Make it: Sew a Balmain Inspired Knit Dress

Here I have outlined the process I went through when making my Balmain inspired knit dress. The dress is made from a sage green knitted fabric with a zig zag pattern. It has button plackets on both shoulders and running down the side seams. Additionally, it has a scoop neck and 3/4 length sleeves. To see how I came up with my design visit: Design it: Sew a Balmain Inspired Dress .

Sew a Balmain dress - technical sketches
Technical sketch for my Balmain inspired dress.

Making the Pattern Block for my Knit Dress:

The first thing I had to do was draft the pattern. This was the first time I had done this so I was a bit nervous. I thought that making a pattern with a knit fabric would be ideal as you don’t have to worry about the positioning of darts, also the fit would be more forgiving.

I found 2 different methods of developing a pattern block for a dartless knit dress. One was by using my body measurements and drawing it from scratch. The second was by taking a pattern that uses a woven fabric and remove the darts.I tried both methods to see which showed more promising results.

For drawing my own pattern block from scratch I followed this blog: http://en.inthemoodforcouture.com/the-basic-pattern-for-a-stretch-bodice/

Although these instruction were for a bodice I thought it would be easy enough to adapt it to make a dress. This was because I wanted a straight skirt so all I would need to do was extend the length. When I sketched my attempt I found that my pattern didn’t look quite right, especially around the arm holes. The proportions appeared to be a little off. Perhaps I didn’t take my measurements properly.

To convert a woven dress pattern to a dartless dress block I followed the instructions on: http://www.ikatbag.com/2013/05/dartless-sloper-version-22.html

For this I used the pattern from Love sewing magazine issue 20, the Loretta Jewel neck dress. I choose this because it was really slim fitting, which is the look I would like to achieve for my finished dress. Also it comes with simple set in sleeves that have no fancy shape or gathering.

Loretta Jewel Neck Dress http://www.lovesewingmag.co.uk/competitions/item/459-love-sewing-issue-20

When comparing the two different patterns I sketched the second way looked significantly better and is the one I took forward. Although, if you do use this method be aware that the woven pattern will have quite a lot of ease which is there to allow you to breath and move around. When using a knit fabric not so much ease is required as the fabric will stretch.

Converting the Block to my Pattern:

  • To the front dress Block – Take 2 cm off of the side seams and take 2 cm off of the shoulder seams
  • To the back dress block – Take 2 cm off of each side seam and take 2 cm off of each shoulder seam
  • This pattern came with 3/4 length sleeves so I just used those as they came.
  • Draw the pattern for the shoulder button plackets – Measure the length of the shoulder seams. Sketch a rectangle 11 cm x (shoulder seam length + 3cm)
  • Draw the pattern for the side seam button plackets – Measure the length of the side seam. Do this by using a measuring tape and lying it along the side seam. Draw a rectangle 11 cm  (side seam length + 3 cm)
  • Neckline facing – I used a neckline facing as it will create a smoother neckline than just turning it under and stitching. To find out how to draft your own facing have a read of How to Draft a Facing
Design Balmain Dress - Adapting pattern block
Adapting pattern block – Shaded sections indicate where you need to remove 2 cm from the seams.

Sew a Toile:

Before I cut into my fabric I made a made a toile. I bought a cheap jersey knit fabric so I could test the fit. I did not want to waste good fabric when I have never made this before.

It turned out the my pattern was far too big. I needed to take 4 cm off of each side as the back was too loose and it wasn’t showing off my figure very well.

After I rechecked the fit I amended the pattern.

Sew a Balmian inspired dress
Sew a Toile

Supplies:

For the dress I needed:

  • 2m of knit fabric
  • 1 m of stretch fusible interfacing
  • 20 x 2 mm antique brass buttons with a shank
  • 4 x 100 m spools of Guttermann thread.

Cut your Fabric:

Fabric Pipces:

  • Out of the fabric cut the dress front on the fold.
  • Out of the fabric cut the dress back on the fold.
  • See a suggested cutting layout below:

Sew a Balmain Inspired knit dress - Pattern making

  • Cut 4 shoulder plackets out of both the interfacing and fabric. I cut the pieces on the fold.
  • Cut 4 side seam plackets out of both the interfacing and fabric. I cut the pieces on the fold.
  • Out of both the fabric and the interfacing cut the front and back neckline facings . I cut the pieces on the fold.

Construction:

Unless instructed otherwise sew with a 1.5 cm S.A.

First I applied the interfacing to the plackets and the facings. The first issue I noticed was that due to the texture of the fabric the interfacing didn’t really want to stick. This wasn’t helped by the fact that I couldn’t apply a high heat in case I melted the acrylic fibres.

Attach the Facing

  • Finish the outer edge of the facing with either an overlocker or a zig zag stitch.
  • Pin the front neckline facing to the front dress pattern piece RST.
Sew Balmain dress
Pin the facing to the front neckline
  • Sew the facing to the dress. I stabilised the seam using a clear elastic.
Sew Balmain dress
Sew the facing to the front neckline
  • Repeat this process to attach the back neckline facing to the back of the dress.
Sew Balmain dress
Pin and sew the back neckline facing to the dress.

Attach the Shoulder Plackets

  • Press under one of the long sides of the shoulder plackets by 1.5 cm.
Sew a Balmain inspired dress
Press under one of the long sides of the shoulder plackets by 1.5 cm.
  • Pin the placket to the shoulder seam RST. Align the folded edge with the neckline edge.
Sew a Balmain inspired dress
Pin the placket to the shoulder seam
  • Sew the placket to the shoulder seam. I stabilised the seam with clear elastic. Secure the facing in place by sewing the edge into the seam.
Sew a Balmain inspired dress
Sew the placket to the shoulder seam.
  • Fold over the top edge by 1.5 cm and press.
Sew a Balmain inspired dress
Press the top edge under by 1.5 cm
  • Fold the placket in half and press. Stitch in the ditch to sew the placket closed.

