There are plenty of good online patterns and tutorials for clothes for babies and toddlers, and many of the sewing books I own have some lovely clothes patterns for this age too, but I find that there are not many patterns for older children - pre-teens and teenagers. (The exception to this is Oliver + S whose current patterns go up to age 8, and whose new spring-summer patterns are going to go up to age 12).
I really want to make O a wardrobe of pretty summer dressees, skirts and tops this year - and I particularly want to make some of her school summer dresses, because the ones I buy never fit her properly and always look so sack-like and unflattering.
So I decided to go old-school and buy some traditional dress patterns. I bought a few but the one I've made first is Simplicity 2986. As always with traditional paper patterns from the big manufacturers, you have to work hard to think past the strange fabrics and trims and odd sketches they always put on the front of the packet, and imagine your own version made with fabrics you like.
This pattern is very versatile:
- it makes a dress or a top,
- in five sizes,
- with two choices of yoke - a square or round neck
- and two choices of sleeve - a little capped sleeve or straight elbow-length one
- it is positively begging for embellishment with ribbon, buttons, ricrac or ruffles.
The yoke is where most of the pretty detail in this pattern lies. There are pintucks on the front of the yoke, and the front and the back of the top are then gathered to fit the yoke. Gathers and pintucks require concentration and patience, but aren't difficult, and look much more impressive than the skill required would suggest.
The capped sleeves are the only other part of the design that requires a little fiddling and patience. I've made gathered capped sleeves before on dolls' clothes, and that was much worse because of the tiny scale required for dolls' clothes. The way I tackle sleeves is to pin carefully, then tack everything together by hand (with bright contrasting thread) and only then machine sew it all together before snipping out the tacking stitches.
I finished the hem with ribbon, which is a marvellous technique I discovered on the Oliver + S Lazy Days Skirt pattern.
Because this was a first attempt at this top - almost a muslin version - I just used whatever fabric I had to hand. This is a strawberry printed cotton from Cath Kidston, and is not particularly suitable for dressmaking because it is a little thick and stiff.
It looks so sweet though, and O does love her strawberries. The school dress regulation gingham fabric is on order from Doughtys and I think it will drape better than this quilting weight cotton because it is a thinner fabric with a little bit of polyester mixed in. When I've saved up some money (ie. fed the children on nothing but jacket potatoes for a week) I will be ordering a whole pile of the Anna Maria Horner voile fabrics from Etsy to make some more summer tops for both O and me.
In the meantime though, both O and I are delighted with this little strawberry top. The sun has come out just in time to enjoy it properly!