Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Rainbow Dresses: And how to make them

I saw a beautiful patchwork rainbow dress online.  I was smitten. While I didn't have and extra $100 for each girl laying around, I did have a lot of fabric scraps.  I bought some red fabric for the bodice and a few small pieces (1/4 yards or fat quarters) to round out what I needed to finish the project.  All told, I probably spent about $10.  It will cost quite a bit more if you don't have fabric scraps though!  Be sure to pre-wash the fabric as it may shrink--not good after you've labored over making the fit just so.

First, measure your daughter at the widest part of the chest, be generous in this measurement, you don't want it to be too tight.  Add 3".  Cut a piece of red material to that width and the height you want the bodice to be (from under her arms down) plus 1 1/2 inches.  Empire waists would look very nice.  My girls are tall, so I wanted to get every inch I could out of everything I used though.

Iron the red material so that there is a 1 inch fold at the top (long side) (wrong sides together).  Also iron the two sides in (about 3/4 of an inch each), in the same manner.

Ironing the edges--this is the top ironed in

Next, cut a lining, I used white, of the same dimensions.  You will want to create the same type of folds, but make the folds a little further in, so that this panel ends up being a little smaller than the red, but the edges are on the folds.  Pin, but do not stitch.

Making straps

You'll take some of the scrap red fabric and cut it into two widths of 4 inches and the length you would like the straps to be (plus 2 inches).  Iron the fabric in half (long way).  Then iron the two edges to the middle.  You will stitch at the outside edge. to form the straps.

Determine the right place to set the straps (the dress will have an overlap of 1 1/2 inches, you should take into account).  To set the pins, you can place it on your daughter (careful of pins!) or use another dress that fits well.

 Please note, this picture was taken after the bodice was stitched to the skirt (it won't be at this phase).  You can see here how the white fabric is away from the edge a bit and the straps are set.

I carefully separated the white and red at the point for the straps (one at a time) and stitched the straps onto the white fabric.  I repinned the white lining and stitched the three folded sides together.

The next big step is determining the size of all your blocks.  The simplest method is to place the bodice on your daughter and measure for the length you want, from the bodice to where you want it to hit her.  Next divide that number by 5 (if you want Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Purple) and add 1/2" seam allowance.  If you want an extra row (Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet), divide 6 and add 1/2" seam allowance.  I did one of each, so that I could use the same sized squares on my different sized daughters.

Length/5 (or 6) + 1/2" = block side

So how many do you need?  Take that original measurement of your daughter's chest and divide it by the width of your blocks WITHOUT the seam allowance (essentially the number you got above before the 1/2" is added in).  Round up if it doesn't fit evenly. Add one extra block (That is how many orange blocks you need).  Add one extra block for each row beyond the row above it to make the dress grow fuller in each layer down.  (For example, a dress that has 7 orange blocks will have 10 blues.)  I used at least 3 different prints for each color, but you can divide them up however you want.

My daughter's chest is 21"  I want a drop of 20".  I will use 5 colors (not 6). 
My blocks will be 20/5 + .5 = 4 + .5 = 4.5" square 
I will need 21/4 + 1 = 6 orange blocks
7 yellow, 8, green, 9 blue, 10 purple

Note the pin holding the tuck

Stitch each block of a certain color (1/4" seam allowance on each side) until you have them all together, then finish it into a circle.  (I don't own a surger, but I did zigzag stitch the edges to prevent fraying of the seams.)  I pinned one small tuck as I pinned each new row onto the previous (right sides together, keep the tucks and pins up on the machine).  You can make minor adjustments to make each row fit on the next that way.  To make it less bulky, I hemmed the purple/violet row before I added it to the dress.

the 'wrong' side of the skirt

When you sew the skirt onto the bodice, be sure that the ends of the top over lay as they should (1 1/2 inches).

Lastly, sew two or three button holes and buttons at the over lapping bodice.

It is a time consuming project with all the extra seams and a great deal of cutting.  That being said, it was a fairly easy project, if you know how to cut very square blocks (a guide to cutting blocks has been added here) and use your machine well.  I finished in about a week while home schooling.  It was definitely worth the $190 savings for me!

indigo & violet

ends in purple

These little gals seemed to think so too.

This fit in well with our study of The Rag Coat from the Five in a Row study as well as Joseph's coat of many colors.  Plus, it is just plain cute.

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Christine said...

I came over from Raising Homemakers. This is a beautiful dress. I have no idea how to make "very square blocks", could you elaborate?

ann said...

I have no idea how you do this (even with the instructions)...but I am very impressed