Project 23 – Birthday Set For a Special Girl

The school kids, Masters 3, 5 and 6, attend a Montessori school, where the curriculum is taught in English, but the kids are almost all Malay, so speak Bahasa to each other. My boys have done a pretty good job at making friends with the other kids, but they really love their Aunties (their teachers). Master 6 is a particularly sensitive boy, whose best friend at school was one of the Aunties, and her almost 3 year old daughter. In fact, all of the boys love to play with Miss 3, (who doesn’t speak a lot of English, for the record). This particular teacher announced last Monday that she would be finishing at the school on Friday, and moving out of the area the following week, and that Miss 3 would be having her birthday party and farewell on Saturday.

The Aunties always love the clothes I make for Little Miss, so it had long been my intention to make Miss 3 a dress for her birthday, but I did think I would have more than 5 days for it! Anyway, we came straight home from the school drop off, and I asked Little Miss to peruse my fabric collection and choose something for Miss 3’s dress. She landed on the leftover fabric from the birthday dress I made for her, so I had to get a little creative for the design to make sure I had enough fabric.

As usual, I used the Tadah Patterns Tea Party Dress as a starting point. I loved the curve on the bottom of the sleeves from the Rose Dress by Violette Field Threads that I made recently, but didn’t want the top pleats. So, I took the gathered sleeve from the TPD pattern, and traced over the curved hem from the Rose pattern. Next, I wanted the dress to be fancy, so I decided to have the skirt layered with many ruffles, peeping out from under a top layer of the birthday fabric (which, in case you were wondering, I got from the Laura Blythman collection at Spotlight). To make the top layer sit nicely, I borrowed the tie-up idea from the VFT Scarlett Skirt, which you’ll remember I made into a Beauty and the Beast skirt here.


I just love how this little tie-up detail turned out on the skirt. It gives it a real princess-y look


So, I started by working out that I wanted my top layer to be about 14cm long once hemmed and cut that appropriately. Then, I knew I wanted 4 layers underneath, and that each ruffle should overlap by about 3cm. Once I’d worked out the length for each ruffle, making the top one shorter as there was nothing to underlap it with, I sewed 2 strip of 90cm together for each of the ruffles, then overlocked the long edges. The bottom edge I then turned up, pressed, turned and pressed again, then hemmed. I overlocked it so I could easily fold a consistent hem, and it saved me a lot of time measuring it. Kind of a necessity, with over 10m of hem in this dress and only 5 days to complete it!


The ruffled portion of the skirt…it’s very fluffy!


Next, I made a tube for the skirt. This was a little bit wider than the bodice, so would be gathered a little bit, and was the length of the finished skirt, minus the length of the last ruffle. The first step was to sew the bottom ruffle to the bottom of the skirt, then topstitch it to keep the seam allowance in place. Next, I marked where each of the ruffles should sit on the skirt, and then marked a line 1cm below this. Now, I matched the side seams, and pinned the gathered ruffle right sides together, along the bottom line, but with the bottom of the ruffle pointing up toward the top of the skirt. I attached it with a 1cm hem, then pressed the ruffle down, and topstitched over it. I repeated this for the next ruffle, then added the top ruffle as normal, basting it to the skirt.


Attaching the second ruffle. You can see the bottom ruffle on the right, and this is the upside down ruffle, which will be flipped once attached, and topstitched


At this point, I pinned on the first of the skirt ties, which I cut at about 3cm by 25cm, and double folded then sewed, to the centre of the skirt. Over this, I added the already hemmed top skirt layer, gathering and matching the side seams. Finally, I pinned on the top tie, and the skirt was ready for attachment.


The many, many layers of skirt


The bodice was pretty easy, and apart from the slight modification in the sleeves, was a regular construct. Once that was all together, I attached the skirt as usual, and sat back to admire my work!

I made a matching bow hair clip to go with it, using this tutorial, which I scaled down and hot-glued to the back of a plain alligator clip (I bought a bag of 50 from Alibaba when Little Miss was born). FYI, I don’t bother with interfacing since they’re so small, but that’s a combo of laziness and stinginess… I mean, a design element. The birthday girl, and her Mama, loved the dress, which I was very pleased with. We will miss them a lot! Little Miss also got a kick out of wearing her matching dress to the birthday party as a teaser.


