Welcome back to our Back-to-School Dress Sew-Along, sponsored by Janome! We are creating an adorable back-to-school dress (sizes 4–8) designed by Alicia Welcher, assistant editor of Classic Sewing magazine. In this final lesson, we’ll put all the pieces together and finish our dress. Our sew-along instructions highlight the new Janome Continental M17 sewing and embroidery machine, AcuAssist app, Embroidery Link app, and many other interactive features. While you may use any machine, the Continental M17 makes sewing this dress a creative pleasure! As part of this sew-along, you also have the chance to win a Janome Travel Mate 16 sewing machine, which includes every feature you would need for basic sewing or sewing on-the-go. Visit our sew-along homepage to learn more about these two great machines, enter the giveaway, catch up on previous lessons, and more.
Be sure also check out Alicia Welcher’s NEW Back-to-School Sew-Along lesson companion videos here to see some of her favorite features of the Continental M17 in action!
Note: For best results, please download the files on a computer and NOT a mobile device.
Note: The dress patterns and machine embroidery designs are included in Lesson 1.
1. All seams are sewn using a 3/8” seam allowance, unless otherwise noted.
2. Finish all seams using a 3-thread narrow overlock on a serger or trim seam allowance to 1/4” and zigzag by sewing machine.
Matching Plaids while Sewing
- Start matching plaids at the hem edge of each piece and work your way to the top. Remember that the plaids will not match at the upper backs of each side back to center back due to the curvature of the princess seams. Plaids will also not match at the shoulders for the same reason.
- Pin liberally and sew slowly, keeping the plaids matched as you go.
Locate All Dress Pieces
- Embellished Yoke
- Yoke Lining
- Right and Left Collars
- Lower Front Skirt
- Two Side Fronts
- Two Center Backs
- Two Side Backs
- Two Sleeves
- Two Sashes
1. Run two rows of gathering threads at the top of the lower front skirt (SL=3.5-4). Run the first row at 1/2” and the second at 1/4” from the raw edge.
2. Gather the lower skirt front to fit the bottom edge of the yoke. Using a narrow piping or zipper foot and having the yoke on top, sew the lower skirt front to the yoke. Have the needle positioned against the piping cord.
3. Place the yoke lining to the lower skirt front, right side of lining to wrong side of lower skirt front. With the yoke on top, stitch through all layers following the previous stitching.
4. Stitch again 1/8” away from the first stitching. Trim the seam allowance close to this second stitching line.
5. Press the yoke and yoke lining away from the lower skirt front. Align all raw edges of the yoke and the yoke lining. Stitch through both layers on top of the stitching that attached the piping to the yoke. Baste around the shoulders and neckline using a 1/4” seam allowance (photo 1).
6. Place one side front to the yoke/lower front skirt unit, right sides together. Stitch with the yoke on top. Have the needle against the piping while stitching the yoke.
7. Place the other side front to the other side of the yoke/lower front skirt unit and stitch.
Finish the seams and press the seam allowances away from the center front (photo 2).
1. On each center back, fold the back placket edge to the wrong side on the fold line and press well.
2. Unfold and fuse a 1” strip of fusible interfacing to the back placket edge with one long raw edge of the interfacing aligned with the fold line of the center back. There will be approximately 1/8” of fabric extending beyond the other long raw edge of the interfacing. Trim any excess length of interfacing prior to fusing.
3. Using a 3-thread narrow overlock, clean finish the back placket edge. Do not cut fabric as you serge. Alternately, finish with a zigzag.
4. Place one side back to one center back, right sides together, and stitch (photo 3).
5. Place the other side back to the other center back, right sides together, and stitch.
6. Press the seam allowances toward the center back.
Collars & Neck Facing
1. Place the dress front right sides together with the dress back, aligning the raw edges at the shoulders. Stitch the shoulders. Press seam allowances toward back.
2. Place the collars to the neckline, wrong side of collar to right side of neckline. Align the shoulder markings with the shoulder seams. The fronts of the collar should overlap in the seam allowance and the piping should just “kiss” at the 3/8” seam allowance. The backs of the collar should line up with the marked center backs.
3. Baste the collars to the neckline using a 1/4” seam allowance (photo 4).
4. Fold the back placket to the right side on the fold line. The collar should be sandwiched between the back and the back placket (photo 5). Baste the top of the placket in place.
5. Fold the neck facing strip in half lengthwise and press. Press into a curve to mimic the curve of the neckline (photo 6).
6. Place neck facing on top of collars and plackets, overlapping the plackets by 1/2”, all raw edges aligned (photo 7).
7. Stitch neck edge. Move needle position into the seam allowance between the stitching line and the edge and stitch again. Trim close to second row of stitching (photo 8).
8. Press facing away from neck edge and understitch seam allowance to bias (see photo 9).
9. Turn the plackets and facing to the inside and pin in place (photo 9). The facing should not be seen from the outside of the dress. Hand-whip the facing to the dress or lift the collar and machine stitch in place.
1. Fold one sash strip right sides together lengthwise to measure 1-1/2” wide. Sew one short end and one long edge.
2. Trim the corner, turn sash right side out and press well. Use a point turner to ensure that the corners turn nicely.
3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 for the other sash strip.
