Sunday Sevens – My Week

Natalie @ Threads & Bobbins recently started this brand new link party called Sunday Sevens, where you share photos from each day of the week

I like randomness, so I thought I’d give it a go this week.

Unfortunately it wasn’t a very fascinating week, but you can gain a small insight into my life nonetheless

Monday:

I don’t just sew. I made this all by myself. (From a flat pack, though, I will admit!)
I did have two very willing little helpers, of course. They mostly liked the door, with it’s magnetic clasp.
Photo taken before I loaded all our lotions and potions onto it

my new cabinet

Tuesday:

The day went by in a flash. But evening time is sewing time…

P1080229

Wednesday:

I had a look around a few charity shops in the morning, and came away with two cot sheets at 99p each (100% cotton – they won’t be cot sheets for much longer!) And a cute fleece for the little one, which in hindsight I could have made myself if I found a nice fleecy fabric… but it was only £1.99 and so soft – I had to have it.
(Not much of a haul; it was rather disappointing, but admittedly I don’t really need anything anyway.)

P1080231

Thursday:

There’s an age difference of almost 4 years between my girls.
It’s fairly rare that the two of them play nicely nowadays, since they always both want the same thing – so I do cherish the moments that this rarity occurs!

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Friday:

This sums up my week, basically. Excitement on EastEnders!!

friday - sunday sevens - eastenders

Saturday:

The weather turning dull = a trip to the library!

library books

Sunday:

Our weekly walk/bike ride to the car boot sale and park.

sunday sevens

I hope you enjoyed having a nosey at my life!

If you’d like to join in, click the button below:


Grab button for SUNDAY-SEVENS

Beth x

It’s an Apron for a Bottle!

Random? Yes. Unnecessary? Yes. Cute? Yes. Fun? Yes!

I came across this tutorial for these adorable washing-up-liquid bottle aprons on Pinterest (of course) and immediately pinned, knowing I had to have a go! How cute are they?! (photo pinched from ‘Hostess with The Mostess’)

1950sbridalshower_aprontutorial

So, this week, following my Sew Selfless September pledge, I had a go. Here she is! Don’t ask why the top turned out narrower than those in the photo. I guess I was meant to add a seam allowance; there was no mention of this in the tutorial. I think it looks cute regardless.

2014-09-12 23.34.38

It was quite a cool coincidence that my soap bottle is red and white too! (Unusual – normally it’s clear!)

It was really quick and simple to make. It would have been even quicker had I followed the instructions to the tee – but they involved glue, which I consider cheating!

Here’s the link to the tutorial if you fancy making your own. You will need to download the template, which you use to cut two pieces of fabric, and stitch them together. Perhapy add seam allowance if you want them to turn out wider than mine.

2014-09-12 22.18.23

This is the only bit of sewing that the instructions tell you to do… but of course I broke the rules slightly; instead of hot-gluing the ricrac and ribbons on, I hand stitched them. Anyone can glue, right? (Besides, I don’t own a hot glue gun!)

Here’s the ricrac around the bottom, and a bit also along the top (the top is just folded under, and I made sure to stitch right through to the back to secure it in place – whereas the piece around the bottom of the apron is stitched so that it isn’t visible at the back).

2014-09-12 22.58.37

And then once that was in place, I also hand stitched the two pieces of ribbon on:

2014-09-12 23.30.53

I wanted to finish it off with a little bow. I was just tidying up my explosion of ribbons after I’d found my tutorial on how to make the perfect bow, when I spotted a cute glittery gold readymade one sitting there on the table. It was fate.

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And just to show it tied at the back… a perfect fit!

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So, there we have it. My first totally selfless make for Sew Selfless September. I’ve posted this to my sister, purely because I am trying to be totally selfless. It’s a very random gift – there’s no occasion to celebrate. I purposely didn’t write a note explaining what it’s meant to be for. I wonder what she thought it might be…

I’ve already made my second make for SSS, but I’ll blog about it next week. It was also a quick sew and used less than a fat quarter of fabric, so if you’re after inspiration for quick and simple projects, this is the place to be at the moment! Til then, happy sewing everyone!

Beth x

A Bottle Apron!

Sew Selfless September

Wow, two posts from me in two days – aren’t you lucky!

This is just a quick one, though.

