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Dropped-Waist Knit Dress Tutorial with Pattern

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

I was shopping for fabric recently and came across some pretty pink Crushed Panne fabric on sale for 2.99 a yard.  I wasn’t sure what I would do with it, but I went ahead and bought a yard and a half in light and hot pink.

After comparing a couple of dress styles, I decided this would be a good opportunity to try to make my own pattern based on one of our favorite play dresses, especially since I only had a few dollars invested in the material.


The dress came out so cute and is not difficult at all. I uploaded the pattern pieces I created and the heart shape into Google Documents. So if you are lucky enough to have a little princess that can fit into a 5t dress size you can download the pattern. (the links can be found below.) If not, I will show you how easy it is to create your own pattern.

Items needed to make this dress:

or to make you own pattern you will need:
-large paper (tissue, freezer paper, large construction paper or even wrapping paper)
-a knit dress that fits well
tracing wheel and tracing paper (you can make your pattern without this, but it really makes it easier)
-ruler or sewing gauge

  • 1 yard of 58 inch wide knit fabric (about 1 1/4 yard of 44 inch wide fabric)
  • Coordinating thread
  •  If you want to add the heart you will need some heat n bond (the kind with paper backing) and contrasting scrap fabric.

Here we go:

If you are using my pattern pieces print out dress pattern1, dress pattern2, sleeve pattern and the heart shape.  Make sure to turn off all cropping, centering, or shrink to fit when printing.  I combined the front and back of the dress on the same pattern piece, so print out dress pattern1 and dress pattern2 twice. (One is for the front and the other for the back)  The black square should measure 1 inch.    (*If you are using Internet Explorer, google docs might give you a problem, but there should be a button on the upper right that says download original.  Click that and the pattern should download for you.)

 *** Important pattern printing tip***  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 option.  (I just printed a pattern directly off Google docs and notice it printed slightly smaller.)

Cut out the pattern pieces and align dress piece one and dress piece two at the dot and tape together.  The seam allowances have been included into the pattern pieces and are 1/4 inch.  If you are using my pattern, skip down to the paragraph marked with an *.


click photo to see it larger

If you are making your own pattern, lay out your dress as smooth as possible on the paper you are tracing onto.  If the dress you are using already has a dropped waist then you will just end the bodice part of the pattern there.  If your pattern dress does not have a dropped waist, just measure your model from shoulder to where you want the drop waist to be.  In my case, I wanted it to hit at the bottom of her hip which is about 16.5 inches.

Trace out the entire top part of the dress on to your paper.  An easy way to trace the arm hole is to use your tracing wheel and paper like this:


See where I traced the arm hole?


Click photo to see image better

Use your shoulder to hip measurement (or drop waist), add 1/4 inch for seam allowance and draw the bottom of the bodice.

Using your ruler, find the center part of the dress and fold your pattern in half.  This way both sides will be symmetrical.

Using your sewing gauge or ruler, go around your bodice pattern and add a 1/4th inch seam allowance, except on the neckline.  (We will bind the neckline with bias binding and don’t need an extra seam allowance.)


Once you have added the seam allowance, trace over your lines with a marker and cut out the bodice pattern.

Next we will do the same thing with the sleeve.  Trace the sleeve shape on to the paper using your tracing wheel and paper.  Then go around the whole sleeve and add 1/4th inch seam allowance

You can see where I traced out the sleeve and added the seem allowance here:


If you would like to make your sleeve puffed.  Here is a great tutorial for showing you how.  If you are using my pattern piece I have already done that for you.

*Fold your fabric in half, paying attention to the direction of the stretch.  You want the stretch going from side to side.  Place the folded edge of the pattern on the fold of the fabric, cut 2 sleeves and 2 bodices, one with the front neckline and one with the back neckline.  If you are using my sleeve pattern, transfer the dots for gathering.


Keeping your fabric folded in half, cut 2 strips of fabric 15 inches by 8.5 inches.  (Unfolded, you will have 2 strips 30 by 8.5.)  These strips are for the skirt.

