Scattered Thoughts of a Crafty Mom


Simple Knot Dress Tutorial and Pattern (Sizes 2 to 6)

(Looking for more free patterns? Be sure to check out my free patterns and tutorials page here.)

Making a dress for my daughter to wear on Valentine's Day has been on my "list".  I wanted it to be Valentine-ish, but not "scream" Valentine's Day.  That way, she could wear it any any time...

I happened to be running a few errands near Joann's and stopped in to check out their Valentine's Day fabric collection.  There wasn't much to choose from. I'm not sure if they'd sold all of the good stuff already or just never got a big selection in.

I managed to find 4 coordinating pink and brown fabrics, (though only one of them was actually part of their V-day collection) and one sweet little birdie print fabric that kind of matched.

After studying my selections, I decided a knot dress would be the perfect way to showcase all of the fabrics and I would add a little apron made from the birdie fabric.  The birdie apron is what saves the dress from screaming Valentine's day.

Knot dress tutorial with free pattern

Do you remember my ruffle dress/top tutorial from last year?  (Odds are, you probably don't .. that sweet little dress didn't get much love- It was so cute and even included 2 pattern sizes...)  

Anyway, I digress...  I used that pattern, with just a couple of tweaks to make this adorable knot dress for Valentine's day.  I widened the bodice a tiny bit to make room for the knot button holes and sized it up, since she has grown a bit from last year.

Even though I was taking photos and doing other mom stuff throughout the sewing process, I still finished this dress in 3/4 of a day.

I took photos along the way so I could share the directions for how to make a knot dress.  The construction of this dress is very similar to my halter dress as well and is very simple. 

The dress I made her is a roomy size 6. (She will definitely get more than one year's wear out of it.)  I would liked to have made the skirt of the dress fuller, but when I got to the cutting counter, I noticed the skirt fabric was "on sale" for 9.99 a yard.  (too much $$$...)  To make her skirt fuller I would have had to double the amount of fabric and I didn't want to spend that much.

If you do want a fuller skirt, I will include measurements in the tutorial.  (It would be really cute!)

Isn't his bow tie cute? You can find the tutorial for the bow tie over at The Frugal Girls.

Knot dress tutorial with free pattern

Materials Needed:
  • 1/3 yard fabric for bodice and bodice lining
  • +/- 1/2 yard fabric for skirt (double this if you want an extra full skirt)
  • 1/4 yard fabric for contrasting skirt band (double this if you want an extra full skirt)
  • 1/4 yard fabric for knot ties
  • Scissors, ruler, fabric pen, thread, iron and other basic sewing supplies
  • bodice pattern: print here: Knot Dress Bodice pattern, sizes 2 to 6 (you will need to cut 4, I forgot to notate that on the pattern)

*** A couple of notes on the pattern:***
  1. You must be logged into google to access the pattern  
  2. When printing the patterns, do not print directly from Google docs.  Download the pattern to your computer and open it in your adobe acrobat reader.  Choose actual size and the landscape or portrait option.  (I just printed a pattern directly off Google docs and noticed it printed slightly smaller.)
  3. You will need to cut 4 of the bodice pattern pieces- I forgot to notate that on the pattern.
  4. This knot dress is designed to run on the large side, this way your child can fit it over her head, wear a shirt under it in colder months and also be worn for a couple of years as a top.  If you want a tighter fit, you may want to size down, or add a piece of elastic in the back- you can get an idea of how to do that in my halter dress tutorial. (or create muslin with just a front piece and back piece out of scrap fabric to test your fit...)

Step 1:  Cutting out pattern pieces.

Bodice:  Print the pattern and cut out size needed.   Fold the bodice fabric as shown and cut 4 pieces.  One front, one back, one bodice lining front and one bodice lining back.

Skirt:  To customize the length of your dress, hold the bodice top to your little one and measure from the bottom of the bodice to the spot where you would like the dress length to stop.  Subtract 3.25 inches from that measurement and that will be the length of the skirt.  

For the fabric conserving skirt (less full) cut the skirt fabric the length of your measurement by the width of the fabric, selvage to selvage.  (usually 42 to 44 inches, we'll cut the selvages off later.)  For a fuller skirt, cut 2 panels 35 inches wide by your length measurement.

If you don't have a little one handy to measure, here is a guide you can use for the main skirt piece. (the dress should fall well below the knee with these measurements)
12-18 mo: 9.5 to 10.5 inches
2t: 11.5 inches, 
3t: 13.5 inches, 
4:  15 to16 inches, 
5: 18 inches, 
6: 20 inches.  
(Every child is different and all moms like different skirt lengths on their children, so remember, these numbers are just a loose guide, so please use your measurements if possible.)

