Thursday 16 July 2015

Awesome and easy toddler skull print shirt

     One of my nephews had a birthday coming up and I knew that a homemade gift would be expected so I set about trying to design an easy to make toddler shirt. I bought the fabric several months ago when I saw it in my local Abakhan shop, it was specifically bought with the idea of making a toddler shirt in mind as it’s a solid but lightweight fabric with a little stretch too.

The finished shirt

Abakhan haul

     Trying to decide how to make the pattern as easy as possible I had a look at a conventional shirt and determined to reduce the basic shirt shape into as few pieces as possible. I concluded that really only three pattern pieces would be needed: a back piece, a single front piece (that could be used for both sides), and a sleeve piece. Originally, I was going to add a collar but decided later on that it wouldn’t add anything to the design and might even make it more uncomfortable.
     After collecting basic measurements from my nephew I made a very simple, quite square shirt pattern, and then used tailors chalk to mark my fabric – it was crucial at this stage to make sure the pattern matched up across all the pieces. Using my new rotary cutter and cutting mat I’d got for my birthday I quickly cut out all the pieces I needed, being very careful not to let my hand slip!
I love this new rotary cutter but it's very sharp
     My first step for sewing was to attach the front pieces to the back piece. This was easy, I positioned the pieces right sides to right sides and stitched across the shoulders and down the side seams, which left the two arm holes ready for the sleeves to be inserted.
The cut fabric
     To construct the sleeves I folded over each sleeve piece and then straight stitched the seam that would eventually be under the arm. To hem the end I simply turned the edge of the fabric up and used a straight top stitch along the edge. Now to insert the sleeves, and ensure that the side seam of the shirt matched the underarm stitching on the sleeve, I tacked the sleeve into position before securing it with my sewing machine.
     The neckline was tackled next, and I was incredibly lazy and decided to simply fold the fabric over and run a top stitch along the edge to secure it. This worked really well as the slight stretch in the fabric meant it folded really easily and lay flat once complete. The bottom hem was then finished with a basic roll hem, as were the two overlapping edges of the front pieces, ensuring there was enough overlap left to affix the buttons.
Basic roll hem
The neckline

constructed but no buttons yet
      As normal I chose acrylic buttons, but to keep the shirt looking in scale I used smaller 15mm buttons, as usual I bought them from eBay. Once again the button hole setting on my sewing machine saved me lots of time, and I can honestly say I don’t miss the days of hand stitching every button hole like I had to with my old little sewing machine!
I buy buttons in bulk
      I loved the final result, the way the skulls matched up on the front worked out far better than I could have hoped and the simple design means it’s a loose and comfortable shirt, ideal with a little long sleeved top underneath when it’s cool or light enough to be worn on its own during the summer.
The inside

I love the pattern matching

      Despite my reservations it was very easy to make, and undoubtedly will become a favourite design, much like my beloved tab top dresses – because style is important, but for children comfort and simplicity will always win.

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 – you can also find me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram!

Wednesday 15 July 2015

'Oh The Places You'll Go' Dr Seuss toddler party dress

     This dress is one of my favourite things I’ve made so far, and it was a departure from my normal routine of keeping things as simple as possible. I have always been a big fan of Dr Seuss and finding a range of licensed Dr Seuss fabrics readily available was a revelation! One particular toddler I know is obsessed with balloons so I thought this would be ideal. As with most licensed fabrics it wasn’t cheap so I did my normal trick of buying a small amount and then bulking the design up with a cheaper fabric.
The finished dress

     I ordered two fat quarters of the Dr Seuss fabric and then a metre of the lilac polka dot cotton mix fabric, which was significantly cheaper (about a third of the price per metre) although still good quality, both were from eBay. There was already ample lilac thread in my sewing tool box so all that was left to do was order buttons and decide on a pattern.
The gorgeous fabric

