Saturday, September 7, 2013

Princess Panic Attack

Help!  I'm having garment sewing anxiety.

No, I'm not creating an elaborate Halloween costume.  I've just found out that Gracie's part in the middle school play is going to require a dress that looks something like this.  Guess who has to find and buy OR make one.

Kill. Me. Now.

Can you imagine what the parents who don't own a sewing machine are feeling right now?  Because, truthfully, I've got skills, y'all, and I'm ready to start breathing into a paper bag.  I can't imagine what the non-crafty people are thinking.  Probably planning an elaborate family vacation to Tahiti that will unfortunately conflict with the performances.  Or cuddling with flu victims.  

I do not do clothes.  I do not hem pants and can hardly be bothered to sew on a button.  I won't make you new drapes or a baby bedding set.  I certainly have never made a body-hugging princess dress out of what promises to be slippery, fraying fabric that feels nothing like my beloved cotton.

Seriously?  The very first problem is the whole sizing thing.  Whose body lines up perfectly under one of those columns?  Not mine, for sure.  Even my darling daughter, whose body is still a lot a straight lines, has measurements that travel not only along different sizes but different patterns completely!  (She's too tall for the AA, though she is not even close to the tallest girl in her class.)  Does that mean we're all going to have to buy both patterns and somehow make it work?

Tim Gunn, where art thou?  I need some advice!

If anyone has input on how to figure out what size to make this *%$^@#$ dress, leave a comment.  I will be eternally in your debt.


  1. I once bought a pattern for a halloween costume for myself... and accidentally picked up the TODDLER pattern. I sized the sucker up, and made it work. I'd buy the pattern that most closely matches her upper body measurements - on a skirt, making it longer to match her height is a pretty easy fix. Maybe you could make her one out of cotton first, just as a tester?

  2. A muslin is not a bad idea. The thing with commercial patterns is to look at the measurements on the pattern back - she may have a size 8 bust, size 10 waist and hips. The easiest thing is to trace the pattern pieces onto butcher's paper (without cutting the original in case you need to adjust further, then you haven't jacked up your original pattern), and just trace from the size 8 to the size 10 waist, making sure the pattern line is smooth.

    If you can use a darker fabric with a lower (or no) sheen, it's less likely to show imperfections in the stitching. Stay away from satin- too shiny and hard to sew with. Usually you can find some duller "fancy" fabrics in the bridal section, or in the costume fabric they put out seasonally.

    Let me know if you need help! I've had some experience in this area.

  3. First, take a breath. :-)
    Second, get the pattern that most closely fits her measurements in the bust and hip areas.. The length can be fudged more easily than those.
    I've made that dress more times than I care to count, and I can tell you that the worst part is how much fabric it freaking takes. That flowy skirt area is a pain in the butt. However, knowing that before you even lay it out to cut is half the battle because now you'll be prepared to take it easy and relax.
    Question: Does her dress have to be exactly like that.. Or just in that similar style? And also, what size is she? Send me an email with her measurements.. There's a long shot that I may be able to help.

  4. I've only customized a clothing pattern once. I started by putting it on muslin and drawing in the lines I *thought* needed to be adjusted. I made everything bigger than could possibly be right, adjusted length and changed the collar location. I then sewed it together with big giant basting size stitches and tried it on the wearer. Made a few more adjustments, took it apart and used the muslin as the "pattern" for the real fabric. I have no idea if that is how it is normally done or not, but it worked for me. The only thing I knew I could do myself was the arm hole - so I never changed that.

    You can do it. Just calm down and make it work. :D

  5. The thing about making a cotehardie is that it needs to be fitted in the torso. And not a human on the planet will fit exactly how the pattern is printed. What Pam described is the way I do it too. I have a big roll of blank newsprint I use for this. Lay out your pattern and draw new lines, using the pattern markings as a guide.

  6. Oh, another tip.. If you're adding four inches to the hip, for example, and the pattern piece is cut out "on the fold", you only add two inches, because that's to each side. I mark dots on my increases, then sketch a smooth line to connect them.

  7. I agree with everyone above - I used freezer paper to trace patterns and add adjustments. Then I make a muslin, sometimes out of nicer fabric to serve as a lining when it's right. I have a scarecrow in my house - last Halloween costume was size 8 in the body and a whooping 12 in the wing span. I matched his body size to the pattern and just lengthened the sleeves. Don't use poly-satin. Cheap and slippery as heck! The fraying and the was awful. Take things slowly - do one step a day if you have to. It won't get any better of you keep sewing frustrated!


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