Contrasting band:  for the narrower skirt, cut the strip 8.5 inches tall by the width of the fabric.  (We'll cut the Selvages off later.)  For a fuller skirt cut 2 strips 35 inches wide by 8.5 inches tall.

Straps:  Sizes 3t and up cut 2 straps 14 inched long by 3.5 inches wide.  Size 2t and down, cut straps 13 inches by 3.5 inches wide.

Apron:  Size 3t and up, cut the apron fabric 12 inches long by 15 inches wide, size 2t and down, cut the apron fabric 10 inches long by 15 inches wide.

This is what you should have: (I cut my bodice lining out of the chocolate fabric)

Step 2: Assembling the bodice.

Line up the 2 main bodice pieces right sides together and the 2 bodice linings right sides together.  Sew along the sides using a 1/4 inch seam allowance and press the seams open.

Fold the straps in half, longways, right sides together and sew along the long side and one of the short sides.  Flip the straps right side out and press flat.  Do both straps.

Slip the bodice lining (my lining is the brown fabric) over the bodice, right sides facing each other.  Line them up and pin in place.  Flip the bodice around so the back side is facing up.

Pull the bodice back piece and back lining piece apart and slide one of the straps in between the layers.  The raw (un-sewn) side of the strap will go in first and line up with the raw edges of the top of the bodice, as shown below.

Pin the strap in place 1/2 inch from the edge.  Repeat for the 2nd strap.

Sew along the top edge of the bodice 1/4 inch from the edge, all the way around, front and back.

Snip the corner piece and cut little v's into the curves of the arm, be careful not to snip into the seam.

Flip the bodice right side out and press the edges flat with your iron.

Top stitch around the entire top edge of the bodice, front and back.

Pull the bodice and bodice lining apart and press the edge of the lining up and to the inside 1/4 inch.

Buttonholes:  For the button hole placement, measure over 3/4 inch form the side and 5/8 inch from the top.  Mark a 3/4 inch line for the button hole.

Follow the directions for your machine to make a 3/4 inch button hole.  I was able to find a button that measured 3/4 inch and used it with my button hole attachment.  (I made several practice button holes before attempting one on my dress...)

Repeat the markings on the other side for a 2nd button hole and use your seam ripper to open the button hole.

Step 3:  Assembling the skirt and apron.

Wrong sides together, fold the skirt contrasting band in half longways and press.  (If you are making the fuller skirt option, you will have two of these, do both.)

Lay the skirt fabric out right side facing up and line up the raw edge of the skirt fabric with the raw edge.  Sew along the edge using a 1/4 inch seam allowance and finish this edge with a serger, pinking shears or a zig zag stitch on your sewing machine. 

Press the seam with the finished seam turned up.

Fold the skirt panel in half right sides together.  If you left the selvages on, go ahead and trim them off and then sew the skirt sides together using a 1/4 inch seam allowance.  (If you are making the fuller skirt option, you will have 2 panels, stack your skirt panels right sides together and sew both sides.)

Finish the side seam(s) with your serger, sewing machine or pinking shears.

Turn the skirt right sides out and top stitch around the contrasting panel.  The top stitch should catch the finished seam you pressed up.

Apron:  Fold both side edges over 1/4 inch and press, then another 1/4 inch and press again.  Sew along the edge.

Repeat the folding, pressing and sewing on the bottom edge of the apron.

Step 4:  Gathering and putting the skirt, apron and bodice together.

To gather the apron, change your sewing machine setting to the longest stitch length and sew a straight stitch across the top of the apron, 1/4 inch from the top edge.  Pull on the top thread and slide the fabric down the thread to gather the top of the apron.  Keep pulling and gathering until the apron is about 6 to 8 inches wide.  (My size 6, is gathered to 8 inches, you might want to go down about 1/2 inch per size.)  Spread your gathers as evenly as possible.

Follow the same instructions to gather the top of the skirt.  Keep gathering the skirt until it is the same width as the bottom of the bodice.

Fold the bodice in half to find the front center.  Mark this spot with a pin or your fabric marker.  Fold the apron in half and find the center mark as well and mark it.

Place the apron and bodice right sides together and line up the center marks and raw edges.  Use a few pins to hold the apron in place.

To attach the skirt, line up the skirt seam(s) (center or sides) and raw edges with the right sides of the bodice and skirt together.

