How I Tried To Sew A Dress (Part I)

In which I try to be a Slow Fashion maker and not only consumer. How “easy” is an easy DIY maxi dress really?

Does it truly work to just draw around a t-shirt? – Let’s find out!

Slow fashion is a fantastic topic, and there’s nothing better in order to appreciate and to understand the craft and the work behind a piece garment than to try and do it yourself!”

As we’re discussing textile labels here on BEAUTYCALYPSE, my dearest Adventurers, and as other slow fashion topics and interviews are coming next, I thought that an experiment was due.

You see, reworking my wardrobe, I’ve felt the wish to have a long, simple, sleek summer dress: the top of a simple t-shirt, a nice waterfall neck, a simple, sleek, uber-cool floor-length dress!

The DIY idea was born because none of the brands I love (and trust) had such a design in their collections. Also I like me a nice DIY project. While I’m a complete noob at sewing, I am an avid DIY’er when it comes to stationery and fashion jewellery as well as different trompe oeil and decoration projects – and so the decision was made!DIY-dress-project-GOTS-jersey-SiebenblauDIY-dress-project-GOTS-jerseyI have googled “easiest DIY shirt dress (of the world)” (found it here), I bought a GOTS-certified, gorgeous linen jersey in a beautiful, cool dusty blue (at Berlin’s ethical fabric shop Siebenblau, around 50€) and pretty expensive GOTS-certified sewing thread and started the work.

Step 1: “An easy weekend project!”

Motivated by the idea to have a brand new dress by the end of the weekend, I have brutally overestimated my sewing skills. I suppose that the easy DIY is easy for somebody who’s used to sewing.

Now, wor a complete n00b, it’s doable, just not easy. The main idea behind the DIY is that you pick your favourite t-shirt – favourite in terms of how good/flattering it looks – and draw around it, so you skip the pattern-making. And that’s it for the easy part! 😀DIY-dress-project-Step1DIY-dress-project-Step2DIY-dress-project-Step3Drawing around a t-shirt (a neon yellow Odlo tee) was a piece of cake, drawing the rest of it was also simple – but trying to cut a straight line into jersey is SO NOT EASY! Drawing on, and cutting my beautiful jersey fabric has kept me busy for 2 hours. Eventually, I was able to pin the dress-to-be at the seams-to-be to figure out if I fit in there somehow. 

Step 2: Handstitch like nobody’s business

To be honest with you, I was so sick and tired of the process, I had to tuck the project away and get back to it just recently, realising that summer was actually there.DIY-dress-projectNow, I have no bloody idea of how to sew with a machine, so I went to seek help from my mum. Embarrassing! I know! But she has actually learned both pattern-making and sewing, and so she was really the Chosen One for the project.

If you want a job done well, hire a professional.”
– Leon the professional

Mum sighed, handed me a needle and white thread and told me to handstitch the dress. What? No sewing? Nope. Who knew! And after I was done, she noticed that I had failed at sleeve symmetry and we had to open the seams and cut and handstitch again. Another two hours in, and the dress still was nowhere to be seen! Duh!DIY-dress-project-how-easy-is-easy{1: Cut the seam. 2. Handstitch it. 3. Machine? Ha-ha! Not yet, noob!}

Now I am dying to finally wear it, so come weekend I will try to sew the damned thing and to wear it. However, right now this is the money and the work count for a simple dress:

DIY research time: 2 hours. Sourcing the fabric: 1 hour. Going to the shop: 1.5 hours. Cutting and handstitching: 4 hours.
So it’s not even finished – but already totals 8.5 hours of work!
Even if I actually knew what I was doing: patterns, cut, handstitch, it all takes hours, even if you’re experienced. Probably longer in that case, because you do it with more precision and perfectionism.DIY-dress-project-TBCWill my summer maxi dress really be DIY’ed before summer is over? Will I be able to sport it during summer parties? We’ll find out!

Have you ever sewn a garment? Or do you DIY anything yourself?
It’s always more hard work than it seems, innit?


Geeking out about all things truly green, healthy and ethical over at (Avatar illustration by A. Goncharenko)

13 Responses

  1. From watching the Great British Sewing Bee I know that jersey can be fiendishly tricky to sew with (who says TV isn’t educational eh). I HATED needlework class at school though now I see how useful those skills would be. I look forward to the successful completion of the mission 🙂

  2. Heather in Arles

    Wow! There is no way that I would even think about attempting this so bravo! Keep going and I can’t wait to see the end result!! 🙂

  3. Eek, you are brave. In the days when I sewed my own clothes, jersey knit material wasn’t readily available. Mostly I used cotton or wool fabrics. If I were using a very easy pattern, I could finish a dress in a day.

  4. At the word “handstitch” I would have run! I used to sew lots of my clothes and eventually got to a point where I enjoyed the results as well as the process. I did learn to sew at school (I even had to have remedial classes), but it takes a bit of experience for things to click into place. Jersey is a difficult fabric to sew with so I’d suggest next time (there will be a next time, won’t there?) maybe find a cool skirt pattern and work with a woven fabric. You’ll be so pleased with the result 🙂 Good luck with your dress too.

      1. 🙂 I have a great love of mechanical things. I used to pull my mother’s sewing machine apart long before I got interested in using it to actually sew anything.

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