Sew Chic Pinafore

So, I bought a pattern book, which hadn’t been the plan, but I have made something useful with it from my to do pile (yay), so I’m forgiving myself.

First about the book, it’s Sew Chic Kids (Happy Homemade) which I saw on Tilly’s website a few weeks ago and I’ve discovered since buying it that there is more information on lovely site that reviews japanese sewing patterns. (By the way I was initially considering the adult version, but I’m not sure how the gorgeous sleek clothes will look on me, rather than a model, I’m worried they’d look tent like and shapeless (and I will look huge and frumpy). So buying this was a sort of dipping my toe in the water. If anyone sees any of the adult clothes made up in blogland please let me know!).

The book does indeed have 20 patterns, but one of the first things I noticed was lots of them use the same pattern pieces so it’s more like there are several variations on fewer patterns, like there are several pattern packets each with different views. I partly bought this book because the fact that there were boys patterns too helped justify the outlay, but there are no where near as many patterns here for boys as girls. In fact there are 7 dresses (that look like variants on 3 or 4 dresses to my untrained eye), 4 blouses (which mainly seem to be shorter versions of the dresses), a skirt, 4 pairs of (unisex) shorts (with or without seperate waistband and with pocket and hemming varients), 2 boys short sleeved shirts (the only noticible difference being the collar), a pair of wide trousers (possible unisex but not a style I’ve seen boys wear) and a 3/4 length sleeve pull over top thingy called a parka that is described as unisex (I’m condsidering lengthening the sleeves and making it in fleece as a cosy hooded jumper).

I don’t mind that there are lots of variations on a theme, it’s interesting to see what pattern pieces are the same and how they vary, but don’t buy this expecting 20 very different patterns.

Also, this seems very much summerwear. The tops are all short sleeved or 3/4 length and eveything in the photoshoot is made up in lightweight fabrics. It was the fact there was no long sleeve shirt option for boys that disappointed me most, I guess it helps keep them simple to make.

Anyway what have I made from it? Well I had a pile of grey “school uniform” fabric that I’d bought to make my daughter a full circle skirt for school (twirlyness and ribbon/satin being her favourite things) but had changed my mind and wanted to make her a pinafore dress instead. Whilst I can draft an elasticated circle skirt, a pinafore seemed more daunting especially as it needs to have fastenings or be loose enough to take on and off without any, so I thought I’d use it as an excuse to buy this book.

Most of the dresses in the book have buttons at the back, which is annoying for all concerned when it comes to clothes for small people as then she needs help getting dressed. It’s quite common in shop bought clothes too, but just for girls. Sigh. Anyway, it’s even less appropriate in school clothes (as the teacher doesn’t want to help 30 kids change for P.E). So I chose one of the two dresses with front fastenings, r, the pinafore dress with two buttons at the front, which is the one they made up in fine blue and white striped fabric if you look at the links above.

First off I had to trace the pattern pieces, which is not something I’d ever done before and not exactly what I wanted when I was ready to get stuck in (but hey, it’s probably good for me to learn to slow down a little). All the pattern pieces for each style and size are on 2 double sided large pieces of paper in a little envelope in the back of the book and seam allowance (stated as 3/8″ / 1cm in the instructions) needs to be added when you trace them. It was actually ok, the shapes are all quite simple and well labelled and are different colours. My main problem was that I decided to do this one evening when hubby was out and not only did I have no tracing paper in the house, I had didn’t have any of my usual substitute, greaseproof paper either. I scrabbled around and found some bits of clear plastic in the craft pile and used those instead, which worked ok once I found a pen that worked on them. The only thing that I changed was the side seam allowance, increasing it to 5/8″ so I could use French seams.


tracing out the pattern pieces

The dress is quite simple, A line back and front pieces (with the front wider than the back), a small rectangular front yoke (& facing), a back yoke with straps (& facing), 2 ruffles,and instructions on how to cut armhole facings (but no pattern).

At first glance the Japanese style instructions are quite sparse and daunting as they’re unfamiliar, but once I got my head around them I prefered them. They consist of a list of pattern pieces (as they’re scattered across 4 pages it would be easy to miss one), materials needed, pattern layout (which you need to refer to when tracing patterns as it tells you what seam allowance to add, this dress had 1 1/2″ / 4cm for the hem and 3/8″ / 1cm elsewhere). Then a numbered dressmakers sketch of the finished garment, to show order of assembly (which I found really useful), then details of prep work (just pressing for this dress) followed by diagrams with numbered instructions for each step (that name each piece shown and if it is right or wrong side in the picture, nice and clear). Sometimes it referred you to the same step on another pattern and I think sometimes simple steps were just on the original diagram on other patterns, but there was an explanation for each step with this dress.

I am a definite convert to this style of explanation for making a pattern up, but then I’m not intimidated by diagrams and I could see it might not be to everyones taste. As a rule of thumb, I think if you’re happy following lego instructions then I you’ll probably do just fine with Japanese style instructions, certainly the ones in this book.

So the first step was to make ruffles. The edge is just neatened, folded over and topstitched. I used the overlocker foot on my sewing machine which lets you zig zag right up to the edge and the finishhed seamlooks much better than I expected it to (I was a bit dubious this construction method would loom scruffy).

The front yoke and facing is simple to sew together, it’s just a rectangle. I tried a neat trick for turning shirt collars that I came accross here which worked well except I used some cheap pink thread that broke when I tried to pull it out afterwards leaving a small piece of pink at the corner that I irritatingly couldn’t totally remove. No one else will notice but I’m annoyed.

