My friend and artist Erica gave me 3 yards of 1970s polyester to play with. The perfect fabric to work with on my easy 1 piece, no-waste, design concept.

Now, before you go shrugging your shoulders at cheap poly you should know that it is fun to play with, it costs next to nothing and I don’t need to press it at all, ever. The seams don’t even need to be finished! Plus, I am keeping it out of a landfill. It’s my a guilty pleasure along with Ben & Jerry’s, haha.

The base of this dress is one simple piece but in order to have almost zero waste I use the scraps left over to finish it out.

Today, I will walk you through my design process of Courtyard in Rome.

Lay your fabric with right sides together folded in half. This so we can write on it if needed.

Next fold it in half again. Where my hand is – that’s the center of the front and back of my design and that is where the neck hole will be cut. I start my neck hole out small so that I can make any neckline desired. My favorite is the boat neckline. I will later use the scraps from the neckline to make the bows on each shoulder.

Once my salvages get completely lined up then my straight of grain should be on point. I like to cut everything out on the floor. Its great exercise and you can use an area rug to cut straight lines. I lined my salvage edge up to the long side of the area rug and then cut across the bottom of the dress. These scraps will later be used as my neck and armhole bindings.

I have placed my cut on the tile floor so you can see how the design works. The sides that are much longer than the waistline get gathered and reattached to the waist. The rectangles left where I cut the armholes and waistline are to be used in the hemline as godets to give my dress a big flowing look.

After cutting, I always pin my dress to the dress form and make changes there too. I read once in Threads Magazine that you can make your darts anywhere you please. This is what I did, changing the traditional dart lines to more of a V shape. I totally just sewed these down from the outside as this was a dress just for fun. Being careful though to make sure they are even, I had to re sew one of the sides because it didn’t come down as far as the other side and it was really obvious… I also added darts in the back to have better form.

This was my only waste! So exciting!

Here is my design on a form. They never look quite as nice as on a real person. I did however make the dress shorter and with more flair by tucking the sides and back sides up a few inches.

As usual, no make up or frills. The dress speaks for itself and I feel the need for nothing else.


Behind the Scenes~ Did you know Rosewood and DVAC have an Art Lunch? It’s a great way to meet new artists and share. Last weeks art lunch artist, Peggy Steinberg, brought in some of her beautiful photographs. When I saw the photo “Courtyard in Rome” the orange tree reminded me of the fabric in my dress. Peggy was kind enough to let me title my dress after her wonderful photograph.
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Tracy McElfresh

Tracy McElfresh is the owner of Tracy’s Sewing Studio LLC.
Tracy McElfresh