I had to replace the foot pedal for my over-locker and whilst in the Bernina Shop I saw some children's singlet dresses on the wall that they had been teaching as a project. I immediately thought of my grand daughters and quickly bought a couple of ecco cotton tops to make them one each. Now there are lots of instructions for these dresses on the internet and they are quick and easy to make but I made a couple of changes to get a better look.
I like this tutorial for a toddler but I wasn't happy with the look of how the bodice and skirt joined.
The things I considered first were:
- The choice of fabric, I used some Liberty cotton because it gathers, drapes and washes well. (The fibre used has a long staple - expensive- which means it doesn't crease like cheaper cottons that have a short staple - cheap.)
But there are lots of fabric to choose from. Most Mum's these days do not iron and hand washing is a thing of the past. So if you don't want to spend a lot of money on fabric choose one that has a small amount of polyester in it. Pure cotton is going to crease. It will look good to start with but after the first wash it will be creased if not ironed. After a couple of minutes in the dryer that fabric with some polyester in it will look great. (The heat slightly melts the polyester in the fabric taking out the creases as it is thermoplastic.)
- The amount of fabric. Most instructions tell you to use the width of the fabric but this varies between fabrics and the weight of the fabric will effect just how it gathers. I think pleating would be better for a heavier weight fabric and extra width is needed if you are using a light weight fabric.
- The distance between the underarm and where you cut the t shirt.
This changes with the age of the child. For a toddler I would cut the T shirt at about 9cm (3.5"). A toddler has a bit of a tummy and this will hang better over it. For my girls, who are 5 & 6 years of age I made the cut longer 12cm (nearly 5") .
Then there was the construction.
After I cut the T shirt I ironed a 4cm (1.5") strip of light paper iron on interfacing above the cut to stabilise the knit fabric. This also allows you to use a straight stitch when you attach the skirt. After sewing you can easily peel the stabiliser back to the sewing line and trim it off.
Most instructions will tell you to lengthen your machine stitch. I only slightly lengthen the stitch but I also loosen the tension. This makes that bobbin thread easy to pull up. (I sew on the right side and gather on the wrong side of the fabric.)
I also sew 2 lines of gathering. At the end of the first line I sew down 3 stitches and come back the other way. (This is about the width of your presser foot.
This allows you to pull up an even gathering and you can then sew the bodice and skirt together in between the 2 gathering lines. To pull out the gathering threads you just have to snip the thread on the bobbin stitched side back at that 3 stitch turn. The loose bobbin thread pulls out with no fuss and the top thread just falls away. This also means you do not disturb that line of stitching where you joined the bodice and skirt.
Make sure you mark the quarter and half ways points on the top of the skirt before you pull up that gathering thread. This will then make it easy to line them up with the seams and centre front and back of the T shirt. I then neaten this edge by over-locking it.
I thought about top stitching the join but decided it wasn't necessary.
If you want to allow for growth, and all kids grow , set a wider hem you can let down. You could machine it but I like the hang of a hand stitched hem.
The girls put the dresses on and refused to take them off. They love the feel of that Liberty fabric. They couldn't stop touching it. Now there will be nothing to compare to this fabric. I bet they are hooked for life, just like me.