Apr 13, 2012

DIY Tank Dress Tutorial

Non-sewers may just want to skip this one but I made something today that I thought was fun.  It could potentially be a cheap (or even free!) project but I bought the fabric instead of using my stash because I had an inspiration photo I was trying to copy and I was dying to use a fun fruity print.

Disclaimer:  These photos are seriously pathetic but they should get the job done.

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Okay, for this project you need:
  • a tank (I used a sunsuit that was getting too short)
  • skirt fabric
  • border fabric (optional)
  • ribbon for trim (optional)
  • clear elastic
  • sewing machine, thread, scissors, pins

This is a good beginner project but you should have experience creating gathers.  If not, I'd be happy to help you but I didn't want to detail that here.  I don't have a serger (yet!) so when I refer to "finishing the edge" I am using a zig zag stitch.  I set my zig zag stitch to the widest setting and keep the stitches pretty close together.  It's always worked great for me.  Also, I didn't use any special needles for knit and used the stitch settings I normally use for woven - worked great.

Here's my before shot.  This is the sunsuit (from Matilda Jane) I used.  I bought it on clearance for $8ish but she grew out of it before it fit.

I tried it on her and decided where I wanted the waist to begin.  I measured 1/2 inch down from there (seam allowance) and cut (had to remove some of my pocket stitches first).  Ahh, scary cutting my MJ!  You would do the same with a tank.

I decided the tank was a little too wide at the waist so I narrowed it by sewing from the armholes to the bottom on an angle, then I finished the edge.  Kind of hard to tell from this picture but it is narrower at the bottom.  Not sure if that would be necessary on a tank but since this had a loose sunsuit fit I thought it was best.

Next you're going to add elastic to the RIGHT side of the bottom of your tank.  The purpose of the elastic is to keep the cotton tank from stretching out at the waist and to add some reinforcement for the weight of the skirt.  Line it right up to the edge and sew it all the way around.  Don't pull it as you sew or your tank will bunch up.  Just hold it nice and even as you sew. After I did this I realized my elastic doesn't show at all when the dress is done so not sure if you need clear, white would probably be fine although the clear is definitely thinner.

Now you're ready to start your skirt.  Measure the width of your tank at the bottom and multiply by 2.5.  My tank was 9" across so I would need 2 panels that were each 22" wide.

To make things more confusing... since my panels needed to be 22" wide each and my fabric was 45" wide I decided to just make one big panel instead of 2.  Sorry if that's confusing!  If you're making a larger size you will need to cut 2 skirt panels (one for the front and one for the back).

I held the tank up to one of her dresses to determine the length I wanted for the skirt.  I decided on 8" total.  I wanted a 1.5" border on the bottom so (with 1/2" seam allowances) my skirt panel needed to be 7.5" tall.  Not going to get into the math for that - again, I would love to help if you need it!

My border is going to be 1.5" and I wanted it two-sided so I multiplied by 2 then added 1" for seam allowances (1/2 " for each end) for a length of 4".  The width should be the same as the skirt panel(s).

Skirt panel:  44" wide x 7.5" tall
Skirt border:  44" wide x 4" tall

Here are the pieces cut out.  (They are folded in this picture)

Now you're going to iron your border in half.  Fold it WRONG sides together.  Press.

Pin your border RIGHT sides together to your skirt panel.  You want the open edge of the border piece to line up with the edge of the skirt piece.  Pin.

Sew along the edge using a 1/2" seam allowance.  Then finish edge.

Lay skirt piece flat right side up and press along skirt/border seam.  Get it nice and flat!

If you aren't going to add ribbon trim, topstitch on the skirt fabric about 1/8" from the border fabric.  The below picture indicates where although I didn't do a topstitch since I added ribbon.

To add ribbon line the edge of the ribbon up with the bottom of the skirt fabric and sew!  Repeat this step for the top of ribbon (unless you have a narrow ribbon - that might only require one line of stitches).

Look how pretty my little bugs are!

Now fold the skirt RIGHT sides together.  Pin the short edge then sew with a 1/2" seam allowance.  Finish the edge.

The last step in your skirt piece is to create your gathering stitch.  Set your stitch length at the longest setting and sew all the way around the top of the skirt with a 1/4" seam allowance.  Do not back stitch!  Everybody does their gathering differently so use whatever method you like best.  

Next I used my iron to make a crease mark at the side points and front center point of my skirt and tank.  You could use an erasable fabric pen but I think the iron is easier.  Then I turned my skirt wrong side out and inserted my tank (right side out) into the skirt.  You could gather the skirt first and then insert the tank but I find this easier.  

I lined my skirt seam up with the back middle of the tank.  If you have 2 seams in your skirt (2 panels) it would look best to line the seams up with the sides of the tank.   I pinned all 4 points (front, sides, back) together then pulled one long string to gather.  Again, use whatever method of gathering you think is easiest.

Once you have the main 4 points pinned adjust all your gathers so that they are nice and even and pin everything using a TON of pins.

Sew your pieces together using a 1/2" seam allowance.  This seam allowance will ensure that your gathering stitch (and your clear elastic!) won't show on the front of the dress.

Finish edge.

Turn dress inside out and clip wayward threads.  Then... voila!  So fun!

I would estimate this is about a 2 hour project, less if you don't add a border or ribbon.  Not sure how long it took me because I made dinner halfway through and sewed my skirt on backward the first time (with the skirt seam right down the front, ugh!).  

She wasn't super pleased about trying it on for me but I can't wait for her to wear it this summer!

Still might add a flower like my inspiration picture but since mine has a more natural waist it might look weird.  Thoughts?

Hope your enjoyed this!  I can definitely see myself making all Emily's too short tanks into sweet little dresses using my fabric scraps.  


Teri said...

SO CUTE! Yup, definitely add the flower... You could make a flower pin so that you could just put it on when you want.

Jason and Gretchen said...

I soooo wish I knew how to sew!

Jenna said...

Got a sewing machine and can't wait to try all of your tutorials out!