Well I’m not sure if it was a napkin or a really small tablecloth, or some other piece of linen, but we found this little, erm, thing in a charity shop and I instantly loved it. It’s made of that thick, almost linen-y cotton that posh restaurant napkins are made of (I do steal a lot of them), and the pattern and colours are so sweet, and also a little bit creepy, so just my thing. Piper let me buy it, and then I had this brilliant idea.
We were looking at it, in a post pizza daze (pizza for lunch is the best), and I thought it would make a nice little project – Piper has never had any experience with sewing anything, and I’ve been saying for a while I would show her how to make something. So here goes….
So luckily I have most of the things I need, right colour (ish) thread, some spare bits of bias, and just enough fabric on a 50x50cm square to make a little dress for MM. I think it’s only fair she gets something as I didn’t really make her anything in her whole first year.
Oh yeah, have an embarrassing story. Okay so I made her a little dress before she was born out of the same thing as the floor cushion, and I don’t know, it must have got caught up with some other stuff and also some of the other little dresses I made ages ago and donated to (another) charity shop. Anyway it was one I don’t usually go to, but we did a big clear out and had to spread all the junk around, and somehow all my teeny tiny newborn dresses ended up on a rail there. By chance I happened to be walking by and decided to go in… and yep, spotted the fabric, realised what happened and had to buy them all back. Plus, one had already sold so I kinda felt good about that, but not good enough to counter the overwhelming embarrassment of acting like a proper nutcase and buying back my old stuff from a chazza. So, yeah. That happened.
Anyway, let’s make a new dress!
So I guess I should have started her off with a really easy sewing pattern, I was thinking a two-piece pinafore, but i had reservations: 1, It ideally needs to be lined, and the fabric is too thick for that, or, 2, we have to bind the edges, and 3, MM is such a little porker that a pinafore is just going to hug her belly and look loose on the shoulders. It’s just not a good shape on a 14 month old, they tend to be pretty round still.
Also, my printer has run out of all kinds of ink, so we had to go with a sewing pattern I already had cut out. I ended on this one, a pdf pattern that can be either a top or a dress, depending on whether you remember to add the seam allowance (haha).
I started Piper off by explaining about the centre front and that this is the visual centre of the dress, so placing the front pattern piece is very important. She then folded and ironed it so that we have a straight centre edge to work with.
It was at this point that I told her that sewing is 90% ironing. She was not happy about this.
Anyway, this pattern needs a seam allowance added all the way round (except the centre seam), so I kept it simple with a 1.5cm seam allowance all round. The instructions say to adjust the width of the seam allowance on the smaller pieces, but I didn’t want to confuse her so early on, haha.
Here she’s marking the seam allowance around the neckline piece. With such a bold pattern it’s really important to think about where you are placing the pieces, so she’s lined up the edge where it will be sewn with the blue line on the fabric.
We mainly used Wonder Clips and weights as it’s been printed on standard printer paper and it’s a bit tricky to get pins through. I find it lies flatter like this so better for marking out.
We probably could have pattern matched the sides a bit better, but as long as they roughly line up I’m not too worried – it’s an absolute beginner’s project and I sure as hell didn’t care about pattern matching when I first got started sewing. Anyway, all the pieces got cut out with minimal fuss.
I did forget that this pattern, as well as including gathering and turning out, require a bit of binding round the armhole. I always forget this because there isn’t a pattern piece for it. I was going to make some matching, but then thought nope, and pulled out my trusty roll of red bias that I use on everything. It’s actually a pretty good colour match too.
This is the arm hole on the front of the dress, you can see I’ve folded over some bias tape which I’m going to stitch down (actually, Piper is, I’m purely here to guide). I adjusted the needle position slightly so I could line up the edge of the bias tape with the edge of my presser foot to sew it nice and neat. This is the hardest sewing on this project, in my opinion.
Leave the top and bottom free as they will be caught in by the neckline piece and the side seam.
The top of the skirt is roughly 1.5 times wider than the neckline piece, so we need to gather it slightly to make it fit. Piper did a great job here, she managed to sew three pretty good lines of gathering stitch which she pulled in to create the slight gather at the front of the skirt. I always find it easiest to mark the centre line with a pin, and then work both sides in from the edges. I have some tips in my tutorial here, but it’s a really easy technique to master.
The top is attached, right sides together, top of skirt to bottom of neckline, and sewn along the seam allowance – it’s helpful to mark these on to guide you.
You might notice from the picture earlier, that the blue line is at the bottom here, as that’s the edge of the paper pattern piece where the seam allowance was added.
Final, finishing touch for this piece – gently press the neckline piece back along the seam allowance (be careful not to flatten your gathers) and make sure the top piece lies flat.
It’s a bit tricky to see, but I added a little line of blue top-stitching along the blue line in the fabric to keep the neckline in place, and to help flatten down the layers of material on the back, and just generally keep everything together.
So that’s the first piece completed!
The back follows the same process, then we need to add the sleeves and the reverse of the neckline pieces (which will save us from needing to line it), and then we should have an actual dress on our hands!
I have to say – Piper was really good at this. She managed the gathering stitches (which can be kinda tricky with all the threads getting in the way), and had the patience to gather the fabric and pick all the loose ends out. We could have got further but by that time I was hungry again and there was sticky toffee pudding in the fridge, so we’re going to have another go at completing it on another night.
So far, so good!
Hope you like it, wish us luck,