Easter Dresses!

I started early, because sewing deadlines seem to sneak up on me.

Actually, the dark purple dress was started in November, intended to be worn to the girls’ cousin’s baptism.  But I didn’t get it fully complete and didn’t have time to start the second. So it stayed next to my sewing desk for months.  Purple is a great Easter color.image imageI modified the Geranium pattern using the sleeveless version, but lengthening the bodice.  I made the pleats first and then cut out the bodice.  It wasn’t exactly planned as a drop waist, but after the hem was made based on how it fit the child, the waist was equidistant from neck to hem.  It didn’t look right.  I already knew I wanted to make a contrasting sash with the other purple fabric I picked for the second dress (coordinating, not matching), so I have it sitting above the stitch line between the bodice and the skirt.  So it looks more like a drop waist.


Here is the second dress.  I went with a straight Geranium pattern, no modifications.  I used a pleated skirt to coordinate with the look of the first dress and made a coordinating sash with the contrasting fabric.

To make the sashes, I ironed on interfacing, so the bow would stay stiffer instead of drooping.  Then sewed one end closed, and up the side, with right sides facing and turned it back right side out by poking the closed end inside the tube.  I tried first with a tube turner but it just bunched up and made ironing all the wrinkles out a mess!  I hand sewed the open end closed.  The measurements I used were based on measuring the waist of the bodice and then making a bow with my tape measure and adding those two numbers together.  I also used the tape measure to eyeball how wide I wanted it to turn out, then added 1/2 inch for the 1/4 seam allowance.


Final hand sewing was minimal–buttons and making thread belt loops using this video as instruction.

I’ll include some pictures with them in the dresses later.  The dark purple one with the front pleats was tricky to iron, so I don’t want to mess them up before Easter!

Reversible Geraniums

I obviously love the Geranium Dress pattern.  My mother-in-law requested specific dresses made with the geranium pattern in a dark denim with pink piping between the bodice and skirt.  I thought it would be fun to make the bodice lining a pink denim and then figured, I was this close, I might was well “line the skirt” and put navy piping between that bodice and skirt and make it reversible!  Yes, it made for a thick dress, but it’s winter and it was denim for a semi-fancy occasion (they also wore the dresses to their cousin’s sip-and-see.)


Before hemming


If you have ever made a geranium dress then it’s pretty easy to see how you could make another skirt instead of closing off the bodice by stitching in the ditch on the right side.  The dilemma then came on how to hem it.  I wanted to figure out a way to hem them together without hand sewing the entire hem.  My hand sewing is not so great (I’m thinking of hand sewing my quilt challenge so I can work on that at the same time).  I even emailed Rae to ask her opinion.  We arrived at the same conclusion, that either it would have to be hand sewn, folded in and then top stitched together, or sewn separately and then either tacked together or left loose.  I chose the last option.  I wanted to avoid topstitching together, which is what most reversible tutorials recommend, because these were for semi-fancy occasion and I’d have to chose one side to have contrasting thread.  I did let go of the idea of blind hemming both hems because I ran out of time before the event.  I made 4 geranium dresses essentially, so that would be 4 blind hems.  It would take to long to get it all correct measurement wise and press it exactly.  I’m happy with how they turned out!



I used Claire Shaffer’s Fabric Sewing Guide to help me with getting stitch lengths correct.  It helped. I used that for the coats too.


So besides making four geranium dresses put together into two reversible geraniums, I also made a red corduroy long pant romper for a friend’s toddler for Christmas.  That made me busy enough in December.  Besides thinking about quilting, I’m also putting together fabric and patterns for the girls spring/summer wardrobe!  So exciting!  Isn’t it wonderful being the personal couturier for two little girls?!

Oliver + S brought up an older blog entry/interview with a sewer in Canada, Marie-Michelle Melotte, who uses high-end fabrics for girls dresses.  It was a very interesting interview.  I especially liked her talking about using the texture of fabric to bring visual interest instead of print.  I love print, but would like to try more textures too.

Bubble dress, A-line panel dress, bean bag chair and the horror of buttonholes.

What happened in the middle of Kids Clothes Week?  Buttonholes.  I had fair luck up until now.  Then my machine decided to revolt.  Or my buttonhole foot, I don’t know which.

I started on this border print dress with the geranium pattern.


Then to the final step of putting in buttonholes.  It just wouldn’t happen.  The machine wouldn’t move.  I thought maybe it was not sliding properly so I added scotch tape to the fabric.  Not much help.  One buttonhole appeared to happen only to reveal a complete mess on the other side.

