sew the perfect knit fit & flare dress (without a pattern!)


If you’re a regular reader of my blog, or have ever seen me in real life, you know I really like dresses with magical muffin top disguising properties. I like to blame my muffin top on my five children, but honestly my love affair with ice cream is the true culprit, and I frankly can’t be bothered to do much about it at this point in my life. I can, however, be bothered to figure out what dresses look best on me, and something that is fitted on top and flares out on the bottom is definitely my best bet. I’m always on the lookout for this type of dress when I go shopping and it can be hard to find one that’s long enough for me (I wear all my dresses to the knee), so I decided it was time to finally just draft a pattern that I know will work for me.

This is cute! The post shows you how to sew the perfect knit fit & flare dress using a tee shirt to make your own pattern in any size. Easy sewing tutorial.

I’m hoping in the next week or two to have a printable version of this pattern for those of you who are about my size, but in the meantime I’ll show you all how to make your own pattern in any size. This is a dress I know I’ll be making again and again in different fabrics because I like how it looks and it’s super comfy.

This is cute! The post shows you how to sew the perfect knit fit & flare dress using a tee shirt to make your own pattern in any size. Easy sewing tutorial.

I used two yards of fabric and that was BARELY enough to eke out this dress, which goes just to the bottom of my knee (I’m 5’3″), so you may want 2.5 yards to be safe. You must use a knit (stretchy) fabric for this dress, probably something with at least 40% stretch. I used ponte, which is a bit thicker than most knits and has some structure to it. It’s also super easy to sew with.

This is cute! The post shows you how to sew the perfect knit fit & flare dress using a tee shirt to make your own pattern in any size. Easy sewing tutorial.

To make your own fit & flare dress pattern in any size you’ll want to start with a fitted tee shirt. Not something skin tight, but something that follows the curve of your body pretty well.

Lay the tee flat on a table. Pull one of the sleeves inside the shirt, as you can see below. Make sure the tee is still as flat as possible, then find the exact middle. Lay some tracing or tissue paper over the shirt and trace around it, marking both the front and back neckline. You don’t need to trace the full length of the shirt, just down to your natural waist, or wherever you want the skirt to attach.

This is cute! The post shows you how to sew the perfect knit fit & flare dress using a tee shirt to make your own pattern in any size. Easy sewing tutorial.

Now pull the sleeve back out and spread it out flat, as you see below. This will require you to scrunch the body of the shirt up a little bit. Where the sleeve attaches to the shirt should be a very slight S-curve. Trace the sleeve.

This is cute! The post shows you how to sew the perfect knit fit & flare dress using a tee shirt to make your own pattern in any size. Easy sewing tutorial.

This will give you two pattern pieces like the ones you see below, both of which will need to be cut on the fold. At this point it’s a good idea to re-trace the pieces onto paper, adding seam allowance everywhere that’s not on a fold (plus hem allowance on the sleeve). Or you can be like me and skip this step; you just have to remember to add seam allowance as you’re cutting your fabric.

This is cute! The post shows you how to sew the perfect knit fit & flare dress using a tee shirt to make your own pattern in any size. Easy sewing tutorial.

Cut two sleeve pieces on the fold; cut two bodice pieces on the fold, one with the front neckline and one with the back neckline.

You also need two skirt pieces. These should be as long as you want your skirt plus seam allowance on top and hem allowance on the bottom. My skirt pieces were 27 inches long. Each skirt piece should be at least as wide as your waist measurement. I cut mine about 42 inches wide to make sure I’d have plenty of room for pleats.

This is cute! The post shows you how to sew the perfect knit fit & flare dress using a tee shirt to make your own pattern in any size. Easy sewing tutorial.

Start by constructing the bodice. Lay the front and back pieces right sides together and stitch across the shoulders and down the sides, as shown below.

This is cute! The post shows you how to sew the perfect knit fit & flare dress using a tee shirt to make your own pattern in any size. Easy sewing tutorial.

Now try on the bodice and adjust accordingly to get a good fit. If you’re using something quite stretchy like a spandex knit, you could just take in the side seams until the top fits as you’d like (this is the easiest method). Since I wanted my dress to look a little more structured, I decided to add darts instead. Pinch and pin any excess fabric until the top lays nice and flat around your body.

This is cute! The post shows you how to sew the perfect knit fit & flare dress using a tee shirt to make your own pattern in any size. Easy sewing tutorial.

When sewing in your darts, make sure they equally distant from the center of the bodice and that they start and stop at the same place on both sides. Basically, you just want them to be nice and even. Sew them in, press them down flat, and try on the bodice again, making any other adjustments needed.

