What you call this garment — dungarees, bibs, overalls, bib overalls — depends on your global location.
The Stitch Sisters, the delightful sewing duo from the U.K., call them dungarees, and they produced a DIY “dungas” pattern that’s worth your while. The overalls tutorial is available as a video and as an article on their website.
Keep reading for tips on how to sew the Stitch Sisters’ draft-them-yourself dungarees.
These are relaxed-fit bibs with patch pockets and minimal pattern pieces, which you draw yourself using your own body measurements. You draft:
You can sew the leg hems with or without cuffs.
I used gray cotton denim that’s medium-to-heavyweight and nonstretch. It was in my stash, and I think it came from Vogue Fabrics. (I’m trying hard to sew my stash!)
TBH, this denim probably is the heaviest-weight fabric I would suggest using for these bibs. Relaxed-fit garments plus heavy fabrics often can look too massive and out of proportion on the wearer’s body.
RELATED: What Does Weight of Fabric Mean?
I used about 3 yards of approximately 60-inches-wide denim to make these bib overalls. (For your reference, I’m about 5-feet-5 and 39 inches around the hips.) The front and back leg pattern pieces were 53 inches.
With some careful pattern-piece placement, the leg pieces were cut out next to each other; the wide hip areas of the pattern pieces were flipped away from each other.
Modifications to the Stitch Sisters Overalls
I was all about mods on these bibs. They’re quite different from what the Stitch Sisters sewed!
D-Rings on Straps
I liked this strap hardware, and it got me thinking about using D-rings to secure and adjust the straps vs. knots. I also knew I didn’t want excess strap flopping on the front of my body, but I thought it would be cute (and functional) to shift the bonus length to my back.
RELATED: How to Sew D-Ring Straps for Overalls
I liked this style of zipper as a visual element. (My dungas are so relaxed that I don’t have to pull the zipper to get in and out!) I replicated the exposed slot seam zipper (is there a better name for this?) with a beefy zipper I had in my stash.
I omitted the center-front pocket and added front hip pockets. I tried on the basted dungarees to figure out where to put the pockets. I didn’t want the pockets — especially the rear pockets — to sit too low. Low pockets on an oversized garment can make a body look squat.
To give the pockets some flair, I gave them three lines of topstitching. Notice how those lines of stitching stand out more than the other white topstitching? That’s because I ran TWO threads through ONE needle — white all-purpose polyester thread and white embroidery viscose thread, which has a shine to it.
I tried a lot of decorative stitches on my sewing machine, and none felt right. The simple three lines made sense to me on a garment whose origins are as workwear. Workwear ain’t fancy.
A couple of notes about the straps:
- I pressed the straps so that the seam is in the center back instead of on the side. I think it makes the front and sides of the strap look tidy.
- I did TWO straps for each side (four straps total) of the bibs instead of ONE super-long strap for both sides or ONE strap for each side (right and left). The back straps are the same length as the front straps, because I cut the straps on the fold.
RELATED: Pattern Fitting Tips for Woven Jogger Pants (Pivot-and-Slide Method)
What’s Great About the Stitch Sisters Bibs
The instructions by the Stitch Sisters were ridiculously easy to follow. Depending on your learning style, you can use written or video directions. I followed the video.
Big kudos to Rachel and Nikki for publishing a size-inclusive tutorial. And, you could call this a gender-neutral garment, too. Bibs for all the beautiful human sewists is a beautiful thing.
I adore the workman vibe of my overalls. A lot of my me-made garments have a more fitted and/or feminine flair, and the look of these bibs is a welcome departure. I feel like I should put them on and labor somehow.
The Stitch Sisters walk sewists through a cuff-sewing technique that puts the RIGHT side of the fabric on the cuff (vs. turning up the pants hem to see the wrong side of the garment). I’d never sewn a cuff this way, and I can’t wait to use this trick in other garments.
RELATED: How to Sew an Exposed Slot Zipper
These dungarees are a great sewing project on which to try new techniques. My exposed slot zipper and D-ring straps are cases in point. It’s a pattern meant for medium wovens, which generally are easy to sew… so, why not play a bit with your sewing practice? It’s fun!
Tips for Sewing Your Own Dungarees
I’ve got all sorts of wisdom to share about sewing these overalls. Strap (BIBS PUN) yourself in.
