The SoHo Maxi Dress Tutorial

If you’re stopping by from Noodlehead, welcome! Anna is one of my very favorite blogging friends, and I’m thrilled that she asked me to be a part of her Sewing With Knits Mondays series. I hope you’ve been following along each Monday on Anna’s blog and also Shannon from Luv In The Mommyhood’s blog – they have both shared some great tips and had some super guests joining in. No reason to be afraid of knits anymore, ladies!

When Anna contacted me, I knew instantly what project I’d be sharing. I’ve been wanting to make a maxi dress tutorial for months now, but I guess I just didn’t have the right motivation I needed to get it done. So thanks for the inspiration once again, Anna!
With a ruffle detail at the top…
The SoHo Maxi Dress is perfect for even a beginner sewer. No better way to build your confidence with knits than to jump right in! You can make this!

existing fitted knit tank top
2-2.5 yd knit fabric (60″ wide)
2 packages 1/2″ wide elastic
1 package double fold 1/2″ wide bias tape

A Couple of Tips Before We Begin:

  • I recommend checking in the “fashion fabrics” section of JoAnn or your local fabric store to find a great knit fabric. Stretch fabrics are usually found in the jersey knit section in most stores, but often nicer prints more suitable for fashion are found in other areas and mixed in with the polyester/rayon fabrics. You have to search a bit more, but it’ll be worth it if you find something you love. My fabric is 96% polyester and 4% spandex, and was a great quality. A touch of spandex makes any fabric a dream to work with.
  • If you have a serger, use it! Although you’ll need a regular machine for parts of this dress, sergers make life easy when sewing with knits.
  • If you don’t have a serger, no problem! Use your regular machine and a ballpoint needle (trust me, it’s important!). For seams, many newer machines have a stretch stitch option, or you can also use a long and narrow zig zag stitch to accomodate the fabric stretching. For top stitching, you can also use a long straight stitch.
  • As you sew, try not to stretch the fabric, or it could result in puckers. Allow the feed dogs to guide the fabric through, and you’ll end up with nice smooth stitch lines.
  • Because knit does not fray, finishing seams is not necessary.

1. Lay fabric out, right side up, and fold each selvage edge to the middle.

2. To cut our dress front and back, we’ll use an existing knit tank top. Fold the top in half, matching side seams, and place on fabric. To allow for gathering, we want our dress to be 1.5 times the width of the tank. My tank was 7″ from side seam to front fold, so I moved the tank out an extra 3.5 inches from the fabric fold.

3. Determine the length you want your dress, and measure from the center front of the tank to where your hem will be. I always add a few inches to account for hem and seam allowance. Since the fabric will stretch when it’s being worn, don’t worry about being too exact with length for now, just make sure you have a bit extra length rather than not enough. I wanted my dress to be approximately 47″ so I measured 50″ to be safe. Mark or make a small cut along the fold at the hemline.

4. Determine the width you’d like your dress at the bottom. For both maxi dresses and skirts, I like the bottom width to be around 50″-60″. Since we are cutting both the front and back pieces out of one length, if you want the bottom width larger than 60″, you’ll need extra fabric to accomodate that. Divide the width by 2 (since we’re working on a fold) and mark that, perpendicular from the hem.

5. Adding 1/2″ for seam allowance, cut around neck, underarm, and side seam of tank front. Continue on, joining up with bottom width mark. Before cutting, ensure that your dress will be wide enough at the hipline, plus a bit of ease. Since we added 50% to the width of the tank top, this should be enough to fit most hips, but it never hurts to double check :).

6. If your tank was pointed at the top like mine, trim the point to flat, to allow for the 3/4″ straps plus 1/2″ on each side (for seam allowance) to be inserted later.

7. Mark underbust (where bottom of your bra sits) on fabric, where elastic will sit under bust. If needed, you can try your tank top on to find the exact area to mark.

8. To cut back piece, fold tank top at center back, matching side seams. Adding 50% to tank back width, place tank fold parallel to fabric fold. Adding 1/2″ for seam allowance, cut around top back and side seam of tank back, as you did for front piece.

9. Lay dress front on top of dress back fabric, matching upper side seams. Use dress front as a guide to continue cutting lower side seam and hem of dress back. Mark underbust.
You’ll now have your front and back pieces:
10. For the shoulder straps, cut 2 2″x16″ pieces, with the least amount of stretch along the length of the straps. If you are tall or plus sized, you may need to cut your straps longer than 16″. To determine length needed for top ruffle strip, measure along top of front and back dress pieces and cut that length by 5″ wide. I cut my ruffle strip approximately 48″x5″.
11. On to some sewing… Right sides together, stitch front dress piece to back dress piece at side seams using a 1/2″ seam allowance.
12. Right sides together, stitch ruffle strip together at ends.