So you now have 2 sleeves, 2 bodices (front and back) and 2 skirt pieces.

First we will sew the 2 bodice pieces together.  Right sides together, sew across the shoulders and down the sides using a 1/4 inch seam allowance

Next, sew the short sides of the sleeves together.


If you are using my sleeve pattern piece, We need to create the puffed sleeve.  To do this, set your sewing machine to the longest stitch length.  (Mine goes to 7.)  Sew a straight stitch from do to dot, 1/4 inch from the edge.  Leave the ends loose, no backstitching.  Do this on both sleeves.  Go ahead and move the stitch length back to the normal length now before you forget.

To gather your sleeve, gently pull on the bottom thread of your basting stitch while holding the fabric.  Move the fabric evenly down the thread until the top of the sleeve is gathered tightly.  Do this for on both sleeves, but don’t tie off the threads in case you need to adjust the gather later when fitting the sleeve in to the armhole.


To insert the sleeve into the bodice, place right sides together, matching up the side seam of the bodice with the side seam of the sleeve, pin in place.


Pin all the way  around, sometimes you have to keep working the sleeve around to get it to pin in place just right.

Sew the sleeve in place, removing the pins as you sew.  Take extra care keeping the sleeve straight and not catch other parts of the bodice in the seam.  Go ahead and do the same with the other sleeve.  We don’t really need to finish the inside seams since knit doesn’t fray, though sometimes I do it anyway if I think it will help the garment lay better.

Next we will hem the sleeve edge.  Fold over 1/4th inch, press if your fabric will hold a crease.  Then fold over another 1/4th inch, pressing again if you can and stitch a little less than 1/4th inch from the edge of the sleeve.  Do both sleeves.  (Depending on the type of fabric you are using, you may choose not to hem the sleeve edge or bottom hem, you can decide what looks best.)

Next we will add the skirt.  Right sides together, sew the short edges of the skirt strips to each other, making a big circle.

Now we will gather the top edge of the skirt.  Set your sewing machine to the longest stitch length.  (Mine goes to 7.)  Sew a straight stitch all the way around the top of the skirt, 1/4 inch from the edge.  Leave the ends loose, no backstitching.  Go ahead and move the stitch length back to the normal length now before you forget.

To gather the skirt, gently pull on the bottom thread of your basting stitch while holding the fabric.  Move the fabric evenly down the thread, trying to keep the gathers even.  Keep gathering until the skirt is the same width as the bottom of the bodice.

Then, right sides of the skirt and bodice together, match up the side seams and pin the gathered part of the skirt to the bottom of the bodice.  When you are done it will look like this.

Oops, I did not get a picture of this step, but it looks just like this…

Place the gathered edge in your machine and sew right below your gathering stitch, removing the pins as you go.

After you have sewed the skirt and bodice together, you will want to finish this seam with your serger or a zig zag stitch on your sewing machine.
Press the bodice/skirt seam allowance up towards the neckline.  Then flip the dress right side out and top stitch right above the skirt seam about 1/8th of an inch.  You will catch the finished seam in this topstitch.
Next we will hem the bottom of the skirt.  Fold the bottom edge up 1/4th an inch, press and fold over another 1/4th an inch. Press, pin and sew.
Now we will create some bias binding for the neckline.  My cutting mat has bias lines marked out already, so all I have to do is line up my fabric and cut.  Most rulers have these markings too.  Here is a link to a youtube video if you need further instruction.  Cut the bias strip 2 inches wide by about 17 inches long.
(I don’t have a picture of this step, so I am recreating it on the practice bodice I did before making this dress.)
Take your bodice top and the bias strip, right sides together, pin the bias strip all the way around the neckline as show below.  Because the neckline binding is cut on the bias it will curve nicely around the neckline, but you will probably need lots of pins to hold it in place.

Sew all the way around the neckline 1/4th inch from the edge, removing the pins as you go, being careful to keep the dress straight underneath.

Fold the bias binding up from the seam you just sewed, like this:

Then fold it in half, like this:

Fold it over again, one more time, basically “sandwiching” the edge of the neckline.

