The SoHo Maxi Dress is perfect for even a beginner sewer. No better way to build your confidence with knits than to jump right in! You can make this!
existing fitted knit tank top
2-2.5 yd knit fabric (60″ wide)
2 packages 1/2″ wide elastic
1 package double fold 1/2″ wide bias tape
A Couple of Tips Before We Begin:
- I recommend checking in the “fashion fabrics” section of JoAnn or your local fabric store to find a great knit fabric. Stretch fabrics are usually found in the jersey knit section in most stores, but often nicer prints more suitable for fashion are found in other areas and mixed in with the polyester/rayon fabrics. You have to search a bit more, but it’ll be worth it if you find something you love. My fabric is 96% polyester and 4% spandex, and was a great quality. A touch of spandex makes any fabric a dream to work with.
- If you have a serger, use it! Although you’ll need a regular machine for parts of this dress, sergers make life easy when sewing with knits.
- If you don’t have a serger, no problem! Use your regular machine and a ballpoint needle (trust me, it’s important!). For seams, many newer machines have a stretch stitch option, or you can also use a long and narrow zig zag stitch to accomodate the fabric stretching. For top stitching, you can also use a long straight stitch.
- As you sew, try not to stretch the fabric, or it could result in puckers. Allow the feed dogs to guide the fabric through, and you’ll end up with nice smooth stitch lines.
- Because knit does not fray, finishing seams is not necessary.
1. Lay fabric out, right side up, and fold each selvage edge to the middle.
2. To cut our dress front and back, we’ll use an existing knit tank top. Fold the top in half, matching side seams, and place on fabric. To allow for gathering, we want our dress to be 1.5 times the width of the tank. My tank was 7″ from side seam to front fold, so I moved the tank out an extra 3.5 inches from the fabric fold.
3. Determine the length you want your dress, and measure from the center front of the tank to where your hem will be. I always add a few inches to account for hem and seam allowance. Since the fabric will stretch when it’s being worn, don’t worry about being too exact with length for now, just make sure you have a bit extra length rather than not enough. I wanted my dress to be approximately 47″ so I measured 50″ to be safe. Mark or make a small cut along the fold at the hemline.
4. Determine the width you’d like your dress at the bottom. For both maxi dresses and skirts, I like the bottom width to be around 50″-60″. Since we are cutting both the front and back pieces out of one length, if you want the bottom width larger than 60″, you’ll need extra fabric to accomodate that. Divide the width by 2 (since we’re working on a fold) and mark that, perpendicular from the hem.
5. Adding 1/2″ for seam allowance, cut around neck, underarm, and side seam of tank front. Continue on, joining up with bottom width mark. Before cutting, ensure that your dress will be wide enough at the hipline, plus a bit of ease. Since we added 50% to the width of the tank top, this should be enough to fit most hips, but it never hurts to double check :).
6. If your tank was pointed at the top like mine, trim the point to flat, to allow for the 3/4″ straps plus 1/2″ on each side (for seam allowance) to be inserted later.
7. Mark underbust (where bottom of your bra sits) on fabric, where elastic will sit under bust. If needed, you can try your tank top on to find the exact area to mark.
8. To cut back piece, fold tank top at center back, matching side seams. Adding 50% to tank back width, place tank fold parallel to fabric fold. Adding 1/2″ for seam allowance, cut around top back and side seam of tank back, as you did for front piece.
9. Lay dress front on top of dress back fabric, matching upper side seams. Use dress front as a guide to continue cutting lower side seam and hem of dress back. Mark underbust.
You’ll now have your front and back pieces:
10. For the shoulder straps, cut 2 2″x16″ pieces, with the least amount of stretch along the length of the straps. If you are tall or plus sized, you may need to cut your straps longer than 16″. To determine length needed for top ruffle strip, measure along top of front and back dress pieces and cut that length by 5″ wide. I cut my ruffle strip approximately 48″x5″.
11. On to some sewing… Right sides together, stitch front dress piece to back dress piece at side seams using a 1/2″ seam allowance.
12. Right sides together, stitch ruffle strip together at ends.
13. Matching ruffle strip seam with one side seam of dress, pin right side of ruffle strip to wrong sideof dress top, matching raw edges.
14. Using 1/2″ seam allowance, stitch around circumference of dress and ruffle strip, leaving 3/4″ openings on dress front where straps will be inserted.
15. Flip ruffle strip over to right side of dress and gently press in place. Do not slide iron on fabric, simply steam and press using a light heat setting. Pin rufle strip to front and back of dress.
16. Stitch 3/4″ away from top edge around entire circumference, forming casing for elastic.
17. To form casing for underbust, cut enough 1/2″ wide double fold bias tape to go around marked underbust line, plus 1″. Open center fold of bias tape and press flat. Placing top of bias tape along marked line, stitch bias tape to wrong side of dress along top and bottom edges of bias tape. Allow ends to overlap 1/2″, and trim bias tape if necessary. (I used 1/2″ single wide bias tape in photo, so I had to press the entire tape open to get enough width).
18. Measure enough elastic to fit slightly snugly around your underbust, plus 1″. Thread elastic through bias tape casing and stitch ends together, overlapping end 1/2″ over beginning (don’t judge me on my elastic ends, I don’t think they’ve ever looked pretty :)).
19. Measure enough elastic to snugly fit where top of dress will sit, plus 1″. Thread elastic through one opening (where strap will be inserted later), and through entire upper casing. Overlap ends 1/2″ and stitch together.
20. Fold one strap in half lengthwise and stitch raw edges together using 1/4″ seam allowance.
21. Turn strap right side out.
22. Repeat steps 20 and 21 with remaining strap.
23. Insert one end of one strap into strap opening on top of dress front, turning raw edges at opening to inside. Pin in place. Repeat with other strap.
24. Stitch along pinned edges, attaching straps to dress front.
25. Try dress on and determine back strap placement. Pin straps in place (it helps to have someone help you!).
26. Stitch straps to inside of dress back along casing stitch line. Stitch again close to top of dress back.
27. Trip strap ends if necessary.
28. Try dress on to determine amount to hem. 1″ was perfect for me. Turn bottom of dress up desired amount to inside, and stitch close to raw edge using a long straight stitch. You can also trim the bottom edge of the top ruffle if it hits your chest at a funny point. I trimmed my ruffle 1/2″ and it was perfect.
Now grab your favorite flats…