Little Miss turns 2 in August, and I’ve been thinking about her birthday dress for a little while now. The truth is, with 4 kids and one income, I’d rather not spend money on toys that barely get used, and instead would prefer to give her clothes, which she loves, and will definitely use…a lot! So when I saw this incredible rainbow fabric by Laura Blythman on sale at Spotlight, I knew exactly what I wanted to make with it. I should start off by saying that I have made a similar set to this before, and when I was making it, I swore I would never do it again, because it was so, SO much work. But then, it was beautiful and I loved it (PS I love this project, but I’m back in the “never again” camp…for now).
As is so often the case, I started the base of this project with Tadah Pattern’s Tea Party Dress. I use this a lot. But, I wanted some gathered sleeves, so I also borrowed the sleeves from Tadah Pattern’s Pleatie Playsuit. I didn’t want to gether the sleeves with elastic this time, so instead I made bias tape by cutting strips 19cm by 2 inches (yes, sorry, I mix my measurements) and then folding and pressing. I worked out the length for this by holding my measuring tape in a circle around Little Miss’s arm and working out what looked comfortably roomy. Or you could just use bias the length of the elastic that is specified for the pattern. In any case, I assembled the bodice as usual, added the sleeves, and then finished off by gathering the bottom edge of the sleeve and hemming with the bias tape.
Now for the insanity-inducing part. I wanted the skirt to be full….really, really full. So firstly, I cut the front and back as width of fabric, instead of the widths specified in the pattern. I also wanted a white petticoat underneath, which could peep through. This was a beast. In order to have the petticoat show through, I first shortened the length of the skirt by about 6cm to allow the right amount of petticoat to show. Then I made the petticoat. I used the Mae Petticoat by Violette Field Threads as the base. Firstly, I removed the length of the waistband, then added 1cm for seam allowance from the top of the skirt pattern, and then adjusted the length so that the ruffle would start 1.5cm above the hem of the top skirt. Then I sewed, and gathered, and hemmed, and gathered, and hemmed for what felt like 40 days, until the petticoat was constructed. Because I like a challenge, and like I said, I wanted the skirt to be full, I did a double layer petticoat. Just a casual 11m or so of hem to fold and sew… phew!
Finally, I constructed the dress as usual, being careful to gather each skirt layer separately, as the massive bulk of gathering multiple layers together would have surely snapped my gathering thread.
Then it was onto the pinafore. For this, I used the Violette Field Threads Rosemary Pinafore pattern. THe pattern is super easy to follow and hardly took any time at all. THe only difficulty I had was that I was sewing with cotton sateen, and some strange stuff was happening. Occasionally, my needle would catch the fabric, even though the needle was new, and a little loop would form. Also, and most troubling for me, my overlocker was having trouble with the bulky seams and would skip stitches. When I tried to go over it with a zigzag on my regular machine, I had the same problem. I’m starting to suspect I need to use either a ballpoint or microtex needle to fix this. I have no idea which, but I will ask my Bernina man, he’s bound to know.
Since I’ve had problems recently with water erasable markers, I was nervous about how to mark out my pleats. Obviously, my regular tailor’s chalk wouldn’t work, since it was white. So, I found a sidewalk chalk which my kids haven’t used for a while, in a very pale green shade, and gently used that. I found that for best results, I should brush it off, as it came off cleaner that way than once it got wet.
I also used my handy little slide ruler to measure hems and especially for making the skirt pintucks. It saved me heaps of time, not having to mark (or erase) lines to sew.
And that was it! A little set all ready for my baby’s second birthday! Just need to make her a matching hair clip and she’ll be ready to paaaaaartaaaaay!