The back yoke was the hardest part. As well as sewing the back and facing together, you have the ruffle sleevelets in between. The result is really professional looking (with the raw edges all hidden away inside the yoke) but it’s a bit fiddly to achieve. First the ruffles are gathered to fit between the notches. Then I added an extra step an sewed them down at 1/4 ” seam allowance to hold them in place (lazy taking, outside the “real” seam allowance). Except I forgot to use a longer stitch, which made unpicking difficult when I realised I’d sewn one ruffle the wrong side up. The finished sandwich needs to be back yoke right side up, then ruffles wrong side up and finally the facing wrong side up on top.

I tried sewing the ends of the straps before the sides and doing the corners turning trick again but I failed to get it to work, it was just too small and fiddly for me to manage. As my fabric is possibly a tad thicker than the pattern intended and it was hard to turn the long thin straps neatly the rightside out with even corners. Luckily the end of the straps are hidden under the front yoke when the dress is being worn so it’s not too noticable. I also did the outside of strap seams with the ruffles first, then pushed the ruffles out of the way of the inside of strap seam so they didn’t get caught.

With all this faffing about the end result should have been great but one of the ruffles had slipped slightly and there was a little raw edge poking out of the seam in the middle. Arrghh. I twice tried unpicking that section and redoing it but when the strap was turned back inside out for remeial action the ruffle was on the inside again and I couldn’t see where the problem was. Plus I had two rows of nigh on invisible grey stitching (drat my thread choice) to unpick (from sewing the ruffle on and sewing the yokes together with the ruffle) and my already trimmed raw edges were fraying like crazy. In the end I gave up and darned the offending small amount of raw edge on the outside. It doesn’t show, I just hope it holds. I think it probably happened when I had to unpick the upside down ruffle, I must have been in a hurry when I repinned it. I should have checked it was sewn on correctly before attaching the yome facing.

The side seams are very straight forward in the pattern. As well as turning them into side seams I decided was reminded by a small girl to add self drafted pockets.


I drew round girls hand, added ease at the sides (but not more depth) then added seam allowance

Then, after cutting 4 out I had to work out all over again how to attatch them in a French seam so I’m writing it down now as a reminder to myself…

To put pockets in a french seam, pin the pocket pieces in place on the garment right side together, matching the straight edges, with the pockets facing into the garment. Sew the straight seam at 3/8″, finish the raw edges, then press open so they stick out like ears. Hmm, as I write this maybe I could have saved myself a step by adding the pocket bags to the front and back pattern pieces and cutting them out as one piece. Oh well. Next pin the garment pieces wrong side together (you can’t see the finished edge of pocket at this point) and sew 3/8″ seam down the side, going around pocket (you’ll need to turn a corner at the beginning and end of the pocket bag) and down the rest of side. Trim the seam allowance and snip into corners where seam turns for the pocket. Press as is, turn the garment inside out, pull out the pocket bags (you can see finished raw edge at this point, that’s ok as this is the inside), press again then finish the seam enclosing the raw edges and press to the back.

I did take some photo’s but they’re too rubbish to show what’s going on.

Next step was the facings on the armholes which meant two new skills for me, making bias binding and facing an armhole with bias binding. Credit to the instructions I didn’t notice this until afterwards, it all went smoothly. It helped that it was only a small section.

Attatching the dress front and back to the yokes and topstitching was straightforward. More gathering. I also added a strip of ric rac on the front yoke at the join, an idea gleaned from blogs such as Scruffy Badger that would never have occurred to me (yay for the internet). My first try at this and it went well. I also put ric rac the “proper way” round the bottom hem (as part of my hemming).

Finally, despite practising on scrap fabric I right royally fu messed up the buttonholes. It was the first time I’d used the special button hole foot and automatic buttonhole function on my new machine and the first time I was disappointed in my new machine. To be fair, trying to finish a garment at midnight is not the best time to try out new things. After making the first end bar the machine stitches backwards, which surprised me. Then when coming forward on the other side of the buttonhole it doesn’t stop automatically at the front bar, you have to notice and stop, not very automatic. This I realised on the scrap fabric.

Then I had to guess where to place the button holes as they wasn’t marked on the pattern piece and I didn’t have a model at that time of night to try it on. Once decided I found it really hard with a huge ungainly foot which protrudes fore and aft to line up where to start the button hole and my first attempt was abandoned part way through when it overran the top of the yoke. Bother. I decided leaving the stitching in place would show up less than trying to unpick the tight stitching and maybe fraying the fabric in the process, so the second attempt went next to the unfinished first. Maybe that great thread match is a good idea after all! I also didn’t get the two buttonnholes symmetrical. AND I noticed that the stitching on one side of each buttonhole, where the machine was going forwards, looks different to the stitching on the other side where it was going backwards. Grr. A disappointing end to a generally good make.

As I was hanging the dress in my daughters room I started to question my sanity in making a fancy grey pinafore when they are available so cheaply in loads of shops. I was rewarded in the morning when she came and woke me up to say thank you! (Not usually her forte). And she thanked me again after breakfast. It is apparently “not very twirly” but that doesn’t matter as the fabric “feels silky soft” (not something I’d considered but it’s better quality than cheap supermarket pinafore fabric) and “no one else will have one like this, not everything needs to be twirly Mummy”! She approved of the ric rac on the yoke and hem too. And filled the pockets with tissues in preperation for runny noses at breaktime.

Phew, after all those words anyone skimming/reading this far deserves a picture or three…20131209_085702



One happy customer. What do you think?

5 thoughts on “Sew Chic Pinafore

  1. So cute!! Totally worth the effort and reminds me of things my mum used to make for me. I’m glad you’re falling for a spot of ric rac embellishment

    • Why thank you, although she looks super cute in pretty much anything, I could’ve made a sack! I have some inherited ric rac in my stash and love using it on projects for her as she really appreciates it (and it reminds me of my childhood), but I would never have thought of encasing it in a seam so a row of bumps poke out, that is such a cool idea.

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