Saturday 4 April 2015

Tutorial: A-Line Knit Dress

Well, it's the night before Easter and I thought that was the perfect time for a little tutorial.  Do you remember the Summer Jumpsuit tutorial I posted a few weeks back? ...  And remember how I mentioned that I had just enough fabric left for another little project? ... Well this is it!  I managed to JUST, read "JUST" get this gorgeous little dress for Hannah out of the remnants, and it was worth the squeeze,  'cause this has become a favroutite of hers.
This is that awesome light-weight knit rayon fabric, and I just love the drape of it.  I had a simple little dress in mind for Hannah, and this fabric really was perfect for it.  I made it a little large ... on purpose .... really!!  It'll totally still fit next summer!  And I added a little floppy, droopy bow to add some interest to the front.  I like it!

Anyway if you thought the Summer Jumpsuit or my other recent High-Low Play-time Dress were a quick and easy sew, then this will be an absolute breeze for you.  In fact, the evening I made Bethany's jumpsuit, I just went straight on and sewed this right up afterwards.  Might as well strike while the iron's hot and all that! ... No really, the iron was literally still hot from pressing the jumpsuit, so I thought I'd just get straight to it!!

And here's what you need ... 

1. About 1/2 yard/metre light-weight knit fabric (I used a knit-rayon), maybe more for a larger size.  Hannah's is a size 4.
2. A tank top/t-shirt pattern, or a tank/t-shirt that currently fits.  This is a great freebie tank pattern if you're making size 3-8.
3. Coordinating thread
4. Sewing machine, scissors

And here's how I did it ...

1.  Grab your tank / t-shirt pattern (or make one using the technique I used here - if you're tracing a shirt/tank, don't forget to add 1/4" all the way around for seam allowance).  Fold your fabric in half long ways, and cut front and back pieces out, extending the top to the desired dress length, plus 1 inch for hemming, and taper the dress shape out from the armpit to make the dress an A-line like so.  I did the front first, then used my front piece as a pattern for my back piece so that I had identical front and back pieces.

2. Sew the shoulder seams, right-sides-together, and finish the edges with an overlocker (serger) if you want to, though for knit-fabric it's not too important as it doesn't fray.  (Oh, and I used a 1/4" seam allowance throughout!)

3. Measure the neckline, and cut a strip of fabric that is the same length as your neckline x 2 inches. (for this project I wanted the neckline / arm holes to be un-gathered and to sit flat, so I made the neckband the same length as the neckline).
Don't worry if it's not exact ... that's the beauty of knit fabric ... you can always stretch it to fit!

4.  Fold your strip in half (right-sides-together) and sew down the short edge to make a circle.  Then fold the whole neckband in half width-ways, right-side-out.  Lay your dress pieces open like so, and pin your neck band to the right-side of the neckline like so, lining up the seam on the neckband with one of the shoulder seams, and the raw edges of the neck band with the raw edge of the neckline.

5. Finish the raw edge (if you're a little addicted to overlocking like I am and can't bear to leave the edge unfinished!) ...

... then topstitch around the neckline, joining the seam allowance to the dress all around, like so.

6.  Now do the same with each arm-hold ... measure the length....

... cut and attach arm bands that are the same length as the arm-hole by 2 inches...

 ... finish the raw edges (if you are doing that) and topstitch the seam allowance to the dress.

7.  Now place the dress pieces right-sides-together, and sew down each side-seam (and finish them with the overlocker if you want!)

8. Press the hem under 1/2 inch, then sew around the hem as close to the raw edge as possible.

9. Now for the bow ... Cut a rectangle of the same or a coordinating fabric measuring 6" x 4".

10.  Fold the rectangle in half long ways (right sides together) and sew together to form a tube.  Push the tube right-side out, then tuck the raw ends in by about 1/4 inch.  Secure with a pin, then topstitch to close each end.  You'll end up with a rectangle like this.

11.  Take another scrap of fabric and cut a rectange 3" x 1.5".
Fold this rectangle in half right sides together and sew to form a tube, then turn right-side-out (use a safety pin attached to one end if you need help turning it through).

12.  Wrap the small tube around the large rectangle, like so, forming a bow shape.  I then hand-sewed the small rectangle ends together right where you can see my thumb holding the pieces together.

13.  Flip the bow over so the join is on the back, and attach with a pin to the front of the dress just below the neckline and to one side like so.  If you want the bow to sit out straight like this you could sew down each side of the bow, but I quite like it flopping down, so I only attached it at the centre.
14.  Use the sewing machine to securely sew the centre of the bow to the dress.  I sewed a short line of stitches each side of the centre like so.  Be sure to backstitch to make sure the stitches don't come undone.

And there you have it ... this has to be the easiest dress to make, and it's just as easy to wear ... or so Hannah tells me.  She has loved the light-weight coolness of this dress over our lingering summer heat this year, and in fact wore it today with a little short-sleeve cardi over the top now that our weather has started to cool, and it's been a rainy kind of Easter weekend so far.
Oh, and I'm seriously hoping a new colour range of these lovely weight fabrics comes out before next season, 'cause it's a great fabric to sew with!

Anyway, that's it for me tonight ... I'm off to wait for the Easter Bunny (and maybe make a last minute Easter outfit for Bethany to wear to church in the morning) .... bought the new collection from Shwin & Shwin today, and can't wait another minute to give the Stella Tunic a whirl!  

Hope your Easter Sunday is happy, chocolate-filled and blessed.  As a Christian, I'm blown away every time I'm reminded of just how much love our Father in Heaven must have felt for us to send his Son to die on our behalf.  I hope that this Easter you feel even the tiniest amount of love like that from those around you ... because, guess what!?! ... it's nearly Sunday, and HE is Risen Indeed!


  1. That fabric really does drape nicely, Wen. How lucky that you were able to make two garments from it. Looks like a super comfy little dress that's going to be worn lots.

    1. Thank you Pam! It really has been worn a lot. Hannah calls it her "comfy dress".