1.) Find the Leg Grainline
The Stitch Sisters don’t emphasize grainlines when cutting fabric for the dungas. Grainlines are important because they keep pattern pieces of a garment from twisting or sitting in a weird way against your body.
No worries, though, because setting grainlines for the front and back bibs pattern pieces is simple.
The TL;DR version directions are: Fold the cuff in half vertically, and use the fold to create the grainline. The grainline is perpendicular to the hem.
If you need more details:
- Cut out the front and back paper pattern pieces.
- Take the pattern pieces by the cuff.
- Fold the cuff in half vertically (perpendicular to if you were cuffing pants), bringing to touch the outseam edge and inseam edge of the pants leg at the hem.
- Pinch the fold upward for a few inches.
- In the valley of the fold, draw the grainline.
- Extend the grainline the length of the pattern piece.
P.S. The long edge of the straps should be cut on the grain so they don’t stretch out.
2.) Go the Extra Mile with Pockets
For maximum pocket success, I suggest using:
- A pocket template. My template was a piece of thin cardboard/tagboard cut to the size of the finished pocket. When pressing the pockets into shape, I placed the pocket right side down on the ironing board, put the template in the middle of the pocket on the wrong side, and folded the edges of the pocket over the template edge, gently pressing to “baste” with the iron. Then I gave the folded pocket edge a proper hard and steamy press (sounds dirty but wasn’t). The iron “basting” saves my fingers from holding the fold in place during the hard-and-steamy press.
- A clapper. A clapper is a block of hardwood that absorbs steam and heat. I pressed my clapper into the folded pocket edges while they cooled to lock the folds and corners in place.
- A stack of books. As I finished pressing a pocket, I set it under a stack of books. And I let the pockets chill there (literally) until I got around to the pocket-stitching construction step.
3.) Use Wonder Tape
Double-sided Wonder Tape kept my pockets in place while stitching better than pinning alone. It’s a beautiful sewing notion, and it washes away. Don’t sew patch pockets without it.
4.) Remember Seam Allowances When Centering
When placing the pockets, don’t forget to take seam allowances into consideration when centering the pockets horizontally (left to right). Mark the seam allowances with a marking tool, low-adhesive tape, or pins.
5.) Shorten Your (Top)Stitch
Shorten the stitch length at pivot points. For example, the stitch length on the pocket topstitching is 4.0 — except where I pivoted. Before I made the pivot, I shortened the stitch length to 2.5 so I wouldn’t overshoot the corner pivot point. Don’t forget to re-lengthen the stitch after the pivot.
6.) Keep on the Level
Use a hump jumper when you start stitching from the edge of your pocket. A hump jumper (or piece of cardboard or fabric layered to the same height as the pocket) keeps the presser foot even with the height of the pocket.
Would I Recommend the Stitch Sisters Dungarees to Other Sewists?
Heck YEAH, I would recommend sewing these cheery bibs to other sewing friends (and enemies, I guess? LOL). I love this project because:
1.) I got to do some pattern drafting OFF the computer, which I adore. There’s something relaxing about getting out a ruler and going to town on drafting pattern pieces.
2.) The directions — video and written — were easy to follow.
3.) The garment turned out as expected, even without a muslin! I am the world’s biggest supporter of making a muslin, but a muslin does keep you from enjoying your garment sooner. I skipped a muslin because the bibs were drafted with my measurements and the fit is relaxed.
4.) I like supporting other small sewing businesses, especially businesses run by kick-butt ladies. I’ve been a Stitch Sisters stan for years. They’re lovely and brimming with sewing wisdom.
I recommend this pattern to advanced beginners who want to dip their toes into making pants (garments with legs). It would give them a mega confidence boost. Truth be told, it would be hard to muck up this pattern!
I plan at least TWO encores of this pattern:
- Cropped linen bibs for warmer weather. I think I’d do knotted straps for this version.
- Another pair of medium-weight fabric bibs, this time lined with FLANNEL for the coldest, darkest depths of winter. They will be the coziest! Stay tuned, because I’ll definitely blog about them.
Say, you know what pattern would look great with these bibs? Sie Macht’s Cass T-shirt! (Yes, this is a shameless plug.) Like the Stitch Sisters dungarees, Cass also is a free pattern.
You could wear cute overalls and a T-shirt for, like, 90 percent of your day-to-day life and you’d be appropriately dressed. Anyhoo, click the image below and give Cass a try. Thanks!