A few days ago I came across a post by Thread and Bobbins, where she pledged to sew selflessly in September, by making things for other people.

I now feel like it would be selfish not to participate…

So, I am joining. Without further ado, this is my pledge:

I, Beth, of After Dark Sewing, pledge this Sew Selfless September to sew three items for three different people – one being my partner.

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Of course, I’m a bit late seeing as we’re nearly midway through September… but don’t panic. I didn’t pledge to make extra-special-stress-inducing-no-sleep-allowed projects. The items may not be fancy, but I WILL make THREE things for other people.

I have specified that one of the items will be for my partner. This is because I have never sewn anything for him before. There’s no way I’m making him clothes, but he may get a little accessory. I’m thinking phone case – but I might change my mind yet.

Of course, I do sew for others fairly often – my two daughters, especially. However, I have been meaning to make my youngest a party dress to match her sister’s – but I guess I have been selfish recently. Maybe I will do that this month. You will have to stay tuned and find out, because even I don’t know what’s going to happen…

Beth x

Sewing: What to Read

Since May this year, I have been writing monthly sewing articles for my local newspaper, in a bid to get the community sewing.

I thought I would share my latest article with you; you may find it useful too. Note this is aimed at beginner sewers!

Also note that I am not the most knowledgeable person about sewing books, for I only own a handful. I would like more, but can’t justify the purchases just yet. For example, I haven’t actually made a single thing out of Tilly’s book yet!

Sewing books

Sewing: What to Read

With so many books available, all claiming to help you learn to sew, it can be difficult choosing which to buy. I have compiled a short list of my recommended books to help narrow the choice down.

You can buy specialist books for every area of sewing; quilting; toy-making; dressmaking; soft furnishings; childrenswear, etc. To begin with, it’s worth purchasing one or two key books, which cover a range of techniques. You can then explore different areas to find what you are most interested in.

Last year I purchased Alison Smith’s ‘ The Sewing Book.’ I call it my sewing bible; it is a very comprehensive guide to sewing. It’s my go-to book when I need to learn a new technique, or jog my memory for a technique I haven’t used in a long time.

the sewing book

It gives you all the information you need to know, from the basics – the tools you need; how to cut fabric properly; different stitches – to hundreds of techniques; all with very clear photographs and instructions. It also has a quite a few good projects, so you can get started practising your new skills. I really love the glossary at the back, for there is a lot of sewing jargon to remember.

inside the sewing book

I have not read through the whole book – and don’t plan to. It’s not the kind of book you can read before bed; but it makes an excellent reference book. It’s one of the pricier books, but if you can get it on offer you will be laughing. I have also seen it in the library so it’s worth trying it out there first.

Here are two books that are more ‘project-heavy,’ but they are beautiful. They’re written by the queen of pretty sewing, Cath Kidston. I own both ‘Sew!’ and ‘Make!’ but there is another called ‘Stitch!’

sew! and make!

Sew! comes with free pre-cut fabric, buttons and a Cath Kidston label for you to make a floral shoulder bag, so it is good value for money. It also comes with a full-sized pattern sheet; you do not need to bother with enlarging patterns and templates, which I have seen in other books. The book details some techniques at the start of the book, which are useful, but nowhere near as comprehensive as those in The Sewing Book. The projects in this book are nice (mostly homewares and bags), and apparently they are suitable for beginners to advanced sewists. However I have made up a few of them myself and found the instructions quite vague in places, so they may not suit a real beginner.

inside sew!

Make! is similar; again it demonstrates a few techniques and has lots of projects for you to try. It comes with a free cotton tote bag, pencil and an embroidery skein, so you can get started beautifying the bag – provided you have some fabric. This book is not so much about sewing from scratch, but adding designs (mostly embroidered) to ready-made items. An example is ‘flower-trimmed pajamas’ – you are not taught how to make pajamas, but how to embroider little flowers onto your own plain pajamas. I personally prefer Sew!, but if you are interested in needlework, and decorating things you already own, Make! is worth checking out.

inside make!

If you would prefer to actually make your own pajamas, I would recommend Tilly Walnes’s new book, ‘Love at First Stitch.’ Tilly was a contestant on last year’s The Great British Sewing Bee, and she writes an amazing blog called Tilly and the Buttons. Her book focusses on dressmaking, and it’s brilliant.

