Sunday 27 September 2015

Carnival of the Animals: Part I - The Zebra

The sewing around here has definitely taken a wild turn with lots of animal print, and here's why: Tomorrow night, the kids and I are going to the Playhouse to see The Carnival of the Animals.

It's opening night and kids are invited to dress up as an animal. So, I let the kids pick which animal they'd like to be, and then set out to make some theatre worthy clothes to represent their chosen animal.

First up is our little zebra ballerina:

The brief for this dress was exactly that; a zebra ballerina dress. It had to be obviously zebra, and as sticky-outey as possible in a dress that isn't actually a tutu. Beyond those requirements she gave me free rein.

The dress is my favourite party dress (one, two, three and four), the Fairy Tale dress by Oliver + S. I'd like to say I could make this dress with my eyes closed now, but I always seem to press the waist seam allowances the wrong way and then attach the zipper before realising my mistake and ripping it out again. The instructions are perfectly clear, I just seem to like making the same mistakes over and over.

Even though it was sewn twice it's still an invisible zipper that I can be happy with. I couldn't possibly try to match the patterns at the back after cutting the fabric to centre the front pattern. But I can't complain about how the bodice part lined up as it looks every bit as good as if I had tried. Freaky sewing luck strikes again!

Initially I searched online for a zebra fabric. There are a few quilting cottons that looked OK, but I was holding out hope for something that had a bigger print rather than tiny repeats of an irregular stripe. I was also hoping for a luxe or shiny looking fabric.

Most local fabric stores I tried were devoid of shiny zebra print fabric until I stumbled on this stuff on Sydney Rd. The selvedge has "100% pure silky italian style" written in a font that's reminiscent of African stick figures. There's nothing silk-like or stylish about it, it is pure ethno-polyester and it is perfect! Since I've made this dress I've seen a zebra print cotton sateen in Spotlight, so maybe the shiny zebra is an upcoming trend.

To get as much "poofiness" in the skirt as possible I chose the cheap, stiff net stuff rather than the nice soft bridal tulle. Then I used three layers of it rather than one as per the pattern.

Gathering that much netting to the skirt was not easy and it took a lot of patience not to snap the bobbin threads. I've heard dental floss is good for gathering this kind of thing and I wish I'd remembered to try it. Once I'd sewn the lining to the dress at the waistband the seam allowances wanted to stick up too much. I ended up sewing the tulle seam allowances down to the lining. Bit like understitching them. Exceedingly fiddly to do but it worked to keep the skirt lying nicely.

The lining is a simple white voile cotton from the same shop. I think I spent a total of $25 on fabric. I overbought on the pure silky stylish zebra fabric so that I'd have enough for the skirt panels. However the fabric was wide enough that I could cut the skirt in one piece and not have to match panels of print. Sadly that means I have quite a bit of zebra fabric leftover. I may have to "lose" it somehow. :)

The dress is mostly view B, but without the giant sash and bow. I would have been happy to have no belt but A requested the little belt and bow like her other Fairy Tale dress. It's a size 5 but with about 3" added to the skirt length to bring it down to knee length and balance out the big print on the skirt.

We were all going to have animal masks to match our outfits (yep, I'm getting in on the animal dress ups too!), but I found trying to glue this fabric to anything was impossible.

Instead, I turned to the wonderful tutorial by Marie-Michelle on the Oliver + S blog and made a Dior Rose to attach to a headband.

Those little rose buds were fun to make. I made it more time consuming than necessary by doing it all by hand, but I caught up with some TV watching while hand sewing.

There was a sneak peek of this dress on the Oliver + S blog as we're having a monochrome sew along. I've got some more black and white things cut out and I'm starting the sewing. But there will be more animals to introduce first....

Be sure to come back soon for Carnival of the Animals: Part II


  1. I love this dress. I'm just in the process of beginning my first Fairy Tale Dress so have followed all your links. How have the three layers worked out as regards ease of wearing?

    I was already considering doing two layers of tulle as you previously had so this has been very useful. Thanks.

    1. Thanks Sarah! If you use the softer bridal tulle then I'd say go for it and layer up. Two is just nice. This scratchy netting tulle is NOT nice to work with and if this had been my first Fairy tale dress I might have despaired somewhat.
      Have fun sewing the pattern. I bet you find i as addictive as I have. It's hard not to imagine how you'd sew your "next" one. Don't be afraid to email any questions if you get stuck along the way.

  2. This dress is amazing!!! This pattern is a lot of work, and I'm impressed at all of the details here - the tulle inner skirt, the perfect collar and zipper - but the final outcome is SUPER Zebra-y but also wearable! This would be cute with a cardigan and regular shoes to school! It's totally wearable?! Who would've thunk it? Hope y'all had a great time!!

    1. Thanks Inder. Coming from a confirmed animal print hater I take your comment as the ultimate compliment! After the theatre she wore a little cropped, purple wool cardigan over the dress, and you're right, it looked adorable. I think it will be a well used party dress.

  3. I'm with you, Shelley, I'm not much of a fan of animal print at all - but like Inder said, this is totally wearable. I think the large scale of this print really helps. It looks great.
    I've never sewn this pattern but the way I always do zippers, which is super easy, is I sew the skirt to the bodice and in that process enclose the zipper. I cut off the zipper at the seam allowance and then add a few hand stitches at the base. (I learned this first from the Hanami dress.)

    1. I'll have to get a photo with the purple cardigan, I was surprised myself at how "normal" it looked.
      There are two genius moments in this dress pattern. one is a trick for marking the zipper tape so that the skirt/bodice seam is perfectly aligned - that's not unique to this pattern as I've seen the same trick elsewhere. But the really neat part is how the lining/tulle dress gets sewn to the seam allowance of the main dress and it all gets held together. It's really clever - so long as you payed attention and pressed the dress seam allowance down, not up.

  4. A looks amazing and totally unique! I bet she got lots of admiring looks.
    When I made my LTTS tutu I used upholstery thread to gather it together, but I like the idea of dental floss - clever!
    I made Boo a Dalmation print coat for a school theatre trip and while it wasn't my favourite print, I loved how happy she was to wear it.


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