Racerback Dress: A Tutorial + PDF Pattern

I was going to say something here like, “wow, it’s been ____ since I’ve posted a tutorial!”  But then I started scrolling back and decided the fill-in-the-blank was too embarrassing to put in type.  So let’s just say: awhile!

So here it is, my first tutorial in WAY too long, and my first ever pattern made available just for you fine Crafterhours readers, for the low low price of FREE!

If you saw Susan’s posts on Friday, you know that we’re currently involved with a project to send simple dresses to little girls in Africa, dresses that are weather appropriate and don’t have buttons or zippers that can break.  Well, it doesn’t get much simpler than this.  If you have an hour and a yard of fabric to spare, you could whip up two of these racerback dresses and make a difference in the life of a little girl in need.

So let’s jump in.
First gather your materials.  You’ll need:

– The Pattern!  Get it here.

– 1 yard of knit fabric (You’ll have a ton left over but due to the direction of stretch, you’ll need to start with this much.  You can fit a 12-18 month size on 3/4 yard.)  Good knits for this project include jersey, stretch jersey, interlock, or anything with a little stretch.  A baby rib (1×1) will work, but will be harder to keep from stretching as you sew.  Steer clear if you’re a knit newbie.

– Coordinating stretch fabric for the binding.  Rib knit is a great option here, but a stretch jersey will work perfectly too.  You will need three 20″ x 2″ lengths of this, with the direction of stretch going lengthwise.  A good option is just to cut off a 2″ length from selvedge to selvedge on 60″ wide knit fabric, if you have it.

– Thread that matches your binding fabric.

– Computer, printer, tape, scissors

Please note:  

– All seam allowances are .5″ unless otherwise stated.

– I made this tutorial using only my sewing machine, but for those of you who have a serger, feel free to use that for everything except the gathering stitch and hem.  For those of you who don’t have a serger, don’t feel like you’re missing out.  I actually find that this dress comes together just as easily and more accurately using a sewing machine because I have a bit more control.

– Finished garment measurements:

sizechart*this is the length for the larger size (the 8 in the size 7-8, for example).  You will make a deeper hem for the smaller sizes so they will be an inch or an inch and a half shorter (and can be let out to fit for another year!)

Step 1: 
Read the printing directions on the second page of the pattern before printing.  Tape each page together by matching up the letters encased in half-circles.  Be sure you’re taping within the pattern, not in the empty white space.  You will have a front piece, a lower back piece, and an upper back piece.  Cut out the appropriate size.

Step 2:
Lay each pattern piece along the fold of your fabric and cut around the edges to produce one symmetrical piece.

Step 3:
Cut your binding fabric.  Cut 1 60″ by 2″ strip from selvedge to selvedge, or if you don’t have fabric wide enough to do this, cut three 20″ by 2″ strips.  (for you metric fans, that’s 152 x 5 cm, or 51 x 5 cm)
Make sure you are cutting perpendicular to, or against the fabric grain.  The binding strip should stretch along the long edge.
Iron the binding in half lengthwise, wrong sides together.
Step 4:
Transfer the gathering marks to the front and lower back pieces.  Make sure you flip the pattern and mark the fabric on both sides of the original fold.
Here is the front piece with the start and stop points marked for gathering.  I used an air-soluble fabric marker on the wrong side of the fabric.
Step 5:
Using the longest stitch length on your machine, stitch about 1/4 away from the edge between the markings.  Gently pull the bobbin thread to gather the fabric as closely as possible.  Return to a normal stitch length and stitch over your previous stitching to hold the gathers in place.
Step 6:
Repeat steps 4 & 5 for the lower back piece, gathering until it matches the lower edge of the upper back piece.
Step 7:
Sew the upper back to the lower back, right sides together.
Step 8:
Sew one front and back shoulder seam, right sides together.  Leave the other one open for now.
Step 9:
The next seam will need to allow for some stretch, so a straight stitch is not recommended.  Use the “stretch stitch” option on your machine, or if you don’t have one, set your machine to a zig zag stitch.  The width should be slightly narrower than default, for my machine this is around a 2.  The stitch length can be lengthened slightly, for me this is around 2.6.
Step 10:
Place the two raw edges of the folded binding even with the raw edge of the neck at the open shoulder seam.  Sew through all 3 layers of fabric with your stretch stitch.  Use a 1/4 to 3/8 inch seam allowance, depending on how wide you want your binding to be.  Important: As you are sewing, use your right hand to stretch the binding fabric slightly.  If you pull it too tightly, your main fabric will pucker, but if you don’t stretch it at all, it will gap around the neck and arm holes.  Apply a light tension to it as you go and you’ll be fine.  If you’d like, practice a little bit first using scraps from your 2 fabrics.  Also be sure your main fabric doesn’t stretch at all.
Apply the binding all around the neck seam, cutting off any excess binding.  Depending on what seam allowance you chose, you might also want to trim the seam allowance down to about 1/8 inch so it doesn’t flip out to the front.  If it still wants to flip up a little, don’t worry.  Once it is on the wearer, it won’t do this.
Step 11:
Starting at the binding, sew across the remaining shoulder seam.
Step 12:
On the wrong side, you will see a fairly large and bulky seam allowance.
Trim the seam allowance on the back side of the dress to about 1/8 inch.
Then fold the longer seam allowance over the short one.  Tack it down by stitching down the binding forward and backward once.  You don’t need to stitch all the way down the shoulder seam.
Here is a picture of the binding tacked down on a different dress.  If you can’t really see it, that’s the point!
Step 13:
Apply the binding to both arm holes by repeating step 10.
Step 14: 
Starting at the binding, stitch the front and back pieces together at the side seams, right sides together.
Step 15:
Iron up the hem.  Because knit won’t fray, you only need a single fold hem.  If possible, try it on your wearer and determine hem depth from them.   If your wearer is not available, follow these guidelines: If you are making the smaller size (ie: a 5 in the size 5-6, a 7 in the size 7-8), iron up 1-1.5 inches.  If you are making the larger size (or a size 2), iron up .5 inches.
Step 16:
Hem the dress.  You can use a single or double row of straight stitches with a slightly longer stitch length, or you can use a double needle or coverhem machine.  Whatever is available to you is fine.
Step 17:
Stand back and admire!  Have a good friend pat you on the back!  If you’re so inclined and you’re reading this before the end of May 2012, send your beautiful new creation to Margaret so she can send it on to Africa for you!
I’ll be sending the one above and the one below, along with some fabric and notions from my stash.  Two handmade dresses may seem like too little to really make a difference, given all the unmet needs in this world.   But as the saying goes, it makes a difference to those two.  And that makes it worth it.


