Sunday, June 19, 2011

Farbenmix Manhattan Special Occaision Dress Tutorial

This fabulous dress is from the book "Sewing Clothes Kids Love" by Nancy Langdon and Nadine Pollehn. There are fantastic color photos of many different examples of this dress in the book, also included are full sized patterns and diagrammed written instructions.

Note: If you are buying this book double check that the pattern sheets are made from thick white paper and not the tissue from the original printing.

I found the instructions to be pretty clear but I thought I might make a tutorial for those that found them challenging. I hope this helps someone:)

Picking a size:

Read the sizing chart at the beginning of the book to decide on a size, keep in mind that each pattern size is actually two sizes, for example the first size is 18m/2T (Euro sizing 86/92)  even though the sizing chart at the beginning of the book has all the sizes separated. The benefit of this dress is that you can cinch the back (or sides) a lot or a little so it can fit over a very long period of time. I usually go by chest size when choosing a dress size, however, with this pattern that is a little tough since it is designed to be larger in the chest and be cinched in. You can also take into account height, Euro patterns often go by height. Because of the lacing I would err on the large side when choosing a size.

I chose to go with 3T/4T (98/104) for S. even though I knew it would be a tad big. She is 2 1/2 and a little big for her age. I did have to take 2 1/2" off the hem.

Picking Fabric:

This pattern is great for using up some scraps. The tiny pieces in the bodice can be made from all sorts of fabrics to create a very unique look. I'm not sure why most of the dresses in the book are made from almost entirely one fabric, I chose quite a different look. So far I have only made one size but I found the fabric requirements to be in extreme excess. Don't choose your amount of fabric with these guidelines in mind or you will end up with far too much!

I suggest drawing a quick sketch of the dress to plan out which fabric goes where since there are so many different pieces. Try combining all sorts of prints and solids for an interesting look. Include any ribbons or trim that will also enhance the dress.

Tracing the pattern pieces:

Find the pattern sheet with the Manhattan pieces on it and spread it out flat on a solid surface (I always use the floor). Get your tracing medium (I like to use painting tarp from Home Depot, large nuts to hold the plastic down and sharpies to trace) and place it over the pattern sheet. Trace each piece, be sure to trace the correct size and to indicate what letter corresponds to each piece. Many of them look very similar and you don't want to get confused! Additionally, make sure to transfer all pattern markings, particularly where the top of each piece is. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of marking which letter each piece is and where the top is. (Don't cut the pieces out yet!)

Below are some pictures of how the pieces lay out so that you can get a feel for what goes where are where the top is of each piece.



Make sure to make note of the grain lines. If you are using a stripe or plaid at all it will be important so that everything lines up.

Add a seam allowance to the pattern pieces before cutting them out. I added a 1/4" seam allowance but you could add more if you wanted.

Finally cut out the pattern pieces.

Cutting the Fabric:

Here is a list of all the pattern pieces and how many to cut for each piece:

A Bodice center front - cut 1 on fold from shell fabric and 1 on fold from lining fabric
B Bodice side front - cut 2 from shell fabric and 2 from lining fabric
C Bodice lower side back - cut 2 from shell fabric and 2 from lining fabric
D Lower center back - cut 1 on fold from shell fabric and 1 on fold from lining fabric
E Bodice Upper center back - cut 1 on fold from shell fabric and 1 on fold from lining fabric
F Bodice Upper side back - cut 2 from shell fabric and 2 from lining fabric
G Bodice front shoulder -  cut 2 from shell fabric and 2 from lining fabric
H Cap sleeve -  cut 2 from shell fabric and 2 from lining fabric, cut 2 from interfacing
I Collar - cut 1 on fold from shell fabric and 1 on fold from lining fabric, cut 1 from interfacing
J Skirt upper front -  cut 1 on fold from shell fabric and 1 on fold from lining fabric
K Skirt upper side - cut 1 from shell fabric and 1 from lining fabric
L Skirt upper back - cut 1 on fold from shell fabric and 1 on fold from lining fabric
M Skirt lower panel front, side, back - Cut 4 on fold from shell fabric and 4 on fold from lining fabric

note: I did not line the skirt so I did not cut the lining for these pieces. I omitted the cap sleeves and did not cut these either.

Fold each piece of fabric right sides together and trace each pattern piece onto the fabric with a fabric marker. Make sure to transfer all markings, pattern identification letters and where the top of each piece is with a marker that will not fade. Make sure to place the required pieces along the fold of the fabric before cutting. Pin each piece so that it does not shift while cutting. Cut out each pattern piece and transfer the markings to the backside of each piece so that each and every piece has the pattern info on it.