13. Matching ruffle strip seam with one side seam of dress, pin right side of ruffle strip to wrong side of dress top, matching raw edges.
14. Using 1/2″ seam allowance, stitch around circumference of dress and ruffle strip, leaving 3/4″ openings on dress front where straps will be inserted.

15. Flip ruffle strip over to right side of dress and gently press in place. Do not slide iron on fabric, simply steam and press using a light heat setting. Pin rufle strip to front and back of dress.
16. Stitch 3/4″ away from top edge around entire circumference, forming casing for elastic.
17. To form casing for underbust, cut enough 1/2″ wide double fold bias tape to go around marked underbust line, plus 1″. Open center fold of bias tape and press flat. Placing top of bias tape along marked line, stitch bias tape to wrong side of dress along top and bottom edges of bias tape. Allow ends to overlap 1/2″, and trim bias tape if necessary. (I used 1/2″ single wide bias tape in photo, so I had to press the entire tape open to get enough width).
18. Measure enough elastic to fit slightly snugly around your underbust, plus 1″. Thread elastic through bias tape casing and stitch ends together, overlapping end 1/2″ over beginning (don’t judge me on my elastic ends, I don’t think they’ve ever looked pretty :)).

19. Measure enough elastic to snugly fit where top of dress will sit, plus 1″. Thread elastic through one opening (where strap will be inserted later), and through entire upper casing. Overlap ends 1/2″ and stitch together.

20. Fold one strap in half lengthwise and stitch raw edges together using 1/4″ seam allowance.

21. Turn strap right side out.

22. Repeat steps 20 and 21 with remaining strap.

23. Insert one end of one strap into strap opening on top of dress front, turning raw edges at opening to inside. Pin in place. Repeat with other strap.
24. Stitch along pinned edges, attaching straps to dress front.

25. Try dress on and determine back strap placement. Pin straps in place (it helps to have someone help you!).

26. Stitch straps to inside of dress back along casing stitch line. Stitch again close to top of dress back.
27. Trip strap ends if necessary.
28. Try dress on to determine amount to hem. 1″ was perfect for me. Turn bottom of dress up desired amount to inside, and stitch close to raw edge using a long straight stitch. You can also trim the bottom edge of the top ruffle if it hits your chest at a funny point. I trimmed my ruffle 1/2″ and it was perfect.

Now grab your favorite flats…
Put on some chunky jewelry and a wide belt…

And make some plans – you’re going out tonight!
Be sure to show off your finished dresses in the Sew Much Ado Flickr group!

Thanks, Anna for letting me be a part of such a fantastic series! 

How to Hem Jeans {And Keep The Original Hem} Tutorial

Tell me you don’t have at least one pair of jeans sitting in your closet, waiting to be hemmed. You don’t want to pay someone to hem the jeans for you, but aren’t quite confident in your hemming skills. Hence, the jeans continue to sit… Sound familiar?! It’s time to learn how to hem jeans, my favorite way!

How to Hem Jeans

No more excuses! Give your wardrobe and your confidence a boost by hemming them yourself! This easy method of how to hem jeans is both fast and easy, and even allows you to keep the original hem. Your jeans will fit like a charm in no time, and soon all your friends will be dropping off their too-long jeans for you to hem!

Before you know it, you may even find yourself altering your jeans from bootcut to skinny or straight!

Got 15 minutes? You’re golden. Here we go…

How To Hem Jeans

Your favorite pair of too-long jeans!
Measuring Tape
Size 16 denim needle (I like to use these needles (affiliate link) for stitching through the multiple layers of denim)

1. Ready to learn how to hem jeans? First, try on your jeans and fold the hem up (right sides together) to the length that you’d like your finished hem. Remember to wear a pair of shoes that you would normally wear with the jeans. If you wear flats most often, throw on a pair. If you like to wear wedges, go with those.

2. Take off your jeans and measure from the bottom fold to the bottom of the original hem.
3. Divide the measurement from step 2 by 2. Example: I folded my jeans up 2 inches in step 1, and divided that 2 inch measurement by 2 to get 1 inch. Using the new measurement, fold the hem up again and pin in place (remember to ignore the original hem when measuring).

