I have a little confession to make about this next dress. It’s my last project of the year for Minerva Crafts, and my first idea was to play around with a little bit of tie-dye and plain white fabric, but unfortunately it didn’t go quite to plan, so instead I’ve used some completely different fabrics to make two little shift dresses.
My idea here was to show you how you can take a pattern, play with the variations and deviate from the pattern ever so slightly and create different dresses from the same pattern, even if you’re not massively confident with alterations.
This is the pattern I’m using, isn’t it cute? It’s a reissue of an original 70’s pattern, only updated with slightly more pattern markings, and a variety of sizes. I’m going for a size three, as Mini is still on the small size, and is swamped by all of the 3-4 years clothes that my Mum’s been sending up. I find the image on the front a little bit twee, I’m just not sure that Mini could pull off such a girly look, so I’m going to make it a little bit more rock ‘n’ roll with my choice of fabrics.
It doesn’t use a lot of fabric at all, you can make the whole dress in around a metre of fabric, and if you got a long quarter of the contrast fabric around the top, you could easily cut all the pieces, especially in the smaller size. So pretty economical, which is what we like at Thread Bunny! The pattern also includes the most adorable coat, which I’m going to make for the spring.
I really love the scalloped edge on the tunic, and I’m going to use it on one of the variations, but I’m going to keep it straight on the other. I’m using a plain black cotton for the top for both variations, and by keeping it simple this allows me to go crazy with the bottom half.
The two fabrics I’m using are very bold, first up, this amazing graphic monochrome fabric by Timeless Treasures called Wavy Check. It’s really soft and so bold that it makes your eyes go a little bit funny when you look at it. It reminds me of a really graphic 60’s/70’s print, which really suits the style of the dress with it’s straight sides and short sleeves.
For the second variation, I’m going a little bit christmassy and crazy with this amazing gold sequin fabric. I think there’s only a limited supply available at Minerva, so a great alternative is this round sequin fabric, which comes in a tonne of colours. It’s fairly thin and should really be lined, but she’ll wear something underneath it should be okay. I love it. It’s got a real 70’s disco vibe to it and I think it’s just so funky.
I’m also using a 9″ zip on each dress and some plain black bias binding, which will create a neat edge around the neck hole. I’ll use a hook and eye to fasten the top of the dress too.
Here’s a little look at the pattern pieces, and you can see from this that the dress is constructed of only five pattern pieces, with one acting as a facing.
I really do love Simplicity pattern pieces, they are just packed with information, each one tells you where it belongs, and I never feel lost with them. Take a look at the facing piece, you can see clearly that the scalloped edge is to be sewn round, joining your front two pieces together, and then trimmed. This means that your curves are going to be nice and even, and gives you an accurate line to follow rather than estimating from the edge. Use a washable fabric marker or some carbon paper to transfer marking stop your fabric.
I think the most important thing when cutting this pattern is to find the visual centre of the fabric. Because there’s no gathering or pleating, it’s straight up and down, the print of the fabric is going to look really odd if it’s not central
Luckily, I’m using two fabrics with squares, so it’s been fairly easy to keep them straight. It also really helps if you iron a fold into your fabric before you cut it, to give the centre line a sharp fold to lay your pattern against. I found the basic construction of this dress very simple, so let’s just go through the zip insertion. On the first variation, I’m using a lapped zip insertion as recommended by the pattern, which folds the fabric over slightly on one side to cover the teeth of the zip. You’ll see this on a skirt, usually somewhere on the side of a garment so the zip doesn’t poke out.
I’m using a red zip because why not? It looks kinda cute poking out, but I probably should have made it an exposed zip to make the most of it.
Here’s what it looks like: you can make that stitching invisible by only stitching one layer of the folded fabric, but I wasn’t too fussed about this as the pattern s so busy.
One the gold version, I decided to change from the pattern instructions and use an exposed zip, by attaching the fabric to both sides of the zip first, and then sewing the remainder of the back seem. I did this because I wanted to make sure the squares matched on both sides of the dress, as it would really bug me if they didn’t!
This definitely made it easier to match the pattern across the back.
I also deviated from the pattern instructions when it came to the sleeve insertion. Instead of sewing the side seams and then placing the sleeves inside, I’ve chosen to sew the sleeves as a flat piece. I just find it so much easier to do this way, and it’s so much less fiddly when you’re dealing with small items.
There’s just the smallest amount of gathering on the top of the sleeve to ease it into the hole. I love the way you can get such an idea of the shape when you pull the threads on the gathering stitches!
So you can see here that when you place the two flat pieces together and start to pin them, they will naturally fall into the curve of the sleeve. It’s also a lot easier to adjust the gathering this way.
After you have sewn the sleeve to the main dress sew the side seams and then continue on to the sleeves. The sleeves will then have a seam that sits just about on the underarm. The final stage before hemming is to finish the neck with some bias binding. I used a narrow binding, I’d recommend a slightly wider one, and you could even make a bit of a feature of it.
So here’s the finished dresses:
You can see here how sheer the fabric is between the sequins, but she’ll no doubt wear it over leggings so it’s no big thing.
I haven’t yet fastened the top with a hook and eye, but I will! I just find them so fiddly to sew!
Isn’t it so funky the way it catches the light and picks up all the different colours? Ah, I love it.
So here’s the other version, this time with a straight edge on the top half, because I thought the scalloped edge would be too distracting against the madness of the checks.
So here’s a few pictures of my little model, we took some photos in the park but as you can see, it was threatening to rain all afternoon – she was undeterred though, and whipped of her hoodie as soon as we got there to give it her best work.
You’ve gotta love the scooter, it’s coming everywhere with us these days…
I did ask her to smile, but you know, she just says the word “smile” instead of actually doing it!!
I think this dress is pretty cool with the black tights and boots, I like the way the high collar gives it the feel of a turtle neck dress, which adds to the retro feel. So nice to see a little girl in black too, I’ve always thought it was a great colour for kids clothes when used the right way!
Still very hard to get her to stay still these days!
One quick wardrobe change later…
This is going to be her Christmas party dress and I love it! So glitzy but not too girly. The hemline is really wonky though – I couldn’t fold the sequins to follow the curve of the hem, I ended up half melting them with the iron and half sewing them, bit rubbish but it’s okay as she’s not going to stay still long enough for anyone to have a close enough look.
So I hope this gives you an idea as to how you can utterly change the feel of a dress from the pattern image depending on your choice of fabrics, and making small tweaks to your pattern can give it a different look too. It just takes a little imagination and confidece.
What do you think? Have you ever altered a pattern to change the look of the finished garment? Let me know in the comments.