Another Ultimate Shift Dress and Sewing with Knit Fabric


I’ve got the sewing bug again.

 After the velvet ordeal, I needed a break from my sewing table, but I am feeling inspired again and ready for some new projects.

I’m not one for counting down till christmas, but as the nights are drawing in and it’s starting to feel pretty wintery up here in Shetland, I felt the need to make a cosy winter dress.

The inspiration for this make came from a post I spotted on twitter a while back, Elena from ( had tweeted about her lovely knit fabric “Ultimate Shift Dress” by Sew Over It and it looked so fabulous, I thought I’d make my own.

The fabric I used was a gorgeous red ponte de roma, funnily enough, from Sew Over It (must have been meant to be).

You may remember I made this dress before for my trip to India in a light cotton lawn. It was a relatively easy make and I was really pleased with the fit. Although this pattern is designed for woven fabrics, it is quite a simple shape, so I think it lends itself well to either fabric type.

It may just be me, but I really struggle with knit fabric on my machine. I have spent endless ages trying to figure out why my machine misses stitches when sewing knit fabric. I have tried: changing tension settings, different needles (ball point, stretch), sewing at different speeds, but nothing completely solves the problem.

My latest discovery to aid sewing knits on a standard sewing machine is to place a layer of tracing paper or greaseproof paper under the fabric to stabilise it during sewing. When stitching is complete, rip it off. 

This has partially fixed my problem, but I still see some skipped stitches and ripping the paper off can pull the stitches, leaving them looking loose and unsightly, especially annoying when topstitching.

I ended up using a combination of my old sewing machine, my overlocker and hand sewing to finish this garment.

Below is a brief overview of the process:

  • sewed the darts with a straight stitch on the machine (I think you are supposed to use a zig zag stitch, but they look fine)
  • stabilised the shoulder seams with a thin ribbon and sewed with a zig zag stitch on the machine
  • overlocked the side seams and sleeves together
  • set in sleeves creating a couple of very small tucks on either side of the shoulder notch, to account for the excess fabric in sleeve head (gathering as with woven fabric didn’t really work)
  • turned neckline under 1cm and topstitched with a zigzag stitch
  • hemmed the dress and sleeves by hand using a hemming stitch
  • Added a hook and eye closure to the back neckline

I love the finished product, super cosy and flattering. I think I have a bit of an obsession with sewing dresses in knit fabric now…

Also, if anyone has any tips on sewing with knit fabric on a regular sewing machine I would love to hear them.

Handmade Red Dress

Red Jersey Dress side

Red Jersey Dress

Handmade dress

7 thoughts on “Another Ultimate Shift Dress and Sewing with Knit Fabric

  1. Hi, I have exactly the same problems with my machine. I bought some red ponte to sew a Coco dress and it was a nightmare, my machine (a basic Janome) just hated it and couldn’t cope at all. I changed the needle ( started with a ballpoint, changed it many times and the returned to it), it wouldn’t zig zag at all and ended up with the tension really tight with very small stitches. I even tried the tissue paper idea with no luck. After much hair tearing I have a wearable garment but not sure I want to try Ponte again, which is a real shame as everybody seems to love sewing with it. If anybody can help, that would be great.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Angela! I have recently discovered something that has really helped me with my knit fabric sewing issues and I was reminded of your comment so thought I would share it with you as it has been a major breakthrough for me. I was probably being rather silly, but I hadn’t tried the stretch stitch options on my machine before and now I have I find they have solved my issues. No skipped stitches!! FINALLY! Anyway, I hope that helps.


  2. Hi I love your dress and was inspired by randomly happy too. I have the grey sweatshirt and plan to start this weekend. I am very new to knit fabrics and made a hemlock and some anima pants. I use a walking foot on my basic machine and it has been ok. I really need to concentrate to make sure I don’t pull on the fabric too and let my machine do the work. We’ll see how the dress goes as I’ve never used sweatshirt fabric before.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: 2015 Review | attieanddora

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