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The ‘Nancy’ easy knit halter dress

Buoyed by the success of my first sewing project with the pink apron, I headed straight onwards and upwards and became (too ?) ambitious for my next project.  I wanted to make a dress.  The remnant bin this week produced a rather random print in blue and brown which I am never to sure about because this was the color of my old school uniform.  What’s more the fabric was stretchy and I had no idea what to do with it.  It cost about $5 and I bought some dark brown thread for 70c.

I came across the Nancy dress pattern and thought – yes, its only rectangles, I can do this !

So I cut out my rectangles according to the pattern pieces and measurements, sewed them up (in like, 5 minutes) and tried on my new dress.  Er….. sack/shroud?  Yikes it was way way too big and completely shapeless and here I came across my first fitting problem.  I think it was down in part to my choice of fabric because it has a lot of stretch so it was loose.  But because its only rectangles, it was easy to just pin in the sides a little (I did some on each side) and then sew up again, cut off the extra and retry.

Perfect fit – well, good enough for my first dress I think.  Do excuse the photo – it was a very windy day and everything looks a little windswept – including me!

Nancy knit dress

However, I wanted a bit more shaping in front, and I don’t like to go without a bra, so I added some halter straps made simply from long rectangles of fabric sewed up and then turned the right way out and hemmed the ends.  The shaping on the front was easy, I just gathered an inch and half of fabric in a bunch in the center and then sewed back and forward through it a couple of times and I had a little shaping.

That afternoon I wore my dress to the supermarket, and saw a colleague who said ‘Cute dress’ and I beamed and said ‘Thank you.  I made it myself.’ and my love of sewing was cemented for good.

So if you fancy making your first dress, try the Nancy pattern. It is easy to sew, has good instructions and you can customize it to fit your shape really easily, add straps etc.  And it can also be worn around the waist as a long or maxi skirt too.

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My first sewing project – a half apron

So I had some cotton, a pink printed piece from the rummage section.  About a yard and a half, bought by the pound.  The remnants are weighed, and you buy by weight – I don’t remember now what this cost, but its $7.50 per pound.

What to make?  I’ve not sat in front of a sewing machine for over 30 years, but I know straight away that I want to make things to wear, clothes, things I can get use from.  But I don’t know anything about fitting, don’t have any patterns.  And the fabric isn’t the sort of thing I would normally wear.

So let’s start nice and easy and make an apron.  I’ve seen some lovely aprons for sale on Etsy, using mixed fabrics, with ruffles, bows, fabulous vintage or fashionable prints.  And really they are only rectangles right?  So with my single piece of cotton I get to work.

I cut rectangles.  One from the waist to just above the knee and a little over from hip to hip size, with a little extra to allow for some pleats.  Then a wide rectangle to use as a waist band which I can double over. Then two long thin rectangles to use as the ties.

Hmm, how to sew them all together.  Well actually it was pretty intuitive.  I hemmed 3 sides of the apron piece leaving the top edge open.  Then I prepared the ties by making long tubes which I turned right side out and top stitched and pressed.  Then I folded the waist band in half and pinned the ties in at either end and the apron part in the middle.

I added a couple of pleats for the front of the apron for a little shaping and volume.  Pinned them in place, and the top stitched around the waist band to hold everything in place.

And it was done!  I proudly put on my apron and danced around the kitchen with my finished ‘garment’.  It’s not really clothes, but it is something I can wear and use and it was really easy with no pattern at all.

I’m not exactly thrilled with it.  It’s a bit plain, I’m not keen on the pink print and I’ve already managed to get spots of chilli on the front (thank goodness I was wearing an apron!)  So do have a go for yourself and add a variety of prints and solids to add some great variety.

My suggestion for sizing:

First, decide how long and wide you would like your waistband to be.  I had a wide band, about 3.5 inches which I could fold over in half so I measured my rectangle as twice this, plus and extra inch for the seam allowance.  This gives a really wide band which I can fold over in half if I like too.

Then the apron part will be the same width.  If you want to add pleats like I did, add an extra 4 inches for each pleat and you will pleat them 2 inches into the waistband on each side.

There are so many fabulous free patterns on the internet for aprons that I’m not going to remake the wheel by posting lots of details.  Above are my notes on sizing so I got the apron to be the size I wanted.

And check out my pinterest board on some of the great apron designs and free patterns and tutorials here.  Why not follow me or the board on pinterest – I’ll be adding great new patterns and tutorials as I find them.

So my first project was a simple success.  From zero to hero !   Hmm, I still have some of that pink cotton fabric left over – what to do next?

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