I’m gearing up for my twin’s birthday mid-August. I wanted to make summer birthday dresses for the twins, and one for their little sister now rather than at Christmastime. Since it will be a busy month, I’m trying to work a little ahead this year. I started these in mid-July, and finally got them done two days ago. I saw a cute dress (that I particularly liked the top on) at Me Sew Crazy. I like the hot air balloons on the bottom, but it wasn’t quite what I was going for. I wanted to try a bubble skirt instead. I also like to make clothes wearable for as long as possible- I’m lucky to get all three done while they still fit! So instead of a fixed sized top with a button closure, I did it a bit larger around with elastic to snug for a better adjustable fit.
The gathers and bubbling make it a forgiving dress to sew. The pieces and assembly are fairly easy, as long as you’re not intimidated by all those seams on gathered fabric.
These dresses fit all three of my girls- my 1 1/2 year old and my almost 3 year olds nicely. I think it would fit fine at 12 months, just be a bit longer. It should also be wear-able as a top through size 4T. My girls currently measure 21″ at the chest, and I expect it should fit well at least through 24″ at the chest. The inner tube is 28″ minus the seam, so for as long as it’s comfortable, my girls will be wearing them. The straps are tied, so they change with the age for fit.
Here’s the cut list (Note: I have a small seam allowance. Increase a bit for your seams if you have normal or generous seam allowances):
30- 2″x5″ blocks in your choice of fabrics (top)
1 rectangle 48″x15″ in coordinating fabric (skirt)
1 rectangle 28″x17″ lining fabric (inner tube)
1 rectangle 1 1/2″x6″ in skirt fabric (belt loops)
1 rectangle 4 1/2″x18″ (can be as short as 14) skirt fabric (belt)
Coordinating ribbon 1/2″-1″ wide: 1 length cut 60″, 4 lengths 15″ (belt and straps)
2 18″ pieces of 1/4″ elastic
Here’s how to put it together:
I used 2″x5″ blocks- 5 of each in 6 different fabrics for a total of 30. I make small seams, so my finished top strip measured 48″ consistently on all 3 dresses I made. If your seam allowance is bigger, either increase the width of the blocks, or use more blocks. Just make it end up 48″ or you’ll have to make adjustments to the skirt. The skirt piece of the dress I cut 48″ long (same length as my pieced top) and 15″ high. My inside tube was all one piece, a rectangle 17″x28″. The combined length of the pieced top and the skirt is longer than the tube for the bubble effect in the skirt. Sew the skirt to the pieced top (right sides together).
(Ignore the already sewn top!)
You can add the ribbon for straps here or at the end. If you’re adding them here, stitch to the inner tube piece. I would put the end of the ribbon along the seam of the inner tube and lay the ribbon on the inner tube fabric. Stitch at the edge, then stitch at about 3/4 inch up from the edge (the level where the outside will be stitched to the inside). Just pay attention to make sure they’ll end up coming out of the top seam. Here’s what it would look like if you were laying it out to do the straps that way. The red pin would be the seam line with the gathered fabric when you sew the inner tube to the outside Sewing at the yellow is just extra security to hold the ribbon in place.
If this is too complicated or you just want to wait, you can hand stitch them on at the end. (I didn’t sew my straps here. I thought I was going to do the straps a different way then changed my mind, so I added them at the end). Placement for the straps: Mine are at 3″ and 11″ away from the center back seam (add a bit for seam allowance, since it’s not sewn yet). I cut coordinating ribbon to 15″ lengths (4). If you just want a halter top, just cut 2 lengths of ribbon and place at 11″ from the back center seam.
Here’s what mine look like. Make sure not to get the outer fabric or the elastic while you stitch the ribbon straps on.
Time to gather and sew the outside to the inner tube. I fold to find half way on each and pin together, then repeat in half again, then meter it as I sew for a fairly evenly gathered seam. I just sew slowly and push the excess fabric under the foot as I go, making the gathers as even as possible and making sure I use all the fabric by the time I get to the next pin.) Pin at more intervals if you want/ for more fool-proof, even gathering.
An alternate way to gather is to baste along the edge of the fabric to be gathered, then pull the string to pull gathers into the fabric to desired length. This stitch needs to be as few stitches per inch as possible so it’s easy to pull the gathers. Once it’s gathered, then you can sew it to the inner tube. (I’ve never liked this method of gathering , but it might be a way that works better for you.)
Make sure the inner tube overlaps 3/4″ or so.
Once you’ve stitched the inside and outside together, you can fold the overlap down and sew the inner tube to itself to keep raw edges from showing. Then, make sure there is a seam no more than 1/2″ down on the inner tube- this is a channel to run elastic in, and you want to make sure it stays snuggly up at the top edge of the dress.
Repeat the fold in half to find center and pin procedure for the bottom of the skirt and the inner skirt- right sides together, and sew. (Remember that the outer skirt is longer). Turn right side out and admire the bubble effect.
Now pin the top edge. If you want to top stitch, you can, but I like the look without the topstitching better, so I just pinned. Smooth the gathered top over the inner tube and put some pins in at the waist so the gathers don’t shift too much.
Stitch the inside and outside together just above the skirt/top seam, then again just below it. This makes the second channel for elastic.
(Note the top stitching, I tore it out because I didn’t like it.)
Sew on the belt loops here for an easier time of it. If you sew them later, it’s tougher, but do-able. For belt loops, I cut one piece of skirt fabric 1 1/2″x6″. Sew down the long side, right sides together. Turn the tube inside out and cut in half (one for each belt loop). Fold raw edges under and stitch closed. Sew onto dress at sides (half way around the tube- at 7″ from the back seam). I sewed the top edge first then folded down to sew the bottom edge and hide the seams. It may be easier to hand sew if you don’t like machine sewing in tight spots.
Cut two pieces of 1/4″ elastic 18 inches long and pull through the two channels. Stitch the ends of the elastic.
Line up the skirt/top seam on both sides at the back; sew the outer layer of the skirt together, (right sides together) and continue this seam onto the inner skirt for as long as you can.
Then line up the back seam again, and sew down the back to the skirt/top seam (through both layers) and then just on the inner tube layer. Zig-zag stitch the raw edge for a cleaner finish.
Add your straps if you didn’t do it earlier. See the directions above for placement and a picture of how mine looked. Here’s three ways to tie them:
Now onto the belt. I cut 1/2″ ribbon from the dollar store into a 60″ piece and slant cut and melted the ends with a candle. (You can use fray check as well). Then I cut a piece of the skirt fabric 4 1/2″ x 18″ (could be as short as 14″ and still have the fabric show across the front half of the dress). Put right sides together and sew ends. Turn inside out (it makes a pouch).
Baste the edge of the pouch closed. Fold in half and sew, turn inside out.
Slide the ribbon through and center the fabric portion of the belt on the ribbon. I prefer to also center the seam at the backside of the belt. Then sew the fabric to the ribbon at the ends.
Try it on your little girl(s) and let her (them) dance in it! (Or instead of dancing as usual, they may go stand on cement blocks. But maybe only at my house…)
Now, PUT THEM AWAY UNTIL THE BIRTHDAY PARTY SO THEY DON’T GET STAINED!!!!!