Monday, 16 June 2014

Dress from a Sari

So do you remember the Fairy Wings I made from an old silk sari last week? Here's my other very recent Sari finish - a silk dress.

Maria is getting a lot of attention round here these days, and as much as she needs it at the moment, the other children also need their fair share. I don't want them to feel less special because they're dealing with issues much better. So I thought it would be good to make something for Venetia, with lots of creative input from Venetia. And this silk dress is the end result.

We started out with this bought dress, which Venetia loves, and she thought I might be able to replicate! 

You probably know by now I don't like patterns and I'm rubbish at trying to follow them. I don't know why, but muddling through, and kind of making my own pattern as I go, always seems a much more attractive option! So we gave it a go.

I started out with the neck pieces, drawn roughly on some scrap paper and cut out.

I wanted to use a contrasting fabric for the neck, but I really couldn't find one that worked with my sari fabric. So I decided to introduce some patchwork too! I cut out a plain cream piece of fabric and a pale purple backing piece for each neck section.

Then I started to sew pieces on to the 'outer' cream fabric.

Right sides together then iron open

I really didn't plan very well at this stage. I should have cut out all my pieces for this right at the start of this part of the process, so my pieces matched up and were symmetrical from the centre out. But I didn't think about that till too late, so there was a certain amount of trial and error to get it symmetrical - like these 4 seams on this last brown piece!

But I ended up with this...

Which, though not exactly symmetrical, was good enough for me. I probably wouldn't have thought to use the brown as my third colour here, but it was the contrasting colour already picked out in the sari, and these brown pieces were cut from the sari itself. And now it's done I really like the combination.

Anyway, next I thought I'd put a bit of 'quilting' on there too, just to tie it all down nicely and add some more detail. I drew a design on first...

And then sewed it...

Once I had both neck sections done like this, I thought a bit of thin brown edging around the front neck section would look good. So I folded a thin strip of brown in half, and pinned it upwards on my front neck piece.

The raw edges are along the bottom raw edge of patchwork, and the fold is upwards.
 Then I pinned on my paler purple 'backing' piece, right sides together, and with the thin brown edging strip hidden inside...

I sewed this top and bottom, trimmed it up and turned it the right way around (via the still open sides)

I ironed the brown edging down.

I did the back neck piece too and it was all starting to come together. Now I needed my dress pieces. So I just laid the original dress out on my fabric as a guide - remembering to cut it wider at the top to allow for the gathering.

This is the back piece, the front had a little more width at the neck.

Then I sewed a thin hem on the arm holes...

And pinned each piece to the underneath of my neck pieces, gathering gently as I went. Here's the back of the dress (no brown edging at the back)...

I sewed it down, and when both front and back neck pieces were done, I pinned the side seams of the dress together and sewed them. I would have then done a hem at the bottom, but with this dress the 'bottom' was the edge of the sari and so it was already finished nicely for me and didn't need hemming. All done:

I made the neck more complicated than was necessary with the patchwork, really if you had the right kind of fabric, this style of dress would be incredibly quick and easy to make. Ideally some stretchy fabric would be great because I found I had one other complication - the original dress was made of stretchy jersey type fabric, whereas mine was very unstretchy silk. I thought, when I cut out the neck pieces, that I'd made enough allowance for this, cutting it deeper than the original so that it would still fit over Venetia's head - but it didn't quite! So I had to do a last minute slash in the back of the neck piece, turn over a very narrow hem and add a button and loop fastening - photo of the back coming up in a minute which will show this a little bit.

Venetia loved it, both the look and the silky feel of it.

With hindsight I wish I'd made it longer.

And she also grabbed the rest of the sari as we went out to take photos, which helps to give you an idea of just how much lovely fabric you get when you buy one of these. And maybe also an idea of how great they are for playing and dressing up possibilities...

And they don't have to come in particularly girly colours. A more boyish colour scheme gives lots of options for den and tent building.

 It also gave me the idea that I really should make Venetia a simple silk scarf to go with her dress. And here she is today with that finished too.

You can see the slash in the back with the button fastening a little bit here.
 It was just the kind of finishing touch she loves.

And great for photo fun too!

 I don't think I'm much good at providing fool proof tutorials, or patterns that you can follow to the last detail. But hopefully I might make you think you could try taking a favourite item of clothing and copying it yourself. The worst that can happen is that it doesn't work! And you probably wouldn't have completely wasted your time, I always learn far more from doing things wrong than from getting everything right first time.

And although Sam and Theo don't so much appreciate having silk dresses made for them, they have been getting their own special and particular, one to one time - with trips to a cricket match and the cinema respectively and girl free trips to the sea and the river for wild swimming. And they're all being very caring and understanding with Maria at the moment too, I think she's everyone's 'baby', not just mine!

Back again tomorrow,



  1. That is one beautiful sari and now one gorgeous dress. Love the touch with the scarf, just perfect!

  2. Venetia looks so beautiful and happy in her new dress and scarf!

  3. Lovely dress on a lovely girl. That fabric is delightful.

  4. Venetia just brought the dress alive for me!! She is so radiant! Good job Sal! Love Michelex

  5. How beautiful! Oh how my daughter would LOVE that! Not to find a thrift store sari! LOL! Not so common in Quebec City. xox

  6. What beautiful pictures of Venetia! Her smile is so captivating. The dress is lovely... although it was more work, I love the quilted pretty!

  7. Oh that's gorgeous - I love the colour and it must be so cool and comfy in the hot sunny weather - she looks thrilled!

  8. She is so beautiful and the dress looks amazing on her. I love the last two photos of her throwing the scarf in the air. You have a knack for doing the most personal and intricate details. They show the love, in your work.

  9. Hi Sally, Your post definitely made me remember all the dresses I plan to make for my daughter using her favorite ones as a guide. Thank you for sharing it. Also I wanna thank you for leaving your opinion about my blog during the first week of "new quilt blogger"! I hope you stop by again soon!


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