How to stitch a designer girl frock – Summer Fun Series

  • Serger Pepper - how to stitch a designer girl frock - first

Want to know hot to stitch a designer girl frock? Keep on reading today’s episode of the Summer Fun Series hosted by Emily at Life Sew Savory!

Living between the Alps, summer doesn’t always equal to hot weather. This year we were blessed by high temperatures (up to 30°C, something like 85 °F) but this is not our average summer! We rarely wear tanks (mostly short sleeves, keeping a cardigan available, for once it rains) and reserve dresses for our holidays at the seaside.

Serger Pepper - how to stitch a designer girl frock - posing

But his year it’s a special one! We’ve been wearing shorts and tanks and sleeveless dresses for a couple of weeks in a row. This is why I’ve decided to agree to my daughter’s request for a girl frock that wasn’t that girlish. She wanted a “dress she can wear for an evening summer party” (note that we’ve never been to an evening summer party, but: you never know!).

We’ve been wearing shorts and tanks and sleeveless dresses for a couple of weeks in a row. This is why I’ve decided to agree to my daughter’s request for a girl frock that wasn’t that girlish. She wanted a “dress she can wear for an evening summer party” (note that we’ve never been to an evening summer party, but: you never know!).

So we brainstormed a little bit to understand which features an 8 years old girl imagines a party dress should include and we draw up “The List”:

  1. it must be black (or dark grey)
  2. it has to shine
  3. it needs to be sheer (partially sheer can work)
  4. can’t skip ruffles

Wow! That’s a lot of things to put into a dress! Let’s see how it goes…

Serger Pepper - how to stitch a designer girl frock - posing2

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How to design a girl frock – Summer Fun Series

Just because it wasn’t complicated enough, my daughter begged me to use scraps from an old project, this blouse I refashioned from the dress I wore for my matriculation exam, back in the 90s.

Ok, this one starts to seem a challenge… and I love challenges!

So I’ve browsed my old Burda magazines collection and I’ve found one from 1996, featuring a dress that seemed a perfect starting point. I traced it and started playing with the pieces.

First of all, I’ve double-traced the skirt portion, creating an overlayer (to be cut on sheer fabric). To add volume to it, I’ve vertically slashed and spread each skirt piece to add fullness, until I’d doubled the width. I’ve also added a little length to be right under the knees.

Serger Pepper - how to stitch a designer girl frock - twirling

Then I’ve decided to move the side button closure to a center back invisible zipper.

I then needed to add ruffles, and I’ve thought that a ruffly hem, matching a center front ruffle detail on the top would have satisfied my daughter’s ruffles cravings. Still thinking about the bling-bling portion, but let’s leave it there hanging for a moment (if you are curious, scroll down to the end of this post!).

Let me digress: due to several factors, during the last year I’ve partially lost my sew-jo. I mean: I love to sew but

  1. I find hard to find the time to sew
  2. Most of the time, I am able to scrap just a few minutes here and there, and a whole afternoon spent sewing looks like luxury to me.

I always end up putting together clothes without enjoying the process, trying to sew them quickly and get them done, rather than sewing in a more relaxed way. I always end up doing mistakes, and bad words escape from my mouth.

How to stitch a designer girl frock – Summer Fun Series

Serger Pepper - how to stitch a designer girl frock - my two blondes

When I chose to join this Summer Fun Series, I’ve decided this time had to be different: I wanted to create a dress full of designer details, like the ones I used to create. This involves some more time, a good chunk of it spent planning (and the rest practicing on scraps).

Are you wondering which designer details I’ve included?

  1. Rolled hems on the sheer fabric ruffles;
  2. Contrasting facings to finish the square neckline;
  3. Rolled hems to the facing raw edges;
  4. A hand-stitched invisible zipper;
  5. A hand-stitched blind hem on the miniskirt.

Serger Pepper - how to stitch a designer girl frock - laughing

Let see how I did it, in the details.

Rolled hem

The key here is practice on scraps, especially when working with fabrics like this sheer one, not behaving the way you’d expect. Scraps are your best friends and you should particularly test rolled hem on crossing seams… they’re evil!

Serger Pepper - how to stitch a designer girl frock - test rolled hems on crossing seam

 

Here are the settings I end up using:

left needle: out

right needle: 4

upper looper: 4

lower looper: 4

Blade: disengaged

Stitch length: R

Cutting width: 5

No stitch finger

differential 0.7

With these settings I’ve hemmed on both long sides a 2.5″ wide strip of fabric, long 2 times the front top height (so you can ruffle it, later).

Serger Pepper - how to stitch a designer girl frock - serge rolled hems

For the skirt hem, I’ve literally sliced my dress in 1 1/2″ sections, until I got enough strips to roughly double to the skirt hem length, then I’ve pieced them together in a long fabric ring, right sides together.

