How to sew a dress

How to sew a dress

Have you ever visited a dressmaker to make you a themed dress for a function, only to find it incomplete? Have you ever instructed your dressmaker on a particular design and you were handed back a dress with a totally different design? How did you feel? Disappointed I guess. Are you interested in learning how to sew a dress? Well, this content is a reliable tutorial which will offer you excellent knowledge on how to sew a dress.

stitching guide
how to sew a dress for beginners
dress sewing

If you have not attended any dressmaking classes, it is important to learn different types of machine stitches, hand stitches and their purposes. Even before you do that, we recommend you get a hang of some jargons used in the sewing world. In normal circumstances, dressmaking revolves around the stitching. Below is a stitching guide for beginners.

Stitches used while doing a hand sew

Before you graduate to a sewing machine, it is recommended for a beginner to start up sewing by hand. You will only require a fabric, a needle and a thread. Occasionally, an experienced dressmaker may apply the hand sew stitches while fixing buttons, decorating or doing edge finishing on a garment.

1. Running stitch

This type of stitch can be used while attaching two pieces of fabric or to repair hems and holes. Below is how to do it;

  • Pass a sewing thread through the eye of the needle and make a knot at its end
  • Run the needle through the back and front of your fabric continuously (moving forward) till the end. Maintain closer and tighter stitches.

2. Blanket stitch /buttonhole stitch

This is a finishing stitch, usually found at the edge of the blanket. You can also use it to finish a garment or to decorate a fabric. Actually, the blanket stitch is among the popular embroidery stitches.

  • Pass a sewing thread through the eye of the needle and make a knot at its end
  • Pull the sewing needle from the backside towards the front side of your fabric.
  • Push the needle through the entry point of your first stitch (ensure it’s a vertical stitch) leaving a new loop of loose thread.
  • Pass the needle through the created loop to leave a new loop of thread (a new vertical stitch). Do this by pulling your first loop of thread tighter.

The outcome should be uniformly spaced vertical stitches perpendicular to a continuous line of thread.

3. Hemming stitch/blind hem stitch/pick stitch

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The stitch should be invisible, therefore, remember to choose a thread colour that matches with your fabric.

  • Pass a sewing thread through the eye of the needle and make a knot at its end
  • Turn your fabric inside out.
  • Bring the sewing needle to the front.
  • On the fabric, select a few fibres with the needle before getting back to the hem side.

4. Top stitches

These are categories of stitches that are meant to be visible on the right side of the garment. They are applied for decoration and also to strengthen a button placket. The top stitches are usually done using contrasting colours and stitched like a running stitch (over-above pattern). These stitches are popularly found on a pair of jeans pants.

5. Back-stitch

  • Pass a sewing thread through the eye of a needle and make a knot at the end
  • Pass your needle through the back of the fabric and make one running stitch. However, instead of pulling the needle up after a shorter distance, pull it up before the place where you ended the last stitch.

Machine sewing stitches

how to sew a dress for beginners
dress sewing
sewing clothes for beginners
learning to sew dresses

A modern sewing machine comes with an automated card or a screen where you can choose from various types of stitches. It is important to learn the purpose of all stitches available. For instance;

1. Basting stitch

It is like a running stitch, though very easy to remove. It’s applied while making gathers, ruches or ruffles detail. Generally, you would run the basting stitches all over the fabric, using your hands, and then pull the top thread to form a hunch in the fabric. Remember to secure your gathers or ruches with the next straight stitch.

2. Straight stitch

This is the most applicable stitch in machine sewing. It is used in joining two pieces of fabrics, to top stitch and also to a hem.

Use your machine settings to adjust its spacing and tightness.

Remember, if you space your straight stitches too close to one another, they would be difficult to undo in case of an alteration.

3. Zigzag stitch

Zigzag is an adventurous stitch applied when finishing the garment edges, adding elastic and also when doing repairs. It involves alternating directions while sewing.

4. Buttonhole stitch

Regarding the machine sewing, a buttonhole stitch makes button holes with the help of a special pressor foot. Remember to apply a zigzag stitch to strengthen the edges after you cut a slit from the button.

5. Decorative stitch

stitching guide
how to sew a dress for beginners
dress sewing

These are automated stitches done by selecting the stitch code number. They are used to make your garment more appealing since they come in all shapes and sizes. For instance; diamond patterns, vines, flowers and honeycomb shapes. For a beginner, you can have more fun in practising the decorative stitch.

