Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sew Easy - Part 10: The happy dress and Hairband

Easy Sew Tutorial: Happy Dress and Headband

happy dress sewing tutorial

I wanted to send across something handmade for my little niece who lives across the pond. The best part is that she and my daughter are almost the same size so I can make something matchy matchy for the cousins.
I wanted to make something cute but also modern and smart. I finally decided on this jumper and I think it fits the bill. I call it "The Happy Dress" because the colorful stripes really seem to bring cheer. It is made with a thick and soft sweater knit so it just feels right for layering during the cooler months ahead.

Here's a hairband I made to go with it:
happy headband tutorial

Again simple and modern....and I love it...maybe even more than the dress itself.

Know a little girl around you who could use this? Lets see how to make The Happy Dress and headband.


For the dress:
Sweater Knit:
Dark Denim - Few scraps ( Lets say 10 X20 inches, I didn't really measure this)
Co-ordinating knit for the ruffle. - 4-5 inches X width of the fabric.

Two snaps, or buttons  for closure on the front.

For the headband:
FOE ( Fold Over Elastic) :
Felt in colors matching with the dress fabric
A co-ordinating button for the center


1. Measure the child from chest to where you want  the dress hemline. Keep in mind that we are going for a mod and sleek look, so a little above knee would be better. Add half inch to it. Lets call it L.
2. Measure the child all around the widest part of her body. If she has a toddler belly, measure her around the stomach. If she has a big butt..measure that. Add 2 inches. Lets call it W.

Cutting the fabric
dress sewing tutorial

Cut the sweater knit into a rectangle of length L and width W. Fold it in half along the width, right sides together and sew along the length. If you choose a stripey fabric like mine, make sure you match the stripes at the seam. It's not necessary because the seam will be at the back. But properly matched stripes just look more finished. Finish the inseam with a serger or a zig zag stitch.

Preparing the belts

Cut two 5 inch X 10 inches rectangles from denim.

Fold it into half ( right sides together) along the width to get a 2.5X 10 rectangle. Sew the raw seams at the 10 inches long side to make a long tube. Turn out. Iron such that the seam is in the center. This is the back of the shoulder straps.

Preparing the ruffle:
Cut a rectangle of length 4 and width W from the co-ordinating knit.
how to make a dress

Attaching ruffle and the shoulder straps.

First position the seam on the main body such that its at the center of the back.
Now pin the shoulder straps 2.5 inches apart in the front. With strap's wrong side ( the side where the seam shows) touching the dress' wrong side. Now lay the knit ruffle fabric on the top, such that knit right side touches straps right side.
attaching ruffle at the neckline

Sew along the width, making sure to catch all the layers in the seam. Turn out. top-stitch as close to the
edge as you can.
Now sew another edge parallel to the top-stitching, half inch below the top-stitching. Leave a 2 inch opening. Now using a safety pin. Insert an elastic from the opening between knit ruffle and dress fabric.
Join the ends. Sew the opening shut.

Now lets make a wide bias tape for the hem. Actually since the hem is straight, you don't even need to cut it on bias. Just cut a denim strip 4-5 inches wide on the grain.

Here's how I made my bias tape:

Fold the strip in half along with the width. Iron.Open.

Fold one half up-to the crease onto itself. Iron. If you ironed the first fold well, the crease will still be there after ironing the second fold.

Fold the other half over the second crease. Doing this will ensure that this fold is just a tiny bit wider than the other half. This is required to sew the tape properly. Otherwise it will be difficult to catch it at the wrong side when you top-stitch your bias tape. ( I will explain more later)

Now sew the tape all along the hemline with the raw edge of narrow part of bias tape aligned with raw hem.

Leave a small piece unsewn in the beginning. This will be used to join the ends later.Try to sew it exactly on the crease. This will make it look very finished.
When you get close to the end, leave about an inch or two before the end.

Now measure how much more tape you need to get to the end, add one more inch. Keep that much and cut-off the rest.
Now carefully sew a seam at the extra part of both the ends of the tape, right sides together. You need to measure exactly how much you need, too much and you will have a pleat in your bias tape. Too little, and you will have a pleat in the dress ( at hem :/). You want to avoid both the situations.

Now sew the unsewn part of the tape to the dress, same way as you have done till now.

Now fold the tape over to the other side.

If you have placed the smaller side in the front earlier, you will notice that the tape at the wrong side of hem, goes just over the seam that you did to sew the tape in the right side.

Now come back to the right side of the dress. Make sure your thread is the same color as dress fabric. Now sew a seam as close to the upper side of the tape as possible. Go slow and steady. This seam shows on the right side so you want to sew this as perfect as you can. Ideally, it shouldn't be visible unless somebody inspects it up close.This will happen if you sew this seam in a matching color ( matching with the dress, Not the tape) and very close to the tape ( but NOT ON the tape). Stop occasionally to check that you're indeed catching the bias tape on the wrong side.

Now add some sort of closures on the shoulder straps and back of bodice. Button, Snaps, velcro...anything that suits you would be fine. If you want you could also add more than one closures on the strap to make it adjustable.

Optional - Personalizing the Dress:

Draw a letter on the right side of the denim, in your favorite font. I used a crayon to do this.

Cut out.

I used fabric glue to stick it at the desire position, but you could also hand-baste or use pins ( I'm kind of phobic to pins, especially in children clothing)

Once the applique is stable, set your machine speed on minimum and stitch size to very small. Check that the thread is denim colored and very carefully go over the applique, sewing very carefully along the boundaries.
I used a different color thread to show you the top-stitching and you can see where my sewing ran amok. Thats why I recommend sewing with the matching colored thread, that way, it wouldn't be so obvious.

Apply fray check along the raw edges of the applique.Air dry for a day.

The Happy Dress is good to go. Put it on your little one and see how happy it makes them..And you :)

Happy hairband:

I don't have pics for this but making this is really straightforward.

Cut  3 circles of different sizes from felt. I just folded the felt into a quarter and cut an arc to get sorta circular shape. You could also use household things like mugs, small bowls, coins etc, to get circles of different sizes.
Now cut a 12 inch long piece of FOE and join both the ends by overlapping them a little and sewing together.
Now place the biggest felt piece at the bottom, then place the FOE joint over it and then place second largest circle, smallest circle and the button respectively.
Thread the needle with 2-ply of thread matching the color of the button. Now sew the button by going over opposite holes repeatedly. Just make sure that every time you insert the needle in the hole, make sure you're going through all the layers of felt.
The happy headband is ready.


  1. How cute! You did such a nice job :) I would love for you to link this up to my diy fashion party this thursday! it's called diy diva thursday and is a place for you to show off all things fashion! hope to see you there!


  2. HI! Found you on Handmadeology & I am stopping by to show some follow blog love! Hope you can stop by my blog: too! I love networking with fellow artists! Have a great day!


  3. Very cute! Thanks so much for sharing :o)


  4. OMG! This is "sew" cute! I'd love if you joined us over at Sew Woodsy and link this up!

  5. Thanks for sharing! You are being featured this week at Lines Across My Face.

  6. Your work is such a genius as well as I am also working in fabric but never tried on it. It is totally new and sure to share in my personal blog, as soon as possible.

  7. I love this little baby headband. I wish I was talented enough to make this dress for my DD but I think I'll have to up my skill set first :) Thanks for sharing. x


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