Pinafore Dress Sew Along

I love our new Basics Pinafore Dress pattern!  And when we were deciding who was going to make which pattern for the Basics Sew Along's, I volunteered to do the Pinafore Dress because I really want a couple for my own wardrobe.  This simple pattern is quick to sew, flattering to wear, and has many customizations.  It is available as a PDF pattern and a paper pattern.  I am going to cover a couple of options for very simple pattern hacks in this sew along.  I am going to make it a little shorter and change up the strap placement a little.  But, today we are mainly going to cover how to sew the dress with a few tips and tricks.

Dress Considerations

Fabric:  We suggest light to medium weight fabric for this pattern.  This could be broadcloth, poplin, linen, wool, or even a sturdy knit.  You could also use denim, twill, or even canvas (depending on the look you want).  A fabric with a little drape is nice, but if you want a bit more structure, go for a stiffer fabric.  For our original samples, we made one in a chambray, one in an African Wax Print, and one in a medium weight (soft) upholstery fabric.  For this sew along, I choose a cute striped block print cotton in a light weight canvas.  It made a dress that feels sturdy - almost like an apron or art smock.  I really liked it.

Notions:  I choose a white thread and two blue 3/4 inch (24cm) buttons I had in my stash.  Buttons are an easy way to be creative with this dress.  They can be a fun and beautiful feature of this simple style.  They can also be simple and easy.

Sizing:  This dress has plenty of ease in it.  It will fit well over other clothes.  Finished measurements are on the pattern, so you can choose to go up or down a size as you need.  I would normally wear a size Small to Medium, but I decided to go with XS as I may wear this dress in the summer as well with less clothes underneath.  I also tried on our XS sample and it fit well over my shirt and pants so will also be fine in the winter over clothes. And, I tend to like my clothes a little fitted.  

Yardage:  Since I am making the XS, I can use 45" (115cm) wide fabric (or wider).  The larger sizes can only be cut from wider fabric - 54" or 60" fabric.  But, you can also create a front seam in the dress to accommodate narrower width fabrics (instead of cutting the fabric on the fold).  Just add 1/2" seam allowance to the front/back pattern piece and the front/back facing pattern piece at the center and you can use just about any width fabric.  Also, since I decided to shorten the dress, I did not need as much yardage and the shorter dress also easily accommodated narrower width fabric.  Just something to keep in mind.

Seam Treatments:  Most seams in this pattern do not need to be finished as they are hidden.  But if your fabric ravels easily, you might want to serge or zigzag your seam edges before covering them or turning them.  For the front/back side seams, you could use a flat-felled seam or faux flat felled seam (these would be good for denim or heavier weight fabrics for informal dresses).  Or, if you are using a lightweight fabric, use a French seam for the side seams.  I chose to serge the side seams, but then my serger decided to not thread, so I just zig-zagged the side seam edges.  

Cutting the Pattern

Since I wanted to shorten the dress fairly significantly (by 12"/39cm) to be knee length, I made a 6" (15cm) pleat in the pattern below the pocket placement (where the lengthen shorten line is).  This shortened the dress by 12 inches. 

There are a couple of options for the side seam at this point.  I could have traced a new line from below the seam allowance of the armhole to the bottom edge of the dress, or I could reduce the width of the pattern at the bottom.  I decided to reduce the width of the pattern at the bottom because there was still plenty of room in the dress and the fabric I used was a little stiffer and would not drape quite as nicely when so wide.  

Option for tracing a line from below the underarm seam allowance to the edge of the bottom hem.  Just follow the ruler line to create this.

Option 2 - fold the pattern over to line up with the seam line coming from side of the top of the dress. 

I am also notorious for cutting the shortest possible length of fabric for a pattern and making do.  So of course, I cut only just over 2 yards of fabric for this shortened dress and then did not have enough fabric to cut the facings on the fold.  A great solution to a problem like this is to cut the facings from a different fabric (a lighter weight color-coordinating fabric would be good), but I decided to just add 1/2" seam allowance to the facing piece and have a center seam in the facings and cut these from the fabric I had.  This worked fine, though it did add a little extra bulk in the garment.  Not enough to be an issue, but it is something to consider if you do something similar.  