4. Continue pinning each pant leg as in step 3, until both hems are completely pinned.

5. Using a zipper foot, stitch around each jean leg, through both layers of jean, as close to original hem as possible. Note: Do not stitch ON original hem, but immediately adjacent to it.

6. Turn folded edges to inside of jean legs and try your jeans on to make sure you’re happy with the new length!

7. Press the folded edges upward toward the inside of each jean leg. You can also sew a couple of hand stitches at each side seam on the inside of each leg to tack the folded edges in place if you’d like. Note: If you had to hem a large amount from your jeans (I’d say greater than 2 inches or so), you may prefer to trim the folded edge and serge or zig zag the edges to reduce bulk. Make sure to press each jean leg from the outside as well to give a nice clean hemline.

Now, go grab your favorite flats…
how to hem jeans
And feel confident in your newly hemmed jeans and that you now know how to hem jeans!
how to hem jeans

Make It Work: My Weekend Tunic

I was thrilled when Sabra emailed me asking to be a part of her Make It Work series. She had been collecting ugly and out of date patterns from local thrift shops, and wanted to challenge other bloggers to create something – a nice something – with them.
no bag

A couple of days later I opened my mailbox, ripped open the big white envelope, and found this gem:

The challenge? Make It Work.

First, let’s talk a bit about what I had to work with, the good and bad about the pattern:

Considering that the point of Sabra’s challenge for me was to make something good out of a pattern that was, well, not-so-good, I still managed to find some positives to work from with the pattern. With even the ugliest or out of date pattern, you can still find some positives to base your finished product on. What I liked most about this pattern when I first saw it is that there was a tunic option. I’ve decided that tunics and leggings are going to be my mainstay this spring and summer, so I was excited to see View C, with a nice long length. I also like the overall shape of the top, as it is loose and looks like it would be comfortable to wear. In a shorter blouse length, the top looks fairly shapeless and out of date, but transferred into a modern tunic, I knew I could make the shape into a positive.


Where to start?! Just kidding, I was actually surprised when I excitedly opened my envelope from Sabra – maybe I was expecting even worse :). Most importantly, the pattern was sized 18W-24W, which is too large for me. I also knew that I wanted sleeves on my finished product, but not the bell-shaped sleeves that are provided in the pattern. I didn’t like the side bust darts, and the neckline was not appealing to me either :).
Here’s What I Did:
I chose to use View C front and back pieces for my bodice. First off, I had to grade the pattern down to fit my measurements.

Without getting into too much detail (we’ll save that for a post of it’s own sometime), I took my measurements at several critical areas – hips, waist, bust, shoulder, and a few others, and, after adding ease to these measurements, used the original pattern lines to make the pattern fit my measurements.

I first plotted my waist measurement, and worked from there with the other measurements.
Once I had all the basic points plotted onto the pattern, I was able to connect the lines, following the shape of the original pattern.
To really prove that anyone can “Make It Work”, I decided that it would be fun to use a men’s dress shirt rather than using fabric off the bolt. I found this Men’s Gap shirt at DI:
Before I could cut the pattern out of the shirt, I had to take the shirt apart into the pieces I needed. I cut the sleeves off at the shoulder seams and then cut up each side seam of each sleeve:

And cut each side seam apart…

Leaving just the shoulder seams in tact.
At that point the shirt sections were free to lay flat and be cut with my pattern pieces, beginning with the front.
I aligned the center front of the front pattern piece with the buttons (the middle edge of the shirt will cross over the center of the body when buttoned up). I also aligned the shoulder seams – I didn’t leave room for seam allowance on my drafted piece at the shoulder, so I matched the shoulder seam of the shirt with the pattern shoulder.
I cut out that side of the shirt (only up the side seam and arm opening, leaving the shoulder and neck area in tact) and used the same method to cut out the opposite front side. Since the back of the shirt was still one piece, the only changes I made were to fold it in half, matching side edges, prior to pinning the pattern piece, and placing the center back along the fold. I matched the shoulder seams the same way.
I decided I wanted to add some femininity to the sleeves since the shirt fabric itself was quite masculine. I used sleeves from this pattern, but this time I didn’t alter them at all, since I was not using a knit and didn’t have the room to stretch :). If you’re swapping sleeves from one pattern to another, it’s important that the arm opening is similar in both patterns, or you may need to adjust it. The sleeve pattern I used had small gathers in it, which also helps to be forgiving :). I used the sleeves I had taken apart to cut out my new sleeves.
At this point, all the major work had been done, and I was excited to get to put the shirt back together!
I stitched and serged each side seam.