The finished dress



Project 19 – Rose Dress

Back in January, I found myself kid-less and husband-less for a few days and spent approximately 75% of that time browser-shopping new patterns and fabrics. In my searches, I came across the Violette Field Threads pattern, the Rose dress. It appears to have been removed from their site now, which is a shame. It was on sale, and so pretty! The dress features options of a peplum pencil skirt or three tiered skirt, sleeveless or with small pleated sleeves, and optional ruffle around the bodice and neckline.


I opted not to run the piping all the way around the neckline as I preferred the lie of it this way


I bought some gorgeous mint coloured cotton a while ago, and some beautiful lace I had intended to use down the centre of the bodice, but when I laid it on the fabric, the fabric was too pale to show the detail of the lace. So, I went to my lace drawer and after some hunting, found some interesting lace, buttons, and cream fabric (ok, calico) to make flat piping from.


My sleeve pleats weren’t perfect, but they were symmetrical, so I called it a win and refused to obsess


Assembly was pretty straight forward for the bodice and sleeves; the only challenge was positioning the sleeve pleat so that the edges met at the seam line. The skirt was similar to so many I have made before, but with the addition of a placket. I really liked the finish it gave, although the dress did gape a little below the bottom button due to the bulk of the skirt, so I hand stitched in a hook and eye closure low down to keep the bodice edges together. Next time I make this dress I will use a zip to close instead. Usually I gather multiple skirt layers individually but this time I was feeling a bit lazy – plus the pattern suggested using topstitching thread, so I tried it and it worked well! It might be my go-to method for similar dresses in the future.


I loved using this white quilt blender (white print on white) for the lining. It adds a subtle detail and didn’t drain my plain white stocks, which always seem to be low


As with many VFT patterns, I found this one a little small for sizing. I made this in a 3 for my 2-year-old-tomorrow, and it hasn’t got much room at all in the bodice. There is plenty of length on it though! If she grows out of it too quickly I think I will remove the buttons at the back, sew the back placket shut, and put buttonholes where the buttons were and lace it up to get extra wear from it. For a dress I wasn’t keen on to start with, I love it now!


This is a bit blurry, but you can see the important part: the gape. with the hook and eye, the gape is gone


So hard to get a non-blurry photo of Little-Miss-Always-On-The-Go! You can see how lovely and puffy the skirt is here…and it probably would be even puffier if I’d gathered the layers seperately




Project 15 – Hide and Seek Dress

My 11 year old step-daughter recently came to spend 3 weeks with us, and she forgot her bag. How this is even possible, I just don’t know, but it happened and she was too far from home to go back and get it, and still make her flight. So, she arrived with the clothes on her back. Of course, living in South East Asia, there are plenty of very cheap options for kids clothes. The problem is, that my step-daughter is a fussy little fashionista at the best of times, and then we live in a very Muslim part of the country, where most 11 year old girls wear long sleeves and pants. And it’s 33 degrees and humid every day. My step-daughter was not going to go for that. So, I bought her a few things to get her started, then the day she arrived, I showed her some of the dresses I’ve made myself, and asked if she’d like anything like those. She really loved my second Cinema dress, but mostly for the fabric. When we looked at the cut alone, she preferred the silver dress. Fortunately for her, Oliver + S, also created by Liesl Gibson, has the Hide and Seek dress, which is basically a kids version of the Cinema dress. So we hurried off to the local fabric store, and after a painful length of deliberation, she chose a white cotton with navy polka dots. The thin nature of the cotton, and the dress shape she desired, meant that I decided to fully line it, cheat’s style (like I did for the second Cinema dress) to give it more structure. It had the added bonus of also allowing any underwear choices without fear of show through!


I had planned to use white buttons but forgot to shop for them until the week of Hari Raya, which is like Christmas here, so had to use these clear ones from my stash


With Little Miss, I rarely bother to make muslins, as I sew so often for her that I am usually just moving straight up to the next size. I haven’t sewn for my step-daughter for a while, plus she’s very fussy about the fit of her clothes, so I bothered to make a muslin, and it was a good thing I did, because she asked me to lower the neckline a little (she had opted not to have the v-notched neckline). Since she wanted a skirt like my silver dress, I added 4cm to the length of the bodice muslin, then measured the circumference of the bodice bottom to get the width of the skirt. To this (I now forget what that was….), I added 80cm to allow for 8 inverted box pleats, each taking up 10cm. I sewed the centre back seam of the skirt and hemmed the bottom edge, then I started marking the placements for the pleats. First I marked the centre front and back, and those pleat positions, then the side pleat positions, and finally, the front and back side pleats. These were the trickiest as I had to measure the distance from the centre front and back to the bodice seams.


