What follows is possible proof that I am the worst aunt/godmother ever or at very least close to it.
I got my then almost two year old niece in my family’s 2nd generation Christmas gift drawing. (That’s where my siblings and I draw names to get gifts for one or two nieces or nephews.) This wasn’t by chance. I’m also her godmother; my sister guessed that I’d probably get her a gift regardless of the name drawing and just gave me her as my one kid gift to get. She wasn’t wrong and I appreciated the gesture.
Back in December, on the day I missed my final actually, I started this project. I finally finished it this week… over a month later.
Before Christmas I was busy. I didn’t have time to plan a project, go to the store to pick out a pattern and materials, and then make said project. Instead I had an unplanned day at home with a dead car so I raided my fabric stash, scoured my pattern collection, and came up with these.
A vintage McCall’s pattern for a simple A- line toddler dress. (I don’t even remember where I picked this up.) And a red velvet dress from the Salvation Army.
I’d like to think of that purchase as more of a rescue though. This dress was made of gorgeous red velvet. Not the acrylic feeling velvet from the dresses of my eighties childhood but the soft, luxurious stuff that tells of a time when quality was valued. Similarly this clearly handmade child’s dress bespoke of time and energy put into making a beautiful quality garment. It had a turned up hem deftly and invisibly hand stitched in place, elegant silky lining on the bodice, and tag bearing the makers mark. When I found this simple but beautiful dress on the Get rid of as fast as possible rack maybe five years ago I knew it deserved a second chance at life. I might have paid a dollar for it. There was a hole in the skirt and the style was pretty outdated. I remember thinking that maybe I could make it into something for my daughter but knowing that I probably never would; she was getting big enough then that making clothes from other clothes wasn’t as easy. Out of respect for the craftsmanship that went into it or maybe with the memory of my former seamstress grandmother in mind I bought the dress with no specific purpose for it. When my sister told me my little niece likes soft things I found this dress in my fabric dresser. The vintage pattern seemed appropriate.
I unstitched the gathered skirt from the bodice and cut the few pattern pieces from that. This dress is so simple I really have no excuse for taking so long to finish it.
I tried to use as many features of the original dress as possible including the bodice lining, zipper, and collar which I added to the pattern. Why not? I had a completely made collar on hand. I was able to cut both the front and back dress pieces along the already completed hem line. Yes, I did have to hand stitch over it to make sure it was secure but that saved me the hassle of having to measure and make the hem. I didn’t even have to iron it. Apparently you’re not supposed to iron velvet anyhow.
With the simple dress style and pre-made features this should have taken all of an afternoon to make. I managed to stretch it out to a month. Now that’s talent.
Since my niece is two years old and probably won’t care much about a handmade dress I also made a doll dress from the same material.
I used my Pleasant Company American Girl doll patterns to come up with something that looks like the toddler dress.
The only thing that didn’t turn out great was the collar on the doll’s dress. Much like the other pattern, this was an add on. Not one that I had ready to apply though.
I used pattern pieces from a different American Girl doll dress. Turns out the pieces I used to make the tiny collar could have been bigger.
I had a moment where I was tempted to just take the collar off and start over with it but I reminded myself that this is a dress for a doll that will belong to a two year old and suppressed my self critical, perfectionist tendencies. And, finally, I am done with my niece/goddaughter’s Christmas gift.