An improvised play dress

Meredith is definitely opinionated about the clothes she wears. She has begun to eschew anything that is even remotely restricting and has recently renounced denim pants (even those with elastic waists).

I wanted to make something for her, something to continue sharpening my sewing “skills” (still in quotes, that word), that would meet our criteria of cute (me) and comfy (her). My inspiration was a dress from the Tea Collection:

I started with this downloadable .pdf pattern, which I modified to add the waistband and skirt portion. Even though this is a small pattern (kid sizes only), it involved a lot of paper cutting and taping. But when you live far away from any fabric store and the urge to sew comes over you at 8 PM on a Friday, downloadable patterns are the path to instant gratification! For this dress, I cut out a size 5.

Serious picture

I wish I could wholeheartedly recommend the pattern, but it seems to have a slight drafting error. I deviated from the instructions to sew the side seam and sleeve seams first and then set the sleeve in the round. In doing so, I noted that the side seams are not the same length (in a size 5, they were off by about 1 cm). Is it a big deal? No. But I spent kind of a long time scratching my head, wondering if I had assembled the pages incorrectly or made a mistake while tracing. Anyway, after trimming off the errant edge, the sleeve set in perfectly, so who knows.

I used a sewing machine, coverstitch machine, and serger to put this together. I added swimsuit elastic to the shoulders (I think the pattern recommended twill tape). I followed Sarah Veblen’s video tutorial on making a neckband. I added casings and inserted elastic in the sleeve edges, similar to some of her favorite RTW (Hanna Andersson) dresses. The skirt was gather-basted before pinning it to the waistband, and I deliberately serged off the basting when attaching the skirt because it would restrict the stretch.

Can I make goofy faces now?

Fabric is a stretch velour (probably polyester?) from the stash. This stuff is a slippery b*tch to sew. I ended up using a washaway glue stick for nearly every seam, it was the only reliable way to hold the pieces together.

Meredith’s red leggings are also Mama-made. I traced her favorite Hanna Andersson leggings (size 100) and improvised the cut-on waistband casing (inserting 1-inch elastic). To make the pattern, I folded the pants in half and pin-traced around the top half onto a sheet of butcher paper on top of corkboard, then flipped it over to trace the back half. (My method is very similar to this technique.) Not much to say about the pattern, other than I’m amazed that I didn’t somehow stretch the pants out while tracing them. Fabric is a cotton interlock from the stash. To make the outfit a little more matchy-matchy, I used the same fabric for the leggings as I did the contrast bands of the dress.

The coverstitch machine that I have (Janome Coverpro 1000cp) is still managing to defeat me every so often. I continue to work on finding the right machine settings to avoid the dreaded dropped stitch (like knitting, an improperly executed coverstitch will also unravel in the blink of an eye). The first 3 times this outfit was washed, it came back with an opened hem somewhere, but I’m getting there, the seams look better and fall apart less often.

ETA – I forgot to add the comments from the designer when I asked her about the apparently mismatched side seams. This is her reply:

The armscye is designed a little deeper on one side to fit the body a bit better than if they were equal. Because it is deeper, it makes the side seams appear to be different, but I believe that you will find that they match up just fine when you sew the pattern together.

Sometimes, especially when sewing with really stretchy knits, the side might stretch and end up a little longer. Since the fabric is stretchier (like a waffle knit) than usual, it usually won’t matter much and I just cut the extra bit off.

I note that I made a second dress (not shown), following her assembly instructions (ie, attach shoulders, attach open sleeve, then make 1 long side seam that closes the sleeve and the side), and I still couldn’t get the sides to match up. So I don’t know if the problem is me, the fabric, or the pattern. Re Penny’s comment below, I certainly could have sewn it front-side down, which would have “shortened” that piece even more relative to the back, so it’s all kind of a mystery now. Good thing no one is looking at Meredith’s armpits to see if the 4 corners meet up!

4 thoughts on “An improvised play dress

  1. Boy, you really like a challenge, don’t you? Sewing with velour is total butt pain. Despite that you did a wonderful job. It’s very cute and Meredith seems happy with the dress. The difference in length may not have been an error. With a stretch fabric you don’t need it, but the back pieces of patterns usually have a slight amount more length than the fronts to allow for draw up by the feed dogs.

  2. Gosh – I am impressed!

    My GD is a princess in pink. Everything, everywhere. I would go nuts if I had to outfit her. OTOH, that Nordstorm’s deal sounds like a winner.

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