Deck the Dress! Holiday Jumper Dress Tutorial

Well hellllo everyone!  Today I am guest posting at PR&P on how to add some cool additions to your holiday attire this season!  Isn't that just the bees knees?!  So, I know a lot of you are making you holiday dresses and outfits for your little munchkins in the next couple weeks.  I came up with a few ideas I though would be great to incorporate into almost any pattern!  And some would even be good for other holidays like Hanukkah, Kwanza, or just plain ol' birthdays too!

So pop on over to Project Run & Play and learn how to make a festive Christmas tree, a cute present border hem, and little present pockets to stuff just as you would their stockings!

Now that you have your fun little features in mind, what are you going to add them too?  Well, if you are using a pattern you already have in mind, great!  Just remember to add the pockets first, then the border second (well, after you've made the rest of your skirt), and finish with the Christmas tree after the bodice is joined to the skirt. 

But what if you don't have a dress pattern yet?! 

No worries!  I've got you covered!  Two great tutorials with free patterns are this one by the Cottage Mama and this one by Shwin&Shwin.  But if you are willing to draft your own pattern then we can make this jumper style dress together!

What you will need:

  • A total of 1.5 yards of fabric (this will make up to a size 4T. You may need more for a taller or older child.)

  • A shirt that fits your child well for drafting the pattern

  • Elastic thread for shirring

  • Matching thread

Seam allowances are 1/2" unless otherwise noted.

  • Let's start with the front bodice piece. Lay your shirt out flat. Measure across the width of the shirt and add one inch for seam allowance (for the shirring to fit properly omit the front seam allowance.) Mark that number down. Now to figure out the length, you will have to subtract about 3" from the bottom.

  • Find natural waist and measure up to the base of the armpit. Add and inch to the bottom of that measurement for seam allowance. I use an inch seam allowance for bodice to skirt joining because it always seams to take more than I expected, probably because of the bulk of the gathers on the skirt.)

  • Measure from the bottom of your bodice up to the base of the armpit. Mark that number down. We're going to add 2.5" to that number to make a gentle curve. The apex of the curve will be 2.5 (the 1/2" is for the seam allowance) and the base of the curve will be whatever you bottom to armpit number was. Now you have your front bodice pattern drafted. Here's mine:

  • My front bodice was L7" x W12" but after adding in the seam allowances and the allowance for the curve, I cut out one rectangle that was L10.5" x W13.5".

I shaped my curve like this:

  • Now for the back bodice, turn the shirt over, measure across the width (it's probably the same as the front). We are going to be shirring the back bodice. Disregard what the notes say and just multiply that number by 1.25-1.5 (I recommend 1.25) Add one inch to that measurement for seam allowances.

  • To figure out how long the bodice back piece should be, you will need to use the same number as you did for the front bodice, minus the curve, but adding in allowance for a narrow hem.

  • So my one rectangle to cut out for the bodice back was L8.5" x W19". Now your bodice back is drafted too! Yeay!

figure of the drafting.  see above for cutting layout

  • Now straps. To determine the length, you want to measure from the armpit measurement on the back (but just inside the shoulder blade) to the shoulder and then measure the front from the sides of the curve to the top of the shoulder. Add those numbers together.

  • Now multiply them by 1.5-2 ( I used 2). Add one inch for seam allowances.

  • Now to figure out the width, I measure the shirt from the neckline (just before the collar) to the shoulder (just before the start of the sleeve). That number is your strap width. Add one inch to each side of each strap for the hems.

  • I cut two rectangles for the straps that were L17"x W4.5". (Actually, I recommend that the cutting length be changed to keeping the straps the sum of front and back numbers plus seam allowance only).

  • Finally, the skirt. We are going to need two pieces because the front is a different size than the back (plus I added inseam pockets.)

  • The length of the front and back skirt piece is from the waist to wherever you would like the hem to be (quick note: if you are adding a present border hem, you will need to subtract that from your measurement but still add in 0.5" seam allowance for attaching the two. Otherwise, add two inches to the bottom for hem, turn a 1/4" towards wrong side then again 1.5" press then stitch.) I think the base of the knee is a nice look, but if you want a cute vintage-y look, go above the knee and make a pair of matching leggins or bloomers!

  • The width of the front skirt piece is going to be more gathered than the back since the back is shirred (it doesn't need as much gather). So to figure out the width, doubleyour front bodice measurement.

  • I cut one front skirt rectangle that was L13.5" x W26".

(Sidenote, I used the border hem so that is my subtracted hem.  After the dress was done, the skirt piece was 12" from waist to top of border hem).

  • Last piece, skirt back. Since the bodice is gathered, I don't need to have the back be as wide as the front. That would make the front look way less gathered, and the back super full. BUT- I know from experience that it looks better when the back is at least a little gathered so that's why I multiply the back by 1.5. The length is the same as the front.

  • I cut one back skirt piece that was L13.5"x W28"

  • Alright! All your pieces are cut out. There are some extra notes there on the measurements of the present border hem and the present pockets. But I'm not going to go into them. Just keep in mind that if you want to add those things that you are double checking with the tutorial on PR&P and these notes. If you want :-)

  • Okay now to sew! First! Fill up two bobbins with elastic thread. Don't put them in yet. Just fill them. FYI- if you want it to match your fabric, consider dying it. My fabric was white based so I didn't.

  • Let's start with the straps. First you want to press under one long side of one of the straps 1/4" towards the wrong side. Press. Then fold it again, encasing your raw edges now. Press. Stitch 1/8" away from the open edge. This is a narrow hem. Just reference this for future steps. Repeat for all long edges of the strap pieces.

