So I have completed a master pattern for the “Brigitte Dress,” a toddler dress with Butterfly appliqué.
I used a Banana Republic dress shirt from last summer, it is the coolest fabric. It is almost like a chambray with Swiss dots. The shirt had darts in the back, which becomes the front of the dress so I kept them because they were really cute; they go through the armhole, so they are almost like Princess seams.
It is basically the same dress pattern as the Ombre Dip Dye dress, with butterflies at the hem for embellishment instead of the dip in bleach. I did a test of bleach on the dress and it turned a dull beige color that wasn’t very fun.
I created a similar dress for Easter, in a purple linen and learned some about using fabric appliqués.
As the dress goes through the wash and dryer, it gets a more casual look, which I do love but it is hard to recapture the crisp look it had at the beginning.
With a quick iron, the flowers can be made more formal looking again.
I decided to stitch the border of the butterfly and cut outside the stitching lines to make it stiffer and have more weight. I also changed the initial shape of the appliqué from a curved flower to an angular butterfly. I think both of those changes will make the appliqués stiffer upon washing. The butterfly pattern piece is also larger than the round flower was, so I made less of them–about 25 instead of around 60–because it was starting to seem heavy.
I used a machine topstitch for the collar for the new dress, while I sewed the purple version’s collar using a slipstitch by hand.
I think the changes are all positive. Of course, I used French seams on the inside, and so the dress is as nice on the inside as the outside. I always debate whether a serger machine is worth it, but these seams are so strong and beautiful I am glad not to have one because it would be so easy to fall back on!
In an effort to take more risks, my intention for the week, I made a quick drop-waist dress for myself. Ok so that was my intention for last week, but today is a Memorial Day, so no babysitter and no yoga for me. My intention will have to carry over.
I wanted the look to be boxy and androgynous and be cute, like the drop-waist toddler dress I made for Biddi a few months ago.
I utilized the bodice pattern from the 1950s housecoat-dress I made a few weeks ago. I just used the basic neckline and sleeve shape and dropped a simple A-line shape down from the armhole. I used this grey cotton fabric with raspberry and gold medallion detail, its almost a paisley but reads a little bohemian and leans towards India.
I used my hip measurement and added 1-2″ ease. I followed the method for the toddler dress exactly, except the hem panel has gathers instead of pleats. I finished the side seams using French seams and attached the gathered panel right sides together and then used the bodice seam allowance to bind the gathers seam allowance; on the toddler dress I left the raw edges on the outside for visual interest because it was jersey knit and will not fray.
At that point I did a first fitting and was thinking the print was overwhelming me and the dress was way too boxy. I pinned a few small darts and started to love the look. Instead of finishing like true bust darts, I made a kind of box pleat and let it open at the top and bottom. In the back I opted to just make one large pleat.
If I had to remake it, I would not add any ease at the hips. After wearing the dress for about 4 hours, it seems too big at the hipline.
I planned to make single-fold bias strips to finish the armholes and neckline, but I just turned twice and finished with a topstitch because I got antsy to finish. I was eager to see how it looked so I can modify the pattern in the future…plus I wanted to wear it to a baby shower yesterday and so I skipped the bias tape. When I got to the center back V, I realized I needed bias-tape to keep the crisp V. So I faked it a little and then opted to extend the Pleat detail up through the neckline in the back to hide the wonkiness of the actual V-neck behind a crisp seam.
I probably could have removed another 2″ of ease around the waist, but I wanted to be able to slip it on over my head which would not happen with additional tailoring.
I love sewing for Biddi, but on a trip to Joann’s to find some lavender thread, I couldn’t help but swoon for a small sign that said “All Simplicity Pattern $1.” I died. And then Brigid sat happily and watched me look for patterns. And by “look for patterns,” I do not mean that I casually perused books, but instead I frantically pulled out drawer after drawer of patterns and scavenged while she ate 5 mandarin oranges like an angel. A tiny angel with a ticking time bomb, when she was out of snacks, my shopping was done. So, I had to pick some cute patterns, but not go crazy with an unreasonable number of patterns or get caught up and pick ugly patterns. It was unbelievable, I found 5 pattern across the Simplicity brands that I really liked for Spring/Summer and would be easy to modify.
