Sunday, July 7, 2013

Easy Shift Dress DIY Tutorial

As mentioned before, I really love the ease of a shift dress.  The fact that it's a relatively simple sewing project is a plus!  To make your own, please check out the steps after the jump (it's rather picture-heavy).

Nautical Shift Dress DIY

Difficulty: Easy

Time: ~2 hours

Pattern:  Make your own from an existing shift dress!

  • Fabric (I used 100% cotton - I think from Joann's, 60" wide, 2 yards) - your best fabric types will have a little bit of drape like a soft cotton, knit, or silky.  Stiffer fabrics will have more of a tent-like shape.
  • Existing shift dress - it's best to match the sleeve length of your existing dress to your desired end result.  Sleeveless, full sleeve, cap sleeve, etc.  This will make a difference in your armscye (armhole) shape.  I did not do this and thus had to tweak my armscye - more on that later.
  • Bias tape (optional)

1.  Turn your existing shift dress inside out.  

2.  Fold in half and tuck in the sleeves.  Align the fold of your dress to the fold of your fabric.

3.  Using your dress as a guide, cut the fabric.  Make sure to leave extra length for the hem.  Hold off on the neckline for the moment.

4.  For the neckline, you can see in the picture below that the back is higher than the front.  To cut the back, simply follow the dress.  To cut the front, tuck the back inwards before cutting (similar to what was done with the sleeves).

5.  Repeat steps 2-4 for your 2nd panel.  You will then have both a front panel and back panel.

6.  With the right sides of the fabric facing each other, sew the shoulders together and then down each side.  Note:  If unsure of fit, first baste these using a long stitch, try on the dress, and then make any adjustments (example: slimming a side, making the neckline deeper, etc.) 

7.  If your shift dress is sleeveless, skip to step 16.

8.  To make a simple cap sleeve, you're going to cut out 2 ovals approximately 9 x 10".  The easiest way to do this is to draw a 9" line and intersect it at the middle with a 10" line.  Using the resulting 4 points, connect them with curved lines as shown below:

9.  Fold your ovals in half length-wise to make a taco-esque shape.

10.  To adjust my armscye for this sleeve type, I used a sleeveless bodice (like the one used in McCall pattern M5972) as a guide to recut the rounder / deeper opening.

11.  Align the center of your curved side with the shoulder seam.  Pin in place.

What the other side looks like:

12.  Attach the sleeve.  I tend to start at the center and then go down each side to prevent any misalignments, but please note that my method of sewing is trial and error - I have not taken any sewing classes.

13.  The attached sleeve should look like the below:

14.  For the parts of the armscye NOT connected to the sleeve, simply fold and stitch down:

 Sorry about the fuzzy pic, but hopefully you can see the line of stitching.

15.  Iron the sleeve.  It should look like this:

16.  To finish the neckline, you can use bias tape and this tutorial.

17.  Hem to your desired length, iron your seams, and you're finished!

Hope everyone had a wonderful weekend!

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  1. That is a great shift dress :) I love how the pattern is unique :)

    1. Great tutorial! My daughter found some Vintage King-Sized Pillowcases at an estate sale & has begged me to make her a garment...I have been afraid to cut this one of its kind fabric w/out a pattern...Tada!

    2. Great tutorial! My daughter found some Vintage King-Sized Pillowcases at an estate sale & has begged me to make her a garment...I have been afraid to cut this one of its kind fabric w/out a pattern...Tada!

    3. That's fantastic, Sharon! I'm so happy to hear it went well!

  2. You did great honey! You're so creative. :) You have a nice blog. Would you like to follow each other? Let me know in my blog and I’ll follow right away. : )

    XX, IamJenniya
    New Post! >> Denim On...

  3. I love the pattern as well. Thanks for the tutorial, S! I am dying to get my sewing machine out of the storage. Will keep this tutorial in mind for future use =)

    1. Thanks Sydney! Hope you get some time to sew!

  4. Wow..! so creative..! You have a very nice collection of stunning dress. Whole collection is awesome. Thank you so much for sharing..

  5. this looks like such an easy tutorial but did you use a stretch fabric? I'm guessing if you used a cotton you would have to insert a zip in the back?

    1. Hi Claire! I used a non-stretch cotton and based the patterning on a non-stretch shift so that I could account for the size needed on a pullover type dress. No zippers needed :)

  6. thanks for sharing this awesome pattern.

    1. You are so welcome - I'm glad you found it helpful!

  7. Nice simple shape, great print and a really accessible project. Nice sleeve too - I've not seen one done that way before. Glad to see people showing the world that sewing really isn't scary! :)

    1. Thank you, Zoe! I used to be afraid of sewing, but love all of the possibilities that have opened up since learning :)

  8. unique pattern, thanks for sharing

  9. what if you don't have an existing shift dress? how would you make a pattern?

    1. Hi Joyce! In that case, I'd take a blouse to pattern the bodice. From there, extend the hem downwards making sure that the width allows for hip room to the dress length of your choice + 2 inches for hemming. Hope that helps!


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