Hello hello! I’m Tasha from By Gum, By Golly, and I’m so happy to participate in Sew Your Hart out! Today I’m going to show you how to do an easy pattern hack for the Bettine dress from Tilly and the Buttons: adding a contrast band to the sleeves and hem. Bettine is a fantastic pattern for beginners and experienced sewists alike, but this tutorial should be pretty beginner-friendly, too. Let’s dive in!
I’d recommend this hack for Bettine dresses in lightweight fabrics like rayon/viscose or cotton lawn. The deep self-faced hem band (basically meaning a double thickness of the same fabric) will add a nice bit of extra weight and swish to Bettine’s skirt. Especially helpful on windy days when short skirts can sail away and show off your unmentionables!
Gather the supplies needed for Bettine as instructed in the pattern, which you’ll follow except for the additions I’ll explain in this post. The only other thing you’ll need is half a yard or so of contrasting fabric. Stick to fabric with a similar drape to your main fabric. I used two lovely rayon prints by Cotton + Steel.
We’re going to add a 4” hem band to the skirt (without adding extra length to the skirt) and 1 ½” bands to the sleeves, but if you follow the concepts in this post you can change those measurements to whatever you’d like. There are lots of ways you could approach adding bands like this to a dress, so feel free to try this tutorial out first and then experiment, and come up with a method you love!
Keep in mind that throughout this post, when indicated that you sew a seam, use the same 5/8” seam allowance as given in the Bettine pattern.
Modify the skirt pattern piece
Cut the skirt piece out for your size or trace it onto a new piece of paper or tissue. If you’re adding or subtracting length, do so on the lengthen/shorten line (I added 1 ½”). If you’re doing the version with pockets, you’ll need to follow the instructions in this section for both the front and back skirt pieces.
Look towards the bottom of the skirt pattern piece. From the Bettine pattern, we know the hem allowance for the skirt is 1 5/8”, meaning you turn the hem up at that depth. I’ve marked that with the blue dashed lined below. (We’ll use that line again shortly.)
We’re going to cut off the last 1” of the pattern piece. When we add the contrast hem band, we’ll use that remaining 5/8” for the seam allowance, but we want to retain the same overall length of the skirt as the original unhacked pattern, so we don’t need the rest of that hem allowance. Lop off 1” at the bottom.
We’ll go with a 4” hem band. (If you’d prefer a slightly different height band, just make note as you play along at home where that number is used.) Measure 4” up from the original hem line. I drew mine in a solid red line, so you can see it below.
We’re going to straighten out the lower side seam of the skirt (not the center front/back that’s on the fold line) from the line we just drew down to the bottom edge, so we don’t have to ease anything in with our wide hem band when we stitch it shut. Tape your pattern piece down to another piece of paper, and straighten that line, down to the hem. That lower section should now look like a rectangle with no curve on the side seam.
Remember the red line I marked will be our seam line between the skirt and hem band. (To refresh, it’s 4” + 5/8” seam allowance up from the edge of the piece.) Mark a line 5/8” below that, shown below in green (sorry it’s a bit faint!).
Cut off the remainder of the pattern piece below the new green line. But don’t toss it out! We’ll use that next.
Prepare the hem band pattern piece
Our skirt piece is shortened now, so let’s make the hem band pattern piece for the skirt. We want a 4” tall band when all is said and done, so we need to make a pattern piece that’s twice that (because we’ll fold it up to the seam line inside the skirt), plus 2 seam allowances. So that’s 9 1/4”, or (4” x 2) + (5/8” x 2) = 9 ¼”.
We want the hem band piece to be the width of the bit of pattern we just chopped off the bottom of the skirt piece, so that it matches when we sew it to the skirt. On a piece of paper make a new pattern piece the width of the piece you just chopped off the skirt piece, and 9 ¼” tall.
This is now your Hem Band Piece. Be sure to mark that you’ll cut 2 hem band pieces on the fold (just like the skirt), out of contrasting fabric.
Prepare the sleeve band pattern piece
Onto the sleeve band! We can start with the cuff pattern piece as a guide, since that’s exactly the width we want for our bands, too. We want the finished band to be 1 ½” tall, so we want a pattern piece that’s twice that, plus seam allowances. (Sound familiar? It’s just like how we did the hem band.) That’s 4 ¼”, or (1 ½ ” x 2) + (5/8” x 2) = 4 ¼”.
