It’s Kids Clothes Week!
For those of you not yet in the know, KCW is a seasonal prompt to sew for your kids, one hour a day, for seven days. And then share what you’ve sewn.
I’ve never taken part before, but this time the storybook theme and cute little logo were too much for me and besides, I’ve had some ideas up my sleeve for a while that fitted the theme.
So here it is, KCW project number one: Lola Lotta dresses!
The eponymous Lola of the oh-so-wonderful Charlie and Lola books, and her friend Lotta, have very specific sartorial tastes. Lola has a penchant for cute little shirt dresses in stripes or ditsy florals, while Lotta prefers a pinafore dress with contrasting sleeves.
Not being in the mood for a direct copy of any one dress (or shirt collars, or pinafores, for that matter), I decided to create a mashup of the styles: a long-sleeved floral knit dress with contrasting sleeves, which would be warm and practical for autumn.
I ended up with these: neither Lola nor Lotta exactly, but really EVER SO absolutely Lola-Lotta-ish! 🙂
The daisy fabrics are a lightweight jersey knit, upcycled from a pair of matching adult-sized dresses which the Bee noticed in a charity shop and begged for. Using the gathering and hems from the original dresses probably saved me a heap of time, so I’m now officially an upcycling convert!
This being my first proper foray into sewing with knit fabric (see here for early experiments!), I wanted a pattern that would hold my hand while I took my baby steps. In the end I used the Oliver + S School Bus T-shirt (ages 3 and 6) as the base, but lengthened it and used this tutorial to give it an A-line shape. I could have bought a dress pattern I suppose – but I wanted the security of the O+S instructions (they were excellent), and the alterations were quite simple to make.
Although I’m pleased with the results, I think the top half of the dress came out a little too wide this way, so next time I’d leave it slimmer-fitting and make the a-line alterations lower down. But hey, first proper knits project AND first self-altered pattern – I’ll cut myself some slack! 🙂
I created a few problems for myself in this project. First, I thought I was being very clever by using my twin needle to sew all the seams on the pink dress, a bit like an overlock stitch. Mistake! The seams aren’t very stable, and you can see them pulling apart a little like baseball stitching around the sleeves and side-seams here:
Once I’d realised that the twin needle idea wasn’t going to work, my main problem was getting my sewing machine’s proper stretch stitches to work. It took an hour and a half of coaxing before my attempts looked anything like the illustrations in the manual. In the end, I ditched all the recommendations for foot type, stitch width, tension and needle position, and just played around with all the parameters I could think of. And when I say “played around”, you can read “almost threw the sewing machine out the window” – I’ll admit I was close to tears with frustration before I eventually got something acceptable.
I also had to make some changes to the cuffs. I think the fabric must’ve gotten a bit stretched while measuring and cutting the pink dress’s sleeves, because they came up a bit short. So I left them unfinished to gain a bit of length, and actually, I really like the way the jersey curls back to create a relaxed, lightweight look.
By the time I got to the blue dress, I didn’t have quite enough white fabric left for the sleeves, so I just made some little cuffs out of the daisy fabric. They’re a little bit stretched because I was in the middle of my argument with my sewing machine, and… Well – it won that round.
Sewing machine troubles aside, this was a fun and satisfying achievement of a project, and overall I’m delighted with the dresses. I’d definitely recommend the Oliver + S School Bus T-shirt as a good place to start sewing with knits if you’ve never tried before, as the instructions and tips are excellent. If my sewing machine and I can learn to put our differences aside and work together, I can imagine a happy knit-sewing future together. If not – well… Let’s just say I’ve still got an overlocker on my Christmas list…
“I have this little sister Lola. She is small, and very funny…”
We are TOO absolutely cute for these dresses!