When I was first asked to take part in the Simple Sew blog team I knew exactly which dress I wanted to make; the wonderful Ruby dress. With it’s swooshy circular skirt and classic fitted bodice it was right up my street and I knew it would be a dream.
Not only did my wishes come true but I was also given the chance to share a tutorial for Ruby with all you lovely lot. What more could a girl ask for?
Before we get started, here are some things important things:
1) PRE-WASH YOUR FABRIC. You already have? Excellent! You haven’t? Go! Go and do it now! I’ll wait for you.
2) Your fabric is drying? Excellent. Use this time to read through the instructions from start to finish. Twice.
3) Make a toile. I’m not joking. For this pattern you’ll be given the finished measurements, but unlike some commercial patterns you might be used to, you won’t get your body measurements to compare ease. I went with a straight up size 12 based on the finished measurements and discovered the hard way that I should have done a small bust adjustment. You have been warned…
4) Make sure you have the following things to hand: tape measure, pins, scissors, glass of wine / cup of tea [delete as appropriate], a radio set to 6 music / your favourite five CDs/records / Spotify Discover [again, delete as appropriate. Also, if you have Spotify and haven’t come across Discover Weekly get to your playlists post haste. It’s a great way to find bands you’ll love but have never heard of]
5) I made my Ruby in a beautiful turquoise colour, a bit like the colour I imagine mermaids’ tails to be (too muchThe Little Mermaid as a kid, perhaps). However, it turns out that this is a notoriously difficult colour to photograph, so apologies for the varying colour the fabric appears in different photos….
The final thing to say is that, as this is a tutorial, I’ve gone with the method that is given in the sewing pattern, and followed it step by step (with step numbers in bold) so that you can follow it against your own copy of the pattern. I’ve also provided a few hints and tricks along the way to make your sewing easier. Ruby is a great pattern as it needs only a few simple skills to make a gorgeous dress. You won’t regret it!
Now, on with the information!
To begin with, cut out your pattern pieces, following the lay plan on the pattern. I like to lay all my pieces out before I cut anything to make sure they’ll all fit, but also to see if I can use less fabric (especially when, like here, I’m using a plain fabric)
Transfer all of the markings on to the wrong side of the fabric using a contrast colour chalk; for this fabric I’ve used pink to show up against the turquoise.
As a pre-step to the pattern, I also chose to staystitch the neckline of the bodice and the waist of the skirt. This helps to prevent the fabric stretching out of shape, which is particularly likely to happen with a circular skirt. Staystitch just means use a normal length stitch (2.5mm) but closer to the edge of the fabric. I like to use my 3/8″ mark on my sewing machine as a guide.
1) Sew in the darts on the bodice and then press the side darts down and the waist darts to the centre front. I find the best way to match darts is to put a pin through one dart leg (the line connecting the top of the dart to the waist line), pick it out on the other dart leg and draw the two together.
2) Match the bodice front to the two bodice backs, right side of the fabric together. Sew in place and press the seams open using a warm iron.
3) Match the facing pieces together at the shoulders, right side of the fabric together. Sew in place and press the seams open. Then, using a finishing method of your choice, finish the bottom of the facing. The pattern recommends using a zig zag stitch, however I chose to do this using my overlocker as I prefer the finish (see below).
4) Place the facing and the bodice pieces right side together, matching the notches and shoulder seams.
Stitch around the neckline, starting at the centre back and sewing all the way around until you reach the other centre back.
The pattern here recommends “leaving a 1cm seam allowance”. I found this a bit confusing, but decided it meant to use a 1cm seam allowance rather than the standard 1.5cm seam allowance.
Once you’ve done this, stitch around the armholes, starting from the back and moving towards the front. Again, I used a 1cm seam allowance for this bit.
Trim the seam allowance and cut notches into the allowance. These will help make the curve of the armhole and neckline sit straight when it is turned inside.
Pull the facing through one armhole until it has all turned inside out. You’ll reach a point halfway through where you think it’s all going wrong, but don’t worry! It will turn out the right way, you just have to be patient with it.
Once everything is the right way out, give it a good press to make it all lie flat.
5) Match the bottom of the front bodice to the top of the front skirt, right side together. Sew the two pieces. Repeat this for the back right bodice and back right skirt, ad the back left bodice and the back right skirt.
At this point, your dress will be a bit like an artist’s smock; it’ll go over your head but not join up at the side.
7) Turn the dress inside out, so that it is right side together. Pin the edges together, lifting up the facing and pinning this together separately. Sew in one continuous line down each side, starting at the facing, carrying on to the bodice and finishing with the skirt.
Press the seams open for a neat finish.
8) Now we come to inserting the zip. For Ruby, you’ll be using a concealed zip. The instructions tell you how to add a zip if you have just got a zipper foot. However, if you have an invisible zip foot – which channels the zip through a special groove – I’d recommend using this as you get a much closer finish.
In this photo, on the top is the seam that was done using an invisible zip foot, whilst the bottom is done using a regular zip foot. As you can see, the bottom one is much more visible. If you are using an invisible zip foot, I’d recommend using the regular zip foot first to secure the zip in place.
Before inserting the zip, using a cool iron (so you don’t melt it!) press open the coils on the zip so that they’re easier to sew.
To insert the zip, line up the left hand side of the zip with the left hand side of the back bodice, right sides together. I like to line up the very top of the zip teeth (rather than the top of the zip tape) with the top of the bodice to make for a neat top that doesn’t need a hook and eye. Make sure that you’ve lifted the facing up and out of the way so that you don’t accidentally sew it to the zip. I use a LOT of pins at this stage.
Using your zip foot or invisible zip foot, sew as close to the zip teeth as you can.
When you get to the bottom, do up the zip. Now make a little cut in the right hand zip tape at the point where the waistband is on the left hand. This will help you get a neat waistline when you sew the right hand side.
Line up the right hand side, right sides together, and sew as you did for the left.
Do up the zip to check the finish, undoing and redoing if appropriate. Once you’re happy, cut off the top of the zip tape until it’s level with top of the bodice so that you have a neat fold later.
9) Turn the dress inside out and pin the rest of the skirt seam together. Using your regular zip foot to get as close to the zip as you can and sew the seam together to the bottom of the skirt.
Press the skirt seam open for a neat finish.
10) Remember how you didn’t sew your zip to your facing? Turn it so that the facing and the bodice are the right sides together, and then sew them together inside the zip tape. You’ll be using a seam allowance of about 3/8″ / 1cm.
Turn the facings the right side out, and look! All the ugly zip stitching and ends are hidden by the facing. Sewing is basically magic.
11) We’re at the last but one stage of Ruby, so give yourself a pat on the back All you have to do is hem the dress. However, you’ve made a dress with a circle skirt so this might take a good hour. Get a cup of tea now.
Got your tea? Ace. The instructions for this stage say to turn the hem of the skirt 0.5cm and then stitch it in place. One of the things I found was that because of the curved hem this wasn’t as easy as it could be. So, if you can, run the edge of the hem through a finishing stitch or an overlocker, and then turn a hem based on this finished edge. It’s much easier to turn and press as there’s added tension from the stitches.
Once you’ve turned it and pinned it, stitch with a narrow hem; I used 1/8″ / 3mm as my guide.
Press the dress to make it all neat and tidy.
12) Put on your dress, pour yourself your celebratory drink of choice, and quite literally take it for a spin!
You did it! Hurrah! Now your only question is, what fabric will you make it in next time?