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ARGH!  So in the middle of all of it I put it aside and started to work on a bean bag chair from Straight Grain.  The pattern is big so I had to cut it on the floor and I wanted to use piping so thought I needed a piping foot.  I don’t like my machine so didn’t want to buy a piping foot for it and of course a few days later realized the zipper foot IS the piping foot.  The kids love the bean bag chair!  I have the fabric for the second one waiting.


In the meantime I visited Sew Nice and Easy to take a private sewing class.  I learned changing your needle is a real need.  Threads come in different sizes!  There is such a thing as bobbin thread and invisible thread!  And of course, that I need a serger.  So now I’m researching what I want in a serger (is 4 thread enough or will I be kicking myself for not being able to do a cover stitch) and what I want in a new sewing machine.  If anyone has opinions, I’d love to hear them.


After KCW the girls needed party dresses for upcoming birthday parties.  Jess at Craftiness Is Not Optional inspires me to modify patterns or draft my own.  So…I made my own A-line panel dress.  Perhaps it isn’t drafted appropriately but it worked!


It has no side seams.  There are the two front panel seams and then one in the back.  I would have liked to put in a zipper if I had time but at that moment I didn’t know how to put a zipper in a lined dress.  I thought a full lining would be the easiest and nicest way to finish the neck and armholes.  Bias tape edges seem to pucker for me so far.  Here is what my pattern looks like:


That top U is an armhole, not a neckline.  I used the front and back of the Busy Lizzy pattern.  This picture shows them lined up together but I did put more space between because I wanted a wider A.


The front panel size is completely based on the chevron looking even.  I cut that panel first and then folded it in half to determine where the seam would fall on the overall pattern piece.  I drew the seam allowance on the pattern, then drew it on the side pieces so I could line them up correctly with the chevron.  The lining I made from the whole pattern, so the lining has two seams–center front and center back.


After sewing the panel to the side pieces, I put it back on the pattern piece and cut out the rest of the neckline.  A trick entirely learned from CINO’s pleated top tutorial.


Next, sewing the right sides together of the lining with the main dress.  I sewed the armholes and neckline entirely shut AFTER sewing the shoulders on the lining and shoulders on the main dress.  This was a mistake as I couldn’t turn it inside out.  Internet to the rescue.  I found this great video series by Angela Kane and watched video #7 to learn how to make nice armholes and still be able to turn the dress rights side out.  DON’T sew the shoulders!  You sew them after you sew the armholes and neck!  And sew just far enough down the back opening so that you have room to turn it right side out.  My hand sewing is not well practiced so I machine sewed far down into that back opening.  Sorry I don’t have detailed pictures.  I finished the hem with a blind hem stitch on the machine!  Can you believe it?  I tried so many new things with this one dress and it turned out!  I used invisible thread, because why not.


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I wanted to finally commit to trying a bubble hem.  There are bubble dress patterns out there but they look SO close to the geranium dress pattern I already know and love that I didn’t want to spend the money.  From internet searching it appears you either need a skirt lining (which is shorter than the outside main skirt therefore brings it up under the hem), or elastic (which I don’t think 1 year olds will tolerate well).  I used the go-to Geranium dress pattern, using the gathering skirt instead of pleats.  That is my 5th geranium dress, not including the two geranium modified tops!  Then after I finished the bodice I measured around it for the top of the lining measurement.  I safety pinned another geranium dress the girls wear to figure out how small of a bottom circumference still looks good and they can walk in.  I didn’t want a huge bubble on the bottom.  Then I cut out a trapezoid, angling out from the top measurement (happened to be 24 inches plus 1 inch seam allowance) to the bottom (30 inches plus one inch seam allowance). I also had to prefigure the hem length since I wasn’t going to be able to cut the hem later.  It had to be correct from the bottom of the bodice.  I added about 1.5 inches for the main outside fabric so it had room to go back underneath the skirt.  I redid all this math several times in my head because I was nervous about not getting it right.  I didn’t have enough time or fabric to redo the whole thing.  It turned out great and then time for buttonholes.  My machine did not decide to be different overnight.  It did not want to make a buttonhole.  So I machined the buttonholes myself by using the buttonhole foot to know how far to sew and zig-zagged a number 2 all the way down, then turned it, zig zagged without moving a number 4 and then back down to the other side.  They are not perfect but they will accept buttons.


And now I do not have my next project immediately in mind…oh wait, I can do another panel dress in their Indian Summer fabric!



3rd Geranium Dress and a peasant top

Geranium Tres

This weekend I made another Geranium dress!  This pattern is so satisfactory to put together and looks so nicely finished.  The print is quite large but the first Geranium I made had a medium print and the pattern held up the print well.    Of course it had to have a diaper cover to match!