  1. says

    Thank you SO much for gifting us with your pattern and tutorial! What a great cause – there will be two very happy little girls who receive and wear your dresses:)

  2. says

    Adrianna, you are awesome! Thanks for sharing this tute with us, especially with enough time to send some off to share. :)

    • says

      Hi there,
      The link will open up a blank webpage, but somewhere on your computer it will also open up a small download dialogue box that will ask you if you want to view or save the file. You can choose from there and it will download it for you. If you minimize all your windows and still don’t see this little box, check your downloads folder and it may have been downloaded automatically. This is dependent on the type of computer/operating system you use and the settings you’ve chosen for downloads. Let me know if you still don’t find it and I’ll help you out!

  3. Anonymous says

    sorry but I couldnt get the pattern, the page didn´t had the litlle box you said and it is not in the downloads file, but when I try to find in the that file it show me a page if I want to dowload the program toopen it, do I have to do that, my mail rojasalvarado2003@yahoo.com

  4. says

    I’ve wanted to try sewing with knits…thanks for the inspiration! Is a straight stitch what a knit prefers?

    mama to 8
    One homemade and 7 adopted

  5. says

    I can’t download and get the following error:Error (403)
    It seems you don’t belong here! You should probably sign in. Check out our Help Center and forums for help, or head back to home.

    I tried your suggestions you gave another person in comments but it still isn’t working :(

  6. says

    Thanks for tthe tutorial but I have the same error (It seems you don’t belong here!) I’ve already registered but the error persist. If you could send it to me I’d appreciate it. Grettings from México

  7. says

    This is awesome! We live in East Africa and I can’t tell you the litte girls I see everyday whose clothes are falling off because the zipper is broken. This is great for my 2 girls as well!

  8. says

    What a great cause and fantastic pattern! I love how great it will look with any kind of printed knit (I’m a print fanatic!) I think it would be really cute if made out of vintage sheets too! Thank you so much for sharing!

  9. says

    Thank you so much for sharing the pattern! I love this style dress, and can’t wait to make some for all the little girls in my life! I love your blog and appreciate what you do soooooo much!

  10. Anonymous says

    Great dress! I have a slight problem, I don’t know if it’s from the knit I used but I made the size 8 for my daughter who is a size 10/12 but I figured tight would be ok. It’s actually too big and the arm holes are too big that her tiny chest shows. So i have to take it in. It actually fits me nicely as a shirt and I’m a size 12. But this could be the stretch in the fabric. I’m new to seeing with knits and it only took me an hour from cutting to finish. I will definetly make a couple for a local charity. Thank you!!

