How To Make A Jumper Dress

by | Jul 9, 2018

Kitty Cat Dress

Birthday Jumper Dress

My daughter had a birthday recently, so I decided to make a jumper dress for her to wear to her party. We were out shopping the week before the party and she found a dress she liked at a store. Since I wanted to make her dress, it took some convincing to not buy the one at the store. I promised that we could go look at fabric. And, if she didn’t find a print she liked, we could come back and buy the dress.

Fortunately, she picked out a pattern that had a pink background and white kittens. She initially wanted princesses, but justified the kittens by claiming that they were princesses too. After getting the fabric picked out and finding some coordinating thread, we came home and picked out a free pattern from Jordan Fabrics. Follow the link to find downloadable patterns and an instructional video.

Material Prep

Kitty Cat Fabric

I learned something very valuable through the preparation of the material on this project. I decided to pre-wash the material before making the jumper dress. My mistake was that I had already cut the fabric to size before I washed it. As a result, the cut edges of the material frayed about a half inch during the washing and drying process. I had to trim the frayed edges off which left the pieces too small. It was the skirt of the dress though, so I had some room to work with.

So, in hindsight, I should have pre-washed before I made any cuts. In the future I will pre-wash first, or not pre-wash at all. (With the quality of fabrics these days it’s not essential to pre-wash anymore anyways.) After getting the material washed and the frayed edges trimmed, I downloaded and printed the pattern. This pattern is super simple, and easy to understand. I have no pattern experience especially when making clothes. In fact, this is the first article of clothing I have ever made.

Jumper Dress: The Sizing

The sizing of the pattern from Jordan Fabrics is a little different than the sizing of commercially made clothing. She based her sizes on the general size of a child by age. For example, a size 4 would fit a 4 year old child, a size 3 would fit a 3 year old child and so on. As explained in the video, this is because their customers often knew the age of the child they were buying for, but not the size. Because my daughter turned 4, I made her the size 4 dress. It turned out to be a little big for her. But, I added a tie string in the back to help it fit better. Also, she’ll wear it for a year or two.

Jumper Dress: The Bodice

kitty cat fabric bodice
kitty cat fabric jumper dress bodice

To make the bodice I pinned my pattern to the material following the directions. I cut the bodice in 6 pieces, 3 for the outside and 3 for the lining. The front of the bodice is 2 pieces and will be buttoned closed, while the back is 1 solid piece and cut on the fold. The back lining piece and outside piece can be cut at the same time, and the front and lining left can be cut and the front and lining right can be cut at the same time. Once the bodice pieces were cut out I sewed the top of the pieces for the arm holes and the sides together.

For the outside of the dress I sewed the 2 front pieces right sides together across the top where it would go over the shoulder. I repeated this for the lining piece and then placed the lining piece on top of the outside piece right sides together. Next I sewed around the arm holes. After that I turned the piece right side out and pressed everything.

Jumper Dress: The Skirt

The first thing I did with the skirt section is sew the seam in the back to make the skirt a loop. The second thing I did was sew the hem. I folded about a 1/2″ and pressed. Then I folded another 1/2″ and sewed a straight stitch.I found the skirt to be a bit of a challenge at first. In the video she uses a commercial sewing machine with a presser foot that gathered the material. I don’t have a presser foot to gather material so I had to improvise.

A quick search on YouTube yielded several different explanations on how to gather with 2-3 straight stitches.I sewed three parallel straight stitch lines along the top of the skirt. Then I separated all the top threads and tied them together and all the bottom threads and tied them together. (Tying the threads together is not necessary. This is something I added myself to make it easier to keep track of what threads were what.)

Next, I pulled on the top and bottom threads separately and began to work the material to the center to form gathers. Once I had the top of the skirt gathered to about the size of the bottom of the bodice, I found the front and back by locating my seam. Then I folded the skirt in half again to find the sides. I put a pin at the front and at the two middle points between the front and back so there were pins dividing the skirt into quarters. I continued working the gathers evenly between the pins and sewed a straight stitch around to lock the gathers in place.

Jumper Dress Assembly

jumper dress bodice and skirt

Once I had the skirt gathers spaced evenly and the bodice sewn, I put them together by turning the bodice wrong side out and lowering it in the top of the skirt.Then I aligned the seam of the back of the skirt with the center of the back of the bodice and pinned everything in place making sure it was even as I went.Once I finished pinning, I began to sew. After sewing all the way around I zigzag stitched the edges and turned the dress right side out.

The Back Ties

(I just want to say that given my druthers, I would have sewn the ties in while I was constructing the jumper dress.)  Because this jumper dress was too large for my girl and it was already completely finished I had to add some ties to the back. To do this I used a seam ripper in the side seams of the bodice. It was not easy to rip the seams and resew them to look like the original, but I don’t think anyone will notice them.

To make the ties I cut two strips about 2.5″ wide by 15″ long using a .25″ seam allowance. I folded the material in half wrong sides together and sewed one end, and the long edge. Then I turned in right side out and pressed it.Once I had my two straps I sewed the unfinished end into the seams I opened in the bodice. Then I pinned it in place, turned it wrong side out, and sewed the straps in.

No Serger, No Problem

A serger is a helpful sewing machine that finishes seams. It uses 4 threads to create a locking stitch that seals the 2 pieces of a seam together so they cannot fray. The stitch is secure and has a very polished professional look to it. I don’t have a serger.It is not necessary to spend the money on a serger if you are not sewing professionally. I sew for fun and don’t have a budget for extras like a serger. To get similar results that lock the seam and create a finished edge you can use a ZIGZAG stitch. A zigzag stitch set as wide as your machine will go and with a fairly short stitch length will get you decent results. It won’t be quite as pretty as a serger, but it’ll be just as functional.

When you zigzag stitch a seam with a regular sewing machine make sure you have the widest stitch available.

Also make sure you have a reasonably short stitch length. You can adjust these based on what you’re sewing and your personal preferences. There isn’t some magic setting that’ll get you magic results. As you zigzag your seam keep one side of the thread outside of the fabric.

In other words, the needle on one side of you seam will pierce the fabric and on one side will NOT pierce the fabric. As you sew the thread tension will pull the thread tight out side of the fabric and create a locking stitch much like a serger.This is the method I use and I get good results. The more you practice the better and easier it will be. I use a vintage Kenmore sewing machine and don’t have a lot of the new fancy features and accessories.

I got a new sewing machine recently. You can read my article about my process and what machine I chose.

The Button Hole

I know there are a lot of people who don’t like to do button holes. This jumper dress pattern calls for sewing the buttons right through and they are fixed buttons. They aren’t functional.I wanted to have functional buttons but I didn’t know how to make the button holes. I searched the world wide web and found some instructional videos that helped. But to actually do it was going to require me to *GASP* actually sew a button hole. I set my machine to what I thought were the right settings.

After tinkering and getting an occasional decent button hole, I decided that my machine was inconsistent. Maybe it needs a tune up. I also experimented with a tiny zigzag stitch and guided the material to make a button hole without using the button hole settings. I don’t recommend you do this. It didn’t work at all for me.Some more tinkering and I was able to get some OK results with my machines button holer accessory. I would like to practice button holes on a better machine and make sure I know what I’m doing before I explore on my machine again.


I learned a lot throughout this project and can’t wait to tackle the next one. It’ll be a little while though as summers are super busy for us. On top of that I’m starting a new job and we’re expecting a baby this October. Also, the sewing machine currently has an electrical short that I’ll have to fix before I can start my next project. Lots to do before then. But stay tuned. I might just have to blog about fixing the machine. ?