I like the pleated version (over the gathered skirt version) so far.  Here is the back:

Geranium Tres Back

Its a 2T for my 1 year olds, so the hem is quite large.  I kept all the length so I can let it out later.  Also this weekend I let out the first Geranium I made and made a flowy peasant top with the Wayfarer Palos Verde voile leftover from the circle skirts earlier in the week.  Its been a very satisfying week of sewing.


I had another opportunity with this hem to try out my narrow rolled hem foot but still didn’t because I had both the Geranium dress and top going at the same time and wanted to get them both done this weekend.  I learned a few new things with the diaper cover funny enough.  For instance, eventually, if you keep sewing over your pins, you could end up with one like this:


And if you accidentally don’t put your bobbin thread through the tension mechanism in the bobbin case, you end up with a the bobbin thread side looking like this:






Geranium modification (Seersucker Whale top)

I made my first modification off a purchased pattern!  I love the Geranium pattern from Made by Rae.  I’ve made two Geranium dresses so far and know I’m going to make more.  I picked up this seersucker fabric with cute pink whales embroidered on them and visualized a top that had a close but short yoke around shoulders and neck in a solid and the seersucker flowing out from there.  It reminds me of something I would have been dressed in as a baby.

This is how it turned out!–

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Cute!  I’m happy with it.  It is how I imagined.

So what did I do?

I knew I needed to shorten the bodice part of the Geranium pattern and I didn’t want the bodice fabric to be what made the entire armhole.  So I traced part of the bodice pattern on top of plain paper with the skirt piece lined up where I wanted the yoke to end.


Next I traced where the arm hole curve would continue onto the skirt/top piece of the pattern.  This was how the bottom of the armhole would be in the whale seersucker, while the yoke would be in a broadcloth solid pink.


I picked broadcloth because it was closer to the weight of the seersucker.  I didn’t need to transfer the skirt/top pattern to a new paper because it was such a small curve.  I was winging this whole pattern modification anyway.  I used a disappearing ink to retrace that line through the Swedish tracing paper.  Another great reason to transfer your patterns to interfacing or Swedish tracing paper–disappearing ink goes through it to mark the fabric!
IMG_0114These are the button/buttonhole markings transferred from the original pattern.  Once the yoke was put together and sewn to the rest of the top I only needed/had room for one button.

So if you buy the Geranium pattern you will note when Rae tells you to stop when you sew the armholes.  You have to do this without the remainder–where the arrows are:


This makes more sense if you’ve made a Geranium dress.
IMG_0110Then I sewed 3 separate gathering stitches instead of one all the way around, because you skip over the arm holes!  This made it easier instead of going around the whole skirt/top part.  It also made it easier to match up with the bodice.


Tada!  It turned out!  The armholes from the skirt/top portion of the pattern I folded over 1/4 inch and edge stitched (top stitching close to the edge), but to do again I would turn over twice 1/4 and edge stitch.  I’ll have an opportunity since I’ve got two babies to clothe.  I plan on making Kid shorts in the pink broadcloth, maybe with cuffs?  Dana Willard’s Kid Shorts pattern is great but doesn’t come with a cuff modification.  Might as well start modifying more patterns!

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Wouldn’t this fabric be adorable as a little feminine blazer or jacket with a peplum?  I think my kids are too little to really wear something like that just yet, but I’m now thinking about developing skills to do a blazer….eek!

I’ve also noticed by coat countdown says 3 months!  Double eek!


Cupcake (Geranium) dress, AKA The Dress That Didn’t Want To Be Made

I knew I was going to make another Geranium Dress right after my first one.  The fabric was cut about a week ago, then I couldn’t get to my machine.  So no sewing for about a week!

I made a lot of silly sewing mistakes with this dress.  It kept happening. And I wasn’t even tired when I was making it.  Does sewing mojo leave that quickly?

gathering sewing on itself


First I made a mess of zigzag stitching the edge of the flutter sleeves.  I had to go back several times to parts that I had missed.  Then when gathering, the fabric came back around on itself and I didn’t get to it in time to prevent the two ends from being sewn together!  At that point, I thought, “well this is silly, I need to pay more attention!”

bodice wrong

So much for that.  I sewed the shoulders of the bodice pieces on incorrectly.The back is supposed to be sewn to the front.  I sewed the back pieces to the back lining and the front main to the front lining.  More silliness.  At this point I thought it might not be the best idea for a beginner to use the same fabric for main and lining plus a fabric with no “wrong” side.

flutter wrong

Alright.  Next stop, basting the flutter sleeves on the wrong side of the bodice.  You shouldn’t be able to see the shoulder seam fabric edges!  I think I took a short break.


