Archive for the ‘sewing’ Category

Before I get going, I’ll warn you all that I’m only a self-taught seamstress- no formal training.  If you’re a professional, please don’t be laugh too hard.

I’ve done only a little wedding and formal dress work, but I’m good with concepts and finding out a way to make things work.

My dear cousin Judy got married in July (on one of the hottest days of the summer!)

Here’s her dress- un-bustled followed by bustled.  (Thanks to my sister for letting me use her pictures!)


I’m not sure what exactly you would label this dress type as, but it is a wrapped/folded fabric style with a bubble style skirt bottom and train, and because of the way the fabric wraps on the dress, it makes it kind of asymmetrical (At least the outside fabric is- the inside skirt is not).  All those factors in place, my cousin loved the dress and it fit her perfectly- no alterations needed, so she bought it.  The dress shop told her it would be a $300 bustle job (if it could be done at all).  She decided to skip that and try me instead.

I searched a bit online and came up with a basic concept to follow- the ballroom bustle.  It bustles by pulling the train up underneath the skirt.  There’s a diagram and some pictures at the Wedding Bee.

I could not pull the skirt up in the back and attach to the outside of the dress to bustle, since that bubble skirt has it’s secrets of how it’s formed so readily available once it’s lifted.  I don’t have a picture of the underside of the dress, but it basically looks like this (dress from my little girls bubble dresses I posted about here).

So under we went with that train.

This bustle is done very simply- some ribbon, buttons, and a hand needle and thread were all the materials I used.  I did put the dress on a form for ease of working, but not necessary.

After a trial pin underneath, I decided that simple pull points underneath the skirt would not work well.   I would need many, and even then it might not cooperate to lift/bustle evenly.

Here’s what I did instead.  (The goal with gathering instead of just pull points is to make an easier, more even pull for bustling.)  For a hand drawn diagram that maps out what the bottom of the dress looked like as I describe below, check this:  drawing of bustle structure.

Underneath the skirt a few inches from the edge is where the inner tube dress meets the outside fabric to form the bubble bottom to the dress.  In my cousins dress, there was a bit of stiffener fabric inside, with a generous overlap of the fabric.  I stitched a channel along the entire bottom seam, from side to side.  I only had to take out a few stitches at the side- very easy to stitch back shut- and I just hand sewed a running stitch from outside- I didn’t open it up.  That meant I needed to stitch carefully so that I didn’t catch the skirt or the inner lining skirt with my stitches.  (I did have to go back through to re-do a few places where I accidentally got the inside skirt- easy to fix).

This channel ended up being something like 110 inches long, so it takes a bit of time, but not terrible or technical.

That’s the big part.  Now that the channel was in place, I took some simple 1/4 inch ribbon and sent it through the channel with some extra on each end for loops- one on the very end and one to hold the gathered train (more on that to follow).   A button at each end kept the loop from sliding into the channel when the train was down.

I gathered the train and tied a slip knot to experiment with button placement on the underside of the skirt to get the train up and the bottom even.  The gather should be evenly dispersed. It will gather to approximately the same length as the front of the dress.  You want the bustle points (following) to be straight pull lines, not drooping between points.  Once you’re finished with your pull points and bustle points and sure the length of the ribbon is correct, mark the ribbon at the best length, then make a loop on each side at this mark.  When bustled, this loop holds the train in the gathered position via the button at the end of the channel.  Then you can let it loose again and when completely flattened out, make your loop at the end of the ribbon.  This holds the ribbon from disappearing into the channel while the train is down.

The pull points at the bottom of the dress were spaced symmetrically and fairly evenly- 7 points- one on the center back seam and 3 on each side- seams being key reference points.   I relied on inside seams, not outside ones as my points to bustle because of the wrap/asymmetrical aspect of the outside.  I pulled to 7 button points- on in the center back, and 3 on each side of center.  The diagram at the Wedding Bee shows basically the same thing.  This seemed to be the sensible number for this particular dress.  You may need more or fewer.  Two landed on seams, one in-between seams.  For the in-between seam, I stitched a bit of fabric on to reinforce the lightweight fabric where the button was sewn.

