Sewing a dress may appear intimidating at first, but even beginners can tackle this project! In fact, dresses are excellent projects for beginners, as long as you select a simple style and use easy-to-manage fabric. These beginner tips will assist you in sewing a dress.
To sew a dress, it’s crucial to approach it as a series of components, with each component consisting of several steps that follow a specific order and build on each other. Once you complete one component, you can move on to the next one, and before you know it, your dress will be finished.
Here’s a possible rephrased version:
Step 1: Choose your pattern and fabric
To start, select a pattern and fabric for your dress. For beginners, a simple shift dress is a great choice. You can find patterns online, and there are many resources available to help you choose the right fabric for your project. If you need guidance on selecting fabric, check out our helpful post on the topic.
Step 2: Prepare your pattern
Once you have your pattern, take some time to prepare it before cutting your fabric. First, locate all the pattern pieces needed for your dress style, such as the front and back dress pieces, neck and armhole facings, and sleeves if applicable. Most patterns come with a list of required pieces to make things easier.
I recommend pressing your tissue paper pattern pieces with a dry iron to remove any wrinkles and ensure they lay flat on your fabric. Once your pattern pieces are ready, you can move on to cutting your fabric.
Step 3: Prepare and cut out your fabric
Preparing the fabric:
Start by pressing your fabric to remove any wrinkles. Lay out the fabric on your work surface as instructed by the pattern. Depending on the pattern, you may need to fold the fabric in half.
Cutting out pattern pieces:
Next, place the pattern pieces on the fabric according to the pattern instructions. Take note of the grain line and any pieces that need to be placed on the fold. If your fabric has a directional print, ensure that all the pieces are oriented in the same direction.
Pin the pattern pieces to the fabric and cut them out. If your pattern includes facings, cut those out separately as well.
Facings are usually interfaced, so follow the pattern instructions to determine which pieces need to be interfaced. You can cut the interfacing separately and fuse it to the facing pieces, or you can block fuse the fabric.
When cutting out the facings, always remember to align them along the grain line and watch for pieces that need to be cut on the fold.
Step 4: Mark and sew darts
Mark and sew any darts indicated on the pattern. Darts are usually indicated by dots in a long triangular configuration. Transfer these markings to your fabric and sew the darts, pressing them downward.
Step 5: Sew the back zipper
If your dress pattern includes a back zipper, it’s best to sew it in before sewing the front and back of the dress together. There are a few options for zipper application, including a standard centered zipper or an invisible zipper. In the example above, a lapped zipper application was used.
Step 6: Sew the Shoulder Seams
Once both the dress front and back are ready, sew them together at the shoulder seam. Most commercial patterns have 5/8″ seam allowances, but it is always best to check your pattern instructions for the indicated seam allowance. Remember to press the seams open.
If your pattern has a V-neckline or if you are working with a loosely woven fabric, such as linen or double gauze, it is a good idea to staystitch the front and back neckline edges before sewing the shoulder seams. This will ensure that the fabric retains its shape and doesn’t stretch out.
Step 7: Prepare the Neckline Facing
It is time to work on the facings. If you haven’t already done so, apply the interfacing to the front and back neckline facings.
Stitch the back neck facings to the front neck facing at the shoulder seams. In most cases, you will have one continuous piece for the front facing and two pieces for the back to accommodate the zipper.
Press the shoulder seams open, just as you did on the dress shoulder seams. You can finish the outside edge of the facing by turning under and stitching or use a serger to finish the edges.
Step 8: Attach Neck Facings
Pin the neckline facing to the dress neckline, right sides together. Match the shoulder seams of the dress with the shoulder seams on the facing pieces.
Note that the facing will stick out past the dress edge at the center back because the zipper has already used up the 5/8″ seam allowance, but the facing still has it. Do not trim it off or try to get the center back edges to match. Instead, fold the 5/8″ seam allowance on the facing under later to create a clean finish at the top of the zipper.
Stitch the dress neckline facing in place, making small snips around the seam allowance since it is a curved seam. These snips should be perpendicular to the stitching and should end close to the stitch line, but not through it. The frequency of the snips will depend on the shape and size of your neckline.
After stitching, fold the facing toward the inside of the dress. If any areas don’t sit well, add another clip to release the fabric in that area. Then, trim the seam down to about ¼” to reduce bulk in the neckline. You can also choose to trim to ¼” first and then make perpendicular clips, but it may be challenging to clip such a small seam allowance, so doing the clipping first is recommended.
Step 9: Press and under-stitch the neck facing
Begin by pressing the neck facing upwards and away from the body of the dress. Ensure that the seam allowance is also pressed up and does not get flipped down towards the body of the dress. Next, under-stitch around the neck edge to help the facing roll inside the garment. After under-stitching, flip the facing to the inside of the dress and press around the neckline edge to create a smooth finish.
Step 10: Sew the side seams
Sew the side seams of the dress, matching notches along the seam, and follow the seam allowance indicated on your pattern. Then, press the side seams open.
Step 11: Prepare the armhole facings
Prepare the armhole facings in the same way as the neck facing. If your pattern has a two-piece armhole facing, sew the front and back pieces together. Be sure to note the pattern markings on the back and front armhole facings to distinguish between them. Stitch the facing pieces together, aligning them at the shoulder and underarm seams. Press the seams open and finish the edge by sewing on the serger or turning under and stitching.
Step 12: Attach the armhole facings
Pin the armhole facings to the armhole, matching front and back notches as well as the shoulder and underarm seams. Stitch the facing to the armhole, and clip and trim both armhole seams to reduce bulk. Under-stitch both armhole facings, then press them towards the inside of the dress.
Step 13: Finish the back neckline
To create a clean finish at the top of the zipper, flip the facing end around the top of the zipper and stitch through all layers, following the line of previous stitching. Trim the corner diagonally on both sides. Flip the facings back to the inside, and press them down. Finally, secure the facing edges by stitching them in the existing seams. Stitch across each shoulder seam and at the side seams to secure both the neck and armhole facings.
Step 14: Hem the dress
Hem the dress by sewing it by hand or with your machine. For this cotton dress, a machine-stitched hem is quick and hard to see on boldly printed fabrics.
And that’s it! You now have a new shift dress that’s perfect for a warm summer day.
- Related post: 5 Easy Sewing Projects for Kids – Smiles Guaranteed!
Hi, there! I am Hannah Nelson, your host on this website. I started this blog to teach my lovely readers how to master the art of sewing effortlessly and how to turn this hobby into an income generating business.