Although Olivia has to wear uniforms to school, I wanted to make her a special dress that she could wear for meet the teacher day. I've been planning this dress since May, looking for exactly what I wanted to do and I remembered these dresses I pinned a while ago.
They looked simple enough to construct, and with the right fabric would be adorable. Plus, with 4 girls (soon to be 5) to sew for I could tweak it a bit and make each girl their own unique dress if I find the ambition. I discovered the perfect fabric at Scrapbooks, ETC; which by the way had matching scrapbook paper so I could make a cute matching card for Olivia to give to her new 1st grade teacher.
I started out by measuring Olivia, and I constructed a "pattern" (although it's really mostly strips of fabric sewn together) based on her measurements. I'll walk you through the process so you can make a similar dress for any sized little girl- just tweak the "pattern" using your own measurements.
Olivia is 6 years old and her measurements are as follows:
From there, I sketched out just how I wanted the dress to look like (DISCLOSURE: I am not an artist nor a fashion designer, as I'm sure you can tell from my sketch) and planned what fabrics I wanted where on the dress.
1// Snip & rip the tops of each piece of fabric all the way across. That way you start with a nice straight line (woven fabrics will always rip straight).
2// Draw your bodice pattern using the measurements you took. Cut 2 on fold of fabric to make two separate sweetheart front pieces.
3// Measure all your strip widths, then snip & rip to get strips of your 48" wide fabrics. For the long panels, you'll need to rip two or three strips of the same width.
4// Sew your straps together. Fold your strips in half right sides together hot dog style and press. Pin along open edge, then straight stitch together leaving ends open. Place a Safety Pin on one edge and pull through center of strap "tube" to flip the fabric right side out once sewn together. Once right side out, press flat. Repeat with other strap.
5// Place two Bodice pieces right sides together and pin straps in between in center, making sure the straps are coming down from the bottom of the bodice pieces and the strap seams are hidden.
6// Straight stitch the bodice all the way around sides and top, leaving the bottom open to flip right side out. Clip the curves of seam (don't clip the thread!), flip, then press flat.
7// Take the Back Panel piece of fabric and press a small hem for the top, then pin. Straight stitch the hem. Once hemmed, put in your elastic thread and smock the panel. I use the needle foot as a guide for my smocking lines, no need to be perfect and draw the lines before hand.
8// Once your Back Panel is smocked, pin it to the Sweetheart Bodice piece right sides together and straight stitch the sides. Flip right sides out. Congratulations- you're half done!
9// Take your Center Panel strip and cut in half so you have two pieces to equal your center measurement. Put right sides together and straight stitch both ends, then flip. Change your machine to a larger stitch length (I sew with a 2 normally, then go up to a 4 for a gathering stitch) then stitch across top to gather the panel.
10// Pin the Center Panel to your bodice right sides together and straight stitch to connect.
11// Repeat Step 9 with your Skirt Panel piece. Stitch front & back together, gather at top, then pin to Center Panel and stitch together.
12// Now you can make it fancy with a bottom ruffle, or you can hem the Skirt Panel, or you could just serge the bottom if you're short on time or ambition. I decided on a ruffle for the bottom, so I repeated Step 9 again with my Ruffle Strip. Instead of hemming my ruffle, however, I zig zag stitched the bottom of the ruffle then trimmed the end with pinking shears.
13// I really like the pinked edges look so I did the same with the straps open end seams. You could sew the straps to the back of the dress, tie them like a halter, or do what I did and add grommets to the back to tie the straps through. I'm not great at grommets, so here's a tutorial to help you install grommets if you want to try and brave using them. I ended up having to have Braden jimmy rig them with his tools.
14// Lastly, with Olivia's dress, I felt like the skirt needed something and added simple square pockets to the front. I ripped 4 squares of fabric, placed two together right sides together, stitched around leaving one side open, then flipped right sides out. After repeating with the other two squares, I pressed each pocket, then zig zag stitched and pinked the tops of each pocket. I topped each square with an apple I cut from leftover fabric and appliqued them onto the pockets. Then I simply pinned the apple pockets where I wanted them on the dress and stitched the bottom and sides.
** This tutorial is intended for sewers with a knowledge of smocking, and basic sewing skills. Please let me know if you have any questions and I can guide you to some great tutorials I have found online to help me learn more about sewing!
This matching headwrap is a cinch to make. Just rip a 2.5" x the width of your fabric strip (it will probably be 48" long), zag stitch the sides, then pink the frayed edges.
Stitch an apple cut out from your fabric onto a piece of red felt and cut around. Cut a green leaf from felt, arrange on headwrap, then do a skinny straight stitch to attach to wrap. Easy as Apple Pie and twice as sweet.