Sunday, May 20, 2012

Tutorial: Sheath Dress with Pockets

It's been a while since I've had something to post, but I'm quite happy to be able to give you something other than just pictures: a tutorial!
I love to wear sheath dresses, and in the summer these loose pull-overs are just the most comfy for wearing in the hot, humid Maryland weather. I had made one of these a few years ago (about halfway down the page) but the fabric I used was really a little on the heavy side, so I decided to make another one in a lighter chambray that I picked up at Metro Textiles during my fabric buying trip last month.
This is a classic sheath draft, with armscye princess darts front and back, and a scoop neckline. I didn't use any facings, but rather bound the neck and armscyes with self-bias binding. I also decided to embellish it with some designs from Urban Threads.
Front view:
(Yes, it's wrinkled, but that's because I was wearing it all day before finally getting around to asking Bob to take pictures.

Back view:
In this view you can see one of the two side slits; all I did was keep the bottom 12" of both side seams unsewn, and topstitched around the slit to keep it looking neat.

Neckline detail:
I cut a 2" strip of the fabric on the bias and ironed it into a double-fold bias tape. I matched up the raw edges of the bias tape and the neckline on the inside and stitched it down along the fold, then folded the binding to the outside. I then edge-stitched the binding in place.
One thing I did notice right away: I had trimmed the seam allowance from the neckline but did not trim them from the armholes. Hence the extra fabric folds at the front armscye. Next time I make the dress I will certainly trim the armholes. And yes, I'm planning on making several more of these; I love the way it feels!!

Here's the pocket detail:
"But wait," you may ask, "How did you add the pocket??"

I'm glad you asked. It's really quite easy to add a pocket to any princess-seamed sheath, and here's how. Now, I'm using Pattern Master Boutique and Pattern Editor to achieve this, but there's no reason you can't do exactly the same with pen and paper.

First, you need to draft your basic pattern:
The piece you need to modify is on the left; it's the side front piece. See that second dart? I didn't sew it. For some reason I get a better fit if I draft the front with two darts but only sew one. It's just one of those PMB quirks.

Ungroup the side front piece. Add two lines to the pattern, one a few inches down from the waist, and another about 7 inches down from that. Use the scissors tool and break the vertical seam lines at those intersections. Select all the pieces and group them.

Use the Copy tool and make two copies of the pattern piece.

For the TOP piece, add a seam allowance to the lower line and delete all the pieces below that line.

For the POCKET piece, add a seam allowance to both upper and lower lines, and delete all the pieces above and below those lines.

For the BOTTOM piece, add a seam allowance to the upper line and delete all the pieces above the upper line.

Cut the pieces out of your fabric. If the fabric you're using is heavy, you can use a lighter weight fabric for the POCKET piece since it won't show. I just used the same chambray for all the pieces.

To assemble:
(Sorry; no pictures of this part!)
1. Place TOP and POCKET right sides together. Stitch along the LOWER edge. Serge the raw edge.
2. Flip the POCKET piece down so the right side is facing up. Place the top edge of the BOTTOM piece right sides together with the top edge of the POCKET piece. Sew the seam.
3. Press the seam open, then put the POCKET and BOTTOM pieces wrong sides together at the seam line. Press the seam and topstitch.
4. Lay the side piece on your work surface, aligning the pieces and smoothing them out so they lay flat. Pin at the side seams, then baste to hold the layers together.
5. Proceed with the assembly of the sheath, treating the side front piece assembly as a single piece.

I serged each piece around the sides and bottom before putting the sheath together; this allowed me to have the side slits on each side seam. The princess seams were pressed to the outside and topstitched to keep them laying flat.

I hope this tutorial helps you add pockets to your princess seamed garments!


  1. THANKS! I will have to use this technique! You've explained it very clearly here.

  2. Absolutely lovely on you Welmoed. Flattering style and the length looks good on you. Knee length would work on you as well. The pockets are a great idea! Gayle

  3. The dress looks great on you. Please don't listen the the critical types.

  4. Such a flattering dress! I love the length of it. (I also prefer mine to my ankles with either a slit up the CB or the side slits as you've done.)


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