Birthday Sewing

My baby sister had her fifteenth birthday this October while I was away at college. Quite apart from the question "How can my baby sister be fifteen already?!?" I managed not to get her a gift, as I was 600+ miles away at the time, so when I came home for Christmas I promised to make her a dress as her gift.

We made quite an expedition of it - Kate had been reading Color Me Beautiful and we decided to use the trip to JoAnn as a way to figure out the colours she looks best in as well. I'm sure we attracted attention -- Katie and David and I, lugging cart-fulls of fabric bolts back and forth across the store. But we ended up with a good idea of what suits her, and fabric for a dress.

It was snowing, and she was freezing - I'm impressed at the smile!

Actually, fabric for two dresses. Katie couldn't decide between two sets, and she had some birthday money from our grandfather, so I agreed to make up a second dress for her.

The pattern she chose is Butterick 4790, which is darling. I'd read a lot of somewhat negative reviews, however, so I went digging around trying to figure out the issues with the pattern before I made it up. Kate ended up not having a lot of the fitting problems that people mentioned - she's got about the 1950's figure, slim, but curvy! Lucky girl! I did add width to the front, under-skirt - I just cut the whole width of my fabric, then put darts in the back for her hips. It's still too wide, but since she's still growing I just moved the button off-centre a little and she can adjust it as she needs to. It's supposed to be a wear-alone dress, and I think it'll work very well that way for summer, but it also works as a pinafore over a shirt if it's cold - and as she wore both for these pictures.

I added patch pockets - partly just because I always need pockets, and partly because the scraps left from cutting out the circle skirt were exactly the right shape for patch pockets! They're bound with bias tape and top-stitched to the underskirt, where they don't show normally, but they're easy to access.

And, because I seem psychologically incapable of resisting rick-rack for more than about three projects in a row.... I added some to the pockets of the second dress. (It was already in my stash, so I am completely unrepentant!)

I changed the closure a little bit - instead of the snap closure with decorative buttons, I skipped the snaps entirely and made self-fabric loops and functioning buttons. The buttons are fabric-covered; this was my first experiment with covering buttons and I have to say I like how they turned out!

Oh, and all that bias tape? I made it myself... measured, marked, cut, folded, pressed, and applied. I never was so sick of bias tape in all my life. But I figure I probably saved close to ten dollars, compared to if I'd bought enough ready-made to bind both dresses, so it was worth it - and this way the colours matched exactly!

I'll probably never make this dress for myself - it isn't really my style - and I don't highly recommend it, as it is a bit "fussy", both to make and to wear. But I think these both turned out pretty well and Katie is thrilled - I seem to have achieved my objective of a pleasing gift, and so I'm happy with them as well.


  1. Wow! I absolutely LOVE both dresses! My hubby just got me that pattern and I haven't had a chance to make it up yet -- thanks for the ideas. The green one especially suits her color-wise.

    I know what you mean about "I can't believe my baby sister is 15!" My brother turns 10 in a few weeks and I can't help but remember holding him when he was born. Crazy how time flies, right?

  2. Very pretty! I have that pattern but haven't tried it yet. It's fun to see it made up! Good job!

  3. Just gorgeous! That pattern is rapidly reaching the top of me 'to sew' pile, so it's nice to see it made up. I'd love to hear more about how you altered the closure.

  4. Thanks for the explanation, Gillian. I'll give it a go when I get to that point, then ask for further instructions if I need them! Thanks again.


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