I have to start this post by giving credit to both my Mom (an example of her work here) and my Grandma (my Mom’s mom; the one who made this dress). Without these women in my life, this new dress would not be. Not just for the obvious reason (if your parents never had kids, it’s a sure bet that you won’t either), or even for the secondary reason (if my Grandma didn’t teach my Mom to sew, and if my Mom didn’t teach me, is it something I would have ended up learning to do?) No, this project actually involved them a bit more directly.
Both my Mom and my Grandma are very busy women. Even when they could be sitting around vegetating, you will often find that they are keeping their hands busy with some type of sewing or craft project. Thus, my Grandma has had a sewing machine with embroidery functions for quite a few years. Her machine was due for an upgrade, and she gave her old one to my Mom and encouraged her to play around with it. My Mom was looking for something that “needed” embroidery and I had just happened to have cut out this dress for Guinevere. Of course the plain black bodice with no darts or seams was the perfect canvas for some embroidery experimentation. I hadn’t yet started sewing on the dress, so I gave all the pieces to my Mom so she could match thread to the colors in the skirt and told her to pick something fun to put on the front of the dress. She found a really cute design that incorporated all of the skirt colors. I laughed a little when I realized she’d “put a bird on it.” Mom then gave me a blank look…apparently she’s never watched Portlandia.
There seem to be ongoing on-line discussions about making clothes that one will actually wear vs. making something just because it seems like it will be fun to make. For me, personally, I think having Guinevere around gives me an advantage in the arena of making clothes that will actually be worn by someone. There are plenty of fun dress ideas that I might not end up wearing, but that work perfectly for her. This dress is one of those, and is pretty much the perfect not-too-casual-but-not-like-she’s-part-of-a-wedding-party kind of dress for a 6 year-old. Also, it’s fun to twirl in.
The pattern is Butterick 4967, which has the option for the short, casual skirt or the long, dramatic one. From the pattern styling, it seems that the long, dramatic one was designed as more of the wedding-party type of dress; in this instance, fabric choice sets an entirely different mood. I used cotton broadcloth for the bodice and ruffles. The skirt has 2 layers under all those ruffles, a skirt-stay that the ruffles are sewn to and a lining; for this dress I used white batiste for those portions. That brings the total number of different fabrics in this dress to 9. I believe I had to change thread 11 times while making it up. I did a machine-stitched narrow hem on each ruffle. As far as the amount of work put in, this dress was pretty much the equivalent of making 6 circle-skirts.
As much trouble as the thread changing and all was, having each skirt tier a different color may have made some things easier. The ruffles are a series of short circle skirts sewn to an a-line under-layer. Each ruffle is a slightly different size, so I had a cheat-sheet to make sure I cut out the right pieces and put them on in the right order. (ignore my sloppy casual handwriting–evidence that I really have been a nurse for 13 years).
I wanted this dress to be long-ish, but not to drag on the floor, so I used the floor-length version of the pattern, then shortened the a-line skirt-stay and lining. Because the circular ruffles are specifically sized for their placement lines on the skirt-stay, shortening the skirt involved making small tucks in the pattern tissue between each ruffle placement line, rather than just shortening the bottom and re-spacing the ruffles. This does make the ruffles a little more overlapped than they otherwise would have been. The under-skirt doesn’t stand a chance of showing. I made a size 5. She has some room to grow.
For the belt, I added thread loops on either side of the waist, so it would stay where it belongs and used Velcro on the back of it rather than the hooks called for in the pattern. I could see using hooks for fancy bridal-party fabric since Velcro could snag, but with broadcloth, the risk for that is pretty minimal. It fits a bit low and loose around the underarm; I need to start altering that area for Guinevere when I make her sleeveless dresses.
I had the idea for this dress last year, and had bought the fabric to make it up, but I had put off making it until she had a growth-spurt since she really had a lot of dresses a few months ago. That’s not so much the case now, so plan to see more Guinevere dresses in the near future.
Stash-busting stats: 34/50. 71 yards.