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Friday, 18 December 2015

Christmas Dresses

Christmas dresses for the baby girls. By Christmas they will be 26 months, nearly 22 months, and 11 months. I loved the idea of having a dress for each of them to wear on Christmas Day. I drew the inspiration from the Melly Sews tutorial for the Fiesta frock with a Peter Pan collar. Thank you, Melly. I made a few minor modifications to the pattern for all three dresses, but in the main, I followed the tutorial.

Read more about how I made the three Christmas dresses.

All three dresses were made with stretch velour for the bodices and sleeves, with the skirts and sleeve bindings in a light satin of a similar or toning colour. They were purple, emerald green, and royal blue and navy. Lovely jewel colours!

Melly's free pattern comes in a '3T'. I'm not sure what this means exactly, I think it is American sizing, but I thought it might be age 3, so I figured this would do for the oldest granddaughter (Toddler A) who is a pretty tall  2 year old - 2 years and 2 months, to be exact. This was the first one I made of the three. As it happens, it proved too small for her, but would do perfectly for her younger cousin (Toddler I).

First, I made the skirt a bit shorter compared with the pattern, as I thought 17" looked very long for a toddler. I also made the skirt a bit less full. Melly's skirt pattern requires 2 x 37"(x 17") pieces, i.e. 74" with 2 seams. My material was 56" wide, which I thought would be plenty, and I made it with just the one seam at the back. On the first one I made, (the green one above) I cut it about 13 3/4" long so that the finished length of the skirt would be about 12". (About 1/2" seam allowance at the waist, and 1 1/4" for the hem.) 

I also continued the back opening down into the skirt a little, making a little placket, so the opening was longer and hence the dresses easier to get on and off. All three little ones are at an age where they don't want to stand still for any length of time to be dressed. So all the 3 skirts are shorter, less full, and have a placket.

Another small adjustment I made to Melly's pattern was that I found it better to use some interfacing inside the collar, to give it a little body, and over-sewed the collar round the neckline once it was attached. This made it lie much flatter, and I think it looks quite neat.

I also made my own double fold bias binding for binding the sleeves. I don't have a bias binding maker, but as the pieces I needed were pretty small, with no joins, I was happy to make the binding strips by hand with the aid of my iron. I still used ordinary commercial single-fold bias binding for the inside of the neckline, where it's not on show. I did contemplate making the bodice fully lined, rather than using bias binding, as I thought I could make the waistline a bit neater if I enclosed it in a bodice lining. However, when I started it was three weeks to Christmas, and now it's a week and I haven't thought about food nor got all my cards sent. So bias binding it was.

Finally - if you've read my blog before you'll know I hate making button holes. I did sew buttons on the back, purely for decoration, but the backs are fastened with strips of Velcro.

The smallest size has three buttons, and the other sizes have 4 buttons. 

Now for the three sizes. The free pattern comes in a '3T', as I've mentioned above. I'm not sure what this means exactly, but I thought it might be age 3,  So I made the first dress, the green one, exactly as the pattern but with a shorter skirt, intending it to be for my oldest granddaughter, who is 2 years 2 months at Christmas, but tall for her age.

It actually turned out too small for her when her Mummy tried it on her. Yes, I had made the skirt shorter, as I felt the style too long for a little girl, but that wasn't really the problem. She's slim enough, but has broad shoulders, and although her Mummy got it on her, it was going to be a little tight round the neck and across the shoulders at the back (no room for growth).  However,  this dress, the green one, will do fine for the next grand-daughter in size, who is at the moment a small 21 months (normally wearing 12-18 month size, just about going into 18-24 months). It is a little loose on her as she is very slight around the shoulders, but better that than too tight.

The free pattern does only come in this size 3T.  I can't afford to buy patterns in different sizes (especially from the US where the payment might be in dollars). So I had to find a way of modifying it to make the alternative sizes as well. Having found the 3T too small for the 2 and a bit year old, (but fine for the middle girl) I needed to make one a size bigger for her, and one a little smaller for her 11 month old sister.

I found that the free pattern for the Party Dress from Cottage Mama in size 3T was not only a very similar design (albeit sleeveless), but it did come in a range of sizes - and the size 3 corresponded roughly to the Fiesta frock 3T. So I felt reasonably confident in using the Party Dress pattern to make adjustments to the Fiesta frock. Thank you to Cottage Mama!  The 11 month baby had the Fiesta bodice redrawn somewhere between the size 18 months and 24 months of the Cottage Mama pattern, with  a skirt with a finished length 9 1/2" long. I reduced the sleeve pattern width by just putting the pattern half an inch over the fold in the material, so in total it was 1" less, and I reduced the satin sleeve bindings from 9 1/2" to 8 3/4". The length of the sleeves was probably pared down a little too, but I didn't worry too much about that. I left the collar as it was, and just trimmed a bit off the top (shoulder) edge of the collar as I joined the pieces into the shoulder seam.  

Note that this version, the purple one, has an additional panel on the front bodice, for decoration. Actually, the real reason is that, by mistake, I'd cut the front bodice upside down  (i.e. with the velour pile going upwards). I only noticed, when I had finished the whole dress and hung it up for a photo, that instead of reflecting light, the front bodice looked dark.I couldn't remake the whole thing (or I didn't want to, with Christmas so close and no serious preparation started). So I came up with the idea of adding an extra panel (with the pile going downwards) to the centre front. It doesn't really show in this photo by strong artificial light, but in normal light, the front panel does shine much lighter compared with the front sides. It's just sewn on top of the original bodice, and under the collar.

For dress number 3, the 2 year old had one in royal blue and navy made from the 3T Fiesta frock pattern enlarged a bit, to about 4T (but still with the skirt shorter). For the 2 year-old, I added about 1/4" to either side of the Fiesta bodice pattern pieces (so that the overall chest measurement was about 1" more in total), and added about 3/8" both to the collar length and the height of the shoulder seams. Finally I added about half an inch to the bottom of the bodice. 

The skirt on this version has a finished length of about 13 1/4".

I also added a small sash to her version, with a belt loop each side of the bodice. That idea maybe came from the Cottage Mama Party Dress, though mine was just a narrow belt that could be tied in a bow at the back or front. I'm not sure whether I like it now it's done. We'll try it on Christmas Day for another photo shoot and see how it looks.

Hope they like them!

Postscript December 25th: Well, they did like them. Here's 'baby a' (11 months) having tried hers on over her pyjamas.

And her older sister Toddler A (26 months) in the largest of the three dresses.

None of us liked the sash, so I abandoned it. I'll take the belt loops off again.

Cousin Toddler I (a small 22 months) in the middle sized dress:

This is roomy for her now, her arms and legs are quite slender, but hopefully she'll get some wear from it, and it would have been cosy on her older cousin.

And here are the group shots. Well, you try and get three excited toddlers to sit or stand and pose long enough for photos on Christmas Day when they have just opened the presents! But they look adorable anyway.

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