Sewing Info:

A note on curved seams -
Many of the pieces are curved, sewing along curves can be tricky, it is very important to pin the pieces together to insure that you do not get puckers in the seams if the fabric shifts mid-seam. When pinning a curved piece to a more straight piece place the more curved piece on top and put one pin at the top and bottom corners (where the seam will start and stop). Then place a pin where the middle of the seam will be. Place pins along the curve between the top and middle and the bottom and middle easing the fabric to distribute it evenly. This may seem like extra steps but you will be much happier with the outcome if you take the time to do this before sewing each seam.

A note on top-stitching -
There is a lot of top-stitching in this pattern, every seam is top-stitched except for two (the side seams)! Top-stitching makes a garment look much more professional and adds strength to each seam. I would definitely recommend following the directions and doing the top-stitching, it does take longer but it is worth it in the end. Make sure to press each seam in the correct direction before top-stitching for a clean look.

I actually ended up top-stitching the lining pieces as well, you wouldn't have to do that; if you choose not to top-stitch the lining make sure to press each lining seam open.

Since the bodice is fully lined you don't need to finish the bodice seam allowances, however, because the skirt layers are not sewed together you will want to finish the seam allowances to prevent fraying.


Always place right sides of fabric together unless otherwise stated.

1)  If you want to embelish the front of the dress (Piece A) then do this now, that way all the raw edges of the ribbons and trims will be hidden in the seams.

Sew the bodice center front piece (A) to the two bodice side-front pieces (B). This is a curved seam so pin according to the instructions above. Repeat for the lining.
 2) Press each seam towards the center of the bodice and topstitch.
3) To create the ribbon loops for the back of the bodice (or the side if you choose it), cut two pieces of scrap ribbon that run the length of the outer sides of the lower center back piece (D). Divide the ribbon equally. Cut 8 pieces of the loop ribbon 2 1/2" long and pin each loop ribbon onto the scrap ribbon with the raw edges lining up on one edge of the scrap ribbon and the loops all hanging over the other. Sew along the scrap ribbon thereby sewing the loop ribbons down.

4) Pin the scrap ribbon along the outer seam of the shell lower center back piece (D) and baste. Place so the loops are pointing into the center of the lower center back piece. Make sure to hang the other edge of the scrap ribbon off the edge so that it does not show in the final seam. Alternatively you could use a thicker scrap ribbon that would be seen in the final seam as an accent.

5) Sew the lower side back pieces (C) to the lower center back piece (D) as you did for the front bodice in step #1. Do not topstitch these seams for the shell, that will come later. Press so loops go towards the center of the bodice piece.

Sew the lining lower side back pieces (C) to the lining lower center back piece (D) and press seam to the center. Topstitch.
6) Sew the bodice upper side back pieces (F) to either side of the bodice upper center back piece (E) as you did for the front bodice in step #1. Press the seam towards the center bodice and topstitch. Repeat for the lining.
7) Sew the upper back bodice pieces to the lower back bodice piece aligning seams. Press upwards and top-stitch. Repeat for the lining.

8) Sew the front shoulder pieces (G) to the upper edge of the back bodice with the pieces angled outwards. Press seams towards the shoulders and topstitch. Repeat for lining.

9) Sew the bodice front to the bodice back at the sides seams. Repeat for the lining.

 10) Fuse the interfacing to the lining piece of the collar and pin the two collar (I) pieces right sides together. Sew around the outer curved edge. Grade the seam and cut notches.

note: Grading means cutting the lining layer of the seam allowance closer to the seam than the shell layer, this causes the lining to curl under slightly and gives a more professional look.

Notching the curved seam allowance reduces bulk and creates and nice curve in the finished garment.

11) Turn the collar right side out and topstitch this seam.

note: You would repeat these steps for the cap sleeves (H) if you were sewing them. I chose to omit them for this version of the dress.

12) Pin the collar to the bodice shell neckline aligning the center of the collar to the center of the bodice. Make sure that the corner edges of the collar fall at the same location on both front shoulder pieces so that they will be even in the finished garment. Cheat the corners of the collar slight inwards towards the seam allowance to insure that they are caught in the seam and no raw edges will be peaking out. Baste the collar onto the shell.

