Monday, April 15, 2013

The Honeycomb Dress ...and the art of improvisation

Before I begin a project, I do a lot of mental planning. Visualizing my materials, which techniques to use, when I will find time to actually make it happen. Sometimes those plans work out and sometimes I have to make small changes along the way. This dress required a lot of editing. It was a very busy week so I wasn't always able to work when I wanted to. The baby was a little fussier than usual. And every few steps I decided that I needed to adapt my original game plan. It took all week, but I finally managed to finish this fun little dress for Miss Belle. She usually wants everything in light pink. (Her left foot is even light pink at the moment because the girls decided it would be a good idea for Miss Bloom to spray paint it. We've been referring to her as Pink Foot.) So when she saw this bumblebee fabric and decided that she must have a dress made from it I was happy to oblige. We chose a pretty grey floral print for accents and a checkerboard skirt.

Tutorial and more pictures of my sweet Miss Belle after the jump!

Before you begin, gather your materials. I bought 2 yards each of the bumblebee and floral prints. But, again, that was way more than enough. I also used a solid grey for lining the skirt because I knew there would be lots and lots of little seams. A yellow zipper, thread, and my handy sketch book completed my supply list.

I usually begin with the bodice portion of the dress. This time, I decided to make the skirt first because I thought it would be more intense and I wanted to get it out of the way.

I drew out a grid on the back of my fabric and cut 120 squares (3" x 3")- 60 bumblebee and 60 floral. Originally, I only had 100 squares. But I decided after I had all of my rows sewn together that I wanted it to be a little longer. *Improv #1*


Pair up your squares, right sides facing.

And sew them together along one edge. Press them flat along the seam.
Continue sewing them together until you have six strips of 20 squares.

Sew your strips together along the long edge.

Again, press your seams flat. I cut a piece of solid grey the same size as my patchwork piece. Sew the lining and patchwork together along the edges, right sides facing. Leave an opening! Clip the corners and turn it right side out. Press again.

The skirt portion is now complete. Sew a basting stitch along the top edge to gather and set it aside.

Now, on to the bodice!

I have a couple bodice patterns that I use. This one was made using a t-shirt that I knew fit my girl. Cut out your bodice pieces. You should have one piece for the front, two halves for the back, and two sleeves. I also made a pocket-shaped piece for decoration on the front and matching bias tape to go along the neckline, sleeves, and skirt hemline. You can buy bias tape but I like to make my own. For more info on making bias tape, check out this tutorial by Craftiness Is Not Optional.

For the front, I cut out my little half-oval from the grey floral and pressed it flat along the edges. Don't worry about the top, that will be hidden by your bias tape.

I hand-sewed on a little bumblebee button for extra decoration and then stitched it into place.

Pin your back pieces to the front piece, right sides facing, at the shoulders.

 Sew along the shoulders and press them flat.

Attach the sleeves just along the shoulders. Again, keep your right sides facing.

It should look like this.

And do the other one.

Pin and sew your pieces together along the underside of the sleeve and down the side of the bodice.

Turn it right side out and press your seams. It looks like a cute little shirt!

At this point, I tried the bodice on Miss Belle and held the skirt portion up to her. I thought it looked a little short so I cut out two strips of fabric to add on. The bodice was measuring 22" around so I cut a piece of floral 32" x 2" and a bumblebee 36" x 2" to create a little more shape. I gathered my strips and sewed them onto the bottom of the bodice. *Improv #2*

Now it's time to gather and attach the skirt!

Miss Belle wanted to be in the shot.

Sew up the back hem and attach your zipper. Almost done!

Now we'll attach the bias tape to finish off the edges.

Measure around the circumference of your sleeve.

Pin and sew a piece of bias tape the same size as your sleeve edge into a little circle. Press it flat.

Sandwich the sleeve edge inside the bias tape and stitch it into place.

Sew bias tape onto your other sleeve, neckline and skirt hem.

 At this point, I thought I was finished. However, after trying it on Miss Belle I decided it was a little too voluminous.

So I pulled out my container of elastic.

And cut another strip of grey fabric to create a casing for an elastic waistband on the inside of the dress. Be sure to leave a little opening to push the elastic through. *Improv # 3*

Using a safety pin, pull the elastic through the casing. After it is all the way through, sew the ends together and push the ends into the casing too.

That gathered waist looks much better!

Finally, I made a little bumblebee hairclip to match. It was a bribe so that she would let me shampoo her wild hair. *Improv #4*

All finished!

A sweet little dress for tiptoeing,


And dancing in the daffodils.

3 3/4 year old approved!

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