Love_At_First_Stitch_cover

Tilly writes in very simple terms, and I think the layout of the book is one of the best I’ve seen. It’s laid out in a very sensible order; she begins at the beginning. Meaning, she takes you as a beginner dressmaker through the basics, starting with a simple scarf project, and as you work your way through the book you learn more advanced skills to make more advanced garments. You finish with an impressive dress, featuring pleats, darts, lining, and a belt. If it’s dressmaking you want to do, I urge you to buy this book!

Inside Tilly's book

There are loads more books out there – of course I haven’t come across them all myself. These are just a small pick of the best, in my opinion.

If you would prefer not to fork out on new books, but have access to the internet, I would recommend you join Pinterest. It’s a fantastic resource for finding websites offering advice, explaining techniques, and even giving free tutorials, patterns and templates. It’s a must for all creative people, but be warned – it can get addictive!

That’s it!

I own more books than those few; I had to stop somewhere. So for you, I will write up a bit about the others I have.

The loveliest book I own is Handmade Glamping, which is a beautiful book of gorgeous projects. Oh, I’m just flicking through it now… the things are so pretty!

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It’s not strictly a sewing book as it dabbles in many crafts – there’s a fair amount of crochet in there, and other projects like this clay bunting!

inside handmade glamping

So it’s ideal for those who don’t just sew. I haven’t learnt to crochet yet – I did give it a go many years ago, but didn’t have the patience at that time to progress. I should use this book to learn, shouldn’t I? There are beautiful things in there. I think I’ve made it clear this book is pretty?!

inside handmade glamping

I also own Sewing: In No Time, and Quilting: In No Time.

sewing & quilting in no time books

I would say these books are aimed more at the intermediate sewer; the instructions can be a little vague. Nevertheless, I have made quite a few of the projects and they’ve always turned out well.

The cushion here was the inspiration for my ribbon offcuts cushion, in fact! (This is from Sewing: In No Time.)

inside sewing in no time

And an example of one of the projects I’ve made from Quilting: In No Time is another cushion. I have made a few of the patchwork cushions – they’re great!

inside quilting in no time

Finally, I have one little book full of different embroidery stitches. It’s one of those classic books you will always refer to – a bit like a dictionary.

freestyle embroidery stitches

I don’t do much embroidery work, but it’s a very well written book, with clear diagrams, so I will always hold onto it as it is difficult to remember how to do every type of stitch! There are also quite a few cute templates in the back, which will be useful.

inside embroidery book

And that’s it for my tour of my little library!

Do you have any recommendations of books for me? There are a few new ones out by The Great British Sewing Bee stars – but you know, I don’t want a whole collection of books that have a good chunk taken up by techniques that I already know. I do own the sewing bible, after all! So I’d like books with good projects in, that I can’t just find online.  Hmm…

Beth x

 

Easy Peasy Crayon Roll

How cute is this?

Crayon Roll

I’ve seen a few of these at craft fairs and suchlike – it’s a crayon roll. It looks simple to make; I added it to my ever-growing ‘to sew’ list a long time ago. Then I noticed the tutorial in issue 4 of Love Sewing magazine (which I keep mentioning here!) and that was enough to encourage me to make one that evening.

My daughter requested it be made in elephant fabric, and if I don’t have enough then it could be made in polka dots. Well, she got what she wanted!

crayon rolls

I’m surprised I haven’t come across them on Pinterest, but I’m sure there must be a tutorial or two floating around somewhere!

It’s basically two rectangles of fabric with another rectangle (that’s been folded in half lengthways) sandwiched in the middle. That shorter rectangle has vertical stitch lines running down it,  attached to the fabric underneath, to store the crayons in.

Crayon Roll

The ribbon is sandwiched in between the layers, so the roll can be wrapped up like a parcel. It rolls up to just the right size to fit in your hand. Perfect for travelling :)

crayon roll

crayon roll

It was a very quick and easy project; great for beginners, and those who have little time due to school holidays!

There’s only one little thing I’m slightly annoyed with. It’s that the end ‘pockets’ are smaller than the rest. I blame the instructions for that… if I was concentrating I could have added an extra 1cm to each side to make those pockets bigger. It’s not too bad, though, because narrow crayons do squeeze in there. It just looks uneven!

crayon roll

I was concentrating enough whilst reading the instructions to realise that they didn’t actually instruct to stitch the lines – only mark them. Ha, that’s an example proving you should read the instructions through start to finish before getting stuck in.