    Sew a Balmain inspired dress
    Press the placket in half .

  • Topstitch along the neckline edge of the placket to close the folded edge. I found that sewing this line deformed the placket, next time I would perhaps consider  hand stitching.
Sew a Balmain inspired dress
Topstitch along the neckline edge of the placket to close the folded edge.
  • Repeat this process for all 4 shoulder seams.
  • Mark up the location of the button holes on the two plackets sewn to the front dress piece. I drew a 2 cm line on my fabric using a vanishing marker (check this on a scrap of fabric first to make sure it does disappear).
  • Make sure the buttonholes are located halfway between the top and bottom of the placket.
  • Additionally, make sure the buttonholes are evenly spaced from the side edges. They must not be too close to the edge, they should be at least 1.3 mm away. Remember the neck edge has been finished, but the outer edge still needs to be attached to the sleeve so leave a 1.5 cm SA.
  • Sew the button holes following the procedure in your sewing machines instruction manual.
  • Unfortunately my first attempt looked rather wonky but I improved after that.
Sew a Balmain inspired dress
Sew the button holes
  • Sew the buttons to the button plackets attached to the back dress piece. Ensure the buttons match up with the button holes.
Sew a Balmain inspired dress
Sew on the buttons
  • I choose to sew the placket with the buttonhole to that with the buttons to ensure they wouldn’t come apart whist I was wearing the dress. I did this by topstitching across the top and button of the placket.
Sew a Balmain inspired dress
Topstitch

Attach the Side Seam Plackets:

Attaching the side seam plackets to your knit dress is pretty much a repeat of sewing the shoulder plackets.

  • Attach side button placket to the side seam RST.
sew a balmain inspired knit dress
Sew the placket to the side seam RST.
  • Press the outer edge of the side seam placket under by 1.5 cm
sew a balmain inspired knit dress
Press the edge of the placket
  • Fold the placket in half and press. Stitch in the ditch to sew the placket closed.
  • Repeat the process for all 4 side seams.
sew a balmain inspired knit dress
Stitch in the ditch to sew the placket closed.
  • I then pinned the side seam plackets on the front and back dress pieces together. This allowed me to check the fit.
sew a balmain inspired knit dress
Pin the side seam plackets together
  • Mark up the location of the button holes on the two plackets sewn to the front dress piece. I drew a 2 cm line on my fabric using a vanishing marker (check this on a scrap of fabric first to make sure it does disappear).
  • Make sure the buttonholes are located halfway between the left and right edges of the placket.
  •  I was adding 8 buttons per side seam. Each button was 2 cm diameter. I placed the first button 6 cm from the the top of the placket. To calculate how far the buttonholes should be placed apart I used this formula:

(Length of the side seam placket – 6) / 8

  • The 6 comes from the distance you place you first button from the top of the side seam, (so feel free to change). 8 is how many buttons you have.
  • The buttonholes should be sewn horizontally such that they go across the body. I mistakenly sewed them vertically
  • Sew the button holes following the procedure in your sewing machines instruction manual.

 

sew a balmain inspired knit dress
Sew the side seam button holes
  • Attach the buttons to the button plackets attached to the back dress piece. Ensure the buttons match up with the button holes. I found the easiest way to do this was by pinning the plackets together.
  • I then topstitched along each edge of the plackets to hold them together. This was so there wouldn’t be gaping in the dress as I moved.

 

sew a balmain inspired knit dress
Sew on the buttons
The body of the dress

Sleeves

  • If you are using a set in sleeve from a pattern make sure you transfer the markings to your fabric.
  • Sew a parallel row of stitches along the top of each sleeve. Sew one row 0.5 cm and one row 1 cm from the edge of the fabric.
  • Next, sew the underarm seams RST.
  • Use the gathering stitches to fit the sleeve into the armhole RST. Make sure the underarm seam matches up with the middle of the side seam placket. Furthermore, make sure the top of the sleeve matches with the middle of the shoulder placket. Try to keep the gathering even, you do not want areas of fullness.
  • Sew with a 1.5 cm SA

Hem:

  • Hem the sleeve: Finish the edge of the fabric, turn the edge under by 1.5 cm, press and stitch.
  • Finally, hem the dress: Finish the edge of the fabric, turn the edge under by 1.5 cm, press and stitch.
  • I sewed the hems with a ball point twin needle.

My Finished Balmain Inspired Knit Dress

Here is my finished Balmain inspired knit dress. Overall I am pleased with the outcome, especially with it being my first attempt to draft my own pattern. The main issues I have is that the hem it is a bit wavy. I tried to iron and steam it but had little success.I found pressing the fabric quite difficult as I was reluctant to take the heat too high with it being acrylic but couldn’t find the happy medium.

Sew a Balmain inspired dress
The final dress!

I have also done a price comparison of how much the Balmain dress cost vs how much it cost for me to make my version.

  • The Balmain dress from Net-a-Porter cost to £1,010.
  • My dress came to £42.67. Which included the cost of the fabric, needles, thread, buttons, interfacing and elastic tape.

So why not give it a go and make your own designer clothes!!!

For advice on how to sew with sweater knits visit How to Sew with Sweater Knits

If you like this then please come back for my next make which is my satin jacket with a tulle overlay.