I added 1/2" (13mm) to the center of the facing piece (in red washable ink) instead of cutting on the fold. I then cut 4 of each.

The other adjustment I made while cutting the pattern out was to raise the pockets about 1.5" (3.5cm).  This is just personal preference, but it is a great time to make any adjustments like that.  Be sure to transfer all the pattern markings to your fabric.

Pocket placement dots raised by about 1.5 inches on pattern piece. I transferred markings to the fabric.

Everything else was easily cut from the yardage I had, and similarly to the cutting layouts in the instructions.  

Ready to sew!

Note: I press my fabric and seams at each step.  It is best to press your seams flat, then open.  Pressing is an important step.

Pockets:  I pressed under 1/2" (13mm) seam allowance on lower edge on each Pocket Band and trimmed to 1/4" (6mmm).  The lower edge is the edge with the stars.  If your fabric frays easily or is very lightweight, you can skip the trimming - or finish the edge with a serger or overcast stitch.  

Lower edge of Pocket Band pressed up.

Trimming the seam to 1/4" on lower edge of Pocket Band.

With right sides together, I stitched each Pocket Band to the top of a Pocket, pivoting at dots and backstitching at the stars.  

 Pocket Bands on top of Pocket pieces.

Pocket Bands stitched in place.

I clipped just the pocket seam allowance to the stars on each side of the pockets.  Then trimmed the seam allowances and turned the band to the inside of the pocket.  


Then, I pressed under 1/2" (13mm) seam allowances on the remaining pocket edges.  If your fabric ravels easily, it might be a good idea to finish these edges first by serging or zig-zag stitching. 

And, I topstitched the pocket band down with a straight stitch (backstitching at the ends).  This is a great place to use some decorative stitching - maybe one of the fun stitches that your machine can do.  You can also hand stitch the pocket band down if you don't want any stitching to show to the front of the pocket. 

I pinned the pockets to the right side of the front piece (you can choose which piece you want to be front or back in this pattern) where I'd put the markings for the pockets.  When pinning, I like to pin the pocket in place at the markings, then make any small adjustments that may be needed to make the pocket look correct.  I then pin along the sides and bottom of the pocket.  I also make sure to pin the top of the pocket closed to insure that it won't gape when finished (make sure the sides of the pocket are pinned in the correct place).  And I stitched the pockets in place on the sides and bottom, stitching 1/16" from the edge.  I back stitched several times at the top sides of each pocket to secure them in place.  You could add bar tacks here as well to secure the pockets. 



Straps:  The pattern calls for interfacing on the straps (or one side of the straps).  If you feel your fabric is sturdy enough, you may want to skip this step.  While my canvas fabric seemed sturdy, I really hate it when my dress straps loose their shape, so I did apply interfacing to the wrong side of one pair of strap pieces.

Interfacing (white) applied to wrong side of one set of straps.

With the right sides together, I stitched one interfaced strap to one un-interfaced strap along two long edges and one short edge.  The idea is to leave open the short edge that will be sewn into the back of the dress and to sew closed the short edge that will be part of the front button closure.  I trimmed the seams again.  This reduces bulk in the strap.  And I turned the strap right side out and pressed it well.  If you have a lightweight fabric, you may not need or want to trim the edges.  

Straps right sides together ready to be sewn.

Straps sewn together on three sides with seam allowances trimmed.

Turning a strap right side out.  This can be a bit of a pain to do.  I also use a pointer/turner tool to poke out the corners as best as I can once it is turned.  

Straps turned to right sides and pressed.

Depending on the look you want, you can topstitch the stitched edges of the straps now - 1/16" from the edge.  This will also provide more structure for the straps.  I did not topstitch my straps in this project.

Next I sewed the raw edge of each strap to the right side of the back at the placement marks.  I like to get the straps right to the edge of the seam allowance on the outside.  I stitched the straps in place at the seam allowance (1/2"/13mm) and then stitched again about 1/8" (3mm) from the first stitching.  



