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Dress Impromptu

January 5, 2010

Let’s rewind back to early December, when my brother’s family of 6 came to stay in our home for an early Christmas gathering. That week was a complete blur of shrieks and giggles from the older cousins – aka partners in crime (a 5 and two 8 year olds) , the delightful babblings from my sweet toddler niece, the coos of her new baby sister, 21 home cooked meals for 10 by yours truly, mountains of laundry, 5 laptops on the dining table entangled over the 4 available outlets, Christmas lunch for 14, and Christmas dinner for 17… am I forgetting anything? Oh yeah, in the midst of all that . . .I sewed a dress.

For my 12 year old niece.

I remember it all started during a late night catch up chat (Don’t you just love those?) where she mentioned that she needed a dress for the Christmas dance at school. I wish I had kept the great drawing she made of the dress she had in her noggin. She had concerns over when and how she was going to buy such a dress when I suggested that we check out Etsy to see what we could find. I had some funds sitting in paypal and thought I might treat her to something.

Well we found this style which we both loved:

But the made to order $80 dress was a bit out of the price range. But honestly, couldn’t I make something like that? I mean I figured out a  multilayered, lined and boned strapless wedding dress, I could certainly figure out some strategic elastic shirring!

So we dug through my stash, and she spied the absolutely gorgeous Amy Butler fabric I had been reserving for a special project. After some initial draping with the steel blue satin binding we found we decided to go for it.

Now had I a little more time and perhaps didn’t relegate the sewing to the wee hours of the morning, I would have figured out the sleeves. But god help me, I just couldn’t get them to sit right. I see now that they needed to be inset as raglan cut…. ah well! I did whip up some straps on the bias (for extra comfort – ever sit down in a dress with unforgiving straps? )  which her step mom deftly attached when they returned back home.

Basically it was a big rectangle, shirred with elastic thread from the waist to the empire on the front, and all the way up to the top of the back, leaving enough room for the top hem. I then created some random gathers/pleats at the front neckline, pressed the crazy pleats as they fell, then hemmed the top edge.

Here’s the top front:

I know I could have simply just continued the ruching all the way up the front, but I can’t help but feel that it makes for a too tight, flattening, oddly revealing line. Besides, this way there’s lot of growing room, so this dress will last for a few years. Gotta love elastic thread!

Here’s the top back:

I just love how the shirring smooshes up the fabric but still renders the pattern clearly. I ran a couple extra lines of shirring over the top hem after I turned it over.

As it turned out, there was just barely enough fabric – other wise I would have tried to match up the pattern at the sides a little better.

I decided to go all the way with french seams and a lovely lace inner hem binding. We toyed about with adding some narrower blue satin strips on the top and bottom hems but it just became too overbearing. Nope it needed to be simple to showcase the fabric. I was also ready to add tulle to the bottom hem, but I just ran out of time.

But all in all we were both downright pleased with the final result. Not bad for 2 and a half nights of sewing eh?

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Priscilla permalink
    January 6, 2010 1:43 am

    wow, it turned out wonderful! (I wish I had an Aunt like you!!)

  2. January 11, 2010 5:23 am


  3. January 11, 2010 1:29 pm

    What a fab dress and she looks so darn proud…I love my auntie and obviously you two share a special bond.
    I love those days when the house is just KAOS it make me feel like people are having a great time and enjoying just being together…why not add a dress into the mix lol.
    We did something similar my Aunt and I day before Christmas eve we decided to whip 🙂 sound familiar up a couple of housecoats and matching boxes for the nephews – it was a blast.
    Love your blog
    and your photos are always awesome!

  4. January 11, 2010 8:53 pm

    Thanks so much you two! I’ll have to check out those housecoats Valerie, good to know I’m not the only crazy aunt out there LOL!

  5. January 14, 2010 5:10 pm

    It’s a beautiful dress for your beautiful niece. I think the best thing about it all is the special memory that you 2 of you will have!


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