Monday, April 4, 2011

How to sew a Colonial Dress


  Several days ago, my niece asked me to make her a colonial dress for her school's Colonial Day Celebration. She sent me the following picture as a guide.

  When I saw this, it reminded me of the Cinderella dress I saw Ashley create over at Make It and Love It. I followed Ashley's lead and this is how my niece's Colonial dress turned out:

  And here's a view without the apron...
I started out just as Ashley suggested, I used one of my niece's tops as a pattern. Since it was a knit t-shirt, I did add 1" to the side seam. The fabric I used was left-over Halloween fabric. It has some give but not as much as knit. Because my niece is not a petite girl, I was very generous when adding to the side seams. That stretchy knit made me nervous and I knew I needed to account for it when making the dress. I figured, I'd rather have it be too big (and she could gather it up with the apron) then have it be too small/tight. Here's how I started:

I folded the t-shirt in half and traced around the edges. I did fold back the sleeve to get just the bodice portion. Sorry, I didn't take a photo of that. From this next shot, hopefully, you will get the idea.

Please excuse the "extra" green markings. Lil' AC was "helping" me create this pattern and made her marks. You can see where I added the extra 1" to the side seam to accommodate for the give in the knit t-shirt. This will actually give 2 extra inches to the pattern. Remember, I have not added in seam allowance yet. I just traced the t-shirt and added 1" to the side seam to compensate for the stretchy knit t-shirt I used.

 From this photo, you can also see that I folded back the neckline, to trace the lower front of the t-shirt.

I used the same pattern for the front and back of the bodice. Here's a close up
The original front neckline is in green marker. However, I needed a square front neckline. I just drew in a square neckline matching the end points of the original t-shirt.

The back of the bodice was NOT cut on the fold. I added 1" to the back seam to allow for a zipper. Ashley used Velcro but I thought a zipper would be better for my niece. I did not add any seam allowance for the neckline because I was going to add a ruffle and I knew the seam allowance on that was about 1/4". I did add 1/2 " to the shoulder, arm and side seams.

The front of the bodice was cut on the fold and 1/2" seam allowance was added to the shoulder, arm and side seams. . I also cut out the square piece to accurately cut out the front bodice.

To make the white front on the bodice, I measured the length of my square bodice. In this instance is was approximately 5" (2.5 * 2).

I decided that I wanted to shave off 1" at the bottom. To do this, I took my white fabric (which I had already squared up) and folded it in half. I lined up the top of my ruler at 2.5" and the bottom at 2" and cut using my rotary cutter.
I centered my white fabric with the dress and sewed the edges down. I then started to use my square ruler to layout the white braided trim.
On my Designer Diamond, I used stitch #13 with 5.0 width and 10.0 length to sew the braid in place. This stitch makes a zig zag pattern out of several straight stitches.
Now, here's where I deviated from Ashley. I sewed a zipper in the back. If your zipper comes in a package, then you should have instructions on how to add the zipper. Very briefly, to add my zipper, I sewed a basting seam all the way down the back where the zipper would go. I then took my zipper and lined up the top with the neckline. Using a zipper foot, I basted the zipper in place by creating a basting seam down the 2 edges of the zipper (making sure not to sew close to the teeth of the zipper.) and I basted the zipper in with the wrong size up. I then flipped the front over and used my zipper foot to get close to the zipper teeth to permanently sew the zipper in. Once the zipper was in, I pulled out the basting stitches. I then sewed the back and front of the bodice at the shoulder seam. I then added the little lace ruffle to the neckline which finished the neck edge seam.

Next, I created a sleeve pattern. If you've never created a sleeve pattern, take a look at this. I kinda of followed the way they made a pattern. I figured out what my arm hole depth was for the dress (9").
I also knew that my sleeve had to be at least 13" wide (around the bicep) and 4" down from the underarm point to hit the elbow. I then created a rectangle that was 13" tall by 7.5" wide. To get the height of my rectangle, I took the armhole depth (9") and added it to the elbow length. This gave me 13". My bicep measurement was 13". Since my pattern was going to be cut on the fold to ensure symmetry, my rectangle width had to be 1/2 the bicep (13/2=7.5).  I then marked 9" down the height of my rectangle to accommodate the armhole depth. I then added my sleeve curve by free handing a slope down to the 9" mark. Like so...

I cut the sleeve pattern on the fold. For the white ruffle that begins just above the elbow, I cut 2 rectangles that were 5" tall by 20" wide. On one of  the long edges (20"), I added the same lace ruffle that's on the neckline. I then gathered up the opposite end by sewing a long straight stitch and adjusting the gathers. I then sewed the gathered end to the bottom of the sleeve. I did the same to the remaining sleeve and then sewed the side seams. That finished the bodice portion. The skirt was the easiest part. I just used the remaining part of the fabric by sewing a tube and then gathering one end. I lined up the skirt seam with the back zipper seam and attached the skirt to the bodice.

  • 2 yards of brown Halloween fabric that was 60" wide
  • remnant piece of white fabric for center of bodice and sleeves. The fabric was also 60" wide but I probably only a little over 1/3 of a yard.
  • The apron is made out of osnaburg.


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