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Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Birthday Outfit - Dress, Jumper and Leggings

It seems we hardly have time to get over Christmas and the New Year holidays, when our birthday season starts again. Our youngest grand-daughter, Baby 'a', will have her birthday in January, then the middle one (Toddler 'I') has her second birthday in February (and it's mine in between, but I won't be saying which one, or making myself anything!).

Baby 'a' will be getting a whole new outfit, of a stretchy fleece jumper and matching leggings, and a pinafore dress to go over. It stays pretty chilly here until at least Easter-time, so I hope she'll get some wear out of it. Each garment was made using a free-on-the-internet PDF pattern, and the appliqué pattern was also one I found free. You can find fuller details below.

I loved this warm and cosy fleece material when I saw it in the shop just before Christmas. 

It's probably intended as a Christmas fabric, but surely reindeers and snowflakes are OK for the whole of winter? Well, they are in my book. It was the end of the roll, so they gave me what was left - about 85cm - for the price of the half metre I wanted. I'll have enough left for another outfit, after I made some leggings in size 12-18 months, and a long-sleeved jumper likewise.

The jumper is made from Small Dream Factory's free PDF pattern for a long-sleeved envelope neck t-shirt. (Thank you!) It comes in a good range of sizes from birth to about 2 years old. I had some correspondence with the blogger, because I find it hard to understand why US sizes are so much smaller than European sizes. For example, the EU size 6-9 months apparently corresponds to US size 12 months. (I could perhaps believe they would be a bit bigger, if American babies are larger, but it seems unlikely that European babies would be so much bigger for their age.) In the end, I settled for the US size 18 months (EU size 9-12 months), hoping this would work for my 1 year old grand-daughter. We shall soon see if it is big enough! (NB Small Dream Factory's patterns do not include seam allowance, you have to add it, but each pattern tells you how much.)

The leggings pattern is from Toddah. I like this better than a lot of leggings patterns I've seen, because it does allow for a longer seat seam at the back than at the front - which is right, and especially so with a baby or toddler in a nappy. This pattern comes in sizes from 6 months to 2 years. Again, I used the one called 18 months (US sizing). I attempted to match the pattern on the material (on the leggings and the t-shirt), which more or less worked. I put a little tag at the back neck-line of the t-shirt and the back of the leggings waistband to make it easier to identify the front and back.

I ended up (after some unpicking) doing the hems on this material by hand - they aren't very big, so it was fine. Initially I attempted to machine sew them using a zig zag stitch, But it stretched and went all wavy.

Pressing it didn't help, so I unpicked and did the hems by hand. Anyway, I'm happy with the end result.

The reindeer pattern on the fleece fabric inspired me to look for an appliqué pattern for a reindeer to make the plain denim pinafore dress more interesting. This cute pattern comes from this wonderful web site, Home Made Gifts Made Easy, that offers free appliqué patterns for a variety of designs (for non-commercial use of course). Here's the finished appliqué attached to the dress.

The web site also gives a method for making appliqués; however, I've developed my own which you can read about here and hereBelow you can see the back of the appliqué after I had attached interfacing to it, and sewn on one eye and the nose.

And the front side, now with both eyes attached. You'll note that I use a fairly tight zig-zag stitch to attach features, and also to attach the finished appliqué to the garment. I don't have a fancy sewing machine, both of my machines just have forwards and backwards and a variable stitch width, which enables you to zig zag. That's usually as fancy as I need!

The first thing I did was prepare my reindeer face. I think I did this even before I cut out the pinafore dress it was going to adorn. However, I had found the pattern I was going to use. Again, this was a pattern from Small Dream Factory, for an A-line dress. This dress is made on their blog as a double layered dress with a yoke. I didn't want to do that as I planned to use some medium weight denim. 

As I mentioned earlier, the Small Dream Factory patterns do not include seam allowance. So before I started pinning the pattern to the material, I had to add seam allowance. You can see this below. Unfortunately the pattern came too close to the edge of the sheet of printed pattern for me to add the hem, so I just had to mark on the bottom ' Add hem', and remember not to cut off on the line of the pattern but allow enough below it for a hem.


You may also notice that I have also made a small refinement to the pattern. Like a lot of simple A-line dress patterns, the hem is drawn straight across on the downloaded pattern. This means that the side of the dress and the hem line would form an acute angle. So the hem at the sides would go down to a bit of a point. I read somewhere (when I remember where I'll put in the link!) that a way to avoid this is to mark a right angle from the side seam, and curve the hem up to meet the right angle. That's what I've done, above. What it means is that when you join the side seams, you get a nice smooth continuous hem line - see below. 

On very small sized dresses, the lack of a smooth hem may not worry you, but it's so easy to make that small change to the pattern, and I thought it was worth it.

You can see from my cutting layout above that I did this on both front and back pieces. I was also careful to match the straight grain of the fabric to the line marked on each pattern piece.

I mentioned that I was not going to have a double sided dress, as the denim was already quite thick. Instead, I used the pattern pieces to make a front and back facing. These had to be long enough to go down beyond the side opening (as the design has both shoulder fastenings and an opening each side down to the waist (roughly).

I made a copy of the front and back pattern pieces. I first cut round the neck and armholes, then went straight across a few inches below the bottom of the armholes. Finally, I cut out a shape out of the middle to leave a facing about 2 1/2" wide (c. 6 cm).

Before attaching the facings, I finished the free edges by zigzagging round them. I then pinned the front facing right sides together with the front, and stitched round the sides, arm holes and neck. I then trimmed and clipped the curves, turned the facing to the inside and pressed. I also oversewed round the armholes and neck. (I didn't oversew the sides at this stage, as I thought it might make attaching the front and back together more difficult.) This was repeated for the back.

All that remained then was to put the front and back together, and add the fastenings. Once I'd made the side seams and finished them, I oversewed the sides through the facings, and also did some re-inforcement stitches at the bottom of the side opening. Ideally, you might do that in a colour closer to the fabric, but I used black so it shows in the photos. I then sewed the side buttons on, and made loops to fasten them. (I'd run out of thick elastic cord, so I had to use some thin elastic cord and crochet it into a thicker loop!)

Below,  you can see the button fastened up.

After considering the idea of  sewing buttons and button holes on the shoulders, I finally chickened out of it. Instead, I went for hammer-in poppers. (You can see them on the picture below.) I'm not very good at doing button-holes, and my previous experience of making them on denim has left me with the view that the button holes are quite likely to fray. 

So here's the whole outfit ready to be wrapped up for the birthday at the weekend. I hope she'll like it (and that it fits)!

Postscript: She seems to like it! Though it's impossible for her to stand still for a photo.

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