Gosia was our blogging winner in the Make It Yours Contest, and is here today with a guest post to introduce herself to you, and show off her unique style.
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Hello fellow sewing enthusiasts! I’m Gosia of As I Sew and Ambrodust Clothing, here to guide you through the creation of a super cute and easy to make knit dress. We’re going to start with a basic design, and later I’ll have some tips on what other styles of dresses you can use it for. This is a great project for a beginner who is familiar with sewing knits and understands a bit about altering a pattern.
Here we go! This is the dress we’ll be working on:
What you need:
- Knit fabric (I used about 2 yards of light jersey)
- Tank top that fits you well
- Large piece of tracing, pattern, or craft paper
- Sewing machine, matching thread, ball point needles (for knits), measuring tape, pins, etc. All the usual sewing things.
When you choose a tank top to use as a guide for this project, the style shown here is easiest to work with. You can also use a T-shirt but you’ll have to fold the sleeves out of the way when tracing it for a pattern (more on that later). Ones that go in at the waist like the one I’m using result in a more smoothly form fitting dress.
Before you can start making the dress, you want to check the amount of stretch your tank top and knit fabric have. They should be about the same, though it’s okay if your dress fabric is more stretchy. To do this, lay your top flat along a measuring tape and hold the fabric at the 0 and 3″ marks.
Stretch the fabric as far as it will go from the 3″ mark and note what number your finger ends up at. As you can see, mine stretched from 3″ to 5″.
Repeat this for the fabric you’d like to use. Mine is a lot stretchier than the top, but that’s okay! You just don’t want the fabric to be less stretchy.
Making the Pattern:
1. Put on your tank top and mark the smallest part of your waist with a pin. You can also take note at this point of whether you want the armholes and neckline to be bigger or smaller. I decided I wanted a lower neckline and slightly narrower straps than the top.
2. Fold your top in half and lay the fold on the edge of a piece of paper. Trace around your top. Make sure to mark the waist on your pattern. You can trace past the waist – this will help you draw the side of the dress in the next step.
T-shirt users: When tracing the armhole, hold the sleeve out of the way like so, and trace the seam line.
3. Measure down from the waist line along the edge of your pattern the length you want your dress to be and mark a line (mine is 15”).
Place the end of your measuring tape at the waist mark on the side seam, and swing the tape like a compass, marking the bottom curve at the length of your dress. You can add more or less flare. Mine goes out about 5″ in this photo. You can see in step 5 below that I added a little more for a total of about 7″ of flare.
Alternate step 3: You’ll notice I also have a line on my pattern for a fitted dress (marked Option 1) If you’d like this style do the following instead of step 3.
Continue the side seam line past the waist with a smooth curve down to however long you want your dress to be. At the widest part, it should be slightly smaller than 1/4 your hip measurement (since the pattern represents 1/4 of the dress) so that the dress is form fitting when worn. My fabric is very stretchy, so I took out a full inch from the pattern, meaning the full hip measurement would be 4” smaller than my body measurement. If you don’t want it to be tight across your butt and hips, don’t subtract as much, or any at all.
This widest point in my pattern is about 4″ below the waist mark – it’s not the widest point on my body, it’s where I start curving out into the hips. In my experience the shape shown above works well for a very form fitting dress. Honestly, I eyeball this part. If you’re not confident getting the curve correct, trace the hip of a fitted skirt or pants you own as you did with the top, or use a hip curve ruler if you have one.
4. Remember your note from earlier about the neckline and armholes? You can alter those now. I found out I wanted my neckline 4″ lower than on the tank top, so I marked this and drew a smooth curve to the shoulder. I also wanted the strap to be narrower so I drew a new armhole about 1/2” in from the original.
5. Cut out your pattern! This is the finished pattern I’ll be using.
Sewing the dress:
1. Lay out your pattern on the fold on your fabric. Make sure it’s placed so the stretch of the fabric goes around your body, not in line with the fold.
2. Add a seam allowance you are comfortable with. You can also do this step before cutting your pattern out of paper. I like to do it now because the amount of SA I add depends on my fabric. If I’m using something less stretchy, I’ll add more. In this case, because my fabric was so stretchy, I only added seam allowance to the shoulder seam and the hem. For my hem I used 1″. Otherwise, 5/8” is standard for patterns (I prefer 1/2”). If you’re using a serger, 1/4” is standard.
3. Cut two of your pattern on the fold (one for the back and one for the front). The only difference between my front and back is that the back neckline isn’t as deep. You can make it the same as the front, or cut it higher like I did.
4. In the above photo, you can see I’ve also cut out three strips of fabric. These are for binding the neckline and armholes. Measure around the neckline of the dress pieces and cut a strip 4″ longer than your measurement by 2.5″ wide. The stretch should run lengthwise. Repeat for the armholes.
5. Match up the front and back of the dress, right sides together, and sew the shoulder and side seams. You want to use a small zig-zag stitch and a ball point needle since this is a stretchy knit fabric (or a serger if you have one).
6. You’ll notice the hem of my dress is not very even at all. If yours is also like this, fold the dress in half with the shortest edge visible on top, and trim the hem in a smooth curve following the shortest edge. Try on your dress to make sure it’s even. If it’s not, mark the uneven spots and trim again (you might need a friend to help mark).
7. You can hem your dress using whatever method you prefer for knits. I’m using a regular double-fold hem. If you are using a 1″ hem allowance like I am, press up .5″ and then .5″ again. Sew the hem with a small zig zag.
8. Time to make the binding! This is basically bias binding, but since we’re using a knit fabric it doesn’t have to be cut on the bias. Take each of your strips and iron them in half. Open the strips, iron the edges into the middle, and then press on the original halfway fold again.
9. Sew the binding to the neckline and armholes as you would any bias binding, except using a zig-zag stitch for the topstitching at the end:
Open up the binding and sew it around the neckline with the right side of the binding to the wrong side of the dress. Use a .5″ seam allowance and a straight stitch. You want to fold over the first .5″ when you start sewing to enclose the binding edge, as shown below. As you sew, stretch the binding slightly, but not the dress. This will keep it snug against the body when worn.
Fold the binding to the right side, enclosing the dress edge, and sew on the edge with a small zig-zag.
Repeat for the armholes. You should get something that looks like this:
Let’s see… hem done, binding done, hey, we’re done! Put on your dress and enjoy!
I mentioned before that I would talk about how to make a couple other dress styles using the same pattern. Here are some examples of dresses I’ve made, using this design.
The straight fitted dress , as mentioned in the pattern creation step of the tutorial.
Gathered skirt dress: For this, you cut the pattern at the waist, and attach a simple rectangular gathered skirt. Make sure you use a zig-zag stitch or serger for all seams so everything still stretches. You might need to add elastic in the waist for heavy fabrics or ones that don’t stretch as much.
Circle skirt dress: Cut the pattern at the waist, and attach a circle skirt. Again, use a zig-zag stitch or a serger so everything stretches.
You can also try things like different necklines and strap widths. This is a great design to use as a base for many different dresses once you get a pattern that fits you well. It’s also easy to make for someone else since you just have to ask for a top that fits them.
I hope you enjoyed this tutorial! If you’d like to find out more about me or my other projects (and perhaps find a couple other tutorials), feel free to check out my blog. Thanks for reading!