Honestly knit fabrics have had me kinda intimidated… but I’ve decided to dive in and try to make some things from the knit fabrics that I have bought but haven’t had the courage to cut into yet. Today I’m sharing with you all the swing dress I made and my swing dress pattern and tutorial.
A couple of things you need to know:
- This swing dress pattern will make a dress that is approximately a size large. I wear a large in most brands. If you’re not sure if this will be the right size for you or you know that you need to make adjustments, print the pattern out and then lay a sleeveless shirt on top of it to see how it compares. You can then make adjustments.
- I am not a professional pattern maker… I am just sharing with you the pattern and process that I used to make my swing dress. It’s not a perfect pattern but maybe it will help you make your own.
- I am not a professional seamstress… and knit fabrics are a bit fussy. This is a work in progress for me but I’ll share all the tips I am learning in the tutorial so we can learn together.
To make a short sleeve swing dress you will need:
- 2 yards of a knit fabric (60 inch wide) with some stretch
- coordinating thread
- rotary cutting set or scissors
- sewing machine (this is the sewing machine I have)
- ballpoint needle
- my swing dress pattern
Step 1: Wash, dry, and iron your fabric. Print out the swing dress pattern. Tape the two parts together and cut it out. On each page there is a 1 inch square. To be sure that you print it out correctly you should measure it. If it is not one inch then you will need to adjust your printer settings. And yes, it is just the top part of the dress (2 pages). I know it says attach to page 3 but there is no page 3 for this pattern. That’s because this pattern is adapted from my t-shirt dress pattern.
I’ll show you how to do the bottom part as well but I didn’t make a bottom part of the pattern so that it’s a little more flexible and you can customize it. I’ll show you what I mean in later steps.
Step 2: Lay down your fabric with the right side down. Fold one of the selvedge edges over toward the center. You are going to want to fold it over 18 inches.
Step 3: Lay your swing dress pattern piece down on top of your folded section. So here’s the flexible part of this… You can make this dress to the length that you want. I am 5’9″… so a little on the taller side. I wanted this to hit me a little below the knee. I actually made this dress because I tried on a few of these in store and they are all too short for me. So I took my purple tailor’s tape measure and i measured from the top of my shoulder down to where I wanted it to hit me just below the knee and that was 43 inches. So I laid down my tape measure next to my pattern on top of the fabric and measured out down to 44 inches (an extra inch to account for seams at top and bottom). I laid my quilting ruler across the folded section of the fabric, lining the end of it up at 18 inches. This makes the outline of the front of the dress. Cut out around the pattern piece, along the white diagonal line in the picture below, and along the quilting ruler.
Now, if you are shorter than me and want to shorten the dress then take some inches off of that 44 inch measurement.
Step 4: Now you have cut out the front of the dress. To make the back of the dress we are going to cut out two pieces. [If your fabric is wide enough then totally fold it and cut out one piece for the back just like you did for the front] I did two pieces for the back because my fabric just wasn’t wide enough to do two full pieces of fabric, so I had to split the back piece up into two smaller sections. You can see in the picture below how I laid out my two back pieces. Notice that the fabric is not folded for these. Also, if you do two pieces for the back like I did then add half an inch to the long straight side to account for the seams when you sew the two pieces together. Also make sure when you lay these out that they have the stretch going across them horizontally. You also want to ensure that when you have cut them out and put them together that you have a right shoulder and a left shoulder with the right side of the fabric.
In the end you’ll have two pieces for the back and one for the front.Step 5: If you look at the top of the dress pattern you’ll notice the dotted line at the neck. Once you’ve cut out your back pieces you will cut this dotted line for the neck off of the paper pattern and use it to cut the neckline for the front piece of the dress.
Step 6: Lay one of your back pieces down with the right side up. Lay the other piece on top of it with the right side down. The right sides should be together. Pin and sew along the long, straight edge, sewing half an inch from the edge. When sewing with knits I use a zigzag stitch that will allow the seams to stretch a little and I use a ballpoint needle.
Also, a little tip I read that has helped me tremendously when sewing with knits… If your stitches seem a little wavy and stretched out then take your iron and press it down with the steam on, but don’t move it around too much. The heat and the steam will help some of the waviness to go away.Step 7: Open it up and press your seam down nice and flat.
Step 8: Lay your back dress piece that you just sewed together down with the right side facing up. Next lay the front piece on top, with the right side down. Line up the outside edges. Pin the sides together, from the armpit down to the bottom. Sew along this edge, sewing 1/2 inch from the edge.
I also take this opportunity to clean up the edges a little, making sure that they line up. I also curve the bottom edge up a little at the sides.Be sure to press your seams open.
Step 9: Use your pattern to cut out two pieces for the neckband. Make each one about an inch wide. Cut one following the curve of the front neckline and one following the curve of the back neckline. Pin and sew the two pieces together.
Step 10: Make sure your dress is right side out. Lay the neckband on top of the neckline of the dress, with the seams showing. Pin and sew the neckband onto the neckline of the dress, sewing 1/2 inch from the edge. Fold the neckband into the inside of the dress. Iron it down nice and flat. Pin and sew it down, topstitching about 1/2 inch from the edge of the neckline.
Step 11: Turn the dress inside out. Fold the edges of the armholes in about 5/8 inch. Iron them down and pin them into place. Then turn the dress right side out and sew along the armholes, sewing about 1/2 inch from the edge. Step 12: Hem the bottom of the dress. I just turned the dress inside out, folded the bottom of the dress up 5/8 inch, then pressed and pinned it into place. Next I turned the dress right side out and sewed along the bottom edge, sewing 1/2 inch from the bottom.
And you’re finally done! It’s a lot of steps but once you make one, making more becomes a whole lot easier.
Now go make some fun swing dresses for summer and let me know how you like my swing dress pattern in the comments below!
Like the swing dress pattern and want to make another dress? Try my t-shirt dress pattern.