Thursday 19 February 2015

My first attempt at making a toddler dress

     As my previous blog outlined I’ve been very busy recently with various sewing projects – as frequently shown on my Twitter account – and have only now given myself time to sit and type up the stories of each piece. The green fabric with a pink floral print that a friend gave me was the catalyst for this new spate of sewing projects and as such the first item I made revolved around getting the most out of such a bold print. The green was so brilliant I decided to make all the other trimmings pink to help highlight the contrast between the two colours in the fabric.
Cotton mix fabric

     With only a limited amount of fabric I settled on making a simple pinafore style toddler dress. Rather than using a zip fastening – which can be difficult to stitch in correctly – I planned to incorporate button fastenings on the straps and under the arms to make it easy to get on and off (toddlers are not known for their patience during dressing routines), as well as ribbons secured in the side seams to tie at the back. I also decided to fully line the dress because lining has several purposes: it protects the wearer from rough seams against the skin, supports the garment’s shape, and it is also a handy way of keeping all the messy seams hidden from view! I took to eBay and ordered pink thread, pink 20mm acrylic round buttons and a metre of pink polycotton lining fabric, none of which were very expensive. I also ensured that I’d washed all fabric to be used as often, particularly with cotton, it requires a prewash as it can shrink the first time it hits a washing machine.

  • First things first though before I could put my slipper to the pedal was to design the dress and create a paper pattern. I took a few rough measurements from my toddler volunteer and then began sketching basic shapes and ideas.

My very rough sketches

  • Once I’d decided more or less what to do I found a roll of brown parcel paper leftover from posting Christmas presents and began sketching out shapes. I tried to keep it very simple so there is only one pattern piece for both the front and back, something that makes matching pieces together very easy. The pattern piece is also symmetrical down the centre, which again makes matching up very easy.

Initial design

Working out curved edges

  • After carefully cutting out the pattern piece I pinned it onto the fabric and then drew around the edge with tailors’ chalks so that when I cut out the fabric there was very little room for error. I did this twice with the green fabric and twice with the pink lining.

Fabric pieces and the paper pattern

  • Next, I pinned the right sides of the pieces together so the front green fabric and front lining were facing each other and the same again for the back pieces. This is where the first bit of sewing happened! I sewed the fabrics together along the top edge and down to where the button fastenings under the arms were, before trimming the seams to reduce bulk and then turning them the right side out to check they were correct.

Stitching together along the top edge and straps

  • The ribbon trim was the next thing to be added and I pinned and sewed the ribbon across the right side of the front piece of green fabric only.

Decorative waistband

  • This meant that the free pieces of ribbon that would tie at the back needed to be very carefully stitched between the front and back pieces of the green fabric in the side seams so that the ribbon across the front and the pieces that tied back all matched up. 

Attaching the free ribbon ties and securing side seams

  • Now, the front and back lining and front and back green fabric pieces had to be attached to each other so again I turned the fabric inside out so that the right sides were facing each other and then carefully pinned these before stitching the side seams.

  • At this point, once turned the right way, the dress was looking like a recognisable item, it just needed the hem securing, topstitching and the buttons finishing. Securing the hem on a fully lined dress is a little tricky, the lining needs to be perfectly matched up to the top fabric and then stitched right side to right side so that the seam will be hidden, this means all the dress will be ‘inside’ the wrong sides of the fabric, so a small gap must be left to bring all the fabric back through before tucking in the unsewn edges and carefully topstitching round the bottom hem on the right side to close the gap securely. 

The gap in the hem before stitching closed

  • It is also worth topstitching the completed neckline at this point too as it helps the fabric lie flat. 

Topstitching the neckline

  • Traditionally garments should be well ironed before any topstitching but I must say it is very rare for me to iron anything and I avoid it unless it’s absolutely essential! 

Finished but no buttons!

  • Finally, it’s time for buttons and buttonholes! Most modern sewing machines have a buttonhole function that makes them a whizz to complete but, alas, my machine didn’t have one so I had to hand stitch every buttonhole until it was secure. Ditto the buttons were hand secured but that isn’t quite such a time consuming business.

Slightly shabby but perfectly functioning button hole

Matching the thread and buttons

  • So after all that effort here’s the finished dress, and was I happy – very much so. 

The lining looking neat

Detail of back strap

Back of dress

Side seam and matched ribbons

Back of dress both straps

Front of dress

     With very little experience I had a go and made something wearable, and I can honestly say I’ve had lots of people ask me where the dress was from and I take such pride in saying I made it all myself. It may not be perfect, the seams may be a little squiffy in places for example, but it is totally unique, plus I now have the pattern made and stored for next time I want to make a similar dress!

All blog content and photos are Copyright of Charisse Sayers Proofreader & Copywriter I welcome all feedback and would love to know your thoughts so please get in touch, comment, share, like and generally get involved!

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