You are currently viewing THE MAGIC KNIT DRESS

By Pati Palmer with Helen Bartley

This dress is from the new Butterick patterns B6940 and B6941. Sewing this dress is like magic. The bodice is lined to the edge, which finishes the neckline (and armholes of View A). Helen Bartley, author of Fit and Sew Custom Jeans, spent a whole day figuring out the sewing order. We took photos of every sewing step to make it easier for us to write the guide and for Butterick to do the art.

To wear the dress, just pull it over your head and add accessories to suit the occasion. Dressing in a dress is so easy!

BONUS! If you decide to sew this dress, see Helen’s video on sewing a lined-to-the-edge sleeveless dress on the Palmer/Pletsch YouTube channel. 

Clicking on the image below will take you to the video. Watch a few times and then follow the guidesheet as you sew.

Butterick asked us to buy the knit fabrics and to sew the six dresses shown on the envelope covers, shown below. We chose polyester/spandex and rayon/spandex jerseys for Misses envelope Views A & B, and polyester interlock knits for all the others. All have good stretch recovery. (To test, stretch a small amount of fabric on the cross-grain. Does it recover completely?)

Familiarize yourself with the pattern pieces to make sewing easier.

There is one bodice for views B and C with sleeves and another for the sleeveless view A, which has a set-in armhole. There are also separate bodices for the linings, which are shaped differently than the bodices because the lining waist has fewer gathers to reduce bulk.

pattern pieces for knit dress

(Our video shows a contrast lining for clarity, but you will be using self-fabric.)

The shapes of pattern pieces tell you which edges to sew together.

We included this road map in the guide. The collar is part of the front. The top edge is the center back and the left edge is sewn to the back neck. The upper front V neckline is also sewn to the back neck edge to form the neckline folds.

Save time and fabric

Save time and fabric by placing the CF and CB skirt pieces on the fold, depending on your fabric width and your size. The front is on the straight grain. Simply eliminate the CF and CB seam allowances. Check layout before cutting.

Also save fabric on the four bodice pieces if the fabric is wide enough. Refold the selvages toward the center. Can you cut front and back bodices side-by-side from one length (to make the four bodice pieces)?

cutting layout
cutting layout
Fit Tip

As per the revised Chapter 4 in our Knits for Real People book, we do not fit the tissue all the way to the center front and back because the knit will stretch. A more stable knit should come to within ½” of CF, or within 1” for a stretchy knit. You can also adjust the side seams when fitting.

If you are full-busted, a bust adjustment will give you a better armhole fit and no stress wrinkles across the bust. But, as shown in the guidesheet, closing line 2 transfers the dart to the lower seam. Simply gather up the bodice more to fit the band.

bust adjustment on pattern tissue

Fabric fitting the raised waistband

Well, why not just try on the band?!

Pro Tip

You won’t need to interface the band for most knits, especially polyester/spandex interlock, but if your knit is a lightweight rayon jersey, the waistband may benefit from interfacing. PerfectFuse Light, a weft interfacing with lengthwise stability and crosswise give, will add body, but not bulk. Cut with the crosswise direction going around the body so it will stretch a little when you pull the dress over your head. Fuse to the outer band only, following package directions.

What follows are a few important TIPS that are in the guide and Helen’s video.

If you sewed all of these dresses, you too could write this blog!
three knit dresses

We drew the alteration lines on the pattern tracing since this is a Palmer/Pletsch Tissue-Fitting design.


1. Mark a “W” on the wrong side of all pieces if both sides are the same.
2. Mark stitching lines for the V neck.
3. Mark stitching lines for the shoulder/back neck seam intersections.
basting and marking
reinforce shoulder and collar
4. Mark circles for beginning and ending of machine basting for gathering.
5. Gather using a 3–3.5 mm stitch length for more even gathers. Follow the PRO TIP in the guidesheet, changing the bobbin to a contrast thread so you can easily pull it out when done sewing.
shoulder gathers

This stitching guide is our new favorite notion. The Sewing With Color Label was created and trademarked by one of our Certified Sewing Instructors, Yvonne Gutierez from Puerto Rico. We sell it on the website on the notions tab. The 1/8” spaced lines make for easy straight stitching for even gathers.

