For this month’s Simple Sew make I got the honour of trying out one of the brand new summer dresses – the Serena Maxi Dress! This is a long floaty number, perfect for hot weather… The fabric is a yellow crepe kindly provided by White Tree Fabrics.
Firstly we’ll start as normal by checking the packet for fabric and sizing – it’s finished measurements that apply with these patterns. I fell between a 10 and 12 – 10 for the top half, 12 from the waist down 🙂
You will need:
- Fabric – handy hint: the bodice is lined, so if you want the lining to be made from the same as your main dress you’ll need to buy a bit extra than the stated amount for your size 😉
- Shirring elastic
It is recommended that you make a toile first to check the fit – I did this and discovered I needed to add 3″ to the bodice pieces for a long torso. I also altered the position of the straps and measured how long I needed the straps to be. All handy stuff to do first…
Once you’ve cut your pattern pieces and checked the fit (if you want to) it’s time to start the real deal!
Step 1 – Cut
Lay your fabric out nice and flat so you can pin all your pattern pieces ready for cutting. This fabric was super lightweight so getting it to stay put was a challenge – but that’s what tinned goods are for right?
Step 2 – Pin and dart
The first thing I did here was to transfer my pattern markings (see here for more info on how) and get the bodice darts all pinned and sewn in. The darts need to be pressed outwards towards the sides. Repeat this for both the main bodice and lining bodice pieces.
Step 3 – Side bits
Next you want to complete the sides of the bodice by attaching the side panels. Place the pattern piece, right sides facing each other and stitch together. There’s no need to overlock or finish the seams of the bodice as its all getting lined and you won’t see it anyway!
Step 4 – Straps!
Fold the strap pieces in half, lengthways and stitch 1cm all the way along it to form a tube. Finish one end – then using something thin and pointy – a knitting needle or a kebab stick (classy) – push the finished end up into the tube – keep going until it turns the right way out. Give it a good press for nice flat straps.
Step 5 – Attach those straps
Taking your main bodice piece, place the straps at the top point – right sides together and stitch down.
You then need to attach the other end of the strap to the side panel. Make sure your straps don’t twist and that they are pinned and stitched right sides together. At this point – if you didn’t make a toile you might want to check the length is good for you – those straps are pretty mighty and you don’t necessarily need the whole length! (Or you could get jazzy and do cross over straps at the back). Once you’ve found the right length, trim to fit. My left and right were 36cm and 37cm as I have a wonky shoulder… always good to measure.
Step 6 – Line the bodice
Here’s a very satisfying bit. Lay the bodice lining (*if you don’t want to wear a bra but need support see the cheats tip at the end!) on top of the main bodice piece, right sides together – ensuring your straps are tucked out of the way on the inside. Pin and stitch all the way around the bodice from one side to the other. When you’re done – clip into the seam allowance so when you turn it right side out, the curves are lovely and clean. Turn it out!
Step 7 – Back panel
Taking the back panel – finish the top of it by overlocking and turning over like a hem.
You might also want to transfer the pattern lines onto this piece as it’s about to get crazy. Mark out rows and rows of lines across your fabric. (Unfortunately my pencil was yellow as was the dress and I failed on that point!!)
So here’s the fun – I think this is only the 2nd time I’ve ever ‘shirred’ anything and was surprised by how easy it was! Take your shirring elastic and manually wind your bobbin with it – give it a little tension, but don’t stretch it too hard. You want the elastic in the bobbin, and regular thread in your needle.
With your fabric RIGHT SIDE UP under the machine – stitch rows upon rows of elastic – make sure you backstitch at the beginning and end of your row or it will all come pinging out again. The fabric will bunch up more and more so you need to keep stretching it back out and follow those rows. Look what you get!
Step 8 – Finish the bodice
Now to finish the bodice we need to attach that elastic back panel. This was tricky to photograph but go with it…. Flip your lining up so you can see the right sides of your bodice and the lining on display. Place the back panel, right side facing the right side of the main bodice piece. Then flip the lining alllll the way over the top and pin it down – so that all 3 layers are sandwiched. Stitch that edge and when you turn it out again its all neat and tidy!
Repeat on the other side.
At this point I neatened things up a bit by stitching all the way around the bottom of the bodice to hold both layers in place. Just as few millimetres from the edge. Ta daaaaaaa bodice is done.
Tea break time?
Step 9 – Skirt pieces
Put down that brew and get back to work, you’re nearly there 🙂
I chose to overlock all my skirt pieces at this juncture – granted I should have changed the threads but hey. Pin the skirt front panel to the front side panels and stitch – stopping at the notch to form the slits. Repeat for the back pieces.
When that’s all done all you need to do is place your front and back skirt pieces, right sides together, and stitch up the sides to join them. The skirt piece will look enormous at this point. Be calm – all shall be well.
Press out the seam allowance and continue all the way down to the bottom of the skirt so it forms a neat opening where the top of the slit lies. You want to now stitch alllllll the way from the bottom of the slit, up to the top, going round the seam join and back down again. Repeat for both front and back skirt pieces.
Step 10 – To Gather or Not To Gather (that wasn’t really a question)
Next up is attaching the bodice to the skirt. You’ll notice that your skirt is infinitely bigger than your bodice at the waist. That’s right – we have to get all that fabric in there.
The instructions say to ‘gather’ the fabric. Now the inner rebel in me ignored this because a. I’m not a gathering kinda gal b. I’m really bad at it. So I eyeballed some pleats instead.
IF you’re doing this right – create long length stitches around the top of the skirt, so you can pull the bobbin thread and gather up the fabric, distributing the gathers evenly ensuring your skirt fits into the bodice.
Turn the skirt inside out and drop the bodice inside it so your pieces are right sides together. Now attach 🙂
As reference, pin the side seams of the skirt to the side seams of the bodice. Do the same with the darts on the bodice – match them up to the skirt seams on the front. Same with the back – pin the skirt seams at back to the place where the back panel meets the side bodice panel. THEN gather between those points. Or if you’re like me – just keep evenly pinning around and folding the fabric in. You will have to stretch out the back panel to get it to join the skirt and pin carefully in place.
Stitch it together – ensuring you stretch out the back panel piece when you come to it. I also finished this bit off with an overlocker for neatness.
Turn it all right sides out!!
Step 11 – Hem that beast
Finish off by overlocking (or not) and turning up your hems on your voluminous skirt! I found the length of the dress just right – I’m 5ft 7 if that’s any assistance. 🙂
Step 12 – Frolic in a meadow
Take your dress, wear it in the wild, and let its floaty goodness flow in the wind as you shower yourself in beautiful flowers.
Or….. Stand awkwardly in your garden whilst trying to take a decent picture without cringing/blinking/falling over.
*There’s a little cheat in this dress that’s not in the original – as this has a low back and summery feel, I added foam bra cups to the lining so regular bra straps didn’t show. 😉 If you want to do this to your own I have a little tutorial here.
I hope you like it and that this is fairly useful – if you make your own please let us know! #serenamaxidress #craftycldye
Emma blogs at www.craftyclyde.com