Grandma Mole Improvises

When your 12 year old granddaughter (who was 2000 miles away) asks for a favor that involves sewing…how can you resist?

Here is the pattern that she liked: simplicity-dresses-pattern-1687-envelope-front

Now, normally you all know my delight is in finding flaws with current patterns but this was not the case this time. I was given suggestions of fabrics she loved at JoAnn’s online but of course none of these were available at my local store:


What’s the next best thing? The pattern was designed for a woven and those fabrics were knits so I found this colorful Nicole Miller slight stretch twill:


The pattern had many pieces with pockets and bodice linings and princess panels and pleats…OK, it had just about everything except buttonholes. But…the big BUT…all the pieces were well marked and fit together very well and the directions were pretty good. So many patterns tell us to put the center back zipper in last…and this one showed how to do an invisible zipper BUT to do it after the whole dress is put together…yeah right…

How hard is it to do the side seams last AFTER inserting the zipper??? Get with the program pattern makers….none of us want to wrestle a zipper into the last back opening. For those of us who fit as we go along, having the last seams be the side seams allows us to make the garment fit even nicer. Just my opinion…..

The other thing I did different was to skip the facings…just use bias tape for the openings like Anne does…clean and very RTW! Also skipped the zipper at the top of the pockets…who needs those?

My smallest mannequin can be scaled down to a 30 inch bust and small waist so the dress can be seen like it had a real pre-teen body in it:P1210134P1210135 

Can you see the curved lines and pockets with the grey fabric sections? P1210144

The opened-out princess seams needed some taming so I topstitched each seam allowance down. Other seams were pressed to one side to lay flat.P1210145

I wanted the grey sections to be nearest the hem and on the front I also like the way the blue sections drop off at an angle.

So, instead of ragging and raging about how bad this pattern could be…it actually is one I would make again and maybe use piping in the seams like it shows and line the bodice. Now the dress is on it’s way through the postal service to my granddaughter. School starts on the 10th of August.

Here is the photo of the dress, on the girl, just sent after it arrived in the mail:IMG_1074-small We are both smiling! Grandma is grateful for the photo and for the way it fits after sewing long distance.

So what’s up in the garden this week? How about tarragon and eggplants and plums and beans for a change?P1210136P1210147 I have been giving away a lot of the veggies and making soup to freeze for the future. Maybe next time I will show you. Stay cool sewing sisters!!!! Thanks for dropping by…have a seat in the shade for a while and let’s swap some stories about sewing…OK?



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53 Responses to Grandma Mole Improvises

  1. dr P says:

    Yes, I just learnt the zipper thing the had way….it was a self drafted pattern so unfortunately I’ve no one to blame but myself!

    Dress looks great though, fits fantastic, how did you get the measurements so spot on from so far away?!

    • mrsmole says:

      I asked for bust and waist measurements and length from armhole to waist and waist to knee…then measured the pattern and cut a 4 for the bust and an 8 for the hips. In the past I have been using a girl’s pattern for 12 or 14 but she is growing taller and it was great that this fit so well.

  2. Shams says:

    I completely agree about inserting the zipper first and sewing the side seams last! Wow, you found an adorable fabric and that dress is SO CUTE! I bet it was fun to sew something in such a dainty size. Your granddaughter is adorable and she looks thrilled with her dress. The fit is perfection-no small feat at a distance!

    • mrsmole says:

      Thanks, Shams…yes it was a joy to sew in colors and shapes and a pattern that had all the right notches and pieces that matched. Never used a Project Runway one before but they must be better designed?

  3. sewruth says:

    Zip in first – agree.
    Most amazing fabric on an amazing granddaughter. You’ve such good taste.

    • mrsmole says:

      Thank you, Ruth…thinking that the clock was ticking towards the time when a pre-teen doesn’t want home-made clothes but is was a delight to be asked to make this. She had tried on a little white lacy dress in a shop and sent me photos of it and asked for a copy…well, Grandma doesn’t have time to copy and suggested she find a pattern she liked and we would go from there. So happy that it all worked out and she can put her hands in the pockets and do twirls!

  4. MDy says:

    What a lucky granddaughter you have! The dress is adorable and she looks so great in it.
    Love the idea about putting the zipper in first. Thanks again for sharing.

  5. Bernadette says:

    Your granddaughter looks so happy and adorable in her beautiful new dress! You are a dream grandmother- great “save” on the fabric selection. Truly “Fit for a Princess”!

