Little girl dresses have to be one of my many crafting weaknesses. Every time I see a cute new one I think to myself, I have to make that (pin!). Jaime’s how to turn a t-shirt into a sundress is one of my recent favorites and this Racerback dress is also on the top of my list. Adrianna and Susan from Crafterhours came up with this too-cute-for-words sporty dress pattern and so graciously took a moment away from their Skirt Week 2012 to share it with you.

What do you say? Let’s start sewing this summer racerback dress…

Racerback Dress

Hi there Prudent Baby readers!  I’m Adrianna and I’m so thrilled to be here today sharing a dress I made that is both fun and helps support a great cause.

Susan and I have been blogging over at Crafterhours for nearly 3 years now about the things we make for our little girls, ourselves, and our houses, as well as sharing little tips and tricks that come from being a mom.  Coffee tends to be a pretty frequent subject as well.

We were recently contacted by a woman who was willing to collect handmade dresses for little girls in Africa and group them all together to mail.  My husband is always encouraging me to “use my powers for good”, so I thought this was the perfect opportunity.  I already had this racerback dress floating around in my head, and when I realized that it fit all the requirements for a dress for Africa (no zippers or buttons, hot-weather appropriate) all the stars aligned. It’s too late now to send dresses in for our shipment, but there are always girls in need and places where you can donate these simple dresses.


With that in mind, I’ve made this tutorial and printable pdf pattern available to you for free.  I hope that you’ll use it to make some fabulous dresses for the little girls in your life, and maybe one for a little girl on the other side of the globe too. So let’s jump in.

First gather your materials.  You’ll need:

- The Pattern!  Get it here.

- 1 yard of knit fabric (You’ll have a ton left over but due to the direction of stretch, you’ll need to start with this much.  You can fit a 12-18 month size on 3/4 yard.)  Good knits for this project include jersey, stretch jersey, interlock, or anything with a little stretch.  A baby rib (1×1) will work, but will be harder to keep from stretching as you sew.  Steer clear if you’re a knit newbie.

- Coordinating stretch fabric for the binding.  Rib knit is a great option here, but a stretch jersey will work perfectly too.  You will need three 20″ x 2″ lengths of this, with the direction of stretch going lengthwise.  A good option is just to cut off a 2″ length from selvedge to selvedge on 60″ wide knit fabric, if you have it.

- Thread that matches your binding fabric.

- Computer, printer, tape, scissors

Please note:
- All seam allowances are .5″ unless otherwise stated.
- I made this tutorial using only my sewing machine, but for those of you who have a serger, feel free to use that for everything except the gathering stitch and hem.  For those of you who don’t have a serger, don’t feel like you’re missing out.  I actually find that this dress comes together just as easily and more accurately using a sewing machine because I have a bit more control.

Step 1: 
Read the printing directions on the second page of the pattern before printing.  Tape each page together by matching up the letters encased in half-circles.  Be sure you’re taping within the pattern, not in the empty white space.  You will have a front piece, a lower back piece, and an upper back piece.  Cut out the appropriate size.

Step 2:
Lay each pattern piece along the fold of your fabric and cut around the edges to produce one symmetrical piece.

Step 3:
Cut your binding fabric.  Cut 1 60″ by 2″ strip from selvedge to selvedge, or if you don’t have fabric wide enough to do this, cut three 20″ by 2″ strips.  (for you metric fans, that’s 152 x 5 cm, or 51 x 5 cm)

Make sure you are cutting perpendicular to, or against the fabric grain.  The binding strip should stretch along the long edge.
Iron the binding in half lengthwise, wrong sides together.
Step 4:
Transfer the gathering marks to the front and lower back pieces.  Make sure you flip the pattern and mark the fabric on both sides of the original fold.
Here is the front piece with the start and stop points marked for gathering.  I used an air-soluble fabric marker on the wrong side of the fabric.

Step 5:
Using the longest stitch length on your machine, stitch about 1/4 away from the edge between the markings.  Gently pull the bobbin thread to gather the fabric as closely as possible.  Return to a normal stitch length and stitch over your previous stitching to hold the gathers in place.

Step 6:
Repeat steps 4 & 5 for the lower back piece, gathering until it matches the lower edge of the upper back piece.

Step 7:
Sew the upper back to the lower back, right sides together.

Step 8:
Sew one front and back shoulder seam, right sides together.  Leave the other one open for now.

Step 9:
The next seam will need to allow for some stretch, so a straight stitch is not recommended.  Use the “stretch stitch” option on your machine, or if you don’t have one, set your machine to a zig zag stitch.  The width should be slightly narrower than default, for my machine this is around a 2.  The stitch length can be lengthened slightly, for me this is around 2.6.

Step 10:
Place the two raw edges of the folded binding even with the raw edge of the neck at the open shoulder seam.  Sew through all 3 layers of fabric with your stretch stitch.  Use a 1/4 to 3/8 inch seam allowance, depending on how wide you want your binding to be.  Important: As you are sewing, use your right hand to stretch the binding fabric slightly.  If you pull it too tightly, your main fabric will pucker, but if you don’t stretch it at all, it will gap around the neck and arm holes.  Apply a light tension to it as you go and you’ll be fine.  If you’d like, practice a little bit first using scraps from your 2 fabrics.  Also be sure your main fabric doesn’t stretch at all.

Apply the binding all around the neck seam, cutting off any excess binding.  Depending on what seam allowance you chose, you might also want to trim the seam allowance down to about 1/8 inch so it doesn’t flip out to the front.  If it still wants to flip up a little, don’t worry.  Once it is on the wearer, it won’t do this.

Step 11:
Starting at the binding, sew across the remaining shoulder seam.

Step 12:
On the wrong side, you will see a fairly large and bulky seam allowance.

Trim the seam allowance on the back side of the dress to about 1/8 inch.

Then fold the longer seam allowance over the short one.  Tack it down by stitching down the binding forward and backward once.  You don’t need to stitch all the way down the shoulder seam.

Here is a picture of the binding tacked down on a different dress.  If you can’t really see it, that’s the point!

Step 13:
Apply the binding to both arm holes by repeating step 10.

Step 14: 
Starting at the binding, stitch the front and back pieces together at the side seams, right sides together.

Step 15:
Iron up the hem.  Because knit won’t fray, you only need a single fold hem.  If possible, try it on your wearer and determine hem depth from them. If your wearer is not available, follow these guidelines: If you are making the smaller size (ie: a 5 in the size 5-6, a 7 in the size 7-8), iron up 1-1.5 inches.  If you are making the larger size (or a size 2), iron up .5 inches.

Step 16:
Hem the dress.  You can use a single or double row of straight stitches with a slightly longer stitch length, or you can use a double needle or coverhem machine.  Whatever is available to you is fine.

Step 17:
Stand back and admire!  Have a good friend pat you on the back!

Make sure to stop by Crafterhours for more summer sewing projects like this adorable military hat, skirt and their beach towel dresses.

This post is sponsored by Disney Baby. We’ll be joining the Disney Baby blogging team next month, and look forward to sharing these kinds of stories (projects/ideas/etc) with you over there! Stay tuned for more details!

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