I've been pondering crochet-and-fabric dresses for awhile. It really started last fall when I was finishing the GB's Mina Dress. This is a crocheted dress designed by the talented Alicia Paulson, for sale on Ravelry and in her shop. I liked this dress, though I had trouble with the lower bodice and skirt portions because I didn't understand the instructions at first. But I loved creating the yoke and upper bodice of the dress. I liked the shaping process. I also liked the way it fit the GB, especially because it created sort of a cap-sleeve effect on her upper arms. I wanted to try a dress with a crocheted bodice and fabric skirt next; I'd seen several on Ravelry and I liked the look. I tried one pattern, the Beautiful Red Dress from The Green Dragonfly blog. I called my version Tulip Dress because the fabric I used had funky, geometric tulip shapes on it. That dress was not a success. The bodice and straps were too large for the GB and I left the skirt fabric much too long. We've put it away and we'll try to wear it when she's bigger. But I wasn't done; I still thought about this kind of dress a lot and decided to try crocheting a bodice like the one on the Mina Dress, combined with a more carefully-designed fabric skirt. I made it just recently, in my new-found sewing time since school started.
I started with the crocheted bodice. I took inspiration from the Mina dress's yoke and bodice, adding stitches to accommodate the GB's size. I used I Love This Cotton yarn in Ivory. This yarn is a worsted weight but I sized down to an H hook to keep the stitches fairly tight, since cotton can stretch. I crocheted several rows beyond the yoke to lengthen it, continuing straight and leaving the back open. Later, I crocheted the back pieces together from the bottom to about halfway up, to leave a roomy head-opening, and added a button loop and a small button.
I made the skirt with a piece of fabric that was 42 inches wide (the whole width of the yard not including the selvages) by about 24 inches long, knowing I'd need to cut it shorter later on. (The fabric is Little Matryoshka by Riley Blake). I sewed a zigzag stitch all the way around the short sides and the top edge of the fabric to help prevent unraveling (one could also serge the edges but I don't have a serger). Then I sewed the short edges together with a 1/2-inch seam to make a tube, ironing open the seam. Next, I sewed a long basting stitch around the top edge and pulled the bobbin thread to gather the fabric. Then I turned the bodice inside out and put it inside the gathered edge of the skirt with the seam at one side, pinning it in place all the way around. I hand-stitched the skirt to the bodice with doubled thread, making sure the stitches went through the bottom row of crochet stitches (they were virtually invisible done this way with white thread).
After I finished hand-stitching, I trimmed off the top of the fabric a bit, especially under the armholes. This neatened it and made it more comfortable for the GB to wear, though I did go back and reinforce the side seam with a few hand-stitches after cutting. Then I turned the dress right side-out and had her try it on.
At this point, I also added a length of brown grosgrain ribbon as a sort of sash or belt. The dress was a little loose, especially under the arms. She didn't mind (I don't think she has developed many concerns about modesty yet, which is probably a good thing), and there's room for a shirt underneath. I'd been thinking about adding a ribbon embellishment anyway and this was extra motivation. I used a safety pin to thread one end of the ribbon through the crochet stitches all the way around, leaving long tails at the center back. I threaded the ribbon evenly, skipping three stitches and threading under two stitches. I liked the addition of the ribbon; it cinched the dress in just a bit, giving a little more shape.
I think the ribbon dresses it up. I love ribbon. Any excuse to put ribbon on a thing, I'm there.
While she had the dress on, I pinned the hem. I wanted the dress to be longish, so that it can be worn for awhile, and also I just really like the look of longer dresses on little ones, think sort of a tea-length. I think it gives them an old-fashioned look. I trimmed off about two inches and then made the hem by folding the bottom up half an inch and then another full inch, and machine-sewing it all the way around with small stitches. The finished skirt length is about 21 inches, after accounting for the gathered seam where it's sewn to the bodice. This length works well for the GB but she is small for her age; I think the skirt length is easy to modify as needed.
Oh, Bearita. She looks very nice in her dress and it fits her well, much better than the ill-fated Tulip Dress did. She says it's comfortable and cool, which is good because it's still hot here. I went with cotton yarn to keep it cool to wear, but I do worry that the bodice will stretch too much. If I do it again, I might use a blend with acrylic. I'm also contemplating a winter version with a wool bodice and heavier skirt, maybe a woven wool plaid fabric. Hmm...Christmas dress? For now, I'm pacing myself with this first successful crochet-bodice creation. She wore it to school last week. I'm happy with it and I'm glad I persisted. And as always, I love to make unique things for her to wear.