Friday, May 11, 2012

A Bee Birthday Dress!

My cousin needed a gift for a one year old who is having a bee themed birthday party.  I normally don't do well with crafting very specific requests, nothing about the person asking, I just like to make what pops into my head and don't follow direction very well.  However,  this is the cousin who ALWAYS puts us up when we come to visit (and cooks for us...and invites other family members over to see us... and cooks for them).  I wanted to do something to return the hospitality, but I knew from my own recent Bee Party planning, that cute bee themed fabric was difficult to find.  I left town saying that if she could find fabric, I would make something.  And then I went to Walmart (of all places) and saw this....
Walmart has been getting rid of their fabric section in a lot of stores.  My closest Walmart still has one and I hope it stays that way.  While I can't find really great designer fabrics there, every now and then, when I just need something basic, it is an easy solution.  And then there are times that I not only find something great, but I find it at a super great Walmart price!  (Lydia's brown smocked dress was made from Walmart fabric) This was one of those lucky fabric trips.  I found several really great pieces of fabric for $4 a yard! Then I saw this pre-gathered, elastic top, bee themed dress fabric.  It was a little pricey ($11 a yard) because of the elastic detail, but not much more than regular fabric at an actual fabric store would have been, and certainly not more than I was willing to spend for this very hospitable family member.  Also, they did measure it by the gathered part, so I got twice the fabric for the actual yardage that I was charged.  The only issue for me was that it was really long. It would have been perfect and super easy for an older girl, but I knew that this would swallow up a one year old.  

I decided to buy it and base this project on Lydia's "Tea for Two" dress, where the skirt was made from three rows of progressively larger rectangles that were gathered together to create a really full skirt.  What I love about this idea is you sort of see what you have and do a little math about the best way to divide it into strips.  Then you gather and sew and gather and sew! (there are slightly more detailed directions for this technique posted here) This time, I started with a width of the bee fabric that seemed appropriate for the elastic part to be the top of the dress.  At the time I couldn't remember if it was a one or a two year old, so I guessed on the big side and figured I could cut it down later.    So, the gathered elastic part took the place of the pink top on the tea party dress and cut out a lot of work.  Because the fabric was long and I wanted it to be full, I cut the bee fabric just below the elastic and then cut it again to separate the yellow bee section from the black and white dot section.  Since there was more of the yellow bees and less of the black and white, I decided to reverse their order.  I cut the black and white fabric in half, making a long thin rectangle for the next layer.
Because the black and white strip was being sewn to the already gathered part, I decided not also gather it.  I just stretched out the elastic part as I held the black fabric in place, sewing right sides together.
You can see how full the black and white strip looks even with out any extra gathering.  In the end I only needed one half (or the original width) of the black and white because I didn't gather it any more.  It already WAS the same width as the elastic part once the elastic was stretched out, if that makes any sense.  Either way, I had some extra black and white so I saved it for making the dress' straps.
Next, I took the long bee section and also cut it into two equal halves.  Since the black and white dot section was one width, I sewed together and then gathered the two strips of bee fabric so that it was twice the fullness of the preceding (black and white) layer.  At that point, I had used up all of the original parts of the elastic bee print and the dress appeared as it does above.  It didn't feel finished to me.  Fortunately, I also bought some black and white smaller dot fabric at Walmart in case I needed to make a diaper cover.  After cutting out the diaper cover pieces (using an actual pattern!), I had just enough small dot fabric to make a finishing edge to the bottom of the dress.  Basically, I took what was left and cut it into two strip to match the width of the yellow section) There wasn't enough to gather like on Lydia's tea dress (that last pink ruffle was 4 widths of fabric!) but the dress is already so full, it really doesn't need it.
I still have to sew those straps on, but I think I will do it so that they just tie at the top.  This dress can stretch and grow with the kid, so I like the idea of the straps not "bee"ing a fixed size.  This dress was SUPER easy, and I only had to gather the one yellow layer.  Everything else just worked off of the pre-gathered elastic!  I am SO happy I saw the fabric, so glad to fulfill my cousin's request, and so hopeful that the birthday girl LOVES it!

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