Serger Pepper - how to stitch a designer girl frock - slice the dress

Let me share with you a few tips for serging a rolled hem on sheers:

  • When sewing a rolled hem on sheers, I prefer to cut the fabric straight with scissors, then serge the rolled hem feeding the fabric under the foot so there’s a 1/4″ s.a. hanging on the right side of the needle. This fabric will roll up, filling the rolled hem so it’s fuller and more professional.
  • You’ll get best results if you serge a rolled hem all at once (no starts and stops). If you can’t do that (like on the ruffled hem strip, which was 4.5 yards long), try to increase and decrease speed gradually.
  • To start a rolled hem, never pull the fabric but hold thread tails from the back side of the serger, so it will be more stable and won’t eat your sheer fabric.
  • To make tinier stitches, you can try going up with tensions. This particular fabric didn’t allow for this, I stopped at 4, but it might be worth a test.
  • If you’re having too many problems, try stabilizing the fabric with either a tear away or, better a wash away or heat away embroidery stabilizer.
  • Don’t forget to serge your rolled hem with the right side of your fabric facing up, since the rolled hem has a right and a wrong side!
  • When serging a rolled hem crossing seams (like on the long ruffle strip I used to hem), make sure you press all the seams in the same direction, then make sure the crossing seams go under the foot before the bulk of the seam allowances, that therefore will lay flat.
  • Snap a few pictures of your serger settings for the rolled hem vs. the 4-thread overlock stitch, so you can quickly reverse between the two, without losing any precious time, you’d better spend sewing. I keep them handy on my smartphone… here they are!

Rolled hem settings.

Clockwise:

  • tensions
  • stitch length & differential feed
  • blade disengaged & no stitch finger
  • right needle
  • cutting width
Serger Pepper - how to stitch a designer girl frock - rolled hem settings

Regular settings.

Clockwise:

  • cutting width
  • stitch length & differential feed
  • tensions
Serger Pepper - how to stitch a designer girl frock - regular settings

Creating ruffles

Once the strips were hemmed, I started to ruffle them. My technique here is to run one rows of long straight stitches (tension=0), using two different colours of thread for the spool and the bobbin(so I know I am pulling the bobbin thread), both contrasting with the fabric (so I know I am not undoing any seam that needs to stay here).

For the top portion, I have pulled the bobbin threads until length was matching the top center front length, then stitched in place with two parallel rows of stitching, 1/4″ apart one from each other.

Serger Pepper - how to stitch a designer girl frock - ruffles on the center front of the top

I planned to place three metal buttons there, for a false button closure, but my daughter didn’t like them, so they were left out.

For the skirt hem, being that long, I’ve stitched 4 separate portions of ruffling seams, so I could ruffle each skirt quarter panel separately. I’ve made this way so I could quarter each portion (on both the hem and the skirt) to evenly distribute the ruffles.

Serger Pepper - how to stitch a designer girl frock - ruffles on the hem step 1

This part was really hard. I had to unpick a few times and it wasn’t that fun. But I took it slowly and enjoyed the process…

Serger Pepper - how to stitch a designer girl frock - ruffles on the hem step 2

Oṃ! I really felt Zen, inside 🙂

Serger Pepper - how to stitch a designer girl frock - ruffles on the hem step 3

Square neckline

A creative neckline can add a lot of flavor to any project, and square necklines are one of my favorite styles. To finish up a square neckline you have two choices: add a lining or a facing.  In both cases, make sure you:

  • sew until the corner, shortening the stitch length in the last 1/4″);
  • pivot with the needle down and turn the fabric so you make a crisp corner;
  • after a 1/4″ go back to your regular stitch length

For a professional last touch, don’t forget to:

  • trim the seam allowances;
  • snip the seam allowances to (but not trough) the corner;
  • press the seam allowances toward the lining/facing;
  • understitch the seam allowances to the lining/facing

Serger Pepper - how to stitch a designer girl frock - staystitching the facing

Rhinestones

And here comes the bling-bling we left behind at the very beginning! I had this rhinestones hot-applicator laying there, waiting for the right project. It’s a very simple tool to use but a great addition to your regular sewing/crafting tools.

It comes with several adapters, that will work with most of the rhinestones (the thermo-glue-coated type) you can find on the market. You can use it on fabric, paper, glass, wood… anywhere. It basically is a heating tool that becomes very hot (warning!!!), liquefying the glue they already have on the back, and fixing them to the material you have chosen.

For my underskirt, I have placed them randomly, they had to look like stars in the sky. As you can see, I tested on a scrap of the same fabric to see how much time it took to liquefy the glue and how much pressure I had to apply… it took me a few tentatives but it’s not hard to

As you can see, I tested on a scrap of the same fabric to see how much time it took to liquefy the glue and how much pressure I had to apply… it took me a few tentatives but it was quite easy and foolproof!

The only thing to pay attention was not to apply any stone right over the invisible zipper placed on the center back… I didn’t want to melt teeth!

Serger Pepper - how to stitch a designer girl frock - applying rhinestones

The final look was really appreciated by my growing fashionista. I hope it can inspire you too to create something cool, this summer while enjoying the whole creative project.

Serger Pepper - how to stitch a designer girl frock - cool

Before you go check out all the other fun posts that went up today and head over to Life Sew Savory for all the Summer Fun series posts…

fantastic summer sewing from Life Sew Savory

Toss and Go Quilt Game – by Hem Me In

Easy Fabric Hot Pad – Adventures of a DIY Mom

Easy Magicians Cape – Sew What Alicia

Fun Summer Frock – Serger Pepper Designs

Raglan Pool Cover Up – Call Ajaire

Seashell Collection Bag – Swoodson Says

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About the Author:

Hi there! I love sewing, creating my own patterns and refashioning pre-loved clothes… If you love the same things, why not be friends? See you on Pinterest http://Pinterest.com/MammaNene

One Comment

  1. lola August 20, 2017 at 04:30 - Reply

    I love the dress, and your daughter is beautiful , looks like a princess in her party dress.

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