Saturday 27 October 2012

Little Birdie Pinafore - my first Tutorial Exchange!!

Just think ... free designer fabric and an invitation to design something, make a tutorial and share it with the blogging world ... pretty much my idea of heaven these days!

First off, I just need to say a massive Aussie thank you to Kym at Fabric Fascination and Totally Tutorials for selecting me as one of 5 bloggers who were able to choose some designer fabrics in exchange for a free blog tutorial.  The fabric bundle I chose was the Valori Wells Nest fabrics, which came with a 1/2 yard of the Paisley, and a 1/2 yard of the Birds.   The moment I saw these fabrics online my creative juices started going overtime, and I fluctuated with ideas from something to go in the girl's rooms, to clothing, to bags and back again.  Luckily, living in Australia I had a bit of time to think and ponder before my fabric arrived this week.  When I saw and touched and measured, my mind was made up.  I decided on a little pinafore dress for Hannah, and some accessories to go with it.  I kind of made a few parts up as I went along to try and showcase the fabric as best I could, and the accessories were definitely an afterthought, but I just went a little crazy over this fabric.

I first designed this little pinafore dress a few weeks ago when my Mum and I took Bethany, Hannah and my Niece to see a local kid-entertainment production of The Wizard of Oz.  The organisers suggested that kids could dress up for the show, and my sister-in-law drew my attention to the fact that this could mean sewing with gingham ... lots of gingham ... which as we know, is one of my favourite things.  So I went all Dorothy, and made 3 little blue gingham Dorothy pinafores ... (stay tuned for a blog some time soon about a Dorothy costume refashion into a skirt that's a bit more wearable for a 4-year-old).

Anyway, Hannah just looked so adorable in this design, especially the little cross-over straps, and when I saw this fabric, I just knew this would be such a cute dress for this munchkin.  

Do you wanna make one too?  Here's the instructions, and I'm so happy for anyone to make these little dresses for personal use, as gifts, or even to sell, but as always, please give credit back to me and my blog.  I'd love to see photos if anyone makes one too ... feel free to email to me!

This tutorial is based on Hannah's size - She's 10 months old, but pretty petite, so this is probably about a 6 month size.  I have indicated how you can adjust this pattern to fit any size.

Here's what you'll need:

- About a yard (or a little under a metre) of fabric (or 2 fabrics if you want to have contrasting fabrics like this)
- 2 buttons, or coverable buttons and button-covering tool like I've used to make matching buttons
- 1" wide elastic
- Sewing Machine
- Cotton
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat

Fabric A:
- Skirt - 2 rectangles, 16 1/2" x 8" (or measure waist circumference x desired length)
- Bib - 2 squares, 6" x 6" (or measure from waist to mid-chest and cut squares this size)
- Straps - 2 rectangles, 14" x 2 1/2" (or measure from back of hip across back and over shoulder to opposite chest, and cut straps this length x 2 1/2")

Fabric B:
- Wasitband - 1 rectangle, 16 1/2" x 2 3/4" (or waist circumference x 2 3/4")
                    - 1 rectangle, 8 1/4" x 2 3/4" (or 1/2 waist circumference x 2 3/4")
- Bottom Band - 2 rectangles, 16 1/2" x 4" (or waist circumference x 4")

Elastic - Cut a 8 1/4" length (or 1/2 waist circumference)

This is what you should have:

Now, to sew it ...

1.  The back of the skirt.  Take one of the Fabric A large rectangles (16 1/2" x 8"), and the Fabric B 16 1/2" x 2 3/4" rectangle (waistband).  Iron the waistband piece in half long ways.  Line up both pieces along their long edge, right sides together and sew using 1/4" seam.  Remember, if you have a directional fabric like my birds, you want to make sure you sew it the right way, so that when the waistband is flipped up, it's the right way up .... I'm not openly admitting that I had to unpick and do it again ... just a suggestion!!!  LOL!)  Then open out this seam and iron flat.

2. On the raw edge of the waistband, fold over and iron a 1/4", then flip the waistband over to the wrong side of the Fabric A piece and pin along with the 1/4" section folded in so you don't see any raw edges.  Try to line it up so it just covers the last row of sewing my a millimetre or so.

Then flip back over the right side of the skirt, and sew along just in the ditch from the original seam, trying to get all your stitches in the ditch so that they don't show.  I went really slowly, and kept checking the back as I went to make sure the back was being caught in.  Now it should look like this on the back:

3.  Thread your elastic through the waistband using a safety pin.  When the end of the elastic lines up with the edge of the waist band, sew it in place about 1/8" from the edge, then continue threading your elastic through to the other end of the waistband.  When it's through, sew that end too, about 1/8" from the edge.  These stitches will be covered up later by the side seams, but just hold the elastic in place for now.  The back of the skirt is done, and should look something like this:

4. Now for the front of the skirt.  Take your other large Fabric A rectangle (16 1/2" x 8") and your other Fabric B wasitband piece (8  1/4" x 2 3/4").  Iron the wasitband piece in half long ways.  We're not putting elastic in the front so that the wasitband sits nice and flat, but we still want our skirt to gather up in the same way the back has, so we need to do some gathering.

