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Cut and sew dress

Posted by Lisa Leleu on

KMLeon Cut and sew dress

What do you need?

  • Your ready-to-use printed fabric, pre-washed, dried and ironed (*See washing instructions at the end of this work description)
  • Regular sewing machine with a stretch twin needle
  • Optional: serger
  • Thread in a matching colour (Tip: are you making a t-shirt with colour blocks? A way of making your t-shirt even more fun and original is to use a contrasting colour thread!)
  • Pins
  • (Fabric) scissors
  • Iron
  • Measuring tape
  • Tailor’s chalk
  • Work description

A tip before you begin: the seam allowances are already included in your pattern. They are not marked on the fabric, as these could be visible on your printed t-shirt. Keep in mind that an extra 1 cm has been added to all seams. This means that you will stitch all seams (except for the hem and sleeve hems) at a width of 1 cm. Most sewing machines have small markings on the stitch plate that you can use to maintain a consistent width:


Measure with a tape measure which marking you can follow by measuring the distance between the marking and your needle. If you fall exactly between two markings, you can always adjust your needle to the left or right.


Work description:

1. Cut out the 11 pieces of your t-shirt from the fabric (front panel, back panel, 2 sleeves, a neckband, 2 skirts and 4 pockets). Cut along the dashed line, not along the outer coloured edge. The latter is only to ensure that the print is printed over the entire surface of the fabric. Seam allowances are included everywhere. There is 1 cm included at the side seams, neckline, shoulders, neckband, and sleeves. A 2 cm seam allowance is included at the bottom sleeve cuff and the hem of your dress.



Make a small notch (not too deep!) at the sleeve cap and the top of the skirt, where the mark is. This way, you'll know where the center of your sleeve and the skirt should be placed later on. Tip: Can't find the notch anymore? Fold the sleeve or the skirt in half, with the right sides together. Both are symmetrical, so you can just make your notch in the middle of the folded part.

2. Place the printed sides of the front and back panels of your dress together, pin them in place, and sew the shoulders together. You can do this with a zigzag stitch on your regular sewing machine or with the serger. Be cautious when using pins in combination with a serger! Ensure that the pins cannot come into contact with the blades, or you could cause serious damage to your serger. 


3. Place the sleeves (if there are two different sleeves, make sure to identify the left and right sleeves!) with the printed side facing the printed side of the front and back panels. The notch in the sleeve indicates the centre of the sleeve, and you should align it with the centre of the previous seam (shoulder seam).

Pin in place. Tip: first pin the middle and the two ends, then the rest, this way the sleeve will fit nicely into the arm opening. Sew both sleeves into the armholes (again here with a zigzag stitch or with the serger).


4. Take the two skirt parts and stitch two seams less than 1 cm from the top edge. Use your regular sewing machine with a ballpoint needle for this. Make sure to leave the threads long before you start sewing and also cut them long afterward. Avoid securing the threads by sewing back and forth. Tip: use a long stitch length! Using two threads will help distribute the gathers you will create evenly along the entire length.

5. Now, make sure to keep both the upper and lower threads separate. To gather, pull on both threads simultaneously, ensuring you pull on either both upper threads or both lower threads at the same time. 


6. Attach the top of the skirt to the bottom of the front panel, right sides together (both skirt pieces are the same, so it doesn't matter which one you use). Start by placing a pin at both sides and then one in the center, which you'll identify by the notch you made earlier. Next, pull on 2 upper or lower threads to gather the fabric, ensuring the gathered length matches the length of the top panel. Tip: It's easier to do this in 2 sections, which is why you should also place a pin in the middle. Gather one half first, and then the other.

7. Pin everything in place and do the same for the back panel. Sew the pieces together using an overlock machine or a zigzag stitch on your sewing machine.


You will now be able to simply pull out the threads used for gathering. If they are a bit stuck, use a seam ripper to release them. If they are neatly secured within the stitches of the overlock, you can leave them as they will not be visible from the front.

8. Pin the pockets onto the skirt section, about 3 cm from the gathered seam. Place them with right sides together. Ensure that each skirt section has two different pockets. So, each skirt section should have 2 pockets.

Secure these with an overlock stitch or a zigzag stitch on your regular sewing machine. You only need to sew this section; the side seams will be finished when you assemble everything.

9. Fold the dress with the printed sides together. Fold the sleeves as well and place the pockets onto each other. You will now see the entire dress inside out. Pin both sides from the sleeve to the hem completely. Tip: the pattern (stripes, color blocks, etc.) should naturally align, but still, check carefully as you pin everything. Because the fabric is stretchy, it can sometimes stretch a bit, causing the pieces to unintentionally not align perfectly. Sew this seam closed with a zigzag stitch or the serger.

10. Are you making a V-neck dress? Skip this part (point 10) and use the add-on v-neck description. Follow that completely and then come back and follow this description from point 11. Take the neckband and sew the short ends together (printed sides together).


Fold the neckband in half (you can press it flat if you like). Turn your dress to the right side so that the right side (printed side) is now facing out. Place the neckband with the open edge against the neckline. Pin it in place while slightly stretching it. You will notice that the neckband is smaller than the neckline, but that's intentional. This way, you will create a nicely fitting neckband.


Make sure that the seam of the short ends aligns with the centre of the neckline on your back panel.


 Tip: To do this easily, you can first mark the centre of your front and back panels with a pin by folding your t-shirt in half and inserting a pin at the centre.


Now attach the neckband to the neckline of your dress. Be sure to use a zigzag stitch or a serger, as this is a part of your dress that is often stretched, and such a stretchy stitch is absolutely necessary! Stretch your dress slightly while sewing to prevent any (visible) wrinkles at the neckline.


11. Finish the hem of the dress and the sleeves with a zigzag stitch or with the serger.

Mark 2 cm from the bottom all around and then fold the seam inward. You can also press this seam flat.

Now pin those hems in place and secure them with the sewing machine using a twin needle.

Tip: make sure to sew as close as possible to the open edge; this will ensure that your final hem will lie flat and will not curl up.

12. Fold the seam allowance of the neckband towards your dress (downward) and secure it with your sewing machine using a twin needle. This provides a very neat finish and better wearing comfort. Tip: for the best result, start this from the centre of the back panel as well.


  1. Ready!



* Washing instructions:

When you receive your fabric, you should always wash your fabric, to prevent it from shrinking once it has been cut and sewn.

Make sure to wash your fabric (preferably in a washing net, to prevent discoloration from abrasion in the washing machine). Use a mild detergent. Make sure your washing machine is set to 800 Rpm or less. Do not tumble dry your fabric, but hang it open to dry.

Once your fabric is washed and dried, make sure to iron it (on the reverse side of the print), so that, when you cut it, the fabric will be nice and flat.

After cutting and sewing, keep washing and drying your finished piece the same way. This will keep the colours of your print vibrant for as long as possible.




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