Swimmers shirt dress for a sunny day – with piping

I’ve been enticing you with this – for how long?  Well done for being so patient!!

swimmers fabric

The swimmers: I’ve had this fabric since last summer.  It’s a Makower fabric.  I bought it when I bought the Brighton Rocks fabric & all I knew was that I loved it (having had a swimming childhood at the least I thought I’d use it for a cushion in my living room as I’ve got a bit of a watery/ swimming theme going on there).  Anyways, months ago it spoke to me & asked to be made into a sleeveless shirtdress- but I had no need to make it earlier in the year.  Why did it take the sun to shine for me to get ready to cut into the precious stuff?  Seemingly out of the blue, this really wasn’t on my plan, it was a real tangent, I cut it out using a pattern from an old Sew Mag.

My vision though, was drawn from the 60s, a casual garden/ beach dress.  I could imagine serving up a pitcher of home-made lemonade in it, or else putting it back on having dried myself at the beach in one of those “tube-towels” that had  drawstring neck to promote modesty.  Pale colours, big tan (if only!)

The design calls for a drawstring belt with a neat belt casing on the inside.  So easy to wear!

Bow tied belt

I’d originally been pondering on using a contrast collar perhaps in pink, adding pockets.  It all fell into place as I cut it.  Piping.   Having enjoyed the adventures to be had with my piped trousers I felt like going a bit crazy!!!  (Hold me back, please!!) And then I looked to see if I had thread ….

Does anyone else find that no matter how hard you try to plan your sewing, & how methodical you try to be, there are sewing pixies that lead you away from the straight & narrow?  Luckily, having cut the dress out I managed to find some passable grey thread.

So, what was there I could pipe?  Straight away I piped the collar & yoke.

collar with piping


I also made some curved pockets (much easier to pipe around curved edges).  However, I didn’t end up using them …I pinned them when the dress was almost finished & decided it was better without them.

I didn’t mind this being a slower paced make, I enjoyed hand sewing , attaching the piping before securing it by machine.  I also hand sewed the yoke facing (too much IMO).  Although I’ve made many a yoked shirt, I made the mistake of starting to follow the instructions that came with the pattern.  SewMag doesn’t use pictures in its main feature patterns.  I really couldn’t follow the words.  I made it up, but not without having started differently to how I would usually do it, hence confusion & more hand sewing.

Last to occur to me (while on a run!) was to pipe the armholes too.

Piped yoke

And it needs ironing - I know

Sleeveless armholes – I wasn’t 100% sure how it would work with a self bias facing.  I am reasonably happy with it, except for the piping join.  I’m still trying to think how I could have done better, to make it finished as opposed to showing the stringy fraying ends.  Any advice?  How would you join piping in a circle?

Piping join on the arm hole

And do you like the buttons?  Little discombobulated heads!

Self covered buttons with swimmers heads

The pattern – it was pretty economical, I think I used less than a metre and a half, but would use a different pattern (with better instructions!)

I have now had a sunny day in which to sport this casual little number.And I can tell you the fabric is so soft, it feels beautiful.  It’s definitely a casual weekending/ holiday dress.

Shirt dress with swimmers fabricI got the lemons out of the fridge & fired up the BBQ …

37 thoughts on “Swimmers shirt dress for a sunny day – with piping

  1. Tilly

    Oh!!! This is sooooooo adorable!! I’ve spotted that fabric a couple of times in a store, cooed over it, but hadn’t a clue what to do with it. You have made the PERFECT dress out of this. I love everything about it!

  2. Bella

    It’s just great! And all the piping…you are BRAVE, and it really compliments the dress. I love the buttons, too. I need to learn to do such buttons, in addition to learning piping.

  3. Carolyn

    Wow, COMPLETELY adorable!! Your work is so inspiring! I adore the disembodied head buttons, and the piping is masterful! I’ve never really done much piping before, but the possibilities are starting to impact on my thoughts…Hmmm, note to self; need to incorporate some piping…
    I wish I could find fabric as lovely as your swimmers fabric here!

  4. Susan in Dulwich

    Your swimmers dress is lovely! The piping is a great finishing touch.
    I made a bolster cover with piping around the two circle ends. I struggled with what to do about the ends and finally cut my piping a few inches too long so that I could overlap them and trail them both off diagonally. My machine wasn’t delighted about stitching across the actual piping but it did it and I think it looks pretty good. I hope that’s helpful.

  5. Jane

    Oooh, I spotted this on the MMJ Flickr Group and have been desperate to see it up close ever since. It’s absolutely gorgeous and you’ve given it all those lovely finishing touches that make it extra special. I ADORE the fabric (and the buttons) and you’re right, it’s perfect for 1960’s casual gardening/beach swanning around! Just fab. x

  6. Roobeedoo

    You and your piping! It is, of course, ab fab. I assumed it was a 1960’s pattern when I saw it on Flickr, so you definitely achieved what you set out to do… or at least you fooled me! And head buttons? Vv cute!

  7. Debbie

    Love it. Your piping is great and the fabric covered buttons too. I am jealous, jealous, jealous.
    BTW have you tried the Cranks homemade lemonade recipe? It is in the original Cranks cookbook, I just had an inkling you may own this.

