Is there anything cuter than kids clothes? So tiny and sweet! Just like the cuties that wear them. I don’t have that many opportunities to sew for little ones but last Christmas I seized my chance. Mr Asks cousin Ryan and his partner Beth have the sweetest little girl Ava. Ava was 16 mths at Christmas time and as the only child in the family (well, of the rellies in this country anyway) she was spoiled rotten, in the best kind of way!
You should know that I am a huge fan of giving homemade gifts, so there was no way that I could miss the opportunity to sew Ava something cute! I know how fast kids grow and I wanted to sew something that would fit for a while. I asked my sister for advice, as a mum of four (now grown up kids) I knew she would have some good ideas. My sister said she loved the kind of dresses that tied up at the shoulder because they could be adjusted to fit, going from a longish dress to a tunic top as the child grew. She said they were great for the summer heat and could be worn with a long sleeve top and leggings in the cooler months.
Based on that intel, a pillowcase dress was perfect! You can make these sorts of dresses from an actual pillowcase or from fabric, which is what I did. The idea is that the width of the dress stays the same from 3-6M to 5Y, meaning the younger the child the more gather at the neckline. What does change as you go up in size is the depth of the armhole and the length of the dress. So it really is very size flexible. Beth said Ava was wearing mostly 12mth old sizes but was getting close to 18mth. I used this tutorial written by Melissa from the Polka Dot Chair to get the sizing right.
I went with the 18mth size as the only difference between 12mth and 18mth was length. I used Melissa’s sewing tutorial too because I liked the contrast band at the bottom. The tutorial uses French seams, which are not only a neat and pretty finish, it is hardy seam that will withstand much washing and wearing. On the cherry version, I added a little pocket with a contrast bias bow that matches the arm bindings. I even found a red grosgrain ribbon with white polka dots to form the ties. I cut the ribbon ties about 85cm long and sealed the end with a flame to prevent fraying in the wash. You could use fray check but for items that will be washed a lot, I think a flame is better. I also sewed a short line of stitches in the centre front and centre back to stop the ribbon from escaping. Nothing infuriates a mum on her sixth load of laundry more than a lost tie! Plus it can’t be pulled out by a curious toddler and it’s not a choking hazard.
I changed things up for the watercolour dress (the name seemed to fit). I really wanted to upcycle a frilly, lacy, little cardigan thing of my mums and use in a dress somehow. It was this lovely lime green with purples and blues and tonal lace detailing. I’m pretty sure the cardi was perfectly clean but I threw it through the machine, just to be sure. I measured the main ruffle that went from the hem in front, up around the neck and back down the other side. It was the perfect length. I carefully cut it away, so I could preserve the overlock holding the ruffle together. I sewed the ruffle to the hem of the dress and overlocked the seam for tidiness and longevity. I flipped the seam towards the body of the dress and topstitched it so the seam allowance wouldn’t flip about.
I unpicked some of the lace and other ruffles and topstitched them on to the front of the dress. The main body of the dress is a sweet ditzy floral, even though it’s really hard to see, it’s actually a broderie anglaise. When it came to the arm bindings, I has a short piece of bias in the perfect shade! What kind of luck? Sadly, when I tried to find the right ribbon, I was out of luck. Too green, too blue, too bright, too warm – frankly, too hard! In the end, I spotted this gorgeous rainbow ribbon! All the colours, perfect in shade and ever so fun. I think it really tied everything together (no pun intended). Again, I stitched the ribbon down.
I love these dresses! They are finished neatly and in a sturdy way that will survive play time and many washes. Just the sort of gown that every princess deserves. I’m also pretty happy with the fabric choices. The cherry print is modern and fresh but with its rockabilly vibe, it’s retro too. The strong red and green will translate well into cooler weather. I mean that’s going to look so cute with a long sleeve tee and leggings. The watercolour version may seem like some odd fabric choices together but I adore it! It has a very feminine aspect but the greens, blues and purples keep it from being a floofy pink overload. It has a breezy summer feel and the rainbow ribbon brings harmony and a touch of unicorn! Mum and Dad were really happy to help Ava unwrap these. I included a matching hair bow for each dress. I figured Beth could wear them as a cute mother daughter matchy matchy or Ava could wear them when her hair got a smidge longer. And how cute is she in them?
Special thanks to Ava for her amazing modelling job! I love that top right pic, she is all princess! And loads of thanks to her beautiful Mumma Beth (pictured bottom right) for letting me use these fun pics! It’s hard to get a squirmy toddler to pose but I love these shots. If you fancy making one of these dresses for the small person in your life, I highly recommend the tutorial/pattern that I used. These are pretty quick to make and once you have made one, they really do go quick. I think the style is lovely and very flexible. Plus the sky is the limit when it comes to cool combos and cute details! If you make one (or a ton) of these, I’d love to see pics!