I pinned and marked my points, checked and double checked, then stitched on loops.  NOTE:  Don’t stitch your loops to the ribbon inside of the channel.  These loops were made out of the same 1/4 inch ribbon I used in the channel and were just simple loops tied of ribbon just large enough to go over the buttons I used.  The loops stitched on the underskirt of the dress just above the union that forms the bubble bottom.  The knot went up, the loop went down (loop goes up around the button when the skirt is bustled).  I did have her try on the dress before I finally stitched the buttons to make sure she liked it and that it was even on her, not just on the dress form.

A note on what layer to bustle to:  I went to underneath the crinoline, but outside of the innermost layer of the skirt.  This just worked in this case, but if the train had been longer, I would have had to stay outside of the crinoline since the crinoline started around knee level and a longer train would have needed to be pulled higher up to keep from dragging.  Either placement would be fine.  I chose inside because I felt it did a better job of disguising the bustle underneath and shaping the outside of the skirt once bustled.

A few more notes.  Since this is a bubble bottom, asymmetrical wrap skirt, there are places where depending on how the fold “flops” at a given moment in time, it may look uneven.  The thing is that the dress does this everywhere on the bottom edge without the bustle, so don’t be terribly concerned if you look at it and it looks uneven at the bottom.  Do, however, make sure that those uneven bubbles hit the floor evenly around the entire bottom of the dress.

If needed, you could number or color code the buttons and loops to help prevent confusion.  I worked form one side to the other and designed/made it, so it was no problem for me to figure out.  You will also need to fluff/ re-sort the crinoline layer once the train is bustled so that it lays neatly again.

And a last detail.  The ribbon that gathers the train when bustled hangs out quite a bit when bustled.  Here’s what to do with it so that it doesn’t drag.  After all the loops are on the buttons, pull the extra over the center/highest button bustle point, then put the loop over one of the button bustle points on the opposite side of the dress.  repeat with the extra ribbon and loop from the other side.

This took about 6 hours total- from the time my cousin arrived with dress in hand until I stitched on the last button.  That included a lunch break and my planning time to figure out how exactly I was going to do this, and pinning a mock channel to try before I sewed it, and some other experimentation time- and hand stitching everything.  $300- ridiculous!  I’ll do any bustle you want for $50+ per hour!

Actually- I’d do them for a lot less.  If you’re in the WNY/NW PA area, I like to make and work on formal dresses (if I’ve got a bit of spare time).  I’m too old for high school formal dances, so I have no excuse to make a dress for myself anymore!

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Here it is- busy book number 3!

Drumroll please…

The end of the busy bags has come.  As of Tuesday evening I’m out of time to craft- I must clean and pack for our trip.  I’ve got lacing cards in progress that are quick, so I’m sneaking them in, but can’t write about them yet.  Look for them after the New Year.

This last busy book is mostly a collection of some of my favorites I’ve seen from other sites.

Page 1: Chalkboard fabric with mini eraser (4 layers of felt stitched in several lines and the outside 2 layers snipped between the stitch lines.)  Pocket for chalk and eraser, sample drawings of shapes to practice/copy.  I saw it here at Testy Yet Trying.

Page 2:  Paint pallete with brush (and pocket for the brush).  They can pretend to paint things in the book (or out of it) with the paint brush and “paint.”  I saw the ideas here at Serving Pink Lemonade.

Page 3- counting beads- just beads on ribbons with corresponding numbers.  I originally saw this from an etsy listing pinned on pinterest.  My pin of it is here if you want to see it/see if it’s still listed at Etsy.  I’ve since seen other versions.  Mine goes to 17 because that’s what I had room to fit, and ribbon and bead colors to make.