I do love pattern drafting, but I find my time is so limited these days that buying a pattern cuts the time in half. And I justified it by choosing looks that are good base designs that can be altered many ways. Of course, when I sew I don’t cut out the pattern but transfer it to packing paper, so there isn’t an incredible amount of time savings, but a store-bought pattern saves my brain.
I selected 2 vintage patterns (1692 and 8085) and one summer romper, and another casual summer look. Also I chose one child’s pattern, 1122 mostly to learn a new technique for finishing tutus. There really isn’t much to a tutu, but I’ll pay a dollar to learn a new construction method. Recently, I asked the gym if there was a dress code for the 2-year old ballet class. I was really expecting “ballet shoes, leotard, and pink tights,” which was standard in my childhood. The answer was “No dress code.” I thought “I will still get her some tights.” And then the craziest thing that I was not expecting came out of her mouth, “…but most of the girls wear, you know, tutus.” Say What? So full on prima ballerina is the norm for toddler ballet. Now I know! I digress.
The first pattern I chose to complete was the vintage circle skirt dress in a red white and blue cotton print with red and white floral. I debated not using the pockets, but they can always be removed so I cut them out when I cut the dress, plus pockets are still in style and I can always put some snacks in there for Biddi. The 1940s pattern is so cool, but it has an invisible zipper and I need a foot for my machine and I have been avoiding trying to find the one that goes with my 15-year old machine.
I made a muslin mock-up which I have not done in ages! Since it was a vintage pattern, I knew there was a risk of the fit being out of style, strange, or for some other reason not worth the effort to sew. At first I thought it was so weird–it seemed very short-waisted. After I wore it around for a while it grew on me and I embraced the retro fit. It also seemed short–both illustrations of the shorter wrap dress show it with pants and I am planning to wear it as a dress. Flashing moms and nannies at the park is low on my “To Do List” so I thought the extra length was a good idea. I bought about an extra half yard of fabric because that was the last of it, so I had some wiggle room for pattern placement when I cut.
When I fit the mock-up there was really only one issue- 1950s undergarments. My body does not ascribe to the 1950s bust shape (waaaay up high and crammed together). I’m not sure what type of girdle-bra combo I would need to get my chest in those bust darts, but I consider it dressing up to wear an underwire bra instead of a sports bra, so I moved the bust point lower and adjusted the two darts accordingly.
Everything else fit surprisingly well, but I lengthened it about 2″. I thought making the shortest skirt might be too short to wear as a dress because the shorter dress is pictured over pants in the original 1950s pattern illustration. My plan is to wear the short dress as a dress, not an apron. So, I added as much length as I could with my fabric, about 2″. My plan B was that I could put in a 2″ hem if the length looked strange.
In the muslin mock-up, the top of my bra showed a touch in the center back, but I did not make any alterations to the pattern. The actual fabric is much stronger than the muslin, and the red trim gives some weight so the fabric doesn’t fold back. So it overlaps enough to hide my bra.
I followed the instructions for the most part, but of course I added French seams. I also disregarded the directions to utilize hem tape to keep the waist from growing. I am hoping the French seams will do as much or more than hem tape would, we shall see. Simple construction: darts, seams, bias tape, hem. I finished the darts by hand, tying the knot in threads under the dart.
One change that I made was to use 1/4″ bias tape instead of 1/2″ for a more delicate look.
When I was making this, I realized how much I have missed darts. Everything I wear is a T-shirt or tank top. The tailoring of good darts just makes me stand with better posture and feel more put together.
The front bodice is very plain and I considered adding some design to it, like a cutout in the front or some different straps, but I thought I would just make once through super-basic and see how it turned out.