This photo shows the pleats quite nicely…and the dead lawn. ooops…


And finally I attached the skirt to the bodice. The whole dress was very quick to make; with 5 kids running around I managed to get it done in a little less than 2 days, whilst also having a life outside my sewing room. In these photos, the dress looks a bit large, and whilst it is true that the fit is a little roomy, I think it’s the best for kids with wovens, as it allows them to move. She says it is super comfy, which is a big compliment from a kid who wouldn’t wear a dress 12 months ago!IMG_0062.JPG


When you send your husband and a kid to take photos you get half the dress missing and shots like this…


And Little Miss just had to get in on the posing action





Project 14 – Birthday Set for Little Miss

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.


Here you can see a little snag. I sort of wiggled and stretched the fabric and it mostly went back into place


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!


I just love the detail on this pinafore!



I also really loved the understated classiness of this lining, and the glitter buttons, because, glitter





Project 13 – Silver Dress

Another of my fabric purchases in the UK was this gorgeous silver… I don’t know what to call it, and nor did John Lewis, where I bought it. It has textured white spots, is thick, like a furnishing fabric, and is silver in colour. Perfect for another variation on the Cinema Dress by Liesl + Co. As you know, I’ve made a couple of these already (you can see them here and here), and I wanted to try another take on this dress. For the record, I showed all 3 to a few people and they were all surprised that they came from the same pattern, as they look fairly different.

I wanted the same, lower waist, that I had in my second version of the dress, as well as the sleeve length and bodice fit, and overall length. But, I wanted the skirt to be pleated with inverted box pleats. Unfortunately, I didn’t realise at the time of purchase that the dots looked better with a vertical orientation than horizontal, and had intended to have a full skirt with plenty of pleats. But the width of the fabric and orientation of the dots prevented this, so instead I settled for 6 pleats; two on the front and back, and one on each side.


Nobody knew what this fabric was. If you do, please tell me!


Construction was fairly simple, as it mirrored what I had done with the second version. I used polyester lining fabric this time as the outer fabric was quite thick and I didn’t want to add too much more bulk or structure – I do live in the tropics, after all! I was pretty nervous about sewing the lining as it frayed pretty badly, so to ensure the seams would hold, I topstitched the lining pieces to ensure the seam allowance was very secure. I didn’t topstitch the outing layer, which although it looks fantastic, does mean that the seam allowance has to be very carefully ironed to ensure there are no unsightly lumps in the bust area.

The maths part of the skirt really hurt my head, mostly because my husband was away and I had all 4 children constantly destroying my will to live/sew. In essence, what I did was measure the completed bodice width, to get the final width required for the skirt. I had to make 2 skirt pieces, and hide the seams in the side pleats. So, to allow for the box pleats, I added 4 inches for each pleat, so 24 inches in total, and 2cm for seam allowance. I measured from the centre of the bodice to the princess seam to get the distance for the first pleat, then marked the centre of the front skirt piece, and marked the bodice distance from there. Then, I marked 2 inches from that, and then another 2 inches. This gave me a group of 3 markings, and to make the pleat I simply folded the outer two markings together, right sides to, sitiched straight down along the marking for 1cm, then turned right side out and lined the stitching up with the centre mark. To make the side seams, I sewed the two skirt panels together using a 1cm seam allowance, then measured 2 inches either side of the seam to give the pleat markings. Then I attached the skirt as usual and hemmed. It was that easy!


Sorry I look so goofy. I really hate modelling for photos


Once again I have crummy pictures because we meant to take them before we went out to dinner, but forgot and in the hurry to get this post up I thought night time ones would do. They don’t do this dress justice. The fabric and cut are so pretty that with sandals it’s totally fine for a casual dinner out. But with heels and big earrings, it could totally be worn to a cocktail party. Which I plan to prove, when I next get a chance!


