Saturday, April 21, 2012

Robe Dresses

Last week I made two beach robe dresses for Jenna and Kate. The girls have resumed swimming lessons and while they still use their bathrobes, those sometimes flap open at awkward moments, like enroute to the car, in chilly weather. So I thought I'd make them some robe dresses, with hoods to cover their wet hair, that are easy to pull on and off.

I used stretch terry, rather than regular terrycloth because this is a dress that will go over their heads. I found stretch terry at Mill End Textiles, our local chain store. I looked for it in Joann but didn't see it there. I also saw some on but because I didn't get to touch theirs, I can't vouch for its quality. Even the stretch terry from Mill End came in different qualities - the pink was thinner and more stretchy than the chartreuse, for instance. After a run through the washer, though, they both fluffed up nicely.

Before we begin the tutorial, lets talk a bit about slopers

I made Kate's robe first. Now, Kate's most recent sloper was done two years ago. Since then, she's obviously grown and I've continued to use it, adding ease and adjusting the shape as I cut out new outfits for her, like last year's Halloween costume. This year, I thought I'd be clever and use Jenna's sloper for Kate and made an A-line robe pattern from it. I rationalized it thus -
  1. Jenna's sloper was made when Jenna was Kate's current age.
  2. Jenna and Kate share the same genes, being from the same family and all.
  3. This is a loose robe. The fit can't be all that bad, right? Especially since Kate is the same size as Jenna's sloper?
Hrmph. See for yourself.

This is Kate wearing Jenna's sloper-made-into-a-robe.

And this is Jenna, wearing the same Jenna's-sloper-made-into-a-robe, even though the sloper is 2 years out of date.

Do you see it? 

How it still looks great on Jenna, particularly in the area of the shoulders, chest and armscye? And how it doesn't look great on Kate, particularly in the area of the shoulders, chest and armscye? How it looks so square-shouldered on Kate, even though it's her "age" size, but looks perfect on Jenna's, even though it's 2 years too small? Just wanted to share these photos to show how truly customized a sloper is to its wearer. Even if it's too small/tight, a sloper it truly fits the shape of the wearer, and is not as transferable as it seems.

Anyway, I decided that if I were to share the pattern for this robe with you guys, that unversatile shoulder is not going to look good on a lot of your kids, unless their shoulders are exactly like Jenna's. So I turned the set-in-sleeve pattern

into a raglan sleeve pattern, which embraces all shoulders and postures. 


Here is the pattern to download:

All the pattern pieces are full-size. However, the front and back body pieces are incomplete (to save paper)- you will have to extrapolate the side seams and center front and center back lines to get the length you want. Just follow the slope of those lines and draw them as long as you need. 

This is in a size 5-6 (Jenna's size) but you should be able to adjust it up or down easily. In anticipation of your questions:
  • By adjusting the length of the sleeve and the width of the chest, you'll be able to make this pattern fit a variety of sizes of children. You might also want to make the sleeve narrower or wider for differently-sized children. But no, I am not going to show you how. That's part of learning to sew independently, and the practice is good for you.
  • No, I am not going to email you the pattern in smaller or bigger sizes, even if you write to me privately. 

  • 1 to 1.25 yards of stretch terry (54" width). If you are adapting this to a smaller or larger size, you can estimate the yardage with the help of this tutorial.
  • About 0.5' yard swimsuit lycra or cotton knit/french terry for lining.
  • 1 button

Other common-sense things to remember:
  • Transfer the sewing points from the pattern to the fabric, if you need to.
  • Mark on the fabric (including the sleeve) the front and back pieces or portions of pieces.
  • Add your own seam allowances to every single pattern piece, where necessary.
  • Finish and notch/snip your seam allowances, where necessary - I will be omitting this reminder from the instructions below.

Step 1
Cut out the following pieces

In stretch terry
  • 1 front piece (on the fold)
  • 1 back piece (on the fold)
  • 2 sleeves (in mirror image)
  • 2 hood pieces (in mirror image) -remember to cut the pattern on the line that says "outer hood" - it will be wider than the lining hood pattern.
  • 1 pocket (on the fold)
  • 1 facing piece (not included in pattern, use common sense)

In lining fabric
  • 1 pocket (on the fold)
  • 2 hood pieces (in mirror image) - remember to cut the pattern on the line that says "lining", which is different from the outer hood pattern. The lining hood pieces are narrower than the outer hood pieces.
  • 2 strips about 1.25" wide, on the bias, for binding the pocket openings.
  • 2 strips for sleeve cuff (optional), about 3" wide.