Page 4:  Weave the lattice pie crust.  I saw it at this blog devoted to quiet books and immediately knew it had to make it into the book.  It’s actually from over at The Daley News.  The lattice pieces are sewn on one end and snapped on the other so they can be detached and woven.


I’ve made peace with my snap setter on this project- finally!  Now I don’t have to be afraid to use it anymore!  Almost every time I use it the spiky piece gets offset and sticks through funny and doesn’t hold the snap piece on.  But did you know the plier style setter will HOLD the spiky side for you?  Mine is a red flexible ring.  The outie snap side fits into the hole on the other side of the pliers (I knew that already).  I finally took off the silly yellow ring that was too large to do any good for the innie snap, and the circle that’s left on the pliers is actually the same size as the snap (go figure!) and lines up with the bottom side.  Sorry if that’s something you already knew, but I wish I’d known that YEARS ago while I was trying to make my first diapers.  So I thought I’d share in case anyone else has been too long defeated by their snap setter.  Sorry for the tangent!

Page 5:  Put your hand in the glove.  Mine is 2 scraps of sweater left from my little girls sweater dress upcycle.  My inspiration is from a pin of an Etsy listing where they used a mitten.  My pin of it is here if you want to see it/see if it’s still listed at Etsy.  But how much more to little kids need the practice of getting their fingers in all the right holes of those gloves?!  Hours of frustration may be saved by this page alone!  I did a generous tracing of my hand and zig-zag stitched around the edge.  The cuff is a folded over piece to leave a nice clean edge on the bottom.  My hand ALMOST fits, but not quite.

Page 6:  Decorate the Christmas tree.  I came up with this one all by myself (I am not totally dependent upon pinterest!)  Flaps on the side of the page conceal beads on green ribbon that can be slid over (as many as you choose) to decorate the tree.  The top ribbon has your choice of a star or an angel to top your tree.  Those are just cut out of felt with a bit of fabric paint.  A felt layer on each side sandwiches the bead that slides on the string.


Page 7:  A clock.  I saw one on pinterest that was on Etsy.  Not because I love clocks, but because it’s a valuable learning tool, and it was a fairly quick page to make to fill out this book! My pin of it is here if you want to see it/see if it’s still listed on Etsy.   The hands are more of that ketchup bottle (from Flat Franny’s feet in the Baby Fran busy book) covered in fabric.  They are free to move.  There’s an eyelet at the base of each clock hand and in the center of the clock.  The button in the front is threaded through to a shank button behind the page so nothing is actually stitched to the page- just button to button.  That holds it in place and lets it spin.

Page 8:  The hair page- my version.  I saw one over at The Daley News again.  Mine is just a large size back of a head.  The hair is sewn down in 4 layers.  I made the hair by putting a layer of tape (sticky side up) on the edge of a scrap of wood (roughly 8″ wide by 12″ long).  I wound the yarn around the wood, but another layer of tape over the top of the yarn, snipped the bottom edge free, and sewed over the yarn sandwiched between the tape several times.  Then remove the tape and you have a weft of hair.  with a seam down the middle.  That seam I stitched at the top of the head (more T-shirt from Baby Fran) and divided the bottom and top portions in half.  The bottom porton was sewn at the base of the neck and the next row up.  The top portion was sewn at the row just down from the top and the rest left at my original stitch line.  A band at the side will hold clips.  I don’t officially have anything for bands, and I haven’t stitched in a comb yet, but may at some point in time.


Last page!!!!:  A memory game.  The idea is based on these that have felt fringe covering a bead and a corresponding bead at the top.  There’s one over here at Little Hands, Big Work, and another by a Flickr user here. Of course I had to make mine more difficult.  Mine has flaps to lift and 4 beads, each on their own ribbon under each row allow you to re-set the board differently each time.  So each bead can be placed in one of 4 spaces.  Once you find a match you have to pull the ribbon down to remove it from under the flaps so you can slide the matched beads to the side WITHOUT PEAKING (on accident, of course) at what else is in the row.  I should have left room on the right so if you’ve got two players, one could slide to the left and the other to the right if you want to keep score.

