How to Sew Your Own Butterfly-Style Dress

Written by clyde cohen
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How to Sew Your Own Butterfly-Style Dress
A monarch butterfly provides beautiful inspiration for a dress. (Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

Making your own clothes is not only more economical than buying off the rack, but you can also be sure that you are wearing a garment no one else in the world has, one that expresses your sense of style perfectly. Try this idea for a summery, luscious dress that is sure to have everyone asking, "Where did you buy that?"

Skill level:
Moderate

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Things you need

  • Lightweight shirt of any material or style
  • 3 to 4 yards of matching or complementary lightweight material, such as chiffon or cotton crepe
  • Measuring tape
  • Sewing pins
  • Pen or pencil
  • Paper
  • Chalk, tailor's chalk, or bar of soap

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Instructions

    Preparation and Cutting

  1. 1

    Measure your waist. If you want the waistline of the dress to sit higher or lower than your natural waist, take the measurement there. Keep in mind that the waistline of the dress cannot be lower than the length of your shirt. You might want to put the shirt on and see where it falls so you can measure more accurately.

  2. 2

    Divide your waist measurement in half and add three inches; jot this measurement down. The butterfly skirt will be constructed of four overlapping panels, and this is how wide each panel will be at the waist.

  3. 3

    Decide how long you want the skirt to be. It should come to your knees, at least, and you might want it longer. If you're not sure, remember that you can always make the skirt shorter, but you cannot make it longer. Measure the length from the waistline you have chosen to the hem you want. Record the measurement.

  4. 4

    Lay your fabric out lengthwise on a table. Most fabric comes on a bolt, and is folded lengthwise. Do not unfold it. Be sure the folded edge is toward you. To see if you have enough fabric to make the skirt as long as you planned, fold the fabric in half from left to right, and then fold it again. Measure the length of the pile of fabric from left to right. If the measurement matches the measurement from Step 3, you are good to go. If it is short, you will have to make the dress shorter.

  5. 5

    Mark the folds created in Step 4 with chalk, tailor's chalk or a sliver of soap. Cut the fabric into four pieces, using these markings to guide you.

  6. 6

    Take one piece of your newly cut fabric and set the rest aside. If you left the fabric folded lengthwise, proceed to creating the petal shape. If your fabric is not folded, fold it lengthwise. To create a symmetrical flower petal, sketch the shape of half a petal, with the fold as the centre. The top of the petal should be half of the measurement from Step 2. The length of the petal should be the measurement you decided on from the waist to the hem. Make the bottom of the petal wider than the top, and curve it. Remember that the fold is the centre of the petal. You can make the bottom pointier or more square as you prefer, just as long as it is rounded. Take your time sketching this first petal; the rest will be the same, so be sure you are happy with the final shape.

  7. 7

    Cut out the first petal, cutting through both layers of fabric at the same time. Pin this petal to another quarter of the fabric, placing the fold of the petal along the fold of the fabric. Mark the outline of the second petal on the fabric with chalk and cut out the second petal. Unpin the first petal and repeat the process to create the remaining two petals.

  8. 8

    Hem all four panels, unless you have used a fabric that does not unravel. To hem, turn up the bottom edge of the panel by half an inch and pin. Sew along the edge.

    Putting It Together

  1. 1

    Turn the shirt inside out. Center a panel at the bottom of one of the side seams of the shirt and pin. The edges of the petals should match up to the bottom edge of the shirt. If your shirt does not have side seams, lay it flat on the table and use chalk to mark where the side seams would be. Use those marks to guide the placement of the two side panels. Center another panel on the opposite side seam and pin. The top corners of the panels should meet or overlap at the front and back of the shirt.

  2. 2

    Pin the other two panels to the shirt, centring one in the front and the other at the back. Their top corners should meet or overlap at the sides.

  3. 3

    Adjust your pins so that none are buried between layers of fabric. Sew all four panels on at the same time, using just one line of stitching. Take the pins out as you go so that you do not break the sewing machine needle on them.

  4. 4

    Turn the completed dress right-side-out and try it on.

Tips and warnings

  • To enhance the butterfly effect, use fabric paint to paint butterfly-wing motifs on the panels.

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