Step 2
Make narrow tube of stretch terry for the button loop. Mine was a little narrower than 0.25" wide (finished width), and long enough to go around the button, plus seam allowance. Set aside.

Step 3
Finish (e.g. serge) edges of the facing and pin, RS together, to front piece, midlines aligned.

Step 4
Sew around the midline, to make the front neck slit, as you would a typical faced neck opening. Mine was about 0.25" apart (between the two lines of stitching). Stop sewing about 0.75" from the edge of the neckline, to prepare to insert the button loop. Cut along the midline to open the slit. Insert the button loop facing away from this slit opening, and exactly as far down from the neckline as your neckline seam allowance. This is so that when the hood is sewn on later, the button loop will be exactly at the top of the slit opening. Finish sewing the slit opening, turn right side out, edge-stitch around the opening, and top-stitch to secure the facing to the front piece.

Step 5
Make the kangaroo pocket 

and sew it onto the front piece. 

You might find this tutorial useful. For help with binding the curved openings with the lining knit fabric, try this tutorial.

Step 6
Attach the sleeves to the front and back pieces. This tutorial may help with assembling raglan-sleeve garments. We will not sew up the sleeves or side seams yet, so that we can continue working with the flat garment while attaching the hood.

Step 7
Sew the back seam of the outer hood pieces to make an outer hood.
Repeat for the lining pieces, but leave an opening along the back seam (where it is straightest) of 5-6" long, for turning out later. Backstitch!!!

Step 8
Turn the hood lining RS out and stuff it into the outer hood. Sew around the edge (of the hood ensemble) that will frame the face. You will notice that the outer hood is wider than the hood lining - this is correct. The extra width will allow the stretch terry to make a folded hem over the lining later.

You will now have two hoods (let's call it a double hood for now) sewn together at their "face opening" edges.

Step 9
Line up the back seam of just the hood lining with the centre back of the neckline, so the RS of the hood lining is against the WS of the back neckline. 

Pin the entire lower edge of the hood lining around the neckline, finishing at the edge of the neck slit opening from Step 4. You will find that near the slit opening, the hood lining is a bit "short" and that you are pinning a bit of the outer hood to get all the way to the slit opening itself. This is correct - the outer hood will fold over the lining to make a hem to frame the face.

Using a smaller seam allowance than actual (My actual seam allowance was 0.5" for the neckline, so I used 0.25" here), sew around the neckline to attach the hood lining. This is a holding/positioning line of stitches for the actual seam in Step 10, and the narrower seam allowance will allow this stitching line to be hidden later in Step 10.

Step 10
Turn the entire garment inside out through the neck opening, and then stuff the entire garment into the double hood. You will now have a huge lump of fabric inside the double hood.

Align the back seam of the outer hood with the same center back of the neckline, 

mirroring what you did with the hood lining in Step 9, except that
  • the RS of the outer hood is against the RS of the neckline and
  • the neckline is sandwiched between the hood lining (already attached in Step 9) and the outer hood (about to be attached).

Pin and sew the outer hood to the neckline, as you did with the hood lining in Step 9. These will be a lumpy, cumbersome next few minutes, but bear with it, and trust me. At the infamous neck slit opening, you will notice that the outer hood has already folded over the lining layer.

Step 11
This part is magic (if you did it right, I mean; otherwise it will be curseworthy). Turn the entire garment out through that hole you left in the hood lining. You will have a perfect, perfect hood attached to a beautiful neckline with no exposed seam allowances (apart from the raglan seams), 

and a magical folded hem framing the face opening of the hood.

Step 12
Hand-stitch up the opening in the hood lining. Use the ladder stitch. Don't be lazy and machine-sew it closed, OK? After all the trouble you took to make an elegant hood-neckline seam, don't compromise with crude machine stitching here.

Step 13
Top -stitch around the bottom edge of the hood, to secure all the layers together near the neckline. Also top-stitch the folded hem around the face opening.

