Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Yet More Summer Dresses for Little Girls

Yesterday I posted on the subject of the Suncadia knit dress, which is a free PDF pattern and tutorial from Sew Much Ado. Today, I'm trying to do some catching up on the other dresses I've made so far this summer. Two of them have been from the Izzy Top pattern from Climbing the Willow, I have written about those here. And now, in this post, I will write about a couple more dresses for 3 year-old Jane. Her baby sister was due at the end of June (and is now, delightfully, with us). I felt that Jane might feel her new sister was going to get a lot of attention, and so she should have some nice new things too. So both these dresses have gone down well.

Hang on, I hear you say - aren't there three dresses here? Well, yes,  the tiny matching one WAS for baby sister. She'll be known as Ada on the blog from now on.

To find out more about this rabbit dress and elephant dress, read on.

The rabbit dress was made from a pattern called the Good Deeds dress, provided as a free PDF pattern by Carisa at Elysium Dreams. You may need to register with Craftsy (free) to download the pattern. It has multpile sizes from 1 year up to about 14.

There is also a version with a fully lined bodice, by Night Owl's Menagerie, which I would probably opt for next time. In fact, I'd considered it while making the rabbit dress, but with little time to spare (and it being in the high 30s C at the time) I decided to stick with the single layer version. The link I've given is exactly the way I would do it - although I would also ideally want to trap the skirt in between the bodice layers to reduce exposed seams, and I haven't yet figured out how to do that.

The pattern is a faux wrap dress - it doesn't actually open. However, the crossover top effect does give plenty of ease to get the dress on and off even over a fidgeting toddler's head. I was a little worried when I first saw the pattern, as the opening does not extend past the yoke/ waist-line, so you need to make sure that measurement is large enough to pass over the shoulders. Fortunately it is a loose fit around the chest, so there's no problem.

It's a very simple pattern to make, just two bodice pattern pieces and measurements for a gathered skirt. The bodice back is cut on the fold, and you cut two fronts, the mirrors of each other. The fronts and backs are joined at the shoulders, and then (in the non-lined version), bias tape is attached all the way round the neckline and armholes. I used double fold bias tape, in a nice turquoise that complemented the turquoise rabbits. But pink or cream would have done as well. Once the top is sewn all the way round, you make the side seams. The instructions provided are quire clear.

When it came to the skirt, Jane is keen on twirly skirts, the twirlier the better. So instead of cutting to the 4 year old length of 17.25", I cut it about 4 inches shorter, and then made a frill about 4 1/2" deep and about 1 and a quarter times the length. (Actually ithis was determined by the amount of fabric I had left. You could make it 1 and a half times, and you could make it deeper, too, if you wished.)
I hemmed the frill and attached it to the skirt before gathering the skirt. It made it a bit easier to handle, but I also like the feeling that once I've joined the top to the bottom, I'm done!

This has made a very nice light-weight summer dress, easy on and of, and easy to wash. 

I would like to try the lined bodice version, too, I do think bodices look more professional when lined, and you don't need yards and yards of bias binding. However, when I make a lined bodice, I would normally plan to trap the gathered edge of the skirt between the two layers of the bodice, so there are no raw edges on the gathering. I think that it not how it's done in the  Night Owl's version - the two layers are treated as one and attached together. (It's not so much the fraying that worries me, you can finish the edges to reduce this, but I think the gathered edge can be a bit itchy / annoying.)

However, because of the crossover part, I'm not sure how you'd deal with that, to encase the skirt, as there would be two outer layer fronts and two inner layers, with seams at the side. I'll probably work it out in due course, and when I do, I'll let you know!

Now, for the other dress. I had planned to make matching dresses for Jane and her new baby sister (with the two materials reversed). These are what I made (first).

I'll blog separately about the baby one. As it happens, it was too small even for the newborn Ada, so I had to remake it. But Jane likes her elephants dress.

The pink fabric has been one I've used a few times over the past three years. It originally came from a pink valance, so there was plenty of material. Not much left now. But it's a good cotton, robust, and doesn't seem to need a lot of ironing. (Just as well - my daughters don't do ironing.) This time, I used it as a basic for the skirt and bodice lining of one dress, as well as the bodice and bodice lining of the baby dress.