Next, I assembled each sleeve and stitch them right sides together to the arm openings.

It was nice to see it looking like a shirt again ;)… Or a new tunic, to be correct!
I used my seam ripper to remove the pocket.

And the tunic itself was done (I do iron my clothing once in a while, just not before I took this photo…)!

I decided the tunic needed a little something extra to keep things girly, so I made a simple fabric brooch and pinned it on.
I am happy to say that I did Make It Work!
I love that I can wear the tunic loose and casual…
Or I can add a wide belt…
I can even chase a would-be camera thief, if the need arises :).
Thank you, Sabra, for asking me to be a part of this challenge! It was so much fun, and if I can do it, so can you! As part of the series, there’s a contest with fantastic prizes, so hop on over and enter!

Anthro Knock Off Tutorial: Brocco Bobbies

Need a fun, fast, update for your hair? I can always answer that question with a yes, and was so excited when I spotted Anthropologie’s Brocco Bobbies:

My first thought was how easy it would be to make something similar. They aren’t made of anything more than a fabric yo-yo, a bit of ribbon, and a little bling. The best part is you can customize your own bobbies to your own style and preferences, and the possibilites are endless!

Let’s get started…

1. fabric scrap – approximately 4″x4″
2. 1/4″ or 1/2″ wide ribbon scrap – 3″ in length
3. needle and thread
4. glue gun
5. vintage brooch or button (my pink and gold “brooch” pictured was part of a vintage bracelet I found at DI)

6. bobby pin

7. small felt scrap

1. First we’ll make a fabric yo-yo as the base of our hair pin. Using a bowl or other circular item that is approximately 4″ in diameter (the finished yo-yo will be close to half the size of your initial fabric circle, so adjust accordingly if you’d like), trace a circle onto the wrong side of your fabric.

2. Cut along traced line.
3. Thread your needle and knot the end of the thread, keeping the thread doubled. Stitch around the entire circumference of your fabric circle, 1/4″ from the edge. Leave the needle and thread attached for now.
4. Pull on the thread to very slightly bring the edges of the fabric circle toward the center. This will make the next step easier.
5. Press fabric circle 1/4″ toward wrong side around entire circumference. The right side will look like this:
6. Pull on needle and thread, gathering all edges of fabric circle in to the middle area. The tighter you pull the thread, the flatter your yo-yo will be. I left mine fairly loose to make the yo-yo a bit more bulky. Tie off threads and snip close to knot.
7. Cut piece of ribbon slightly wider than yo-yo and use a match to seal edges from fraying if desired.
8. Using glue gun, place a small amount of glue in middle of yo-yo, and position ribbon over top, pressing it down slightly into the center of yo-yo.
9. Place a small amount of glue on center of ribbon and glue brooch or button in place.
10. Cut a 1″x1″ circle from felt and glue to center back (flat side) of yo-yo.
11. Place a small amount of glue on center of felt circle and adhere flat area of bobby pin in place.
Great job, you are done! Now go and make some more :).
Make a statement with red…

Try adding a feather or two…
Or ditch the bobby pin for a headband!
Be sure to add pics of your bobbies to the Sew Much Ado Flickr Group! I can’t wait to see what you come up with :).

Maxi Skirt Tutorial

the maxi skirt tutorial
The Maxi Skirt. They’re everywhere right now. They’re long, they’re flowing, and the best part is they’re comfortable. They bring a feminine bohemian vibe that I can’t resist.
Anthro sells a couple of styles that I love here and here (if only I could rock horizontal stripes like the model):

But for around $100, why not make 5 of your own? My very stylish little sister Audy asked me to make a Maxi Skirt tutorial (she’s one of those people we all hate that can rock horizontal stripes). And since I might not have been cool enough to think of it on my own otherwise, I’m glad she did so I can share it with all of you! I hope you make a few of your own — I can’t wait to make another skirt in a print!

Materials Needed:
(affiliate links below)
1.5-2 yards 60″ wide knit fabric (hip measurements greater than 38″ will need closer to 2 yards)
2″ wide elastic (for measurement see below)
Ballpoint needle

Pieces to Cut:
From Elastic:
Pull elastic around waist how you’d like to it sit in the finished skirt, add 1/2″ to that length, and cut.
From Knit Fabric (write your measurements as you follow along and you’ll have your fabric cut in no time!):
For the waistband, cut a piece of knit fabric that is approximately 6″ longer than the length of your elastic and 5″ wide. Before cutting, double check that that length will stretch enough to comfortably be pulled over your hips, and cut extra length if needed.
Next, decide how long you want the skirt to be.  Measure from where the bottom of the waistband will sit to the floor, or just above, depending if you want your maxi skirt to hit the floor or not. Divide that number by 3. Add 1″ to that measurement to allow for 1/2″ seam allowances.  That will be the length of the top two panels of the skirt.