I will finish with a photo of my big girl enjoying it. Year 1 at school begins tomorrow… which means I should get more time to sew :D

Crayon Roll in use

Beth x

Versatile Blogger Award

Way back when the sun was shining in JULY, the lovely Teresa from navybluethreads nominated me for the Versatile Blogger Award. I was flattered, and I can’t believe it’s taken me until now to write it up. I do appreciate your nomination, Teresa, honestly! The only sewing I’ve been up to lately is creating a gift for someone special, therefore I can’t share it here. So it’s time to write about something else!

So, for those of you who are unaware of this award, this is what it is…

Just like The Liebster Award, The Versatile Blogger award is a way for bloggers to get to know one another and to share their favourite recently discovered blogs. If you choose to accept your nomination there are a few rules:

1. Thank the person who nominated you and create a link back to their blog

2. Share 7 things about yourself

3. Nominate 15 other versatile bloggers

4. Tell the bloggers that you nominated them

versatileblogger11

 

 

 

 

Right, here goes. Thank you Teresa!! Yay!

Now for the 7 amazing and random facts about myself. Hmm…

1.  My life achievement I’m most proud of is that I graduated university with a 2.1 in Retail and Business Management – but not only that; I was pregnant during my whole first year, giving birth to my daughter in April. I took my exams in June/July (not surprisingly, I can’t remember all the details!) and PASSED on only a few hours sleep (spread over the three months, haha). I then completed the next two years whilst bringing up my daughter.

2. Since leaving university I have done nothing amazing with my degree. Whoops.

3. I cannot stand Jimmy Carr. He makes my skin crawl. This is quite a random fact!

4. I went through a phase of listening to ‘emo’/rock music in my teens. This was the time when Fall Out Boy was cool. I will occasionally listen to old Bullet for my Valentine tracks in the car when I’m on my own to reminisce…!

5. I’m addicted to EastEnders. Have been for years. If I’m honest I don’t think it’s that great. I just can’t stop watching now, can I?

6. I’ve never been out of Europe – and don’t even mind. I’m not one to travel the world. Which is a good thing, really, seeing as I missed my opportunity by having children!

7. I’m a middle child; I have one older brother (and a sister-in-law!), a younger sister, and a younger brother.

 

Now for the nominations… I’m afraid I’m going to break the rules here. Most of the blogs I would nominate have already been awarded the Versatile Blogger Award (it’s taken me some time to search through the blogs!), so I’m a bit stumped. I was reading Tabatha’s write-up on Thread Carefully (Tabatha makes me jealous with her cute dresses), and she wrote something that I am going to kind of copy… I hope she doesn’t mind! Instead of creating links to my favourite blogs, I would like to invite you to check out my blogroll on the right-hand side of the screen. These are the blogs that I read, enjoy and admire. I’m not sure exactly how many blogs I follow, but the list on the right certainly doesn’t cover all of them. There are 15, though!

I hope you find something interesting – maybe a new blog to follow :)

Beth x

 

 

 

I Can Sew a Rainbow

My five-year-old recently put an order in for a rainbow dress. I didn’t disappoint her.

Rainbow dress

The idea came from the blog of ‘A Jennuine Life’, which I stumbled upon on Pinterest. From the photo it looked amazing. I read the blog post and – wow – she’d made it perfectly, and it looked a bit difficult. It involves lots of piecing and lining up. Plus she mentioned that she switched threads for every colour. Could I really be bothered to do that? The bigger question, though, was could I actually make the dress at all? See, there was no pattern, or even tutorial. Unfortunately by the time I had realised that, I had my heart set on making a curvy rainbow dress. So… I had one hell of a challenge on my hands. But I did it!!

Rainbow dress

Of course, I cut a few corners. I didn’t totally copy the other blogger’s dress. I admit I stole the curvy design – but I simplified things by keeping the back plain.

Rainbow dress - back

I am quite impressed with how this dress turned out, because I drafted the pattern and construction all by myself! Having only started making clothes a couple of months ago, that’s quite an achievement in my eyes.