How to sew a dress

If you have learnt, understood and practised the various types of stitches, you can start by making some simple dresses, like; infinity dresses, empire waist dresses or dresses from a skirt and a shirt. Below is a guide on how to sew a dress for beginners.

An infinity dress

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An infinity dress is a versatile dress that contains one seam. It is one of the simplest dresses a beginner can sew comfortably. However, learning how to make an infinity dress is of great help since it’s cheap, has many styles and the dress can be worn to wedding functions among other social events.

1. Requirements when sewing an infinity dress

  • A sewing machine and an overlock machine (if possible) which has a setting for stretchy fabric
  • An adequate, stretchy fabric (of around 5.5 yards). If you prefer any other fabric, remember to buy a piece for a stretchy fabric for the waist band and for the straps. If possible, use fabrics containing knits which are spandex.
  • A tracing paper
  • A pair of cutting scissors
  • A sewing thread; same colour as your fabric
  • Pins and a tape measure


For fitting purposes, you need to take your correct measurements. In this case, you may ask someone else to take your actual measurements as below;

  • Take measurements for your bust
  • Measurements for your waist
  • Measurements for your breast tube (distance from your neckline to your waist or any other level depending on your desires)
  • Measurements for your height (measure from your waist downwards until you reach your desired point)
  • Take the width and the length of the straps. To obtain the strap length measurements, you may need to multiply your height by 1.5)

2. How to cut your patterns

  • Using your tracing paper, draw the outline of your dress according to your measurements. Obviously, you will end up with three patterns; the skirt outline, the breast tube and the straps outline.
  • Take a string and cut it into the length of the radius you obtained earlier, and tie it around your pencil. Remember to add an allowance of at least 1 inch to your radius length.
  • Hold that string loosely, and draw a semi-circle on the tracing paper.
  • Repeat the above procedure to draw an arc of your waist measurement and for the skirt length
  • Then, cut the tracing paper to obtain a quarter portion of your skirt
  • Grab the fabric, fold it into four layers, position the quarter portion you cut earlier on top, and cut the skirt circle.

3. How to cut the dress tube

  • Draw the measurement of your length on a paper
  • Trace the trapeze shape of your dress tube. Ensure that the lower arc is equal to the radius of the skirt since they will be interconnected.
  • Remember to leave an inch or more allowance. This is to ensure the dress is not very tight.
  • Then, position the cut paper on top of your folded fabric and cut along keenly.

4. How to cut the straps

  • Draw your strap measurement (obtained by multiplying your height by 1.5.the width will depend on the size of your chest)
  • Position the tracing paper on the top of the fabric and secure it using a tape or fastening pins, then cut along, accordingly.

5. How to sew your infinity dress

  • Using the pins, attach your dress parts
  • Overlap the straps a little to give them a v-shape while pinning them to the skirt piece. Remember, this overlap is what covers your chest. Failure to do it will mean you would need to compliment your infinity dress with something else underneath.
  • Include some little pleats in the straps
  • Avoid stretching the fabric while sewing for better results
  • In case you are using an over lock machine, sew the skirt tube last, using a ‘cut’ function.

Having learnt about stitches and how to make an infinity dress for functions, you can explore other easy and simple styles of sewing clothes for beginners. For instance;

An empire waist dress

An empire waist dress is a dress that is fitted under the bust. The dress can be made by applying beginner’s skills since you only need to attach a skirt to a top you own or buy.

A dress from your favourite skirt

Sometimes, you may need to turn your favourite skirt into a dress for a function. This is quite easy and simple. You just need to turn your shirt inside out and align it carefully along the waist band of the skirt. Then, nest the shirt inside your skirt. For better output, use a stretchy skirt without a zipper.

READ ALSO: Latest African print styles for ladies in 2018

Learning to sew dresses is now easy with the many tutorials on Youtube. Take your time to watch the video below and try out the steps given to make that beautiful dress you wish to have. In summary, If you are a beginner learning how to sew, it is recommended to first familiarize yourself with the above various types of stitches. This will enable you to apply the right stitches when sewing because dress sewing is about stitches. Secondly, a beginner may need to practise sewing often to achieve perfection. You do not need to buy new fabrics, make use of your old bed sheets and clothing! Diversify your skills by making all sorts of dresses. In the beginning, your dresses might be unfitting and shapeless. Do not be discouraged; add some more effort by practising.

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READ ALSO: Ladies: African print designs that you should consider sewing today

READ ALSO: African dresses with lace designs

READ ALSO: Latest fashion Gh 2018


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