The lovely Anna who recently joined the Poppies & Polka Dots team is a big fan of dressmaking, so we thought it only right to ask her to share some of her knowledge! Here she walks us through the process of recreating a favourite shop bought dress, fabulous! So over to you Anna.......
My daughter is three and so making clothes for her is an absolute joy. Projects are small enough to complete over a weekend and she is beginning to take real pride in selecting her own fabrics and teaming whatever it is that I have lovingly made for her with swimming goggles and a pair of snow boots! Blinding outfit combinations aside, there are some things she always comes back to. One of these is a little cotton wrap-around dress but it was shop bought and therefore I don't have a pattern for it. There's no point buying a similar looking pattern and attempting a recreation for the child that sleeps with one eye open, should anyone try to extrapolate her My Little Pony, and so it started me thinking about just how feasible it is to reproduce firm favourites whilst keeping them intact.
As it turns out if you've ever made a dress before, child's or otherwise, then you'll have the skills required to do this because you'll appreciate the need to construct the bodice pieces and skirt separately before attaching together. Also it's likely that terms such as 'gather' will feel comfortably familiar!
Nonetheless and to be on the safe side, I would estimate this as an intermediate level project.
French chalk and chocolate at the ready? Then here's how I went about it:
1. I started off by ironing the original dress, laying the dress flat and working out how many panels it consisted of. As it turned out the dress was made up of six panels in total: 1 x bodice back piece, 2 x bodice side panels (one reversed), 1 x skirt back panel and 2 x skirt side panels (one reversed). The side seams all lined up. There were also two side straps that were the same length and which held the dress in place when worn and tied in a bow at the back.
2. Using dressmakers tissue paper I traced around each panel exactly as it appeared and teased out the curves as I went in order to capture bulky areas such as armholes.
3. Once I had all panels replicated on tissue paper, I re-traced each piece to add a tolerance for how much my daughter had grown and also a 1.5cm seam allowance. This was particularly relevant where the skirt length was concerned.
4. I then lay each of my pattern pieces out on the table in the order in which they would sit once constructed so as to check that nothing strange had happened (remember that dresses will be gathered and hemmed so there is room for error if these don't sit seamlessly together).
5. Next, I labelled each of my pattern pieces for ease of recreating at a later date.
6. I took my pattern pieces over to the cutting table and started pinning, ensuring that the fabric was the correct way up and that any pieces that were designed to sit on the fold were indeed on the fold!
7. Once everything was cut, I started by joining my skirt pieces first at the side seams. Lots of skirts are constructed out of two pieces, a front panel and back panel, but mine was made up of three panels. By the time I had joined up all the panels I was looking at the fabric equivalent of a Viennetta!
8. I ironed out my side seams and ironed in the hem at the same time. I find it easier to hem while the fabric is on the flat rather than after it's been gathered - you're welcome!
9. Now for the bodice: I attached the two bodice side panels under the arms to the back panel at the side seams, right sides facing. I then attached the shoulder seams and ironed these four seams flat.
10. I cut two lengths of fabric to roughly match the length of the dress straps. These were twice the width needed to create the finished straps and I folded them over, right sides facing, and sewed up one side on each to form an inside out tube. *- Tip: If you have enough fabric left, cut a third strap which you can turn in to a scrunchie to match the dress! -*
11. I then turned these right side out using the safety pin method. I ironed these neat and flat.
12. I pinned each strap to the bodice side edges so that the pattern was not right side up while pinned but would be once the strap was secured, hemmed and turned in on itself.
13. The moment of truth! I attached the bodice to the skirt by gathering the skirt and adjusting the distribution of gather so that the seams of the bodice lined up with the seams of the skirt and pinned in place. I then sewed to finally secure, removed gathering stitch and finished seam with zig zag stitch to prevent fraying.
14. I then ironed all the way around the skirt side edge and sides of the bodice and neckline so that the skirt, bodice front and neckline were folded over twice in the same manner as a hem. I stitched carefully in place from bottom of skirt corner around skirt sides, bodice front, neckline and back down the other side. The straps now sat correctly and had been secured as part of this process.
15. I made some bias binding for the armholes to finish off the bodice. You could also use the same hemming process as the skirt and bodice if preferred.
16. I then made a small slit in the bodice side seam by opening up a few of the side stitches just above where the skirt joined the bodice and reinforced with stitches at the top and bottom of where the strap would sit. This was to feed one of the wrap-around straps through to secure in place when worn.
And here you have it, the finished article.
I hope you feel inspired to copy yours or some else's favourite dress without the fear of having to unpick it and thus lose the original garment forever in the process!
The fabric I used was Fablewood Buds & Bloom by Dashwood Studios click here for details
Your Poppies & Polka Dots seamstress in residence,