Friday, July 12, 2013

Peasant Dress-style Nightgown

Continuing my adventures in sewing, I was brainstorming what to do with some old bed linens I had lying around. It was a complete set with twin sheet, pillowcase and duvet cover for two beds, and the fitted sheets were all worn out, thin and getting holey. I figured the rest of the pieces would make great free fabric to practice my sewing on, without having wasted money if anything turned out to be a total flop. It's the kind of fabric that I can't really see anyone actually wearing as clothing, as it just looks so...I don't know, "beddingy". So I thought of making sleepwear out of it. A nightgown for my daughter sounded like a great way to practice making dresses later on. I asked her about it, and she was really excited to give me her specifications for how she would like it to look. She made sure to request that I make it larger than her normal size so she could wear it next year, too. I based the style on this tutorial, of course with my own twists. I made the neck opening smaller, and made the gown long enough to brush the floor, because my little girl informed me that that would make it truly princesslike. She also requested short sleeves, and bows or roses on the sleeves and front. I obliged with little sleeves just above the elbow, with a ruffled edge. I did that by sewing a seam all around about 3/4" from the edge of the sleeve with elastic thread loaded in the bobbin, using a zigzag stitch. This is a something I learned about on the make it and love it site, where she teaches how to shirr fabrics this way. I would have never thought the machine could sew with the thicker elastic thread, if I hadn't seen it there. I decided to see if I could use it to form the sleeve ruffle, and amazingly, it worked. I then sewed on the sides of the sleeves, on top of the ruffling seams, a little pink bow made from grosgrain ribbon, and left the streamers hanging long, which delighted my daughter. On one side of the chest area, I sewed on a little fabric flower made by folding a fabric strip in half lengthwise, joining the cut edges with a long basting stitch, pulling the threads to gather the strip into a ruffle, and rolling the ruffle into a medium-tight spiral. These are things I learned to do by reading about them in various places around the web, so I can't credit any one site with them. Sometimes you learn a concept from one place, master the first step from another, but need yet a third to explain the following steps in a way that crystallizes in your brain. Know what I mean?
Another thing I did with the nighty was to cut my fabric in such a way as to use the selvage edge as the edge of both the bottom hem and the bottom of the sleeves, which eliminates the need to hem anything. That's because I hate hemming. It takes me forever and I don't really know what I'm doing and I'm horrible at it. I was lucky that my fabric, after unpicking the duvet covers, didn't have a visible selvage edge - it was just kind of sealed for 1/4" at the edge but the original print continued to the end of the selvage, if that makes sense. So all I had to do was iron the edges because the selvages were folded inward, and I had professionally finished edges all ready to go.
I must say that for me, the hardest part of the whole thing was measuring and cutting out the fabric. For some reason I always have a hard time with this part. The pieces always move around and the edges don't cut straight. And I can't seem to draw straight lines. So it took a really long time to get it all done, but I did it.
The idea to do a peasant dress as sleepwear came to me from those doll catalogs I used to obsessively pore over as a little girl. One of the dolls had a nightgown you could buy that was sewn in just such a style. It was white, or perhaps, off-white, and had a small red bow at the neck with the streamers hanging down. When I stumbled on the peasant dress tutorial online, it brought back memories of that little doll in her little nightgown in the catalog, and I thought I might just be able to make that happen.
I confess I made the nightgown a bit too long as it's even longer than floor length, but I categorically refuse to hem and my girl says she's happy it'll fit her for a longer time, so it's all good. I figure she's only going to sleep in it, as we don't walk around in our pj's all day (or even half the day) in this house, so there's little opportunity for her to trip. And if she does trip, and it bothers her, she can always put it away to grow into, right?

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