Sewing has been so weird for me lately and it has just felt like I fail and then turn around to fail again. Frankly, I was getting pretty tired of this! But I made each of my girls a dress and they turned out so well! I’m hoping I can get a win like this with something I make for myself (soon, hopefully!) but for now this will do!
The whole process was actually a pretty positive one. The girls will always ask me what I’m working on when I sew and they always get discouraged when I tell them it’s something for me. I can only take so much of that disappointment before I just have to get something on the cutting board that is for them. This time I decided to let them in on the process so that they could make some of the choices for their dresses.
I’ve noticed Hobby Lobby has had some really cute rib knit in stock for awhile so I thought I’d take the girls so that they could choose their dress fabric. Last minute Greta decided she didn’t want to go but she gave us strict instructions to pick out something with unicorns. Since I’d seen the collection before I knew they did indeed have a fabric with unicorns and that they also had one with mermaids, which is currently Wendy’s favorite thing. I thought I could expect to return home with those two fabrics. But Wendy didn’t want the mermaid fabric at all. Instead, she flew right over to the bumblebee fabric and said that was the one for her (her classroom’s theme is bees, so she’s very enamored with bees at the moment). I pointed out the unicorn fabric but again Wendy went against what I was suspecting and selected a fabric with strawberries on it for Greta. I’ll be honest, the bumblebees and strawberries are much less kitschy than the mermaids and unicorns so as far as aesthetics go, this was much more appealing. However, I was worried about how Greta would respond to our blatant disregard for her request of unicorns. But, and maybe this was bad parenting on my part, I knew Wendy would take the blame of being The Chooser, so I went ahead and let the strawberries happen.
And I’m happy to report that Greta was over the moon about her fabric. It seems she totally forgot about the unicorns and was so glad to her sister for picking out something so cute!
Phew! Crisis averted!
As far as patterns go, I knew I wanted something swingy and fun and I knew I didn’t want to draft it myself! Ha! I googled “girl swing dress pattern” and found the Galena Dress by Little Lizard King. As luck would have it, it’s a free pattern! Now to be completely honest, I was a little wary of this fact because the last time I used a free pattern for a similar type kid dress, I was met with the worst pattern I have ever come in contact with. It was through one of those sites that offer, like, a billion free patterns and they all look appealing but are all total garbage (except for maybe the pillowcase pattern). We ought not even use the term “drafting” when referring to their patterns. Okay, okay, I’m getting off topic! Anyway I was worried BUT the Galena pattern was 100% excellent. There was no wasted time or fabric and it is absolutely a pattern I will use again.
I was impressed by the amount of information included in their instruction booklet. All the information was easy to find (I’m talking about the seam allowance here. Why do some instruction booklets make that Very Important piece of information so difficult to find?! Here it’s even included on the pattern pieces themselves). It even included a page to write down measurements, which is incredibly beneficial when sewing for a sprouting child. One thing that stood out to me was that it instructs to sew sleeves in the round which is not very common for indie patterns but, which I recently learned, is the more technically correct way to sew in sleeves (apparently it makes them hang better, who knew?). In any case I was very impressed by all this. I guess I’ll mention that everything (aside from the cuffs) is cut on the fold which I think is technically not correct but also it’s for knits and for kids so maybe in this case it’s permissible? I don’t know the actual rule on that. But, again: kids. They don’t care.
I was surprised when I took measurements to learn that Greta’s measurements were bigger than Wendy’s. Not by a lot. And also I mean surprised but not surprised. Wendy has always been little so it wasn’t shocking or anything. But because of this and because the dresses are made of forgiving knit, I only printed one pattern size. For Greta, I kept the pattern totally as is, and for Wendy I added 3 inches to the length of the skirt.
Even though the end results were awesome, I still encountered some issues during the sewing process and for some reason they were all with Wendy’s bumblebee dress, who knows why!
I was worried Wendy’s material was a little bit see-through so I decided to cut out two front bodice pieces and baste them together to make things more opaque. I honestly don’t know if this was necessary but I have no regrets! The girl has very little regard for modesty and I’m her mother so I can take care of that for her where I’m able! However, I cut out those pieces first along with the sleeves. When I got down to cutting out the skirt, I knew there was no way that I’d get 2 on-grain skirt pieces so I ended up having to cut one of the skirt pieces off grain. I put that skirt piece on the back and I don’t think it’s too bad-it still drapes nicely.
The other issue I had was with her sleeves. I let the girls choose what sleeve type they wanted (the pattern offers three options) and Wendy wanted the “Rapunzel” sleeves. The first problem I had was that I only had black 1/4 inch elastic and I was worried that would show through the fabric. But I didn’t want to run to the store before finishing it so I hoped the gathers would keep the black from showing through. But I sewed my casings very poorly and as a result had a crazy hard time getting the safety pin and elastic through the casing. Once it was through I saw that I hadn’t picked up the hem the whole way around so then I had to go back and resew the hem so that the elastic could be distributed evenly. And, of course, while I did that I accidentally sewed the elastic which created these weird, un-gathered portions of sleeve. I had to unpick and resew and it took forever. But I finally finished-it was the last thing I did-and took the dress to Wendy to try on. And of course the second it was on she told me the sleeves were too tight! Ugh! Seam Ripper Central. Fixing the elastic did not go smoothly and I finally just ripped the 1/4 inch elastic out, resewed my casings, and then inserted elastic cord instead. It was a headache that took way longer than it should have but it finally fit her without being too tight.
Greta chose the bishop sleeve, which turned out really cute and surprisingly gave me zero issues.
And both her skirt pieces were on grain.
I hemmed the skirts just by folding over once and then I tried using a more decorative stitch. It didn’t turn out exactly like it was supposed to but it does look nice, just tiny little scallops. Subtle but cute if you notice them.
Anyway it was incredibly refreshing to sew these dresses. Maybe even sewing something not for me took a bit of the pressure off and that’s part of why they were successful. But the pattern was great. I didn’t follow instructions really as this is something I’m comfortable sewing without being guided through the process but the finished products looks really nice. And, what’s more, the girls love their new dresses! Greta has been asking almost every day if hers has been washed yet so she can wear it again. And if the gals are happy, I’m happy too!
Pattern: Little Lizard King Galena Dress
Alterations: Added 3 inches of length to Wendy’s dress
Fabric: Rib knit from Hobby Lobby (bumblebee here and strawberry here)
Cost: I think I bought 1 yard of each fabric, and fabric was on sale so it would have been about $5 per dress. Pattern is free
Would I make this pattern again?: Definitely!