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Pattern hacking Polly: from top to dress

A self confessed grinch (much to the despair of Elisalex who essentially IS Christmas), I tend to resent the festive season...However, my complete lack of ability to turn down any excuse to drink rum (warms the soul) means I inevitably find myself in need of a party frock. With a steady winter diet of super noodles and toast, gone are the bodycon dresses of yesteryear (I’m sure I was always more of  a smock girl anyway) and in steps the classic shift dress - perfect with a big coat, sheer tights and a stripper heel. Hello Polly Dress, I’ve been waiting for you.

Yes, the Polly Dress is the ideal, instaglam, chuck-it-on-for-any-occasion number. It’s completely lined, making it reversible if you fancy (2 for 1), and best of all its free to download from us here!

V polly shift 2

For purely hedonistic reasons, I decided I wanted to treat myself to using 100% silk, not only for the shell but also for the lining. This choice, for someone as impatient as myself, was my downfall, so here I must admit that the Polly Dress was in fact a BHL group effort with Rachel (“Rach I need you to do this, I just, I just can’t anymore”) and Elisalex (“If you laugh at my binding right now I’m going to punch you in the face, please, PLEASE do it for me) helping me through the cutting and sewing process while Charlotte provided words of encouragement (“Here, I’ll let you hold the kitten”). Therefore, next time I will be sticking with a cotton for this party piece, however, if you have more patience, which is probable, then I do recommend giving the silk a go as I am in love with the result!

 So, the first thing you are going to need is your Polly Top all printed out and stuck together, then your size cut out/traced depending on your preference (although tracing off might be easier when adding length). You will be using ALL of the top pieces for the dress, unless you are going to use ready made binding which we have done here.


To make the dress less of an arrestable offence, length needs to be added to the Centre Back, Centre Front and Front Panel pieces. I wanted the hem to fall around mid-thigh so added 10” to make it a cheeky mini, once again I am 5ft 7.5” so you might want to check the length before you cut to avoid being obscene.

PD 2


Once you have all your altered pieces you need to cut them out on your chosen fabrics, remembering that it is fully lined so everything needs to be cut out in both your shell and lining fabrics, except for the binding. 

Next, follow your Polly Top instructions or our video tutorial until you have a complete shell and lining, or two pieces similar to this…



Now the shell and lining are complete, they are going to be joined at the hem. You may find this easier to do by placing both pieces on a mannequin, right sides together, and pinning the entire hem, making sure to align all side seams, before stitching into place with the usual ⅝” or 15mm seam allowance. Clip the curves of the hem and give it a nice press. The dress is pretty much in one piece now, all that’s left is finishing the raw edges at the armholes and neckline.


Binding can be tricky at the best of times (thanks again Elisalex), but particularly when trying to ensconce two layers, so to make it slightly easier its best to secure the layers beforehand. Start by turning the dress to the right side and placing it back on the mannequin, then pin the two layers together all around the neckline and armholes, ensuring to match up the shoulder seams.


Carefully remove the dress, then, using a large machine stitch, baste into place ⅜” or 10mm from the raw edge, thus stopping the two layers sliding about the place under the machine foot when finishing. Continue by binding the raw edges as shown in your instructions, or on our video tutorial.

v polly shift 1


Good work team! Now where's that rum...


P.S I think my next Polly Shift adventure will be a mid-calf length with a waist belt, but in cotton, definitely cotton…


Comments on this post (3)

  • Aug 01, 2015

    I have been looking at the polly top for sometime thinking I’d like to turn it into a dress so glad to have the guidelines . Also – maybe a nightie?

    — Karen

  • May 13, 2014

    Hi {thisblogisnotforyou}! So glad you’ll be making up a Polly dress too! Thanks for bringing up the issue of the size of the boxes – I’m definitely going to look into that and see if we can make them bigger and therefore maximise the space on the paper. xxx

    — Elisalex - By Hand London

  • May 13, 2014

    I love this version! I just downloaded and printed off the pattern (thanks for the freebie!) and was thinking about how I could make it into a dress. So glad I found this post before I started, pretty easy. One question though, I find the actual boxes (gridlines around the pattern) super small. Is there a reason for that? I just feel it uses up much more paper than other PDF patterns do, as you cut off about 1/3 of the paper after printing.


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