Pin in place on the front,

Sew close as close to the edge as possible, being careful to catch the back side of the binding in your stitch.

When you get to the back, where the two edges of the bias binding meet, just tuck the end under and sew over it like this:


That’s it!  You are done with your dress!

If you want to add the heart shape applique to the dress, here is a great youtube video on how to do an applique with heat n bond.  You can use this method to applique any shape to the front of your dress.

I used my sewing machine’s blanket stitch for a little extra interest around the heart applique.


Please email me or leave a comment if you have any questions about this tutorial, I will do my best to help you.

If you are inspired to create something based on this tutorial, I would love to see it!  I have created a new Flickr Group for you to share your creations.  Here is the link: Creations inspired by Scattered Thoughts of a Crafty Mom.  (Please share, you might get featured!)

If you like this project and want to see more, please consider becoming a follower.  You can subscribe using the Google Friend Connect widget, through a reader, or signing up via email.  Just click on one of the icons below:


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  1. lovetosew says:

    very pretty dress. i tried to do this the bodice parts came out fine but i messed up the sleeves and the neckline. can u tell me how you cut out the normal sleeves? . before stitching the neckline it was perfect neckline.after inserting the neckline piece it became bigger.

    1. Hi, Its hard to say what might have happened without seeing the dress. I can only guess maybe the binding fabric you used did not have enough recovery and/or you stretched the bodice fabric out as you sewed.
      Keep practicing and good luck!

  2. Thank you so much for taking the time to post this. Both the dress and your little girl are beautiful! I want to make my 22 month old daughter some summer nightgowns out of lightweight knit and I am sure I will be able to use your instructions to draft a pattern and sew some up.

  3. Hola! Me encanta este vestido, voy a intentar hacerlo, ya te contaré.Muchas gracias por el tutorial.

  4. Mindie Hilton says:

    What a cute little model you have. Thanks for linking up at Bacon Time. Good luck!

  5. What a lovely dress. I love the heart applique.

  6. Hello
    Just wanted to let you know that I have mentioned this post on my blog. If there is anything you would like me to remove please let me know. Cheers

  7. This is an awesome tutorial! What a beautiful dress! I am so happy you shared this at Show & Share–thanks for linking up!

  8. Sew Country Chick says:

    What a great tutorial! Would you like to post  a photo link to your blog on my Sew & Tell Saturday linky party at my blog this Saturday? Its geared specifically for sewing projects !
    Justine @ Sew Country Chick

  9. Very cute and well made. Thank you!

  10. Such a super cute dress! love it! Thanks for linking up and sharing:>

  11. Very cute!! Your little girl looks like she is loving it. I love your blog. I'm your newest follower.
    Would love to see you DIY Home Sweet home.
    P.S. I have another giveaway going on right now. Would love you to stop by and check it out. g

  12. Between U & Me says:

    I LOVE this! I would love if you would share this at the Crazy Cute link party happening at Between U & Me right now! I've got a totally awesome giveaway this week, too!
    OOH! AND, I'm your newest follower! 😉

  13. B. Haven Boutique says:

    I really like your blog. I am your newest follower!! I am new to blogger, but am excited to share my New boutique that is coming soon with the latest trends on clothing at affordable prices. I also will be selling Mineral Makeup. I will be giving a lot of free giveaways here shortly for our grand opening! I hope you will stop by my blog and follow me back and like my facebook… And Look out for free giveaways on makeup and clothing 🙂

    -B. Haven

  14. Goodness this tutorial is so instructive! And I am in love with the results! Thank you so very much for linking up to Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways:) I'm so happy to "meet" you! I am totally loving your blog and your posts! I really hope you make Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways a part of your Wednesdays! And keep the great posts comin'
    Very sincerely,
    Andrea @ Frugally Sustainable

  15. Chamorritamom says:

    This dress turned out so cute! I will have to try this one out when my daughter gets older or maybe I can resize your pattern. I am your newest follower! Would love for you to FB!