Wednesday, June 30, 2010

4th of July Dress


I decided to try something new and enter a project in the CSI Project Challenge. This week's challenge is Red, White and Blue. I was already planning to make the girls some patriotic dresses so I thought I'd enter my creations. :)

This is my take on a pillowcase dress. There are many tutorials out there for a pillowcase dress and honestly I don't think I've ever actually used a pillowcase. I added my own bit of flair with the ribbon and actually discovered another use for it (on accident) which I got really excited about. (Who wouldn't at 1am?) :)
So here we go!

fabric - about 1/2 yard
(this dress is sized to fit my 3 year old, Sophie, who's between a 3T and 4T)
1" (technically 7/8") wide ribbon - about 3 yards
coordinating thread

Cutting Instructions:
Width - measure around the chest of your dress wearer and add 1" for seam allowance (1/2" on either side, you can use less if you'd like) 
Length - measure from where you would like the top of your dress to be down to your desired length, then add 2" for seam allowance 

For this dress I measured Sophie from the base of her neck down to her calf which was 24" (+2") equals 26" total length, her chest is 19" (+1") equals 20" total width

Did all that make sense? Fantastic, moving on...
I cut two rectangles 26" by 20" from my fabric (fold your fabric in half and cut so your pieces are the same), then I cut the arm holes. Honestly, I just guessed at this part. I suppose you could measure from the top of the shoulder down and around to the middle of the underarm of your child, then subtract that amount from each side. Basically the shape needs to look like this


At the top of the piece, I marked 2.5 inches from each side. I then marked 6 inches from the top down and cut the J shape of the arm holes using those markings as a guide. I hope I explained that clearly!

Okay, now that the piece is cut, it's on to the sewing part (my fav)!

Sewing Instructions:
Disclaimer : Please excuse the yucky ironing board cover in the follow pictures and I apologize in advance that the lighting isn't the best, you can still see the basic ideas :)

First create the bottom hem of the dress

Take one piece of fabric (we'll call this the front), right side down, and fold 1/2" from the bottom, press in place

Take raw edge and fold under original fold a 1/4" and press in place, then sew with an 1/8" seam allowance

With right side of fabric face up, pin your ribbon (right side up, if patterned) to the bottom of your piece. Line up the edge of your dress with the edge of the ribbon, I let mine hang over just the slightest bit in case it moved while sewing.

Using a loose seam allowance (my machine goes from 0 to 9, with 9 the tightest, I used a 2) and a medium stitch length, sew the bottom edge of your ribbon to the dress using about an 1/8" seam allowance. Then sew the top of the ribbon to the dress.

Repeat with the other piece of fabric (the back)

Lay the two pieces right sides together and pin up the sides

Then switch your thread tension back to normal and sew up the sides, be sure to add a little reverse stitch at the beginning and end. Do not sew up the arm holes, just to the bottom of your J shape. I used 1/2" seam allowance.

Finish off the raw edges with a serger, zig-zag stitch or pinking shears (I chose the latter) and press the seam open.

Now on to the arm holes. Normally I would have used bias tape (I used to be scared of it, but realized how easy it is to use, take the leap of faith and try it!) but I only had cream colored bias tape and I wanted to keep the look of the blue ribbon so on a whim I thought I try using the ribbon like bias tape AND IT WORKED! Yay!! You have no idea the revelation this caused (again it was 1am, don't judge me!)

So, take the edge of your ribbon (if you have a pattern on your ribbon, you want to put the right side face down on your fabric) and line it up with the edge of your arm hole. Pin as you go continuing all the way around the front of the dress to the back of the dress, following the edge of the arm hole

Lower your thread tension again and stitch the ribbon around the arm hole using 1/4" seam allowance

Now, to create the bias tape look, fold the ribbon over the edge toward the wrong side of the fabric

Then fold the long edge under 1/4" (if you wanted to make this super easy, use 1/2" wide ribbon then just fold over once and stitch)

Pin in place

Stitch the ribbon around the arm hole using a 1/8" seam allowance, keeping the same loose tension

Do this for both arm holes, then shout for joy because the arm holes are finished!! I'm sure someone has already figured out the whole ribbon-as-bias-tape thing but be excited for me that I came up with this on my own. :) Maybe even do a little happy dance!
I appreciate your kindness!

We're almost there!!

Now it's time to finish off the top of the dress.

On your "front" panel, fold over the top 1/2" and press in place

Then fold over another 1" and press/pin in place (be careful, the ribbon will melt if the iron hits it, not that I'd know from experience or anything). This will create the sleeve/tube for the ties to slide through at the top of the dress.

Stitch in place with seam allowance just under 1"

Repeat for the back panel.

Cut two strips of ribbon to thread through the front and back sleeves/tubes, it helps to try the dress on the official dress wearer to get a good measurement. Unfortunately my little model was asleep when I finished the dress so I kind of guessed.

In the words of my girls: Ta-daaaaaaa!

This dress was intended for Sophie but she didn't feel like modeling this morning

But of course, the Queen of Cheese was ready to fill in.

Usually she's cheesier than this.

I like tying the bows up higher on the shoulders, gives nice fullness to the dress. Really the only thing I'll change for Molly's dress is to shorten it slightly.

I'm envisioning beautiful pictures of the girls running around at the lake in these!
Hint, hint, Aunt Sarah bring your camera!

Happy 4th of July!!


  1. i wish it were still cool for me to wear comfy cozy dresses like this at my age. so adorable. i want one for the hot summer day it will be here in atlanta on sunday!

  2. I adore your patriotic spirit. It is red, white and bluetiful!

    I hope you'll stop by for my bbq on an Anthropologie inspired white tablecloth. :)

  3. Cute dresses! I haven't tried kids clothes yet. Not sure I'm brave enough to venture into uncharted territory. ;)