Finally! Hooray! Bodice complete, sleeves inserted.  I set it aside (the sides are supposed to be done next but I switched out the thread anyway to start on the skirt.)  I decided to use french seams for the skirt because the finish looks nice, but really it is bulky so should be reserved for lighter fabrics.  With this thicker cotton it made it more difficult for the feed dogs to feed the fabric later when inserting the skirt into the bodice.

Nonetheless, here is how to do french seams:

Place fabric WRONG sides together and sew the seam with 1/4 allowance (or just a tiny bit under that).  I use the presser foot as a guide and make sure I can’t see the edge of the fabric past the edge of the presser foot.

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Press OPEN the seam, which makes it easier to then fold the fabric RIGHT sides together.  Press again.

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Then sew that seam again with a 1/4 allowance making sure you aren’t being skimpy with that allowance.  You are encasing the open edges inside this second seam.  You don’t want any fabric poking through.  Still using the presser foot as a guide, I make sure there is a teeny tiny amount of edge I can see on the right side of the presser foot.  This is just enough difference to make sure no edges poke through.

second seam

Then press that seam to one side and you have a nice looking, enclosed seam.

french seam

Funny enough, gathering the skirt and inserting the bodice into it and attaching wasn’t a problem.  I sewed the lining to the skirt the next day (last night).  Of course I made some mistakes trying to “stitch in the ditch”.  On my first Geranium dress I unpicked it all and redid it.  I decided I could do that later. All that was left was buttonholes, buttons and the hem.  No problem right?

I practiced a buttonhole on spare fabric (the same that I was using).  No issues.  But then when making my first buttonhole, the machine went up one side and then stopped and kept repeating the bar tack at the other end.  Great.  I tried another practice buttonhole on the spare fabric.  No issues.  ARGH!  So I went to the next buttonhole and the machine made it without a problem.  OK, so I am going to have to unpick 1/2 of a buttonhole.  I went to my third buttonhole and the machine stayed at the near bar tack going back and forth again!  I had even made sure to reset everything between each buttonhole! What is going on with this dress?!

bad buttonholes

It took a long time to unpick the two mistake buttonholes.  Not as long as I thought it would, but a LONG time.  During that time I had several thoughts.

“I wonder if I could remake the whole dress in the same amount of time it will take to unpick these two buttonholes.”

“Velcro closures aren’t so bad are they?”

“I wonder if I could appliqué over these.”

“This will be the longest-to-make play dress ever.”

But soon enough all the thread was cleared out leaving two holes!

unpicked bar tack

Enough!  I remade the two buttonholes, holding my breath and wondering who the patron saint of buttonhole making is.

TADA! Finally done.

cupcake buttons

Those are two buttons. One fits snuggly inside the other which looks cute with the whole dress.  I originally had cupcake buttons, but the shank would have poked them in the back when they rested against something.  I’ll save those for some other embellishment.

Here is the finished dress-

Cupcake dress Front Cupcake dress back


Whew.  At least I learn something with each mistake.  The overall lesson here seemed to be PAY ATTENTION.  And its nice that you can always rip out the stitching and try again, even though it sometimes leaves holes.

Geranium Dress

I sewed my first (won’t be the last) Geranium Dress!  It looks so good with that lined bodice!  Rae Hoekstra‘s pattern and instructions made it easy.  There are many options and its been remixed repeatedly on different blogs.  I decided to make the pleated skirt option with U-cut neckline.

Flowering Geranium Front

The lining is fun Michael Miller Jug or Not Spot On Tangerine.  The flower fabric is Moda Bloomin’ Fresh Fresh Blooms Sky Blue (the background blue is not really sky blue, but deeper).

Flowering Geranium Back

Check out those buttons!  These were the first buttonholes I’ve ever made.  I practiced several times on scrap fabric, which was good because I didn’t get it the first time.  On my Singer machine you have to pull down the buttonhole lever and then push it backward.  When you want to make the next buttonhole you have to push it back again, otherwise the needle just goes up and down in the same spot making a tangly mess on the other side.

I learned a LOT with this dress and love how it turned out.  I learned how to make buttonholes, a bodice, lining a bodice and attaching it to a skirt.  I also made 12 pleats!  You have to make the pleats even out in such a way that the bodice just fits right over it when sewing them together.  Otherwise you’ll have a combo of some nice looking pleats and some incidental gathering.

Geranium Diaper Cover

Of course I had to make a matching diaper cover.

As I write this I am washing fabric for my next Geranium Dress!  Woo Woo!

Jess from CINO has made the Geranium dress repeatedly (at least 8 times since this posting) and shows great options.