I love knit fabric! I would take a guess and say 95% of my dresses and tops are made from knits. I have managed to collect a few pretty knits and have decided it is time to make something for myself. I really liked how the top I made a few months ago turned out, and using the same basic pattern I made a dress!
This dress is very easy to make, once the pattern is made and fabric cut, it goes together super quick. (The only thing that slowed me down was the picture and note taking for the tutorial, ha!)
The great thing about this dress is you can adjust the hem, sleeve length and waistband location to what suits you best! Then you can dress it up or down and go anywhere! I found this pretty tonal damask stretch knit at Funkalicious Fabrics.
To make the dress:
- 2 to 2 1/2 yards of 60 inch wide knit fabric
- 1/2 inch elastic
- large paper to trace pattern (Wrapping paper, art paper, freezer paper- I used wrapping paper)
- loose fitting shirt to trace
- fabric marker
- ball point needle
- measuring tape
- spray starch
Step one: Tracing and cutting the pattern.
Measure from your shoulder to the point you want your dress to fall. You can go mini or maxi length, it is up to you!
Add 1 1/4 inch for seam allowances and hem. To be safe add an extra inch or two for any blousing that may occur after adding the elastic. (You can always take off extra length before hemming.)
Lay the shirt for tracing out on your paper, smoothing out all the wrinkles. If your paper is wide enough, I prefer tracing the entire shirt on to the paper, but you can just fold your shirt in half and trace half the shirt.
Trace the back neckline onto the paper. To get the dolman style sleeve, angle your pattern lines straight from the neck to sleeve edge and straight down the sleeve as shown. (you can draw your sleeve longer if that is what you like, I did.) Add 1/4 inch all the way around for seam allowances.
Cut out your pattern. (If you trace the entire shirt, find the middle and fold the paper in half then cut the pattern out from one side.)
Fold your fabric so the selvages meet in the middle and lay your pattern out on the fabric.
Measure from the top of the shoulder to your length measurement and mark that measurement on fabric with fabric marker.
Determine where the hip area is on the fabric and make sure you have 3 to 5 inches of ease at that point. (3 to 5 inches in total, so that would be .75 to 1.25 when laying out the pattern on the fabric. The less stretch your fabric has the more ease you will want.) Mark this measurement on the fabric. Based on you hip mark, adjust your pattern shape to create a very slight a-line shape to your bottom measurement mark.
Cut the pattern from your fabric, then use your first cut piece for the pattern to cut the second piece. Hard to see, but that is what I am doing in the photo below.
Determine which side will be the front, then lay your t-shirt out on the front piece and trace out the front neckline directly on to the fabric. If your shirt has binding like mine below, try to trace where the binding meets the shirt. (We will be adding binding later.) If you are using a V-neck shirt to trace, gently round the neckline so you have more of a scoop neck.
Step 2: Assembling the dress.
With the front and back pieces right sides together, sew the shoulder seams and side seams together with a straight stitch.
Find a mirror and try on your dress. Using a piece of elastic, a piece of string or belt, tie it around your waist where you want your waist band to be. Check how the dress fits. Do you need to take in the sides? My fabric was very stretchy and after 2 adjustments, I ended up taking out 2 inches.
Once you have the dress fitting the way you like it, grab your make-shift belt and tie it around your waist again. With your fabric marker, mark the sides were you want your waist band. (I prefer empire waist dresses, so that is where I made my marks.
Step 3: Adding the binding to the neck and sleeves.
Lay out your dress and measure one of the sleeve openings. Double this measurement to get the measurement all the way around and add 2 inches.
Cut 2 pieces of binding (Stretchy-ness should be side to side) to your sleeve measurement plus 2 inches by 1.75.
Fold the binding in half and iron flat. If your fabric edges are curling, use spray starch to help keep them flat.
Step 3b: Line up the raw edges of the binding and the sleeve edge. As you are lining up the binding, very gently stretch the binding, BUT NOT THE SLEEVE! Use a few pins to hold the binding in place, but leave the ends loose. (By stretching the binding, the binding should end up being about 1/2 inch less than the sleeve.)
