Today I have a fun and easy Lou Box Top/Dress hack to share with you – a split hem, color-blocked sweater dress. This dress is made using the cotton sweater knit currently in my shop. When I selected this fabric, I had a vision of this dress and I’m so pleased that it turned out exactly how I envisioned it. There was a moment during the making of it that I thought it was going to be an utter failure but it worked out. phew!
To make this dress, I used the neckline from the Lou Box Dress 2 and the tapered sleeves available with the Lou Box Dress 2 or now available in the sleeve expansion pack. If you have the Lou Box Top or Lou Box Dress 1 you can also use those necklines. The Lou Box Dress 2 has a ballet neckline that is a little bit wider than the other designs and I really like it for this minimal style dress. The ballet neckline style is kind of a hybrid of a boatneck and a regular rounded neck. It’s a little wider than a normal crew or scoop but more rounded than a boatneck.
I cut a size 10 for this dress, which is one size smaller than what the size chart recommends. For knit fabrics, I’ll sometimes size down the Lou Box Top/Dress just depending on the fit I’m going for. Honestly, this pattern is so versatile, I love it both with the 10” of ease as recommended and a little slimmer for lightweight knit fabrics.
If you’re using a heavier fabric, like this sweater knit, then sizing down might be a good idea. In general, how much ease you want for the Lou Box patterns is personal preference and depends on the style you are trying to achieve.
This fabric is a really soft, cotton slub sweater knit. It’s available in the shop in chartreuse, ice gray and dark pine colors. It has 30% two-way stretch. To pre-wash, I machine washed with cool water, did a short (about 15 minute) spin in the dryer and then let the fabric air dry the rest of the way. This fabric will shrink a bit in the wash but I suspect that it will stretch out again if hung up.
For this dress, I used about a yard of each color of fabric. I used a serger for most of the seams but I’m thinking I’ll go back with a stretch stitch to reinforce the sleeve and shoulder seams. A stretch stitch (aka lightning stitch) is much sturdier than stitches from the serger and will do a better job with this heavy knit. Most conventional machines have this stitch. The only thing to be aware of is that it is a very tight stitch and challenging to unpick if needed.
How to sew a color blocked split hem sweater dress
Scroll down for a handy illustrated version of the instructions.
Step 1 I cut the sleeves and the top of the front and back bodice front the chartreuse sweater knit. To make it very easy on myself, I cut the bodice horizontally at the side seam notch. Normally, when you color block a pattern, you’ll want to add seam allowance at the line where you cut the pattern to color block. I didn’t bother and just cut the skirt extra long.
Step 2 Cut the front and back skirt from the ice gray sweater knit. I just cut rectangles that were the same width as my bodice. If you have the Lou Box Top, and want a pattern as a guide, I recommend taking the curved hem pattern piece as a guide line and instead of cutting curves, just square off the pattern. I wanted my back skirt to be a little longer than the front so I cut it three inches longer than the front piece.
Step 3 Assemble the shoulders, neckline and attach sleeves as instructed in the pattern instruction booklet. Finish the raw edges of the side seams, sleeves and hem. Tip: Pin the underarms of the sleeves and side seams right sides together. Baste the sections where the color blocking joins to make sure you get it lined up correctly before you use a more permanent stitch. It’s much easier to remove the basting stitches than the stretch stitch. So definitely worth the time to baste first.
Stitch the side seams using a stretch stitch or narrow zig zag on your conventional sewing machine and stop stitching about 3 inches above where you plan to hem the dress. I made a 2.5 inch hem, so I stopped stitching 5.5 inches above the raw edge. (Note, I was a little worried about the dress being too oversized for this weight of fabric so I used a 5/8 inch seam allowance instead of the 1/2 inch used in the pattern.)
Step 4 Press the side seams open. Along the opening split at the hem, press the seam allowance to the wrong side. This is also a good time to press up the hem. If you want to get fancy, you can sew mitered corners. I usually don’t bother because I find them kind of fiddly and not worth the trouble. It’s personal preference.
For a cleaner finish, I decided to topstitch the side opening first and the hem second. Topstitch around the split hem opening, pivoting at the corners. You can topstitch with a twin needle or zig zag stitch. I have a few helpful posts on twin needle topstitching here and here.
To pivot while using a twin needle, lift your presser foot, hold the fabric in place with one hand and raise the needle. Carefully turn the fabric 90 degrees and then lower the needle into the first line of stitching.
Finally, topstitch the hem of the skirt and sleeves to desired length.
I’m so pleased with how this dress came out. I cut the skirt pieces extra long and when I first tried the dress on it looked nothing like my vision. It was just too big and well boxy. But after cutting it down to a nice knee length, the shape is balanced really nicely. I’ve found with other loose fitting dresses, that they really look best at a knee length. That said, if you use a lighter weight drapey fabric, a mid calf length could work really well.
The day I took these pictures it was about 73 degrees out with a strong wind. In the sun without wind, it was a little too hot for this dress, but in the chilly wind, I could appreciate just how cozy this dress is going to be for the coming fall and winter temps. The wind did not get through this fabric and if worn with leggings and boots, I think you’d stay quite warm. The fabric is really soft and I didn’t want to take off the dress after photos.
I love how many different ways the Lou Box series of patterns can be used. Depending on fabric choice, you can make something quite casual or something really chic and dressy. But because of the oversized fit, you are always going to be comfortable in a Lou Box Top or Dress. For me, comfort is my number one priority.
There are a couple of pattern options for you to make this dress. First, you could use the Lou Box Dress 2 pattern and lengthen the bodice to create the skirt , just as I did. The LBD2 will also give you the neckline shape that I have here. The second option is to use the Lou Box Top pattern along with the new Sleeve Expansion pack. The neckline would be slightly different but you’d have all the essential pattern pieces. And if you’d like to try out this super soft and oh-so-luscious, sweater knit fabric, you can find it in the shop. Happy sewing!