Teach Me Tuesday with Up the Rainbow Creek

Hi! It’s Doni from Up the Rainbow Creek. Here is a cute little girl’s tiered dress I made up for Abby for the 4th of July. She’s a real firecracker so I think this is perfect for her. I picked up this Debbie Mumm print last year just because I love it and it was so much fun. When I showed it to Morgy I asked her if she thought it would fit Abby and she held it up and said, “oh no grandma, that’s way to big for Abby, I think it will have to be for me!” That’s Morgy, she love clothes so much that sometimes she cries and has to go through all her things and try them on again before she will let them go into the bag for hand me downs for Abby!

Now what do you think of my little model? Isn’t she just too dang cute!

I don’t always have a little girl handy to model for me so I got the idea to advertise on Craigslist for an artist to make me a couple of kid size cutout dolls quite a while back. I was lucky enough to find Sarah, a sweetheart SAHM who likes to paint for fun. She whipped up 2 little girlies for me in trade for a newborn size rag quilt set. I named them Melia and Morgan. I hadn’t made any dresses for a while, so I finally got to try them out today when I finished Abby’s dress. LOVE THEM!

Want to make an adorable 4th of July sundress for your own little firecracker?

You will need:
About 1 yard of cotton fabric
2 yards 1″ wide ribbon for ties
optional rick rack 1 1/2 and 2 1/2 yards of each color

Ruler and paper for pattern
Elastic – either 1 1/2 yds baby elastic or 28″ of 3/8 wide soft elastic
6 safety pins at least one of which needs to be a tiny brass one
Sewing machine

First I made a pattern for the bodice of the dress. I drew a rectangle 7″ high by 6 1/2″ across.
Measure in 1 1/2″ at the top and mark a dot there. Measure up 2″ from the bottom and make another dot. Draw a curved line from one dot to the other to make the armhole cut out.

I should have taken a picture of this part but forgot. You will need to fold your fabric so that the selvege edge of each side meet in the middle at the fold line. Cut two of the bodice pieces with the center line on the fold.

Next you will want to determine the finished length your dress will be and cut the two lower tiers of the dress. If you have your little girl handy you can measure her from just below her armpit to whatever length you want the finished dress to be. Then divide that in half and add 1″ for seam allowance to the top tier and 1 1/2″ for seam allowance and hem to the bottom tier. For this dress I didn’t have anyone to measure so I used a finished length of about 18″ from a pattern I have for a 3T dress, so I cut one strip 61/2″ and two strips 7″ by the width of the fabric. Cut the first strip in half so it measures approx 21″ long. Cut the selvege edge off of all the strips.

Now set your machine to the longest stitch length and stitch a long gathering stitch about 1/4″ along the top of each of the 4 strips. Make sure to leave a long tail on the threads on each end. Mark the center of each strip with a pin. Pin the center of the top tier strip Right Sides Together to the bottom edge of one bodice piece. Gently pull the top thread and slide the fabric to slightly gather it to fit the top piece. This top tier is only slightly gathered but be sure to space the gathers evenly across the whole edge. Pin in place making sure the ends match. DON’T FORGET TO SET YOUR STITCH LENGTH BACK TO 10-12 STITCHES/INCH! Now stitch along the pinned edge taking a 1/2″ seam allowance.

NOTE: I also pressed the hem on the bottom edge before proceeding with this step, it just makes it a little easier to get an even hem if you do it while the strip is still laying flat. You will stitch it later but just do the ironing part now.

Pull the threads of the bottom tier to gather it to approx 21″ long. Match the pinned center to the center of the first tier Right Sides Together. Pin the ends and then gently even out the gathers, pinning in place.

Stitch the pinned edges together taking a 1/2″ seam allowance. Make sure that the ruffles lay straight and the edges stay nice and even so there aren’t any big folds and your ruffle doesn’t look wonky when you flip it over. I just HATE wonky ruffles, so I tend to take it slow and straighten the edges as I go.

Now press your seam allowances up. And while you are there at the ironing board go ahead and press the top edge under 1/2″ and then press it over another 1″ for the elastic casing.

Repeat all these steps to make the back of the dress.

So you will have a front and a back that look like this.

Next pin the side seams together, making sure to match the seams of the tiers . Stitch from the underarm down.

This is where I added the rick rack and forgot to take pictures of that too. But I stitched it on after finishing the first side seam, then matched the rick rack up and stitched the second side seam.

Next, stitch very close to the bottom of the folded over edge of the top casing. I used 3 rows of baby elastic, but you could also do 2 rows of 3/8″ elastic if you want. For the baby elastic I stitched another two rows 1/4″ apart to form 3 casings. For the wider elastic stitch one more row 1/2″ above the first stitching line.

Cut 6 pieces of baby elastic 7″ long. Attach a safety pin to each end. The one you are going to use to pull the elastic through needs to be tiny enough to go through the 1/4″ casing. The one on the other end is just to keep it from pulling all the way through and making you pull it out and start over so the size doesn’t matter.

Pull all 3 pieces of elastic through the casings leaving a pin on each end to keep them in place for now.

Pull the elastic out about 1/2″ from the edge of the dress top and stitch close to the edge to secure it. Clip the ends so they are even with the edge of the dress top.

Now you will need to take a scrap of your fabric and cut a strip of bias about 18″ long X 2″ wide. Iron in half, then turn the raw edge on each long side in to meet close to the center line. Fold in half again and press well.

Open one folded edge out and pin in place Right sides together around the armhole. Fold over about 1/2″ on the top edge on each end. Stitch along the fold line, pulling the bias to match the curved edge and pivoting a bit at the side seam. Now fold the bias binding over the raw edge and topstitch close to the edge, being sure to catch the binding evenly along the back side of the armhole.
The finished armhole should look like this.
Now you’re almost done! How exciting! Cut 4 lengths of ribbon 18″ long, cutting one end at an angle and heat sealing it with a match or a lighter. Just very slightly run the edge across the flame to melt it a little bit to prevent fraying in the wash. Turn under the straight edge of the ribbons and stitch in place along the top edge of the dress front and back.

Finally, give the hem a touch up pressing and stitch close to the top edge of the fold.

Admire your adorable creation!

Try it on your little girlie!

I had to try it on both of my big paper dolls, so cute!

I love sharing my creations and tutorials with you. If you make this dress I would love to see your pictures, please post a link in my comments or email me if you don’t mind me posting it on Up the Rainbow Creek.


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  1. Gwen Toliver says:

    Very, very cute! I don’t even begin to have the time to make something like this currently – we’re on the road almost constantly, but I’m going to bookmark this for another time! I’m glad I found you through you visiting our blog. (I lived in Huron SD for many years – so I have a special place in my heart for SD šŸ™‚

  2. The dress is adorable! I admire people who can make their own patterns. I’m sure Abby will be proud wearing it on the 4th. I’m sure your “models” are less squirmy than your daughters. lol What a great idea that you had. Are you going to get bigger ones when Abby and your older daughter get bigger? Katharine

  3. What a cute dress! I am going to be learning to sew in the coming weeks. I am excited so I can make something cute like this for my 2 little girls! ~Lanie J.

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