Mark where the binding edges overlap.
Remove the binding from the sleeve.
Open up the binding and right sides together, line up the marks and sew. Trim the edges to about 1/8 inch.
Iron the new seam flat and flip the binding back.
To help evenly line up the binding around the sleeve, we need to mark the binding into 4 equal sections. Fold the binding in half one way and then the other way to find the 4 center points. Mark these points with your marker.
Fold the sleeve the same way and make 4 equal marks. Then line the raw edges of the binding and sleeve back up and pin the sleeve and binding together at the 4 marks. (The photo below is the neckline, but it’s a very good illustration.)
Increase your stitch length just a bit. (This helps when working with knits) Sew the binding to the sleeve about 1/8 inch from the edge. You should have to stretch the binding just the tiniest bit, but do NOT STRETCH THE SLEEVE.
Repeat this process for the other sleeve. (Go back to step 3b for the second sleeve. I recommend repeating the binding attachment/measuring process in case your sleeve aren’t the exact same measurement.)
Measure around your neckline and cut a piece of binding this measurement plus 2 inches by 1.75 and follow the same process to attach the neckline binding.
With the iron, press the binding seams toward the inside of the dress. If you want, you can finish these seams with a zig zag stitch or serger, but it is not necessary since you are working with knits.
At this point, you can top stitch around the binding. (I top stitched around my sleeves, but I ended up chicken-ing out on the neck binding. I was too afraid of stretching out the neck line…)
Step 4: Adding the elastic waistband casing.
Put a pin through the waistline mark so you can find it and you flip the dress inside out. Pin the fabric strip all the way around the dress and sew right along the edge of the fabric strip.
Measure your waist (or the spot where the casing will sit.) Cut your elastic to this measurement minus one inch. Attach a safety pin to one end of the elastic and thread it through the casing. Pin the ends together, try on your dress and make sure the elastic is tight enough. If you are making a maxi dress, you will probably want the elastic tighter to help support the weight of the skirt. I did tighten mine up a bit more as well.
Using a tight zig zag stitch, sew the edges of the elastic together. Trim the excess elastic and slide the elastic around so the edges are inside the casing towards the back and the fabric is evenly distributed around the dress.
To keep the elastic from sliding around, you can sew a few stitches at the side seams, right through the elastic.
Step 5: Hemming the dress.
To hem the dress you have a couple of options. I am always very hesitant about hemming knits. I really dislike it when I spend a ton of time sewing a dress and then stretching out the final hem. (That is why I added binding to the neckline and sleeves instead of a simple fold over hem.)
Since this dress is made with knit, you could leave it raw. I have done this many times and am fine with it. You could use hem tape. I’ve heard good things about sewing through a piece of tissue paper to help stableize the knit. There is also something called Water Soluble Stabilizer, I’ve never tried it, but I bet it would work too.
For my dress, I decided to combine all the tricks I know and just go for it! First, I applied a heavy amount of spray starch to the fabric edge. I folded the edge over 1/2 inch, pressed, folded another 1/2 inch and pressed again.
I put my walking foot on my sewing machine, used a ball point twin needle and increased my stitch length. I sewed the hem very slowly, making sure the fabric was feeding through the machine evenly. I have to say, I am very pleased with this method! It did not stretch at all and this fabric is VERY stretchy!
- My Sewing Machine: SINGER 9960 Quantum Stylist
- My Serger: Brother 1034D 3 or 4 Thread Serger or you can just use Pinking Shears
- Rotary Cutter
- I love my large ruler and large cutting mat, but you may prefer to start of with a smaller Cutting set
- Dritz Dual Purpose Marking Pen and Fray Check
- Ball Point needles
- Singer walking foot or universal walking foot
- Blind hem foot.
- Wonder clips (I didn’t use these in the post, but they are just awesome!
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