How to sewing with Jersey fabric?

Jersey Bettine dress - sewing pattern from Tilly and the ButtonsAs promised, here's my report on and tips for making the Bettine sewing pattern in jersey fabric.

Why would you make a Bettine dress in jersey?

First of all, there's the comfort factor. The Bettine dress is a relaxed fit dress designed with comfort in mind. Making it in jersey cranks the comfort factor up to eleven. This is literally the comfiest thing I've ever worn! A jersey Bettine is perfect for travelling in comfort and style, lounging around in comfort and style, going to the office in comfort and style... Can you tell I like it? ;)

The second reason to make a Bettine dress in jersey is because it suits the design of the dress. Patterns designed for stretchy fabrics are usually drafted differently from patterns designed for woven fabrics. The stretch in jersey usually changes the amount of ease needed in the pattern, and how it hangs and fits on the body. However, as the Bettine pattern has a relaxed, drapey fit rather than close fit, and as the shaping is created by an elasticated waist channel rather than darts or princess seams, it can be cut out in jersey with no changes to the main pattern pieces.Jersey Bettine dress - sewing pattern from Tilly and the Buttons Hooray! I made my jersey Bettine dresses in exactly the same size as I usually would. (And if you do find that your usual size feels big in jersey, you could simply take it in a bit at the side seams.)

So what changes do you need to make for jersey?

1) Avoid the pockets

First of all, I would avoid making the pocket version in jersey. I haven't actually tried it so feel free to prove me wrong, but my hunch is that the pockets would look a bit droopy in stretchy fabric. Better stick to the plain skirt version. It's quicker anyway!

2) Finish the neckline with a neckband

Secondly, I'd recommend replacing the neckline facing with a simple neckband - this will be less bulky, it won't try to pop out like a facing might in jersey, and it will pull in the neckline slightly so it doesn't gape in the stretchy fabric.

To make the neckband pattern, draw a rectangle to the following dimensions, depending on which size you're making:

Size 1 - 29.5cm (11 1/2in) x 5cm (2in)
Size 2 - 30cm (11 3/4in) x 5cm (2in)
Size 3 - 30.5cm (12in) x 5cm (2in)
Size 4 - 31cm (12 1/4in) x 5cm (2in)
Size 5 - 31.5cm (12 1/2in) x 5cm (2in)
Size 6 - 32cm (12 1/2in) x 5cm (2in)
Size 7 - 32.5cm (12 3/4in) x 5cm (2in)
Size 8 - 33cm (13in) x 5cm (2in)

Draw a "place on fold" arrow on one short side of the rectangle. This is your neckband pattern piece - fold your jersey lengthways and cut a double piece of fabric on the fold using this piece as a template.

Sew the front and back bodice pieces together at the shoulders as normal, but don't stay stitch the neckline. The steps for attaching the neckband are the same as for the Agnes top, so I'm borrowing the pictures from the Agnes sewing pattern instructions. Narrow zigzag stitch or overlock (serge) together the short edges, right sides together, to form a loop. Trim and press the seam allowances open. Fold the neckband in half lengthways, wrong sides together and press.
Pin the raw edges of the neckband to the right side of the bodice neckline, aligning the seam line on the neckband with one of the shoulder seams. The neckband is slightly smaller than the neckline so it pulls in the jersey and stops it gaping, so you'll need to stretch the neckband slightly as you pin it. Keep the amount of stretch even and try not to stretch the bodice itself.
Baste (tack) the neckband to the bodice neckline 10mm (3/8in) from the raw edges, gently stretching the neckband to fit. Depending on how stretchy your fabric is, you may find the neckline looks a bit gapey - in which case, unpick it, trim the neckband down and try again. Once you're happy with the neckband, narrow zigzag stitch or overlock (serge) it to the bodice neckline using a 15mm (5/8in) seam allowance.

Trim the seam allowances and press them to the inside of the bodice, pressing the neckband away from the bodice. With the bodice right side up, zigzag topstitch (or twin needle topstitch) the seam allowances to the bodice, close to the seam line, to keep them in place on the inside. Give the neckline a good press - steam can help neaten it up :)

3) Brush up on your jersey sewing skills

Thirdly (and obviously), sew the dress as you would normally sew something in jersey. Use a stretch or ballpoint needle, use a walking foot or dual feed foot on your regular sewing machine if you have one (not essential but recommended), sew the seams with a narrow zigzag stitch or an overlocker (serger), hem the dress with a wide zigzag or twin needle...

If you're new to sewing jersey or need some extra help, take a look at our online video workshop, Learn to Sew Jersey Tops, which will walk you through my no-fuss approach to sewing jersey on a regular sewing machine (you don't need an overlocker or serger), including tips on how to apply a neat-looking neckband.

4) Consider making a Bettine t-shirt!

And finally, as I was sewing together the Bettine bodice, I realised that if you lengthen the bodice pattern pieces - maybe by 20-25cm (8-10in) - you could make a super simple kimono sleeve jersey t-shirt. Knowing how quick this pattern is to sew already, the t-shirt version would probably only take about five minutes to make!! Ooh and wouldn't it'd be cute with the little cuff tabs and buttons?

If you make your own jersey Bettine dress - or any dress for that matter - don't forget to tag us in and use the hashtag #SewingBettine on Instagram or Twitter, or simply email us so we can see it and share it on the Maker Gallery. Can't wait to see!

PS. We've had quite a few emails and social media comments recently from people disappointed that our sewing patterns aren't stocked in a particular shop or country. While we ship patterns from our own shop worldwide, we are always working hard behind the scenes to expand our list of stockists, both in the UK and internationally. So if your favourite shops don't stock our patterns, please please please ask them to! We'd really appreciate your help in spreading the word and letting shops know that their customers are interested in buying our patterns from them. Thank you so much! :)

Sewing a jersey neckband - Tilly and the Buttons

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