Monday, February 14, 2011

Tutorial: Ellie Dress

Happy Valentine's Day!

I hope you are all having a wonderful day celebrating with your loved ones. My husband and I will be spending a nice quiet evening at home, but I couldn't let this holiday go some way at least. And what better way to add some frilly fun to the day than by giving my little girl a Valentine's Day dress to twirl in?

I've decided to name this pattern after my daughter. 
Introducing the...
Ellie Dress

Of course, she couldn't care less about Valentine's Day in her one year of age, but she sure loved putting this bright and colorful outfit on!

And for all of you faithful followers, I also put a tutorial together for you to follow along. Please beware, there are almost 50 images in this tutorial to make sure all of the details are covered. If you have any problems, questions, or concerns, please leave a comment so I can answer them! Your feedback is the only way I can improve what I do here.

Here's how you make your own...

You will need:

Two contrasting fabrics, enough to create a dress large enough for your child. 

An existing dress or shirt that fits your child. 

Three buttons or pieces of Velcro

 Sewing machine and/or serger (you do not need a serger, but I will show you how to use one in this project).




Yard Stick

Let's get started...

 Fold the fabric you wish to use for the top portion of the dress in half, with right sides together. Fold the dress or shirt in half so that the front is facing out, and lay on the fabric with the folds on the same side.

Trace around the garment, adding about an inch on the top and sides for seam allowance. The bottom of this first piece should fall right across your child's chest. See how I cut off the pattern about an inch below the seam on my daughter's dress?

Cut out your piece on the fold, and open. it should look like this, and will be referred to as your Top Front piece.

Take the Top Front and fold it in half once again. Place it back on your folded fabric. You will be making two back panels. Trace the Top Front piece, adding about and inch to the top neckline and 1 1/2 inches to the right side (middle) of the piece.

This will create an overlap for buttons or Velcro.

Cut out your pattern. When cutting the back pieces, make sure to CUT the fold so you have two pieces, not one. They should look like this, and will be referred to as Top Back Left and Top Back Right.

With right sides together, pin the Top Back Left and Top Back Right to meet the shoulders and sides of your Top Front piece.

Again, your back panels should overlap. Sew, or serge, the shoulders and sides together.

 Open your garment and make a 1/4 inch hem on the overlapping edges of your back panels. Press, pin, and stitch in place.

Do the same for the collar and arm holes, making a 1/4 inch hem and stitching in place.

Turn garment right side out and mark your button holes on the Top Back Right panel. If you choose to use Velcro, simply mark one side of the fabric and stitch 3 Velcro squares in place of the buttons on each side.

Make the buttonholes using your machine, and open them carefully with a seam ripper. 

Mark the corresponding button locations (or Velcro) on the Top Back Left panel, and sew your buttons in place.

Now we can move on to the skirt. Cut two rectangular panels from your contrasting fabric, about twice the width of the top part of your garment, and adding an inch or two to the length for seam allowance. If you are using a shirt as your pattern guide, measure your child from chest to knee, then add the seam allowance for the length of the dress.

Sew a basting stitch with a 1/2 inch seam allowance along the width (long side) of each skirt panel.

Pulling the lower thread, gather each panel until they are about an inch longer than the width of the top part of your garment (where the seams meet).

Very carefully, pin the two skirt panels right sides together and stitch or serge in place.

With right sides together, pin top edge of the skirt to the bottom edge of the top of the garment. Be sure to button or Velcro the back panels together, as if they were being worn. This will allow the top of the dress to unbutton, while the bottom skirt stays in tact. Also, be sure to line up all side seams.

Sew or serge the raw edges together, making sure the skirt stays gathered as it is sewn.

Flip the skirt down in its proper place. You may need to remove your basting stitches.

Press the seam up and under the top of the dress and top stitch in place. This will make the waist seam lay flat, and will be much more comfortable for your little girl.

Hem the bottom of the dress using a 1/2 inch hem. If you have a serger, you can serge the raw edge first, like this...

Then press and pin a 1/2 inch hem and top stitch in place.

To make the bottom ruffle, take two strips of the contrasting fabric, about 3 inches wide and twice the length of the width of the skirt.

Hem the length of the strips with a 1/2 hem. You  may serge the edges before hemming, as I did. You can also use your serger to make a narrow rolled edge hem, creating a nice finished edge for your ruffles (I would have done this if I had the correct color of thread...I only had black).

Sew the hems, then sew a basting stitch down the middle of each strip.

Gather each strip in the same fashion as the skirt, making them about 1 inch longer than the width of the skirt.

With right sides together, sew or serge the side edges of each strip together. You should have one circle of ruffles when you are done.

Pin the ruffle strip to the bottom edge of the skirt, and sew in place.


 You made it! Now go try it on your little girl and let her twirl.

 I chose to make her some matching babylegs since it's still cold here in Montana.

 Or just throw on a pair of tights and watch her bask in the glow of her new, fancy, frilly, dress.

Give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done!

Now go make something, and enjoy the day!


  1. super cute! I found your tut via BBC. Thanks for posting it!!

  2. Such an adorable dress!!! Happy Valentine's Day!

  3. LOVE this!!! My daughter's name is Ellie! If you have time, I'd love for you to stop by and share at my linky party!