    • says

      Hi Anonymous!
      hm, it should definitely not be that big, even with a different type of knit (unless yours is stretching like mad crazy, but I doubt it). Maybe check your scaling? It must be at 100% and printed on letter paper. I made the largest size and tried it on my 6 yr old daughter and it was slightly too big, but didn’t show her chest or anything crazy. Is your 1″ square showing up as 1″? The front arm curve from shoulder seam to side seam should be somewhere in the vicinity of 8.5″.

      I’m glad the actual construction worked well for you! Thanks for helping out with a great cause!

      Send me an email directly at crafterhours@live.com if you need more help!

  11. says

    Wow this is really nice, I’m going to make some to send with my friend who is going back to work in an orphanage in Haiti. I was wondering if you had thought about sizing it up for bigger girls? I find so many great tutorials and patterns, but only up to sz. 6 or so and there are lots of little girls who aren’t so little that would love to have one, including my own. I am no good at sizing up, but if you have a good recommendation or wouldn’t mind doing a bigger size it would be great! Thanks for the great pattern!

  12. says

    Hi, I absolutely love this dress, I am having trouble downloading the pattern, I click on the link and all I get is Google drive home page with no dialog box. I hope I’m not too late…

  13. says

    thank very much
    i m french i not speack very good but i just said you extra your tuto i have make a tee shirt for my girl whit your tuto in my blog .very easy thank isabelle

  14. says

    I have been looking at this dress for a month, finally made it to a fabric store, (40 min drive to the closest one) and now the pattern link only takes me to a google documents page. Help!! I really love this dress!

  15. says

    The dress is adorable but like everyone else, I can’t get the tutorial/pattern like others. I think because Google is doing a transition from google docs to google drive. Old links are lost. Not smart on Googles part. Is it possible to get the pattern emailed to me? crafting4many@gmail.com Thank you so much.


  16. Anonymous says

    High-five!! Thank you so much for this tutorial! I will be sending this comfy dress in my Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes as well as making a couple for my girls!

  17. says

    Thanks so much! I whipped up two dresses for my girls last night. It was my first time working with a knit and thanks to your tutorial and great pattern, they turned out wonderfully!

  18. says

    Hello! Cut out 2 of these for my daughters last night. Anyone have experience cutting knit on the bias to make the binding? I have a stripe I would like to use…

  19. Alicia says

    This is so so so pretty I love it.thank you for being so generous Can you please tell me how to get the pattern on a tablet as I don’t have a computer. Please.m

  20. PJ says

    This is so cute, and my daughter is in desperate need of new summer clothing, but I can’t get the pattern to open. It keeps giving me an error message that it needs to reboot, then just goes in a reboot cycle. Help please!!!

  21. Eli says

    Just cutting the fabric now. But a question. Do you have to add the seam allowance or is it already in the pattern?

  22. DAnielle Lee says

    I’m an avid sewer, can you tell me a little more about the project for Africa? I would love to send something and do we send a dress to you or do you have a direct address to send to in Africa? Such a lovely idea. I’m not much into the blog world I just see you on FB and love your posts! So if you wouldn’t mind sending any info to my email I’d appreciate it. Thank you kindly! Danielle

  23. KChu says

    Thank you so much for this pattern. I have sewn a little with knits and I took on this project. To my surprise it came out great. No slip ups…whew! This project built up my confidence. Thank you again and love the racerback dress. I know I will be making plenty for my 2 girls since all they love are dresses!

  24. Pat Clark says

    I have just started making this dress for my grand-daughter and I have a question re Step 11. Is the shoulder seam a normal open seam with the fabric wrong sides facing?



  25. Rebecca says

    I cannot get the pattern pages to print. I thought it was because I recently started using Windows 10 but am able to print other pdf’s just fine. I can only print page 1 and anytime I try to print the current page (like page 10) it reverts back to page 1. If I try to print page 10-23 it just sends an error message “Sorry, did not print” I downloaded from Craftsy which is where the link takes you so maybe there is a problem with their file?

  26. Grace says

    Has anyone made this with a straight cotton not a knit? I have a fabric a fave fabric that I would love to make this style of dress with

    • says

      You’d have to make a number of adjustments to be able to get it over the kid’s head and body. A zipper on the side and an opening/button closure at the shoulder or back neck, at least. And then because knit patterns don’t include much ease, it still might not be comfortable to wear and/or could rip open at the seams. So… might be better off just looking for a pattern that’s made for wovens? You might be able to get away with making the front woven and the back knit or vice versa.


  1. […] summer dress for my animal-loving girl. After searching around for the right pattern*, I landed on this one from Crafterhours. It was exactly what I was looking for – simple but with a little detail […]

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