Free Sewing Patterns: Sew A Basic Dress

Ideas of easy designs for making your own dresses.

For beginners, the best way to make a dress is to purchase a pattern. Find one which advertises that it is simple. Read the pattern instructions entirely. Patterns come with several pieces printed on one pattern paper, so cut these apart and trim off excess paper. After preparing your fabric, pin pattern pieces onto the fabric. Large arrows will guide you in knowing which directio to place your fabric. Pattern piece will also say whether you should cut one piece or two, and whether the piece needs to be cut at the fold of the fabric. Now, using a seamstress' tracing wheel and tracing paper, mark all special places on the pattern, such as darts and seam allowances. If necessary, remove pins temporarily then replace them after tracing the markings. Leave each pattern piece pinned until time to sew. Instead of a purchased pattern, you can cut an old dress apart, and use it for a pattern. Before disassembling, use a pattern to mark where seams meet. For example, where the front of the bodice meets the front of the skirt, make a small mark on the bodice, then exactly opposite of that mark, draw another on the skirt. Label these "A" and do the same at other spots on the dress, for easier assembly later.

Stitch all darts and do any hand stitching required by the pattern. Pin the bodice back pieces to the front at the shoulders, with wrong sides together. With the presser foot close to the edge of the seam allowance, make a quarter-inch seam. Turn the bodice so that the right sides are together. Press the seam. Stitch again, taking up a 3/8" seam. This French seam completely closes the raw edge of your material. Pin the bodice back to the bodice front at the side seams with wrong sides together. Stitch a 1/4" seam, turn and press, stitch a 3/8" seam and press.

Finish off the raw edge of your neckline and turn under the back overlap. If using sheer material, you do not want to have facing at the neckline. Instead, bind the neckline edge with bias tape in a color closely matching your fabric. Turn the edges of the back opening on the fold line toward the outside and pin. Starting at one folded back edge, pin the binding around the neckline. Cut off any excess and turn under 3/8". Stitch in place around the neckline, using a 3/8" seam. Turn the back edge of the dress right side out at the fold, and press the back opening along the fold line. Turn the bias binding under until none of it is visible on the outside of your dress. Iron carefully to make a smooth neckline with no puckers. Now sew two lines of gathering stitches along the bottom of the bodice front. Make the first set about 3/8" away from the bottom edge and the second set about the width of the presser foot from the first set. For the sleeves, sew them together at the seam shown on pattern, using the French seam instructions. Turn sleeves right side out and press. Run ease stitches along the top of the sleeve as shown in the pattern. These stitches allow you to gather the sleeve fabric slightly for easier insertion into the armhole opening. Pin sleeves into armholes, matching the front edge of the sleeve to the front edge of the bodice. Align sleeve seam to underarm seams. Stitch and finish with French seam. Hem the wrist if it's a long sleeve, or the sleeve bottom if it's a short sleeve, by folding under twice, then making a 3/4" seam.

Sew skirt back seam closed, again using the French seam. Sew skirt back to skirt front at side seams. Turn skirt right side out and press. Prepare waistband and pin to skirt waistline, aligning dots and arrows. Pin the bodice to the waistband, beginning at the back opening and turning under 5/8" at each end of the waistband. Pin all the way around to the side seams, then match center front of waistband to center front of bodice and pin. Pull up gathering stitches to fit. Stitch bodice to waistband. Hem skirt, folding edge under first 3/4", then 2" more.

Mark buttonholes horizontally on the overlapping back flap of the bodice. Sew around buttonholes, then cut fabric away to make the hole. Sew on buttons. Finish dress by adding whatever types of embellishments you wish to the front.

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