The pattern instructions–which I disregarded–said to let the dress hang overnight before hemming. At the back, the hem ends droops really long and I needed to seam rip and rehem 8″ or so on either end of the skirt about 2″ shorter on the edge, tapering to nothing at 8″ in from the edge
All in all I think it is really cute. If I make it again, I will definitely add side seams and remove that annoying center front seam, although nobody else seems to notice that. I could remove some volume and make it more of an A-line, too. I think there is also an opportunity to reverse the look and have the V in front rather than in back. My husband thinks the front it a little plain, but I think with the red trim pockets and red tie in the front, it needs a little moment of calm and simplicity.
Before it was completed, a friend saw it hanging by the iron and thought it was a housecoat or apron. Which I can’t say for sure wasn’t the original spirit of the garment. I think as a finished dress, it is cute and will be a great fabric for summer.
I am a big proponent of sewing with the couture techniques that I learned in sewing classes. I feel they are more sturdy and stand up better to machine washing. I like that the garments are as pretty on the inside as the outside; my husband disagrees because he can never figure out whether they are inside-out or not. I love the look of French seams and they are as easy as using my machine to overcast the edges–since a serger would do the sewing and cutting in one fell swoop maybe I would feel differently if I had one. But as far as I am concerned if I have to make 2 passes with the machine, it looks nicer and it’s faster if I do French seams (my overcast stitch is painfully slow and it’s a waste of thread).
Sometimes machine finishing a seam makes sense. Like when you trim the seam allowance when the seams are right sides together.
I always sew 5/8″ seam allowances for fittings with right sides together, so I can see what the finished garment will look like. However, French seams are sewed wrong sides together at 3/8″, then trim the seam allowance to 1/8″. Then sew another time, with the right sides together at 1/4″ again, for a total seam allowance of 5/8″. After a successful first fitting–which never happens–I went to trim the seams to do the French seams and immediately realized that I just trimmed off the fabric I needed for a proper french seam. It was a little dress for Biddi, and such a small amount of fabric that I would have just recut it, but it was another upcycle and I needed the button placket, so I couldn’t recut it.
For this upcycle, I used the same basic bodice pattern I always reference. I kept the button placket for a center front closure. I also kept the center back yoke and pleat from the original shirt.
I attached a basic A-line skirt and I created little cap sleeves using a half circle. I just eyeballed the shape of the skirt and sleeve and it happened to fit perfectly on the first try.
I sewed the side seams together with a straight stitch and then an overcast on both the bodice and skirt. Next, I attached the bodice to the skirt using a straight stitch, then an overcast stitch. Then I used a small topstitch like an understitch to keep the seam allowance down and not irritate B when she is running around playing. The hem was already completed because it is a men’s shirt.
I sewed the sleeve hem by stitching at 1/8″ then turning and stitching right at the edge. That is a great, fast hem that I learned my days working with bridal alterations. The round edge of the half circle I gathered using 2 rows of long basting stitches, at 1/2″ and 1/4″. Leave long threads at both ends of the stitching rows, use one thread from each end and pull to create gathers. When the gathers are the desired length, pin ’em on the armholes and stitch.
I used a 45 degree single fold 1/2″ bias tape from the same fabric to finish the armhole. Normally I would sew the bias tape on by machine and then finish by hand, but since I used machine techniques I continued that motif on the armholes as well. I opted to finish attaching the bias tape with 2 rows of topstitching.
I finished the neckline with double fold 1/4″ bias tape. I used double fold instead of single fold so that it was visible instead of hidden and I used a stitch-in-the-ditch to finish it for the same reason.
Honestly, at first I was really disappointed with this dress. I was pissed that I trimmed the seam allowances too short and felt backed into a corner to use these machine techniques. I like sewing with a needle and thread while I take in some screen time and I never got to do anything that I consider artful with this look. My husband says this is his favorite dress I have ever made and he loves the machine finishing–he thinks it makes it look more professional. Everyone loves it, including Brigid, and it drives me crazy!
Another day, another up-cycled men’s button-down. This project took about 6 hours and because it is made from my husband’s old shirt, it cost nothing in fabric.