Rainbow dress

Seeing as there is no pattern or tutorial for a dress like this, I thought I would type up what I did here – a) to help myself remember how to make this fab dress, so I can whip it up much more quickly, and b) to provide it for any of you lovely readers, so you don’t have to think too much!

So, here it is – my first little tutorial. Now, I totally made it up as I was going along, from start to finish, so there were errors. This is not a professional tutorial! But it WILL result in a beautiful rainbow dress.

First, take a well-fitting A-line dress from your model’s wardrobe, and lay it on some paper (in my case a roll of kids’ paper).

Rainbow dress - draw pattern

Draw around it, adding a 5/8″ seam allowance. If your dress has sleeves, fold them out the way and draw along where the seam line is, creating a sleeveless dress template.

Rainbow dress - pattern making

Cut this out, fold it in half, and correct yourself if your sides aren’t symmetrical.

Next, with this piece still folded, trace around it to make your dress front (lining) piece. You will cut this on the fold. Now, use this piece to draft your dress back piece. Simply line it up on more paper, spacing it 5/8″ from the long edge, as shown below:

Rainbow dress - making back pattern piece

Draw around the whole thing, along all the edges – just making that gap down the long side so that you have an added seam allowance for your zip. And cut it out!

So, you will now have your dress back piece, and your dress front piece – which is just for the lining – both half-dress sizes. I made mistakes on writing on the pieces – of course you do not cut the back pieces on the fold!

Rainbow dress - pattern pieces

Put these to one side. You’re now going to work on the front of the dress. Take your large dress front piece, and draw sweeping lines across it to create seven blocks. This took me a couple of attempts – you want the blocks to be fairly consistent in width – but don’t stress over the measurements; just use your eye.

Rainbow dress - pieces drawn

And cut out your pieces. Write the corresponding colour on each piece so that you don’t get confused later on.

Rainbow dress - pieces cut

Now this is the time-consuming bit. You can’t use those pieces because they have no seam allowance. Having said that, I guess you could use them and just cut your fabric wider than the pieces – but I would probably forget. So if you’d like to do it like I did, trace the pieces onto more paper, adding a 5/8″ seam allowance. It was only when I got to the cutting out stage that I realised I needn’t make the seam allowance all the way around – only between the colours (i.e. the long sides of the pieces). However, bare with me, because cutting a seam allowance all the way round worked in my favour. It meant that I didn’t have to be 100% precise with sewing. And somehow, I didn’t end up with a dress that was 5/8″ larger all the way around – the edges were jagged. You will get what I mean when you see the photo further down; for now, just redraw and cut your pieces with a 5/8″ seam allowance all the way around.

Rainbow dress - making pieces

Now, you will have seven pieces cut. They won’t all fit together because of the seam allowances, but don’t worry – it’s fine. You may wish to mark where the grainline will be. Excuse my random paperweights! You won’t have cut out the red piece at the top yet – I only realised I should think about grainlines after I’d cut that piece!

Rainbow dress - pieces

Hooray – you have all your pieces ready! Now to start cutting.

Grab your fabrics in an array of colours. I bought 1/2m in all, but 1m in lilac for the lining, and it was plenty (for an age 5 dress):

Rainbow dress - fabrics

Now cut:
> Lining pieces – 1 x dress front piece on the fold, and 2 x dress back pieces.
> 2 x dress back pieces in any colour – I used red because I had more of it due to the red piece being the smallest – and I think it looks good.
> Your rainbow pieces.

Rainbow dress - red pattern piece

Phew. Now you have all your pieces cut, you can finally start sewing :)

Get your first two pieces (in my case red and orange – but you may like to put your colours in reverse order – or not even use all the actual rainbow colours). Pin them together along their long sides. You will have bits poking out. Now, this is where I found that added seam allowance useful, because it means you don’t have to be 100% precise. Stitch along the edge, and it doesn’t matter if the start and finish aren’t equal (but of course try to make them as equal as possible, or you will cause yourself problems!)

Rainbow dress - piecing together

Continue this way, stitching all the pieces together (with a 5/8″ seam allowance), until you have something that looks like this:

Rainbow dress - piecing done

Notice how the edges are uneven? It’s absolutely fine. Now press all the seams open.

Rainbow dress - piecing done

Now, you can grab your dress front lining piece and place it on top. You will probably see that the edges are uneven, like in the left-hand-side photo below. That’s fine – you can simply trim around the edges to make it all neat!

