Sunday, 28 December 2014

The Christmas Dress

Where do I start with this one?

Well, do you remember I mentioned I was going to sew up this pattern using the middle one of these fabrics from Paris for a Christmas dress for my daughter this year?

She disagreed. Very politely.

So we went on a trip to The Fabric Store. She chose sequins, and then back home she designed a new dress shape for me. I made it. She loved it.

The End.

Of course the full story was a bit more involved than that.

Let's rewind, shall we?

We walked into The Fabric Store looking for a pale pink cotton; something suitable for a dress with pintucks and pleats, buttons and a bow - we had a well-defined goal. But there was so much my daughter liked there, most of it slippery (eg silk chiffon) and non-pink... I was starting to worry - who wants to sew silk chiffon for a last minute Christmas dress? And then at the back of the shop, she found iris flavoured sequins. I wholeheartedly approved. We found a matching lining fabric and bought a metre of each, celebrated with lemonade and coffee, and rushed home.

With the new fabric, the dress design had to change significantly. Miss 7 now envisaged a simple short sleeved, mid-calf length, flowing dress with a slightly flared skirt, and I was sure we must have a pattern for something like it. We browsed a huge pile of old Burda Style magazines and didn't find anything exactly right, but we found a pattern (issue 11/1012, pattern #151, which is a simple pattern for a child's sequinned tunic) we thought might do. And then I got caught up in all the Christmas planning for a couple of days, and suddenly it was Christmas Eve, and my daughter was asking how her Christmas dress was looking...

I quickly traced out the BurdaStyle pattern and compared it to a kids t-shirt pattern I've used before - uh oh, far too boxy and shapeless. So working from the t-shirt pattern, I redrew our dress pattern with a more fitted bodice and shoulders, a rounded neckline, short sleeves, and a flared skirt. I cut out the lining and sewed up shoulder and side seams, and we checked the fit - apparently just right!

Cutting the sequins was not pleasant - the fabric didn't want to lie smoothly on the fold, and my pins had to work around rather than through the sequins, but soon chopped up sequins were flying everywhere.

I didn't want scratchy sequins on the neckline so I decided to use a satin bias binding to join the outer sequinned fabric to the inner lining, and this had the advantage of only minimally changing the size of the "just right" neck opening. To get a decent finish on the neckline I attached the binding on the inside of the dress, then rolled it over and topstitched it from the outside of the dress - I read this tip on Lara's blog when she was sewing up the Ruby top from Tessuti Fabrics, and she explains it a lot more clearly over there!

I did the same on the sleeve openings, but as you can see, my sequinned sleeves were longer than my lining sleeves, so there's a puff in the sleeve that shouldn't be there. It doesn't seem to bother my daughter so I'm not worrying about it either. 

A last big lot of satin bias binding was sewn to the sequinned fabric hem (the lining is hemmed separately, about 2 inches shorter), and the relative stiffness of the binding helps the skirt flare outwards rather than just flowing downwards.

Fabric: 1 metre of sequins ($18) + 1 metre of lining ($12) - $20 Christmas discount = $10
Notions: a couple of metres of dark blue satin bias binding from my stash = ??? + a reel of thread = between $5 and $15 I guess?
Pattern: Re-use of a previously used Burda pattern combined with basic sketching = $0

Total: $15 - $25 ??

Sewing this dress was surprisingly easy. I'd read a lot of articles and blog posts about sewing sequins (removing sequins from the SA, tying off the sequin threads, wearing protective glasses to shield eyes from flying sequins and broken needles, reattaching sequins after sewing seams - OMG, too much!) BUT I have sewn with sequinned fabric before (silk chiffon trimmed with decorative mini sequins, for a dress for my daughter earlier this year) and I knew my machine could sew right through small sequins. On the recommendation of staff at The Fabric Store I used a new size 75 stretch needle and a regular foot, and my machine sewed right through the bigger sequins without fuss.  The fabric did move about a lot as I sewed, but this was controllable with lots of pins and a slow stitch speed. I'm not sure if this helped, but I also kept my sequins either face to face with another lot of sequins (eg sewing front to back) or facing down into the sewing machine plate with lining fabric upppermost.  I trimmed the underarm seams where the layers of sequins felt too bulky through the lining fabric, but that's all the finishing I did as the sequins are attached to a mesh fabric that I don't expect to unravel at all, and the threads holding the sequins on the outside of the dress should be effectively tied off by the machine stitched seams and bias binding.

I'm now taking orders for sequinned dresses from relatives and friends for next Christmas :).

If you celebrated Christmas, I hope your day was enjoyable and relaxing, and that any gifts you made were well received...

See you soon

Gabrielle x


  1. She's a lucky girl to get such a gorgeous Christmas dress - all I managed was Christmas PJ shorts for my girls :) Nice tips on sewing with sequins too.

  2. What a lovely Christmas dress. Very special.

  3. I think your daughter has innate style! It's perfect.

  4. Thanks Robyn - but that's several pairs of shorts, and I only made 1 dead simple dress! It's so hard to fit in sewing gifts at this time of year isn't it!

  5. Thank you Beajay, I hope you had a great Christmas.

  6. Thanks Gail, it's not always the case, but she would definitely agree with you :). BTW your latest blogged dress is amazing - a perfect combination of fabric and pattern, and just beautiful on you!

  7. purple plus sparkles is pretty much my dream dress! She looks lovely in it and being a bit loose it's perfect for our hot weather.

  8. This is beautiful and I would very happily wear it myself!

  9. Oooh I love a sparkly dress.. what great taste and such a bargain!

  10. She's happy. You made it so well. I love a happy ending:) Merry Christmas.

  11. Fabric Epiphanies16 January 2015 at 19:34

    Great dress and I love the fabric.


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