  6. Kim Hood says:

    Definitely zip first – the less to wrangle with the better. The dress looks great. You must be very happy – long distance dressmaking isn’t easy.
    Enjoy your harvest – I’m imagining those soups in the winter. Yummy.

    • mrsmole says:

      Those squash have been getting a real fast turnover from veggie patch to freezer! Soon the butternut squash will be ripening and they are just too nice to freeze. We seamstresses have to take some pride in accurate measuring when the finished project turns out to fit well, don’t we?

  7. lisa g says:

    This is so cute! Looks great on your granddaughter! Love your fabric choice.

    • mrsmole says:

      Oh Lisa, it was a gamble and I was so lucky that she trusted me to pick something locally and it was done in time for the start of school. Being mostly polyester with a bit of spandex there should not be too much ironing involved as the younger generations do not even own irons…sigh.

  8. One of my sewing friends says that those blue envelope Simplicity patterns are the best.

    • mrsmole says:

      I think I may have to sniff around that section of the pattern more often now and see what other youthful styles they have. You know what a joy it is to make notches in one piece and have it match up with other notches …small mercies!

  9. gulgren says:

    Lovely dress on a lovely young lady. I like how you used the print to have the grey sections grace the hemline and accent the pockets. Also, granddaughter did a great job of “very hip stylin'” with the whole outfit. Great teamwork.

    • mrsmole says:

      Lovely of you to mention the whole hip stylin’…with pop stars as the examples of what is “in or out”, little girls can end up looking trashy in a hurry!

  10. Beth (SunnyGal Studio) says:

    that is adorable! and the fit is so perfect. I saw that fabric at the store and could not envision it into a dress but you did to perfection. As for zippers, interesting comments. I actually think putting in the invisible zipper last is the easier way, in terms of fitting it gives you that one last chance to make sure the back neckline fits perfectly. Now a regular zipper – I agree that needs to go in before sewing up side seams.

    • mrsmole says:

      You are correct, Beth…on older ladies, that last little bit of top zipper can make a neckline fit better. Lucky for me, this time the client didn’t have any fitting problems there. When I saw that fabric, I fell in love with the wackiness of it and the feel…a twill with stretch…and no ironing. I pre-shrunk it and it looked that same right out of the dryer…no wrinkles! Hooray!

  11. JenL says:

    Such a cute and fashionable dress for your granddaughter! And zips first, I agree.

    • mrsmole says:

      Mr. Mole asked about zippers today after reading the post…now he knows all about sewing sequence…ha ha. Since most of my altering of gowns involves removing invisible zippers and moving them, I get plenty of workouts wrestling with pre-set openings and experience great joy in inserting them on a flat surface to start with…pathetic, I know. Thank you for your comment, JenL.

  12. erniek3 says:

    The zip is the first thing in pants. It’s the seam you can’t alter after that point, so you need to be able to work around it. Perhaps the thinking is: “we add buttons/buttonholes last”. Or “we always make a muslin first”.
    I love that you picked out the details with the grey sections. That dress looks great on her; she made a great choice and you did excellent work (as always).

    • mrsmole says:

      So many of the sewing directions are just rehashed from year to year and because “we have always done it this way” comes into play…they keep printing the same tired drawings and instructions. Also the designer is not always the one who writes the sewing sequence which is too bad. If we sewers got to put some input into the sequence, things would be very different! Reading through all the pages of directions allows us to see where we can change in improvise to our hearts delight…

  13. Suzanne says:

    I also love the fabric choice. She looks great. And I’m so impressed by the fit when you didn’t have her nearby.

    • mrsmole says:

      It’s all about measuring…30 inch bust…pattern measured 32…27 inch waist…pattern measured 24 so I cut the 4 on top and graduated to an 8 at the hips….the rest just worked out fine. I knew her armhole to waist measurement so that matched up and her waist to hem was 8 inches shorter than the pattern, so that was cut off the paper to start with. Thinking that I could use the pattern again made me take notes for the future. Maybe there will be a run on that fabric after seeing how kooky it is?

  14. Connie Turner says:

    I just want that dress made to fit me. I love the fabric and the pattern too. Your granddaughter has good taste in patterns. I maybe have juvenile taste (I am 67). Great job Grandma Mole.

    • mrsmole says:

      Grandma’s don’t have to wear grandma styles, Connie. In fact most of the reviews for this pattern are from older women not teenagers. So making it in a size 4 for a 12 year old was a gamble! I’m right behind you at 66!

