Hi, Lisa here from Not Sew Selfish, a website all about encouraging and inspiring you to sew for yourself. Today I get to share with you my favourite go-to for self care sewing - the “Little Knit Dress” (LKD). Just like the concept of the “Little Black Dress”, the LKD is a staple item for self care sewing – always in style, works for any occasion, something to suit everyone. There are so many styles to choose from, so many designs and types of knit fabric to work with, and the patterns are usually quick and easy to make and relatively easy to fit. I’ve sewn up three Little Knit Dresses here with cap/short sleeves and knee length skirts, which is a style I know many people search for and find easy to wear. These dresses are great for work or casual – both comfortable and smart, and you can dress them up or down. I wear these kinds of dresses all year round – short sleeves in the warmer months, and then with a denim jacket or cardi over the top in winter.
The other thing to love about the Little Knit Dress is that if (when) you see knit fabric you love and you’re not sure what to make with it, you can always buy 2 yards/metres and have a wealth of pattern choices. I do that more than I’d care to admit, and then choose my particular style as the mood takes me when I have the fabric in hand.
If you’re already experienced sewing with knits, then you’ll have no problems with any of these patterns, and they are a great place to start sewing for yourself. If you’re a beginner with knits, then the only part that you might find tricky is sewing the neck/arm binding. I know the first couple of times I did neck binding, I made a complete mess of it, but sometimes that’s the best way to learn! Each of these patterns uses a different technique for binding, and there are many different ways to do knit binding – if you run into trouble, have a look around for resources online to step you through it, such as this great tutorial which Trisha wrote for for us last year.
You’ll see that even though all these patterns fit the category of short/cap sleeves and knee length, I’ve ended up with three very different looks. Each pattern has its own individual style elements, and different types of fabric that work best (in case you need any more reason to have a wide range in your stash!). All of these patterns also have other variations, so once you’ve made your first dress and got the fit right, you can create a range of other looks – or do what I do and stick to a good thing and just make more of the same in different fabrics!
The lovely dark red floral dress is made with the Jalie 3024 Knit Dresses pattern, using the option for boat neck and short (cap) kimono sleeves. This pattern needs a knit with 40% stretch in both directions (vertical and horizontal), so I chose this relatively lightweight knit (called Mystic Roses) from Purpleseamstress, which has a drape that works well for the neckline and sleeves, and (optional) flounce at the bottom. The pattern has an empire length bodice piece (the sleeves are cap sleeves, as part of this piece), waistband piece, and skirt piece, and the front and back of the dress are identical, which makes it quick and easy to cut and sew. I love the shape of the skirt piece on this one – it’s quite unlike any other dress I have – it’s somewhere between a-line and straight, and is very flattering for me. The neckline binding is hidden for this style. I’ve used all one fabric, but this would look great with a contrast waistband and/or flounce. This pattern also has options for a sleeveless bodice, and sleeveless crossover bodice. You also get all the girls and women’s sizes together in the one pattern, for added value.
The denim dress is not actually denim – it’s an incredibly lovely, soft, heavy knit (“Jeans Jersey”) from Lillestoff. The pattern I’ve used is the Southwest Dress by Peek-a-Boo. I reviewed this dress for Pattern Revolution here last year, and have worn that dress more than almost anything else I’ve made for myself. I love this style in this heavier fabric, because I quite like the a-line skirt to sit out a bit. This dress has a bodice that comes to the natural waist, separate sleeve pieces and an a-line skirt. I’ve lowered the neckline about an inch (you can see the original neckline on me in the review post linked above), because I find the slightly lower scoop neck is more flattering for me. This pattern can also be made with elbow, ¾ or long sleeves, or as a peplum top, giving you options for all seasons.
My blue on black floral dress is made with the Jocole Crossover dress pattern. This fabric is another lovely one from Purpleseamstress (called Periwinkle Blooms) This dress has a crossover empire length bodice with extended cap sleeves, and an a-line skirt. If you find the crossover style a little revealing, this works really well worn with a cami underneath. (The crossover neckline is also a good option if you are looking for something suitable for nursing). You can also make this one in tunic length for a cute top, or follow the tutorial on the Jocole blog to add any of the sleeves from the Mix and Match pattern series.
There are lots more other short sleeved knee length dress patterns out there – I only wish I had the time and fabric to make them all – but I hope this has given you some ideas or a starting point for something to sew for yourself.