summer dress series



My friend Emily is so fun to sew for. She is tall and leggy and gorgeous; everything looks great on her. She brings all her sewing projects to me, and despite several last minute Halloween costumes she has needed in the past (like the Hershey Kiss dress of 2012 ), I can’t complain. This winter she asked me to make her this dress from the blog a Pair and a Spare. We spent an afternoon making the dress, but she hadn’t had a chance to wear it until it got hot out recently. This is the dress we modeled it after:


The tutorial was simple to follow- we made a maxi skirt and attached a long, wide strip of fabric (the bodice using) to the waistband using a zig zag stitch.

Directions and a video can be found here.


The main modifications we made to this tutorial were 1) to use a thicker fabric than recommended, and 2) to use a longer piece of fabric for the bodice so we could wrap it around her more. Using stretchy fabric also extended the wrapping potential.


I used my serger to make a simple rolled hem.

E-em3 E-em5

I love seeing how much she enjoys wearing the clothes I make for her, and it is always a good excuse to make the trip out of the city to visit her. She is also a very talented painter and decorator, so sometimes there is an EXPLOSION of creativity when we are in the same room.

Thank you to A Pair and A Spare for this great tutorial!


That’s the after picture. Here’s the before:

blue dress before

This is another thrift store dress. It started as sort of a prairie dress with shoulder pads, but I loved the detail on the front and the general structure of the dress. The waist fit, but everything else was too big.  Excuse all the awkward faces in these photos. That is about all I had in me when we were taking these pictures.

First I ripped off the sleeves. Then I used chalk to draw a new neckline. I followed this tutorial from Cotton and Curls to make a facing. You can faintly see a yellow chalk line above the bust in this picture where I drew the new neckline.

in progress

The top of the dress was baggy under the arms without the sleeves, so I took it in at the side seams above the waistline before I sewed the facing on.  Here is the dress post-cutting/pre-taking in side seams and pre-facing.

pre facing

I used twill tape for the straps, both blue and white (the white is under the blue)

The back of the dress originally had 6 buttons holding it together, spaced widely apart. When I lowered the neckline, there were only two buttons left on the dress. I added two more buttonholes and sewed on two of the previously removed buttons. The first and third buttons from the top are the ones I added.


I also lopped off about 4 inches from the hem so the dress hits just above my knees.


That’s it! Now I’ve got a nice airy fit and flare dress to wear this summer.

Thanks to my sis Ro for these pictures. I drove down to visit her and she was kind enough to photograph all my recent sewing projects. She has been away for the past 5 months in Spain, and I am so happy to have her home!

dress // thrifted / altered :: bag // thrift store :: shoes // Shoemint

And I’ll leave you all with a spinning picture:



E-DSC_0104 copy

So after last weekend’s miserable fail, I looked through my fabric stash for another Nettie attempt.  I found a green ribbed lycra/cotton blend with well over the 50% stretch recommended. The ponte I used last week barely had 50% stretch, and the green ribbed blend for this dress easily stretches past the 50% mark. Pay attention to fabric stretch if you make a Nettie. As you can see, the green ribbed blend works well!

In addition to the same modifications I made to the last dress, I also added even more room in the shoulders and bust- I added a full two inches to the top of the shoulders and graded the sides of the bust to a size 14. The rest of the dress is a size 12. It is still a little tight under the arms! But it fits.


I also made the sleeves longer than the short sleeves. I cuffed, ironed, and tacked the hem of each sleeve in place (rather than sewing all the way around). I used my serger on all the seams except the hem. For the hem, I sewed a straight stitch while stretching the fabric.


I also went back to my original Nettie to see if I could make it wearable. To do this, I cut off the sleeves and deepened the armholes 2 inches under each arm. I also ripped off the original binding around the neck and then cut out the back of the dress for the medium back option. I’m wearing the dress over a sports bra in these pictures, but the dress completely covers a regular underwire bra.


So now I have two Nettie dresses to wear all summer. The green ribbed dress is pretty clingy and very comfortable, while the grey ponte is smoother and silkier. I’m saving this pattern in my pattern folder, but I think I’m done with it for now. Figuring out the fit was a challenge, and I am proud that I was able to make it work. Makes me want to try another commercial pattern… maybe something with a woven fabric?


Thanks to my sister Ro for taking these photos.


E-Summer dress 2

Today I have a guest post for you (it’s also the 100th post on my blog)! This dress comes all the way from sunny Nevada, made by the talented Alisa of Go Ask Alisa. I was seriously impressed by her eye for color and fabric, so I reached out to her to inquire about her summer sewing projects. She sent me pictures of this gorgeous strapless mini dress. I’ll let her tell you about it. To read the tutorial on how to make this dress, click here.

“This is more of a party-summer dress. Made out of stretch knit and fine crepe, in real life it is combined from two colors: blush pink and beige cream. I tried to style it two ways, with jacket and without. I believe with jacket it looks a tiny bit more sophisticated. I must say I am not a strapless dress/gown person, neither am I a fan of mini-length. But I decided to try something  – and here we go.

E-Summer dress w jacket 3

The idea originated in a Burda sewing magazine, if I am not mistaken – a couple of years ago. There the dress was done in shades of grey and green.

E-Burda vs Me

The pattern is so incredibly easy, anyone can do this dress – you just need to be careful choosing fabric for it. The top part and middle part should be stretchy to hold the dress itself on the body. As for the fabric: this fabric is brought from United Kingdom and bought at Abakhan (that’s a very well known Russian fabric dealer shop), they have all sorts of fabrics that I have never even seen before!

Note from Claire: the tutorial for the dress can be found here.

E-Summer dress details 10

Clutch, by the way is also handmade by me.” Tutorial for a similar clutch can be found here.

E-Summer dress clutch 9



I’m impressed. Thanks so much for sharing! If you want to see more of Alisa, you can find her at, where she blogs about life, art, writing, and sewing. 

E-Summer dress w jacket 7


summer dress series header

Hey lovely followers!

I know I’ve gotten away from sewing and DIY posts lately, but I am about to remedy that. This spring and summer, I have a new series on my blog: the summer dress series! I’ve lined up some posts on dresses I have made and altered, as well as some guest posts. I just about live in dresses all summer. As soon as spring peeked its head over the horizon I was back to wearing dresses (albeit with leggings underneath). Look forward to a couple posts a month this spring and summer (maybe more, we’ll see how I keep up with it). I’m so excited to share these projects with you!

– Claire

P.S. If you have a dress you’ve made and want to see it featured on Hoopes Park Studios, send me an email with some pictures and a synopsis of how you made it at hoopesparkstudios [at] gmail [dot] com

Image sources (clockwise from top left): 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7