4. Place the sashes to the right side of the dress front. Align the bottom edge of the sash (the edge with the seam) with the bottom of the side of the yoke and have the short raw edges of the sash aligned with the raw edge at the side of the dress front (photo 10). Place one sash on each side. Baste in place. Note: In photo 10, the plaids appear to be aligned when the sash is on top of the dress. This is purely by chance. Do not try to align your plaid here.
Side Seams & Sleeves
1. Place the front to the back, right sides together and align the side seams. Stitch and finish seams.
2. Place the sleeves into the armholes, aligning the notches and the underarm seam with the side seam of the dress.
3. Ease the cap of the sleeves to fit the armholes. Ensure that the easing of the sleeves is equally distributed between the notches. Pin in place (photo 11).
4. Stitch the sleeves into the armholes.
Hem & Placket
1. With the back plackets extended, clean finish the hem of the dress with a serger. Do not cut fabric as you serge. Fold the serged edge to the wrong side 1/4” and press. Alternately, you can baste 1/4” away from the raw edge and turn the hem to the wrong side on the basting line.
2. Turn the hem to the wrong side 1-3/4”. Turn and press the hem at the seams first, then pull up on the basting thread or the needle thread of the serged edge to ease in the fullness of the hem. This will cause gathering on the back of the hem that will not show from the front (photo 12, left half pinned at seams, right half finished).
3. Stitch the hem in place near the fold.
4. Turn each back placket to the wrong side on the placket fold line and press well. Take care to keep the plaid lines matching. Stitch each placket to the back near the inside finished edge. Topstitch each placket near the outer fold.
5. Hand stitch the lower edge of each placket at the hem.
Buttons & Buttonholes
Method 1: Conventional Method
1. Stitch the buttonholes on the right back placket as follows:
a. Place the first buttonhole 3/8” from the folded placket edge and 1/2” down from the neck edge.
b. Place the remaining buttonholes (6 more for size 4; 7 more for sizes 6 and 8) the following distance apart:
- Size 4: 3-1/2”
- Size 6: 3-1/2”
- Size 8: 3-3/4”
2. Use the buttonholes to mark button placement on the left back placket.
3. Sew the buttons to the left back placket.
Method 2: Machine Embroidery
Note: Minimum hoop size required is 200x300mm.
1. Pull up the buttonhole embroidery design for your specific dress size.
2. Hoop medium tear-away stabilizer in the RE46d hoop. If using another machine, be sure to choose the design that will fit your chosen hoop.
3. Stitch Color 1 on stabilizer only. This will stitch the placement lines (photo 13).
4. Place the placket of the dress to the placement line on the left-hand side of the hoop, with the dress right side up. The top of the placket should be aligned with the short horizontal line and the outside fold of the placket should be aligned with the long vertical line. Pin in place outside the placket or use temporary spray adhesive to hold the dress in place.
5. Stitch Color 2. This will stitch the buttonholes on the placket (photo 14).
6. Carefully remove the fabric from the stabilizer. Take care to only have small holes in the stabilizer where the buttonholes were stitched (see photo 15).
7. Align the placket of the dress to the placement line on the right-hand side of the hoop, with the dress right side up. Align the center of the last buttonhole with the short horizontal line and the outside fold of the placket with the long vertical line (photo 15). Hold the dress in place as before.
8. Stitch Color 3. This will stitch the buttonholes on the placket.
9. Carefully remove the fabric from the stabilizer. Tear away any excess stabilizer remaining.
10. Sew the buttons to the left back placket, opposite the buttonholes.
We’re done! Thank you so much for joining us for the Back-to-School Sew-Along. We hope you have enjoyed creating this dress and learning all about the Janome Continental M17.
More About the Janome Continental M17
Janome is proud to introduce the Next Generation Combo machine, which combines the top features of their most decorated machines to maximize your creative potential. The largest sewing area in the industry is matched with the largest embroidery space. High-Definition Quilting, and the Fastest Sewing speeds, are just a few of the 100 reasons to love this new model. The 10″ high-definition color touch screen, plus ergonomically located line of sight screen, make stitch changes and embroidery easy and enjoyable. Introducing new features such as the Thumbwheel function means you can delicately control the needle position to finish those intricate sewing projects.
Over 1,200 built-in embroidery designs and the largest embroidery hoop in the industry at 30″ opens up a whole new world of design capabilities. Five included embroidery hoops to use with built-in programs from monogramming to sashiko and everything in between. Janome original features such as AcuFeed, QuiltBlockAdvisor, and Artistic Digitizer are included. Let the Continental M17 take you to the highest level of your creative abilities.
Technology & Engineering Features We Love
The Continental M17 is packed with advanced features and industry firsts to create the ultimate sewing/embroidery experience, from the Easy Open Top Cover with Magnetic Storage to the Two Advanced LED Touchscreens. SFS-I Intelligent Feed system, Optical Bobbin Sensor, and PC Software, including Stitch Composer and the optional AcuStitch program! Check out all the design and development that has gone into this machine.