This diy dress tutorial is a collaboration with JOANN. All opinions and ideas are my own.
How Sew a DIY Dress
Why a DIY dress tutorial?
I created this tutorial with the beginning seamstress in mind. There’s only three pattern pieces: the front, the back, and the neckband. Because of the way it’s designed, there’s not a separate sleeve piece which saves you time when it comes to making and cutting out you pattern pieces, and sewing the sleeves. In my British sewing magazines, these sleeves are called “grown-on sleeves,” because they are essentially grown-off of the bodice. In the US, we sometimes refer to them as dolman sleeves.
Why sew a dress without a pattern?
Sewing something without buying a commercial pattern can be very liberating. By using what you already have at home, in this case, a t-shirt and some wrapping paper, you can piece together almost any simple garment you want to make. You’ll be surprised at how many different things you can sew using this method.
Why knit fabric?
Knits fabrics have excellent stretch. This makes them very forgiving, and also helps relieve the need for notions like zippers or buttons. Knits are also incredibly comfortable. In this tutorial, I’m using extra soft brushed knit fabric from JOANN (full selection here). It’s the softest knit fabric I have ever used. Imagine the most buttery smooth fabric you have ever felt, and multiply it by ten. That’s what this feels like. HEAVEN. I get lots of extra cuddles from my kids when I wear it because they love the way it feels.
Tips for working with knits
Knit fabric gets a bad reputation sometimes for being hard to work with. The trick is to have the right tools. You probably wouldn’t try to use a screwdriver to hammer a nail into a wall. Likewise, you shouldn’t expect you universal needle to navigate knits the same way a ballpoint needle will. Trust me on this—YOU NEED A BALLPOINT NEEDLE. It will make a night and day difference for you. Ballpoint needles are able to glide between the knitted threads without breaking them. If you try to use a regular needle, you’ll likely end up with missed stitches and puckered seams. The couple of dollars it costs to buy a ballpoint needle is totally worth it.
A serger is great to have on hand for more professional looking finishes, but it isn’t required for this project because knit fabric does not fray. You will not need to finish your edges. I choose to finish my seams and the bottom hem with my serger, but the outside of the dress will look exactly the same should you choose to skip this step. (This is the serger I use and love)
I also prefer to use clips instead of pins because they are more sturdy and quicker to place.
Like any sewing project, there are multiple ways you can do each step. For my side seams, I simply did a straight stitch at the 3.5 length setting. While it’s true that most of the time you want to use a stretch or zig-zag stitch with knits, I knew that the side seams would not be stretched during daily wear. On the collar and sleeve hems, I did use a zig-zag stitch because these will be stretched over the head and arms and require a stitch that can stretch with the fabric. I did a straight stitch on the hem as well. The generous swing design of the skirt means the hem won’t be stretched either. You can you stretch hem tape for this project as well if you’d prefer to iron instead of sew.
The neckband is the trickiest part, but a little patience goes a long way.
Watch the video below for the full step-by-step tutorial.
Many people have commented that it looks like I’m wearing a different dress than the one you see being sewn. This is because I filmed with my iphone, and had to hold it slanted in order to fit the whole dress into the frame. This distorted it’s actual proportions. Here’s an image of me wearing the dress I made in the video, holding the shirt I used for the pattern, and the actual pattern I cut out during the video.
Would you try sewing a DIY dress? Let me know in a comment below!