Start pinning the skirt to the bodice, sandwiching the apron in between.

Once you have pinned about half the skirt, you can flip the skirt and bodice around so the bodice is inside the skirt to make the pinning easier.

After you have pinned the skirt all the way around, be sure to go back and remove the pins you used to hold the apron in place.

Remove all the pins and flip your dress inside out.  The bodice lining you folded and ironed earlier will hide the gathered seam.

You have two options to secure the bodice lining in place, you can do a simple fell stitch or whip stitch by hand.

Or you can do what I do:  Flip the dress right side out and with one hand inside the dress and the other hand outside the dress, I pin from the outside and use my other hand to make sure the pins are holding the lining in the right place.  I then top stitch around the bodice from the outside.  This will usually catch all of the lining and sew it in place.  If I miss anything, I can always go back and hand stitch any missed spots.

This method works pretty good, The only thing I missed was the folded edge in this small area:

Flip the dress right side out and admire your work...  Gorgeous!

Knot dress tutorial with free pattern

No go take some pictures and come back to share.  Pretty please?

I hope you enjoy making this dress, please comeback and share your creations in my flickr group, Facebook page or tag me on Pinterest (all you have to do is type @mom and my name should come up - [jamie] the user icon is a little boy in a green shirt).

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  1. This is just darling, as are your cute young models! Thanks so much for sharing your tutorial. I almost picked up that cute bird print the other day at Joann's to use on the back of one of my granddaughter's quilts. They had so many fun choices.

  2. What a cute dress. Thanks for sharing. I'm your newest follower and hope you will return the favor!

    1. Well now I'm her newest follower! I can't wait to visit your blog. Mine is new & I'm still learning, but it's if you'd like to check it out. :)

    2. I loved your ruffle dress tutorial! And I love this one too :) the fabrics you picked out are just perfect! Thanks so much.

  3. Very cute dress, and nice photos! What do you bribe your kids with for all those great shots? Mine jump in the mud or fight everytime the camera comes out. :)

  4. Adorable! I love knot dresses. And I like that it's not too Valentine-y. Thanks so much for sharing!

    Newest follower!

  5. That's a very cute dress! I often wish my sewing skills were up to par for making my little girl cute dresses and skirts...and yes that little bow ties is adorable as well.

    Thanks for linking up to Sharing Saturday

  6. My daughter wouldn't wear this (she's picky about straps) but it is just SOOO adorable! Such a good tutorial that I had to pin because people need to see this! Thanks for sharing at this week's Pin Me Linky Party.

  7. A darling dress. I love that she can wear it with or without a T under it. Great tutorial. Thanks for sharing this.

  8. Very cute dress. Amazing photoshoot!

  9. Hi! I'm your newest follower. I love sewing and recently came up with a couple of maxi skirts for myself and my daughter to wear. I gotta tell you though- your photo shoot is way cooler than anything I come up with! What a beautiful blog!

  10. I love your photography :o) New e-mail subscriber!!!

  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

  12. Oops! (Messed up on that last comment, LOL)

    Cute, cute Valentine's day look! Adorable pics!

  13. The photo shoot and editing is terrific. The how to is perfectly detailed and documented. The color combo for the fabrics is really fun. I love the whole thing!
    Great Job Momma!
    with love-

  14. Such a cute photo shoot and the dress is darling!

  15. Cute dress - wonderfully clear pattern - and SUCH gorgeous photos!!

    Thanks for linking to a Round Tuit!
    Hope you have a fabulous week!
    Jill @ Creating my way to Success

  16. What a thorough post....thanks for sharing the tutorial for this dress!! Ohhhh, and those pictures are too precious for words....

  17. I love it! I'm pinning this on my sewing board, and I hope to make it too! I would love if you would share with us on the Eco Kids Tuesday Link Up:

  18. Love the combination of all of those fabrics. Great look and the pictures are just too cute.

  19. That is such a cute dress. I have all kinds of anxiety over putting two prints together in a single dress and you put four of them together. I am so intimidated by you. :)

  20. That came out super cute! I LOVE the birdcage fabric you used for the apron.

  21. I loved this post. Beautiful project (excellent tutorial), great photos. Lynaea @

  22. What a fun photo shoot! I love the lighting!

  23. It's adorable and beautiful pictures too! I would love to have you come link up your favorite posts at 'Or so she says...'. The link party will be open until this Tuesday. (Sat-Tues, every week.) Hope to see you there!

    Mariel @ Or so she says...

