Fabric: satin, pink, 1.5m;Sash: chiffon, in a contrasting colour, two 15cm x 65cm stripsA non-stretch dress or sun-top that fits you well
This is a cut-to-suit pattern, so you will be able to make the top to fit your exact measurements. This guide applies to dress sizes 6-16.
Place the two 15cm x 65cm strips of chiffon with right sides together and stitch down one of the shorter edges with a zig zag machine stitch, to create one 130cm length of fabric. You can make this shorter or longer depending on your waist size, to suit.
If possible, shorten the length of your zig zag stitch to make it more dense. Stitch all the way around the edges of the sash, keeping as close to the edge as you can. The zig zag stitch will form a neat hem and is a quick, easy way of finishing chiffon and other lightweight fabrics.
Make the front of the tunic. Before you begin, fold your fabric in half (right sides facing outwards) and mark the centre line with dressmaker’s chalk. Unfold the fabric and lay it out flat. You should now have a line running through the middle of the material – use this to guide you when placing your front and back bodice pieces.
To create your pattern, take a dress or sun-top that fits you well (but isn’t too tight) and lay it out flat, on top of the fabric. Make sure that the garment you choose to base your pattern on is made of a similar fabric to the one you are using for this project.
Move the dress so that it is at a 45 degree angle to the warp and weft of the fabric – this layout and cutting style is know as cutting on the bias (see page 8 of the Sew Pull-Out Workbook.) By using this method to cut, the fabric will fit the curves of the body better and will hang nicely. Draw around the dress with dressmaker’s chalk and mark out where the darts will need to be, copying the original garment.
Working on the darts; add between 3cm – 5cm extra width to both side seams, above the front darts (this is the section that will form the widest part of the dart). This is so that when the darts are sewn in and the garment is constructed, your top fits correctly. Before cutting it’s a good idea to pinch in where you want your darts to go, and pin them to check the fit. As an example, the darts on our sample started 20cm below the armhole, and went up at a 45 degree angle towards the centre-bust point.
Add an extra 3.5cm to the bottom edge of this piece. Once all of the markings have been made, cut out the front bodice, and use it as a template for cutting out the back bodice piece (make sure to work on the bias, as for the front). There will be no darts in the back, so discard the extra side seam allowance you added in step 3, smoothing out the curve as you go with a pencil.
If you are using a fabric that frays easily, work around the edges of both pieces with a zig zag machine stitch, or an overlocker if you have one. You do not need to edge the darts, so leave those unfinished. With wrong sides facing, pin the edges of the darts so that the markers on the side seam are joined, forming a triangular fold of fabric on the wrong side with the point facing to the garment centre. Sew the darts closed using a straight machine stitch, and press the dart twoards the lower. Trim any excess fabric.
Place the front and back pieces with right sides facing and pin the side seams, leaving a 1.5cm seam allowance. Try the top on to make sure you can get it on and off easily. If you can’t, reduce the seam allowance slightly and pin again.
Once you’re satisfied with the fit, join the side seams with a straight machine stitch – it’s a good idea to set your machine to work with a wide stitch length, so that it’s easier to unpick should you feel unhappy about the fit once finished. With right sides facing, pin the shoulder seams of the back and front pieces together and sew with a straight machine stitch.
Work the armholes. Most sewing machines have a removable body section that facilitates stitching armholes and cuffs, called the ‘free arm’. If your machine has one, remove it before starting this section. Turn the edge of the armholes over to the wrong side by a tiny amount – no more than 5mm – and pin.
Using a straight machine stitch, work around the armhole, making sure to keep to the small hem allowance. Once finished, turn the hem over by another small amount (5mm again is ideal), and sew with a straight machine stitch, starting under the arms. Press, then repeat this process for the neckline.
Work the lower hemline. Turn the bottom edge of the tunic over to the wrong side by 1cm all the way around, and press. Turn up an additional 2cm (again to the wrong side), and press again. Using the straight markings on your machine’s footplate as a guide, stitch the hem down using a straight or blind hem machine stitch.
Turn the finished top through to the right side and press. Wrap your contrasting ribbon waist-tie around you twice and tie it in a big bow at the back, front or side.