Using the cuff pattern piece for your size as a guide, on a piece of paper make a new pattern piece the width of your cuff pattern piece, and 4 ¼” tall.
This is now your Sleeve Hem Band piece. Be sure to mark that you’ll cut 2 sleeve hem band pieces on the fold, out of contrasting fabric. (And just like the instructions for the cuff in the Bettine pattern, when you cut out your fabric for the sleeve bands, snip a notch at both ends of the center fold line.)
Change the sleeve length if desired
Keep in mind that the hem band will make the sleeves 1 ½” longer. If you don’t want that, you can easily trim the desired length off of your bodice front/back pieces on the sleeves. The pattern piece shape makes that easy to do. I trimmed off ½”.
At this point I’ve walked you through all of the pattern work already, the rest is just cutting out your fabric, and then sewing! You’ll follow the Bettine pattern’s clear instructions, only making a few changes when you get to the sleeves and skirt, as explained below.
Sew the sleeve hem bands
After you’ve followed the pattern to sew together the bodice pieces and have finished the side seams, stop there. Instead of following the cuff instructions, proceed as follows.
Press a 5/8” seam allowance into one long edge of each sleeve band piece (doesn’t matter which end unless your fabric print is directional, in which case do it at the bottom). With right sides facing each other and that seam allowance unfolded, sew your sleeve band pieces along the short edges. (You could do this in reverse and sew the short seam and then press up the seam allowance, but I find the other way easier than pressing a skinny tube.)
Press the seam allowances open.
With right sides facing together and the bodice right side out, pin the unfolded edges of your sleeve band to the edge of your sleeve, matching up the seams under the armpit and the notch on the hem band fold line with the top of the shoulder seam.
Sew this seam and press the seam allowances down towards the sleeve band. Trim seam allowances if desired.
Keeping the seams lined up under the armpit and at the shoulder, carefully pin the hem band to the inside, just covering the seam line where the band and sleeve meet. (This is why you pressed that seam allowance in earlier!)
It’s easier to do this with the bodice inside out, but since we’ll topstitch the seam from the outside, you want to pin on the outside, too.
Finish off the sleeves by topstitching close to the seam line between the two fabrics. You can choose to topstitch on the sleeve side or on the band side—whatever you’d prefer! I chose the band side. (If you choose the sleeve side, make sure that you folded the band in enough to catch it with your topstitching.)
Once you’ve finished the above instructions for both sleeve bands, skip the cuff instructions.
Sew the skirt hem bands
Continue with the pattern’s instructions for the skirt until just after you sew your skirt front and back together and have finished those seam allowances.
Sew together your two skirt hem band pieces along the short edges. Press the seam allowances open. Press a 5/8” seam allowance into one long edge of the hem band (again, doesn’t matter which end unless your fabric print is directional, in which case do it at the bottom).
With right sides facing together and the skirt right side out, pin the unfolded edge of your hem band to the bottom edge of your skirt, matching up the side seams. (Starting to feel familiar? You’re doing the same steps you did for the sleeves!)
Sew this seam, and press the seam allowances down towards the hem band. Trim the seam allowances if desired.
Keeping the side seams lined up, carefully pin the hem band to the inside, just covering the seam line where the band and skirt meet.
This part is a bit fiddly to do since the hem band is wide, so my suggestion is turn the skirt inside out and first pin from the inside, along the seam line. (I like to put something flat and solid between both sides so that I can pin easily without catching the other side of the skirt.)
Then flip the skirt right side out, pinning in about the same places, but from the outside. As you add pins to the outside, remove the ones on the inside.
This is a whole lot easier and more precise than trying to pin on the outside while making sure your seam line is in the right place on the inside, and simultaneously making sure the hem band isn’t twisted and wonky!
Finish off the hem band by topstitching close to the seam line between the two fabrics, the same way you did on the sleeves.
All that’s left is just to follow Bettine to the end of the pattern, ignoring the hemming instructions, since you’ve already taken care of that!
And you’re done. YAY! Enjoy your adorable new Bettine dress with kicky contrast bands!
by Tasha Moss (By Gum, By Golly)
Don’t forget to enter to win all the fun prizes for Sew Your Hart Out September Here!