Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Little Dresses For Africa - Dress Tutorial

Have you ever heard about Little Dresses for Africa (LDFA)?  I've blogged about it Here and Here.  Little dresses are collected from all over the world to be hand delivered to Little Girls in needy countries.  

Visit the LDFA BLOG and/or Facebook to find out more!!

I usually sew pillowcase dress to send to LDFA; however, recently I was inspired to create a little dress of my own. :) You can see what it looks like on a cutie pie HERE.   This particular orange and purple dress is going to my Grand Niece; however, I've made a Gold and Green one for the September Challenge that will be going to LDFA.  The September Challenge is to make little dresses in your school colors and my alma mater is green and gold.  Can you guess what college? ;)

So, here we go!  This is how I made my little dress.  This dress is adjustable for 2T/3T

What you need.

TOP/BODICE (purple) - two 2"x20" strip for front of dress and two 2"x10" strip for back.
SHOULDER STRAPS (purple) - four 2 1/2"x37" strips (my straps are fat and long, you can adjust to preference)
HEM (Purple) - one 2 1/2"x 44" (or whatever the width of the body)
BODY (Orange)- one 18"x 44" (some fabrics are shorter than 44", adjust hem to match body piece)
ELASTIC - 12" (I used 3/4"width)


The purple fabric is my hem and the orange fabric is the body of my little dress.  Measure your hem fabric and your body fabric and make sure that they are the same width. Mine were not.  I had to trim them.  I ended up with a 40" width.  Since my selvage ends were cut, I zigzagged stitched (you can serge or use pinking shears) the length of each raw edge (18" for the body and 2 1/2" for the hem.) I sewed the two short ends of the hem fabric together, right sides together.  This made a tube. Press the seam open.  I sewed the body fabric together, the 18" length and right sides together. This also made a tube. Press seams open. With right sides facing align the seams and raw edges of the body fabric and the hem fabric. Sew a 1/4" seam.

Press the seam allowance down toward the hem.  On the hem fabric press 1/4" fold up toward the seam. 

Bring the folded hem to align with the stitch line of the seam allowance.  I marked the stitch line in purple.  Pin in place.  Once the entire hem is pinned, top stitch.  No raw edges!! yay.  :)


With right sides facing sew a 1/4" seam along two long ends and one short end.  Optional: you can sew a diagonal line on the short end to made a tapered strap.  Clip corners and turn right side out.  Press.


Take one 2"x20" strip and finger press a crease in the middle.  Right side facing up, place the two straps about 2" from the center crease line. Align raw edges.  Baste straps, about 1/8" from edge.  Place the the other 2"x20" strip on top of the straps, right sides facing.  Sew a 1/4" seam along the entire length of the top (20").  Make sure your seam is along the edge that the straps have been basted.  Turn right side out and press. Top stitch along the top of the bodice for extra support and a finished look.


Now that your straps have been attached, a casing needs to be sewn for the elastic strip.  My elastic was 3/4" and 12" long.  

Once the casing is sewn, I use safety pins at each end of my elastic.  One safety pin helps me guide the elastic through the casing and the other safety pin helps me NOT pull the elastic all the way through the casing!  Have you ever done that!  I have way to many time. ;)  Baste and secure each end of the elastic once pulled through the casing.


Press 1/4" fold on each short end of the bodice back (2"x10").  With right sides facing sew a 1/4" seam along the long side of the bodice back, connecting the two strips.  Turn right side out and press.  Find the middle of the back and sew a button hole.  My button hole was about 3/4" and that was large enough for the straps to fit through.  I practiced making a button hole first on scrap material.  


Remember the folded ends that you pressed into the back of your bodice?  Well now this is where it helps!  Tuck the front bodice piece (the one with the elastic) in the folded back piece and sew to secure together.  Make sure that you do NOT sew all the way down.  Only sew the length of the casing.  My pencil shows where I stopped. 

Now you have the top!


Turn body piece wrong side out and bodice/top piece right side out.  Place bodice/top inside the body piece.  Align raw edges and pin.  You will notice that the body is alot larger than the  bodice/top.  You can either gather the entire body piece prior to pinning to top or you can pleat the body or a little of both.  Whatever works for you.  I pleated the back and then stretch out the front top to pin to the body.

Do not sew both layers of the bodice to the body.  Fold back the top layer and sew a good 1/2" - 3/4" from the raw edges.  As close as you can get to the casing stitch line in the front.

Sewing back of bodice to body.

sewing front of bodice to body

Trim down seam allowance to 1/4"ish.

Press the seam allowance toward the bodice.  Then fold and press the top layer to hide raw edges and seam allowance.

Top stitch to hold fold.

No raw edges!!  Now just pull straps through the button hole and tie a big bow to secure!

And there she is!  I may add a pocket to the front and try some versions with larger hems or smaller straps. So many possibilities.  I hope you'll be inspired to sew something for LDFA or your favorite children's charity.  Childhood is so short, but the memories we make during those times last forever.   Now, go hug your little ones or borrow a friends, because they are just so precious!

Happy Sewing!
Little Mama Hen.

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