Wub: "I want the top to come to right here. (Makes a motion high across her chest.) With no sleeves and no collar and a great big, really, really fluffy skirt! And pink."
So basically she wanted the dress she wore two years ago for Easter.
I love this dress. We bought it at Target and paid full price for it. Which for me is saying a lot about the depth of my love for it.
Did I want to make the exact same dress? Eh...not so much. So I was perusing Ebay for some lace to make it just a bit different when I came across this beauty.
I asked Wub how she felt about a pink and black dress and was granted permission to make it in those colors.
I used Violette Field Threads Chloe Dress pattern. I've had my eye on this one for a couple of years and I finally felt my skill set had grown enough to tackle it without tears.* I used the size 7 and it was a spot on perfect fit.
I modified the pattern by shortening the bodice by 3.5 inches, leaving off the sash and adding tulle ties to the side instead. Autie and Jen from ICandy Handmade have a fantastic tutorial on adding tulle ombre to a bodice. I've wanted to try it ever since I first saw it. I wasn't 100% convinced the black satin wouldn't overpower the pink tulle. I was very happy that it worked exactly the way I saw it in my head.
The instructions for sewing were pretty sparse and I definitely felt there were some places that essential information was missing. There are no instructions for grading seams before turning the bodice. A novice sewist would probably have some issues getting things to turn out as nice as s/he might like.
Other bits of the pattern were brilliant including the instructions for sewing the side seams of the bodice. This is the first time I haven't struggled with that part. The advice on using upholstery thread and a heavy duty needle to sew the layers of tulle, net and chiffon was definitely needed.
For the tulle overskirt I cut the tulle about 7 inches shorter than the net an the chiffon (For Wub's dress the skirt is about 26 inches long so I cut the tulle at 19 inches) and serged the lace along one edge. I then used a double needle and sewed a satin ribbon over the serge line to hide the ugly.
I also used about a a yard and a half less in length than the pattern called for. The pattern called for 2.75 yards cut in half lengthwise making each layer 5.5 yards each. I ordered the lace before I bought the pattern and only ordered four yards of lace. To be honest I'm not sure I could have got three layers of 5.5 yards of fluffy, slippery fabric to gather around the waist. I felt like I had the fabric gathered as tight as it would go and there were still places that I had to pinch and pin to make it fit around.
I also serged all the layers of tulle, net and chiffon together before attempting to gather them. It was a gut instinct and I was definitely glad I did.
I used Nancy Zieman's method of gathering. The technique starts at 17:56 on the video. If you hate to gather this may change your mind. Or at least make it less stressful. I used upholstery weight thread and didn't have the slightest fear the threads would break.
I attached the top layers using upholstery weight thread, a heavy duty topstitching needle and a fairly long stitch length. Worked a treat.
I wasn't sure whether the dress would need a lining so I tried it on Wub once the overskirt was sewn. Too sheer so I made a pale pink underskirt from some of the lining fabric I bought for a dollar a yard. I cut the underskirt 30 inches by 3 yards. I seamed it into a tube the folded up 1 inch and ironed it. I folded up a further 4 inches to form a deep hem and the used a black scallop stitch in two wide rows to hem it.
I know it won't really show, But I know it's there and that's enough for me. I sewed this onto the bodice facing which left a ring of ugly edge sandwiched between the skirts.
I first attempted to serge these layers together but the serger said "No, thank you." and spit a needle at me. I ended up using upholstery thready and a wide zigzag stitch to tame this.
Then I sewed on seven, perfectly pink, perfectly sparkly buttons that I bought from the dollar bins at JoAnn's.
*This is where the tears come in. I am recovering from yet another bout with bronchitis. I just finished up a round of antibiotics and steroids. The combination of illness, steroid crabbiness and extremely fussy sewing has not been so much fun. If I hadn't been so happy with the end result of each step I might have just given up and bought her a dress. Fortunately I have been ecstatic with the results so all the trouble has been worth it.
I woke up this morning achey, coughing and with a vaguely sore throat. I powered through it, got all the machine sewing finished and sat down to hand sew the buttons. I do not enjoy hand sewing and I always save the buttons for last. Halfway through the buttons Wub came up to show me the painting she had just finished.
Wub: "Mommy look at my painting!"
Mommy: "Wub, be careful with the paint please."
Wub: "Do you like it?"
Then very wide eyes.
Mommy: "Did you just get paint on your dress?"
Bright yellow paint all over the front hem. Tears, frustration and me going to take a nap.
Fortunately the paint came out. Later Wub and I had a talk about being cautious and why mommy was so upset in the first place.
The dress is amazing. I don't usually use the P word in conjunction with Wub. There are so many better things to be than a Princess. An artist, a super hero, a doctor, a scholar for me these are better aspirations. I have to admit though, Wub is going to look like a princess in the dress.
A punk rock princess.