  8. Bridget

    Loving the dress, the piping really makes it. Re: how to join it in a circle, I seem to remember my sewing teacher showing us a technique that involved fraying and twisting the threads of the 2 ends together – but that depends a bit on the type of piping you’re using. Otherwise, I think you don’t cut the piping before you start, just sew up until about 2 inches from the end and then cut the piping to the exact length required for it to sit right next to the starting bit. Hope that makes sense!!

    1. scruffybadgertime Post author

      Thank you everyone for the lovely comments. Glad you think it’s got that 60s vibe too.
      Debbie I need to check the cranks cookbook I do have although I don’t think its their original. I made ainsley harriots from his BBQ book as it’s full of summer recipes as the name suggests!
      And thank you also for the suggestions for joining the circular piping. Both very interesting solutions, I shall lie in bed thinking them both through in my head- I know it!! That’s what I love about blog and- just how much there is to learn from others. Thank you again for your advice. Xx

    2. scruffybadgertime Post author

      Bridget, your solution for piping has got my mind in the biggest whirl if I’m honest. Wow for twisting the frayed ends, how clever could that be!! I will have to look into this more!

  9. Dibs

    Oh my days!! Now this is one lovely dress. I always love watching synchronised swimming, and this fabric reminds me so much of it. And that is such a good use of pipping. wow!! its nice not having the WP in your website name right? so annoying. lol

    1. scruffybadgertime Post author

      Hi Dibs! Thank you – I used to be a synchro swimmer & I agree with you – very formation-like swimmers!!!
      Yes, getting the /wp out is just the job, but annoying updating everything!!!

  10. Christine

    You’re back! I missed it because my “Live Bookmarks” for your site had collapsed. (Can you make it possible to subscribe via RSS again?) Your swimmers dress is absolutely fabulous. I love all the details, especially those BUTTONS! And the piping is fab as well. (Thanks also for your kind comment on my blog!)

    1. scruffybadgertime Post author

      Hello Christine! Nice to see you again too. I’m going to try to get a subscribe button added to my site, but am seeking help how to make it work!! The development of my technical sav is sadly on a very shallow trajectory!

  11. Kerry

    I love it! I have a shop bought dress in a similar style that I wear all the time, it’s a really useful piece to have in your wardrobe. The fabric is fab, and the buttons are hilarious!

  12. Tanit-Isis

    Yay, piping! That fabric is too adorable—I especially love your buttons.

    For piping—for an armscye like this I would probably do the same as Susan, overlapping and tapering into the seam, but the other way is to cut one end a bit long and leave a loose bit at the other end. Un-pick the fabric from around the piping on the long end and trim the piping inside—but NOT the covering fabric—so that it butts right against the other end. Then fold the end of the long piece of fabric under (so the raw edge isn’t exposed) and fold this around the loose bit at the other end, and stitch it all down. The piping will be a tiny bit thicker where there’s several layers of fabric around it, but it will end in a neat butt with no overlap or exposed edges.

    If that makes ANY sense at all. :P. It’s really simple to do! But this method might be better for thick piping like you might use on a cushion.

    I’m happy to report that with no assistance from me, my RSS feed reader seems to have found your blog again. About five posts showed up today. Here’s hoping to smooth sailing (or swimming?) for the badger from here on out!

    1. scruffybadgertime Post author

      I feel elated for 2 reasons to hear from you tanit Isis! First of all the piping fix. I completely understand your methodology and am going to give it a try ( maybe even next month.). I knew youd have some ideas being piping queen!! Second that your feed reader picked up the old address. Here’s hoping that everyone else has the same experience as it’s a faff fiddling around with such things and mr technical pants has been busy trying to solve this problem. Phew. Sounds promising.

      1. Tanit-Isis

        Yeah, I bet!

        I just checked the address in the feed reader and it does include the /wp bit. Yet as of yesterday (Monday) sometime, it is picking up your new posts (did Mr. Technical pants do something yesterday?). I am using Google Reader. Hope that helps!

  13. karen

    I ADORE this fabric. Makes me think of F Scott Fitzgerald and his wife, Zara, turning berry brown in the sun whilst drinking martinis on the beach.

    1. scruffybadgertime Post author

      Yes please Karen, can you conjure up an image with F Scott Fitzgerald, Zara and me (plus Gary to balance boys and girls) all drinking martinis & tanning on the beach? What a sophisticated afternoon ! Fascinating conversation & style inspiration!

  14. Stacy aka Stacybeads

    I love this dress so much, and am so glad you did a whole post about it. This was one of my favorite garments from the whole MMJ Flickr pool! The fabric, the shape, the piping, it’s all wonderful.

    1. scruffybadgertime Post author

      Hi Stacy
      So glad that you’ve visited – thank you for your lovely comment – this dress was something that was made in June, but was awaiting suitably warm weather to be brought out. I am sorry – you know how obsessed we Brits are about the weather …here we go again!

  15. Amy

    Fabulous dress. I too have lingered over this fabric in shops but didn’t think I could quite pull it off… as you have done beautifully! Isn’t it nice to be able to enjoy other people’s makes as well as one’s own!

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