to you hip measurement. Again, add side seam allowances to that measurement (4cm in total).
2) The second step is to measure the width of your fabric (if it’s a tubular fabric, measure the width of the tube). If the width of your fabric is at least 4cm wider than the circumference of the widest part of your dress, then you only need one dress-length of fabric. If, however, the fabric is narrower than that, you need 2x the dress length of fabric. Does that make sense? (if not, leave me a comment)
Dress length + seam allowance = 154cm
Widest circumference + seam allowance = 200 cm
Fabric needed: 155 cm of 200cm-wide fabric or 310cm of narrower fabric
Step 2. Marking the dress pattern
Cut two pieces of fabric – both pieces being the length of your dress+seam allowance x 1/2 the widest circumference + 2cm seam allowance (in my example that would be 154cm x 102cm). Once you’ve cut the fabric, fold it in half.
For the top part I used my trusty tank top pattern. Several people have asked my about this pattern, so I finally looked it up, and it’s from Burda 5/2007 pattern nr 109 (it’s a racer back style), but I also found very good tank top patterns from Burda 11/2006 (nr 111) and Burda 6/2007 (nr 106, dress bodice).
If you don’t have a pattern similar to this, just take a tank top from your closet, fold it in half and use that as a pattern to mark the top on you fabric.
I wanted a low back, so I cut both fabric pieces (the front and the back) using the front pattern piece.
Now, onto the skirt portion of the dress. First, measure the distance from the narrowest part of your waist to the widest part of your hips. Mark those on the fabric. Then measure your hip circumference and divide by 4. Mark that on the fabric (see picture above for the markings).
I drew the side seamline with a free hand starting from the waist and curved it out towards the hips, and then even more out towards the edge of the fabric until I reached the hem (or the widest part of the dress) (shown in the picture above).
Once my pieces were cut, I straightened the hem.
Step 3. Sewing
1) First, sew the shoulder seams.
2) Next, cut 3 long 3cm-wide strips of fabric from the remaining fabric scraps to cover the armholes and the neckline. Fold them in half and press with an iron. Then, fold them over the cut edges of the armholes and neckline just as you would with bias binding, and sew in place. I used my cover machine to sew them on. If you don’t have a cover machine, this job can easily be done using a double needle on your sewing machine, or the zig-zag stitch.
3) After binding the armholes and neckline, sew the side seams together.
4) Finally, finish the hem. Fold the seam allowance to the wrong side of the fabric and press. Pin the hem in place and sew.
If you don’t have a serger/over-locker or a cover machine, I’d recommend using a knit stitch (looks like little lightning bolts in a row, or like a crooked zig-zag) or a narrow zig-zag stitch for the side and shoulder seams, and a double needle or a zig-zag stitch for the binding and hem.
Step 4. Embellishment
If you want, you can embellish the dress with a few fabric flowers, a lace pocket or some beads. Or just leave it the way it is. I opted for some fabric flowers similar to these.
(Tutorial updated in May 2014)
Special thanks to Marita for photographing the dress!
Have fun sewing your summer away!