I made Veronica a dress. A princess-y dress.
I don’t sew as much for Veronica as I do for the other two, Mathilda and Jonathan, for two reasons, firstly, she has all Mathilda’s hand-me-downs. Mathilda had a lot of clothes, I went a little bit made there (its hard not to, when they’re so cute), so Veronica doesn’t really need much in the way of new clothes because she already has so much to choose from. The other reason that I don’t sew for her all that much is because, unlike Mathilda, she is very fussy about what she wears. Mathilda would and still will, wear pretty much anything I ask her to. But not Veronica, at the moment she only wants to dress like a ballerina, and it can be a real struggle to get her into anything that is not sufficiently ballerina-like.
I started this project about 6 weeks ago, and then it stalled while I made birthday outfits for Mathilda and Jonathan, and did all the organising for the birthday party and all the hoopla that went along with it.
When I read that this month’s Project Run and Play challenge was all about hand-sewing, I knew that I had to finish this dress in time to join in.
So, to start with, the pattern is from Australian Smocking and Embroidery magazine, the cover look from issue 90, which is called “Through the Looking Glass”.
In the magazine, this dress is made from satin and tulle, all in white. I used:
light blue bemsilkblue/purple floral pattern organzalight blue ribbon
DMC embroidery thread number 598 – I used one skein, exactly one skein, I had only had about 20cm of a single strand left after I had finished it!
small piece of lightweight, iron-on interfacing
Small length of french lace
The pattern specified to use a double layer of the tulle for the overskirt, because I used organza, and because it is patterned, I just used a single layer. Therefore, I used less fabric overall than specified in the pattern. Although it is still a lot of fabric just to clothe one small little girl.
Fabric marking pen
Sally Stanley Pleater
Brother My Star 3 sewing machine
I used a small quilting ruler to measure and mark my fabric to cut out all the smaller pattern pieces (bindings and placket).
This ruler is in centimetres, and only 30 x 15 cm in size. Just perfect for marking small squares on the right angle. I did the markings with one of those special pens designed that has the disappearing ink. I find those particularly useful to make precise cuts.
To prepare the fabric for pleating, I overlocked the edges of organza, because it frays so much, and then stitched the organza overskirt to the bemsilk underskirt across top edge, and then in rows about 2.5cm apart.
This is to keep the fabric together while it goes through the pleater. This is the first time that I had pleated two fabrics together, so I was a little unsure of how it would turn out. It did miss the organza layer in one spot – how this would even work is beyond what my mind can understand, the pleater is such a fascinating machine.
I use a Sally Stanely pleater, I actually have two of them. Both were bought second-hand, but in excellent condition. I only bought the second one because it came with a full set of needles and it was priced at less than the cost of the needles alone!
I just love the watercolour effect of the pleated fabric.
Another first for me is the addition of beading in the smocking. I’ve never done that before, and I have to say it was really easy. I followed the instructions in the magazine, and had no problems at all.
I used some beads that I’ve had, probably for 20 years or more. This tin is positively ancient and just screams early 90s at me!
I’m pretty sure that I salvaged these beads from something – I must have had a bit of time on my hands, because there are a lot of them. You know, it was completely by coincidence that they just happened to be the perfect colour to match the fabric I chose for this dress! Sometimes it just all somehow works together doesn’t it?
After smocking the front of the dress, I backsmocked every row with cable stitch, to help hold its shape. All the smocking is done with a single thread, which makes me a bit nervous – if one single thread were to break, a whole lot of smocking could come undone, whereas usually I would have 2 or more strands.
This backsmocking seemed to take forever. I think because its so repetitive. I watched the entire series 5 of My Little Pony with Mathilda while I finished it. And that was only about half…
After I finished all the smocking, I blocked and shaped the bodice in the usual way.
Constructing the dress
To make the back bodice pieces I had cut 2 sets of rectangles of the bemsilk and the organza. Onto the organza I traced the back pattern piece using my special marker.
Then I put the organza over the top of this one and secured it with lots and lots of pins. Because the organza is sheer, I can see the line I drew.
Then, I stitched it along that line.
Next, I cut just outside of my stitched line, quite close to the stitching.
I ironed some small pieces of lightweight interfacing to the bemsilk side of each piece, just to one side of the centre fold line. This is to provide a bit more stability for the buttons and button holes.
I just love how the camera makes even the smallest indent in the fabric look like a major crease – honestly, I had just ironed these two pieces!
Then, following the instructions, a method I have used many times in the past, I pinned the front bodice, two back bodice pieces and the front bodice lining together to make this odd-looking square-ish shape.
Stitched all the shoulder seams, then did what is so simple, but magical…
…flipped the front bodice lining over on top of the bodice, giving me what suddenly looks like a dress bodice.
I used my gathering foot to gather the back skirts, as there was so much fabric to gather together, it did a good job. This was quite fiddly, as the organza frays, and its also a little stiff and doesn’t really cooperate that much with how I wanted it to sit.
Time for Handsewing
When I chose this dress to make for Veronica, it was because she had outgrown her Elsa dress and was in need of a new princess dress. I had no idea that there would be so much handsewing to complete it. Seriously, after I had completed the smocking, it took me an entire day to put it together.
There is a ribbon trim across the front, sewn by hand in between the rows of smocking. The beading is omitted from one row of smocking, to allow the ribbon to fit.
The neckline is finished with binding, hand sewn on.
The organza sleeves, are also hemmed with binding, hand sewn on.
The back bodice linings are hand sewn.
Even the seams where the sleeves join the bodice are finished with binding, hand sewn.
I attached bows made from ribbon to the sleeves, with just a small amount of beading in a semi-flower like shape.
In the magazine they used tulle, where I have used organza, so it makes sense to bind all the visible seams around the sleeves, and I’ll admit that I was tempted to just overlock those seams, but I’m really glad that I took the time to do the finish by hand. It was worth that small bit of effort.
I used a small scrap of blue coloured french lace to finish the lower edge of the bodice lining. For some reason, my linings alwasy seem to finish too short, even with this lace you can still see the inside of the smocking peeking out. And I’m not sure that’s supposed to be like that.
The front of the bodice also has a ribbon bow attached to the ribbon at the lower edge of the smocking. This is finished with a little bit more beading, and has two long pieces of ribbon to hang down the front of the skirt.
The back bodice is fastened with three small buttons, I chose this purple shade that matches the print on the organza, although in this photo it looks like a different shade, in real life its a very close match. The placket is not the best that I’ve ever done, but the back bodice top and bottom matches up perfectly, so I’m pretty happy with that.
The overskirt and underskirt are seamed and hemmed separately:
The side seams of the bemsilk are stitched by machine and neatened with the overlocker, the hem is folded under twice and machine stitched in place. Nice and neat.
The side seams of the overskirt are french seamed. The original pattern was made with two layers of tulle for the overskirt – it was quite difficult to french seam the single layer I am seriously impressed by anyone who managed to french seam the two layers of tulle. The organza is hemmed using the ribbon, and the result is very pretty.
So, the dress is finished, and ready to be worn by my little princess, Veronica.
The dress fits her very well, it has just the right amount of growing room, without being too big, although its probably just a little bit too long, it just skims the ground.
She is 2 and a half, and she didn’t really want to wear the dress today, she only wants to be a ballerina. But I think she makes such a pretty princess. Here are the pics:
Despite everything, she really did want to be a ballerina today, not a princess, and she displayed some really un-princess-like behaviour.
As only a 2 year old can.
So we called it a day, and switched her into a tutu instead.
Thanks for reading.