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the Staple Dress {drop shirt-tail hemline tutorial}

2014 July 22

And now… back to our regular programming folks! Last week’s giveaways were so much fun and I will be sending out emails to all of the winners today. Thanks again for your comments, I felt so fortunate to be able to find out more about all of you! And especially thanks for the amazing birthday wishes. I had a great day and was spoiled rotten by my husband and kids. I hope you all had as much fun as I did last week!

A while ago I mentioned that I wanted to make the Staple Dress, and what happens? Daryl from Fabric Spark has given me the opportunity to make one! I have had this pattern on my list for over a year, and I LOVE the results. I made a wearable muslin with the regular hem, so I thought that I would change it up and include a tutorial for a drop shirt-tail hem in this pattern review. What is a shirt-tail hem? After some searching I found out it is curved on both sides, like a dress-shirt. And a drop shirt-tail hem is just a bit longer on the back. I really like how it gives the pattern more shape at the hemline.

And, can I say that this is the most comfortable dress I have worn in a long time. It’s perfect for hanging out with the kids – or walking around Quebec city. We did quite a few photo shoots along the way on our vacation last week and it is so nice to have something old and historic in my photo backgrounds! You’ll be seeing more of the city in the next month or so.

I had a lot of fun choosing my fabric from Fabric Spark’s shop. She has so many great fabrics that work really well for sewing apparel. In the end, I decided to chose one of her Art Gallery fabrics, since this dress looks best in a fabric with a great drape. As usual with Art Gallery I was not disappointed! The selvage says “Feel the Difference” and it does not lie. These fabrics are so smooth and the drape is perfect for clothing. I picked African Palm Indigo from the Safari Moon collection by Frances Newcombe. The colour is so amazing in person. It is a soft blue and totally wearable – and almost the same colour as my eyes… which is a fun bonus! I love the art deco palm trees, and the scale is perfect for a dress.

I got the pattern in my Perfect Pattern Parcel #3 purchase (not available anymore). But lucky for you, Daryl has the Staple Dress pattern available on her site. And, it’s the real deal paper version, so you won’t have to print and assemble the pdf pattern to make it! Now when you are choosing your fabric, you can get the pattern too – hint, hint! The pattern is well written, with lots of tips and hints on how to use elastic thread to shirr the waist, and on lengthening and shortening your dress. You can even move the shirring up or down to suit your natural waistline. And… it has pockets! I was so disappointed when I realized I didn’t take any photos of them. But, they are there and I used them a lot. Don’t you just love a good set of pockets?!

On with the tutorial then… Here is how to alter your pattern pieces and hem the new shaped hemline into a drop shirt-tail hem.

You will need:

  • Staple Dress pattern (available here from Fabric Spark)
  • large paper – I use freezer paper
  • tape
  • pencil/marker
  • french curve ruler – helpful but not necessary
How to alter the pattern pieces:
  1. Cut/trace both front and back pattern pieces in the longest length. The front will be cut on the “straight hem” line and the back will be cut on the “drop hem” line.
  2. Remember to take into account that there is a 5/8″ hem included in these measurements – whatever you draw will end up 5/8″ shorter when hemmed.
  3. I already knew that I liked the straight hem dress length, so I used the drop hem length on the back pattern piece as the length for the drop shirt tail. I wanted the top of the hem where the side seam comes together to be a bit shorter than 1 1/2″ above the straight hem length. Draw a 5/8″ wide line at that point on your back side seam, measuring up from the straight hem pattern line. The 5/8″ line gives you room to sew the 5/8″ side seam without stitching into your hemming area.
  4. Use your curved ruler to draw a curve from the right side of your 5/8″ line (Step 3) down to the drop hem pattern line. Or you can draw it by eye using the curve in the photo as a guide.
  5. Cut your pattern on the new line.
  6. Place the Front pattern piece on top of the back pattern piece. It will match from the underarm down to the hem. (The shoulder is a bit higher on the back.)
  7. Trace the bottom of the back hemline onto a new piece of paper. Also trace the bottom of the front hem.
  8. Cut the extra paper along the back drop hem line. Place it underneath your front dress pattern piece, matching the traced line so it is correctly placed. Tape. Fold up or cut off the left corner of the original dress front so the new line is visible.
  9. Now we need to shorten the front hem, creating the “drop” at the back. Draw a straight line at your new height, parallel to the straight portion of the drop hem line (furthest on the right). I drew mine about 2″ up. Cut along the new line.
  10. Place the cut piece along the bottom of the cut line as a guide, and draw a new curve.
  11. Cut the front hem line along the new line.
  12. Cut your fabric using the new pattern pieces.
How to stitch the new hem:
  1. Follow all directions (up to the hemming instructions) as per the pattern when stitching the dress except when stitching the bottom of the side seam. Leave 5/8″ un-sewn at the bottom of the dress. Make sure to iron your seam open and finish your seam allowances.
  2. When you get to the hemming instructions continue on here instead. Baste from one side seam to the other along both dress front and dress back hemlines with a 1/4″ seam. Leave long tails at either end of these separate basting lines.
  3. Press the hem up 5/8″. Pull the long threads (as if you are gathering the fabric) to help ease in and curve the fabric along the hemline. Make sure your curves are neatly pressed, use lots of steam.
  4. Fold the raw edge under to meet the pressed edge of your hem. Iron again, pin if desired.
  5. Stitch along the upper edge of the hem, about 1/4″ away from the bottom of the hem. Curve the corners up to a point at the side seam, then continue down the next curve until you have stitched the entire hem.

Enjoy your new dress! And if you have any questions please contact me by email:

** This is a sponsored post and the fabric for the Staple Dress was provided to me at no cost by Fabric Spark. However, as always, all opinions are my own and I will not promote something to you that I do not love myself. **

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7 Responses leave one →
  1. Ann permalink
    July 23, 2014

    I just came across your blog via Fabricspark. You are going into my Bloglovin feed. This dress is fantastic and I really appreciate the sewing lesson you gave so us lesser mortals can try the same thing. I live in Mono, ON about an hour NW of Toronto so who knows we might bump into one another some day. On IG I’m annoriginal265. Thanks again.

    • July 23, 2014

      Thanks so much Ann! I’m excited to say “hi” to you. If you come out to the Creativ Festival in Toronto maybe we could meet up? I’ve been at the last 3 (spring and fall) and it would be fun to see you.

  2. mom permalink
    July 24, 2014

    love the staple dresses you’ve made. I just did one and below the bust I sewed super narrow strips of fabric on the inside about 3 inches long up and down – like darts with no point – about 6 of them – just enough to give it a little form but not make my belly hang out (kind of an issue! :( Turned out good, I think. Great sewing!

    • July 24, 2014

      Thanks Mom! That sounds like a great idea to get rid of the extra fabric and give it some shape. You’ll have to send me a picture :)

  3. January 27, 2015

    Hi Sherri, I can’t seem to find the pattern on Fabric Spark, any where to get the PDF as it looks super comfy

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