Turn a simple plain top or dress into something unique by adding some decorative elements to the fabric before you cut out the pieces for a fitted bodice and create a stylish ‘one-of-a-kind’ garment. Some sewing experience required.


  • Cut a rectangle of fabric slightly larger than centre front bodice section.
  • Starting at the centre and working outward, draw vertical lines an equal distance apart using an air soluble pen.
  • Press lightly along each line forming folds. Pin tuck along each line using a pin tuck foot (alternatively take a very narrow fold in fabric down vertical lines, press then stitch close to fold. Repeat for each pin tuck)

Adding decorative stitching

  • Place pattern piece central to pin tucks, then outline shape using air soluble pen. Remove pattern piece.
  • Stabilise fabric with a tearaway or soluble stabiliser as a backing, then work decorative stitches down length of the pin tucks. (nb: Try out different stitches before starting on the bodice front).
  • When complete, press fabric before placing pattern back in position. Adjust if necessary. Cut pattern piece to shape.

Piping Seams

Adding piping gives a nice definition to seam lines. I’ve used the same fabric as bodice to make the piping strips, cut wider to accommodate the 15 mm (5/8″) seam allowances of standard dress patterns. If the dress is to be lined these can be trimmed after seaming. An unlined dress would benefit from reducing the seams to 1 cm (3/8″). This way the dress seam allowances can be overlocked to neaten before assembly.
NB. The piping technique is slightly different for seams than edges.

  • Make up piping by cutting strips of fabric on the bias 3 cm (1 ¼”) wide. Fold in half with a thin piping cord sandwiched within the fold. Stitch long edges together close to cord (using a zip foot).
  • Pin piping to seams, right sides together, taking care to ease the piping around curves to avoid puckering. Sew as close as possible to the piping cord (if necessary, move needle position as far over as possible).
  • Now, when sewing the second layer (other garment piece), stitch directly on top of the previous sewing line. This will enable the seams to be pressed open creating a flatter, neater finish.
  • Continue to make up garment following pattern instructions.

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