The flaps are a double layer of T-shirt that I sewed in a grid (double each seam and cut between them to make the square for each flap).  I cut my grid into 4 rows and didn’t completely cut through the top of the row when I cut the flaps apart so I could sew on rows instead of individual flaps.  It still took WAY too much time to do this page, though!  In part because I started out with skinny ribbon and got it done and realized the skinny ribbon let beads slide all over the place so they didn’t stay behind their flaps.  The wider ribbon is a good friction fit inside of the beads, so they’ll stay in place.  My ribbons are tied together in pairs on the ends, so at least instead of sewing over 32 little ribbon ends on each side it was only 16… Like I said, way too long, but I’m at least satisfied with the results.

The end of the busy books!  There’s so many neat ideas out there, though!

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I’ve got 2 of 3 finished and the 3rd is mostly  in my mind still…

Here’s pics of what I’ve got so far.  The first is from a vintage Vogue Pattern (#1959) “It’s a zoo full of teaching pets!”  It’s got some minimal modifications.  The second is mostly my own creation (at least, I haven’t seen anything else like it to acknowledge at this point).  The basic inspiration is from a “Close your Clothes” busy book, but I had baby clothes to upcycle and 3 little girls currently obsessed with all things baby- and I’m NOT ready for another one yet.  So I came up with Flat Franny instead.  She’s not beautiful, but she’s functional.


First, the critters (in no particular order).

A turtle- the shell snaps and when open it reveals a heart.


A kangaroo with a pocket to unclip (original pattern is a buckle) with a joey in the pouch.  The joey reminds me a bit of Ziggy.  He’s ugly.  next time I’ll use fabric paint.  Maybe I won’t bother attaching the string in hopes he gets lost and needs to be replaced…


A pelican with fish that can be hooked and unhooked from the fishing pole

A lion with a tail to braid

A hippo with buttons to close his mouth


A giraffe with 3 ties on his neck to practice tying.

An elephant with skates to button and unbutton

An alligator- the mouth zips open so the alligator can lick the ice cream cone with a tongue inside the zipper pouch.

Coach bear- with a lace up and tie baseball glove.

And the last page is my own addition- a zebra with a gift box that un-velcros to reveal a cake to celebrate.  (The candles are the velcro)


I made this book once before (wish I could find those pics!)  For a niece’s 2nd Birthday- 5 years ago now, I think.

Now for Baby Fran:

She’s an old T-shirt and some brown yarn, a dab of fabric paint, and a white E-bead for that little tooth.  She even has a mouth that recesses into her head.

Page 1-Change her diaper (can’t be without “goop” for that!)  These are the only remove-able pieces from the book- except for Franny herself.  The cloth and goop velcro on for storage.


Page 2- the onesie.  All the outfits have an outline of where they’re supposed to be in the book, and velcro or snaps to keep them there when not in use.  All clothing except for the diapers have a ribbon to keep them with the book, but let Fran go from page to page to do her other baby activities.  Outfits are miniaturized versions of the original garment.  It’s fairly easy to do once you get started.  Here are some sites with tips on how to make a larger garment into a kid or doll sized garment.  Adult sweater to kid sweater tutorial can be found at Dana Made It (which is also helpful if you want to make a little girls sweater dress.)  Baby clothes to doll clothes can be found at Obsessively Stitching.  She’s got more than one tutorial for different garments.  Take that and run with it and you’ll have some cute outfits for your own Flat Franny in no time!


Page 3 is socks and booties.  Fran doesn’t have much in the feet department, so these baby socks and booties are on her um… “stand in” feet.  They’re made from the same T-shirt that she was, but they have a ketchup bottle cut out to keep them in the proper form.  The socks are tied at the toe, the booties at the heel.


