Self Drafted Chambray Summer Dress

July 1, 2014


Holy happy this girl made a dress.

It had been on my to-do list for a while to try drafting and sewing a summer dress. Since I hadn’t done this before, I kept it really simple. Honestly, I didn’t want to draft something too ambitious right out of the gate and then get down on myself if it didn’t sew or fit right. For me, this was an exercise in confidence building. I still made a lot of little mistakes along the way, but that’s how you see first hand what doesn’t work and why. At the end of it I’m feeling encouraged and excited to keep adding to my handmade wardrobe – which is exactly what I wanted out of this project.

I love this Robert Kaufman Chambray Union fabric I bought from The Workroom – washes well, easy to sew and feels great against the skin. I wanted this dress to be easy to wear and easy to keep clean, something I’m not scared to run around in but still looks pulled together.


Everyone has their own list of requirements when it comes to style and fit, which is why drafting your own pattern is so great. You can see how even the simplest dress requires a lot of consideration, and still has a lot of room for error/adjustment. Here are the requirements I had for this dress:

– Pulled on over my head, no zippers.
– Long enough so that I can sit down and still have the hem hit mid-thigh.
– Loose enough on the hips it doesn’t cling and ride up as you walk.
– Slightly longer hem in the back so I’m comfortable bending over (I also just like the look of a stepped hem).
– No sleeves so that I can wear a cardigan overtop and not have any bulk or sleeve lines showing around my shoulders. I really like short kimono sleeves, but went sleeveless so it’s easier to layer.
– Armholes lose enough to comfortably wrap my arms around myself
– A sash that doesn’t roll (interfacing!)
– 100% cotton so it’s comfortable against the skin
– Darker fabric so it didn’t need to be lined and would hide stains (I’m a messy eater…).



Above you can see the rough pattern pieces (excluding sash) – front, back, front neck facing, back neck facing. I started with a basic size 10 blouse block, and graded it up to my size (which I don’t know how to properly do) so I made the best guess based off of my measurements and measurements of clothes I already own. I then moved the bust dart to the side seam and made the body unfitted. I also made a boat neck (so it would pull over my head) and nipped a little bit out of the neckline so it would lay flat.


I didn’t make a muslin because I’m impatient like that, so here’s what I did to minimize the chances it wouldn’t fit in the end:

– When grading my pattern block I added a little extra if I wasn’t sure, figuring taking in a seam would be easier than having to add room somehow.
– I left the hem really long, and pinned it to the right length later on. When I had the hem pinned, I tried sitting down and bending over to make sure it was a comfortable length.
– I tried it on constantly as I went (see picture above) to make sure it fit – checking it fit over my head, the armholes fit, etc.
– I marked all alterations on my original pattern pieces, so it’s ready for me to use a second time.


I originally drafted an all-in-one facing, which I have no experience with but assumed would look best. As is turns out there’s a trick to sewing them, and I totally botched my chances by sewing my side and neck seams too early in the game. I decided to change it to a simple neck facing, that way I wouldn’t have to rip anything out, and finished the armholes with french binding.




It turned out well, except the binding puckers a bit near the side seam since I didn’t sew the binding before the side seams were sewn, meaning I didn’t properly true the seams. Lesson learned! I think next time I would try the all-in-one facing again, because I do notice you get a line where the facing ends along the shoulder, which starts looking pretty rumpled by the end of the day (you can see in the very first photo). Or maybe that’s just because it’s thinner cotton? Heck if I know.


A test for fit – I’m able to sit down and still have the hem hit at a comfortable place, and the side slits aren’t too high.

Dress17     Dress21

Apologies for the wrinkles, but here’s the final product on a way-to-small mannequin. Yes, there are lots of little mistakes and dodgy serging, but it does fit quite well. I just want to show how little sewing is involved, there was no need to be intimidated. If I didn’t have blocks to start with I would try tracing off a garment I already had to get an armhole and neckline that fits. Alternatively, I’m sure you could trace these from another pattern you’ve used before and try filling in the rest.


One final requirement for fit:
– Must be able to scale tree without dress hiking up.

  • Rachel Siegel


  • lovely! i always love when projects are a learning experience and still turn out great.

    • katesmalley

      I know! It’s so nice to make something I’m actually happy enough with to wear, most of the clothing I’ve sewed/knit before (which is not much) I don’t even wear haha.

  • Sarah T

    You’ve done a great job – I agree that to be fearless and just give things a go is the best course of action. If you’re irritated by your neckline facing you could consider top stitching it down in place – because you’ve top stitched your armscyes it wouldn’t look at all out of place. I’m making a denim dress at the moment too (with sleeves as it’s winter here) – and a chambray one for summer is definitely on my list.

    • katesmalley

      Thank you! That’s a great tip – I just tacked it to the shoulder seam, but it if keeps annoying me I might try that.

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