One of the nicest things about Summer is the crisp cotton dresses for little girls. My grandaughters love the ‘twirly’ dresses which are made on a traditional design I used this style for their mothers so often that I must admit I no longer use a pattern. As this style is so simple to create for a child its quicker to draw round them!
I am writing this post as a tutorial for those who want to have a go. Fans of the The Great British Sewing Bee #GBSB will have seen sewers creating without patterns. The simplest way for children is to lay them on the floor and draw around their shoulders and sides on newspaper or brown paper. then add the centle curves of the neck and arms. If you get stuck, cut out the paper pattern and then hold onto the child front to get the neck edge in the right place. dont forget to fold the pattern in half down the cente front to make sure both sides are cut even;y!
Cut out two each of the front bodice and two each of the left and right back bodice shapes. This style is for a sleeveless self lined bodice which is an easy technique once you know the tips to make it.
First stitch the front bodice to the back bodice by sewing the shoulder seams on both bodices.
The next task is to carefully pin the right sides together of both external and intetnal bodices together. being careful to match round the neck and sleeves.
Starting at the bottom of the back edge. stitch all the way round the back edge, back neck, front curved neck, back neck and down the back edge to finish off at what will be the waist.
Next stitch round both armholes. The bodice side seams should still be open at this stage.
The secret of a nice edge is to trim the curved seams by cutting little triangles out of the curved seam allowances.
Next turn the bodice right sie out by from the front of the bodice, reach through to drag the back bodice through the shoulder seam.
Repeat for the other bodice back and you should now have a bodice which look like this. Now press the seams carefully.
By doing this way, all the seams are inside and neat. At this point if you want to add a back tie or buton belt into the side seams pin them in place now. A ribbon belt also looks good.
The next task is to open it up slightly so that you can match the side seams front and back and stitch right round the outside and inside of each side seam.
Turn the bodice so its right side out and press the side seams.
The skirt is easy. its just the width of the fabric cut to the length required from the waist to the hem length multiplied by two. Both selves edges are sewn to form a wide tube and then I cut up the middle of one side of the tube to form what will be a back seam.
Then either by a basting (long and loose) stitch on the machine or by hand, run two matching rows of gathering stitches around what will be the waist edge of the skirt. ending at the open back seam. Pull up the gathers to meet the width of the bodice top. If you just pull up the bobbin threads it creates a nice even gathering which can slide along the thread.
Now is the time to sew up the skirt back but stop and leave at least 3 inches from the top gathers. The seam allowance will need to be turned back on the inside to form the self facing.
Line up the skirt with the front bodice piece, matching the side seams of the skirt with the dress side seams and pin or baste. Make sure you align the skirt facing right to the end of the bodice back.
Stitch the skirt to only the front bodice piece making sure the gathers are spread evenly around the bodice. The inside bodice is still open at the waist edge. this can either be hand slip stitched into place or pinned and tacked and carefully topstitched from the front.
The back bodice can have buttons and button holes, or for ease of toddler dresses, My grandchildren love the Kam snaps poppers which are really easy to use.
I also like my belts to contrast at the front and are top stiched on the front bodice only at the end of the finished dress. The addition of a belt pulls in any slack at the back waist.
One twirly dress finished, which was made in an evening so that my granddaughter could wear a ‘finding nemo’ dress for the last minute school under the sea themed day.