Little red dress tutorial

The theme for whiplash this August is wardrobe surgery, something I quite enjoy. I'm finding it quite difficult to get time at the sewing machine at present, but nothing motivates me like a deadline, so I thought I'd have a go. Once again I was reminded that while sewing for children is good, sewing with children is not. Not to worry, I did finish, Grace has a new spring dress and I learnt alot about the process of writing a tutorial. As much of this was done after dinner, many of the pictures are even more dodgy than the daylight ones taken in the wind.

This tutorial shows how I made a dress for my one year old daughter from an adult jumper, using an ordinary sewing machine. I sew quite a lot of knit fabric without an overlocker (serger) and find it fairly simple. I avoid using super stretchy knits and look for fabric like heavy weight cotton lycra, wool or cotton knit. I always test the stitch I am going to use and never pull the material through the machine, except when gently stretching a ribbed band. My machine does have an overlock type stitch but more often I use a simple zig zag as it is quicker, just as effective and uses less cotton.

You will need an old jumper with some ribbed banding. I used a cotton knit (as the weather is warming up here), but a machine washable wool knit will give much better results, as the fabric is softer and will sit better. Cut off the ribbing and the sleeves, leaving the body of the jumper intact.

Draft a pattern for the bodice onto newspaper, using an item of clothing that already fits, such as a t-shirt or jumper.  Check that the arms fit neatly into the bodice.

Lay pattern pieces out on the adult jumper. Allowing about a centimetre seam allowance, cut the sleeves from the sleeves, on the fold. Cut the bodice from the top of the jumper. After cutting fold one side in half and make the front neck opening a litttle lower than the back neck opening. Leave the side seams intact, this will form the skirt. If the hem is not ribbed, leave that too. Cut the banding into strips about three centimetres wide.

Set up your sewing machine. Test zig zag stiches on some scraps. I like to use a zig zag stitch that is long but quite close together. Although I leave about a centimetre seam allowance, I like to sew as close to the edge as I can but sometimes this will cause stretch material to pucker. It is often better to sew about a centimetre in and trim afterwards . This is why I test the stitching (and sometimes why my daughter needs to grow into the things I make her).

Sew the tops of the bodice together, with some narrow ribbon or wool underneath the stitching. This will stop the shoulders seams stretching.

Lay the sleeves out flat and pin to the arm opening. Stitch with arm side to the top.

Fold the ribbing in half and stretching gently as you sew, attach ribbing to the right side of the sleeve.

Measure a length of folded ribbing by gently stretching around the neckline. Join so you have a circular band. Pin in place with the join at the centre back. Attach with zig zag and overstich with a straight stitch, as with the sleeves.

 Fold the seam pointing back towards the shoulder, so that seam is underneath and topstitch with a straight stitch.

Pin the sleeves, underarms and bodice with right side facing in. Stitch with zigzag, Turn the right way in, you have now finished the bodice.

Mark the skirt top for gathering. I usually gather about half the material in the centre front and back. To my eyes gathered skirts look better with deep concentrated gathers rather than sparser more spread out gathers, but follow your own feelings on this. Sew with the longest straight stitch on your machine. Pull the top thread so that it gathers, tie the ends.

Pin skirt to bodice, right sides together with the gathered side uppermost. This will make it easier to stitch the gathers neatly. Stitch, making sure that the stitching cuts neatly across the gathering.

Turn the dress right way out and making sure that the top of the skirt gathering is pointing towards the neckline,top stitch with a straight stitch where the bodice and skirt join.

Turn up hem and stitch. I like a nice stiff hem on this style of dress as it makes the skirt swing out a little. I tend to use two rows of straight stitching with a row of three step curved zig zag in the middle. Press and try to fit onto your wriggling toddler.

All finished. I thought I might be able to get Grace to model her new dress but she's all movement at the moment, so it was not to be.


Lucette said...

Great tutorial. The dress is a beautiful colour.

Mia said...

Great tutorial. I will include a link to it from my site! And I plan to make a summer version for my little girl.

Mia said...

Hi Ya,
Love this tutorial. Can I please get permission to use a photo of the finished dress and then link to this tutorial from my site?