Once you like how the bodice looks, it’s time to add sleeves. Keep each sleeve piece folded in half, right sides together, and sew down the seam as shown below. Then mark the center of the sleeve with a pin (on the fold line at the very top of the curve). Turn you bodice inside out and a sleeve right side out, then insert the sleeve into the bodice as shown by the picture on the right below.

This is cute! The post shows you how to sew the perfect knit fit & flare dress using a tee shirt to make your own pattern in any size. Easy sewing tutorial.

Match up the pin in the sleeve with the shoulder seam, and match up the side seam and sleeve seam. Pin the sleeve into the armhole. The sleeve is going to have a different curve than the armhole; that’s ok. You’re working with knit fabric so it’s fairly simple to just “ease” the sleeve into the armhole and make it fit. Then sew.

This is cute! The post shows you how to sew the perfect knit fit & flare dress using a tee shirt to make your own pattern in any size. Easy sewing tutorial.

Repeat with the other sleeve and the bodice is done!

To start the skirt, take one of the skirt pieces and lay it down flat. Mark the exact center with a pin. Then measure out to the right 2 inches and mark, then 4 inches and mark, then 2 inches, etc. You’ll have pins at 2, 6, 8, 12, 14, and 18 inches from the center. Repeat on the other side of center.

This is cute! The post shows you how to sew the perfect knit fit & flare dress using a tee shirt to make your own pattern in any size. Easy sewing tutorial.

Then you’ll make pleats by grabbing the pin that’s 6 inches from center and bringing it to touch the pin that’s 2 inches from center, folding the fabric behind and in toward the center:

This is cute! The post shows you how to sew the perfect knit fit & flare dress using a tee shirt to make your own pattern in any size. Easy sewing tutorial.

Make 3 pleats on each side of center and pin them well. It’s not a bad idea to sew across them with a basting stitch just to make sure they stay in place.

NOTE: you may need to adjust how many pleats you use and how big they are based on your size. If you’re  kind of tiny, you may want to use 1.5 inches and 3 inches instead of 2 and 4. Or you may just want to kind of eyeball it instead of measuring. Just get enough pleats in there so that your skirt front is slightly wider than your bodice, as shown below:

This is cute! The post shows you how to sew the perfect knit fit & flare dress using a tee shirt to make your own pattern in any size. Easy sewing tutorial.

Mark on the skirt where the bodice side seams are. Repeat with the other skirt piece, matching it up with the back of the bodice (which, if you’ve put pleats in the front, will be a little bit wider). Again, mark on the back skirt where the bodice side seams are.

Sew the skirt pieces together at your markings, making the top of the skirt the same width as the bottom of the bodice.

At this point you’ll turn the skirt inside out. Keep the bodice right side out and slide it inside the skirt as shown below.

This is cute! The post shows you how to sew the perfect knit fit & flare dress using a tee shirt to make your own pattern in any size. Easy sewing tutorial.

Match up the raw edges and sew all the way around USING A STITCH THAT WILL STRETCH, such as a zig zag, stretch stitch, or serged stitch. If you use a straight stitch you’ll pop this seam the first time you put the dress on.

Now the basic constructions is done and you just need to do the finishing: bind the neckline (I just turned it under and stitched with a double needle), hem the sleeves…

This is cute! The post shows you how to sew the perfect knit fit & flare dress using a tee shirt to make your own pattern in any size. Easy sewing tutorial.

…and hem the bottom of the skirt. Finished!

This is cute! The post shows you how to sew the perfect knit fit & flare dress using a tee shirt to make your own pattern in any size. Easy sewing tutorial.

Now, you might notice I added side seam pockets. This tutorial is long enough already so I’m not going to cover that, but if you’d like to add them do so before you sew the skirt side seams together.

This is cute! The post shows you how to sew the perfect knit fit & flare dress using a tee shirt to make your own pattern in any size. Easy sewing tutorial.

I’m pretty excited I have the perfect custom fit & flare dress pattern for me and I’m going to make another dress next week, this time with a gathered skirt instead. The plan is to include a free printable pattern for those of you that wear my size (L), so stay tuned!

Comments

  1. 1

    Kristie says

    LOVE this. What a simple dress, but it gives fantastic wow factor. Now to take some time and make my own.

  2. 2

    Robin Rush says

    I really like this dress. I have an armhole princess bodice sloper that I will use–not that the tee shirt method isn’t useful. I am quite busty and need a good bodice fit. I will be making this dress (probably this week) and maybe a few maxi dresses too.

