Thursday, June 20, 2013

shirred toddler dress tutorial.

as promised, heres the toddler dress tutorial that ive been promising all week. i designed this dress around christmas when i was making alice some new dresses. i wanted something simple, comfortable, and durable (you know, because shes one and i like to dress her accordingly), so naturally i was drawn to the idea of a pillowcase dress, but most of what i found looked really bulky, frumpy, and well... old lady. none of which are words that i like to have describing the clothes that i put on my daughter. so i made some modifications to the basic design to make something a little more practical and a little less toddlers and tiaras.  so heres what i came up with, i hope you like it!

you will need:

fabric (light/medium weight woven will work best. here im making a 2t, which used about 1/2 a yard of 45" fabric, obviously a bigger or smaller size will require more or less fabric)
extra wide double-fold bias tape (one package will be more than enough, i used just under 2 yards for this one)
elastic thread 
regular thread
tracing wheel and tracing paper
iron and ironing board (not pictured) 
rotary cutter and mat (optional)
large paper or interfacing (also optional, if you want to make a pattern to keep for multiple uses)

lets get started:

note:  if youre making a size 2t, you can skip step 1 and just cut two rectangles 17 inches wide and 21.5 inches long

step 1:  if youre making a custom size, first youll have to make a pattern. to deterimine the width, youll need to measure the widest part of the childs body (in alices case, her tummy), and multiply that by 1.5, add two inches for seam allowances, and then cut that in half. so in this case, 21 inch tummy = 31.5 inches + 2 inches for seam allowances divided in half is 16.75 inches and to make things easier i just rounded to 17 inches. to determine the length, just measure the length (neckline to hem) of an existing dress that you like the fit of, and add 2.5 inches to that for hems (in my case, 19 inches, plus hems makes 21.5 inches).

step 2:  if you want to keep a paper pattern for reference, trace these measurements onto paper or interfacing, otherwise just trace them directly onto your fabric, and cut two rectangles to your measurements. 

step 3: pin the two pieces wrong sides together on the longer sides:

and sew a straight stitch with a 1/2 inch seam allowance, making a "tube" of fabric:

step 3: press your seams open like this: 

step 4: sew a small zigzag stitch on your seam allowance to prevent fraying (if you have a serger this would be a good time to use it) 

and trim off the excess fabric (this is especially important since this is a dress for toddlers and it needs to be durable): 

step 5: to make the bottom hem, on the bottom of the fabric tube, press the edge of the fabric up a 1/2 inch:

then 1 inch: 

and sew with a straight stitch (i dont know why i dont have a photo for this step...)

step 6: to make the armholes, fold your hemmed tube in half lengthwise, and find an existing tank top in the size youre making, and lay it down on top of the fabric, just inside the seam allowance and 1 inch below the top edge, like this:

then place a sheet of tracing paper in between the shirt and the fabric, and trace the armhole curve:

resulting in a chalk mark for the armhole:

step 7: cut along the curve you just marked to make the armholes: 

step 8: make the top hem by folding the top edges of the dress down a 1/2 inch, and then 1/2 inch again, like this:

and sew with a straight stitch (dont forget to do both sides!)

step 9: hand-wind the elastic tread onto a spare bobbin until its full (yes, you have to do this by hand, it will NOT work on the machine)

step 10: to start the shirring, insert the elastic bobbin, set your stitch length to your machines longest setting, and sew a straight line 1/4 inch from your top hem (do this by using the edge of your presser foot as a guide against the hem stitches): 

sew four more rows of shirring under your first row in the same manner, stretching the fabric flat as you sew:

and repeat on the other side.

step 11: gently iron the top of the dress to flatten out the shirring (it comes off the machine kind of curly and weird)

step 12: cut two lengths of bias tape that are long enough to go around the armhole curve plus extra for tying (my dress used 30 inches for each side)

step 13: iron any creases out of your bias tape and fold each end under 1/2 inch and press shut. it will have a weird corner sticking out like this:

so youll need to un-fold it and cut the corners into a triangle before re-folding and pinning it closed:

step 14: find the middle of the bias tape and match it up with the side seam of the dress, opening the tape and folding it around the dress fabric (forming a "sandwich"):

and securely pin around the entire armhole, gently stretching the bias tape so that it hugs the curve:

step 15: starting at the VERY end of the bias tape, sew a straight stitch close to the open edge (do this by switching your needle alignment to the left and using the edge of the presser foot to guide you):

sew all the way down the tape and around the armhole, going slowly to make a smooth curve and making sure that you are sewing through all the layers of fabric:

repeat for both sides:

step 16: iron one last time, and youre done! 

i really love this dress because its really quick (only about an hour start to finish, and thats with a very distracting toddler), and only uses basic sewing supplies, all of which i normally have on hand (except the bias tape). 

please let me know if you make one of these dresses, id love to see them!

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