Page 4 is the feeding page- perhaps the favorite for my girls.  This is also the page that’s most likely to get tangled since Fran will probably have some clothing on (1 string) and there’s 3 strings on this page- one to the spoon, one to the bowl, and one to the cloth to clean her up when she’s done.  We’ll see.  The spoon has a pocket for storage, the bowl and the cloth snap on.  The bib is sewn on one side a couple inches above the snap, so it can go on Franny and then she sits at the page to be fed.  The other side of the bib has velcro to keep it in place in the book.


Page 5- a different outfit for Franny.

Page 6- her scarf and hat.  They’re sewn on, but minimally so the hat can still be flipped up and down and tied on the top, and the scarf can wrap around and tie on baby Franny.  Doesn’t she look silly with just a diaper and her scarf and hat?  THAT is why I needed her outfits to move to other pages!


Page 7- Bath Time!  The top of the tub is open so she can go in and out of the tub.

Page 8- PJ’s


Page 9- a blanket to swaddle her.  It  will velcro shut to either side for the last flap that’s folded over.


That’s all for now!  I’ll add the other busy book when it’s done- but it may not get posted ’til after the New Year- we’ll see how busy things get!

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Our “gold” Christmas gift for the girls this year is a busy bag for each of them.  If you don’t get what I mean by “gold,” see my posts here and here.

I bought a bunch of little stuff from the dollar store (and other places) like stickers, bubbles, little light ups, coloring/activity pads, notebooks, balloons, chapstick, small toys, noisemakers, and other goodies.  That was the easy part.  Now for the bags themselves and the home made items to put in them!

I’m including the “I-Spy something I’m Thankful For” craft we did for Children’s church that I wrote about here.

Here’s what else  I’ve gotten done so far- and everything is done in triplicate since I’ve got 3 little girls to make this stuff for.  My sister came over on the day after Thanksgiving and we did a “Craft Friday” instead of going out shopping for Black Friday.  That day I got my neck pillows made (finished actually, I had one mostly done the night before, and pieces cut for the other 2).  My inspiration came from here at U-Create with Infarrantly Creative, but I didn’t put the cool animal heads on mine.  I made up my own pattern, but there is also a free one you can print at the U-Create/Infarrantly Creative link.  Mine are  a cute flannel print on one side and fleece on the other.  If they drool on them, the fleece side wont feel wet, so I hopefully wont get as many whiny complaints that way.


I made marble mazes, as seen here at Serving Pink Lemonade.  There’s a start and stop spot stitched on.  It’s just 2 layers of fabric with paths sewn.  A marble inside gets pushed between the layers of fabric to navigate it through the maze.  Quick, easy, and contained entertainment.

I also got all the pieces cut and almost everything sewn for 3 composition book covers with crayon rolls.  My inspiration on this one came from here at Moda Bake Shop, but I didn’t take the time to make strips of fabric to piece a cover or stitch on a nameplate.  Mine also has 10 chunky crayons on the front, that just barely fit.  I enlarged the crayon pocket to 11 inches long and gathered it to fit all that crayon.  I finished the last one of the covers a few days later.


I tried to start the bags to put everything, and didn’t get far before I needed to hunker down on the last MOPS project (melt and pour soaps- you can see what we ended up doing at this post).  No pics yet, but I’ve got some neat plans for this bag!

I got back to business once that was done on Wednesday.  Thursday I made button snakes; inspiration from here at The Rigneys.  I was going to stop at 12 shapes, but my kids (helping me) thought I should make more.  (Yes, they’re seeing a lot of their gifts as I make them.  They don’t nap and seem to require less sleep than I do, so I must craft when they’re awake.  And they’re nosey, so not much escapes them!   I gave up trying to hide stuff, so they’re selecting some things as I make them, like ribbon and button colors, fabric choices, and shape suggestions.  They are not happy they don’t get the things I’ve made yet.  They break into my stash of Christmas gifts at least once a week, including just a few minutes before I typed this.  I need to get this done soon!)


