Saturday, July 16, 2011

Patchwork Ruffle-butt Cami Maxi Dress with Braided Straps

     Just trying to put the description in the title, I had to reword it about 5 times.  *laughing*  It's a mouthful (eyeful?).  Don't know exactly what I should name my new creation, but here it is:

And here's how it started:
     My sewing forum posted a challenge for participants to make something new from something old.  I wanted to give it a shot and went digging through my closet... coming up with these three cami shirts.  I'd bought them a few years ago and wore them each maybe once... if even that.  I figured it was time to bury the old and resurrect something new.  Took pics along the way.

Supplies I used-
3 old camis
Matching thread (I picked up three separate spools to match, but the most important color is the main one, in my case, blue)
Acrylic ruler
Cutting mat
Rotary cutter
Seam gauge or ruler
Seam ripper
Dressmaker's pencil or disappearing marking pen

    In this tutorial, the first cami piece will be your main piece.  My main piece was blue.  The second cami piece is the one directly below it, mine was pink.  The third cami piece refers to the final piece at the bottom.  Mine was white.  Also, just an up-front warning... I hate math.  I avoid it when possible.  Some of the steps I opted for the "eyeball" option... so if you're looking for super-duper precise... read through and change the process as you see fit.  My cami material was stretchy and forgiving, so I could afford to eyeball it and not suffer the consequences.  I was also going for "shabby chic".  If it wasn't precise, it added character.

Step 1- Gather up your goodies and figure out what you're going to shred for your creation.  Might as well take the your measurement now from your child.  Measure around the chest and back, right up under her armpits.  Write it down, you'll use it later and if you didn't she'd probably be down for a nap... frustrating you that you have to wait.  (Hmm... can you tell what happened to me?)  ;)

Step 2- Begin shredding process.  Remove straps using a seam ripper, keeping as much intact as possible.  Cut side seams using scissors, or if you have more patience than I do, a seam ripper. Do this for all three camis.  Remember which pieces are the front, and which are the back.  I just put mine in piles.
Three cut up camis
If your straps are adjustable like mine were, remove the adjusters and rings, keeping as much of the strap intact as possible.

Step 3a-  Lay the front of your main cami piece (the one you want on the very top) on top of the cami piece you want to be directly below it (in my case, my main piece was blue, the pink was directly below it... so blue on pink).  Flip up the edge and see where you want your seam to be.  Cut a notch to mark how long your strip is going to be.  I was lucky with my camis as the bottom was embellished and had pre-existing seams so that I could attach the pieces to the seamlines already present.  You may have to play with the cutting of your hem strips if your cami does not have this.  Most camis have a seamline at the bottom (though they may not be embellished), so you can just attach it to that.  Remember, if you cut it longer than you need, you can always trim it later if need be.
Step 3b- Now, use your seam guage or ruler to measure from a fixed point on the second (pink) cami to the notch.  In my case, I measured from the stitch line to the notch because the bottom of my cami was lacy and not straight.  If the bottom of your second cami is straight, you can measure from the bottom to the notch.

    Measure on the other side of the second cami piece and make another notch.  Keep the measurement on your seam guage, you're going to use it in the next step.  Then, take your acrylic ruler and lay it across the cami so the the edge lines up on the notches.  Make sure that the fixed point you measured from to make your notches is in a straight line so that when you cut, your strip's width will be the same all the way across.  Cut.
Don't worry about tags or extra seams on the side.  We'll trim those later.

Step 4-  Using the measurement on your seam guage.  Repeat step 3b for the front piece of the third cami, and the back pieces of the second and third camis.  This will make your hem pieces even all the way around.  you should have four strips of cami bottom pieces.  Two bottom pieces of the second (pink) cami, and two of the third cami bottom (white).

Step 5-  Overlock or zigzag stitch the raw edge of your 4 bottom strips.
Then, pin the second cami strip to the main cami on the seam line (or where you designated to join it in step 3a).  Make sure that the right sides will both face forward when your seam is sewn.  Sew together to attach.

Then, pin the third cami piece to the second, and attach... making sure once again that the right sides will all be facing forward once the seam is done.

You should have this:
Your hem pieces will be a little crazy on the edges.  We're going to fix that really soon!

Step 6-  Wrap your front piece that you just pieced together around your munchkin.  I had an awesome pleated front that I wanted to wrap around under her arms towards the back.  Making sure that it's centered, use your finger to mark where you want your back seam to be. 
Ugh, ignore the boys' room.  It was a mess!

Run back to the table like a madwoman, all the while, keeping the spot you pointed to pinched.  I hate math so I try to eyeball it as much as possible.  Pin it about a 1/4" away from where your finger was to adjust for seam allowance.
Now, measure from the center to the pin.  Use that measurement to place a pin on the other side.

Step 7- Now, fold your front in half. Match up the two pins and the straight edges along the bottom.

