Making the “Heather” Dress, a Quick Pinup Sewing Tutorial! Part 1

Hi all,

Welcome to another Tutorial Thursday post! This week will be the first of a two-parter in which I will be showing you how to make a dress which I have nicknamed “Heather”! I will be showing step-by-step from start to finish including pattern-making and some sewing tips. If this sounds like something you are interested in then keep reading! Just a heads up, this is a very long post with over 50 pictures!

First I will talk a little about my inspiration. A while ago I was hunting around a local fabric store when I spotted this fabric. My significant other and I had recently been playing Silent Hill 3 and we talked and joked about how amazing Silent Hill inspired clothes would be. I pictured them as dark but etheral, distressed but structured. I adore the aesthetic of Silent Hill! Anyway I spotted this and realised it would be just the thing! I bought 1.5 metres of it as I wasn’t yet entirely sure of what I wanted to make.

Heather is an easy-fit and quick dress to make, there’s no fastening so you don’t have to worry about zips or buttons, and it features a tie at the waist so you can still be nipped in. This can be created from scratch in under 2 hours!

**One shortcut to pattern making this is to just cut up an old t-shirt and use that as a pattern for the top, make sure the waist will be able to fit over your head though! If you wan’t to go with this method then skip down to find the skirt section.

Part 1 – Making the Pattern and Cutting Out

What you will need:

  • Fabric
  • Fabric Scissors
  • Measuring Tape
  • Chalk
  • Calculator
  • Ruler (optional)
  • Set Sqaure (optional)

I purchased 2m of fabric which worked for a knee length dress with a 36” Bust and 28” Waist, roughly a size 10-12. Sizes 14-18 should purchase 2.5m, and sizes 20-26 should purchase 3.5m to account for extra fabric in the skirt. Feel free to buy more fabric if you would like a fuller skirt.

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First I did a rough sketch of the dress and the pattern I would use to make it. This dress is a sleeveless dress with a scoop neck and no darts in the bodice. It has a tie at the waist for shaping as it has no fastening and it also features a gathered skirt.

I ended up adding butterfly sleeves later on which I will explain when I get to it. With this pattern you can really pick and choose any changes you want. You might want to change it to a crew or v-neckline, change the skirt to a circle skirt (the butterfly sleeve section can help with this), make the sleeves less full or even leave it sleeveless. It’s really up to you.

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I wanted to check the stretch of the fabric, as I knew it has a one-way stretch. To do this I measure 10 inches of fabric, then I hold the end at the zero mark and pull the fabric to the left. My 10 inches of fabric stretched to 11.5”, this means the fabric stretches 15% as 11.5 is 15% larger than 10. It’s always best to use a number divisible by 10 to measure the stretch by as it’s much easier to calculate.

Drafting the Bodice/Top

I decided to use the black edge as my finished hem, so all of y bodice and other pieces were cut from the lighter side.

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Next take your measurements! You will need: Bust, Waist, Skirt Length, Shoulder-Waist, Shoulder-Bust and Shoulder Width.

Because the dress is a slip on it can’t just be made to your regular waist measurement as this often means you wouldn’t be able to get it on! If there is no stretch in your fabric then just make the waist measurement the same as the bust.

We know the waist will need to stretch to the size of the bust measurement, so the bust measurement is 100% in my case this is 36”. 100-(stretch of fabric)=The amount the bust will need to be multiplied by to figure out the waist. In my case it’s 100-15=85, so if I cut the fabric to 85%(0.85) of the bust measurement, I will still be able to get it on and off. So 36×0.85=31.45 which is my last line of working in the above image. The smallest I can make the waist is 31.45” to still be able to get it over my head.

I know it is quite maths-y, but that’s pattern-making!

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So now on to drawing out the pattern. To be super quick (and the method I most often use) draw the pattern directly onto the fabric with chalk. If you want to re-use the pattern later then feel free to draw out the pattern onto paper then use this as a template to cut your fabric.

First fold part of the fabric in half with the raw (cut) edge. My 1/4 Bust measurement is 9” so I need to fold it over at least 10” to account for the seam allowance, I made it a bit further as I had a very wobbly cut edge from the store I got the fabric from.

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Next measure the length from Shoulder-Waist and square this off, in my case 16.5”. If you have a set square then go ahead and use it. It’s definitely not necessary and you can just do it by eye, it won’t make a huge problem if you are a little off.

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So I did draw the pattern up onto the fabric with chalk but it really didn’t show up on camera! I’ve annotated this photo on Paint (fancy stuff), hopefully it isn’t too hard to figure out. Then cut it out! Also this is what the shape of my scoop neck looks like. I’ll also insert a photo below of one with my personal measurements on it. If you are the same size as me then feel free to use it!

Also remember to add seam allowances once you’ve marked it up! This is also up to personal preference.

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Next place the front bodice piece and put it face-down (right sides together) onto the fabric beside it (sizes 8-16) or beneath it (sizes 18-26).

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Next the back neckline needs to be drawn in. This is usually quite a bit higher than the front, as I have depicted with the power of Paint.

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Here they are cut out and on top of each other. Usually armholes are slightly different shapes on front and back but as this is just a quick easy-fit dress it doesn’t matter too much.

Next I wanted to check how and if this fabric tears down the grain lines.

