You'd think someone would stick to simple projects when they're trying to learn how to do something, but I've never been the smartest person when it comes to stuff like that. So I went from sewing pillows to making a "u" shaped rice bag, to trying to clone my youngest's favorite play dress.
Yes, you read that correctly. I didn't even have a pattern, just an existing dress, some newspaper, a yard and a half of material with matching thread, and a "let's try it and see" attitude.
So here's how I came about making the dress pictured above.
I started by laying out the existing dress flat over newspaper. I traced around the back of the bodice, adding a half inch for seam allowances all the way around. I used that piece to cut out the back of the bodice, trimmed the neckline of the pattern down about a half inch, and then I used that to cut out the front of the bodice.
I did the exact same thing to make the pattern for the two skirt pieces. The only difference is I went ahead and added a couple of inches to the bottom of the skirt. (She's been growing very fast, and almost all straight up, so a bit of added length to skirts and dresses means she'll be able to wear them more than just a couple of weeks to a month.)
I then used this video and yet more newspaper to draft a pattern for sleeves. After that, I realized I had enough material left over to make a waistband for the dress as well. Since the ribbon I planned to use for that purpose seemed like it'd be a bit itchy, I cut out a strip of the softer material to use as a backing to make it more comfortable to wear.
Once I had all the pieces cut out, I began stitching the dress together. I started with the side seams of the skirt, which was fairly simple. I just did a straight stitch along both sides, and then I went back and zigzag stitched over the edges of the material to finish the seams before taking it back to the ironing board to press them.
I did a double fold hem all around the bottom of the skirt, and I had her try it on to make sure it would fit.
Once that was done, I began working on the bodice.
The first step was to stitch the shoulders together. I did that, and I had her try it on before finishing the seams. As it turned out, it was a good thing I did. The neckline was far too small, and the material had far too little stretch for it to work as it was originally cut. So I trimmed the neckline down a couple of times until she was able to pull the top on. Then I went back and reinforced the seams and finished them.
After pressing the seams, I hemmed the edges of the sleeves the same way I did the skirt. I tried using the basting stitch gathering method I've seen on several tutorials, but my thread kept snapping on me. So I ended up putting in three pleats on each side of the sleeves while pinning them onto the arm holes. I sewed them on and had her try the bodice on again to make sure she'd have freedom of movement.
As it turned out, the sleeves fit, but when I pinched the side seams together, the top looked like it would be just a bit snug all around. Plus, having the ends of the sleeves together would restrict her movement more than I wanted. So I decided to use some of the left over material to add little two inch panels to each side. This freed up her range of motion, and it gives her a bit more room to grow at the same time.
I hemmed the top of the panels where they wouldn't have a raw edge, and then I pinned them in place after pressing the hem. I was able to get the first seam sewn on without a problem, but when I tried to finish the seam, this happened.
I cleared the jam and tried again, and it just kept happening. After the third incident, I called my mother-in-law and paternal grandmother for troubleshooting help. Turns out this can happen if something's wrong with the bobbin or even if it's just running low on thread.
So I filled another bobbin and threaded the machine again. I tested it on a bit of scrap material, and that fixed the issue. However, this part of the side panel was really worn because of the three jams, so I ended up finishing this one seam by hand.
I was able to get the rest of the bodice pieced using the machine.
Well, everything but the neck binding. I made a strip of bias tape using some of the material left over to bind the neck. I was leery of trying to use the machine to sew that on though since the material was kind of thick, so I hand stitched the neck binding on as well. That's why the stitch line is kind of wonky, but I'm glad I did since I had difficulty getting the needle through the material.
Once I had the bodice finished, I had her try it on one last time to make sure it fit properly.
Thankfully, it fit just fine. So I stitched the ribbon onto the waistband. Then I stitched the waistband to the bodice and then to the skirt, finished off the seams, pressed them, and the dress was done.
The seams didn't match up perfectly, and after a wash or so, I can say I messed up in a few places trying to finish the seams. But for a first attempt, not having a pattern, and using cheap material, it didn't turn out too bad. She's happy with it anyway.