I always keep different threads in stock

     I wasn’t sure what style of dress to make at first although I knew I wanted something that would use every scrap of the Dr Seuss fabric. This is when I thought a full skirted party dress would be ideal as the full skirt would be the main event, to balance it out I would need to reserve enough to make small decorative cap sleeves and a bow for the front. Looking at the design meant that pink became the obvious colour choice for the buttons as they brought the detail in the skirt into the bodice. I tend to use 20mm acrylic buttons for children’s clothes as they are very cheap, sturdy and found in a rainbow of different colours (eBay is great).
     Looking at my rough illustration I could tell this would be quite a difficult piece to make because I wanted it to be fully lined. Thinking back to the Frida Kahlo dress I'd made, I chose to design the bodice so that it was made from a single piece of fabric folded round without any side seams and with little gathered cap sleeves set in at the arms. The skirt would be a full circle, gathered at the top and attached to the bodice. This meant the only fastenings would be the buttons down the centre of the back of the bodice, so I was careful to make the pattern so that it would be comfortable to get on and off (toddlers are not always fond of getting dressed so it’s a good idea to make things as easy as possible to slip on and off).
I make all my own patterns
     Cutting out the fabric was easy, although I was careful to ensure that both polka dots and balloons were all aligned correctly. The first thing I did was prepare the little cap sleeves, making semicircles of both the lilac and Dr Seuss fabric, sewing the pieces together before turning them the right way round to top stitch what would be the edge of the sleeves, and then using a loose running hand stitch to gather each sleeve so that they would be exactly the same length once stitched into place.
Cutting the fabric out
     Next I prepared the bow for the front, making two tubes of fabric (one big and one small) by folding strips of the Dr Seuss fabric over right side to right side and stitching down the open edge, turning them the right way before top stitching down the outer edges and then folding both parts together so that they became a lovely flat bow ready to be attached to the front. I find it easier to get the trims ready first so they are to hand at the crucial point of construction and I don’t have to stop when I’m in full flow to make something else.
      Putting the sleeves and bow to the side I constructed the bodice. This was quite tricky but not too taxing. First I lay the fabrics right sides to right sides before attached the lining and the front fabric (both the lilac polka dot) at the shoulders. Then I had to stitch the neckline and the arm holes together, as well as what would be the back of the bodice. Working around the arm holes was the hardest bit because once the shoulders and neckline are attached it doesn’t leave much room to insert the cap sleeves before stitching round the seam, so I tacked everything into position before I began to stop anything ending up out of place.
Finished cap sleeve and bow
     Once constructed I did a quick top stitch around the arm holes and the neck/back to keep the fabric nice and flat. Constructing the skirt was actually quite simple. There were two large rectangles of fabric (one lilac lining and one Dr Seuss), which I folded separately (right side to right side) and stitched down the side seam (what would be the back seam on the finished skirt) on each piece. Next these circles of fabric were placed one inside the other (right side to right side, seams matching) and I stitched along the bottom. Turning the fabric inside out I top stitched along the long edge, which would become the skirt hem once complete.
      To make the fabric the right size for the bodice I used a long running hand stitch and gathered the fabric carefully, ensuring even pleats all around the top and also so that the fabric would match precisely in terms of fitting into the bodice. I hadn’t been entirely sure how best to attach the bodice to the skirt so I decided to sew it to the front fabric of the bodice only. By turning the bodice inside out I could pin the skirt right side to right side with the bodice (positioning the skirt’s side seam at the back) and then stitch the front fabric of the bodice to the skirt, ensuring the right overlap at the back of the bodice so that buttons and buttonholes would be easy to affix at the end. Once the skirt was attached to the front fabric I turned the dress inside out and simply folded up the lining of the bodice and did a top stitch to secure it in place overlapping the top of the skirt, giving the effect of a fully enclosed, lined dress.
The finished dress with visible seam on the back of the skirt
      Now the dress was constructed all that was left was securing the buttons and bow and making the buttonholes. I hand stitched on the buttons and bow, and used the buttonhole setting on my sewing machine. 
The buttons

Finished bodice

     I was extremely happy with the result, because the dress is fully lined it feels like a really good quality dress and likely to withstand the average party antics of a toddler. Using the cheaper polka dot fabric for both the bodice and the lining meant that I could make the more expensive Oh The Places You’ll Go fabric the star of the show without breaking the bank. Although I found this tricky in places I’ll definitely give it another go sometime!

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 – you can also find me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram!