A Detour through the Strawberry Patch

Sewing on more than one project at a time is, I guess, a form of multi-tasking. Although I believe I am like most women in that I am good at multi-tasking, I prefer not to do so with sewing. I like to work on one thing at a time, but sometimes, life just doesn’t lend itself to such discipline. Such has been the case with the hours I have spent sewing, not on my Classic French Jacket, but on two little dresses – birthday dresses! – for my two little granddaughters. I know they won’t always want to wear sister dresses, so I am anxious to sew such things for them while they might still think it is fun. And if that means I need to steal some hours away from my personal sewing, then that’s what happens.

Spring birthdays are lovely as it means I get to sew with cheery cottons and make little puffed sleeve dresses with big sashes in back. I was especially inspired this year with a 5+ yard length of vintage fabric I purchased from an Etsy shop a couple of years ago.

A strawberry print cotton for two little Spring sisters

I knew this fabric was most certainly from the 1950s, as this type of print was prevalent then, as well as the fact that the fabric was only 35” wide. The more traditional width of 45” most of us are used to, did not become commonplace until about 1960. To corroborate my suspicions, I saw this dress on Pinterest:

Sold as a vintage 1950s’ dress, it is edged with rickrack.

Although this fabric would probably have been used for adult fashions in the 1950s, I found it to be perfect for little girls’ dresses in 2017. Not only that, I found these vintage strawberry buttons which just seemed to be made to go with the fabric!

The Etsy store from which I purchased these buttons indicated they are from the 1960s. They are hand-painted and quite small.

I started with a (new) pattern I have used before, and made new copies of the sizes I needed for my two little ones.

I used View C of this pattern last year for another birthday dress, but obviously made some apparent changes to it for these dresses.

I knew I wanted to make the collars and sleeve bands out of white cotton, and pipe them in red. I made my own piping out of cotton kitchen string and some vintage all-cotton bias tape I had in my sewing supplies.

I decided to add a bit of embroidery to the collars just to make these dresses a step above ordinary. I selected a strawberry motif from the fabric and made a drawing, which I then transferred onto the collars.

This is the dress for the 4-year-old.

This is the dress for the two-year-old.

On the back of the dresses, I added snaps to the edges of the collars to make them lay flat. They can be unsnapped for ironing or to wear a sweater, but it certainly makes for a nicer appearance,

When it came to the hems, I found that I had cut the skirt length for my older granddaughter just a little too short. I was pretty irritated with myself until I realized that facing the hem in white bias cotton actually looked better than if I had just turned up the hem. The strawberry print fabric is lightweight and the design would have shown through a hem which was just turned up. You can see this happened in the dress featured on Pinterest.

When it was time to hem the dress for my younger granddaughter, I had enough length, but I decided to underline the hem with white cotton to avoid that “see-through” of the design. So my mistake on the larger dress made for a better outcome with both of the dresses. (It doesn’t always work that way, does it?)

I sewed the bias strip on as if I were facing the hem, then turned it up again. This way, the dress can be easily lengthened if need be.

After doing a light running stitch by hand to secure the bias band inside the hem, I then turned up the hem and sewed it as usual.

Three little buttons at the front were the finishing touches for both dresses.

The larger dress…

…and the smaller one.

The back of the larger dress

And a back view of the smaller dress.

Interestingly, I had to do some strategic planning when laying out the pattern pieces on the fabric. While the design does not have an up-and-down orientation, there are spacing issues that I had to account for. For example, I wanted each bodice front to have a spray of strawberries in the center, with enough space to add the buttons above. In addition, the spacing of the strawberry sprays determined how the patterns for the skirts were arranged on the cloth, as I wanted a balanced appearance of the strawberry sprays, without any cut in half at the waistline.

Here I am trying to find the “sweet spot” for the design on the bodices when arranging the pattern pieces.  It was easier to do on the larger dress.  The bottom button on the smaller dress is a little closer to the strawberry design than I would have liked, but in order for the design to be centered as much as possible, I opted to go this route.

This is the front bodice of the larger dress, with a carefully placed central motif.

And this is the smaller dress, with a tighter fit for the placement of the buttons.

Sometimes it can get a bit boring making the same dress twice, but the quality of this silky soft fabric is such that it was an absolute joy to sew. And, of course, I was inspired by the thought of my two little girls dressed up and looking so cute! They seem to like their strawberry dresses.

35 Comments

Filed under Buttons - choosing the right ones, Heirloom sewing for children, Sewing for children, Uncategorized, vintage buttons, Vintage fabric

35 responses to “A Detour through the Strawberry Patch

  1. Karen Mizzi

    As much as I was looking forward to reading about the French jacket, this is a lovely detour.
    All the little details on their dresses are such a delight and I’ve definitely stored them in my memory bank for future inspiration. In particular that little bit of embroidery you did. Did you embroider by hand? I would love a machine that does embroidery. Thank you for a lovely read with my morning coffee. x

  2. Margene Yeaton

    What beautiful little dresses. Great job on the collars! Don’t know how these dresses will ultimately be laundered, but may I suggest if they go in the washing machine to use a “color catcher” just in case the red piping could bleed. Lucky little girls to get these lovely dresses!