12) With right sides together pin the lining neckline to the shell lining, thereby sandwiching the collar. Sew this seam. Check to make sure no fabric is puckered in the seam. If it is, pick out the puckers and sew them smooth. Grade and notch the seam as you did with the collar. (Make sure you do the grading and notching, it will make the neckline lay straight and will make the topstitching easier.)

13) Turn the bodice right side out and press all along the seam sewed in #12. Pin along the seam and topstitch.

note: if you were adding cap sleeves you would add them now using the same steps as for the collar.

14) Turn the bodice back inside out and pin the lining and shell shoulder pieces with right sides together. Sew along the armhole edges stopping at the side seams. Grade and notch seams.

15) Turn the bodice right side, and press. Don't topstitch yet.
16) Pin the shoulder pieces, matching notches, right sides together, to the front of the bodice shell and baste. Try the bodice on your child to make sure the fit is right. You can move the shoulder pieces to the right or left or cut the shoulder pieces slightly shorter to insure a proper fit. (I moved the shoulder pieces 1/4" to the center and cut off 1/4".)

17) When you know the fit is right place the lining and shell of the front bodice right sides together and sew along the curved seam thereby sandwiching the shoulder pieces. Stop sewing at 1/4" before the side seams. This will make for a cleaner armhole. Grade seams and notch.

18) Press side bodice seams open (these were sewn in step #9). Turn bodice right side out and press all along front of bodice and armhole seams. Topstitch armholes and bodice front in one step starting at the front of one armhole. You may want to pin before topstitching to prevent the fabric from shifting.

19) Sew along the elastic casing lines on bodice lower center back piece (D). Sew through the shell and lining, thereby creating a casing between the two.

20) To find the length of elastic for the casings, measure the distance along one casing and mulitply by 0.7 (70%). Cut three pieces of 3/8" elastic this calculeted length. Using a saftey pin, run each elastic through it's casing and pin it to the seam allowance where the scrap ribbon fabric is sewn. Make sure at least 3/8" of the elastic is sticking out into the seam. When all raw edges of elastic are pinned down at the seam allowance, topstitch the center/side back seam thereby tacking down all the elastics and securing them.

 21) If you are going to using a shell and lining for the skirt portion omit this step.

Baste down the raw edges of the bodice securing the lining to the shell at the bottom of the bodice.

22) Sew the skirt upper front shell piece (J) to one of the skirt lower shell pieces (M).  Press the seam upwards and topstitching. Repeat for the lining if you have one.

 23) Repeat step #22 for the side skirt pieces and back skirt pieces.

24) Pin front skirt piece to side pieces and pin back piece to side pieces to complete skirt. Sew seams, press towards center skirt pieces and topstitch. Repeat for lining if necessary.

note: the wider side of the side pieces goes towards the back of the skirt.

25) Sew any trims to the shell skirt portion at this point.

26) Sew two rows of basting stitches along the top of the side sections of the skirt. Repeat for lining if necessary. Pull on bobbin threads to gather fabric.

note: Sew one row of basting stitches at 1/8" from the raw edge and one at 1/2". Then when you sew your seam you will enclose the first row of basting stitches and you can pick out the second one.

27) With the bodice right side out and the skirt inside out pin the skirt to the bodice. Align the front skirt seams with the seams on the front bodice and the back skirt seams with the seams on the back bodice. Adjust gathers in the side skirt to fit the side portion of the bodice. Sew the skirt to the bodice. Press towards the bodice and topstitch.

note: if you are using a lined skirt you will sew the skirt lining to the bodice lining and the skirt shell to the bodice shell so that the raw edges are all facing each other and are hidden between the shell and lining.

28) Finish the hem. I chose to serge and then topstich down. You may want to fold the hem twice and then topstitch. Repeat for lining if necessay.
29) Lace your ribbon through your ribbon loops.

30) Try it on an enjoy!!!


Alison said...

Thanks for the great tutorial! Did you notice when you made the dress that the book leaves out stitching the skirt panels together? Odd. I am making this for my daughter for Christmas and was wondering if you've ever tried using something thicker (like a scarf) for the lacing? I think a silk scarf would really be pretty since I am using solids and feel it needs some pizzazz. I think I might need to use larger ribbon loops or even cording for the loops. Thoughts?

Green Mommy said...

I have never used a scarf but I bet that would look awesome! I think the scarf would probably hold up the ribbon loops fairly well. I would suggest making them a bit bigger to accomodate the ribbons. Maybe do a practice run before adding to the dress?

Hurley said...

Have you ever tried the lacing on the sides rather than the back?

Green Mommy said...

I've never tried the lacing on the side but I bet that would look awesome!