Set your machine to it's longest stitch ... on mine, it's No 6.

Then sew a straight line along the long edge of the Fabric A skirt piece, about 1/4" from the edge.  Don't backstitch at the ends, or you won't be able to pull it through.  As this is on the longest stitch, it may start to gather a little by itself as you sew, and that's fine.  Then lay your piece on the table, and pull EITHER the back or the front thread at each end to gather the skirt up.  Keep pulling until the top of the skirt piece is the same length as your waistband piece, but try to be gentle so you don't break the thread.  Spread the gathers out evenly, then pin the skirt piece to the waistband piece, right sides together.  I find it easier to pin one end, then the other, then add pins along the middle to keep it all together.
Sew the waist band to the skirt piece (put the stitch length back to your normal length first!!).  Open the seam and press flat.  Then, same as the back of the skirt, turn the raw edge of the wasitband over 1/4" and iron.  Then flip the wasitband over to the back and pin just covering the last row of stitching.  Turn back over to the front and sew in the ditch to hide your stitches, but making sure you catch the hem at the back.

Now you've got both your skirt pieces, and that's the trickiest bit done ... great job!

5.  Put your skirt pieces right sides together, pin the side seams and sew 1/4" seams down each side.  Try really hard to line your wasitbands up perfectly, as this just looks so much better on the finished product.  Overlock (serge) or zigzag the raw edges to stop fraying. 

6.  Now to put the band of Fabric B on the bottom of the skirt.  You could totally just hem the skirt and leave it a little shorter (like I did with the Dorothy dresses), or you can add the band.  I think the band is a nice way to incorporate your contrasting fabric.

Take your two band pieces of Fabric B (4" x 16 1/2" pieces), and sew them together with a 1/4" seam at one of the short ends to make 1 long strip.  Iron out the seam, and iron the whole piece in half long ways to make a crease.  Open it up, and pin to the skirt, right sides together all the way around, like this.  Try to line the ends up with one of the side seams, and pin the raw edges of the band pieces together at the end of the round.

Sew around the band piece using 1/4" seam and when you get to the end, sew straight down the ends to close off the band piece.
As with the waistbands, fold over and iron 1/4" along the raw edge, flip the band over to the back and pin, just covering the first row of stitching.  Flip back to the right side, and sew in the ditch to hide your stitches, catching the back of the hem as you go.

Then do a little happy dance at having finished the skirt piece, and maybe a nice cuppa and a chocolate biscuit, then move on to the bib! (Ok, this step is totally optional, but definitely makes the whole process much more fun!)

7.  Take your 2 Fabric A 6" squares, and sew right sides together around 3 sides (using 1/4" seam).  Snip the corners off and turn it through, trying to get those top corners nice and pointy, give it a good iron, then topstitch around the same 3 sides about 1/8" from the edge.

8. Measure your buttons and do a buttonhole on each of the top corners long enough for the buttons.

9.  With right side out, fold the bottom raw edge up 1/4" and iron it well.  Then pin the bib, with those raw edges sandwiched on the inside, to the waistband of the skirt.  I just eye-balled it to get it in the middle.  At this point, it looks better to sew 2 rows, as if topstitching on the front of the waist band 1/8" from each side.  It also looks neater to go along the full length of the waistband, and not just the bib.
Now it looks like this:

10.  Take your 2 strap Fabric A pieces.  Fold in half length ways, and sew right sides together 1/4" down the length to make 2 long tubes.  Use a safety-pin to turn the tubes through to the right side, then iron flat.  Fold the ends into the tube and iron flat, then top-stitch to close the ends of the tubes.  They should look like this: 

11. Turn the skirt inside-out, and lay on the table with the back elastic waistband up.  Measure or eye-ball approximately 1 1/2" from the side of the elastic waistband on each side and pin the strap in place.  I like to attach the strap on an angle like in the pic below so that when the straps are crossed over they sit nicely.  Sew across the strap at the top and bottom of the waistband, and backstitch for extra strength.  The ruffled waistband with the elastic helps to hide the stitches, so don't worry too much about them showing, but do try and use a cotton colour that will blend in.

12.  All that's left is to do is attach buttons to the end of the straps.  I have a thing for covered buttons at the moment, and bought a kit in bulk, so I decided to make buttons to match the beautiful paisley fabric.


And, as a stroke of luck, I managed to get my mini-model to cooperate with modeling the back of her new dress.  A pale pink onesie underneath just looks so cute I think.