Rainbow dress - tidy up

Next, put your lining and main dress together. You will then be left with a lining consisting of a dress front piece and back pieces, and a main dress consisting of your rainbow front piece and back pieces. So, with right sides together, pin and stich down the long edges of the lining, and then do the same with the main dress.

Rainbow dress - stitch backs to fronts

Rainbow dress - back to front

Press the seams open. It’s coming along nicely!

Now to put the lining and main dress together. I followed the same technique as I used for the Cottage Mama Party Dress. It looks a bit confusing, but it works.

First, put right sides together, and stitch along only where I have indicated below. This is along the neckline (front and back), and the armholes. You leave a couple of inches up to the shoulders, and the tops of the shoulders free.

Rainbow dress - stitch neckline

Clip the corners (or use pinking shears – a great tip), trim, turn right side out, and press. Now, I got carried away and pinked around the whole edge. DON’T do this! It makes it very difficult to know where the seam allowance will be for your shoulders. Trim only where you have actually just sewn. You can see in the photo below that the shoulders are zigzagged – they shouldn’t be!

Rainbow dress - neckline stitched

Now for the fiddly part. I will try to describe it the best I can. You are going to stich the front shoulder piece to the back shoulder piece. So, take a shoulder from the front of the dress and a shoulder from the back of the dress, and hold them right sides together; pin. You will have the rainbow piece lying against the back piece (in my case red), and the front lining lying against the back lining). If you are doing this now, it should make sense!

Rainbow dress - shoulders

You are going to stitch along this edge:

Rainbow dress - shoulders

And you will end up with something like this (although not so scruffy if you didn’t trim those edges!) The arrow shows where you have stitched.

Rainbow dress - shoulders

You should see it really come into shape now, it’s a great technique. Now you just need to press the edges under…

Rainbow dress - shoulders

… and either slipstitch the gap, or topstitch around the armhole. (I slipstitched.)

Rainbow dress - sleeves

Repeat the process for the other shoulder!

Now it’s time to add the zip. Mine was 9″ concealed (I think!) – it won’t really matter exactly how long it is (and of course it will depend on the size of your dress!) – just have it going down about halfway.

I’m not going to bother explaining how to insert a zip because there are some great tutorials out there. I learnt with Thread Carefully’s tutorial – it means you can insert it with your ordinary zipper foot.

Rainbow dress - zip

Once the zip is in place, finish stitching the back seam. Then measure how far up your zip ends, and use this measurement to stitch the back seam of the lining, up to this point. Press the rest of the seam allowance open.

Rainbow dress - lining

Slipstitch the lining in place down the zip – being sure not to go through to the main back piece. Keep the lining away from the zip or it will get stuck! Mine is not very straight and neat, but I didn’t really care. It won’t get seen. Tuck the top of the zip to the sides so that the zip is right at the top of the dress.

Rainbow dress - lining

Now all you need to do is hem it – and give it a good press. Now, you could hem the main dress and lining separately; but I decided to hem it all together because I didn’t finish any seams inside. Therefore the hem is thicker, but it isn’t actually too chunky. I debated with myself over the colour of thread. It would be nice to match the thread to the colours of the fabric, to hide it. But to be honest, at this point I didn’t really care and just went for a red thread to match the back. I think it looks fine. Fold and press the hem under twice, and stitch close to the fold.

Rainbow dress - hem

And that’s ‘it’!!

Rainbow dress

It definitely fits the brief of a ‘rainbow dress,’ doesn’t it?

Rainbow dress

It would be fabulous with a rainbow back, too. It wouldn’t be much more difficult to make – it’s making those paper pieces that is the irritating stage! Especially when your paper is all curly, haha.

Rainbow dress - back

I think the end result looks pretty neat.

Rainbow dress - back

Thankfully the dress fits my little girl – it’s always a bit of a worry that it won’t fit after you’ve put so much effort into it. I do always have the back-up of a younger girl to grow into it, though! The armholes do look a bit tight, but she assured me that they’re not, so I won’t worry about it!

Rainbow dress

I hope you find this useful… if you do make a dress like this, please comment below as I would love to see it. I also welcome any other comments or questions!

The Rainbow Dress - Tutorial

Beth x