Saturday, 21 December 2013

A simple dress or top

I’m still a bit wimpy when it comes to attempting sewing clothing, so I kind of forced myself to give this a go. Perhaps then it would have been wiser to start with a project where I had a pattern, but no – I decided to do what all the kids clothing super-sewer-bloggers tell you to do – “just work out a rough pattern from another piece of clothing that fits your child”. Easier said than done. Or maybe my mistake was trying to make the top a size bigger because it ended up maybe 2 sizes bigger!

Overall though, it has worked, and maybe I will have the confidence now to try something a bit more complicated….in the New Year. And either way, Little Imp is pretty happy with this version (and the benefit of my errors is that it will fit her next year too!)

This is what I did.

Worked out a pattern back and front as shown. The dotted line indicates where I cut the lining to.

Cut one front and one back from the main print fabric.
Cut one front and one back from the lining fabric (up to the dotted line shown on the paper pattern)
Cut 2 straps (11”x 2”) each out of main print and lining fabrics.

When cutting out the patterns I used my quilting ruler and rotary cutter to cut all the long straight edges – super easy and faster than scissors.
all the cut pieces of fabric - red for lining & Grinch print for the outer


For each strap place lining and main fabric right sides together & pin. Sew straight stitch around 3 edges, leaving one short end open (I used a ¼” quilting foot to keep seams super neat).

 Clip corners as shown & then turn right side out through the open end. Poke corners through if needed to make them nice & neat and then take time and iron straps flat, working fabric with your fingers if needed as you iron to get nice neat edges.

Straight stitch around the same 3 edges with a ¼” seam to finish strap.


Fold over the bottom raw edge twice, iron and straight stitch using matching thread to finish the bottom of both front and back lining pieces to prevent fraying.

Next, lay front and back lining pieces right sides together and pin down side seams, matching up top corner. Straight stitch together down each side seam with matching thread, starting from the top to make sure that this join is neat and matching.  My machine has a straight stitch that also finishes the edge at the same time - if yours doesn’t then also zigzag the raw edges after straight stitching.


Lay front and back pieces of main print fabric right sides together, pin and then sew side seams using matching thread as you did for the lining.

lining and main sections sewn and finished down both side seams


Turn lining right side out. Iron side seams flat, one facing toward the front and one facing toward the back.
 Iron side seams in outer layer flat too – but have these facing opposite directions to the lining seams. This will make it easier to achieve a neat join under the arms.

Slip the lining into the outer main fabric, so that right sides end up facing each other.

Match up & pin raw edges of lining & outer along top of dress, ensuring that the side seam joins match up. If you have ironed the seams facing in opposite directions they should lie nice and flat at the join of the side seams as shown in the photo.

Then stitch the main fabric to the lining around the front of the dress.
Turn the dress right side out and pin the straps in place at the front of the dress. Then, if you can, get your model (an unwilling model in this instance!) to try on the dress so that you can work out how long the straps should be. Mark this and then remove, leaving your model in peace! Turn dress inside out again.

 This picture shows the roughly marked line on the right hand side.

Remove both straps and, using a quilting ruler if you have one, or any ruler if you don't, mark  even, straight lines on both straps.
Then slip the straps in between the lining and the outer fabric, lining up with the strap marks you made before to get the right length, and position so they will line up evenly over the shoulders. Also make sure that the main print side of the strap is facing upwards.

 Pin in place, and then stitch across the back to join main fabric to lining, catching the straps as you go. I didn't trim the straps down as this way I could potentially extend them in time if Little Imp grows!

Then open out the dress, so that you see the right side of the main fabric & the lining. The lining will be on one side & the main fabric to the other. Now you need to understitch the lining to help stop it rolling over to the outside where it can be seen. Slip the lining under the presser foot with the seam allowances facing the lining. Stitch through all these layers (lining and all seam allowance layers) about 2mm from the seam as shown.
When you fold the lining back into the dress you will have a nice neat edge (a bit hard to see the understitching in this picture as I used matching red thread). Iron to get really crisp edges.

You can also top stitch all the way around the top of the dress. Use thread that coordinates with main fabric & then stitch all the way around about 1/4 inch from the edge on the right side of the fabric, catching the lining as you go.  This just finishes the edges nicely.


Iron hem over twice (about 1cm for each fold) to enclose the raw edges.

And then straight stitch to secure. I used my 1/4 inch foot to help stop wobbly stitching!

Sew buttons (or pom poms) onto the front edge of the straps as shown. These are purely for decoration.

On one of the straps add a press and a matching stud in the corresponding spot on the dress itself. Finally, stitch the other strap down securely. I find that you only really need one strap able to be opened to get the dress on & off.

Hopefully your model will be a bit more willing to wear it now there are no pins in sight!