I used New Look 6440 as a starting point and used the wider collar pattern I made for the Prairie Circle Dress. I used the bow from pattern 6440 as-is and constructed it following their instructions. There are probably faster ways to make a big bow than this 7-piece pattern(7, really?!), but if it ain’t broke it ain’t broke. I would rather just go ahead and use that bow because I have made it before and it is really beautiful. Also, I don’t have to think about how to draft and sew a better version, which would probably take more than 6 hours and end up being ugly.
One thing to watch out for when recycling fabric is wear and tear. Since this was a “favorite” shirt, there were pen marks, broken threads/worn out fabric around areas like the wrists and elbows, and random stains. This is for a 21 month old, so I know it will get plenty of stains on it very soon–Biddi is almost there with the spork and spoon–but it is still nice to start out with as clean a slate as possible, right?
For the dress, I used the front of the men’s shirt as the back of the toddler dress. The button placket runs down the back of the dress because I want a back neck collar closure will be. So the back of the men’s shirt is the front of the dress. It will be plain, but there are options to embellish. In the past I have added a store-bought or homemade patch. After I finished it I decided to add the original chest pocket to the front because Biddi loves to put things in pockets! *When I find a pattern that I like(like the romper above), I will transpose it on to clear plastic sheets from the quilting section of the fabric store. It is nice to not mess with the tissue pattern any more than necessary.
I laid down the pattern piece from the romper neckline at a length that I like. Then I used a straight-edge to make it as wide as possible at the hem. For the front dress piece, I did the same thing, making sure the side seams are the same length: 12 ¼”. Side seams are usually best if they are the same shape/curve/length.
Since the original romper pattern has a center front seam and I am keeping that width, I am essentially adding 5/8″*2, or 1 ¼”; this must also be added to the collar front pattern piece.
Here is how I laid out the pattern pieces for the bow tails and collar. Both sleeves are on top of each other so I am cutting 2 layers at a time. I like to use the rotary cutter and metal ruler for straight-edge pieces like the bow tails.
Constructing the Dress
For efficiency’s sake, I run a bunch of straight stitches through the machine at one time: The bow pieces(all 7 of them), the first stitch on the dress side seams, the facing and fashion side seams of the collar(after first attaching the fusible interfacting to the fashion side of the collar).
Next, it’s pressing time: Press all those seams nice or else it’ll look homemade.
Back to the machine: Finish the French Seams on the dress side seams, trim the points on the bow, flip the bow pieces. Turn the armhole cut edge two times and topstitch, the french seams (and all side seams, really) should be pressed towards the back so it lays flat from the front.
Back to the iron: Press everything again. For the collar, I followed the pattern directions for the most part. I pressed the side seams open (or “busted”), trimmed the notches off so it lays nicely on the shoulders, clipped the neckline seam that will attach to the neckline of the front and back bodice.
Back to the sewing machine: I attached the fashion side of the collar at the neckline, then attached the facing collar to the fashion side of the collar.
Back to the iron: Press the collar neckline seams towards the facing. Understitch the facing so the collar rolls nicely and lays flat.
Finally, I can watch tv on the couch while I hand sew, specifically the episode of X-Files where Scully gets a lower back tattoo. I opted to stitch by hand to close the collar facing because I’m way too much of a perfectionist for the machine for this step. No matter how good a topstitch or a stitch-in-the-ditch looks, there will always be one minute, little single stitch that is off and that will be all I ever look at!
So now the side seams are finished, the armholes are done, the collar is on, there is a finished bow but it isn’t yet attahed, and Scully has a snake tattoo. Finally the finishing details for the dress! The collar needs a closure. I really hate my machine’s buttonhole stitch and this is not a couture buttonhole kind of baby dress, so I used my KAM snaps. The only ones I have are pretty big and bright white, but there is a massive bow going directly on top of the snap, so it won’t ever be seen. Snap on, dress done!
