Designer Spotlight: Sewing a Dress Pattern How-To

The Craftsy pattern shop is extensive, loaded with so many fabulous patterns — I can admit to having spent hour after hour just browsing through all the goodies on there. I quickly developed a long list of things to try and have a few favorite pattern designers on the site.

Check out how to sew a dress from one of my favorite pattern designers!

malice dress by see kate sew

One of those favorite designers whose garments I’ve been longing to try is See Kate Sew. She has tons of adorable patterns for women and kids, as well as links to many free tutorials that are hosted on her blog. In case you don’t know about her patterns, I hope this introduction to her profile will encourage you to try one of her cute projects as well! And if you choose to make the Emaline dress, this tutorial will help guide you step by step through constructing this knit dress that is as cozy as it is cute!

gather your tools

Step 1: Gather your tools.

  • Fabric and interfacing – choose a medium weight knit with 30% stretch
  • Water soluble pen
  • Thread – both regular machines and serger machines can be used to sew this dress, so stock up on cone thread as well if you plan to use a serger
  • Clear ruler
  • Tape
  • Scissors
  • Rotary cutter – optional
  • Pins – use ball point pins suitable for stretch fabrics
  • Point turner

measure the test square

Step 2: Print the PDF pattern.

PDF patterns are great because you can reprint them over and over again. Make a mistake? No problem! But because you are using a home printer you need to make sure that the shapes being printed are the correct size, or else your pattern pieces will be too big or too small, resulting in the finished garment being too big or too small. Print the page with the test square and confirm that it is correct before printing the rest of the pages.

trim the PDF pages

Once the test square is right, print the rest of the pages. Trim the pages for assembly. I typically trim the right and bottom edges so the pages can overlap easily.

assemble the pages

Line up all the pages of the pattern and tape them together, matching the lines of the pattern and the page numbers.

cut the pattern

Measure your body and choose a size to make. Remember that this is knit so it will fit very differently than a woven fabric. Once you’ve picked a size, cut out the pattern pieces following the line for your chosen size. I used a rotary cutter for this step but scissors are a good choice too.

pin the pattern to fabric

Step 3: Cut the fabric.

Nearly every pattern piece of the Emaline pattern is cut on the fold. Pin along the fold first, then pin around the rest of the pattern. Make sure that the line that indicates the “greatest amount of stretch” is parallel with the grain with the most stretch. Cut out the pattern pieces as indicated on the pattern. Please note that for my version I chose not to insert the side seam pockets, as I find that pockets inside knits tend to cling and droop inside the garment. That step will be skipped.

sew the shoulder seams

Step 4: Sew the bodice.

Place the front and back bodice pieces right sides together and line up the shoulder edges. Pin at the shoulders and sew using a serger or stretch stitch option on a regular machine. If you are new to your serger and want to gain loads of knowledge on working with knits, try Meg McElwee’s class Sewing with Knits, or Amy Alan’s class Beginner Serging. Both of these classes will help get you comfy with this amazing tool so you can jump into dresses like this one with total confidence!

press the shoulder seams

Press the seam allowance toward the back. If using a regular machine, there is no need to finish the seam on the inside as knits will not unravel.

press the arm bands

Step 5: The sleeves

Fold the sleeve bands in half, lining up the long ends and folding them wrong side together. Press in place.

pin the arm bands

Pin one band to the hem of one of the sleeves, right sides together. Line up the bottom edge of the sleeve with the raw edge of the band. Repeat with the other sleeve and band.

press the seam allowance up

Sew the band to the sleeve hem using the project’s 3/8″ seam allowance. Press the seam allowance up toward the sleeve. Optional: You can top stitch the seam allowance to the sleeve just above the seam if desired.

pin shoulder

Lay the bodice down with the right side up and the armscye open. Place the sleeve on the bodice, right side down. Find the center of the sleeve and pin it in place at the shoulder seam.

pin sleeve to bodice

Pull the sleeve to one side and pin at the end of the seam. Pin from the end to the center point, lining up the raw edges. Repeat on the other side of the sleeve. Sew along the whole curve from the front, over the shoulder, to the back on each sleeve. Press the seam allowance toward the sleeve.