The 'elephants' fabric is lovely, I've used the same fabric in blue for one of the Tulip dresses. - that's another free dress pattern for little girls that I like a lot. This version is cream, with elephants in pink, orange, turquoise, yellow and green. I wanted a pattern that would give me at least neckline and armholes for a 4 year old dress (Jane is 3 and a half but, having been a tiny mite from birth, she's finally showing that she may grow up with her father's height genes.) I found this one, in sizes 1-8, for a peplum top from On the Cutting Floor, whose patterns I have liked previously. An alternative which would also have worked which  I've found later is this one from Climbing the Willow, which is up to size 5.

If I'd had sufficient of the elephants fabric after making the tiny baby dress, I might have made Jane a fiull peplum top. However, I was getting very short of fabric, so I decided I would just use the very top of the peplum pattern, and then make a full length skirt from my more plentiful plain pink fabric. So I cut all bar a couple of inches off the bottom of the peplum bodice pattern. There wasn't even enough of the elephants fabric for me to use the same as a lining, so the bodice lining was cut from the pink fabric too.

First, I seamed the shoulders, right sides together, of both lining and outer part of the bodice.

 This above is intended to illustrate sewing the shoulder seams. These are then pressed open on both lining and outer.  Then I pinned and basted the lining and outer part, rights sides together, round the neckline and armholes. 
After sewing round, I clipped all the curves before turning and pressing the bodice the right side out. Finally, I sewed up the side seams (up the lining and down the outer or vice versa), and again pressed the seams. (For a more detailed tutorial on how to sew a lined bodice, look at the pattern and tutorial from On the Cutting Floor.) 

I love those elephants! 

I measured round the bodice, allowing for an overlap at the back, and multiplied this measurement by 1 and a half, for the circumference of the main part of the skirt. (In practice I didn't have quite enough of the pink to cut this much, I cut somewhere between one and a quarter and one and a half times the bodice circumference - but I think one and a half would be better.) I ended up with 42" (107 cm) circumference, just over 40" (102 cm) after I had made the back seam. (See below.) For the length of the skirt, I wanted a dress that would measure in total about 23" (59 cm) in length from the nape of the neck to the knee. So I deducted the length of the bodice (minus 2 x 3/8" or 1 cm seams) and the length of my planned frill (again  minus 2 x 3/8" or 1 cm seams). I subtracted these from the 23" (59 cm) I wanted, and used the result for the length I needed. I used these two measurements, circumference 42" x and length c 17", to cut the skirt piece. However, before I attached the skirt to the bodice, I wanted it finished at the bottom - so I made and attached the frill next.
(Note that the length of the skirt is fairly arbitrary - it was determined by the amount of fabric I had left to make a frill, which wan't much. I'd really prefer the skirt part shorter and the frill longer, as in the bunny dress above. But it still looks cute.)

With the little scraps of elephant material I had left (and they were literally scraps) I made a long strip which was about an inch and three-quarters wide (4.5 cm), by about 52" or 133 cm long. This was again about 1 and 1/14 times the skirt circumference. I first turned up the barest double hem I could (about 1/8" and 1/8" folded and pressed) and sewed the hem on the machine. Then I sewed a line of basting around the top of the frill, and gathered it to fit the skirt. I pinned and eased it round and then sewed it, and zigzag sewed over the raw edges to finish it.

Next, I sewed up the back seam of the skirt to within a couple of inches of the top. See my tutorial on extending an opening below a yoke. I had about a 1" or 2.5 cm seam, which I trimmed down to about 5/8" or 2cm below the opening. I finished the seam by turning in a narrow single hem and oversewing it,

I basted a further line of gathering on the top edge of the skirt, gathered it up, and attached it, right sides together, to the outer layer of the bodice. (If you have a serger, you might be inclined to attached it to both layers, but I like the skirt encased between the two layers.) I folded and pressed up the seam allowance of the bodice lining. I hand sewed the lining to the skirt, but you could just over sew it if you wanted. I don't mind a bit of hand-sewing, I find it relaxing, especially on these little projects for children.

Finally I added closures on the back of the bodice overlap. If you had the skill, I'd say buttons and button holes would be nice, but I don't, so it's usually hammer-in snap fasteners for me!

Not sure why she looks so worried here - justy got home from nursery - maybe thinking it's snack time!

But she does love it really.

Yes different leggings - different days!

You can also find out more about the matching baby dress in my next post.

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