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Not a pattern review: Two little girl dresses for two little girls

2012 July 26
by elizabeth_admin

Well this was an adventure.  Pour yourself a glass of wine and settle in.

Where to start?  It all began when I innocently decided to use the rolled hem foot that came with my Singer Featherweight.


I thought it would make easy and quick work of the hems on the two little girl dresses I was making for Haley and Chloe, my nieces.  Hah, hubris.  All I could make were awful rolled hems after two hours of practicing.  And this after watching countless youtube videos and tutorials, all I could turn out was this…


See that extra fold up there?  And see the uneven hem below?


And all this (my practice hems)…


I took a break and asked my sewing group on Facebook if they had any tips.  They were sympathetic but didn’t have any advice other than to practice more.  And that’s when I had it.  I had the genius idea to read the instruction manual that came with my Featherweight.  And sure enough, there were instructions on how to use the rolled hem foot.  And interestingly enough, they were significantly different to the other tutorials I saw, but then the Singer rolled hem foot looked different than the others I had seen too.




So after another couple hours in front of the machine and using the rolled hem foot, I was finally able to make these…



Tada!  Boy was I relieved that I finally was able to use this foot.  I had what seemed like miles of ruffle hems to make, not to mention the bodice hems.  I do have some extra tips for making a good rolled hem with the Singer rolled hem foot though, especially when making one that is circular:

  • When making a circular hem, double fold the the first inch and sew a couple of stitches before you pull the fabric edge through the rolled hem flange so that the hem is the same all the way round.
  • Make sure the fabric you are feeding into the flange is never larger than the flange itself on either side of it.  This creates a nice even hem with no folds of extra fabric on the inside of the hem.
  • On a circular hem, when you come back to the beginning, make sure stop stitching before your flange gets caught in the start of the hem.  Leave your needle in the down position, lift the presser foot and manipulate the fabric into a double fold and just sew the remaining stitches to complete the hem.
Of course the saga doesn’t end there.  Go pour yourself another glass of wine.  I’ll wait.
And then there was the ruffle gathering.  That is, the two ruffles to be gathered.  Remember my boyfriend the gathering foot?  Yeah, well, I thought I could just snap on that foot and I would be good to go.  I had done a lot of practicing with that foot a long time ago.  I thought for sure I had put in the time.  Ah hubris again.  I won’t show you the first attempt because I foolishly used my actual ruffle to “practice” on.  Needless to say, there was a fair amount of swearing and a lot of unpicking.  Here’s my top tip to using the gathering foot: Make sure there is at least an 1/8th of an inch of fabric to the right of the foot as you gather.  If you don’t, then your fabric will be pulled into the feed dogs and tangled together in one hot mess.  As long as you keep some fabric to the right of the gathering foot, you are good to go.  Also, remember to crank your needle tension up high to increase your gathering ratio.


It took me two days to make Haley’s dress (the larger one for the 4 yr old) because of all the practicing and just 3 hours to make the second dress for Chloe (the smaller one for the 2 yr old).  Practice makes perfect!

Here are some snaps of the completed dresses.  See how they have the same fabrics, but in different combos?  I love that they coordinate, but aren’t exactly the same.

Haley’s dress


Chloe’s dress


Inside of shirred bodice, note the individual rows of shirring with each tied of separately.


SEWN label to mark the back of the dress


One more thing to note, my order of construction was a little tricky to work out once I decided to make the rolled hems as they necessitated that certain parts (the bodice and the ruffle to be made in the round and hemmed before constructing the rest of the dress so as to avoid a lot of bulky fabric at the machine for that tricky detail.  Here’s what I worked out with my feeble mind:

  1. Sew the ruffles’ side seams (& serge seam allowances) and then sew the rolled hem.
  2. Connect the bodice to the skirt and then sew the side seams (& serge seam allowances).
  3. Sew the rolled hem on the bodice.
  4. Shir the bodice starting at 1/4 inch down from top and then every 1/2 inch thereafter.
  5. Gather the ruffle and then baste it to the skirt of the dress (& serge seam allowance).
  6. Make the straps and attach them.

Et voila, your dress is done!

Now I think I want to make a quick knit top for me.  What are you making?

11 Responses leave one →
  1. July 26, 2012

    Very sweet dresses. Lovely to revive an old machine.

  2. July 26, 2012

    Very cute dresses! Well done on mastering your rolled hem foot, mine is still gathering dust…..

  3. July 26, 2012

    Tying that shirring was smart. I didn’t do it on my daughter’s dress and it is slowly pulling out.

    Cute dresses!

  4. July 26, 2012

    Those turned out so well. The little girls will surely love them! Love the choice of coordinating fabrics.

  5. Elaray permalink
    July 26, 2012

    Ooooo! The dresses are adorable!
    And yes, that narrow hem foot can really make you swear!

  6. July 26, 2012

    The dresses are adorable and great job on the rolled hem and gathering.

  7. July 26, 2012

    Great tip! I’ve never used the rolled hem on the Featherweight before, but I’ll definitely give it a shot next time.

  8. July 26, 2012

    Inspiring! I bought a binding foot for my Bernina that I was not able to master. At the time, I had a deadline and had to use a different technique – you have helped me remember that I can learn it and I need to give it enough time.

    What am I sewing? I finished the 2 UFO’s started when I was in Manhattan, a pair of PJ pants and a TNT knit dress using fabric from Elliot Berman.

    I think I will sew more PJ pants. That is where my mojo is right now.

  9. July 26, 2012

    Oh, I am SO impressed that you managed to use that foot. After several attempts, I’ve still never mastered mine.

    What sweet dresses!

  10. July 28, 2012

    The fabrics are just gorgeous, Im sure there will be two very happy little girls when they see their dresses!

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