Here’s a back view. Probably the best as you aren’t distracted by my goofy head



Project 9 – Fox Dress

Ok, I know I’ve been a bit quiet since I went away and you’re probably thinking I’ve just stopped sewing, but I promise I haven’t! I’ve actually sewn four things since I got home 10 days ago, plus 3 little sampins for my kids as part of their traditional Malay dress for the upcoming end of Ramadan, known as Aidilfitri or Hari Raya. So, let me show you those to get you in a forgiving mood first:


3 big boys in their Raya clothes (notably, their homemade sampins – those silver skirt things) and a jealous sister looking on


Righto, now, onto my next real project, which was the fox dress. Let me just slip it in here that yes, I did buy some new fabric while I was away, but I really couldn’t help myself with all the exotic (read: normal) fabrics I could get. On the upside, I have already sewn up nearly everything I bought, so it’s really a nil sum gain. So, while I was waiting for my new fabrics to wash and dry, I decided to sew up the fox dress, which has been on my “to sew” list for yonks. This was a super simple dress to make, and I think it turned out pretty cute. I bought this tangerine drill online a while ago and I don’t remember what I planned to make with it, but when we found out 2 weeks ago that we will be heading somewhere with winters again for next year, I thought it was a perfect time to start prepping Little Miss’ winter wardrobe. As such, I made this dress in a 3 so it will fit her for most of next year, and the heavier weight, but flutter sleeves, means she can wear it by itself in summer or layer it in winter.


Hooray! Foxy goodness for summer and winter!


I used my usual go-to base pattern for dresses, the Tea Party Dress by Tadah Patterns. For the sleeves, I wanted them to resemble ears, so I worked out where I wanted them to join to the front and back bodice pieces, then doubled that distance to get the length, with nice gathering. Then I determined how wide I wanted them to be at the widest point, added 2cm for seam allowance each side, and then, using the centre as the peak, created a triangular pattern piece by connecting the peak to each end. I cut 2 of these in orange, and 2 in pale pink to mimic the inside of a fox’s ears. I joined these at the outside seam, clipped the seam allowances, turned, and pressed.


Please divert your eyes from my manky looking ironing board cover, and direct them to the cute little ears with pink inside

Next, using the back of the front bodice pattern piece, I traced the shape of the fox cheeks out, and copied onto tracing paper. I then cut 2 from fusible interfacing and 2 from white cotton, and applied them to the front bodice piece using a medium sized zig zag stitch. I drew some pretty eyes with lashes onto a piece of tracing paper, being sure to mirror them, then pinned the paper in the appropriate place on the cheek pieces. Using a free motion embroidery foot, with dog feeds down, I carefully stitched over the lines on the paper, tearing the paper away once completed. Next, I cut a little black triangle for the nose, and added it in the same way as the cheeks. I then made up the bodice as usual, using the fully-enclosed method to attach the sleeves. for lining, I used up nearly all I had left of an autumn coloured floral fabric I had lying around, and I love this aspect of the dress so much, it might even be my favourite part. I completed the skirt by using 2x width of fabric to create a very full skirt (and also to minimise the scraps I was left with), and hey presto, all done!



The cheeks and eyes pinned into place, ready to stitch down


Except, that was not the end. I was so excited with my masterpiece but truth be told, it has since become a nightmare. For a start, despite my careful prewashing routine, the very first time the dress was washed, the orange bled onto the white and lining. I was pretty crushed. So, I soaked it properly with stain remover, then washed it again (by itself, of course), and hung it to dry in the sun, being careful that no shadows would fall on it and cause uneven bleaching. That did a pretty good job of recovering it, and although the colour will never be perfect again, I can live with it.

And then, I turned it over and saw that my water erasable marker, had not, in fact, erased properly. I’m still deciding how to move forward with that one – probably stain remover directly on it and dry it with the back facing into the sun next time.


This one actually looks worse than it is because of the weird bright patch, but that’s just because I soaked the fabric to try to erase the marker, then ironed it to dry it. This is one of those weird fabrics that changes colour when ironed, although it’s now back to normal. The lines are still there though


Finally, I discovered the back seam had ripped open. Is this dress cursed? So much has gone wrong, and it hasn’t even been worn yet! Anyway, the seam is now repaired and I swear it is about to go into a cupboard and not be seen for months, so surely nothing else can go wrong with it….surely!?


