A border print gives a dress an extra bit of eye-catching interest. I think an outfit is more memorable with a border print and I like the challenge of making the fabric work with the finished product!
We were visiting Hilo and I wanted to visit the shop of Sig Zane, the famous graphic artist and designer of Hawaii. It was right after the Merrie Monarch competition, so the store had very limited stock – no dresses in my size! I found a table of pareus and decided I could try to make this into a dress. A pareu is Pacific style apparel, a long rectangle of fabric that is wrapped around as a skirt or dress.
Cutting and sewing with a unique design takes some thought because you won’t be able to follow the pattern directions. Often you will have switch the grain line in the pattern pieces from along the selvage to perpendicular. You will line up the front and back pieces so that the border falls along the hem of the dress.
Supplies for border print dress
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You will need a pattern with straight side seams, a pareu or border print fabric, thread, and coordinating buttons if desired.
- Tracing paper roll, 18 inches wide
- Polyester/cotton blend fabric
- Size 14 sewing machine needle
- I used a zig zag foot, but a straight stitch foot will work
- Matching thread
- Sewing marking pen (or chalk)
- 4 buttons
Instructions for border print dress
- Wash and dry the fabric and press if needed.
- Lay out the fabric and place the front and back pattern pieces to see how the print will work with the hem. If you have trouble visualizing, you may want to trace the pattern onto tracing paper to eliminate cutting on the fold. You would make one piece for the front and one for the back. There may be other pieces you need as whole pieces, too, such as the yoke. Check that the design of the fabric is falling on the front in a good way. Also, make a plan for your hem at this point. My pareu was hemmed, so I planned to use that as the dress hem.
- Pin the pattern to the fabric and cut. Be sure the grain arrows are lined up (even though they may be perpendicular.) (In my case, I did not have enough fabric for the yoke and pockets after cutting out the front and back. I pieced together scraps, watching the bias grainlines, to make the yoke and bias armhole. I found a coordinating fabric to make the pockets, which don’t show.) Cut all remaining pieces from the top edge of the fabric if possible.
- Finish the seams if desired (zig zag, Seams Great, or serger.)
- Sew the pocket pieces to the fronts and backs.
- Sew the front and back together and press seams open. At the top edge of the pocket, make a right angle turn. At the bottom edge, make a deep V-shape, with 3 stitches forming the point of the V.
- For my pattern, I basted the pleats for the center front.
- I ironed the 2-inch-wide bias strip for the armhole in half lengthwise, wrong sides together. I sewed the strip to the armhole on the front side. I folded and pressed the strip to the inside of the dress and topstitched in place.
- I assembled the yoke. I sewed the front bottom of the yoke to the front and back of the dress.
- I used the iron to press down the bottom seam allowance on the back yoke piece. I pinned through the front of the yoke to catch the unattached seam allowance on the inner yoke. I topstitched the yoke, making sure to catch the inner yoke pieces.
- To finish, I sewed on 4 decorative buttons along the yoke.
Resource links for border print dress
- Border prints from Fabric Mart
- Global Creations & Interiors, Hale’iwa
- Sig Zane, Hilo
- Bias strips – single and continuous from University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service
- McCall’s Patterns
Let’s talk story
This print is ginger or ‘ōpuhi, It grows wild in Hawaii and is popular with hikers. When you reach a pool at the bottom of a waterfall, you can use the flower to wash yourself!
This is so cute, Lisa! I wish I could sew. I would be making dresses for myself all the time! Great job!
Hey Lowanda, Thanks so much! I promise to wear this dress when I come south to meet you!
Beautiful border print dress! Pinning!
Hey Lina, thanks for coming by. Hope you find a border print you want to try.
I love the little history of the print on the end of this great tutorial. I’m about to cut two dresses out for the Grand and this is perfect tutorial for that. Great post, Sandi
Hey Sandi, Thanks so much for your comment. I think it’s great that you sew for your granddaughter!