Today I have something a little different to talk about: a dress for a little girl!
I’ve been thinking about what makes me enjoy sewing and what makes it feel like work lately. A lot of people talk about “selfish sewing,” which is a term I don’t really like. I have enough trouble feeling tremendously guilty when I do things for myself. I don’t want to feel like whenever I sew for myself, I’m being selfish. I put a lot of hours into learning what I know about sewing, and I want to reap the benefits of those hours by having clothes that actually fit my body, which is something that is simply not possible when I buy ready-to-wear clothes. There’s always something I have to alter or decide to live with even though it’s ill-fitting. I enjoy my sewing time most when I’m making things for myself, and it’s my hobby, and I’m deciding to not feel guilty about it.
But with all that said, it’s not that I hate sewing things that I won’t personally wear. When I decide to sew something as a gift for someone else without them asking, I find that I really enjoy it. The dress below is one I decided to make as a birthday gift for a friend’s little girl, and I really enjoyed sewing it. I still don’t know if it fit her well, which is the problem with sewing gifts for people, but wondering about the fit was really the only thing that was stressful about this dress.
I used the Geranium pattern from Made by Rae. I have two Washi dresses made with Rae’s version of this pattern that’s for adults, and I love them. I’ve never blogged them because I made them so long ago and they don’t fit so well anymore, but I want to make more of them, so maybe I’ll end up writing about one in the future. Both dresses have cute pleated skirts and lined bodices (Rae has instructions on doing a full lining if you’d like), but the children’s version has a button up back and the women’s version has no closures and a shirred waist in the back. The looser fit is cute on little girls, but I love the way the shirred backing allows for a closer, more customized fit in the women’s pattern.
The fabric I used for this dress is quilting cotton from Pat Bravo called Innocent Charm from the Coquette line. I bought it for myself because I thought it was so pretty, but when I got it, I realized it was too pale both for my skin tone and my personal style. I spent hours online looking for the perfect fabric for this dress, but then I realized that I already had it in my stash. I used some hot pink ribbon at the waistline because I apparently can’t do anything without a shot of bold color, and I really like how that turned out. Using ribbon or piping at the waistline also allows for a cleaner finish, because you have to stitch in the ditch around the waistline to secure the bodice lining, and if you have ribbon or piping, you can just stitch under it where no one will ever see.
These buttons are again from my friend Annah’s grandmother. I have tons of buttons that I bought myself, but lately I seem to find the perfect match in her grandmother’s buttons. You guys, these buttons were so hard to get lined up straight! My markings didn’t line up because I didn’t overlap the two back pieces as much as the pattern called for because it looked like it was distorting the way the skirt was hanging. I don’t know why – it might be that I did something wrong, or it might be that there’s something funky about the way the pattern is designed. I don’t know how closures usually work on kids’ clothes, but on this one, there’s a center back seam on the skirt, and you when you sew them together, you leave about three inches at the top unsewn. After sewing the two pieces together, you fold the seam allowances over twice so they’re finished, and then you stitch them down to the skirt. Then the skirt pieces connect to the bodice pieces, and the opening on the bodice extends into the skirt, if that makes sense. So the problem I had is that when you overlap the two bodice pieces, the opening on the skirt sort of bubbles because there’s overlap built into the bodice pieces, but not into the skirt pieces.
I don’t know if any of that makes sense because I’m terrible at describing spatial relations (perhaps why I never got any of those technical writing jobs I applied to straight out of college!). But the point is that I moved my buttons over a bit to compensate for the way the skirt wasn’t laying flat, and that made the buttons really difficult to line up. You would think it would be easy to just use the buttonholes as a guide, but it wasn’t for me. I think I sewed them on three times trying to get them straight! As you can see, I eventually got the buttons on straight and the ribbon on the back lined up reasonably well.
For the clean-finish bodice lining, I used Bemberg rayon. Sorry for the sort of poor quality of these pictures, by the way! I took them the night before I left for Ohio, which is where the little girl who now owns this dress lives. I finished it that night and was leaving super early to catch the Megabus, so I didn’t have a chance to get photos in the daylight.
It even has pockets!
Overall, this is a really cute pattern and pretty easy to sew up. I don’t know what happened with the back closure, but I’m guessing I just did something wrong because no one else has complained about it.
I had a lot of fun making this tiny dress, from choosing a pattern (it was between this one and the Oliver + S Seashore Sundress) to sewing it up. I really wanted to make a handmade gift for this particular little girl, because her mother was one of my dearest friends before she passed away three and a half years ago, and we bonded over creating things. We used to make hand-stamped cards together all the time, and I know she would have appreciated a gift I made with my own hands. Even though she wasn’t there to appreciate it, I felt like I was honoring her memory while I was making this dress.