    • Thank you, Margene, for your suggestion of using a color catcher. Of course they should be washed in cold water, but, you are correct, that extra layer of protection would be good!

  3. Piping and rick rack on little girls dresses is the absolute best! These are adorable, and I bet they love them! I recently did strawberries on a top for one of my big girls, so they are definitely in season!

  4. Jaenice Palmer

    I find myself in Karen’s camp–as much as I looked forward to more on the French jacket, these dresses are just too adorable! And perfect for strawberry-loving little girls, of course. (And when are you going to live it up with over-the-top whimsical prints, unless it’s in your toddler years?)

    • Thank you, Jaenice! These dresses were fun to make, and I must say the girls look so dear in them!

      • Jaenice Palmer

        I have no doubt they do! I’m reminded a little of some of the dresses I had as a little girl–not so much the ones with yowling floral prints but rather a polka dot dress, a pink striped dress, and one navy blue pinafore dress with (I think) a rabbit embroidered on the front. I have no recollection of where my parents found these for me to wear, but so far as I can recall, these were my favorites. I suspect, had my mother bought or made me one of those strawberry dresses, that she would have had to pry me out of it. (This did happen once before a dance recital–she had to pry me out of the tuxedo-styled jumpsuit I was supposed to wear as my costume!) Wonderful post as ever!

  5. Mary Lynn

    So beautiful and so perfect for 2 little sisters. I love the snaps under the collars. Even the royal children have their collars sticking up at an awkward angle – great idea! Definitely worth putting aside your jacket for awhile!

    • When I made birthday dresses last year, I noticed the collars did not always lay flat like they should, so that’s where I got the idea for snaps. They really help! Thank you, Mary Lynn!

  6. So incredibly sweet! And looks so much like the dresses my mum used to sew for me as a little girl – what nostalgia 🙂

  7. Heather Myers

    Another inspiration! You sew such lovely things for your grandchildren.

  8. Mery

    These precious dresses will elevate every occasion by bringing out the smiles and the best in everyone. Your fine details, from layout to trim, make a difference. As special as the dresses are for the girls, I, um, ahem, dare suggest just a little bit more. They remind me of paperdoll dresses. My oldest sister, 18 years older, didn’t wear dresses matching us younger two but she dress-related by sketching and watercoloring us a paperdoll outfit for every occasion. We had a multitude of toys but the homemade ones are remembered most fondly. I guess Betsy McCall is gray-haired and retired now. It’s a shame paperdolls aren’t more common now that printing is so easy. Another image your post makes me think of is Spoonflower fabric with pics of those dresses printed on it, even just a little for personal use. Yes, I know, you’ve really done a lot already and have plenty on your plate, but these are just so cute!

    • I so agree with you about paper dolls., I used to love them when I was a child. Do you remember the greeting cards which were really paper dolls, with punch out paper wardrobes? So much fun! I actually have about a yard of the strawberry fabric left, and I would really like to use it for something special. Stay tuned! Always great to hear from you, Mery!

      • Mery

        Yes, those punch out cards and books were quite the treat. I remember being just big enough to cut so carefully along the lines that I’d cut off a tab or two. Ah, but the punch ones were so much easier. This past Halloween I stumbled across such a card and sent it to just one the right age to enjoy. Her mom asked me if I heard the squeals of delight from a hundred miles away.

  9. Oh you do such beautiful work!

  10. Your dresses are precious! Your attention to detail and the way you plan ahead always inspires me. Now if we can see pictures of your little angels wearing them!

    • My daughter has promised me some pictures… It’s so funny to think about planning ahead. I’m good at the design and construction details, but then I’ll forget thread or zippers. Lovely to hear from you, Cissie!

  11. Lovely dresses and I love all your details. I know what you mean about doing one project at a time but these were worth pausing the French jacket.

  12. These are just darling. I love the strawberry print.

  13. Superb! I see two big smiles on two little girls as they model these special strawberry dresses. Isn’t it a lovely stage – when the sister dresses are still so loved?

  14. Bernice

    So beautiful!

  15. Marguerite

    So wonderful! Your work for your granddaughters is priceless! Such detail and precise working of the design. It’s just so uplifting to visit your site and view such stunning work. Thank goodness for the internet that brings all of us together to witness beautiful handmade clothes like those that you make!

    • Thank you, Marguerite, for another lovely comment! One of the things I think about a lot is the shared enthusiasm for sewing that is global in scope. It gives me a good feeling to know that all over the world there are those of us who love the craft of dressmaking and we can share it because of the internet. Pretty amazing!

  16. Seriously beautiful. I would have loved to wear something like this as a child. I am sure they must love these very much. The embroidery is a brilliant touch.

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