Friday, October 14, 2011

Little Girl's Panties - A Tutorial

This is a tutorial for making a comfy, modest pair of little girl panties.  These panties are easy to make, are upcycled and earth-friendly.

One of the misnomers about thrift stores is that the donated clothing is worn out.  The clothes are usually a collection of outgrown garments, clothes that went out of style, and then there are the clothes bought on a whim that have never even had the tag removed.

You will need at least one t-shirt…two if you want contrast bands. Look for t-shirts with a little spandex in them especially for the leg and waist band, 95% cotton and 5% spandex is a good blend. If there isn’t a content tag just stretch the fabric and see if it springs back or has memory.  If you find a really nice shirt that is 100% cotton with no spandex you can use it for the body of the panties and use spandex fabric for the waist and leg bands.

Let‘s get started.

I started with a pair of panties that I picked up at the thrift store. Actually these are training pants (size 2) but they had a nice shape so I used them for my panty pattern.  Cut the bands off the legs and the waist.

Set the leg and waist bands aside you’ll need them later on to use as a pattern.  Cut the sides of your panties open so you can lay them flat.  When you finish this step your panties should look like this.

Are you with me?  Good!  My panty pattern fit on the sleeve so I cut the sleeve off of the shirt and cut it open along the underarm seam. Lay the panties out on the fabric. If your pattern is a larger size and won’t fit on the sleeve just lay them out on the front or back of the shirt where the fabric area is larger.

Add seam allowance by cutting around the panties about 3/8” around on all of the edges.  Don’t measure with a ruler just pick up those scissors and go for it. We'll straighten it up in a minute if it needs it.

Fold your panties in half lengthwise to see if the sides match.  Trim if necessary. This is a forgiving pattern so don't worry if they aren't perfect.  Just tidy them up and then let's carry on!

Cut open the leg and waist bands that you removed earlier lay them down without stretching, let’s start with the waist.  My waist band measures 15 inches long, so I am going to cut the waistband 15 x 3.5 inches.

So go ahead and lay out the shirt with spandex in it and cut the waist band out.  Your length may be different but the width will be 3.5 inches.

Repeat this step for the leg bands the band make the band 2.5 inches wide.  Set your waist and leg bands aside for a minute.

*Optional step: If your fabric is thin you may want to add a panty liner. If you do scroll to the bottom of the tutorial to see how to cut one out.  After you cut it out come back to this paragraph to continue. 

Now that the pieces are all cut out put the leg bands aside and let's start putting these sweet panties together.

Fold your panties right sides together and sew the side seams.  When you turn your panties turned right side out they will look like this.

Let's move on to the leg and waist bands.

Sew the waist band ends right sides together with a simple seam.  Fold it in half so that the seam is on the inside or wrong sides together.

Mark the waist of the panty with pins on both side and mid-front and mid-back.  Now do the same thing with the waist band.  Match the pins up starting with the band seam on one of the side seams of the panty. There may be a lot more panty fabric than there is in the waist band.  That’s okay.

Keep your panties right side out and put the presser foot on the inside edge of the panty fabric so that you can ease in the extra fabric.  Sew (beginning at the side seam) all the way around the waist stretching the waist band just enough so that there is an equal amount of fabric.  Now zigzag around catching all the layers.  It should now look like this.

If yours does then you're ready to put on the leg bands.  Put the leg bands in exactly the same way.  Put the pins in the band and around the legs and match them up.  Stretch just a little while you sew around the leg and then zigzag.  

Turn your panties right side out.  Do they look like this?  They do?  Fantastic!

There is only on thing left to do to complete your panties.  Leave the panties right side out and stitch the legs and waist bands on the inside as close to the edge while staying inside of the zig-zag.  

Look at the inside and outside stitching.  You'll have to look close to see the stitching.

TA DA you’ve finished.  Make yourself a cup of tea and admire your work.  

Panty liner instructions:  Using a scrap, lay the panties on top of the fabric and trace the leg opening with a washable marker or just cut out the opening.

Then cut it out free hand so that it looks like this.  

Zig-zag the curved top and stitch the top and bottom of the liner piece and then sew the curved top and bottom right onto the panty.  No need to do the sides they will be secured when you attach the leg bands. Now scroll back up to the top.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Warm Winter Dress Project

Andrea Wilson, Dress a Girl representative from Fredericksburg, VA asked me several months ago about sending dresses to the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

A Christmas project we originally thought but we soon realized that the need of these little girls was much greater than what we would be able to do in Virginia. We decided to enlist others to make warm dresses for the Lakota girls.