Carefully follow Yvonne’s directions when sticking the label to the throat plate of your machine.


The two important areas to press are the center back collar seam and the front V.
Press the gathers at center back, within the seam allowance, flat. Then trim seam to 3/8” and press the seam open.
Trim seam allowance.

Press only the bottom of the V over a ham from the wrong side. The upper section of the V is hidden by the neck pleats.

Helen Bartley wearing the knit dress.

When sewing band and band facing to the bodice, pin them together and make the gathers fit evenly. Sandwich the bodice between the bands and sew on the seamline. Then serge and trim the seam to 3/8” to flatten the bulk. Remove all basting layers.

The lower edge of the band is basted together and sewn to the skirt as one. The seam is pressed toward the band.

seam sewed toward band
Don’t forget to watch Helen’s video to see all the steps for making the View A bodice lined to the edge on the Palmer/Pletsch YouTube channel.

Now the fun begins


How many ways can I accessorize a basic black pullover knit dress?

I brought a variety of shoes, handbags, and jewelry to our photoshoot. I created a summer casual and a dressier winter look. I also brought “bling” for a fancy night out.

Helen thinks I need knee-high boots! We’ll see.


accessories for black knit dress

Have fun!

Pati Palmer

This Post Has 11 Comments

  1. Joy

    I think that black dress is just awful. The color — not the dress. Patti would look so much prettier in a pretty spring blue or maybe coral. I don’t really care for the neckline on this one. It looks like two different necklines stuck together or something. Just my opinion. I usually love everything P&P. I have all the books, DVD’s, interfacing, etc.; and I teach the fitting system all the time on my channel. Just don’t care for this neckline or the black on Patti. Sorry, but you did ask.

    1. Pati Palmer

      I agree with you 100%. Black is a little overpowering for my low contrast coloring. Actually, I am wearing the dress we sewed for photography because I didn’t have time to sew it for me yet. My dress was sewn from the size 10 tracing sent to us from Butterick. I sew with a 12 so the fit is a bit tight. Since I wanted a little black dress and have the fabric, I will reconsider and look for a pretty color. Honesty is always appreciated. Thank you. Pati Palmer

  2. Pati Palmer

    Just one more thought. Since you teach fit, you can probably tell that Helen and I are both wearing dresses sewn for photography for the pattern envelopes and not altered for us. Looking closely, you can see that the coral dress Helen altered to fit her looks fabuloous. Good fit makes such a difference in how clothes look on us! In the future, I won’t model the garments we sewed for the model. Great lesson. Thanks again. Pati

  3. Denise M.

    I love the neckline on this dress! I think it is very feminine and flattering but not fussy. The raised waistline is nice too. I will try this!

  4. Ann

    Great photos. I really like the shoulder seams (not too narrow) and the front waistline effect – potentially good camouflage for my not-tiny tummy. Thank you for your post.

  5. sammi

    The pattern numbers are 6940 misses and 6941 full-figure. They are listed as 6941 and 6942.

    1. Pati Palmer

      Thank you. Would you like to be our editor?? We all missed that one!! Pati Palmer

  6. Joey

    The dress looks good on you Pati! The fabrics from Butterick looks so high quality. Thanks for explaining and showing the pattern anatomy which is for me the best part! Not to mention the sewing patterns you also showed in the pictures!

  7. Patty

    Nice work~. I don’t look well in black color! I am fair skin: dark eyes/ hair brown. My best colors are primary colors as well. Not yellow or olive green either. I’ve been seeing since 1954. I’m now retired and began sewing in 2020. Since I’m locked up from crowds (virus) am wit many allergic to shot.

  8. Karen Brunsdale

    In the picture of the center back gathers being pressed there is some sort of tape over the gathers. Can you tell me what that is? I’m always looking for tricks to make my sewing more professional!

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