With summer approaching, I took out my collection of kids patterns to decide what I should make up for Miss Cakes this year. I have amassed quite a collection of Oliver + S patterns, which are the greatest kids patterns out there right now as far as I’m concerned. They go through every detail of sewing so simply a beginner can follow along, while including enough variables and details to interest more experienced stitchers. Every pattern of theirs that I’ve made up, I’ve sewn at least twice. Or three times. Which is saying a lot, as I always want to try everything new and different. They’re just that good. But it also means that I have a stack of patterns uncut that I haven’t even gotten to try yet, and Miss Cakes is at the top of the size range break for the patterns I have! Time to make her allthethings.
First up is an adorable Pinwheel tunic and slip dress. It’s a brilliant design, with bias bound edges for trim, and made in two layers so kids can wear the pieces separately or layered. The dress by itself would also make a sharp looking slip pattern if you needed one. The multi purpose usefulness is just one of the reasons I think these patterns are so well done. I took a trip to my favorite local quilting store Mill House Quilts, and found some cute spring prints.
I got home and prewashed my fabric, cut out the pattern pieces, and was set up for a fast naptime cut. I had chosen a light background print, and was worried about it showing through and not liking the double layer effect. I decided to make the body of the dress, facing, and straps out of a plain white broadcloth. Normally I’d use a batiste for a bit more elegance, but the broadcloth would lend a bit more crispness to help give the tunic body, almost like a petticoat, plus be a touch more opaque.
Then the print. Sigh. I realized that I had bought a symmetrical, directional print, which takes some extra care when cutting, and thought I’d go through my process step by step.
- Center everything. This means if you’re folding your fabric in half, you must fold it down the center of the pattern, even if it’s not the center of the fabric. Mine wasn’t. It means you have to be a bit mindful when pinning out your pieces and make sure you’re really using areas with both layers.
- Line up through the fabric with pins. My pattern was linear enough that I could poke through from the front to the back. If you’re not on the same spot, it could mean your pattern isn’t printed straight, and you can yank your grain a bit to try to sneak it where you want it. Or it could be a simple tug and everything will snap into place. If you absolutely cannot get your print to align, it means you have to choose whether you want your vertical line perfectly centered, or your horizontal lines perfectly level. The choice is yours. Whatever you choose, pin through your layers towards the selvedge so you’re ready to go.
- Choose a vertical placement for fronts and backs. Take a look at your pattern and see where you want the print placed within your pieces. Sometimes it’s centering a motif. In my case, the rows of gray triangles were so dominant, I wanted them centered from the top and bottom edges and also just a touch down from the neckline so the curve wouldn’t be interrupted. Only choose based on the front or the back, as the next step is to…
- Match your side notches, not necklines or hems. This is important. If you want your pattern to run continuously around the body, you have to place the side notches in the same location on the print. Necklines are not good indicators, as they’re different front to back. If your hem is level and symmetrical in the front and back pieces, it’s possible to use this as a double check to make sure you’re in the same place. In the pinwheel dress, the front is cutaway, so that is not an option; I could only use the lower corner if I wanted to check.
- Choose a sleeve placement based on where the notches align at the stitching line. Sleeves are tricky. They don’t align the same as the rest of the garment due to their shape. The best way to get some kind of match is to align where the notches are once again. Because so many curves exist here, your best bet is to trace in the seam allowance on your pattern and mark the center of the notch to find a specific point on both the armhole and the sleeve piece. You can match the level of the pattern by aligning your sleeve at the same pattern height as the body. You may not be able to align both the front and the back notches, but it’s usually close enough to even up with the grain and get you in the right location. But don’t cut yet- also go back to center everything and make sure your pattern is centered down the middle of the sleeve if you wish. (Below is pictured the front tunic armhole on the left and the sleeve on the right, showing how I poke through with pins to check placement at the stitch line.)
Since my pattern was a geometric, I also had to make the decision of which end was up, and cut all pieces accordingly there too. You don’t want some pieces to come out upside down in the final garment. I also changed my layout, partially because I was using different fabrics and because again I could cut it with less waste this way. For the ruffles, I went by my rule of center everything and made the gray triangles fall equidistant from the top and bottom edges, and centered the placement on the folds. It’s a bit odd that at the side seam, you have one grain running cross and one running straight, so I just went by my rule of keep it centered. If I make this pattern again, I would probably change the grainline by 90 degrees on the front ruffles (cutting them crossgrain instead of lengthwise) so that along the seam the pattern would be running the same direction. It doesn’t really matter in the front, as everything is running on a diagonal anyways.
And as long as we’re talking cutting, let’s talk bias. This garment is edged in bias. Which you can buy in packages if you wish. But it’s really so easy to make your own, and then you can utilize a coordinating print in the same fabric line as your dress to make it extra special. I like to always buy a yard if I can, more if you need it, when I need a larger amount of bias. It will make your pieces longer between joins which will make your sewing much happier.
Fold your fabric at a right angle so the selvedge is now running perfectly along the cross grain. Slide your scissor along the fold and cut. This is your bias. Unfold and refold, aligning your cut edge. Now you can take a rotary cutter and ruler and slice across the width as many times as you need, at whatever width you want. I needed 1.5″ strips. To join, your edges must be going the same direction on both ends. (On the photo above, the top strip is correct, and the bottom strip needs to be cut crosswise.) It’s easy enough to look at the fabric and see the grains, and cut along the thread line to get the opposite grain if you need. Then line up your cut edges and sew- I like to do one after another, chain style so I get a loopy looking strip when I’m done. Cut the threads apart, press seams open, and voila! A long bias strip.
To turn into bias tape, you can purchase these nifty little gadgets in different sizes that help the fabric roll ahead of your iron. Or if you’re making a width you don’t have a gadget for, just roll them to the middle with your fingers and press.
Now you’re ready to sew! Sometimes the cutting is more mental work for me than the sewing. I obsess over pattern placement and curse when I’ve gotten something less perfect than I want. But trying is half the battle, and always worth the time.
Next time, photos and review of the finished tunic and dress!
Love from Wisco,