Time to trim those funky edges.  It was a little weird because my camis were made to be a bit longer in the front with a curve.  I just wiggled it around to be as straight as possible all around.  Now, place your acrylic ruler on the spot where your pins meet and angle it down to the outermost edge that you possibly can.  The hems are not even, and you have to make sure that the outermost edge includes the shortest hem you might have.
Step 8- Open up your newly trimmed front and measure across the smallest part of the top.  Remember that measurement you wrote down in Step 1?  Here's where it comes into play.
Take the measurement of your front piece (mine was 13.5" wide) and subtract 1/2" for seam allowance.  (I did 1/4" seams on both sides... I'm always using small seams.  Adjust your measurements if you want a different seam.) Now subtract that from your child's measurement you took in Step 1.
20" - Scarlett's chest/back/pit measurement
-13.5 - front piece measurement
- 0.5"- Seam allowance

Now add what you got (7" for me) to your seam allowance.
+ 0.5"- Seam allowance
7.5" - How wide the top part of your back should be

Step 9- Fold your main back piece in half.  Now, take the measurement you got from Step 8 (7.5" for me) and cut that in half.
7.5" ÷ 2 = 3.75"
Take that measurement and measure from the fold to that point.  Mark with a pin.  Using the same technique that you used in Step 7.  Use your rotary cutter to trim from the pinned point to the outermost part of the bottom that you can.  If you want to lay your front piece up and match the measure of the angle to be more precise, go for it.  I'm an "eyeballer" or guesstimator.  Just cutting to the outermost bottom edge from the pinned point worked for me.  The fabric had a lot of stretch so it was forgiving.  Looking back, I MAY have made the angle a bit more shallow, but this angle also gave me room for a big, fat bustle... which I wanted. 

Now, decide how far down from the top you want your ruffle butt bustle to start.  I wanted a BIG one, so I decided 4.5" down, and added a 1/2" for seam allowance and any dumb mistakes I might make.  Use your dressmaker's pencil or disappearing marking pen to mark straight across.

     Decision time again!  Figure out how much of a border you want to be on the side of the bustle.  Keep your seam allowance in mind too.  Lay your ruler along the long side and mark up to your previous line. 
Being super-careful, cut along the lines.  Do not overcut.  You'll need both of these pieces intact.  You should have this:

Step 10- Now it's time to work on the patchwork ruffles.  Set your two main back pieces that you just cut aside and grab your remaining cami scraps.  Cut them into strips.  I cut mine into 4" strips, but however "checkered" you want your patchwork ruffles to be, it's up to you.  This part, like many others, isn't too particular.

Now, pin the strips, right sides together on one side.  One color on top of another.
Sew along the pinned side, so you have this:

Step 11- Sew all strips together, alternating colors.  Try to  line up at least one side to make use of as much fabric as possible.
Now, you should have a large piece wieth vertical stripes.  I found the easiest way to cut it was to fold it in half and cut one edge as close to the edge as possible... making it even.  Then, measuring from the straight edge, cut 4" strips all the way up.  Now you should have multiple 4" strips of striped fabric.

Step 12- Take your 4" strips and, wrong sides together (yes, wrong sides), stitch about 1/8" from the raw edge.  Then go back and overlock or zizag stitch the edge.  Do this with all the strips.  You should have a bunch of  striped strips of varying length, with right sides out, raw edges zigzagged, and ready to be gathered.

Step 13- Set your machine stitch length as long as it'll go.  About 1/4" from the edge, run a long basting stitch down each strip.  Pull the thread to gather and make it ruffle-y. 

Step 14- Starting at the bottom of your bustle piece (the trapezoid-looking piece you cut out on Step 9), pin ruffles and sew in place.  Be careful about how ruffle-y you make it.  If you make it too ruffle-tastic, you may not have enough to cover your bustle piece.  Trim the extra off the end, but it doesn't have to be too precise.  Sew rows so that one overlays the other, being careful to cover up stitches and the zigzag raw edges...

Continue to the top of the bustle piece.  I tried to alternate the colors as much as possible for kind of a checkerboard look.

Step 15- Flip your bustle piece over and trim off the excess ruffles.
  We'll call this piece the bustle piece for clarity.  Sew down the sides you just trimmed (the angled part of the bustle piece), getting as close to the edge as possible, while being careful that your ruffles all lay the right way.  Otherwise, you'll flip it over, your ruffles will be goofy and you'll get upset.  Sewing down the angled sides will help your ruffles from getting wonky in the next step.

Step 16-  Remember the other piece you cut in Step 9?  The "U"-shape one?  Pin that to the bustle piece, right sides together.  Working around it and lining it up as best you can.
Sew around the edge.  I found it easier to sew with the bustle piece wrong side down, sewing with the "U" piece wrong side up.  This helped me shaped the fabric so that there weren't any funky wrinkles or creases on the "U" shape.  Be sure your seam is wide enough to cover the side stitches you made on your bustle piece in Step 15.


Step 17- Now it's time to add the hem pieces to the back.  Take your hem strips and line the second cami strip up to the designated seam line on your main piece.  Pin and sew, being careful not to sew through your ruffles.  Repeat with the third cami hem strip, pinning it and sewing it to the second.
Trim the hemlines even.  I folded it in half and trimmed it that way.  I would have liked to have cut it so that the hems fell in line with the slope of the "U", but didn't have enough room left.  Doesn't have to be "perfect", remember?  Shabby chic.  It worked out alright.  :)

Step 18- Zigzag or overlock stitch down the long sides of both your front piece and your back piece.  The long sides are the sides that will be joined to be the side seams (only our "side" seams are slightly in the back b/c I wanted the pleated pretty front to wrap around to the back).  You should zigzag stitch all four sides.

Step 19- Now, take your front and back pieces, pin them right sides together down both long sides.  Sew.  Secure by backtacking at the beginning and end of each side.  (Didn't take a picture, I was too excited to see the nearly-finished product).

Step 20- Braid your cami straps, sew the ends to secure them.  Then sew the straps to the dress.  I connected mine in a "V" at the back.  If you want to make a bow from the scraps, I sewed two skinny strips that I had left together, then secured them above the bustle.  Totally optional.
Step 21- Admire your mad sewing skills and bask in the glory of creating something new from something old!


  1. This is an adorable little Maxi dress! So is your model :)

  2. Thanks, Ashley! Scarlett is a bit of a ham. Lol! :-D