The ripped seam, which was fairly easily fixed, despite having torn a small hole in the fabric. At least this gives me an opportunity to show off the gorgeous lining


Overall, I’m pretty happy with how it turned out, although I’d have rathered not spend the many additional hours fixing the after-finish catastrophes




Dresses · Sewing

Project 7 – Little Miss Matchy Dress

Well, as I mentioned in my last post, I really loved the Art Gallery Fabric that I made my second Cinema Dress out of, and I paused for all of about 15 mins between finishing that and starting this little matching dress for Little Miss. Firstly, let me just say that I am not usually into the “Mummy and Me” look, but I was so in love with that fabric I couldn’t even bring myself to throw away the scraps. So, this little plan hatched in my head.


This is the best photo I have of the lace at the bottom. It has these amazing flowers that I couldn’t go past for this dress


For a regular dress where I don’t need any special shape, I like to use the Tea Party Dress by Tadah Patterns as my go-to. The pattern is flawless, easy to follow, and a great fit. All I wanted to edit was to add a panel to the front, which is super simple. What I usually do when piecing the front piece, is to use the pattern piece and draw my end result on the back. In this case, I drew the shape of the floral yoke. Then, I add 1cm (or whatever standard seam allowance is, if using a different pattern) to either side of the line I have drawn. Then I trace over each piece using tracing paper, adding the 1cm past the design line to provide seam allowance.

I had some design features in mind before I started, and some that developed as I worked. Before I started, I knew that I wanted the skirt to be extra full, and that I wanted a white pettiskirt underneath, with a lace edge that peeped out from under the blue. I also wanted to use short sleeves, but not puff sleeves. So, I modified the sleeve add-on to be the length I wanted, and I cut the blue skirt to be 31cm long, instead of the 36 that the pattern called for, and used the width of fabric instead of 79cm. The pettiskirt I cut from some old kids sheets we have around (3 kids under 3 at one point- so we had heaps of toddler bedding which is no longer being used) to the same measurements. Then I discovered that the lace I wanted to use was only 2m long, not the 2.2m that the pettiskirt was, so I took some length off the back pieces to make it work. I also used the sheet to line the bodice.


I just managed to squeeze it out of 1 yard of fabric! Note the chalk sketchings in the top corner, courtesy of Little Miss


As I was constructing the bodice, I decided to topstitch the yoke section with two rows of coloured stitching. Initially I thought I would use three but two just seemed right, so I used cream and then peach coloured thread, and a longer stitch (3.5mm) because I liked the way it looked better.


My camera was a tiny bit wobbly (it was my phone as our good camera is getting repaired) but you get the idea


To construct the skirt, I first sewed the 3 skirt pieces together, then sewed the back seam up, leaving a 6cm gap at the top, and pressed the seam open. Next I hemmed the skirt. I like to sew two rows of basting stitches where I will fold the hem, rather than measuring and folding. I find it a lot quicker, plus I have arthritic hands and this is a much gentler option for them. I matched the bodice topstitching by doing two rows, in cream and peach. For the pettiskirt, I first sewed the three panels together, then added the lace, before sewing the back seam and leaving a 6cm gap. I actually had to trim 1.5cm off the top of the skirt because my lace was quite long and would have been too pronounced. Next, I sewed two rows of gathering stitches to each skirt and attached them to the bodice; first to the lining, by putting the lining right side to the pettiskirt wrong side, and putting the skirt over the top. Before I topstitched the bodice down, I then topstitched the two layers of skirt together at the opening.


The opening is topstitched so that the white doesn’t show through


Next, I turned the whole thing out the right way, pinning the bodice over the skirt (before joining the skirt to the bodice, I turned the bodice outside under by 1cm and pressed, to make this step easy) and topstitching. Since I didn’t want this topstitching to be obvious, I used white thread over the yoke, then blue over the rest of the bodice. Finally I added buttonholes and buttons, and it was done!


Here you can see how I used cream stitching for the yoke and blue for the rest of the bodice


The whole dress only took me about 3 hours to make up and I think it is my favourite thing I have ever made for Little Miss. I even made her a matching bow clip to wear in her hair (she is/I am a sucker for accessories – for her. I have no idea for myself).


She certainly looks pleased with her new dress!



And here we are matching away