Summer Shirt Dress Kit – Sew-along

Welcome to our step-by-step guide to help you make up your Summer Shirt Dress Kit!

Each week following the launch of our kit, we’ll be taking you through the process of creating your Summer Shirt Dress. There’ll be tips for each stage of the process with pictures too.

  • Details of how to create that lovely back pleat, since we don’t think the pattern instructions are very helpful.
  • A quick tip for fitting the armholes
  • We’ll also be showing how to add sleeves to your Summer Shirt Dress as part of our Sew-along

Going it alone? Just so you know…

For those of you who aim to get going right away, we’ve provided a few ‘starters for ten’.

Preparing your fabric

Don’t forget before you cut your fabric – pre-wash it! We’ve tested most of these fabrics and there’s not much shrinkage – but we definitely recommend washing, drying and pressing your fabric before you cut out.

A quick machine wash at 30 or 40 degrees will do the trick, unless your chosen fabric recommends hand washing. If you use a machine, you can save time by using the ‘Delicates’ cycle. We’d recommend airing your fabric to dry it rather than using a tumble dryer. Also especially with linens, don’t put anything else in there with your fabric just in case there’s any initial dye loss.

If you’re planning to get cracking with your Summer Shirt Dress right away, then we’ve a few pointers you might want to consider before you start.

Creating the back pleat

Here’s a picture of the back pleat in the Summer Shirt Dress. Its elegance comes from the simplicity of the drape.

Back of summer shirt dress showing pleat
Back of Summer Shirt Dress showing pleat

In fact this pleat is a fairly simple one – but the image in the pattern instructions suggests it’s simpler than it really is – yet the number of pattern markings over-complicates things.

We suggest you follow our instructions and save yourself some head-scratching!

STEP 1 – Understanding how the pleat works

Here’s a closer look at that pleat.

Inside of pleat
A closer look at the back pleat

Take a look at the pleat inside garment – it looks just like a box pleat.

Pleat inside garment
Inside the back of the dress – a box pleat.

A box pleat on the inside of a garment would usually mean that on the outside, you’d see an inverted box pleat. However in the case of our Summer Shirt Dress, the pleat on the back of the dress doesn’t look like an inverted box pleat. That’s because, instead of the folded edges of the pleat meeting in the middle as in our picture, they’re actually overlapped.

Normal inverted box pleat (top) with an overlapped inverted box pleat (bottom).

These samples show the difference between an normal inverted box pleat – and one where the folds are overlapped as in the Summer Shirt Dress.

The diagonal slant of the Summer Dress Shirt pleat is achieved simply by allowing the fabric to hang down from the yoke. The slight curve in the top of the pattern piece, together with the curved cut of the dress, create the slant of the cross-over.

STEP 2 – Don’t worry – we’re keeping things simple!

In our instructions we’re ignoring some of the pattern markings; we’re also suggesting that you don’t worry about marking the full extent of the pleat lines on your pattern piece. We’ve reduced the number of markings you need – and these only need to be marked at the top of your pattern piece. Don’t press anything but the very top of the two folds you’re going to make. Worry not – you’re in safe hands! Here goes…

STEP 3 – Marking up your pattern piece

Using the Back pattern piece, transfer the following markings to your fabric using pins, chalk or tailor’s tacks.

  • Centre back (We’ve marked ours with a red dot)
  • Centre back matchpoints – one on each side. (On your pattern piece that’s the second line from the fold line; we’ve marked ours with red dots).
  • Fold edges – one on each side. (That’s the line marked ‘Top fold’ on your pattern piece. We’ve marked ours with a gold triangle.)
Marking up the left of our Back pattern piece….
…and marking up the right hand side

This image shows how we’ve marked our fabric with these five marks. You can ignore the other pleat markings. Really, you can!

STEP 4 – Creating your pleat

Here’s where the magic happens.

Lay your marked-up fabric piece in front of you. Press a fold in the very top of each Fold edge line which we’ve marked with the gold triangles.

Take the Fold edge on the left and draw it across to the right side until the Centre back matchpoint is exactly matched to the Centre back. Pin it in place.

That red dot on the left shows where the Centre Back is

Now take the Fold edge from the right hand side and bring it across to the left, overlapping the first fold. As before, make sure the Centre back matchpoint corresponds exactly to the Centre back. Pin that fold in place.

You’re done! It really was that easy.

The newly-created pleat naturally falls at an angle.
Your newly-created pleat will naturally fall at an angle.

The width of the top of your Back garment piece should now match the width of your yoke. Here’s a video showing the whole pleat process.

Creating the back pleat.

Adjusting the fit of the armholes

Although we’ve made three versions of the Summer Shirt Dress (so far!) in two different sizes, we’ve found that the armholes have needed a little adjustment in both sizes. It really couldn’t have been easier.

The side seams of the Summer Shirt Dress stop at the upper notch on the sides of each of the Front pattern pieces and the Back pattern piece. The opening created is your armhole. If the armholes are just a little too tight then they pull that lovely back pleat out of shape, even if they’re large enough to fit your arms through. The solution? Just stop stitching sooner and create a bigger armhole!

Extending the size of the armhole on the Back pattern piece
Extending the size of the armhole on the Back pattern piece
Extending the size of the armhole on the Front pattern piece
Extending the size of the armhole on the Front pattern piece

Here’s how we marked our pattern pieces up. We simply moved the notch down 5cm on each of the three pattern pieces involved (Left Front, Right Front and each side of the Back piece). It’s easy to unpick or stitch up a little more to make it work for your body shape.

Pattern hack: Adding sleeves

We know that arms can be a sensitive area – just a little bit of sleeve can go a long way in making you feel better about a garment. The beauty of our Summer Shirt Dress is that it’s really easy to add simple drop-shoulder sleeves. You’ll receive instructions on how to do this in your Summer Shirt Dress Kit; we’ve also posted the instructions here.

Appearing here: Our weekly Sew-along

Welcome to our weekly Sew-along! We’ve divided the creation of your Summer Shirt Dress into eight easy steps. Every Friday for the next few weeks we’ll be posting pictures and instructions describing exactly how to make up your Summer Shirt Dress. Here goes!

WEEK 1: Cutting out, marking up and interfacing

Click here to see Week 1 of our Summer Shirt Dress Kit Sew-along

WEEK 2: Creating the collar

Click here to see Week 2 of our Summer Shirt Dress Kit Sew-along

WEEK 3: Creating the back of the dress

Click here to see Week 3 of our Summer Shirt Dress Kit Sew-along

WEEK 4: Creating the front of the dress

Click here to see Week 4 of our Summer Shirt Dress Kit Sew-along

WEEK 5: Joining the front and back

Click here to see Week 5 of our Summer Shirt Dress Kit Sew-along

WEEK 6: Sewing the collar to the dress

Click here to see Week 6 of our Summer Shirt Dress Kit Sew-along

WEEK 7: Creating the pockets and sewing the side seams & sleeves

Click here to see Week 7 of our Summer Shirt Dress Kit Sew-along

WEEK 8: Hemming and finishing

Click here to see Week 8 of our Summer Shirt Dress Kit Sew-along