A Simple Guide On How To Sew A Jersey Knit Dress

When you’re used to woven textiles like cotton, sewing with jersey knit fabrics can be quite a challenge. Still, it is not as tough as you may think. You only need the right thread and needle, the right cloth and you are good to go.

Rolls of knitted fabric of different shades

Fitting is sometimes a lot easier once you’ve gotten used to working with stretchy fabrics. This tutorial will show you the many varieties of jersey fabric, how to cut them, stitch them, and finish the hems and shoulder seams, so what are you waiting for? Let’s dive in!

Types of jersey fabrics

1. Cotton jersey

It has a robust fabric with minimum stretch, making it a popular choice for t-shirt applications. T-shirts, leggings, hats, and other items can be made with this fabric, which is mostly light to medium weight.

2. Viscose jersey

The fabric is usually made up of 92-95% viscose and 5-8% elastane and is light to medium in weight. It drapes better than cotton jerseys, which is why it’s used in dresses and tunics for women. It creates lovely draped and gathered looks.

3. Interlock jersey

Two layers of jerseys are ‘knitted’ together to make the front and back seem the same, making it heavier than a single jersey. It comes in cotton fabric or viscose and is suitable for dresses, tops, leggings, and other items.

4. Polyester jersey

Because this fabric is made of synthetic material, it lacks the natural feel of cotton jerseys. The percentages of polyester and elastane are similar to those found in other jerseys. It is more stain and wrinkle-resistant and may be used for women’s clothing such as tops, t-shirts, and dresses, among other things.

5. Ponte di Roma

This is a double fabric that is very sturdy. It’s not as elastic as cotton or viscose jerseys, but it’s still manageable. Ponte knits resist wrinkles and creases and have nice flexibility, which makes them very easy to sew. They might be used for jackets, tops, bottoms, cardigans, and other items and can be made from different types of yarns.

6. Cotton ribbed knits

They are usually made of 100% cotton, but they can also contain spandex and other fibre blends. They have a natural stretch, making them ideal for bands, and necklines. They are very popular in baby clothes, shirts, and dresses.

ribbed clothes hang on hangers on the rail

7. Lycra spandex knits

They are usually made of nylon, rayon, and spandex and have a four-way stretch, making them ideal for swimwear, sports, and activewear items.

They are also an excellent fabric for yoga pants, dresses, tops, leggings, and other close-fitting items that need to stretch a lot with the body.

8. Sweatshirt fleece knits

They are a durable fabric with a smooth knit top and a wonderful brushed side that is cosy and cuddly. Sweatshirt knits are ideal for classic hoodies as well as sweat trousers, jogging bottoms, and shorts for both adults and children. They are not very elastic.

9. French terry knits

Their materials feature a regular, soft and smooth jersey top side with varied loop piling on the back in varying lengths. French terry is usually made of 100% cotton, but it can also contain spandex or other fibres for further stretch and elasticity.

Due to its moisture-wicking properties, French terry knits are quite popular and can be found in a variety of fashion outlets in women’s clothes. They are often used for pool cover-ups and athletic bottoms.

Jersey textiles typically feature a 4-way stretch, which means they extend both across and along the body. However, some heavier varieties only have a 2-way stretch, so always check the fabric recommendation on your dress pattern before choosing your fabric to ensure you’re using the right one.

Preparation

1. Preshrink your fabric

Before you start cutting, it is highly recommended that you wash the fabric first. Certain jerseys shrink a lot in the wash, so it’s best to do it beforehand.

2. Cut the fabric

Fold the fabric lengthwise on the grain. Cut around the pattern piece (pinning the pattern straight to the fabric can cause the shape to be distorted), or draw around it and then cut on the line.

female hands citting fabric with scissors

3. Make notes

Do some markings on the inside of the cloth at the hem for placement of the name tag or label. If you put a name tag on the hem, it won’t bother your skin like it would if you put it at the neck. Make a mark on the back of the neck as well.

How to sew a jersey knit dress step-by-step

Tools needed for this DIY project:

  • Personalised cloth name tag or clothing label 
  • 0.6 cm wide elastic 
  • Standard sewing machine (not a serger
  • Tracing paper (for sewing patterns)
  • Cotton jersey 
  • Ballpoint needle 
  • Clear gridded ruler 
  • Thread & bobbin 
  • Knit tape (for interfacing)
  • Marker 
  • Fabric 
  • Scissors

sewing tools

Step 1: Get the sleeves

Pin the sleeves in place, right sides together, and then stitch a 0.6 cm seam.

Stitches can break unless a stretchy stitch is used because knit fabrics stretch while conventional sewing machine stitches do not. A zigzag stitch with a length of 3.0 mm and a width of 5 mm is the recommended stretchy stitch here. 

This is practically a straight stitch, but no seams will go apart. Remember to never pull on the fabric in any way while stitching.

Help it move under the presser foot by using a small awl to push it along. Any ripples in the seam caused by the overcasting should be pressed out too. To attach the long sleeves to the back of the dress, repeat the procedure.

Step 2: Start working on the side seams with a 0.6 seam allowance

Pin and stitch the side and underarm seams with the dress together. Stitch from the hem to the end of the sleeve with a 0.6 cm seam allowance. Start from the outside and work your way towards the centre. This will prevent the seams from stretching as you sew.

Finger press the seam allowances where the side seam meets the underarm seam to reduce any bulk. The stitching line must pivot at this point to fit the sleeve’s angle. Raise the presser foot and pull the fabric straight with the needle. Sew the underarm seam as you continue stitching and then press any ripples out.

girl sewing on a machine

Step 3: Neckline and sleeve casing

Fold the neck edge to the inside about 1.9 centimetres. Sew the casing down with a zigzag stitch close to the raw edge, leaving 3.8 cm open. Next, fold the sleeve edge in and pin it in place.  Next, use a safety pin to insert the elastics in the casings for both the neck and the sleeves, while passing it through where the seam allowances meet.

Use a zigzag stitch now to sew the elastic ends together. Then, stitch down the 3.8 cm pieces of the casings that you left open, starting from the inside of the item, with a different colour top thread. The reason why you should choose a different colour here is that if you wish to change the elastic in the future or make minor changes, these stitches will be very easy for you to detect and remove. 

Step 4: Finish up the hem

Trim the bottom of the dress to achieve a smooth curve of about 13 cm. To help position the name tag, press up the hem at the centre back. so that the wording is right. It’s a good idea to stiffen the raw edge of the hem with fusible tape to achieve a nice finishing touch. Apply fusible tape to the hem, re-pin it, and stitch it from the outside.

Sewing tips

  1. Before you start your dress sewing, always practice your stitches on a scrap of fabric. By doing so, you will be able to tell if your stitches are correct or if they need to be adjusted one way or another.
  2. Before you buy any type of jersey fabric, check the weight, fibre content, and stretch of your fabric. If you’re not sure about it, you can always ask for a sample to see how it feels.
  3. While sewing, try not to strain the fabric. You’ll be OK if you take it slowly.
  4. When sewing heavier knit materials and trying to match stripes, try to lessen this by simply adjusting the presser foot pressure on your sewing machine.

black knitted cotton dress on buttons style
There you have it! If you are a beginner, we hope you now know how to sew a jersey knit dress. Once you get used to jersey fabrics, fitting and stitching will be a piece of cake. We will leave you with one final thing: Always make sure to choose the right type of fabric that fits your style and check the stretch of your fabric!

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