Pine Ridge Reservation, located in South Dakota. There is an estimated population of 40,000 the reservation is 2,000,000 acres in size, unemployment is over 80% compared to the rest of the country where unemployment runs about 9%. The average salary is $8,900 for a family of 4 or even more. The weather is extreme, most families most live in poverty, many do not have adequate heat, food, healthcare or clothing. They struggle from one day to the next.

Our warm Winter dresses will be send to Lakota Oyate Wakanyeja Owicakiyapi (LOWO) which is an service that provides care for children who have suffered from the effects abuse and neglect. These children are transitioning to foster care families or with relatives.

One of the many challenges is to provide seasonal clothing to children that have little or no clothing when first coming to LOWO. Many of the foster families or relatives do not have the means to purchase clothing for these children and that is where Dress A Girl Around The World comes in.

Dresses and other articles of clothing will be distributed by case workers to assist in the care of the fostered children.

Because of the severe weather we decided that dresses needed to go as they are made. If you have the means please consider including an extras- such as panties, tights, leggings, hat, and gloves or mittens.

This is a difficult time for all of us secondary to the economy but it is particularly difficult for the Pine Ridge Reservation. We are all called to share what we have, and make certain that every girl on the Lakota Reservation has a warm Winter dress of her own.

Thank you so much for joining the effort to lend a helping hand by sewing dresses and purchasing supplies to send to the girls on Pine Ridge Reservation.

If you have any questions at all you may contact me at my name is Karen

A skirt pattern which include elastic length and skirt length are available free at I would probably increase the length of the skirt by 2“ so that it covers the knees.

A warm dress pattern, and dress lengths are posted on my warm dress tutorial.

Monday, September 26, 2011

How do we know?

One of things that I stress the most about as a new Dress A Girl representative is how do I make sure that dresses get to the right place. So how do you?

If it’s not a Dress A Girl mission trip how do I know that the people carrying our dresses are honest and how can I make certain that dresses are delivered into the hands of people who will distribute them fairly and as promised?

I take my job very seriously.  I do my research, I ask questions and talk to a mission member that has agreed to take dresses.  I search on the INTERNET for the church or organization sending the mission group, medical or relief team.  I ask others if they have heard anything about this group.  And then I decide.  How would I feel about trusting my dresses to this group and then ultimately would I be willing to take on the responsibility of trusting your dresses with someone whom I may have never met.

I try to stay engaged.  I remind ’dress couriers’ that our dresses are labors of love and that many hours have been spent making them. I let them know that they as ’dress couriers’ are the lucky ones....they will get the opportunity to see the smiles on the little girls faces when a pretty dress is slipped over their head.  Many of us will never have that experience and so it is by their photos and stories that we are sustained.

So for those of you sending warm winter dresses to the Lakota Reservation in Pine Ridge, South Dakota here is the information for this mission.  We had originally considered sending one humongous shipment BUT dresses are needed now!

We spoke by phone to Emily Iron Cloud-Koenan a tribal member who is also the Executive Director Lakota Oyate Wakanyeja Owicakiyapi (LOWO) the foster care agency at Pine Ridge, SD. Emily welcomed our efforts on behalf of the Lakota girls. They need dresses in all sizes, infants through teens.

I wrote a short tutorial about how to make a warm dress on an earlier post.

Please contact a Rep if you plan on sending a dress/dresses directly and we will make sure that you have a label to attach to your dress because not only do we want every dress to be counted, we want everyone to know who is sending them.

Write on the outside of your package/box Dress A Girl Around The World.  I generally write the Dress A Girl web address because there is nothing like spreading the world on the outside of a box.

I you plan to send you dress/dresses via UPS/FedEx please use this address:
LOWO604 East Hwy
18IHS Compound
Pine Ridge, SD 57770

If you plan to send your dress/dresses by U.S. Mail please use this address only
P. O. Box 604
Pine Ridge, SD 57770

With a donations that we are receiving here is Virginia we will purchase tights, and panties until our money runs out.

Well my friends I would like to write more but I have dresses to make and Winter is quickly approaching.

Thank you for all of your hard work.  I look forward to the day when our paths cross and we will finally meet.


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Chart for Dress Length

Dress lengths for Pillowcase and Winter Dresses

Size 24 mo      18"

Size   3 yr       19"

Size   4 yr       22"

Size   5 yr       24"

Size   6 yr       26"

Size   7 yr       28"

Size   8 yr       30"

Size   9 yr       32"

Size  10yr       34"

Size  11yr       36"

Size  12yr       38"

Figuring out how to get the proper length is a piece of cake!  Lay the yard stick on the chest about half way down the sleeve. See my photo above. Measure from top to bottom.  When you get to the length you want add 1".  Use a marking pen or chalk to mark (little dashes) all the way around the dress then draw a straight line and cut off.