Finally I have my chance to dip dye a dress in bleach! I am not sure why, but I have been dying to do this. I tested wet fabric scraps in bleach (6 cups water:1 cup bleach) for 1 minute, 10 minute, and 20 minutes. The blue turned purple, which I was not expecting! I am pretty sure that purple is Biddi’s favorite color so perfect.
One caveat with bleach–it will continue to bleach the fibers forever. So maybe the color will continue to change over the years. Or maybe after a decade or two of weekly washing the fibers will degrade and disintigrate like one of my husband’s old undershirts…but Brigid will be 12 in ten years so that isn’t really an issue. If I were sewing for a garment for myself, I would only use this technique for something super-trendy that I don’t plan on wearing longer than a few seasons.
To create the ombre, I wet the whole dress (before attaching the bow, I left that unbleached for contrast). I quickly dipped the dress up to the base of the armholes in the diluted bleach. After about 5-10 minutes, I washed the dress with water and dipped the bottom 5 inches or so in the bleach solution again, using a pretty nifty duster technique I made up when my arms got tired–you can use anything within arm’s reach that is wider than the bucket, it doesn’t have to be a Swiffer duster 😉
So there it is, an Ombre Dip Dyed dress. It needs a good pressing for a crisp look, but the casual, wrinkled look is cute, too. It was pretty straight-forward to create. It’s machine washable/dryable, but I will probably use the delicate cycle to err on the side of safety because the bow is sewn by hand and I don’t plan on reattaching it any time soon. Biddi likes it and it looks adorable on her, what else is there to ask for?
In college, we had one sewing project that was really creative: $7 budget to create a child’s garment. I went to Goodwill and found a few old skirts to use for fabric and a pattern for well under budget. I made a cute little reversible jumper dress and hand-embroidered a butterfly and mushroom motif on one side. My miniature poodle loved it in college, now Biddi loves it!
Men’s shirts transformed into children’s clothing has to be the most adorable iteration of this trend. I have made 2 dresses for Biddi so far that were shirts with torn sleeves.The one above was a cute dress when she first started walking, and now it is more of a tunic top. Keeping the hem, side seams, and center front buttons make it an easy project to knock out during a nap-time or two. Lucky for me, my husband recently lost about 30 lbs by switching to a plant-based diet so now I have a whole cache of button down shirts to up-cycle! They are a size large so there is a lot of fabric to work with and they are all really nice fabric from J. Crew, Jos A Bank, and Banana Republic. The shirt fabric is still in style and I think I am going to make a skirt for myself–anthropologie even has a mock-upcycled skirt–but that’s another Blog Post.
For the red and blue gingham dress, I used a bodice sloper type pattern piece and placed it at the center front and center back of one of my husband’s shirts. I cut off the collar in the front but left the collar stand. I could have seam-ripped this, but I decided to embrace the up-cycling of it all and left a tiny fray around the front. The back does not have the collar stand, it is from lower on the shirt, below the shoulder yoke. I finished the raw edge by turning 2 times and hand sewing with a slip stitch.
I used French Seams for the bodice side seams and made bias binding for the armhole seam edge. I attached it by stitching it on at 1/4″, trimming the seam allowance, understitching, then using a slipstitch to finish it.
The bodice waistline seam was about 20″ total. The entire hem of the men’s shirt was much wider, so I created 4 big box pleats to reduce the width of the fabric. Once I liked the size and placement of the pleats, I stitched them at about 1/2″ so the stitching would be within the sam allowance and then attached the skirt to the bodice using French Seams.
For the second dress, I used a solid blue fabric with the idea I could dip-dye it or tie-dye it in bleach. Once it was done, my husband thought it was too cute to chance ruining it with bleach so for the time being it is still solid blue. *The chalk markings on the picture above are from after the first fitting, I decided to drop the neckline about an inch, raised the waistline an inch, and briefly considered adding another button. However, I didn’t want to make anything strange happen in the center front of the dress, so I opted to leave it with just 2 buttons on the bodice. The chalk marks will come out with steam.
