Making the Flo dress

Making the Flo dress

I designed the Flo dress by accident. I tired to make a Mini Ruby dress from Love Sewing magazine and it was a disaster. The more I tried to fix it the worse it got, until it eventually went in the bin. My little girl, Flo, was really disappointed she wasn't getting her 'sweetie dress' so I told her I would make her another one. I had run out of sweet print fabric, so I had a rummage through my stash and found a metre of blue floral and some scraps of blue and red spotty Cath Kidston IKEA fabric left over from all the pyjamas I've made. I also had some red grossgrain ribbon. I had a look at a couple of Flo's dresses in her wardrobe, measured her and thought 'how hard can this be?'

So, using a combination of the techniques I'd been learning to make adult dresses (creating a lining, understitching and invisible zips), plus the gathering technique from the sleeves of the Tilly and the Buttons' Megan dress and a bit of topstitching, I made a dress that fitted and Flo loved. Result.

I posted a photo of it on Facebook and got a lot of love from my sewing friends. So, in a moment of uncharacteristic self-confidence, I emailed Love Sewing magazine to see if they'd like the pattern. Oh, and I had a deal with my husband that if I got a pattern published I could get a dressmakers' dummy. He thought it would be creepy and I'm very stubborn.

I was amazed when they emailed back and said yes. They chose some fabric for me to make it with and sent it to me. I booked an afternoon off work, but had no idea how long it would really take! I made another practice version first, from a metre of Liberty tana lawn pinched from my mum's fabric stash. I made it using my original paper pattern and noted my steps as I went. I then had a go at drawing up the pattern pieces for multiple sizes. That's a lot harder than it looks. I consulted online sizing guides for various children's clothes, read up on pattern making in books and online, looked at patterns I already owned and had a go at drawing it up by hand. I really hope I got the sizes right.

I then used the pattern I'd drawn and my own instructions to make the dress for real and photographed the steps as I went. I'd decided it had to be done during the daytime, so I could get decent light for the photos and all the photos needed to be taken in the same place with the same background. I think I wasted half my afternoon off faffing around with ironing sheets. I only got halfway through it that afternoon, so had to do the rest in small chunks, sewing the next step in my evening sewing sessions and then took some photos the next morning at silly-o'clock before the kids were awake. It took another week to finish it (including unpicking the ribbon three times before I was happy with it!). But I finished it, I had photos and I had step-by-step instructions. I posted it off to the magazine and now it's in issue 21!

If I could do it again I'd adjust the front bodice slightly to take the armholes in a little. When I got Flo to try it on she complained it was a bit tight. That could be because she's just had a growth spurt and really needs an age 6 one now. I'd love to hear how you get on with it if you give it a try. It definitely has twirlability, according to Flo!