Put in a simple hem.  Press 1/2" up all the way around.  Press another 1/2" and sew close to the edge all the way around. This is a fast hem...try it you'll like it!

Warm Winter Dress Pattern

I design upcycled kids clothes so I want to encourage you to scout around for t-shirts or sweatshirts from friends, neighbors, Goodwill, and yard sales or ask any Mom. Kids grow quickly and there are tons of beautiful shirts that have plenty of wear left.

Besides the fact that recycling is earth-friendly you can get beautiful brand name shirts such as Sonoma, Gap, Garnet Hill, or Carter that will last much longer even tho they have been washed a few times. I paid 50 cents to $1 for the shirts I used.

So far I have experimented with lightweight corduroy, flannel and light denim. Be careful about the weight of the skirt fabric so it won’t stretch the t-shirt too much.

 I made a gathered skirt, and a pleated skirt. The gathered skirt took me twice as long so I am going to show you how to make a neat little dress with a pleated skirt.

A warm winter dress is pretty much a pillow case that has been sewn onto a t-shirt. There is a seam around the middle, one down the side and a hem. That's it!

So here we go.

Most t-shirts have a size in them so that is the size dress you will want to make. Start by laying out the shirt.

Measure 3” down from each underarm then lay a ruler across and mark with a fabric marker (disappearing ink) and cut across with scissors or use a rotary cutter.

This is what your shirt should look like. Set your top aside for now it is finished. (Put the bottom of the shirt aside so you can make a neat little pocket).

Now the skirt. I make the skirt width 42 inches (all sizes) which is the same as the pillowcase dress. If your fabric is a little wider or narrower don’t worry about it.

 The easiest way to make the correct length is to hem the dress at the end.  So all you need to do right now is make the side seam

I always put the seam under one arm, that way the front and back appear seamless. After you’ve made the side seam lay the fabric flat put a pin on the opposite side that then a pin mid-front and mid-back.

Now do the same thing with the top put a pin on both sides, mid-front and mid-back.  Look close you can see the mid-center pin.

This next step is the trickiest part. Turn the skirt inside out and place the bodice and skirt together. Match up the pins and pin the pieces together.  Make sure that the seam of the skirt is on the side under the arm.

You’re probably going to be worrying about things at this point…stick with me it will make sense in a minute.

Starting mid-center where the pin is…pleat toward the underarm (my pin is yellow).  Each pleat is ½ wide and they are approximately (and I mean very approximately) an inch or so apart. Please don’t measure just fold the fabric until you get to the side seam. Now go back to the center and made pleats heading the opposite direction to the underarm. *If you pleat the wrong direction please don’t re-pin it...just carry on! It will work out fine.

After you finish pleating one side, flip the dress over and do the same thing so that your dress look like this. If it does then you made it!

Sew around using a straight stitch and then zig-zag the edges going around. That’s pretty much it! All that is left is the hem.

Using the Dress A Girl measurement chart, measure down to hem. Start from halfway down the sleeve (see photo) to the hem. Add one inch to the finished length.

I don’t have an illustration of the easiest-hem-in-the-world but you’ll be able to do it. Fold up ½ inch and press, then turn up another 1/2 inch again press and sew around.

Turn your dress inside out. It’s finished! TaDa

Give yourself a pat on the back, and make a cup of tea!

Friday, September 16, 2011

One Dress at a Time

Several weeks ago I was talking to Andrea. We talked about the Lakota Reservation in Pine Ridge, South Dakota. We discussed how Dress A Girl could design and create cold weather dresses for the little girls. We were in the middle of sewing dresses for Appalachia so we decided to finish that project and then make plans for the next project.

I looked Pine Ridge up on the Internet and I learned that there is approximately 40,000 Native American living in one of the ten poorist counties in the US. Many families live without electricity, the winters are cold. The statistics boggle the mind. Only 13% of the children live with their biological parents.  

I didn't want to read any more because I had a knot in my stomach but I read on hoping to learn more about these innocent children. The article went on 52% of the children have been exposed to drug and alcohol abuse. How many little girls I wondered...the answer was estimated to be as high as 4,000.

Let me share a little story that I read years ago about a little boy. He had been assigned to do a report on birds. Each page of the report was supposed to be about one bird. He had a lot of birds to write about. He sat at the table with his head in his hands. It was the day before the report was due and he had not even begun. He was overwhelmed and had no idea how to begin. His father walked up to him and gently placed his hand on the boys shoulder "one bird at a time son, one bird at a time."

The statistics for the Lakota Reservation at Pine Ridge are overwhelming. Where do I begin? The answer is simple one dress at a time old girl, one dress at a time.

I made my first warm dress today...tomorrow I am going to make one more.