Laura H. Thursday, May 17, 2012

Yay! First tutorial! I promised a friend of mine that I'd start with something pretty simple. And since I claim to be a friend to those who are brand-new to sewing, I figure it can't get any easier than this.

As a mom on a tight budget, I love consignment sales. I also hate the crowds, competition, and lining up so sometimes what I walk out of there with isn't always what I intended to get.

Example number five billion of my doing that is this dress. I think it was $3, but it was in the 24 month sizes and it's a 3t. *Le sigh* Elizabeth never fit in to it while it was cold out and now she does. What's a mommy to do? I like the dress and I really like hearing Elizabeth talk about her "bee 'ess."

Well, a mommy cuts the sleeves off because it is 80 degrees here. That is what a mommy does.

Oh, and forgive the not-great lighting. I have yet to figure out a way to get daylight underground in a rental. UGH! Next place will be bigger and ABOVE GRADE.

On with the tutorial!

So for this project, what you will need is:
The dress or top in question.
scissors (small ones seem to help a little, but big ones and a little extra attention work FINE.)
a sewing device (a needle and thread works for this, too. it isn't much sewing.)

Start by turning your dress inside out. Look at the seam where the sleeve and the bodice (that's the chest bit) come together. Get your scissors and make a little nick in the fabric on the SLEEVE SIDE of the seam.

This is important. You must cut the fabric on the sleeve itself only. The point here is to leave that nice seamed edge in tact and attached to the bodice. What you are aiming for is a cut that looks like this:
 Clip as close to that seam as you can. But cut on the sleeve side of it. Trim all the way around both sleeves just as close to that seam as you can. Steady as you go and try not to cut into the threads or cut the bodice of the dress. Take your time and trim close!

Once the sleeves are off, you should have something that looks like this:
You see how that left over bit of stitching *wants* to roll in? That is why we left it there! To encourage that fold, press it in place. Depending on the fabric, a little steam might help it hold the press. But press that left-over stitching into place, folded over to the inside of the dress.

When you clipped the sleeve off, you clipped so close to the seam so that you only have to fold the seam in one time. if you didn't get it quite as close as I did, just go back and do a bit more trimming so that you don't have raw edges showing. Trying to fold it in farther doesn't work so great and leads to some puckers and wobbliness when you stitch it down.

No pics of pressing. My pressing space is even more subterranean than my dining room.

For sewing knit materials (tee-shirt stuff) I like to use my walking foot. It works for me. Some people can do a really great job with their regular machine foot, other folks have other things that work. I advise reading up on the KNITerviews and trying some of the tips there if you are going to be doing serious knit sewing. If you are intimidated by knits and don't want to go there just yet, load up your needle and thread for this project - it won't take a whole Netflix'd episode of Blue's Clues to get it finished. But here is my walking foot. And the black cat's floofy hind end.

Next step is to trim the corner where the side seam and that sleeve seam met. Just knick off that pointed edge. We do this so that it will lay down a little better once sewn in place. Here's a pic of the before and after.

Now, sew your hems in place. Take your time and go slowly if this is one of your first projects. It is well worth 20 minutes for a good-looking finished project. Let the machine do the work, don't pull or tug. if you need to move the fabric, stop sewing and lift the foot, then move the fabric.
Once you are done, this should be what you have on the wrong side of the dress. Do the other arm-hole the same way.

Once you are done, try the dress or top on your little person. Don't be surprised if the arm-hole drops down a lot in comparison to other sleeveless dresses and tops. If it is 80 degrees in May where you are, your little person will like every breeze they can get!

Now, go play!


  1. Great idea! I've been looking for ways to stretch my daughter's wardrobe into summer. I'll be trying this!

    1. I'm glad that this helps! I have several more that I'm doing this way - once the weather really warms up!