I was obsessed with Laura Ingalls Wilder as a kid, but that’s not really relevant. After the maxi-dress incident, I wondered if I could make a long dress that was just a bit more flattering.
Did I succeed? You will be the judge of that.
HAHAHA that’s me! Maybe you should wash your hair and put on makeup before you try to photo shoot yourself! But anyway, this dress was made with three yards of cotton lawn and one afternoon with no childrens around. Get the full Modern Prairie Dress Tutorial after the jump!
And remember that any comment you leave this week could win you that Alexander Henry fabric. Maybe you want to mock me? I can take it.
Modern Prairie Dress Tutorial
For this dress I used gorgeous Alexander Henry Fulham Road Cotton Lawn in Martine Red from Fabricworm. You’ll also need a bobbin of elastic thread. For a tute explaining how to sew with elastic thread visit our Shirred Summer Dress post.
So for this dress you need to model it after a dress or clothes you already have, because I can’t make a pattern this big for you. However, it’s a very simple and forgiving dress, so you can be nonchalant about how you cut it out, just make sure the armholes are going to fit by modeling them from a dress that fits you well. So grab that dress and lay it on your fabric and trace the armholes and neck line.
You need one piece for the back. Give it a high neck and taper the sides out under the armhole out so it has some room to gather.
You need two pieces for the front, it’s just like the back piece except split in the middle and with a V neckline. So trace and cut:
And for the skirt, you need two pieces the width of your yard, and the length from the top of your waist to the ground, plus a few inches. Again, the dress is forgiving so we don’t need to be super specific, this isn’t Nasa.
So for the skirt, fold your two pieces in half, lay them on top of each other, and taper from the waist to the end by cutting at a diagonal. You still want a big old waist because we are going to gather it, so i started about 8″ in at the waist and cut on the diagonal to the bottom corner of the fabric:
I used leftover scraps to make 1/2″ single fold bias tape. Learn how to make that on our post: How to Make Bias Tape. I made about 14 feet of it and had some to spare.
Let’s make the ties first. So cut six 8″ pieces of your bias tape, fold them in half and sew. Now you have six 8″ long 1/4″ wide ties.
Now to assemble the top of the dress. Lay your back piece right side up, then lay one front piece right side down. Pin at the shoulders and up the side:
Sew the shoulder seams and side seams, then finish by serging, sewing with a zig zag stitch, or cutting with pinking shears.
Repeat on the other side with the other top piece.
Now turn your top right side out. Grab your bias tape and open it up, then pin along the inside edge of a top piece, right sides facing, with edges aligned:
Pin all the way from the bottom front of one side, around the neck, and down the other side.
Now grab your ties. Pin them in between the bias tape and the shirt with the length of the tie to the outside so the edges are all aligned. Could I have made this dress in a more difficult fabric to see?
Sew in place all the way around along the fold in the bias tape. This will secure your ties.
Now turn your top inside out, fold the bias tape back up, and flip it over to the wrong side of the top and pin in place.
Pin in place all the way around:
Sew in place all the way around at the inside edge of the bias tape:
Turn your top right side out and tie your ties. Cute!
We need to finish the armholes. This is a good time to try your top on and make sure the armholes are big enough, if not, cut them a little bigger. So repeat the bias tape process around the armhole, starting at the bottom seam. So open your bias tape, pin right sides facing with edges aligned around the armhole:
Sew in place at the fold:
Turn the top inside out, fold the bias tape back up, flip around to the wrong side, and pin:
Sew in place all the way around:
Repeat on the opposite armhole:
Ok, bodice complete. Set it aside.
Now for the skirt. So lay your two skirt pieces right sides facing and sew up each side, then finish the edges by serging, sewing with a zig zag stitch, or cutting with pinking shears. I folded it so you could see the seams. Your skirt will seem pretty large, but don’t worry we are going to gather it.
So normally you would wait until you were done to hem the skirt, but I knew it was the right length so I hemmed it first. Someone on facebook was asking how to hem with a serger, so I’ll show you really quick, but you can just hem by folding 1/4″ and ironing, then another 1/2″ and ironing, then stitching in place, or by using a blind hem stitch. Here’s what I did. I held the skirt right side up and folded the fabric 1/2″ under (to the wrong side), then 1/2″ up to the right side.
I serged it in place:
Then flipped it over and ironed it flat.
OK, now to gather our skirt. You’ll notice I serged the top edge, but that was a waste of time, don’t do it. Now you can just go right ahead and sew your elastic rows, but if you are worried about keeping a straight line you can draw first. You should draw on the RIGHT side of the fabric, but my fabric was totally see through so I drew on the wrong side knowing I would see the line as I sewed. So measure 1/2″ down from the waist, and draw eight lines 1/4″ apart on both sides of your skirt, making sure they line up at the seams:
With the skirt right side out, elastic thread in your bobbin, and regular thread in your spool, sew your eight lines. Remember to back stitch at the beginning and end of each circle row so your elastic thread doesn’t unravel later on. So I did that and here is what it looks like:
Now leave the skirt right side out. Take your top piece and turn it inside out. Now turn it upside down. Slip the bodice over the top of the skirt so the bottom of the bodice and the top of the skirt edges are aligned.
To pin it together, start by pinning the side seam of the skirt and the side seam of the bodice together at each side.
It will look floppy in the middle like this:
Stretch the skirt out and place pins all the way around. When you let go it will look like this:
Place the pinned edge into your sewing machine and turn the needle down into the fabric and give it a stitch or two to hold it. Now stretch out the skirt as you sew, like this:
Sew all the way around. Now you’ve attached your bodice and skirt:
Finish the edge by serging or sewing with a zig zag stitch:
Flip your bodice up. You did it!
If you haven’t hemmed the skirt yet, go ahead and do that. You’re done!
I love this fabric so much! Kind of 70’s, kind of prarie, totally soft and light. This dress would look pretty stiff with a regular quilting cotton. It would look GORG in a rayon or gauze!
You did it! Throw your arms in the air!
Shake your booty!
Yes, that’s my booty on the Internets! For shame! Ok ladies, can’t wait to hear what you have to say. Go easy on me!