Gathering Threads

Dolly and Me à la Jerry

Posted by on Aug 05 2011, in Sewing for Children, Smocking

I tend to be fairly conservative in my fabric choices. Can’t help it. Just am. Usually, I’m a one main fabric, small accent colour on the piping and collar kinda girl. Sometimes, I’ll use a bolder fabric or a big print but very rarely do I mix and match prints with impunity. They either look too ‘matchy-matchy’ (yuck, ew) or way, way, way too boho-chic, “I sewed this pattern with my eyes shut” for my taste, so I steer clear and stay with the tried and true.

But lately, despite my ambivalence, I’m feeling a bit left out. See, my friend Jerry makes these gorgeous outfits for her granddaughter, with all sorts of amazing fabric combinations and trims and embroidery that look wonderful together. She’s got the eye for it and I’ve decided one of the things I’d like to do is add a bit more fun to my fabric choices like Jerry.  She’s my colour-combination hero.

So, since you only learn from doing, when I saw the “Flight of Fancy” fabric collection by me-O-my, I knew the print with the birds on a vine would be a great print to incorporate into a Jerry-esque ensemble. I paired it with the stripe and the turquoise dot from the same collection, a small all over print from the Merrimack Collection, some deep blue rick-rack and a gold quilting fabric I had in my stash. I just needed the right pattern. Something that wouldn’t compete with the multitude of fabrics but still have enough personality to hold its own.

I found it with “Dolly and Me”, a dress from AS&E #82. When I first got the issue, I really didn’t see much to attract me or tempt me to sew it. On the page, it doesn’t look like much. The sample’s made in a very boring cream and tan corduroy with weird raspberry rick-rack. Yawn.

But then I saw my friend’s version over the winter and saw the possibilities: her version was made from gorgeous patterned corduroy and it looked fantastic. So fantastic, I didn’t even realize it was the same pattern.

I have to say I really like the pattern. It’s deceptively simple but it has personality with the adorable tasseled apron. It sewed up really quickly, has lots of options for personalisation and variation and while it’s large, of course, it’s not rampantly oversize like a lot of AS&E patterns can be. I made a size 2 and it fits snugly on Stanley, making me feel confident it will fit my 3 y.o. niece the way it is supposed to.

There are some nice construction details with this pattern.  The collar is bound with bias binding.  That means it’s sewn WS together, with no seam allowance at the outer edges, then bound.  It was a bit tricky, ensuring I got a good roll on the collar, but it adds a necessary touch of brightness around the face.

The fitted sleeves have a more casual, everyday effect.  They’re set in, not gathered and make a nice change from the usual puffed sleeves.  They’re faced with the contrasting band, instead of merely stitching and folding in half a constrasting fabric like usual.

Oddly, the contrast band at the bottom edge wasn’t faced, just folded up in a narrow hem, leaving the seam between the skirt and the band visible. I didn’t like how unfinished that looked, so in the only change I made from the instructions, I self-faced it. Very easy to do, as it just meant cutting 4 of the lower bands, instead of two.

And then apron, which my husband described as “Amish”??.  It’s very simple to construct and gives a little girl lots of places to store her treasures  (that’s one thing I miss on dresses – the pockets.  My boys were mad for pockets when they were little.  I couldn’t make enough of them.  But dresses never seem to have them!)   I added lots of colour and tucked a band or deep blue rick-rack under the bias binding.

The smocking took a single evening, since it’s just two rows of full space wave, a bit of weaving and a touch of backsmocking. If I was making it again, I would interface my apron fabric beneath the smocking. It’s really designed to be smocked in a thick fabric like a corduroy; the quilting cotton just doesn’t have quite enough oomph to it. Small thing though and just something to keep in mind if like me you end up making it in a lighter fabric.

I did add the tassel.  Hmm’d and haw’d, afraid it was going to be too much but in the end, I wanted out of my quiet clothes box, so I added it.  It’s just a wonderful dark coral perle cotton I’d gotten as a table gift in Indianapolis a couple of years ago.  Perfect weight, perfect colour, and free.   As were the buttons, in fact.  Three turquoise buttons, exactly the right size and shade, from my stash??  How often does that happen?  Pretty much never.

I’m really happy with this dress and love how it came out. I think it’s going to be fantastic for fall, with all the rich browns and yellows, but the turquoise really sets it apart and makes sure it’s not too Little House on the Prairie 🙂

Oh, and see the linky party down below? My friend Laura celebrated her birthday yesterday and she’s got a *FABULOUS* giveaway going on over on her blog. Comment for a chance to win two of her newest Ellie Inspired patterns (for knits) and some scrumptious fabric. You know you wanna…


  • Thanks for joining in Claire! This turned out awesome! I like it much better than the one in the magazine. I think you are being way too humble! You are an incredible inspiration to me ALL THE TIME! 🙂

  • Hettie Lynn

    Claire, I love this dress, the fabrics, trims, and the tassel! I had to pull out my AS&E when I saw yours. I would never have guess it was the same one, yours is so much more colorful. I wish it came in larger sizes.

  • Very beautiful!

  • Jerry

    Claire, this was the nicest surprise! You made me blush. Ha! This was a dress I had on my list to make for my sweet MK before she outgrew such adorable styles. How I wish I had done it. Yours is just adorable! Thank you very much for the sweet compliment.

  • Claire

    You’re welcome, Jerry. And I meant it – you’re one of my colour heros! 🙂

  • Debbi

    Claire, I thought the same thing when I saw it in the magazine (yuch and boring) but then decided I liked the lines and made it for Norah in two patterned corduroys. It’s one of her favorites and, being a huge Australian pattern, it will fit her again this winter with leggings! Norah adores the pockets, especially when we are traveling.

  • Claire

    Debbi – I loved the version you did for Norah. It was so cute. It’s great to know she’s gotten so much wear out of it.