So there’s 18.  These are the shapes I made- the same for each girl except for the letter for their first name.  Each shape is a different color except for two repeats- snowman and fish are both white, and moon and sun are both the same shade of yellow.  There is a heart, flower, star, circle, square, triangle, half circle, hexagon, butterfly, diamond, fish, splat, moon, snowman, tree, sun, raindrop, and letter for their first name.

It was a productive day on Thursday and I also managed to finish (late before I went to bed) 30 felt finger puppets.  I’ve seen a few different ones online.  For a quick version, do something like these monsters at Ohdeedoh that use fabric paint to decorate.   The nicest looking monsters I’ve seen since Monsters Inc.

These are super cute, and you can buy the pattern at The Idea Room.   I didn’t, because I’m too cheap and can figure most stuff out on my own.  Here’s mine- including a close-up of our mini-me’s:


Finger puppets are addicting!   I wrote out a list of what animals I wanted and separated them into base colors so I knew how many to sew of each color.  The bases are made so quickly and easily- just fold over the piece of felt (and pin so it stays straight) and start sewing!  I made them big enough so that adult fingers will fit, too.  We’ll probably be playing with them at some point in time.  Mark the felt if you like, I just eyeballed it.  And I didn’t do any thread changes.  I did have to go back and make a couple smaller- I could fit almost 2 fingers in a few.  Oops.  The 30 bases were done and cut in under half an hour.


Cut them apart when you’re done and decorate with felt cut outs and google eyes.  I used a glue gun for all my bits and pieces.  This is the time consuming part.  My final list of puppets include:  a mini of each of us (5 total), and an ark load of critters:  horse, bear, moose, monkey, rabbit, dog, pig, sheep, zebra, duck, chicken, penguin, cat, cow, bluebird, cardinal, giraffe, lion, hippo, elephant, rhino, tiger, fox, frog, and snake.  And here’s the list of more I’d love to make!  Panda, Polar bear, Raccoon, Deer, possum, skunk, snowman, gingerbread man, Butterfly, Bee, Dragonfly, Spider, prince, princess, baby, and more!  I figured I should stop at 30 since thats all the more little kid fingers we have and I need to move on to another project.

That’s all for now, I’ll try to put up the rest as it gets done and I have time (I’m linking as I post.  Click on what you’re interested in to see how mine turned out).  The list to do includes the bag, busy books, play dough filled balloons, lacing cards, little lanterns, story dice,  and if I get to it: a balloon cover, quick doll gowns and diapers, kid size fleece fold over sleep sacks and maybe some popsicle puzzles.  I may have forgotten something.  I’ll try to add it sometime if I did.  And I’ll include the links for my inspirations as I do them.  If you can’t wait, try checking my Pinterest page of crafts and sewing for the kids.

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I made sweater dresses for the girls since I didn’t have a lot of cold weather dresses for them.  I really liked how quickly these went together, since you don’t have to finish any edges- they’re all salvaged from the original garment!  Here’s the three I made.  Please ignore the unfinished floor, and the lower quality pictures- I couldn’t get them to stand still!  And the first one looks big because it was supposed to be for one of the twins, but she decided after it was made that she didn’t want it, she wanted the one I made for her little sister.  It was a battle I decided not to fight.  They’re only 16 months apart, so the sizes they wear aren’t that different, right?  Okay- wrong for this garment.  I’ll try to persuade them to wear different ones next time!  For size reference, my girls are in size 2T and 3T.


The first dress (pink) is based on the peasant sweater dress up-cycle I saw here at Make It and Love It.  Hers (brown) is definitely better picture quality and better fit!  This was my least favorite of the three dresses I made as far as how it turned out for me, but it’s still cute and warm.