  3. 4

    Monica says

    This dress almost makes me want to sew. ALMOST. Can you just make one for me? Pretty please? I’ll buy you ice cream. 🙂

    • 5

      autumn says

      I don’t know, Monica–how exactly are you planning to get the ice cream to me? 😉 Come visit Utah someday – I’d love to see you again!

      • 6

        Monica says

        Plans are in the works to bring the kiddos sometime next year (or maybe this fall). I’d love to come see you! It’s been faaaaaar too long!

  4. 7

    Gloria Fruge says

    Love! Love! Love! Thanks so much for all your info. I just finished cutting two fabrics for half circle skirts! Something I was always afraid to do but it was not difficult! Your instructions are clear. I opened your blog and saw this dress! Will start on some new dresses😊 I would appreciate if in the near future you could show us how to sew peasant style nightgowns where I could use soft flannel/soft cotton. Fruge in Lafayette, Louisiana

    • 8

      Laura Fischer says

      Made a dress of my own today, following your pattern. I have never sewn clothes before, but your pattern was so easy to follow and the dress came out so pretty. I made the skirt long, and now I only need to deside if I’m going to keep it long or make it to the knees 😁
      Thank you so much for sharing your pattern, I will for sure use it again.

  5. 9

    Cathy price says

    Thank u for sharing this .. It looks fab on you & I will definately be going to make one of these .
    Your instructions are very clear . 👍

  6. 10

    Kathy says

    The dress is adorable on you. You’re hair is looking good as well, bet your mom would love a picture.

  7. 11

    says

    Thank you! This is just the dress I was looking to make!!! I have a daughter the same age as yours, and I am about your size as well! All of your tutorials and patterns are a dream come true! Thank you a million times!!!

  8. 13

    Joy says

    Thanks Autumn! I love, love, love your emails and posts on Facebook! I can’t wait to try this out – I’m going to start looking for some fabric this weekend! I too have discovered my hips and belly have grown (thanks to sweets in general) since being preggers with my two kidlets, but you have given me so much enthusiasm and hope to a) start sewing, b) belief that I can actually look good in things that don’t require a lot of effort, and c) look good in things that I actually like. Thank you from a very appreciative Canadian Mom.

  9. 14

    says

    I like the dress also. I haven’t worked with knit fabrics or made anything for myself in years. I retired two years ago and sewing is one craft I enjoy the most. I will look forward to when the pattern is posted. Thanks!

  10. 16

    Michelle says

    That is adorable!! I love it and can’t wait for your pattern (since I am your size!) Thanks so much for sharing!

  11. 17

    Justine Davis says

    Thank you again Autumn for another fabulous tutorial. You are the most useful blogger I follow and I really look forward to your emails landing in my in box! Thank you so very very much!

  12. 18

    Melody Lema says

    Thank you so much for this post. I always wanted to have a dress like this, but never could find a pattern. And not see from a pattern? Horrors, I shudder at the thought. But you made it seem so simple. My first hurdle was a T-shirt that fit right. Then I remembered I had downloaded the Tonic Tee from SBCC website. It is a free download for curvey chicks like me. I just followed along your instructions, and as of 10 minutes ago, I have a pleated skirt dress, and a gathered skirt dress. I am a true apple. I am 49-46-58. I lost a lot of weight and have a lot of loose skin in the tummy area. Nowhere can I find instructions for a large tummy adjustments for dresses or blouses. But your dress did it. I did cut my waistline a little shorter in front than in back, still added darts, but still have a loose fit. I am allowing my dresses to hang for 24 hours before I hem. I don’t know if that is still recommended, but my mom did it, so the habit continues. Thank you again. Now away from the computer, to make a couple more. With this heat they are perfect.

  13. 21

    Emmanuelle says

    Omg this is awesome
    Thank you so much !!
    I love your sewing post, they’re so great and easy. You’re a vert generous person, may Good bless you.
    Loves, from France

  14. 22

    llynnda Doerner says

    I can not add a thing to the above comments. Its all been said except a thank you from me.!

  15. 23

    paws says

    Great tutorial! This dress contains several elements that are new to me, but I think it’s within reach, assuming I can get my hands on some ponte…

  16. 24

    says

    Sew cute! I’ve been on hold for a while with all my kids activites for a while. But, seeing something that will fit great with minimal effort gets me itching to sew right away! Thanks!