  15. Your granddaughter is very lucky! You picked the perfect fabric. Lovely that the pattern worked well. I love your decision regarding the pockets. The contrast grey makes them noticeable. Why would they say zipper last!?! I would end up sewing my dress into it if I did it that way!

    • mrsmole says:

      I made a dress for my youngest daughter a couple years ago and it was complicated and had a flipped over asymmetrical 2 piece collar and it also had me do the zipper last…but I did it my way and it was way easier to work it that way, after all, inserting a zipper first means you can still get in and out of the garment for all the other steps. So many of us sewers judge a garment on how the zipper lies…why not make that as perfect as you can by doing it first and flat?

  16. fabrickated says:

    How interesting. I doubt I would have picked up that fabric, expecting it to be a real pain to match. But you have done it so creatively it looks a bit like a patchwork dress, but also really modern with its very nice colour palette. And I really like how she has styled it with the brightly coloured hat band and trainers. She looks stunning. Such a nice smile and willowy figure. It’s nice you can send your love and creativity across the nation through making such a lovely outfit.

    • mrsmole says:

      Thank you, Kate, just finding a quirky fabric in a stretch twill was a bonus and it called my name in the store…yes it did! If you only had one sad JoAnn’s to purchase your fabrics from instead of all of London and beyond, you would be on the lookout for colorful choices!!! Modern is a good word for the motif…in fact you could frame a square of this fabric or make it into throw pillows to jazz up a room…wait…I have 1/2 yard left…thinking…hmmmm.

  17. karen says:

    mrs. mole you did a lovely job on that dress! No wonder your granddaughter looks so happy. Nice to have a pattern for future projects that both fits and is liked. Terrific job.

  18. Monique says:

    What a fun dress – so adorable, as is your granddaughter!

    • mrsmole says:

      Remember when we could sew things and they would fit without too much fussing? Oh to be 12 again!

      • Monique says:

        Oh, yes, haha! I remember it coming as a surprise when, returning to sewing, the usual patterns somehow DIDN’T result in a good fit. Oh well, wisdom comes with the years and experience and reading your blog – such a great tip about the zips before the side seams; I’d never have thought of it myself.

  19. Alma says:

    What a cute granddaughter and she is so lucky to have a grandmother who makes her such lovely things to wear to school. Cute pattern and fabric.

  20. Ann says:

    I second all the compliments and agree with your sewing techniques. I love the fabric and your granddaughter looks wonderful in the dress. It’s a great modern print, but still appropriate on her young body.
    You provided a link to Anne’s blog, but I couldn’t find the post about the bias tape. Do you know the approximate date of that post? I’ve done bias binding before, but am always looking to improve or learn more.
    Thanks for your great posts – I love you sense of humor about the Frankenbride dresses you work your miracles on!

    • mrsmole says:

      I don’t think there is a specific post from Anne, she just hates facings and zippers and does her best to avoid them….ha ha. So happy you enjoy reading along…some days i think reading about only brides can get boring!

  21. Nakisha says:

    It’s absolutely gorgeous!!! I made this for my daughter awhile back. It was a bit too big in places (we had time to sew but not much fitting time) and she wants another one. It is such a fun pattern with the pleated skirt and interesting lines. And you used that NM fabric so wonderfully!!! I also never use facings when I make things for her, I know they will drive her mad. Bias tape all the way!

    The first time I discerned the whole zipper THEN side seams, I was certain I was some kind of genius 😉

    • mrsmole says:

      You ARE a genius, Nakisha…changing pattern construction is inspired and fun! Keep doing it! The pleats are fun and the pockets just above them really add to the twirl effect!

  22. Bea Jay says:

    What a fabulous dress – wonderful fabric and that fit is spot on. Very nicely made (of course) both of you have reason to smile. It looks great on the young one.

  23. Awesome job. Kiddo has great tastes in hats too. : )

  24. mrsmole says:

    Thank you, Shelley, her grandmother used to wear hats all through the 80’s when they were still in fashion…one day they will get passed down in the family…feathers and all!

  25. lm2hyd says:

    I love how you used the gray part of the fabric to highlight the pockets. Your granddaughter looks so happy with her fabulous new dress. Great job!

  26. prttynpnk says:

    That is stinkin’ cute and she has major accessory skills!

  27. That dress is pretty amazing and so is your granddaughter!

  28. jay says:

    So chic! Great long distance fitting mrsmole.

  29. Mary says:

    I just have to say how much I look forward to your posts and this one really struck home with me I sew for 4 granddaughters and the highs are amazing when you get the fabric and pattern choices right. You are so one talented AND hip (do they still say hip????) grandma!

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