Like it or not, Christmas is coming. The 3rd Christmas since I started sewing. I’ve managed a couple of gifts over the last years, among the successful: a nice wash bag for mum. A bumbag for dad… Among the less successful: an ill fitting shirt (also for dad). And the ambiguous: some girls dresses for my great-nieces that seemed to go down well, but I’ve never seen the girls in them. I don’t know if this is down to size, style or a combination of both… 

Undeterred, I am getting an early start on making Christmas dresses for the little girls we know (wether they like them or not!). I chose the girls dress pattern from the second Sewing Bee book ‘Sew Your Own Wardrobe’ as this seems to be the only girls dress pattern I have. It’s pretty simple: lined bodice, unlined skirt, zip in the back, faux button shoulder closure. I traced out all four sizes to cover my age ranges. As I traced them I noticed the sizing: 3-6. 6-9. 9-12. 12-18. Really…? Four sizes to cover age 3 to 18…? … Months… Years…?! That doesn’t seem right….

I should have smelled a rat then and there, but with limited sewing time (& experience) and a gung-ho attitude, I stormed on regardless…

I made a couple of the larger ones up out of my (ever growing) fabric stash…

This is the second largest in what I think is a chambray. I followed the instructions almost word for word and it barely took an hour (just the hem to go in this picture). I couldn’t find the right ribbon so I left it off. And I poked the back shoulder into the front and sewed it together rather than make the faux button. I saved the side seams til last and French seamed them. 

Then I made the next size up out of some red/black shot silky lining and a lace overlay. I didn’t line this one, I got the overlocker out and put each lining and lace piece together then treated them as one piece. For that, it seemed to go together even more quickly What I hadn’t factored in was how I was going to finish the neck and arm holes. I used some black ribbon for the hem which made it stick out pleasingly. It didn’t cross my mind that the same technique on the neckline would make that stick out even more. So then I had to unpick it. I don’t like unpicking much, but I felt I deserved this and so I took my penance. Here it is with the ravaged neckline…


So I bought some bias binding on my next day off and finished them. The arm holes are very small which made the binding fiddly to get in… I think I’ll just do a simple lining in the future. I used white binding for the hem of the blue one. Here are their insides…


… Now, I’ve just got back from a lovely supper in Covent Garden with MrA, two of our dearest friends up from Kent and their two girls, age 9 & 11. We held the dresses up to the girls, and everyone was thrilled. That wasn’t enough for me and I insisted trying to pull them over their heads before we left. That’s where it all fell a bit flat. The zip at the back doesn’t go beyond the waistline, so you have to squeeze your girl, head, arms, shoulders through the waist to get it on. Now, these are skinny girls, raised on a frugal diet of edamame beans and ballet, but there was no way these dresses were going on. No way in hell.

Shame, as they’re pretty. But useless…Something was clearly up, so I went back to the book & patterns. Here lies my error…

I didn’t notice this bit in the book…

I only noticed this bit on the patterns…

Obviously they have printed the sizes for the baby’s dress onto the girls dress pattern. How anyone could think 1m of fabric could sufficiently cover an 18 year old is (now) beyond me! I should have smelled a rat and now I’m paying for it. I have just attempted to squeeze a 9 & 11 year old into dresses for 5 & 6 year olds. Oops. 

…I now realise why I never saw a picture of my great nieces in their dresses last Christmas

Thankfully there’s a half price sale on new look patterns at the moment, so I’ve chosen two…


Neither look as quick and easy as the Sewing Bee dress, but I think the tween one is really pretty with the godets and the younger one looks like I could make a few variations. Hopefully I’ll be able to keep the Nieces, Great Nieces & God-Daughters happy from 3-16 now! I’ll report back… 

In the meantime, how about a new shirt, all for me…?

Happy sewing. 

Notes to self:

  • Read the pattern sizes properly. 
  • There can sometimes be printing errors, do not trust blindly after reading only half the information. 
  • Think. 
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