Several people have asked me how to make my Picnic Dress. It’s a bit too complicated for the step by step instruction on how to draft a pattern I gave for the draped t-shirt, but I hope this will be enough detail for anyone who is familiar with how dresses are made.
You will need 4 yards of 45″ fabric and an 18″ zipper.
These are the pieces of the pattern. Mark out the measurements listed and the distances between them. For example, on the waistband measure out the distance between your underbust/ribcage and your waist, then measure half your ribcage measurement at one side and half your waist measurement at the other. Then draw out the rest of the shape so it looks more or less like the pieces in the picture. If you aren’t used to making your own patterns it might be helpful to have a pattern for another dress to refer to, particularly for the sleeves.
If you’re not used to making your own sleeves, trace both the arm hole and the top of the sleeve off a pattern you’ve used before and like. It’s tricky to get these curves right, and hard to move your arms if you get them wrong. I use gathered sleeves on this dress, which are a bit more forgiving. To change a regular set in sleeve to a gathered sleeve, simply make the top of the sleeve a bit larger without changing the arm hole. You will gather this extra, bringing the edge of the sleeve back to its original size.
To make the curve of the skirt even, use your tape measure like an enormous protractor. Pick a spot along the edge of the fabric to be the center of the skirt and draw a half circle by measuring a set distance (say 24 inches) from that point in every direction. This can go very quickly if you get someone else to hold the end of the tape measure in the middle. Make a smaller half circle around the same point for the waistline. The size of this inner circle will depend on your size, but should be something on the order of 5 inches.
To gather the top, mark out a distance ¾ of the difference between bust and underbust measurement on one side. Stitch along the edge of the fabric between these marks. Tie the threads together at one end. Pull slowly on one thread at the other end, gathering the fabric as you pull. When the gathered section is ⅓ of the length it began, tie the ends together. Repeat on the other side. Edit: if you still find this confusing, I’ve written more about it here http://www.oneaviandaemon.com/?p=863
After gathering both the lining and the top layer of the bodice, sew them together along the neckline. Turn right side out and press. Even out the gathers and make sure none of the edge bits are folded in, then sew both pieces of the bodice to the waist band, being careful with the gathered sections.
Sew the edge of the facing to the neckline on each back piece. Turn and press. Turn in the edge of the facing and sew this edge to the back.
Sew the front and back together at the shoulders. Gather the center of each sleeve. Sew the sleeves into the armholes.
Baste the ties to the waist band, then sew the front and back together along the side. The waistband will be sewn into this seam. Sew up the underside of the sleeve. Turn under the edge of the sleeve and sew it down.
Sew in the pockets if you’re including them (for more detailed directions, see here). Sew up the sides (but not the back) of the skirt, and sew the skirt to the top. Put in the zipper, then sew up the back of the skirt.
Turn under ½ inch all along the bottom of the skirt, then another 2 ½ inches. Hem along this edge, taking the smallest stitches you can out of the skirt.
If there’s anything you’d like to know that I’ve skipped or explained badly, please ask about it!