  24. beautiful pictures! love the coloring.
    thanks for the (very clear) tutorial!

  25. Congrats! You are featured today on Smart School House for Whimsy Wednesday! I love your blog and this really caught my eye! The new party (along with your feature) will start very soon. Can’t wait to see what you’ve been up to this week!

    Kelly from Smart School House
    (Be sure to follow on Facebook for more features!)

  26. Wonderful tutorial! The dress turned out to be so cute!
    Great post!! I included it in my post Βόλτα στη Γειτονιά #21 :)
    Have a great week!!

  27. Love this!!! Made this dress for my granddaughter, it turned out so cute! I made the dress in the size 6, and it ended up being way big, So I added side ties so its adjustable! Thank you for your wonderful tutorials

    1. I do tend to make my stuff on the large size(and long). On this dress I was worried she would not be able to pull it over her head, plus I want a few years wear out off anything I make. If an item is lined, you could always add a small elastic casing in the back bodice and if it is single layered, try adding a few rows of shirring.

      I appreciate the feedback, I will mention to the readers that they should compare the pattern to something they already own before sewing.

  28. hi there
    it seems your pattern is quite popular, so much so people want it in bigger sizes - could you do this? or could i do it for you - either as an update to your page or listed else where?

  29. I received this email earlier today and thought I would add it to the comments in case anyone else has similar questions. (It sounds like she bought a knot dress pattern and it turned out larger than she wanted it to be. FYI, Knot dresses are usually very wide- if it is too narrow, you won't be able to get it over your childs head and shoulders:

    "i have read over your tutorial and I'm not sure I'm doing it correctly do u sew two fronts and two backs together and also my finished product was suppose to be a size 2 according to the pattern I purchased and it is so wide and big around arms it fit my 6 yr old? Any tips on what I could be missing thank you so so much:)"

    1. Yes, you sew a bodice front to a bodice back - and a bodice lining front to a bodice lining back. (then put them together.) It is a very wide bodice top since it doesn't stretch needs to fit over a child's shoulders and hip and is designed to fit over an undershirt.

      The finished bodice width should be around 11 3/4 inches. (the actual measurement of the size 2 paper pattern is around 6 1/4 to 6 3/8 on the bottom - depending how you cut it.) Let me know if yours is much wider than this. It may be a printing/printer issue and it might be necessary for me to go back to the tutorial and add measurements to the pattern.

      I just put together a size 2 bodice front and back and my 6 year old definitely could not get it over her hips.

      What I have done in the past to tighten up a too loose bodice is to add a piece of elastic to the back of the dress/top.

      To do this: Create a casing in between the back bodice top and lining. Insert a piece of elastic, (maybe around 10 inches long - you will trim it down once you have customized the fit.) sew the elastic down on one end. Have your little one try on the dress, tighten the elastic and secure with a safety pin. Then sew the other end of elastic down and remove the pin. (Very much the same way I created the casing in this tutorial: (skip to step 4), only your bodice will already be put together.

  30. Thanks for the tutorial! Here is mine!!!

  31. I am soooooo stinking excited I found your tutorial! I have successfully made my girls their Easter dresses for this year. For someone who has taught themself to sew on her passed mom's 50 yr old machine, reading the antique instructions, your tutorial was super and so helpful. Not sure how to send you a photo, but I have one of the coordinating ones I made for them. Thanks again!

  32. I am definitely a beginning sew-er, though I'm okay with a serger (I know that's backwards!). I haven't used patterns much at all, so I am slowly trying to learn. The fabrics I got to try this dress are only 11.5 in wide (bodice) and 17-18 in wide (all other fabrics). I'm wondering if I can still make this work. I think I have enough fabric in length that I could reverse the measurements and cut the short side from the width and the long side from the length--you said most fabrics selvage to selvage are 42-44 in. Does this make any sense, what I'm saying, and if so, do you think I can make it work? Or do I need to go get different, wider fabric? Can you give me any idea on how long the long side needs to be to fit 3-4T? If you get to this, thanks a bunch, and thanks anyway for all the great patterns and pics!

  33. Awesome! Thank you so much! It worked great. I will see if I can figure out how to attach a pic of my daughter in hers. I am very much a beginner at sewing and your instructions were fantastic!

    1. I'm glad you were able to get it done! did you end up having enough fabric? I would love for you to share a picture on my facebook page!

  34. I love this style!! Congratulations, your post was featured on SWEET HAUTE at Show Me Saturdays link up party!

    ~Be Sweet
    Christina at


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