In this image set I have taken a small piece of excess fabric and I am testing to see if I can tear it along a grainline, as this allows me to just tear it instead of cutting it along a long straight. I made a small cut towards the selvedge (straight edge of fabric) and tried to pull it apart. As you can see in the third picture this did not go too well.

Next I tried cutting parallel to the selvedge and success! I could make a nice clean tear right through. Some fabrics will allow you to do both, some only one, and some neither. At least this meant I could tear right down the length of my fabric, which is what I needed to do for the skirt and ties.

Waist Ties

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Here is the length of fabric that was underneath what I cut out for the bodice, it was about 40” I believe?

First I cut down from the far side, at a right angle to the length, so that I wouldn’t tear down too much of the fabric. Next make a small snip and tear to make it a clean straight edge.

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I decided I wanted the ties to be 1 1/4” wide which meant the pieces for them needed to be 3.5” wide to account for the doubling and seam allowance.

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I repeated it twice to get two long strips!

The Skirt

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Next I measured how much width of the fabric I had left, I knew I wanted 25” so this was plenty! I find 25” to be good for below the knee, and I am around 165cm/5ft 5in. 28” is a good mid-calf length and 22” for just above the knee. If you’re not sure what length you want then make it as long as you can and then you can test it against you and just lop some off.

I left 1 1/2” at the bottom for my hem as I wasn’t quite sure how I wanted it yet, 1” is normally a good amount for a rolled hem. This does have a nice looking selvedge on this side and I was also tempted to leave it like this but I also wanted the black of the skirt to fade into black stockings when I wore it.

27” ended up being my total length including the seam allowance for the other side.

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Then snip it and tear it the whole way down! This way the skirt is only made up of one piece instead of the usual 2+.

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Here’s how my skirt piece looks all folded, I adore that gradient!

Now if you want to leave your dress sleeveless then congratulations, you’re all done! Keep reading if you want to see how I did my butterfly sleeves, otherwise stay tuned for Part 2 next week where I show the construction! Or at the very bottom I show you an instant small thing I made with my very last fabric!

The Sleeves

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Here is the amount of fabric I had left over. I figured I had enough so I may as well do sleeves but I wanted something nice and floaty to match the fog/ash/snow/up-to-you that Silent Hill is famous for.

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I decided to add sleeves to one half of my sketch to see how it looked, and I liked it! You can see in the top right my basic plan for the pattern piece.

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I measured my armhole so that I knew how big the sleeve hole had to be. Mine ended up being 9”. Remember to exclude seam allowances as this sleeve style doesn’t have any and it will be sewn in on-the-round.

I also measured my desired sleeve length which was 8”. The other side of my sleeve is going to be 4”, because 4” is the standard depth for a sleeve head so I took this away from the 8”. Now I hope you are ready for some more maths because it’s circle time!

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Hopefully you can understand this! It might take a bit of kickstarting the part of your brain you left in high-school but I added the basic equations in the green box at the bottom. The equations on the left are kind of like a key to the ones on the diagram so you can see why each measurement is what it is.

I included the small sketch from my book but also did a larger cleaned up version in Paint. If you have any questions feel free to contact me, it can be quite tricky. These are also basically the same steps for creating a circle-skirt, but the middle circle would be centred.

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I divided the diameter of the larger circle by 2 so that I could see the midpoint so I could then fold my fabric so I wouldn’t just be trying to draw a circle freehand.

In the first picture I measured the total diameter so that I could cut the fabric and end up folding it into quarters, as seen in the second picture.

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Next from the centre point I measured out the radius and marked it in chalk in sections so it made the outline of the circle.

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I then cut it out, making a curve between the marks to make it as circular as I could.

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And ta-daa a circle! Now comes the slightly more tricky but certainly not as bad as the maths part!

I folded the circle in half and the started to mark out the diagram measurements. On the left 4.5” (including the seam allowance) and on the right 8.5” (inc. seam allowance), this leaves the centre to be 5.7”

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I then halved this (since we are working on a half circle) and marked it the same as the large circle.

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Simply cut it out and there’s the sleeve!

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Next it needs to be placed, right sides together on top of the remaining fabric to make the other sleeve.

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Pick up the fabric from the centre and make a snip to make a hole to start cutting from. Then cut the second sleeve out.

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Finally fold the circles in half again and make a small snip at the top of the inside towards the longer part of the sleeve. This will serve as the marker for the shoulder seam when you sew it in!

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And there we have it! All the pattern pieces ready to be sewn! It might take a bit to read through and follow step-by-step so feel free to come back to it as many times as you would like. It also might be a good idea to give it a read through first to get your head around it.

Thanks for reading, and as a final outro here is what I did with the last scrap of fabric I had.

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What I had left over.

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I snipped and tore it down both sides to give a clean rectangle.

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I tidied up the smaller edges, luckily it doesn’t really fray so I just tried to straighten it up.

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And here we have a fabulous fabric rectangle. This is about 6”x44” which is actually a great size for many things, as I will now demonstrate.

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A neckscarf, for living out your 1920’s dreams of driving along in an open-top car and being strangled as it gets caught up in the wheels. Or just something floaty round your neck.

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A neckbow! For being as cute as a cat, or as stylish as one. This is a good way to cutesy up your dress and try to make yourself forget you come from a parallel universe where your own demons manifest to attack you.

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And finally a hairbow! I was already wearing one this day and I didn’t really want to have to sort my hair out again so I stacked them. “Wooow, double hairbow”.

Hope you enjoyed!

anna text

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