  • Now install your elastic thread bobbin. I suggest testing all shirring out on a scrap pieces of fabric that is similar weight to the one you are working on first. The back should look tight; if it looks curvy and wonky, it's not right and the thread is probably not wound tight enough. You want it tight but not ridiculously tight. Okay- so now find the center of your strap, increase your stitch length to 3.5 or more (I like 3.5) and stitch down the center of your strap.

  • Make sure you are stitching your shirring lines from the right side up (the elastic thread should be on the wrong side of the fabric).

  • I know this isn't perfect sewing advice, but when I reach the end, I just lift the presser foot (leaving the needle in the fabric) and turn 90 degrees, stitch two stitches, then lift and pivot again and do the next line of shirring.

Do make sure that your shirring lines are as perfectly straight and even as possible!!

  • I did a total of five rows, pivoting accordingly (when I reached a last row on one side, I did extra stitches in the opposite direction just past that middle one and do the other side. Unorthodox? Maybe, but it's shirred straps, not a completely exact science ;-)

  • Spritz the elastic back with water and hit it with a little steam (don't actually press the back). Repeat for other strap. Straps are done. Put them to the side.

  • Now let's make the bodice back, First find the center back along the top edge. Mark with a pin. Measure out from that mark 2" on either side and pin your straps to the bodice back, right sides together. (disregard that in the pics I shirred the back first. I think hemming first makes more sense.)

  • Sew the straps in place.

Press under the top hem of the bodice back 1/4."  Turn under again towards the wrong side 1/4".  Press. Stitch close to the open edge of the hem making sure to keep the straps tucked within the seam allowance!

  • Keep on stitching right on top of the strap.

  • When you come to the straps, stitch right on top of the strap making sure it is perfectly tucked under.

This is what it should look like from the right side of the fabric on the bodice back.

  • Now it's time to shirr the back bodice. Switch out your bobbin with elastic thread again and increase your stitch length to 3.5 or higher. From the right side of your fabric, start 1/2" down from top hem and just inside your side seam allowance, backstitch then start your shirring line, pivoting when you reach your opposite side seam allowance, stitch down two stitches, then pivot again and start the next line. Keep lines and spacing perfectly straight. Repeat all the way down back bodice stopping one inch from the bottom. At some point you will probably need to change your elastic thread. Just keep an eye on it and when you get close to the end, backstitch, then load the new bobbin and backstitch and continue on your way. When you are done, spritz the elastic thread wrong side of fabric with water and then hover, once again, with steam. OOOhhhhh magic :-) Switch back to your regular bobbin thread.

  • Now to join the front and back bodice pieces, you will need to align them at the bodice bottoms. Stitch the sides together, and don't worry about the fact that the top has a little over hang. That is for its narrow hem.

  • Find the center of your bodice front measure out 1.5" on either side.

  • Pin your straps and bodice front right sides together and sew them in place.

  • Now fold under your front bodice to form a narrow hem similar to the one like the back bodice. Clip the curve if you are worried about bulk, I did not and it came out perfectly. Start your stitching where your back bodice hem ends and sew it in the same manner as you did the back, making sure your straps are tucked in the same manner.

  • Stitch the hem the same as you did the back.

And your bodice is done!!  Okay!  Try it on and make sure the fit is right.

  • Now for the skirt. If you are adding pockets, check the PR&P tutorial for placement notes. If you are adding inseam pockets, follow this tutorial and measure down 3" from the top to start each pocket. Attach them right sides facing each other, stitch themwith a 1/2" seam allowance. Then stitch your side seam from the top and then around the pocket, continuing on down to the bottom near the hem. Repeat for opposite side.

  • Now to gather the skirt. Pull your bobbin and top threads out about 8" every time you start a new row of basting stitches. Also, do not backstitch! Increase your stitch length to 5mm or higher. Starting 1/4" (or less if possible) from the top edge of the skirt, stitch one line of basting stitches from one side seam of the front skirt piece to the opposite side. Pull you bobbin and top threads out about 8" again and cut. Start another row of basting stitches 1/4" down from that row using the same instructions as above. Repeat whole process for back skirt piece. Then pull the bobbin threads for the front skirt piece to match the front bodice measurement and the back skirt bobin threads to match the back bodice width as it would be if it was stretched out.

  • Pin the bodice to the skirt (right sides facing and matching the raw edges of the bodice bottom and the skirt top) making sure that you keep the front bodice flushed with the gathers and stretching out the back bodice and pinning. Yes, the back will gape and look bunchy; that's because of the shirring (remember why I said the back won't be gathered as much? That's why!) Now starting from the side seam, and a regular stitch length, stitch the bodice to the skirt starting from the front then working your way around the back, making sure that your side seams on your bodice and on your skirt match up. Turn right side out and press where needed.

 That's it!! 

hands in little pockets

Super fun jumper that looks great all on its own or with a little shirt underneath!  I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and please share the link in the comments if you make one!  I'd love to see it!! 

hands in inseam pockets

Okay well time to tackle my enormous Christmas sewing list!  Happy Holidays to you all!!!!

Instagram of an awesome holiday night.  Jon was at work, the kids were asleep, I was embroidering the Christmas tree by the fire, sipping on this fantastic Flanders style ale while the Nutcracker Ballet played in the background.  Had a batch of homemade chocolate chip cookies when I was done sewing.  Complete Christmas bliss!

sweet sister love

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