I found out about this great Heidi & Finn pattern through a couple of sewists' blogs. I fell in love with the dress when I saw little girls wearing it on the blogs, and I thought it would be worth it to buy the pattern just in case I decided to sew a dress for a little girl. (The pattern goes from 12M to 6T so you can make it for quite a range of children's ages.)
I meant to make several of these for a couple of my friends' daughters over Christmas, but I simply didn't have the time to do it. Christmas passed by in a blur. However, one of our little friends is having her 3rd birthday in a few days, so I decided to make this dress for her. I was nervous trying a new pattern and handling knit fabric again, but I'm so glad I did. The instructions included with the pattern pdf were thorough, and I very much appreciated the large amount of step-by-step photos. All I really had to do was the manual labor; not too much outside calculation involved.
The pattern in 3T size all cut out and ready for the fleece fabric
Because of the step-by-step instructions, I didn't have problems figuring out how to sew the arm pieces to the dress body. The first time I tried to make sleeves, if you remember, it was for my nephew for Christmas, and it proved extremely frustrating because I was using a sewing book (Sewing for Boys) that didn't have very thorough instructions despite the particular pattern saying that it was appropriate for beginners. Back then, I had no idea that I needed to create this (upside-down) U shape:
I think I must have made it when attempting my nephew's shirt, but I had no clue if I was going about it correctly or not. I was practically pulling my hair out. Not a very enjoyable experience at all -- contrary to this time. In fact, I do believe I'm getting faster at this sewing thing. Not counting cutting out the paper pattern (which I did the day before), this dress took me about five hours from start to finish, including breaks for eating and watching a little telly. A month ago, it would have taken me maybe twice that long. I was happily surprised by how quickly the project was going since I'd only planned to make the main body of the dress and leave the cowl for the next day.
Dress in process
Main dress body: everything but the cowl and hems
Pinning on the cowl
I learned several things during this project, as I usually seem to do. 1) I'd really like to get a serger. I think I did a pretty good job with zigzagging the seam allowances here, but serged seams would look so much more professional. And I imagine that serging would be quicker than sewing + zigzagging, which is basically doing each seam twice.
2) The hardest part about making this dress was the hemming, particularly the sleeves. Since the sleeves were already enclosed and were too narrow to stretch around the sewing machine "table," I had to be careful to sew without catching the bottom layer. Lots of stopping and going just to sew a short distance. And I had to do it twice each (zigzagging first, then sewing after folding the zigzagged hem under).
It's hard to tell in this weirdly-exposed photo, but I had to carefully keep the bottom layer from getting caught by the needle and threads.
3) Another revelation was how much I like knit fleece. I thought that I would need much more experience before I could successfully handle knits again, but fleece makes it easy because it doesn't slide around as much as regular knit cotton. Thank heaven. Also, individual stitches are hard to see on the right side of fleece, so if the seam is just a little crooked, no problemo! I will definitely work with fleece again.
But I'm proud of myself not only for trying a knit fabric again, but also for finally learning how to replace the needle in my sewing machine. I hadn't replaced it once since I bought my machine last summer. I know, I know. Terrible! But I'm crossing my fingers that it's okay, and I promise to wipe it down and re-oil it soon.