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!

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