Dragonflies & Embroidered Ric-Rac Toddler Outfit

I’m afraid that this project was done in a bit of a hurry.  That doesn’t mean that the quality was stinted upon but it does mean that I was not able to stop and photograph each stage.

Some of the extra time spent on this was on account of having to travel to get fabric and further time was spent drafting basic blocks for a three year old and from them drafting patterns…all the while dealing with the very eager intervention of a 33-month-old child!

The finished outfit

The outfit was designed for a little girl’s third birthday.  She was born eight weeks premature and is quite short and petite so whilst I knew that a standard size 3 clothing would almost certainly swamp her I wanted to design something which would fit her both now and through the forthcoming summer and be versatile enough for all of the seasons in between. 

So, with this in mind I decided to make a tunic-style pinafore, slightly flared at the sides.  It is sleeveless, is short enough to serve her well as a short pinafore over tights and a long sleeved t-shirt yet when she grows taller can also be worn as a sleeveless tunic over the matching cropped trousers I have made in the same fabric.  To add one last piece of versatility to the outfit I made a simple skirt in a contrasting fabric and picked out the colours from the main fabric in rows of embroidered, ric-rac satin stitch sewn in parallel bands around the hem.

The three pieces can be worn together (the ric rac embroidery is fully visible below the level of the pinafore hem) or in any combination.   It is all very reminiscent of some favourite “mix-and-match” separates which my mother bought for me when I was about four.  The colours were shocking pink and white, both as plain fabrics and as a sort of chequered tartan pattern incorporating both.  I had a tunic top in the pattern, a pair of white trousers and a pink skirt.  Before you question my mother’s sense in putting her tomboy daughter in white trousers I must stress that this was 1970 and the fabric was crimplene! 

I ummed and ahhhhed for a long time over fabric.  The little girl is half Indian, half white british so has café au lait complexion, huge dark eyes and hair which though very dark brown shows, in sunlight, the most gorgeous auburn highlights.  Her mother quite rightly shudders at the preponderance of shocking pink, mid pink, lilac, sugar pink or all shades pallid in girlswear and opts where possible for strong, jewel shades, especially reds and oranges.

The fabric which caught my eye had bright dragonflies in jewel shades and this really seemed to reflect R’s personality but then came the choice of backing shade as it came in several, most of them strong such as orange, yellow, turquoise and ultramarine but the dragonflies seemed dull against these strong shades and I opted instead for the cream background which really showed them off best.  I then selected a plain cotton in a contrasting shade with which to line the garments and add accents.  I chose a strong, egg-yolk yellow of a shade and intensity only usually seen in free range eggs or Birds Custard Powder when mixed with that first tablespoon of cold milk.   

Because the pattern is busy and the little girl small, I elected for as simple a design as possible.  Sleeveless, slightly flared and with a “Norman Arch” shaped neck front and back.   The back and front were completely plain. 

The tunic was fully lined in the plain cotton.

The trousers were cut with the lining extra long, with a whole extra section grown on which would fold up onto the right side and then be hemmed and topstitched in place to form a deep, contrasting cuff.  As usual the Singer 201k did me proud with its tiny, evenly tensioned stitches, its superior feed and clear view of the stitch line.   I have yet to tire of marvelling at its ability to sew slowly and consistently even though it is teetering on the edge of uneven layers.  I also used it to understitch and top stitch the sleeve and neck edges of the tunic – this topstitching was less than 2mm from the edge and was faultless.

The ric-rac embroidered skirt was made from some cream twill.  I used my Bernina 830 Record Electronic to do the embroidery and as usual it was perfect.  Even so, I went back to the 201k to do the French seam.  It seems to treat the fabric with more respect – less punchy. 

Incidentally I used the smallest of my back-clamping hemmers to do the hem on the pinafore and its lining.  The hems were slightly curved and I wasn’t entirely happy that the rolled hem foot would deal nicely with the thickness of fabric.  The back-clamping hemmer was wonderful.  Like the rolled hemmer the fabric still needs to be guided or fed into the foot as the hem is being formed but because the hemmer feeds in the fabric much further in advance than the rolled hemmer it was much easier to control this and get it right.

The finished outfit.

The trousers and underskirt.

The lined tunic.

The fully lined trousers.

The underskirt with ric-rac embroidered hem.

The ric-rac hems on the underskirt and pinafore linings and the small hem done with the hemmer.

Close up of ric-rac embroidery.

Close-up of topstitch quality on trouser turn-ups.

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