Wednesday, December 28, 2016

2016 Christmas Dresses

  It's been a while and I've got a backlog of things to post, so I'm going to start with some recently sewn things first, and cram all four Christmas dresses into one post!

  Years ago I started searching for a blue-and-brown woven plaid to make some Christmas dresses. This year, I finally found a plaid like that, and bought as much as my budget could handle, but couldn't remember what the dresses I'd initially planned to make looked like! So I decided to pair it with some navy and camel 21-wale corduroy, and came up with some slightly vintage-inspired designs.

  More backstory.... I started tatting some trim this spring with plans to add it to a grey corduroy skirt. I also tatted a heart, which I was planning to use atop a pocket, and when the sleeve trim didn't work for this dress, I thought maybe I could make a dress instead of a skirt and use all of my trims together, but I just wasn't in love with the idea. However, when I saw the navy corduroy I'd ordered, all of the pieces came together! So the first dress actually doesn't include any plaid at all!

  I used the Oliver+S Building Block dress as the base for a drop-waisted dress with elbow-length sleeves, a pleated skirt, and an external neck facing with mitered corners. It closes with an invisible zipper... I used interfacing down the back because the corduroy seemed light enough to need it, but it caused some puckering. I need to buy some better-quality interfacing!

  The neck facing would probably have looked better if I'd managed to cut the pieces perfectly on grain, but I still love the effect:

  I cut most of the pieces with the nap going up the dress, and the external sleeve facings, waistband, and part of the neck facing have the nap running to the right, for a little added interest. I had to take a few inches of tatting out of the sleeve trim to make them fit, and it took a really long time. It probably would have taken only about one hour more to completely re-tat them! Tatting is very difficult to unpick. The flecks on the sleeves are mist from the cold and drizzly weather we were having when I was photographing these. =)

  I liked the effect better with the tatting at the hem upright rather than hanging down, so I sewed it on with two rows of hand-stitching, along the top and bottom of the trim. For some reason that took me a really, really long time, but it was worth it!

  I eventually decided that making the heart a pocket was just asking for trouble, so I used it as an applique instead. I used the same pattern to tat the heart as I did the blue one in this post.

  I also made a big corduroy bow to go with this dress:

  I absolutely love how this dress turned out... it was worth all of the time I poured into tatting the trim and sewing it on!

  For Gaiw, I decided to use the camel corduroy with plaid accents.

  I also used the Building Block dress pattern as the base for hers, and used techniques from the book for most of the design features. It has piped princess seams that meet up with pockets in the skirt, a sash, banded sleeves, and a tie collar. I used some pretty antique copper spring snaps for the back, but next time I use these I would add extra interfacing, as the fabric has already torn next to one of the snaps.

  I spent quite a lot of time figuring out how to make the piping seamless between the princess seams and the pockets, because I wasn't sure about the sash, but in the end I much preferred the dress with the sash, so that time was rather wasted!

  I love the piped pockets though:

  I top-stitched the sleeve band down on the outside of the sleeve to secure both layers... it's the only top-stitching in this dress so I was concerned that it would look out-of-place but I don't think it's noticeable at all.

  I love the tie collar! After I took these photos I tied it in a double-knot and that worked a lot better than the single knot here:

  I also made Gaiw a quick elastic-back beret from the corduroy, with a little plaid bow to accent it. It was a little tight on her, but I didn't have time for a remake!

  Becker's dress is an a-line dress with a tie-look collar, a big central box pleat, hem facing, petal cuffs, and welt pockets. Hers is the final dress made using the Building Block pattern... I made muslins for all of them but didn't notice on Becker's that I needed to widen the shoulders slightly for her.

  Because of that, the sleeves are also slightly shorter than I meant for them to be!

  I made a polo-style placket in the back for this one (I'm not sure what the correct way to do that would be... this is just a wide continuously-bound placket stitched down at the bottom and with snaps!) I stitched the placket to the outside first so I could enclose the bias neck facing underneath it. I somehow managed to make it off-center though. =( And this is the only photo I took of it, and it's terribly blurry! I'll probably re-visit this idea again someday though, I think it might work really well on a thinner fabric..... and I should have added 1/2" width to the neckline to accommodate the seam allowances of the placket. I used the same antique copper spring snaps on this dress.

  Beckers' collar was cut on the fold, with an additional 'knot' piece, and a wide sash for the tails. It was a bit bulky at the center front, but still worked in this lightweight plaid.

  I love the petal cuffs! This is an idea I got from the original version of the Tinny dress, although I drew my own for this dress. Instead of sewing these to the inside of the sleeve then turning them out like the Tinny pattern, I used the bias sleeve facing from the Building Block Dress book, and they worked beautifully!

  This was my first time sewing welt pockets, and they also turned out quite nice, although I'm not sure about whether I should have done something more to finish the edges of the slash on the inside of the dress.

  Beckers got a big plaid bow to finish off her ensemble:

  And finally, Foof! I drafted her dress from scratch... starting with a basic woven block in a size 6 months. (I only used her chest measurement to determine that, because every time I tried to measure her she would roll onto the floor and kick her legs around. She thought she was the funniest girl ever.) I then drew in a yoke and turned the portion below the yoke into a big circle! Her dress has, besides the slightly-oversized yoke, a hem facing, ric-rac trim, and banded sleeves.

  I stuck two decorative buttons on the front of the yoke... these remind me of gingerbread! This one was really difficult to sew because of the tight opposing curves!

  The back closes with more antique copper spring snaps, and has a continuously bound placket below the yoke. Those snaps are lined up perfectly, honest. It's just the angle! ;-)

  I didn't get a detail shot of the cuffs, because she was being a booger and kept running off when I was trying to take photos, but they are also trimmed with white ric-rac. I added two inches in length to the dress when drafting it because Foof usually wears a size 12-18 months garment in height, and she wouldn't cooperate for measurements so I could make sure that would work. I ended up taking it, and the entire beautifully-sewn hem facing, back off and re-hemming. I had to cut another hem facing and re-sew.... the dress would have draped more than I wanted if I'd just hemmed regularly. It was worth the time though, because it suits her perfectly!

  I also made her a little hat, which is just a 14" circle (next time I'll try an 11 or 12" circle instead) gathered onto a band with a little bit of elastic in the back, and a plaid bow in the front.

  In spite of all of the little problems and all of the mistakes I made, I'm just delighted with this batch of dresses! I love the fabrics, love the trims, love all of the little details that went into these. =)

  I also made a sweater for myself using some thick navy knit, and wore it to our Christmas celebration, so I coordinated as well! But since I made it the night after taking these photos, I'm not in them. ;-)

Thanks for stopping by,


  1. I'm such a cornball that in my head I'm hearing Heidi Klum on Project Runway saying that this is a cohesive collection, but each piece is unique, haha. I love these! You do such a great job with those little details that really bring things up a few notches.

    1. Haha, thank you! Matching is fun sometimes, but a collection is more interesting to sew. ;-)
      I used to totally fail on the details, but bit by bit I'm learning what I like to add. =)

  2. The dresses are all amazing, but the tatting is really, really amazing! Great job....and hope you had a great holiday!

    1. Thank you! The tatting is my favorite part too. =) I did, and hope you did as well!

  3. Those dresses are amazing! I truly love them all. And good job getting them all to coordinate. I never manage to do it and I only have two kids...

    1. Thank you! I spent many, many late nights sewing these to get them all done in time... and didn't let any of them out of my sewing area until the rest were finished! ;-)