Sew Front to Back:  Next, I sewed the Front to the Back at the side seams.  The front has the pockets, the back has the straps. If you have lightweight fabric, you could do French seams here.  You could also finish these seams with a serger, zig-zag, or overcast stitch.  These are the only seams that will be seen/felt on the inside of the dress.  Be sure to press the seams open or to one side, depending on how you finish your seams.

Facings:  If you are going to interface your facings, you should do it now.  I chose not to interface the facings since this fabric had some heft and I didn't want to add more bulk to the seams, or the facing area.  

As I had to cut the facings without a fold, I stitched each pair together at the center front with a 1/2" (13mm) seam allowance, and pressed it open.  

I then sewed the facings to each other at the side seams.  And, I clipped to the dots at the inside corners of the front and back facings.  Clipping these corners allows you to fold up the seam allowance along the bottom of the facing. 

I folded up the seam allowance and gave it a good press.  At the side seams, I clipped the corners off the side seam allowance and folded the hem over each other as at a corner.

Trimming the allowance from bottom of turned up facing.

It is a good idea to baste (use a very long machine stitch) close to the folded edge to keep this hem in place.  I forgot to baste, but it worked out fine.  

Then, with right sides together, I stitched the facing to the dress, matching the side seams.  

I clipped into the seam allowance along the curves to release the seam so it would turn easily to the inside.  I like to clip my seams on an angle, and you can see that below.

Then, I trimmed the seams and clipped the corners.  You can trim the seams straight (taking off about 1/4"/6mm), or you can grade the seams - trimming a little less on one seam than the other.  This also helps reduce bulk but also can help with the bulk of the trimmed seam showing through to the right side of the fabric.  With a graded seam you get a little less bulk where the seams are trimmed.  

Graded seam - you can see that the each seam was cut separately to a different length.

I turned the facing to the inside and pressed it well.  I used a point turner to try and get sharper corners (also just pulling the straps will pull the back corners out easily).  I also rolled the seam slightly to the inside so that the facing would not poke out from the inside. 

Facing turned to inside dress.

Rolling seam slightly to inside. 

It is a good idea to baste or pin the facing in place at this point.  You will be topstitching from the inside to secure the facing in place to the inside of the dress.  The topstitching will show through to the right side so you want to do a pretty neat job of it.  That is why pinning or basting may help.  I started my stitching at the center back, but starting at a side seam is probably a better idea.  You will need to pivot stitching at the inside corners of the facing and at the side seams.  


Finishing:  You can hem the dress now. Because of the curved hem, I turned up 1/4" (6mm), pressed, then turned up another 1/4" (6mm) and pressed.  You could also turn up a bit more hem and use a blind stitch to hem and ease around the curve.

Buttons: To be honest, you could probably sew the straps in place and not need buttons to get it on and off, but they do make it easier to fit and get in and out of the dress.  The pattern indicates to sew the buttonholes on the straps and buttons on the front.  This will help if you need to adjust the buttonholes to make the straps slightly longer or shorter - just adjust where the buttonholes on the straps go.  You can make horizontal or vertical buttonholes.  You can read all about buttonholes here.  But, you can also change things up.  I decided to put my buttonholes on the front of the dress, and the buttons on the straps.  This is another way to adjust the strap sizing (move buttons up or down the straps as needed).  I made horizontal buttonholes.  This is an easy way to make some design changes to the dress.

Deciding where to put the buttons and straps.

Decided to put horizontal buttonholes on the front, straps will go to the inside (buttons are resting on the dress).

 I love how this dress turned out. I am planning on wearing it with leggings (or jeans) and boots in the winter and t-shirts or tanks in the summer.  It feels like sturdy work clothes but fun and feminine at the same time.  

I hope this sew along helps you when making your Basics Pinafore Dress - with ideas and inspiration as well as fundamental construction.  Please share what you make in our Customer Gallery and/or on social media (and tag us!).