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DIY Knit Sundress with Pre-Ruffled Fabric

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I confess, I am a Fabric Stash Addict.  I can’t help myself, I like pretty things…  (I was the same way with scrapbook paper, when I was heavy into scrapbooking.)  If you follow me on instagram you may even have caught a glimpse or two of some of my stash.  (I will not be showing it here…  it’s too embarrassing.)

I don’t typically come up with a project and then shop for fabric, (which may be the root of my problem.)  I mostly just buy what appeals to me and then when I get the idea to make something, I just shop my stash…

In the case of this Knit Ruffle Sundress, I bought this pretty striped ruffle fabric on a whim last fall from Funkalicious Fabrics.  I usually get my ruffle fabric with a coupon at Hobby Lobby, but they don’t carry ruffle fabric that looks anything like this one.  I love the stripes and the larger ruffles.  (When you think about how much time it would take to sew all these ruffles, the pre-ruffled fabric is definitely worth a bit more money.)

Instructions on how to make a Sundress with Pre-Ruffled Fabric - in any size.  (Plus tips on how to gather with elastic.)

I’ve been staring at this fabric on my shelf and I swear it has been calling to me.  It seemed so sad and neglected that I decided it would be my next project…

At first, I thought I would make a skirt with super wide elastic.  It is skirt week after all.  (Did you know I won readers choice, last year?  By a thread, no pun intended- well, maybe just a little pun…)  I didn’t care for the way the fabric looked with white elastic and I was too lazy to make the trek to the fabric store.

So I made the next best thing…  a sundress!

I had a RTW tank top ready to go for the top of the dress, but then noticed a magenta knit shirt hanging out of my recycle box that was an exact match to the striped fabric.  (Yes, I have a stash of these too.  They come from our closets, garage sales, thrift stores and the $2 and $3 clearance rack Walmart.)

So for a super simple quick and easy project, just use a store bought tee.  But I must say, making the top was really easy and the coordinating top ruffle absolutely made the dress!  (I did make an error with the binding, which added a significant amount of time to rip out and fix.  I will share my mistake so you can avoid it.)

Ok, this next photo is completely gratuitous, but I love it so much, I am including it anyway…

This time around, I used a different method of gathering for the skirt.

Lately, I’ve been gathering the waistbands of our leggings with elastic instead of inserting the elastic in casing.  (I showed the method in this tutorial.)  I thought I would use the same method to gather the skirt, using some clear elastic I bought a couple of years ago.  (I bought it when I first got my serger, I just never quite got around to learning how to use it.)

Using the clear elastic really made the gathering easy, and I am looking forward to using this method in other applications.  I will demonstrate this method in the tutorial below, but I will refer you to the tutorial I made for a similar dress if you feel more comfortable using the traditional method to gather.

Instructions on how to make a Sundress with Pre-Ruffled Fabric - in any size.  (Plus tips on how to gather with elastic.)

One word of caution when sewing with the ruffle fabric, you do have to be extra diligent in keeping the ruffles in place and pointing in the right direction when sewing…  You can see in the photo below where I made a boo boo on the skirt…  (This post is starting to get long and will be photo heavy, see the rest and get the actual tutorial after the jump…)

The boo boo is not super noticeable, I doubt I will ever go back and fix it…

Are you ready to make this sundress?

You will need:

  • Tank top or t-shirt to either trace for a pattern or use for the top of the dress
  • paper to trace the pattern on (I use freezer paper)
  • 1/2 yard ruffle fabric (more or less depending on the desired length – of course you could really use any fabric)
  • store bought or make your own bias tape (about 100 inches) If you make your own out of knit, try not to use a fabric that is too stretchy or if it is very stretch, gut the strips so the most stretch runs sideways and not the length of the strip. 
  • 3/8 inch clear elastic
  • ball point needle
  • scissors, ruler, iron and other basic sewing supplies


Step 1:  Make pattern and tank for top (Skip to step 2 if if you are using a RTW tank for the top.)

Fabric selection tip:  When selecting a fabric to use for your top, be sure it has the same amount of stretchiness as the top you are tracing.  (If you trace a rib knit top for the pattern and then use t-shirt fabric that has minimal stretch, your little one may not fit into the top.)

Lay out your tank as smooth as possible and trace around the front and back.

I traced the front and back on a single sheet and then used a tracing wheel and tracing paper to transfer the different lines of the front and back to the fabric.

You need to add a seam allowance around the sides of the top.  (I always use 1/4th, but use whatever you want.  Don’t add a seam allowance to the armholes or neckline.)

When you are ready to cut out your pattern, fold it half and cut from one side to ensure symmetry.

Lay out the pattern on your fabric, make sure the most stretchiness runs from side to side.  (I did not add the seam allowance to my pattern, I added it directly to the fabric when I cut out the pattern.)

Cut out the front and back pieces.

Place the front and back pieces right sides together and sew up the sides.

To add the ruffles to the top of your tank top, cut two 12 to 14 inch pieces of the ruffle from the ruffle fabric.  To gather the fabric strip, sew a basting stitch (longest stitch setting) along the top of the ruffle strip, then pull on the bobbin thread to gather the strip into a fluffier ruffle.