For the blue dress, I did not keep the collar stay as the front neckline; I used a bias binding to enclose the raw edges instead. For the back bodice, I used the existing yoke from the back of the shirt–I think it is pretty cute.
I used the same bodice pattern but the waistline is now 21″ and the hem is longer. Since this hem is also straighter than the gingham it doesn’t need shorts or leggings under it and it can be a true dress (not a tunic) even if she grown another few inches.
I finished the neckline using 1/4″ bias binding. After stitching it on to the raw edge, I turned it and stitched in the ditch to catch the underside of the bias tape.
I made simple sleeves using a half-moon shape pattern piece. I turned the sleeve hem two times, pressed the crap out of it, and used a machine topstitch. I gathered the curved edge using 2 long basting stitches at 1/4″ and 1/2″ * In the picture above, the dark thread was just for the fitting phase and I replacesd it with a lighter blue hem and smaller stitch once I saw the sleeves fit well.
After attaching the sleeves, I added homemade bias tape and used a double topstitch for a cute look.
For the skirt, I made an A-Line shape in lieu of keeping the original side seams and adding pleats. This shirt was a much boxier cut and the entire skirt would have been pleats. Plus, I thought with the sleeve detail, a simpler skirt would make more sense on Biddi’s little frame. I used a hip curve ruler to make the side seam and just eye-balled the shape that seemed correct, proportionally.
For seam finishing, I used a straight stitch and an machine overcast stitch for the raw edges. It isn’t as pretty as French seams, but I clipped a seam too close to the edge when I wasn’t paying attention, so I had no choice. So it goes. This finishing technique is more like a typical off the rack construction and should stand up to washing and the dryer just as well. I will trim the stray edges once it is washed and maybe do a second pass with the machine overcast stitch.
A friend of mine is expecting a new baby girl and asked me to make a receiving blanket. I thought I would use the ubiquitous, ultra-soft, “minky” fabric with dots or stars. That style is so popular and it grew on me because it was in so many of Baby B’s soft items, but my friend is in love with fluffy textures right now and absolutely vetoed the minky dots fabric.
The nursery will be unicorns with gold accents and I thought the most basic color scheme would be a nice backdrop and grow as baby grows. There were a few nice options at the fabric store but I was drawn to a basic ivory.
I debated a faux fur but the fibers sometimes have a weird smell, which I have come to realize is an olfactory alarm for volatile organic compounds and should not be anywhere near grown-ups and especially not near an infant’s brand new lungs. The fabric I decided on is 100% polyester Silky Furry Fleece. Cotton would be better, but the selection is limited because of the fluffy prerequisite. I would have needed to use a cotton print or ugly color to hide puke; cotton stains much more than poly. So a fluffy cotton with puke-colored print? No. Anyway, polyester wins–fluffy with no chemical smell to stand up to the demands of a baby.
I considered doing one side in a fleece unicorn or rainbow motif, but in the past I have made fleece no-sew blankets and with use, the fleece begins to pill and look tired. I also used fleece as an outer fabric on B’s cloth diapers and they were quickly pilling with washing; considering how many washes my baby blankets have endured fleece was not the best option.The wrong side of the fabric clung so nicely to itself that I thought doubling down on the fluffy was the right call.
Not mush to design here, just decide on the dimensions really. I looked to my favorite baby blankets as well as those that have grown the best with Biddi through winter and over the last 20 months. I thought 33×38 was the best size: may Aunt Sue knitted me this beautiful blanket and those dimensions are just my favorite proportion.
The look I like has a 3″ satin border (doubled) and 1″ seam allowance, so 2*(3+1)= 8″ wide fleece-backed satin. I allowed for more in my fabric purchase (because I routinely pay for 6-12″ of fabric that I can’t use because it is off-grain
So a basic baby blanket is maybe the easiest thing in the world to draft a pattern for becuase it’s a rectangle or a square. Done and Done. I use the term “patterning” loosely because I just used a rotary cutter and crossed my fingers that I didn’t mess it up. “Measure twice, cut once,” as the old adage says.
