Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Spaghetti Strap Tank Dresses

Made these quick summer dresses for the kids to wear while we're in Singapore. These are about the easiest dresses to make. However, they are also the easiest dresses to fit badly. I've often seen these on kids with terrible armscyes - huge and droopy and gapey. Very scary. 

Anyway, I've made these before - see here and here.

These are cotton knit dresses, so they're stretchy and comfortable. The front neckline is bound first,

and then the back neckline,

and then the armholes are bound, with the shoulder straps sewn as extensions of the armhole binding.

I thought I'd show you three methods for binding armholes like these. 

Method 1 is this very casual, inelegant, but fast method - bind the armholes while the front and back of the dress are still separate, and then sew the ends of the bias tape into the side seams when you sew those seams to join the front and back of the dress together.

This is not at all a polished way to bind anything, but it's convenient if you aren't sure how long the straps should be. This is especially so if you are using knit fabric for the straps - they tend to stretch while sewing, no matter how careful you are. So if they end up too long, you can easily unpick them and reposition the binding to get shorter straps.

Here are some of the other cotton knit versions.

No, I didn't iron them - just chucked them directly into the suitcases after sewing.

Kate has worn her old frilly rose dress almost to tatters, so I made her a replacement in turquoise/teal.
And, um, I don't think I even finished the hem. I'll need to get scissors sometime and do it. 

Method 2 is the elegant method of binding armholes, which is the method everyone should use, always. But it isn't practical if you're also trying to gauge the fit of the straps while sewing. Anyway, for this method, you complete the side seams of the dress first. Then you sew the bias tape/binding into a loop with RS together. This is assuming you already know how long the shoulder strap needs to be and can confidently make the loop the exact size necessary. Then you position that bias tape seam exactly over the side seam of the dress, and bind the armhole the usual way. 

Method 3 is an especially good way to bind an armhole if you want the straps to be adjustable. We used it in this version of the tank dress, with tied shoulder straps. This is made with polyester jersey and it's fabulously drapey and cool, almost like a swim wrap. 

Sew up the side seams of the dress first. Then bind the armhole with one long strip, leaving long straps on either side of the necklines as shown.

Then tie the ends together to the desired length. Couldn't be easier.

All ready for summer! Or Singapore. Same thing.

Here are partial templates you can download to sew your own dresses, if you want. There are no seam allowances included, so you'll have to add your own. Read pg 3 for notes on how to finish the templates and add the SA, as well as the sequence for putting the dress together.


  1. Thank you for sharing this! My little girl is not so girlie, so I think I will make her a top instead of a dress.

  2. You are a Rock Star! Beautiful dresses, happy girls!

  3. Oh, if only my little girl were to wear dresses again! I love making these little shift dresses. Do you think sewing some clear elastic into the binding would help the knit not overstretch over time? Just a thought...

  4. I always find knits so hot to wear compared to woven cottons in the summer -- perhaps not so in this style of dress?

  5. What great summer dresses. It's starting to look like we will be moving back to Singapore in the middle of the year. I'll have to try whipping a few of these up for my girls. It's incredibly generous of you to share your pattern, especially when you are probably really busy getting ready for your trip.

  6. I love the first picture. So chic in sunglasses! Enjoy your break from winter. We're starting to see some peeks into spring up here in Vermont.

  7. Ahhhhh!! So cute!! They look like such comfy dresses, especially for hot, humid weather such as Singapore's.

    Yes, I'm still alive... and meaning to email... but somehow my best-laid plans aren't working out. But I'm fine and will hopefully write soon!

  8. These are great and I'll definitely have to make a few for my dress-loving girls! Funny...I just made similar dresses for their dolls not too long ago (from your pattern, of course!) Thank you so much for sharing your talent. I haven't sewed for years but you've inspired me to dust off the ol' sewing machine and crank out a few projects :)

  9. Thank you for the pattern. As the Grammie of eight granddaughters it will be very useful!!

  10. Your girls are so adorable. Your posts always inspire me to get back into my sewing room. Thanks for making me smile as usual!

  11. I have been following your site for 8 years plus. Thanks so much for making your patterns so simple to understand, and the free patterns that are so adorable for boys and girls.

    Love to sew grandmother.

  12. I have been following your site for 8 years plus. Thanks for making your patterns easy to understand, and for the free patterns that are so adorable for boys and girls.


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