Line up the ruffles along the top, (line the top ruffle up with the top edge of the bodice and use your judgment for placement of the 2nd ruffle.)

Move the top ruffle out of the way and pin the bottom ruffle in place. Sew along the top edge of the bottom ruffle.

Line the top ruffle back up with the top of the bodice and pin in place.

Cut a piece of bias tape (double fold) that is a tiny bit longer than the top of the bodice. Sandwich the top of the bodice and ruffle in the bias tape and sew along the edge of the bias tape. (I did not get a picture of this step but it is the same as what I did here.)

Repeat for the back of the bodice.

This is where I ran into problems, I attempted to use a very stretchy piece of ribbed knit instead of bias tape and as you can see it stretched out the top of my bodice.  If your bodice stretches out, compare it to your original pattern and trim the edges for a better fit.

(Unfortunately, I did not see this as a prediction of what was to come and continued with the ribbed knit and tried to duplicate the straps of the top I was tracing – OMG what a disaster that turned out to be, the arm holes stretched out so much it was ridiculous!) So lesson learned, use either woven cotton for your binding and straps or knit binding cut into the not stretchy direction. (which is what I ended up doing.)

At this point, I did not take any more photos of the strap placement because after picking out the original binding and straps, I was concentrating on fixing the top and forgot to take pictures of the steps… Luckily, I have added this exact strap in another tutorial and can use those pictures.

For the shoulder ties, cut two pieces of the binding strip/bias tape to about 43 inches each. (A few inches more for a larger size and a few inches less for smaller. It is always better to start with too long, you can always trim off any extra.) Fold the bias tape in half and mark the middle point. Open the bias tape and sandwich the edge of the arm hole. Line up the mark you made with the center seam. Pin securely.

Start sewing at the end of one tie. Sew all the way down the tie, around the arm hole and to the other end of the tie. Finish the end of the tie with a little knot. Repeat on the other side.

Step 2: Cutting, gathering and attaching the skirt.

Try on the top and decide where you want the skirt to be attached and desired length.

Measure across the bodice at the point where you will attach the skirt, multiply that number and subtract half an inch. Cut a piece of the clear elastic to that number.  (Just pretend the skirt is not already attached in the picture below 🙂

Multiply length of the elastic by 2 and that is the width of your ruffle fabric.

Cut a rectangle of ruffle, width = 2 times the width of the elastic, by desired length.

When cutting the ruffle fabric, make your cut along the bottom of where the ruffle is attached, this way you have a nice wide strip of non-ruffled fabric to gather with.

Now for the fun part!  Gathering the skirt with elastic.  (Don’t want to use clear elastic to gather?  If you need help, check out this tutorial for a more indepth guide for gathering and adding a skirt to a bodice.)

Fold the elastic in half and mark the halfway point with a ballpoint pen. Fold it in half again and mark the quarter points.

Fold that top strip of non ruffled fabric that you left on top, in half.  Then measure and make the same marks along the top of the ruffle fabric, making the halfway and quarter points with pins. (If you think it will be easier for you, you can fold the fabric and elastic again and mark/pin in eights in tead of quarters)

Line up the marks on the elastic with the marks on the fabric, secure with pins.

Can you see how I folded the top of the fabric in half and pinned through it in this picture?

Place the edge of the fabric and elastic under the presser foot, and secure the elastic to the fabric with a tack (back) stitch.

Then, with the needle down, grab the fabric at the the first pin and stretch the elastic until the fabric is flat and even (but not stretched out.) Sew a zig zag stitch through the elastic until you get to the 2nd pin. Remove the pin and repeat the process until you get to the end of the elastic.  Go slow and keep the elastic from moving around too much.

How easy was that? (and so pretty.)

Next, fold the skirt in half (right sides together) and line it up with the bodice.  The elastic will probably have stretched out a bit, so you will want to mark where the side seam needs to be and  sew the side seam along that mark. (As pictured below.)

Turn the skirt right side out and line it up with the bottom of the bodice (about 1/2 inch from the bottom).  Pin the skirt in place and sew the skirt to the bodice using a zig zag stitch.

Since the ruffle fabric is knit, you do not need to hem, so… You are DONE!

If you make a dress using this tutorial, please come back and show off your creations in the comments or on my facebook pageFlickr group, or tag me on instagram

My favorite fabric shop for knits:  Funkalicious Fabrics.
  1. My Sewing Machine: SINGER 9960 Quantum Stylist
  2. My Serger: Brother 1034D 3 or 4 Thread Serger or you can just use Pinking Shears
  3. Rotary Cutter
  4. I love my large ruler and large cutting mat, but you may prefer to start of with a smaller Cutting set
  5. Dritz Dual Purpose Marking Pen and Fray Check
  6. Ball Point needles
  7. Singer walking foot or universal walking foot
  8. Blind hem foot.
  9. Wonder clips (I didn’t use these in the post, but they are just awesome!

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  1. inquiringmind says:

    Beautiful! 🙂 I would cover that boo boo with a quick flower 😉

    1. She actually wore this dress to the movies today. A flower is a smart idea!

  2. Chelsea @ Making Home Base says:

    Cute cute cute – as usual, Jamie! I always love your stuff!