First, I cut the fabric into two rectangles measuring 33″x38″
Those are the finished dimensions and the edges will be bound with satin. There are pre-cut satins made for baby blankets, but I am opting to make my own using fleece-backed satin. The fleece will stick to the fashion side of the blanket rather than just using a single stitch to attach it. I created a double-fold bias-type tape, but it is on-grain.
So I needed 4 lengths of binding fabric, one for each side of the blanket. They are 8 inches long, pressed in half and an inch seam allowance pressed under the entire length.
I watched several tutorials on how to miter a quilt corner but I created a hybrid technique–each tutorial had its own problems, whether they looked sloppy and unfinished or wouldn’t work with a 3″ binding.
First, I sewed the two reactangles togther at 3″so there is a basting seam to follow when I am attaching the tape binding. I used painter’s tape to mark the 3″ seam allowance guideline to make life easier while sewing.
Next, I opted to attach each length of tape binding to 3″ from the edge of the blanket on every side. The corners are free from binding and creating the miter will be the next step.
Next, I attached each corner to the fold line. Then I finished the miter on the reverse side using a ruler to mirror the 90 degree angle. So the corner of the blankets are unsewn, meeting at the 3″ square, as shown above. To know exactly how long the mitered seam should be, you can use the pythagorean theorem, fun right? Since each corner has a 3″ square, the miter seam will be the diagonal hypotenueuse of a right triangle with 3″ sides. so a² + b²= c². With 3²+3²= 18, c= √18, or 3√2, or about 4 1/4″
Finally, I turned under the blanket and pressed it so I could finish the binding.
A stitch in the ditch method or topstitching–even a decorative topstitch–would be lovely, but I chose to use a running slipstitch by hand to finish the blanket. I thought the machine stitching had the potential to cause more trouble than it was worth.
If I needed to seam rip a SNAFU, the satin might show every needle mark in some nightmare scenario–much better to spend more time at the outset and be done in a single pass. I used a backstitch every 2 inches so that the hand-stitching is as strong as possible. Given teh fluffy fabric, even a whipstitch could work, although it runs the risk of breaking in the wash compared to the hidden stitch.
This is the finished blanket-pretty, machine washable, big, cozy, soft.
I bought this bright pink Jersey knit for a summer maxi dress for myself. When I started pattern drafting, I realized I already had a maxi dress in almost the exact same color–how does that happen? My back up plan was a drop-waist pleated dress for myself, but all of the sudden it was November and there’s just no way I’m wearing hot pink in Winter!
I debated what to do with the fabric. So it has become another project for Biddi. The jersey knit is nice because it is a little heavy and warm and color is perfect for a toddler in winter! For the silhouette, I wanted to knock this out quickly, so a drop-waist dress with a little pleated skirt fit the bill. 7 seams and 10 pleats? Yes, please!
I began with a basic bodice sloper front and added 3″ to the hem, based on her measurements of where her hip is in relation to her waistline(left photo). I did the same to the back bodice pattern. Next, true the side seams so that they are exactly the same length. If the dress were a different style, with a curve at the waist for example, it would be good to lay the two pattern pieces on top of one-another and make sure the side seams are exactly the same.
For the skirt, I used the cross-wise grain so that the pleats lay flat with less give. The rest of the dress is cut with the grain. I patterned a rectangle that was 16″X 3.5″ and cut 2. Finally, I used the same sleeve pattern as I did in the Catwoman Halloween post.
Inside of Drop Waist Dress
In terms of constructing the garment, it’s critical to use a Jersey knit needle on the machine. Also, I prefer French Seams and used them on the side seams, shoulder seams, skirt side seams, and sleeve seams. I do not have a serger machine to overcast the raw edges, so using French Seams encloses all the raw edges so they lay flat and do not unravel. I love using theses seam finishes because the inside of the dress is as beautiful as the outside.
