Friday, 3 May 2019

Free Pattern Friday: Kids' Dulcie Dress

Welcome to my monthly 'Free Pattern Friday' feature, where I road test a free sewing pattern or tutorial: sometimes a children's one, sometimes a women's one. I publish these posts every first Friday of the month, timed to provide inspiration for those who plan to get their sew on over the weekend. I firmly believe that, if you pick your projects carefully, sewing doesn't have to be a crazy-expensive way to clothe yourself and your family. Thanks to all the amazing pattern designers who have offered up their hard work for us to enjoy for free.

Something I'm currently struggling with is this: I love to sew for my daughter, but she doesn't really need any new clothes at the moment. My genius plan of making most of her garments a little bit large is having the desired effect, and most of her clothes tend to last her at least two years. So all the garments I've sewn over the last year or so, along with the odd hand-me-down and some charity shop additions, mean that she already has a good amount of clothes for this summer. However, I really do enjoy sewing for her and want to make her clothes whilst she's still small enough to allow me to do so. Yet, from a sustainability standpoint, I can't justify making her more garments when her wardrobe is adequately populated. 

An argument (read: justification) that I thought of the other day for sewing her more summer stuff anyway, is that there are a couple of younger girls we know that we regularly pass things down to. So even if my daughter doesn't wear the shizzle out of something, it means it might be in better condition for passing on to others. Anyways, if you have any thoughts on this issue, I'd LOVE to hear them, so please leave me a comment. 

In the meantime, I've side-stepped that whole debate by making this free pattern road-test into something she really could use: a school summer dress. One of my favourite children's pattern designers is Sewpony, and when I found that they offer the Dulcie dress pattern for free when you sign up to the newsletter, I was all 'hold the phone'. Thanks heaps to Sewpony for sharing their hardwork for free.

(image source: Sewpony)

Pattern type:

Let's be honest: free sewing patterns are usually for pretty basic garment styles: knit leggings and simple T-shirts for example. However, this looked like a 'proper' pattern, the type that I'd happily spend £7 or whatever on, so it feels extra exciting to be able to access it for nothing more than a few clicks of the mouse. Designed for woven fabrics, the Dulcie dress has a boxy bodice with dolman/kimono/grown-on sleeves and a choice of neckline, a gathered skirt and optional patch pockets and collar. There is also info for adding contrast piping if you wish. The bodice is lined and it fastens at the back with an invisible zip.

Sizing info:

The pattern is graded for a generous size range of 12 months to 10 years. Dolores is now five and a half, but seems to be taller than the rest of her classmates at the moment, so I went for the size 5 for width and size 6 for skirt length. I felt that the roomy fit of the bodice would give it a couple of summer's worth of use if the dress remains long enough. 

Fabric info: 

Any light- or medium-weight cotton/cotton blend fabric without stretch would work for this pattern. I used a cotton gingham in Dolores's school's colour scheme that I bought from a local haberdashers along with some plain white shirting I had in my stash to line the bodice, and a wee length of stashed white piping to highlight the pockets. 


The pattern and instructions were a great advert for the rest of Sewpony's patterns, in fact I went on to buy another of their patterns straight after getting this one because sewing it was a joy. I picked the square neckline because I felt it complimented the boxy shape of the bodice and referenced the checked fabric. I like a collar as much as the next person, but I feel the collar piece included in this pattern doesn't look like it sits very well on the bodice, so I probably won't use that option in the future.

Despite her joyful appearance in these photos, frustratingly, Dolores hasn't been keen on this dress so far. I'm pretty sure that what she dislikes about this dress is exactly what I do like about it: the modern, casual fit of the bodice. I think she prefers more traditional, fitted bodice shapes for her dresses. Anyhow, she was forced to wear it the other day when her other school dresses were dirty, and I hope that that has 'broken the seal' and that she will embrace it going forwards.

Customisation ideas:

This dress pattern already includes quite a lot of design options, however some additional ideas for personalising this pattern are:
  • Draft fun shaped patch pockets like hearts, cat heads, rockets, strawberries and so on
  • Make a contrast band around the bottom of skirt. This could also be a useful way to add length if your child has a growth spurt
  • Make a self or contrast tie belt attached at the side seams that can be tied at the back or front
  • Because the bodice is lined, you could fairly easily make scalloped edges of the armholes 
  • Add additional braid, ricrac, ribbon or pompom trim around the hem of the skirt and across the pockets

Would I make it again?

If this dress becomes fully embraced by Dolores, I'd definitely reach for this pattern again in the future, either for more school dresses or for casual dresses. It's nice to know that we've got quite a few years left in the sizing range for this pattern, so it may well get revisited. 


Julia said...

A very nice dress, thanks for sharing. I can totally understand your thoughts about your sewing for your daughter. Your justification I know very well, because I have the same on my mind. My daughter is 9 years old, her wardrobe is full. But there are three younger nieces. My son is 11, he has a Full closet, too. I got lots of Second Hand clothes for hin from a friend, mainly tees. But there a just a few trousers that fit and , I know it is hard to believe, he just wants to wear Jeans I sew for him. I do it and I'm proud wehen they are finished and he likes them, but after that, I sew some more dresses for my daughter, that I had already in my mind, while I was sewing my son's jeans....
Greets Julia, who is sorry for her Bad english,...

Metalmom37 said...

OMG! Super cute!! I love red and white check and I'm an adult! It just screams summer to me!

JudyB said...

Love it and love your justification! Perhaps you could even pass on some dresses before she outgrows them if suitable receipents exist. Or you could revisit her existing clothing and upcycle her very favorites for her instead of making new!

Jo said...

I love it. My girl is 9 and she can wear these red gingham dresses fpr school too but she is not keen either - she prefers leggings and a pinafore. Ho hum! It is a lovely style. Thanks for the link and the information. Jo x

anne82 said...

What a lovely dress! It looks great on Dolores.
You make me consider this pattern for my daughter. But I recognize the full closet case. For me the answer partially lies in the girls around us. I made some dresses for my friends daughter a couple of years ago, they came back to me to be worn by my girl and now our neighbor wears them.
The last couple of summers I truly enjoyed seeing not only my daughter wearing me mades, but also our 2 neighbor girls. My bestie has a 9month girl and asked after some of these dresses. She was completely amazed by the quality of the dresses (most have been worn intensely by at least 3 girls), they still look really nice. This gives me so much satisfaction and it’s nice to see every piece of clothing being loved by at least one of the girls. So tomorrow when take my girl and the neighborgirls to school chances are big that they will all be wearing me-mades (they tell me these clothes feel more comfortable than most RTW, maybe a combination of my love and fabric quality ��)

Zoe said...

Thank you all so much for your comments! I appreciate hearing all your experiences and views on this issue.

Happy sewing


Christina said...

I think it's OK to sew more garments for your daughter, and if she doesn't like them, you can pass them on to other girls. As long as the garments get worn by someone, they will not be wasted and don't constitute excess. Maybe you could even find a charity in your area that could funnel the unwanted/disliked garments to underprivileged families. Some other little girl might adore a dress that your daughter isn't keen on. Have you heard of "Dress A Girl Around the World"? ( Just be aware that the dresses they accept must meet very specific guidelines because of the environment of the recipients. It's a US charity, but it has "ambassadors" around the world (currently no one listed for the UK).

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