Step 14
Sew up the side seams and sleeves, and make the sleeve cuffs. You can make a simple folded hem, or a lined cuff

for some extra color 

Step 15
Finish the bottom hem of the dress.

Step 16
Sew on the button.


A reminder: I am happy to have you link to this tutorial, pin it, and tell others about it. For that, I thank you in advance. But it is NOT OK to copy this tutorial onto your site, or translate it, without my permission. 


  1. Cute!! And I LOVE that chartreuse fabric.

  2. Those would be great swimsuit coverups! I'm so glad I follow you!

  3. Me gusta mucho. Gracias por el tutorial

  4. These are really cute and it is nice you shared the pattern.

  5. Thats so cool! I love it, I'm in two minds whether to show it to my youngest as I'm sure she'll want one and I'll be stuck sewing one! Maybe.....
    BTW slight typo on cutting instructions for the terry fabric re the hood piece cutting lines, under the pocket rather than hood details

  6. That looks like an ideal swimsuit cover-up! And your models are adorable, as always! Kate is really shooting up, isn't she? :)

  7. very now i need to find a girl to make this for lol but its good idea for summer kids get cold after the pool or beach so i luv this idea

  8. Those look SO comfy, and thank you for sharing your pattern! Maybe I'll touch my sewing machine again. Need to sew up the two dresses I cut out last spring and never sewed up, first. Hopefully they'll fit.

  9. Thank you ! They are really nice, I'm going to go look for terry now. And make 2 of those. Thanks again !

  10. These are great! They'd also make cute sweatshirts! Thanks for sharing the pattern!

  11. Thank you so much for the pattern! It looks really good.

  12. What a great tutorial! Thank you so much! My grandchildren will LOVE cover-ups like these to wear to the pool! THANKS!

  13. THANK YOU so much for this great tutorial! My grandchildren will love cover-ups like these to wear to the pool this summer... THANKS!

  14. "That's part of learning to sew independently, and the practice is good for you."

    This is why I love to read your blog - I always feel you have something to teach me. This seems to apply to such an astonishing array of topics, be it sewing, psychology, physics, nurturing creativity in children, or run of the mill cardboard masterpieces.

    Thank-you :o)

  15. "That's part of learning to sew independently, and the practice is good for you."

    This is why I love to read your blog - I always feel you have something to teach me. This seems to apply to such an astonishing array of topics, be it sewing, psychology, physics, nurturing creativity in children, or run of the mill cardboard masterpieces.

    Thank-you :o)

  16. "That's part of learning to sew independently, and the practice is good for you."

    This is why I love to read your blog. I always feel you have something valuable to teach me, be it sewing, psychology, physics, nurturing creative children, or just to peer inside the mind of a creative cardboard genius.

    Thank-you :o)

  17. You are so damned talented! thanks for this one. My 4yo has a terry towelling dress we bought late last year- she'd live in hers if she could. This will be great to make the next couple of sizes up.

  18. Thank you for the hood tutorial. I linked to it on a Dutch sewing forum, I think this is a very nice way to line a hood!

  19. Lovely work, thank you for sharing. I have linked to you on my blog, hope that is okay!

    Suze x

  20. Three cheers for perfectly finished garments! Well done.

  21. Hi Lier, it´s me again; I love your posts, please, dont stop written for us, never!!kisses and thank you for your creativity

  22. You still continue to amaze me! Thanks for sharing all your wonderful ideas!

  23. Terrific project and the most beautiful girls!!!

  24. Just finished up one of these for my daughter. Next to shrink the pattern for my tiny boy. Thanks so much!

  25. Do i need to add seam allowance on the cut lines for the hood?

    1. I haven't looked at this template for a long time, so I might remember wrong, but yes, you will need to add SA to all my patterns. I don't draft SA into my patterns. Unless I state specifically that SA are added already, which I highly doubt with this pattern. Good luck!

  26. I am in the process of designing a coverup for one of my students - but she wants it sleeveless! I really like your concept of the raglan sleeve - as it fits most everyone else. This will make great gifts for my granddaughters.

  27. Thank you for this pattern and tutorial. I have been looking on pinterest and love your design the best! Getting a head start to keep my little one dry and fashionable after swim lessons. Thank you again and greatly appreciated!


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