Since I’ve pared down my wardrobe, I don’t really do too much shopping anymore. But I’ve given myself a pass for any article of clothing that I make myself. I’m trying to improve my sewing skills, and I’ve always thought that being able to make clothes would be so rewarding, so I’ve recently graduated from pillowcase covers to experimenting with clothing patterns. The real motivation was inheriting one of my grandmother’s sewing machines a few weeks ago—I sold the Target clearance Singer machine and got to work.
I quickly realized that patterns were really confusing, so I decided to wing it for a bit while I learned the ins and outs of my new machine. I have a simple black knit sheath dress that I really love; it’s stretchy, it doesn’t have any zippers, buttons, hooks, or elastic, and I could make it by sewing only two pieces together. It’s also very versatile and machine washable, so it’s a great piece if you have a small work wardrobe.
Since it is only two pieces—a front piece and a back piece—I created a pattern using tracing paper. I made sure to use sew-through paper so that I could sew the pattern on to the fabric. I’ve found that using sew-through paper is really helpful as a beginner. Sewing through paper is also a great trick for sewing even seams on stretchy knit fabrics because it helps prevent the stitches from bunching as you sew.
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- Knit fabric (browse here)—I bought 2 yards, which was plenty
- A simple dress for pattern and sew-through tracing paper
- Measuring tape, pins (ballpoint pins if you’re using a stretch knit fabric), a water-soluble marker, and scissors (I just bought these scissors on my grandma’s recommendation, and they are amazing!
- Iron and spray starch
- Sewing machine
Step 1: Lay your dress on a piece of sew-through tracing paper and carefully trace the dress. Use measuring tape to measure the bust, waist, hips, and length of your dress to ensure the measurements are roughly correct on your pattern. Then, trace a second outline about 1 inch out from the dress’s outline. This is to account for your seam allowance. Cut out the pattern.
Step 2: Cut the front and back pieces and lay them together with the right sides facing one another. Then lay the tracing paper pattern on top and pin all three together.
Step 3: Sew up the sides and the small shoulder straps by sewing along the inside line on your tracing paper. I used a zigzag stitch, from which I learned it’s much harder to remove sewn-through paper.
Step 4: Remove the paper pattern. It’s okay if you leave some of the pattern in the stitches for now. Removing it from a zigzag stitch is annoying, but since I’m a beginner, sewing through the paper really helped me sew in a straight line.
Flip the dress right-side out and try it on. Make any adjustments to the fit (I had to make my arm holes a bit wider and deepen the neckline).
Step 5: Hem the neckline, armholes, and bottom. Hemming will be easier if you fold over the fabric and press using spray starch first. Press seams.
Here it is! I’m so pleased with the result!
This piece will be an excellent addition to my work wardrobe because it’s so low maintenance and versatile. I want to make this in another color, but I want to sew that one without using sew-through paper to see if the result is much different.