The bottom panel will be 1″ longer than the top two to allow for a 1.5″ hem allowance.

To determine the width of each panel, take your hip measurement and add 2-4″ for ease and seam allowance, depending on how tight you want the skirt to sit on your hips. I only added 2″ to my hip measurement because my fabric was very slinky had quite a bit of stretch.  If your fabric has less stretch, you may want to add up to 4″ for ease and seam allowance. That will be the width of your top panel.

For the middle panel, add 10″ to the width of the top panel, and add another 10″ in width to the middle panel for the bottom panel (bottom panel will be 20″ wider than top panel). If the width of your bottom panel needs to be greater than 60″, just divide the width you need by two, add 1″ to that measurement for seam allowance, and cut two pieces that size. Right sides together, stitch the two pieces together along one short end of each, and treat it as one piece from here on.

Note: This skirt is VERY forgiving, so if your fabric allows to only add 8″ in width for each panel without piecing the bottom panel, or you want a more flared skirt and want to add a couple extra inches, go ahead. This is one of those few projects where you can alter the measurements a bit (excluding the length, of course!) and your skirt will still turn out great.

Here’s an example of what a person with 38″ hips and a desired length of 36″ from the bottom of the waistband would need to cut for the panels:

Top Panel: 13″x40″
Middle Panel: 13″x50″
Bottom Panel: 14″x60″


A Few Notes Before You Begin:

  • All Seam allowances are 1/2″.
  • When sewing with knits, always use a ballpoint needle.
  • I would normally use a serger when sewing knits, but wrote this tutorial with the assumption that you don’t have one. If you have a serger — use it!  It will work great.  If not, the great thing about knits is that the edges don’t fray, so finishing seam allowances isn’t necessary.
  • If not using a serger, set your stitch length a bit longer than normal (2.5-3 on my machine), or use a very narrow zig zag stitch with a medium stitch length. A lot of machines also have a “stretch stitch” setting which also works great.

1. Overlap ends of elastic 1/2″ and stitch together using a zig zag stitch, forming a loop.

 2. Right sides together, fold waistband fabric in half, and matching short ends. Stitch together along raw edges, forming a loop.
3. Wrap waistband around elastic and pin in place (the more pins the merrier – it will also help in the next step to stretch the waistband fabric enough so you can pin it without catching any elastic), matching raw edges.
4. Stitch raw edges of waistband together around the entire loop. As you stitch, you’ll need to stretch the waistband fabric gently and be careful to not catch the elastic in your stitches.
5. Fold top panel of skirt in half, right sides together, and matching short ends. Stitch together along raw edges. Repeat with middle and bottom panels.
6. Mark middle and quarter points on panels and waistband by using a marking pen, pins, or gently pressing the fabric in half and then in half again. Pin one raw edge of top panel to waistband raw edge, right sides together, and matching marks. The top panel will be larger in circumference than the waistband. Stitch waistband to top panel along pinned raw edges, stretching the waistband to match the circumference of the top panel as you stitch.
7. Using a low setting on your iron, gently press seam allowance toward top panel and topstitch on top panel 1/4″ below seam.
8. Right sides together, pin one raw edge of middle panel to bottom edge of top panel, matching raw edges and marks. The middle panel will be larger in circumference than the waistband.  Stitch the two pieces together along raw pinned edges, stretching top panel as you stitch to match the circumference of the bottom panel.
 9. Using a low setting on your iron, gently press seam allowance toward middle panel and topstitch on middle panel 1/4″ below seam.
Note: I experimented with gathering the top edge of each panel rather than stretching the smaller piece to fit the larger piece, but ultimately decided that I liked the look better without the gathering. You could try gathering each panel if you’d like, but remember to remove the gathering stitch after sewing pieces together since it won’t stretch with the gathers like you’ll need it to :).
10. Attach bottom panel to middle panel and topstitch using same method as described in steps 8-9.
11. Try your skirt on to double check that the length will be as desired (plus 1.5″). Turn bottom edge 1.5″ to wrong side and stitch in place with two rows of stitching.
Congratulations On Your Finished Maxi Skirt! You are done!
Be sure to show off your skirts in the Sew Much Ado Flickr Group!
I’ll be linking up to some of my favorite linky parties!