  17. 26

    Wanda says

    I have used a similar silhouette to make or refashion about a half a dozen sleeveless summer dresses and if you don’t mind I’ll add 3 suggestions.

    1. To take advantage of the muffin top hiding properties of this style of dress the waist seam should be approx. halfway between the widest part of the bust and the narrowest part of the waist. I suggest that the first time that you make the dress you make the bodice a little longer than that. After you sew the bodice you can try it on and hold the pinned skirt piece in front to decide exactly where you want that line.

    2. If you want the dress to fit a little snugger under the bust you can add ties to the side seam and loosely tie it at the back.

    3. After pinning or basting the darts I suggest turning the bodice right side out and trying it on again. Some people are less symmetrical than others and the darts that work inside out don’t work once the right bodice becomes the left bodice and vice versa.

  18. 28

    Bonni says

    Your directions are precise and clear. I am pinning this and hope to try to make a dress soon. Thank you.

  19. 29

    Marlyn Taylor says

    Thank you for this great tutorial. The dress looks great on you and I can see me making loads with a lot of simple changes for different looks. Like you I am a curvy girl and this is just my style. Thanks again. Marlyn. Scotland

  20. 30

    Donna says

    You did a fabulous job. You look absolutely amazing in your dress! I’m going to give it a try!💃
    Thanks!

  21. 32

    says

    This is so cute!! I can’t wait for the pattern! I’m always on the look out for ways to disguise my “trouble spots” around my middle too! Love this!

  22. 33

    Vicki says

    Hi, thanks for a great tutorial. You really do look lovely and it’s a very pretty style. My hips are wider than shoulders and I don’t know if I would suit your lovely style. Plus I’m an old girl in my 60s. What do you suggest I could do?

    • 34

      Ruth Bowler says

      I’m a gal that will be 69 in November. I can relate to your problem. Do you have any Tee tops.? then take a length of any fabric & wrap around with basted pleats to see how the silhouette works for you. I bet it will be fine for you.

  23. 35

    says

    Thanks so much for this! I’ve been wanting to make a variation of this dress for a while, but I haven’t gotten around to buying a pattern and I wasn’t sure how to go about making one. Now I know!

  24. 36

    says

    How much seam allowance did you use? I would love to try making this. Thank you so much for sharing! Now I have to see how to add pockets! Can’t wait for your pattern too!

  25. 37

    Michelle says

    I really love all the tutorials you put on your blog. They are perfect for someone like me who prefers to make my own pattern because of my body shape. This dress is perfect for my shape too! And isn’t it always more fun when people ask where you got something, and you can say, “I made it!” 🙂 Please keep doing what you are doing!

  26. 39

    says

    I am so in love with this dress! I love both the cut and the pattern. The T Shirt Method seems to be really easy! I always have a problem with sleeves when I’m sewing. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  27. 40

    Bonnie says

    Awesome dress!! And I’m your size/height!!
    I might have to start sewing again since I lost my job so looking forward to your patterns !!
    Bless you!

  28. 41

    Mary Wilkes says

    Love this dress. I’ve been thinking of copying a dress I have but wasn’t sure how to go about it. Thanks for the tutorial.

  29. 42

    Devika says

    Hi dear I’m from Sri Lanka. Small island in Indian Ocean. Viewed your blog accidentally and was amazed by your simple yet elegant styles. Looking forward to see more and more creative stuff like this. Tc

  30. 46

    Sherry says

    What a creative genius you are! The dress looks great on you and your tutorial makes it look so easy! Thank you so much for your generosity in dhating.

  31. 47

    says

    Oh wow! This is so clear and clever!
    I’m pinning it for now and hope to make it one day.
    Be blessed and do drop by and say hello!
    Laura of Harvest Lane Cottage

  32. 48

    Ruth says

    I am going to try this as my first sewing project when i get into my sewing garden room. ( not finished yet) I have done a lot of sewing but never with out a pattern. This looks great and achievable. thankyou for the post, you have really inspired me.looks I think I am going to try a much longer version with long er sleeves.

  33. 49

    Rosaia says

    Wow, will be making this dress within the next month,will make mine bit longer as l am 5ft9ins like my hems to be below the knee – thankyou for sharing how to make this with me.

  34. 50

    Katie Fuller says

    My Granddaughter wants me to make this for her. I would like a printable pattern .but didn’t see a place to print one off could you help please?

  35. 51

    Tracy J says

    Did you get around to making a pattern? This is perfect!
    Unfortunately, I would have to enlarge it, one size, and if I had a tee-shirt I liked, I would start there.

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