My sweater was either a medium or large, I think…  and it didn’t have any fold over seam to re-use.  So I combined it with making a tube for elastic on the top- a method I’ve used before (and maybe someday will get those projects up).  I cut a strip of fabric longer than the top of the dress pieces add up to be.  I finish sew one edge, then sew the other raw edge onto the top neckline of the dress and sleeve pieces- I start in the middle of the back so that’s where the seam will be when I’m done.  Leave a bit un-sewn on the end so you can sew the strip together.  Once you’ve sewn all the way around, sew the two ends of the strip together.  Then sew the edge you finished earlier down onto the dress to make a tube.  leave a bit of a hole at the end so you can thread your elastic.  I pin and try on for size before I sew the elastic and stitch the hole closed.

Note that sweater fabric is much lumpy bunchier than others, so the peasant style top of each sleeve and dress body piece shouldn’t have as much extra length as you’d have for a lighter weight fabric.  I had to cut portions out from the sleeve and body of the dress after I’d sewn on the tube and it got to be a bit of a mess.

The second dress (purple) is loosely based on the one here at Smashed Peas and Carrots.  Hers (striped) makes the neckline smaller in the back and has some cute leg warmers form the cut off sleeves.


This was either a size small or medium sweater.  I wanted to save the collar of the sweater since it had nice details.  I made the neckline a bit smaller by taking it in above the shoulders.  I didn’t want to loose the decorative sleeve cuff portion either, so I cut off the decorative part, shortened the rest of the sleeve from the cuff end, and sewed the cuff back on.  I took in the sleeve from the underside up to the armpit and then down the sweater sides to make it thinner- just like sewing the back to the front on the white sweater dress below.

The last dress (white) I figured out a way to do myself.  This was a size medium sweater.

I cut the basic A-line dress shape but left the collar and a bit below it uncut.


Sleeves were cut from the original sleeves to utilize the bottom cuff.  at the top, it’s tapered almost to a point, like the vintage look t-shirts. In the first pic, it was too wide at the top.  The second pic is what my final sleeve looked like when I cut it out.


I cut the seam on each side of the collar to free the back from the front.  Ignore the tag- it is not the back any longer, it’s now the front.  I sewed the sleeve to the front from the widest point to the top- again like the assembly of those vintage t-shirts where the color block sleeve goes up over the shoulder and meets the neckline. The sleeve here stops short since we’re salvaging the collar for the finished edge.  The first pic shows how it goes together.  the second pic shows the front side sewn and laying the sweater on for the seam between the back and the sleeve.  the extra collar I saved on the back got chopped off here.  I matched up the collar and sewed from the collar down the sleeve.  DON’T sew around the corner of the sleeve like I started to do or you’ll have to pick the seam back out.


Once both sleeves are sewn on, you can lay it flat inside out and it will look like this:

Now just sew the seam from the cuff to the armpit and down the sides of the dress.  You can take it in as needed- mine was taken in a lot since I didn’t like the shape once I was done.

On each of these, I draped/tried on my girls to figure out roughly how much needed to be taken in.  I re-draped sleeves after I cut them to make sure they were reasonably close in length.  I think that’s the trickiest part since it’s the hardest part to take in if you’re too long.  except for the purple dress, I would have to take seams apart to make the sleeves shorter.  Mine ended up generously long, but it was close enough that I didn’t want to take them apart to fix them.  It may be easier to just plan for 3/4 length sleeves.

I sewed all of this with a slight zig zag stitch to allow for some stretch.  Then I (large) zig zag stitched the inside seams that were raw sweater since I don’t have a serge machine.

I made an embellishments to dress up the sweaters since they were all plain colored- a bow or a T-shirt flower.  See the post here for more on the t-shirt flowers.  I stitched them instead of glueing for this application, since they’ll be washed a lot more and I prefer sewing to glueing.   I think it took as long or longer to do the embellishments as it did to make the dresses!


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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:

criss cross     simple tied at the sides    and halter with the extra ties in a bow at the back 

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…)


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Just added, Diaper tries and some fails- see it here. Some of what I’ve tried and used as well as some things that didn’t turn out well enough to use in my sewing cloth diapers journey.  Also just added, training pants, and MOPS “extra” activities we’ve tried.

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