Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Bubble it Up Dress/Top Tutorial

A NOTE ON THIS TUTORIAL: I've made this in both dress and top form now.  I recommend the dress (or a longer top) because as a top, it gets pretty darn puffy.  This is why I added the sash.   But the sash kind of messes with the line of the keyhole-esque back.

Also, if you don't like gathering, run for the hills!  There's lots of that going on here. :)  


It's been quite some time since I made my first version of the bubble dress. It (by happy accident) turned out cuter than expected. But it was kind of a PAIN to make, mostly because blind-stitching and I, well, we're not the best of buds.

So I tried a second way... And it was a flop. It was just too much bubble and not enough flattering. Fail.

So here's my third attempt at a tutorial...
 I threw a sash on this one... because as a top, it was very, well, bubbly.

 But hey!  Look at that!  It still works when it's sash-less, too!

Without further ado...

Materials: (my measurements are for a 2T top, but the only thing you really need to change for different sizes is the length!)
About 1 yard main fabric
1/2 yard lining fabric
Scrap of coordinating fabric for ruffle
Basic sewing accoutrement

Determine the length you want your dress or top.  Subtract 2 from it.  I want mine to be about 14 inches, so I ended up with 12. (**look above for my notes on the length I used on this one**)

Take that number and subtract 4.  This is the length you will cut your lining piece.  Cut from selvage to selvage.  (mine is 8" x width of fabric).

Add 4 to your original number to get the length of your main fabric (mine: 16").  Cut two pieces, that length by 30 inches.

Sew the short ends of your main fabric together and your lining fabric into a loop.  No need to finish the edges as they'll all be hidden!  Find what will be the front center of your lining (directly opposite the seam).

 You're going to make underarm cut-outs now, so fols both pieces over so the sides are lined up.  Line lining up with the seam of your main piece.

On the top, make a mark 2.5 inches.  Also make a mark 2 inches down on the side.

Connect them with a curve, like so:

Cut through all the layers, and you'll get this.  Run gathering stitches along the top (straight) edges of the front and back of both main and lining pieces.

Gather fronts to a measurement of six inches.  Gather backs to 9 inches.  Tie gathering threads together when you get to these lengths, so they stay that length.


But two strips of coordinating fabric (I used two different ones), 2 inches by 12 inches.  Sew together, leaving one long side open.

Flip right side out, press and topstitch.

Gather this along the bottom to about 5.5 inches (disregard my ruler in the pic.  I had to gather it a little more).

Cut out two long strips of fabric, 3 inches by 30 inches.  Fold in half and stitch up three sides, leaving one small side open.  Turn right side out, press and topstitch.

Now pin everything together, the front in the following order, from outside in:
main fabric, right side to the inside
little ruffle (edges of it should be in a little from the edge of the main fabric for seam allowance)
straps (lined up with edge of ruffle)
lining, right side together to main piece

It will look like this when it's all pinned.

Sew them all together, making sure your seam butts up right to the edge of the ruffle and straps.

Turn right side out.  It'll be pretty blobby. :)  Press.


Welcome to the rockiest part.  Run a gathering stitch along the bottom of the main piece.  Gather it up till it matches the bottom of the lining.

I didn't take a picture of this, but you need to stitch these pieces together.  I'll try to explain what I did!  Whew... here we go. 

DO NOT just put the right sides together by folding them up over the top of your dress.  If you do it this way, when you try to flip it right side out, you'll just get a loop.  Instead, you have to work to the SIDE of the dress.  Here are some pictures I tried to take to better illustrate.  The owl fabric is the main fabric.  The orange polka dots is the lining.

Just folding them over at the bottom (NOT all the way over the top), pin right sides together.

It'll look a little something like this, so as you sew, you'll have to keep shifting your fabric and making sure you don't snag anything.

The nice thing is that, since these stitches won't be seen, you can pull your fabric out whenever (after backstitching), regroup, and then keep stitching.  By the end, you'll get to the point where you can't fit your needle in between the fabric anymore.  

You'll be left with a little opening through which you can turn it right side out.  Now blindstitch that closed.  

Make buttonholes at the top outside corners of the back.  

When I put it on Noelle, it was really bubbly.  If I do another one, I'll definitely make it longer.  For my sash, I cut two pieces of fabric, selvage to selvage, and 4.5 inches wides.  I sewed them together then folded in half, right sides together, sewed it up, leaving a hole to turn it through.  Turned it right sides out, pressed and topstitched!

Here's the issue with the sash and this back... it gets kind of crumply.

Without the sash, it opens up like so.  Either way, it's cute, but I'd recommend the dress over the top... or at least make it a longer top!

Still, it could be worse than this, right!? :)


  1. Oh my goodness, how cute! And your little model is precious! You're right--this is especially cute as a dress.

  2. This is such a great idea,thanks for sharing!

  3. I think it is adorable! But I agree that the dress is the best option. The shirt still looks extremely cute! :)

  4. Very nice, please link it up with me today at Wow Us Wednesday.

  5. I just finished the last portion of the top but I need help!! I stitched the lining to the main fabric and then left an opening, try to turn it right side out and I end up with a big loop of fabric.......... I'm confused!! help!!!

    1. Oh my gosh! I may have ruined your life! Or at least that's how it feels to me because I did NOT explain things well. I tried adding a few more pics for you, but you'll have to unpick what you did. I'm SO FREAKING SORRY! I HATE unpicking! Please forgive me and ask for clarification if needed!


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