Yikes!  Why is it so intimidating to write my very first blog post??  I’ve spent the morning reading the first blog posts from some of my favorite bloggers (I have a tendency to over-think and over-research things…).  I’ve rehearsed it in my head for the last few days.  And now I’ve decided that rather than do some sort of introduction I’d just jump right in with a sewing project.  You’ll have plenty of time to get to know me.  So, here it goes…

I just made this dress for my 5 year old daughter:

I started with the pattern and instructions for the ‘Dress with Ruffle Trim’ from the amazingly adorable sewing book Carefree Clothes for Girls by Junko Okawa.  I love the way the clothes in the book are made of natural fibers in neutral colors.  Lots of linens and gauze and cottons.  Very discreet and understated for young girls.  There is some lace in the book which I’m not a huge fan of but it’s easy enough to leave that off.

Normally I follow a pattern to the letter.  I consider myself a newbie still when it comes to sewing (2 1/2 years) so I don’t quite trust myself when it comes to going off course.  Also, I hate, hate, hate wasting fabric so I’m always paranoid that if I mess up disastrously it will mean a lot of wasted fabric (not to mention time).  But in this case I was low on the gauze material needed to line the entire dress and also, even though the pattern didn’t call for a button hole (which I have yet to ever do), it did call for a button with loop closure which I try to avoid at all costs.  And finally, I thought knit would be so much more comfortable for her to wear and I had just bought a couple yards of this gray knit when Joann’s was selling it half off last month.  So I decided to be adventurous and try some changes.

First, I went with the knit instead of the cotton called for.  As I mentioned, I thought the knit would be more cozy.  Also, I thought that since I wasn’t going to have the neck open at the back with a button closure that knit would be more stretchy and give more to get over her head.  It turns out the neck opening is plenty big for any kind of material to get over her head, so that worked well.

The instructions tell you to cut out two pieces of half the back each to sew together so that you can leave several inches at the top open.  Since I wasn’t doing an open back I just cut on the fold instead and had a single back piece and a single front piece – no seam up the back.  Super easy to sew together. I just attached the top shoulder seams and the two side seams.

The original pattern has the dress fully lined with a gauze layer.  Since I was low on gauze and too impatient to wait until I could make it to the fabric store to buy more, I totally cheated and just added the ruffle at the bottom to the inside of the hem.  Besides, I think it’s more comfortable for her to wear the knit against her skin.  I also used the gauze to make some bias tape to use on the neck and armholes.  I cut both the ruffle and the bias 2 inches wide.  I had originally cut the ruffle way too short and didn’t have enough to get the really ruffled look I wanted so I had to go back and add more, which I believe came out to be about 100 inches total.  I’m sorry, but I don’t know how many inches of the bias I used – I just cut several strips and had some left over.

Before I made the ruffle I sewed a straight stitch just above what would be the bottom of the ruffle.  I wanted the frayed look on the end but didn’t want it to fray completely up (obviously, or there wouldn’t be any ruffle left!).  In the future I think I would actually stitch two rows of straight stitches because as you’ll see in the photo of the dress after being washed, it really frayed… Then to ruffle it I just used a basting stitch across the top and set my tension up to about a 7 or 8 so the machine would do the ruffling for me.  I don’t like having to pull on those tiny threads to make a ruffle and they invariably end up breaking on me which leads to several words muttered that the kids shouldn’t hear and then several minutes with a seam ripper to get the basting thread out and starting all over again.

If you need help making bias tape, there are several good tutorials online and/or on Youtube.  I’ll let you google them.  After burning my finger tips several times with the steam from the iron, I decided I should probably seriously consider shelling out for a bias tape maker.  Come to think of it, I should have asked for one for Mothers Day…

Here’s the dress with just the neck and armholes finished and no hem.  I actually really liked it like this and considered stopping here.  I might make another simple dress like this in the future.  But I decided to keep going with the hem and sleeves and I’m glad I did.

I sewed the finished ruffle onto the inside of the bottom of the dress, without hemming the dress.  Knit doesn’t fray and you can actually just leave a cut as the bottom of the dress if you want – it just curls up a little after washing.  The problem I encountered though was that I sewed it on from the inside of the dress (with the ruffle on top of the dress) so I couldn’t see what the finished top seam would look like from the outside.  Well, it looks pretty bad.  Very crooked and running all over the place.  I have yet to master a nice top seam even when I do it from the outside and can see how it will look, but forget it when I try to sew on the wrong side.  But the thread is the same color as the knit and unless someone looks reeeeeaaaaalllly closely, they aren’t really going to notice.  Or at least that’s what I tell myself.

The sleeves just make the dress, I think.  They were super simple and I did follow the pattern on those.  I think I’ll try to use those on other patterns I have.  I love the way they just add that nice fluttered, feminine look.  They are also not finished on the ends so I sewed a straight stitch on them so they wouldn’t completely fray away.

So here’s where I make my first confession to you, my blog readers.  I do not pre-wash.  There, I said it.  There are probably a few reasons why I don’t.  First, I love the way new fabric looks and lays so flat and perfect.  It makes it so much easier to cut and sew when it’s so nicely pressed.  Also, I can’t stand how the fabrics fray and become all tangled up in the washing machine when I pre-wash new, uncut fabric.  I know, I know, there are tricks to avoid that like serging or zig-zagging the ends of the fabric, but honestly, I am just too lazy for that.  And I’m usually so excited to get started making something that I don’t want to take the time to finish the edges, wash, dry and iron the fabric.  And I know, I know, people say that I should get into the habit of just doing it as soon as I get the fabric, but I wonder if those people have two children under 6 years old.  And the last reason and probably the biggest reason that I don’t pre-wash my fabric is that I have yet to have it really be a problem.  I haven’t had a project ruined yet because it shrunk after I washed it the first time.  I’m sure if I had or if that ever happens in the future, I will quickly change my ways.  I can’t imagine spending hours on a project only to have it ruined in the first wash.

Now this dress didn’t come out so well after the first wash but nothing was ruined and frankly, with the unhemmed gauze, it was expected.  It was nothing that a good haircut couldn’t fix.

As you can see, even the top side of the ruffle frayed a lot so I think in the future I would serge or zig-zag that end as well, before basting and ruffling.  Apologies for the blurriness in the photos, but you get the idea.

And voila!  If you’re a new sewer, please don’t be scared off by the ruffles and bias tape and going “off-pattern”.  I plan to go back and write posts on earlier projects I’ve done which are much simpler.  I just thought I’d start with the one that was the most fresh in my head.

My first blog post…pretty painless, I’d say!

Happy sewing and Happy Mothers Day!!

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