pin side seam

Step 6: The side seams

Fold the top so the bodice front and bodice back are right sides together. Line up the side seam from the arm hem band to the waist and pin in place. Sew that seam, curving the fabric at the underarm so it becomes a straight line. Repeat on the other side so the whole bodice is sewn.

pin waistband

Step 7: The waistband

Place the two waistband pieces together, right sides facing. Pin along the two short ends and sew at the 3/8″ seam allowance. Press the seam.

pin waistband to top

Turn the bodice so it is right side out. Turn the waistband so it is wrong side out. Place the waistband over the top at the waist, lining up the raw edges. Pin in place and sew around the circle of the waist. Press the seam allowance up toward the waistband.

press neck binding

Step 8: The neck binding

Fold the neck binding in half, lining up the two short ends. Stitch together, forming a circle loop, and press the seam allowance. Fold the Fabric in half, wrong sides together, lining up the raw edges. Press on the fold.

pin neck binding

With the top right side out, place the neck binding around the neck opening with right side facing the bodice and the raw edges lined up around the neck. The binding should be smaller than the opening, but as there are no notches on the pattern to tell you where to line the binding up to equally distribute it around the neck, I suggest stretching the binding (but not the neckline) as you pin to stretch it around the neck.

Once it is evenly distributed and pinned in place, sew around the circle.

press neck binding

Press the seam allowance into the opening and press the binding flat.

mark pleats

Step 9: The pleats

Place the skirt pieces right sides facing and sew the side seams together. Press the seam allowance toward the back. Following the marks on the pattern, mark the pleats on the top edge of the fabric. As always, be sure to use a water soluble marking tool that you have tested on the fabric.

fold and pin pleats

Follow the arrows on the pattern and fold the fabric to form box pleats around the top of the skirt. The skirt should be the same size as the bottom of the waistband that is attached to the bodice.

baste pleats

Using a regular machine, sew the pleats in place with a baste stitch. I sewed mine at 3/8″ so they would be caught in my 3/8″ seam on the serger. Be careful to keep the pleats in place.

sew skirt to bodice

Turn the skirt wrong side out and the bodice right side out. Insert the bodice into the skirt, matching up the raw edges around the waist seam. Pin at the side seams first, then pin in between. Once pinned, sew the skirt to the bodice with the project’s 3/8″ seam allowance.

finished pleats

Once the skirt is sewn to the waistband, turn it right side out and press if necessary. Hem the skirt by using a coverstitch (if available) or a zigzag stitch. Simply fold up once and stitch in place.

press interfacing

Step 10: The bow

The bow detail on the front of the dress is entirely optional and you should take this moment to try on the dress to see if you want to include it or not. If so, fuse interfacing to one bow piece, one bow center piece, and two bow end pieces. Fuse the interfacing to the wrong side of the fabric. For heavier fabrics that hold their shape well, knit fuse is a good choice. For fabrics that are draper and require more body to keep the bow in place, try a lightweight woven fusible interfacing like Stacy Flex from Pellon.

pin bow pieces

Pin the two bow pieces together, right sides facing. Mark a 2″ area along the seam to be left open for turning it right side out. Pin the two bow center pieces together as well as two sets of bow end pieces.

Sew the bow center piece on the two long sides, the bow end pieces on the two sides and the angled bottom, and all around the bow piece except for the area left for turning.

press bow

Turn all the pieces right sides out and use a point turner to form good corners on all the pieces. For the bow, tuck the seam allowance into the opening and press the side flat. Sew the hole closed with a hand sewing needle and thread.

wrap bow center

Wrap the bow center around the bow and pin in place. Sew the ends of the bow center to the bow with a hand sewing needle.

pin bow to dress front

Pin the bow ends in place on the top and stitch in place by hand. Place the bow on top and repeat by sewing it in place by hand.

finished emaline dress

Voila! Your new dress is finished! Equally comfortable and adorable, this is a great dress for making fancy with the bow, or for making simple with no embellishment and wearing to your next picnic.

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