Monday 10 August 2015

On Ruffles, Bling and Flamenco...

This post covers two dresses, an Oliver + S guest post and a whole lot of background ideas and inspiration. Bear with me, and enjoy the pictures of a very happy girl!

First up, the purple, bejewelled dress with ruffles - holy crap I really did put all of that into one dress!

This dress came about via a combination of a shop bought dress that she adores, and a trip to Maria's Beads and Trims. Actually, it was meant to be a trip to Buttonmania, but the shop was closed for 10 minutes and we found ourselves in the bead shop while waiting....

That's dangerous with a small girl who likes her bling. We jointly decided that another knit dress with built in jewelled necklace was needed (desperately!) and laid out some jewels which Mary then set into clasps for us. Then the idea got shelved for a bit as winter sewing took over.

The "diamonds" are pink, clear, cognac and blue and to space them out a bit I sewed a clear bead (leftover from the Deer) between each one. I also made a largish French knot at each space which you can't see well in the photo, and while it looks nice, I'm not sure if it adds or detracts from the stability of the stitched on jewels. The underside of the neckline is stabilised with a roughly 2 inch wide facing of iron on interfacing.

She tells me that she stores all her powers in that central pink jewel and it spurts out pink lightning. I can't recall if that happens when she's mad or happy. I think it's a confused mash up of Roald Dahl's The Magic Finger and some Chima LEGO and unicorn TV shows. Whatever, it definitely holds the power to make her LOVE her dress!

In recreating the original dress I cut a little keyhole out of the centre back neck and then bound the edge with knit binding. My first attempt was a bit loose and so I unpicked it (serged seam of course - face palm) and stretched the binding strip as I attached it again. Worked a charm second time.

The rest of the neckline is finished the same way. A strip of knit serged onto the neckline, pressed to the inside, then double needle stitched down. I used a hair elastic to create the button loop at the end. Turns out she doesn't need to unbutton it to get it on or off anyway, but it's a pretty faithful recreation of the original dress.

I never really think I know what I'm doing, or that what I am doing hasn't been beautifully photographed and turned into a smashing tutorial elsewhere. But... I got a couple of lovely comments on Instagram (here I am) wanting a "lesson" in doing that neckline. I do sometimes feel quite proud of my knit sewing, but perhaps I'm just being big headed.... Let me know if my tips and tricks are worth sharing here on the blog.

The last feature of the original dress was the dropped waist and the ruffles. This dress is based on the Oliver + S School Bus T-shirt. From my jotted notes it looks like it was size 4 with the side seams shortened to 8", and an arbitrary 1&1/2" added to the sleeve length. The ruffles were added to the top, middle and bottom of a trapezoid shaped skirt section. I cut my ruffle lengths one and a half times the width at each of the attachment lines.

The fabric is a gorgeously soft viscose jersey from the remnant table of, I think, GJ's fabrics. It's not too heavy for the weight of the ruffles although the waistline is perhaps a bit more dropped than I'd originally intended. :)

Finally the skirt ruffles were hemmed with a rolled hem on the overlocker. Fast and pretty!

Once I knew it worked I made another as the "tutorial" (and let's admit to using that word pretty loosely in this instance) for the Oliver + S blog. Initially I'd thought I'd work out the ruffle and trapezoid dimensions for every size but the maths just never seemed to add up, so I've kept it deliberately vague. Still, it's hard to go wrong unless you're overly concerned about an exact final length or accurate ruffle depth.

While she loves the purple one, I think this one is just about my favourite thing so far this year...

This time I left the sleeve length as per the pattern, but then added a cuff so they're probably about 1" longer than the straight size 4 length. The neckband is as per the pattern and the ruffles the same as the first version.

The mint fabric is a very synthetic, cheap knit from one of the Sydney Rd stores, and obviously doesn't have as much vertical stretch as the waist is a bit higher on this one. I was keen to use different fabrics for each ruffle to make it easier to photograph the making of the skirt and stuck with what I had in the stash. I almost went out and bought overlocker thread that matched the ribbing better but then thought that was daft. The electric blue is near enough.

It's that rolled hem that I love so much. This dress was initially rejected almost outright but then I sat A down and we watched some Flamenco dance on YouTube. I tried to seek out dancers with contrasting hems on their dresses. We dug the castanets out of the music box, put the Buena Vista Social Club on the stereo (I know, not Flamenco, but she was fooled) and the dress was declared to be great - but not as good as the purple one because of the lack of jewels.

I'm used to knit sewing being quick and my expectation of a one evening's sew for these was blown out by those ruffles. Gathering and attaching ruffles is time consuming. Made much worse if you forget to use a contrasting thread for the gathering stitches and then almost make your eyes bleed trying to pick them out.

The sun was out for this photo shoot so we ended up wandering down the street for a coffee, and stopped for a quick picture next to the super cute, purple owls.

Hopefully both of these dresses will get plenty of wear in spring. There's no doubt the purple one will be worn until it's indecently short or fallen apart.

If you feel like turning a T-shirt into a ruffled up, power jewelled, little girls' dream dress then my post on the Oliver + S blog might (!) prove useful.

Or, you could watch the video we watched together. My next girl's dress might need to be red and have more ruffles everywhere!


  1. I love this! Sarah will too so I will have to make her one. I am sure she will want the jeweled version too.

    1. Thanks Sharon. It seems that sewing jewels onto anything is a sure fire winner!

  2. I really like the blue one - the electric blue rolled hems really makes the dress! My girls would go nuts over the bejeweled one.

    1. Me too Masha. I figure if I'm going to make something twice at least one of them has to be my choice. Grey and blue beats purple any day!

  3. I'm another fan of the blue one, although it's obvious why A loves the purple one. Can you machine-wash it, or does it require special treatment due to the jewels?

    Totally with you on the labour-intensive nature of ruffles. One year I made R a rainbow skirt with six (or was it seven?) layers of ruffle. I've never felt the same way about gathering since...

    1. I've been machine washing it Marisa, turned inside out and in a wash bag just in case. I think it's onto it's third wash as it gets chosen quite frequently. one of the jewels feel out but was saved by the wash bag. I just pushed it back in and bent the leg clasps things down more firmly and it's fine. the shop bought one has lost a few jewels over time and they haven't been found to be put back in their settings. I confess to not being as careful with that one as with the one that I bothered to sew the jewels on myself.

  4. Cute dresses. I can see why the sparkly one is A's favorite. I really like bling so my husband calls me a magpie.

    I must protest! The dress is purple. Not just any purple: a bright, in-your-face sort of purple. The sort of purple you said you weren't fond of. Have you given in to the relentless pleas of a 5-year-old and purchased and sewn Bright Purple?!?!

    1. Yeah, you got me there. It's definitely purple isn't it. It's not quite my least favourite shade of purple though. imagine this shade mixed with white paint and you'd get something closer to the most awful purple there is. :) I absolutely went with buying some favour with this dress. I have no shame when it comes to attempts at being the "best mum ever".
      The fabric feels great and if it were any other colour I might have pinched it for myself!

  5. Oh wow!!! She looks absolutely thrilled!! The bling around the neck is just FAB, and I'm sure she loooooves it, no? Killer mama score on this one.

    1. Yep, it's swishy, swingy, ruffly, purple jewelled heaven-in-a-dress for sure.
      I'm really tempted to make a simple black dress and have some fake diamonds stitched at the neckline myself. Could be cute on a 40+ year old too, no?


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