I sewed a really pretty dress for Amber, so I wanted to share how I did it. I took a lot of pictures throughout the process so you can see each stage! And I absolutely love how it came out. 🙂 Amber, on the other hand, didn’t really like how it came out. However, she doesn’t like dresses at all anyway, so her opinion of the dress doesn’t count!
First, I picked the fabric designs; 3 different patterns, all related to John Deere. Before I did anything else, I ironed every piece (and that was a LOT of ironing!) Taking the time to iron all of the fabric before starting any cutting or sewing is very important. It saves you a LOT of time and headaches. Believe me. I found that out the hard way. The last project I did, I figured I could simply skip all of that pesky ironing…nope, definitely doing it from now on, and I strongly recommend you do too!
Creating the Bodice Pattern
Before you can start sewing, you have to have a pattern, right? I created the pattern top using some wrapping paper. Let me go over what I measured first, then we’ll cover the math used to create the pattern, then I will cover how to create the pattern.
To create your own pattern for the circle dress bodice, you have to do the following measurements:
- Shoulder to shoulder;
- Neckline (how far from the shoulder down you want the neckline of the dress to be);
- Armhole (length from shoulder to where the bottom of the armhole should be);
- Desired length of the bodice;
- Width of straps (not really a measurement per se, but you need to know how wide you want the straps to be).
The Math for the Pattern
First of all, let’s talk about the basic shape of the pattern. I’m sure you have a bodice image in your head, but aren’t sure how to apply the measurements to get the right shape? I know that was my problem when I first started sewing. So, for now we will imagine the pattern for our bodice as being a rectangle. OK? Now, the length (top to bottom) of your bodice pattern will be the desired length of the bodice plus 1 inch.
To determine how wide your rectangle should be, take your waist measurement, divide it by 4, then add 2 inches.
Next, we are going to add the armhole to your pattern. This pattern is for HALF of a bodice, so the armhole “cutout” will only go on one side of our rectangle. Let’s add this to the left side. From the top left, measure the length of the armhole measurement down toward the waist. Make a mark with your pen/pencil, whatever you’re using to mark everything.
Our next measurement will be to mark where the strap should start. Starting at the top right corner of the rectangle, measure the length of the “shoulder to shoulder” measurement divided by 2. So if your shoulder to shoulder measurement is 13″, you will measure over 6-1/2″ from the top right. Make a mark here. This is where the outside of the strap will start.
From there, measure the strap width plus 1″ back towards the right side of the rectangle. Make a mark. This is your strap.
Now we will add in the neckline to our pattern. Starting from the top right corner of our rectangle, measure the neck length straight down and make a mark.
It’s time to mark the cutouts for both the armholes and the neckline! Let’s start with the armhole, which is on the left. Using your curved ruler, make a curved line from the left side of the strap to the bottom of the armhole. Next, make a curved line from the right side of the strap down to the mark you made for the neck length.
But wait! Don’t cut anything out yet! We may be making our rectangle into more of a trapezoid…from the bottom of the armhole straight across to the other side of the rectangle should equal the bust measurement divided by 4, plus 2″. So if your bust measurement is 32, you would divide that by 4, which equals 8, then add 2, so your measurement from the bottom of the armhole straight across to the other side of the pattern should be 10 inches.
Cutting Your Pattern
You’ll need to cut 2 separate pieces (for the back) and one connected piece for the front. And you’ll have to do that TWICE. So first, put the pattern on the fold of your main fabric, pin the pattern to the fabric and cut it out. Then pin it on the fold of your liner and cut it out again. Now you have the front of the bodice.
To get the back pieces cut out, pin the pattern right side up on a single layer of your main fabric AND your liner fabric (this just helps you save time, you only have to do 2 cuts instead of 4). Cut it out. Next, pin the pattern upside down on a single layer of your main fabric and your liner fabric, and cut again. The pattern has to be flip-flopped, otherwise you would have 2 back pieces that match, rather than being mirror images of each other.
Sewing the Bodice
Start by sewing the main fabric pieces to the lining pieces.
Pin the front main fabric and lining fabric together with the WRONG sides facing. Sew from the bottom left, up around the armhole, across the strap, along the neckline, across the second strap, down the second armhole and down the side to the bottom right. Turn the front right side out.
Now do the same to each of the back bodice pieces.
Make sure you iron all the pieces after you sew the linings to the fabric.
Next you’ll need to sign each piece of the back of the bodice to the front. Pin the WRONG sides together at the side seams and the shoulder straps. Unlike when you sewed the lining on, this time you only want to sew along the side seams, and across the tops of the straps. If you sew the armholes and neckline together, you won’t be able to wear the dress!
Later you’ll add a zipper to the back of the skirt and bodice, but for now the bodice should be left completely open, as shown in the picture below.
Making the Circle Skirt Pattern
Making the pattern for the skirt was relatively easy. Remember that waist measurement you wrote down earlier? Divide that number by 6.28. You’ll also need the desired length of your skirt (plus 1″). The pattern for this part will require a large rectangle.
Why a rectangle? That’s a question I would have asked…think of a pie cut into 4 pieces; each of those 4 pieces are right angles, and if you draw out the length of a skirt, you’ll see it’s a large rectangle.
Now let’s measure out the pattern. Starting from the upper left hand corner, measure your waist calculation (waist/6.28) across the top of the rectangle. You’re going to cut this in an arc, so placing your measuring tape at the top, keep measuring that same length in an arc shape until you’re measuring from the top left corner down the left side.
From that spot, we will now measure across the top of the rectangle the desired length of the skirt; we will also measure an arc all the way across to the left side of the rectangle. This is the pattern shape, so you can now cut it out. The following images illustrate how my pattern ended up looking.
Keep in mind that for my pattern, I folded the pattern I drew above in half, because I wanted 8 pattern pieces rather than 4. Here are the cut out pieces I ended up with:
I then sewed all the skirt pieces together using a blind hem stitch. This is a personal preference, you could sew them together however you like, so if there’s a stitch you like better, go ahead and use that. Once you have a full circle, hem the bottom all the way around.
To the right is a picture of both the top piece and the skirt, prior to adding the waistband, which will glue everything together. The waistband is super easy to make.
Simply measure a piece of fabric the length of the waist plus a few inches and 4″ wide. Fold it in half with the wrong sides facing. Iron it, then sew along the edge. Turn the band right side out. You’ll then sew the bodice to the waistband, and the skirt to the waistband, and voila!
You have ALMOST completed your dress! Depending on the length of your zipper, you’ll need to cut a slit in the back that lines up with the opening in the back of the bodice. Pin your zipper to the dress, and sew it on both sides. Here’s a video on how to sew a zipper.
Now you have a finished circle dress! Isn’t it beautiful? I feel so proud that I finished this, and I’m sure you will too once yours is completed. I’d love to see pictures of your finished dresses! Comment below with links to your images! Or, if you’d like me to share you pics in a future post, email them to me using the Contact link on my site!