Refashion / Sew

The Nelson Dress

Wow, it’s been two months since I’ve posted something! And like last year at this time, I can attribute that to the fact I’ve been spending a lot of time in the mountains, on my bike. Now that it’s shoulder season, it’s time to get sewing again. One of my trips this summer in my camper van (belovedly named “The Wild Rosie”) was a terrific loop through BC- Revelstoke down to Nelson, and back through Fernie to Alberta. I’d never been to Nelson but from what I’d heard about this hippie town, I was betting there was a good thrift store, or two or three. While galavanting through Nelson’s eccentric streets, I found this (?)tunic/dress at a thrift store and fell in love with the collar and print. I wasn’t inspired to do anything with it until a recent snowfall when I couldn’t ride my bike.


Apparently my bike and hula hoop also wanted to be a part of the photo action

Initially my vision was to make this into a shirt I could wear with regular pants. I started by cutting a high low hemline.


I read a tip in sewing book that cutting out triangles to reduce bulk around a curved hem would help the seam lay flat. So I did that with precision (pinking shears plus regular shears):


Variation is good, right?

Despite all the different sizes of triangles I cut out, when I turned over the material, ironed it, and sewed it down, it DID lay perfectly flat…YES!! But then there was a problem- the back hemline was too long to be a shirt, and the front hemline was not really short enough to be a shirt and not long enough to be a dress. Frustrated by my lack of measuring and planning, I took a break. I came back to the sewing table the next day with a fresh idea- to use a white cotton men’s shirt to add length to the hemline all around.


I dissected the shirt to maximize the available seam free fabric.


I cut out 3 rectangles from the largest pieces of fabric, finished the edges, and then pleated that fabric by hand, onto the shirt/tunic. Essentially I just guessed how big the pleats would be in order to have enough fabric to go around the whole hemline. My guestimate was pretty darn close. I sewed the pleats really close to the edge of the tunic/dress fabric (a false seam of sorts).

I thought the waist line needed some definition, so I made two tubes of fabric from the remnants of the hemline chop, seam ripped a small portion of the side seams of the tunic/dress, sewed ’em in, and these became the ties to cinch in the waistline.


Getting neatly into that seam!

Ta-dahhhhhh final piece…



Side view


Back view *(this is not obvious from the photo)

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I think the Nelson hippies would approve!


5 thoughts on “The Nelson Dress

  1. I’ve never tried the triangle thing with curved hems but I can see how they would help considering how my curved seams usually turn out less than impressive. I prefer hemming curves with bias tape, that way all I have to do is stitch the tape to the front and then roll it to the back and the curves follow.


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