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

Simplicity 1609 – I love my new dress!

I made a dress that I love!!


It’s the Simplicity 1609, version A (with the collar – I love peter pan collars!)

Simplicity 1609 pattern

I made a toile quite a few weeks ago (very soon after I got the pattern), to check the fit. It was a great fit so needed no alterations. I wanted to get stuck in with the real deal, but struggled to find the perfect fabric. Then I came across this beautiful cotton lawn on eBay (£1.99 per half metre!!) and was a bit dubious because of the price. Was it going to be see-through? Alas, I took the plunge and ordered 1.5 metres. It arrived a few days later and I was so happy; it feels luxurious and is not at all see-through.

Simplicity 1609

I finished the tunic I was making, and got started cutting out the lovely fabric for this dress the next evening. It was a joy to cut; no slipping and sliding – ahh.

The first step after cutting was to mark the darts. This dress has quite a few – eight to be precise. But they don’t scare me! I feel like a pro now (and I’ve only done them a few times!). I got to use my new cool gadget to mark the darts. You may have heard of them – frixion pens. They’re made by Pilot – so not exactly a sewing tool; I bought them in WHSmith!

Simplicity 1609 dress - frixion pen

In case you’ve not come across them before, I will tell you what’s amazing about them. They are pens that rub out!! You never thought that was possible, did you? You can write something in pen and literally rub it out. Genius. What’s more genius is that one clever person somewhere realised that they disappear when touched by heat. This is where they are great in the sewing world. You can draw on fabric but it won’t rub off like it will on paper – instead you take it to your ironing board, press it with the iron for just a second and as if by magic the marks disappear! It’s so much fun! I have read that the lines can reappear sometimes, but as long as you don’t go crazy and scribble all over the front of your project you’ll be safe. For marking darts, it’s perfect.

Frixion pen markings

The construction went swimmingly. I loved sewing with this fabric; it just glided through the machine with ease. No stretch, no puckering; I’d love to make another dress out of it but it might be strange having two!

Simplicity 1609

So everything went according to plan until I stitched on the facing and made my first mistake. It wasn’t severe but did require the use of my unpicker.

Simplicity 1609 collar oops!

I’m not sure if you can make out the photo, but I caught the collar in the seam for an inch or so. Grr. Once unpicked and re-sewn (being sure to push the collar well out the way; it’s trapped between the layers so I couldn’t actually see it being sucked into the seam), it turned out almost perfect.

Simplicity 1609 collar

The collar is just off centre, and I overlapped the sides slightly like the illustration in the pattern, but I don’t really like how it turned out! I didn’t overlap them with my toile – why did I do it?! Never mind.

Simplicity 1609

As a side note – doesn’t the colour perfectly match my eyes? I love wearing blue.

The rest of the dress went together really well. I was taking my time making it; not rushing, because I was falling in love with the dress so wanted it to be perfect. Still it only took three evenings, which I think is pretty good going.

Simplicity 1609

I inserted a concealed zip pretty much perfectly; I’m really happy with it.

Simplicity 1609 - back

It’s a pretty pink rather than a blue like you’d probably usually use. There’s a story behind this. I was in a charity shop recently, and they were selling brand new YKK zips at an unbelievable price – 3 for £1. That’s about 90% off their usual retail price. So I grabbed 9 (the majority available were not concealed – I suppose that’s a blessing or else I would have gone overboard; I’ve only recently started using zips!) They had some nice colours, but no blue. So I chose this cute pink, and I rather like it. Obviously because it’s concealed you can only see the zip pull at the top – who cares that it doesn’t match the fabric?

Simplicity 1609 - back

The only thing that annoys me (in fact it’s the only part of the dress that I don’t like) is that I messed up the very top of the zip, where you fold it under the facing. I kept it to close to the zip, so it gets chunky when it’s done up, and sticks out. I could quite easily unpick and sort it out, if I get a minute to bother! I have long-ish hair so if it’s down at the back it covers it anyway.

Simplicity 1609 - curvy zip!

I was debating with myself over whether or not to add buttons. It looked cute without, but I thought maybe some buttons might bring it to life a bit. I found these 5 vintage buttons in my tin (I’m not actually sure where they came from!) and my mind was made up.

Simplicity 1609 - buttons

I think they finish the dress off nicely. Have I been watching too much of Dawn O’Porter’s new series, This Old Thing?!

Simplicity 1609

So, all in all, I am soooo proud of myself! I love this dress! It fits perfectly, it feels beautiful, it’s very comfortable, and – I think – it looks pretty cute!