At this point, finish the neckline by turning two times and topstitching, a typical finish for a tee-shirt style dress. For the hem, I turned two times and used a simple ZigZag. (Inside-out view of hem is shown in photo above).
The pleats are the next step and involve a little bit of math. Each 16″ panel is now 15″ because the seams are finished. I measured the pleats every 2″ and made them 1″ deep around the back. That means there are 5 pleats at 3″ each. Also, the 15″ fabric has been reduced to 10″ The front is slightly smaller than the back, so I reduced it to 9″ by making 5 pleats that are 1.75″ apart and are 1.25″ deep* Again, the photo above is inside out, but notice how each 1″ pleat is actually 1/2″ folded twice.
*These pleats are pretty shallow and far apart, for a more literal school-girl style skirt, they would be 1″ apart and 2″ deep–or 1″ deep, doubled.
Once the pleats are marked and they match up to the measurement of the bodice hem, do a small vertical topstitch at a length that looks right, mine are 1.5″ long. Next, use the longest length straight stitch to baste the pleats down and the side seams towards the back, so they lay correctly. Next, I laid the skirt to the bodice, wrong sides together and stitched them together using a straight stitch.
I like the look of the raw edge on top of the seam, but otherwise a French seam or mock French seam would work to hide the raw edge, but those would make the look more polished/less quirky. It is a little below her actual hipline, so it should fit her into Spring.
After cutting the pattern pieces, I assembled the dress with French Seams along the side seams. I did a simple turned hem and turned the center back seam twice and topstitched. I always find pressing early and often is the key to getting a professional looking finished garment.
Finished French Seams with 3/8″ SA
To create French Seams, start with 5/8″ Seam Allowance (SA). Sew wrong sides together at 1/4″. Trim to 1/8″(shown Upper Left). Press SA to left, then right, then press with right sides together. Sew 3/8″ Seam allowance(shown Upper Right). The finished French Seams has 3/8″ SA and has all raw edges enclosed so that it will not fray or unravel with heavy use and washing.
The only pattern pieces with facing and interfacing are the shoulder caps and the collar. To get those to lay as flat as possible, it is important to clip and notch the curves and also grade the seam allowances.
Grading- trimming the seam allowances to reduce fabric bulk at the seams. Usually the shortest layer is trimmed to 1/8″ and the next to 1/8″ longer, etc.
Notch- removing triangle shapes from the curve when the seam allowance is wider than the finished piece. Like front curve of the shoulder piece, the wider seam allowance must be reduced to get it to lay flat
Clip- to allow a smaller seam allowance to spread out over a larger area. For example the center front where the collar meets the dress it must spread to lay flat
To create a simple topstitched hem, baste with a wide straight stitch(shown left), press hem up(shown right), turn again and topstitch to finish. Remove the basting stitch line that will now be at the top fold on the inside of the hem. This dress’s basting line is at 1/4″ and the finished hem will be 1/2″shorter than the cut pattern was. Always press side seams to the back so that it lays flat from the front.
For a chiffon or silk fabric this is a nice hem technique because the basting thread adds some weight and structure to work with, but the seam should be trimmed to 1/8″ before turning and it is essential to remove the basting stitch after finishing.
Using Bias Tape is a nice way to finish an armhole. Bias means on an angle so that there is the most give to the fabric to fit around curves. If there is a glut of extra fabric it is really great to make one with leftover fabric using the 45-degree line on a rotary cutting mat. This tape is 1/2″ Single Fold bias tape, which means to create your own it should be 1″ and folded in 1/4″ on either end. I bought one in a contrasting fabric because I thought it would be cute and also it is less expensive.
To attach the tape, stitch in the first fold at 1/4″ as shown on top left. Turn, press and understitch: topstitch close to edge of tape to keep the tape from rolling to the finished side of the garment once completed(understitching shown on top right). The finishing is done by using a hand-sewn running slipstitch on the bottom edge. The lower photo is the bias tape pinned and ready to be hand sewn.
This is the finished garment. It is sweet but I have a few ideas to change the design for the next iteration, the graphic florette look.