But of course, I couldn't stop there.  I decided to try my hand at some headbands.  The first one I made (with the bow) is actually a little small, but would probably fit a new-born.  Maybe one day I'll learn to measure before sewing rather than the other way around!!  So Hannah got a cute little bird fabric one.  Bethany, who was a little jealous that all of "Mummy's special fabric" was being used on projects for Hannah, decided she'd like a bird headband, with a paisley heart, so that one's hers.

I was planning to do a tutorial on the headbands, which I just made up based on ones I've seen on kids around the place, but when I googled them, there are already lots of tutorials out there like this one and this one.  The only difference is that I kept my headbands narrow, and the elastic section is the same width as the headband.  No point re-inventing the wheel with a new tutorial on these. 

Then, with my excitement over this fabric still spilling-over, I decided to have a go at a shoe pattern I saw recently on the Crazy Little Projects blog.  They turned out really cute, but did test this beginner sewer's brain a little.  I love them though, and think they just set off the whole outfit.

One thing that I've realised through this tutorial exchange experience is just how expensive fabrics in Australia are ... I've had a look at the Fabric Fascination shop here and this beautiful fabric bundle is amazingly priced even with the shipping fee, which is very reasonable.  I'm actually amazed by the fact that I can buy beautiful designer fabrics, pay shipping costs to Australia, and still be way ahead than buying fabric here.  I think I'm about to become an online fabric shopping addict ... sorry Aussie suppliers! Plus, how much easier is it to shop online than drag 2 munchkins to the fabric shop, and if it also saves money, it's hard to go past!

Anyhow, a huge thanks again to Kym and Fabric Fascination.  I've loved every minute of my first tutorial exchange, and can't wait to see what the other bloggers have made with their fabrics.


  1. Just adorable! The fabric is so gorgeous!

  2. I absolutely L♥ve this little outfit, and you're right, the shoes really are the icing on the cake. Thanks so much for the adorable tutorial you've shared, and the shout out for my shop.

  3. That is adorable! I love what you did with the fabric (I chose the same fabric for the exchange).
    Great Job!

    1. Thanks Mira! So much fun, huh, and great work on your tutorial too!

  4. waa super cute :))
    and love the fabric too :)

  5. Lovely pattern, it turns out so beautifully & doesn't look too difficult. My granddaughter is only 3mths old so I'll have to wait for a while before I sew one.
    I have to admit I'm an addicted online fabric buyer. So much cheaper than here in Oz. If you buy a good brand, you know the fabric will be fine.

    1. Thanks Linny ... would love to see pics if you make one for your grandaughter. Good to hear others in Oz who find our fabrics so expensive ... online it is, I'm thinking!!

  6. I am just learning to sew and I love your step by step instructions!!!!! I try and I try but I can not read the patterns that come from the store packets! Its like learning a whole new language.

    1. Thanks Doodle All Day (cute name by the way!) I'm totally afraid of patterns too. Online tutorials are definitely the way to go, and there's so many beautiful tutorials out there!

  7. Too cute! Thanks for sharing this tutorial. I've just found out that I have another baby girl on the way so this will come in very handy some day soon ;-)
    I can't believe I haven't come across you until now.... I'll be following via email from now on!
    Cass x

    1. Thanks Cass, and a HUGE congrats on your new baby girl on the way. I've perused your blog and love your style. I am trying to get up the courage to try your beautiful vintage romper ... it's been in my "to-do" file on my computer for a few months now!! Thanks for following!!

  8. Thanks for sharing this sweet tutorial!I will sew it, and you can see it than on my blog!

    Greatings from Germany

    PS.Sorry, my english is not so good

  9. That sounds great Klaudia, and be sure to let me know when you've posted about it so I can take a look! Happy Sewing!!

  10. Love it Wen! What fun to be able to make whatever you want from lovely fabrics and share the results with the world :)

    1. Thanks Jenya - can't really pass up a free fabric opportunity, hey!

  11. Love this adorable little pinafore. Have made the skirt so far and turned out beautiful! I was wondering what size buttons you used on the bib. I purchased some that were one inch in diameter(2.5cm), but they seem too big. Thanks for your wonderful tutorial!!!

  12. Thank you for sharing. I've only hemmed a pair of pants. I'm going to attempt to make this for my daughter. She is going to be a year old.

    1. Oh, this is perfect for a 1-year-old. I'd love to see it when you're done! Send me a pic if you like!!

  13. What a tutorial for beginners like me....very well it now to make mine for my 2.5 yr daughter. Cheers

  14. Thank you for the easy to follow instructions! I made a Dorothy costume for my 1 year old. It was my first sewing project, and it turned out great. A link to the picture:

    1. I love this Lorne. You did a fantastic job ... especially if that's your first sew!!!! Thanks for the pic ... you've made my day ... and what a gorgeous little "Dorothy" you have!

  15. About to use these awesome instructions and patterns to make a Dorothy dress for my 3 yr old. These instructions make so much more sense than patterns.