Simplicity 1609 - front

Beth x

My ‘Sew Girl’ Summer Tunic

At first glance I wasn’t really inspired by the Sewgirl Summer Tunic pattern that came free with issue 3 of Love Sewing magazine. It just didn’t look like my kind of thing. I envisaged it turning out baggy, shapeless and boring. Like a hospital gown.


I have since seen photos of other readers’ tunics made up, and they look nice – but I personally wouldn’t wear them. I don’t mean to cause offence (the ones I have seen look very professional and what they’re meant to look like); it’s just me and my body shape… I can see it swamping me.

However, there was a part of me that couldn’t see a pattern go to waste. Particularly as others have said it’s a quick and easy sew. I had to try it, didn’t I? But of course, at the same time, I didn’t want to waste 2 metres of fabric just so that I could say I’ve done the pattern; only for the finished garment to be thrown to the back of the wardrobe.

So, to get to the point; I pondered over making a tunic, and decided to go for it. On one condition; it wouldn’t turn out like I initially pictured it. In order not to fall down the hospital gown lookalike trap, I picked a lightweight, translucent fabric instead of a cotton. The idea being that the end result would be more of a summer cover-up than a tunic.

Slub Polycotton

As a beginner, I was worried that I was biting off more than I could chew. The instructions recommend cotton-like fabrics; not something flouncy like I chose. The fabric I chose was from Minerva Crafts – it’s a black woven slub polycotton, to be precise. It has a lovely drape as it’s so light, and has an interesting texture to it. When I ordered it I didn’t realise it would be so see-through, but if it worked with this pattern, it would be perfect.

So, without further ado… here it is!

tunic front

I’m quite happy with how it turned out; it fits my brief well! But it’s not perfect. Read on…

To begin with, the cutting out was a bit of a challenge, as the fabric is a bit stretchy and liked to move around to annoy me. I was thankful that the pieces were basic shapes with no markings; no darts etc, so it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.

Once the pieces were cut, and interfacing was applied where necessary, I began by making the little rouleau loop for the buttonhole. I was SO happy doing this, because I recently invested in one of those special loop turners. WOW, it made the job so easy. I fear it would have been very fiddly without it, because the fabric was already fraying a lot, and it’s quite holey. With this gadget, you simply slide it though the middle of the tube, fasten it to one end, and gently pull. It turns by itself so nicely and quickly; I was so chuffed.

Rouleou loop

In general, I found the construction of this tunic straightforward; I’m getting the hang of the basics of dressmaking now. The sleeves were dead easy because you don’t have to set them in like you do on other dresses. They’re just rectangles sewn onto the arms to give it more length. Without them, the tunic would be still have a fair amount of sleeve; you can see the seam is quite a way down my arm.

tunic front.

The first thing I don’t like about the finished garment is that you can see the facings through the fabric. I suppose this is where I should have used black interfacing. I’ve never bought it before! I’m annoyed about this, because it does kind of ruin the tunic a bit. I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me to use black interfacing! I suppose because I didn’t buy the interfacing especially for this project.

tunic neckline

It looks quite awful when hung up, doesn’t it? But not so bad when worn, I suppose.

tunic neckline/buttonhole

I like the little keyhole detail. I think without it, the tunic would look very boring. To make this, you make a cut into the facing and front of the tunic, once they’re sewn together. That was scary!

cutting the front of tunic

The other thing I’m not too pleased with is the pockets. Again, they’re interfaced in white, so it looks a bit odd. And, although I measured the placements, something must have slipped because they seem a bit out of place now. The photo below really shows up that dreadful interfacing – arghh!

tunic hung up

That’s it for the mistakes though; not too bad. I think it would be handy for use as a beach cover-up. It’s difficult to know what clothes to wear it with, really.

It’s really comfy, because it’s so loose-fitting. I can see why people like to wear this kind of thing!

tunic from above

So, my break from dressmaking didn’t last long, did it? I’ve also bought some lovely cotton lawn for that Simplicity 1609 dress, which I think is going to be my next project. I hope it goes to plan, because it was quite a few weeks ago that I made the toile for it!

I also really like the look of the paper pattern that is to come free with the next issue of Love Sewing – called the Ruby dress. It’s nice and fitted; my kind of dress. It will probably be more of a challenge… I hope I can handle it! Keep your eyes peeled as I may just blog about it in a few weeks’ time 🙂 I’m trying to make all the dresses before summer’s over!

Oh, and my eldest has requested a rainbow dress – with very detailed specifications. I think she may be a little disappointed about some things. I’d better get cracking…

Beth x

summer tunic collage