Pretty fabric just speaks to me. So when I saw the fabric that I used to make this dress, I knew that it needed to find a place in our home. And I knew that it needed to be made into something stunning.
This Pretty Panels Peasant Dress was definitely a labor of love, and it is so worth it by the excitement of my five year old. Isn’t it great to sew for people who are excited about it?
Pretty sweet, isn’t it? Half of it is the fabric, which just makes the dress! I totally fell in love with the collection from Moda called Springhouse, and knew it would be perfect for this style of dress. Lots of color, lots of pattern, and lots of cuteness!
Here’s what you’ll need:
- fabric (Springhouse collection is what I used)
- elastic thread (not pictured)
- skinny elastic (1/4” or so – also not pictured)
- measuring tape
- sewing machine/accessories
You’re going to need to start off by taking some measurements. I started with the bodice. I was going for an empire waist, so I measured from my daughter’s chest to where I wanted the empire waist to start. Add another inch to inch and a half on to that measurement to account for attaching the bodice to the skirt, as well as the casing you will create for the elastic neckline. My bodice needed to be about 5-5.5” long, so my length was 6.5” for a size 5T. I made the width a couple inches wider than my daughter’s chest measurement. For 5T, we went with 15”.
You’ll need to create some arm hole cut outs for the bodice and the sleeves. You can use some from another pattern if you’ve got them, or use an existing shirt. Whatever you use for your template, make sure you use the exact same template on both the bodice and the sleeves. My arm hole templates for a size 5T were about 2.5” wide and 5” long, curving down into the length.
So cut two bodice pieces, and cut out the arm holes on both sides as shown.
I went with a fluttery, open sleeve for this dress. The more wide you make the sleeve, the more fluttery it will be. Length is up to you as well! My two sleeve measurements were 7” long and 15” wide. Cut those and also cut the arm holes out of each sleeve. Here they are shown folded over.
The bottom of the dress has a border. To make it easy with hemming, I like to make my borders twice the length that I want it to be and just iron it in half. It gives it a nice clean look, and also gives a little weight to the bottom of the dress. My bottom border was 4” long and 30” wide. They are shown folded over here as well.
Now it’s time to make some panels! I had six different fabrics for my panels. That means twelve panels total – six on the front of the dress, and six on the back of the dress. I wanted the width of the skirt part of the dress to be double the width of the bodice; that will give it a nice gather. (That’s also where the 30” measurement on the border came from!) 30 divided by 6 equals 5” wide for each panel. Measure the length from the empire waist to where you want the dress to hit, and add on another half inch to one inch to account for seams and your border. My length was 19”. Cut two of each panel to 5” wide by 19” long EXCEPT FOR ONE FABRIC.
My lime green fabric is going to be a ruched panel, so I made the length double – so 38” long.
The last cutting step is to cut the strips for the ruffled panels. I did double the width – so 10” for each strip – and then my length was 3.5”. The length is entirely up to you and how big of ruffles you want! Just remember, the smaller the ruffle, the more you’ll have to make!
Ready to sew? I thought so, let’s get going.
Take each ruffle strip and serge or zig zag both the bottom and top edges. Then hem up one edge.
Run a gathering stitch along the top of each strip (so where there is no hem). Ruffle those strips up, measure the spacing on the coordinating panel, and pin them in place.
I’m not going to lie. It is tedious. But then you get two panels that look like this after they are sewn on, and it’s totally worth it.
Now take the panels you reserved to be ruched. Run a gathering stitch along one long edge.
Then run a gathering stitch along the other long edge. Be sure to leave your thread tails in case you need to adjust it. I did!
Now lay out your panels in the order you want them to be.
Now start sewing them together, with right sides facing each other on each panel as you attach it. Be super careful with the ruffled panels to make sure the ruffles are down and that they each get caught in the seam. Serge or zig zag the edges.
Repeat for the other panels, making sure you go in the same order!
Take the border pieces, and iron in half – length wise.
Match the raw edge up to the bottom raw edge of the skirt, and sew together. Finish the edge. You may have to cut a bit off the border to account for all of the seams of the panels. No big deal!
Now run a gathering stitch along the top, raw edge of each skirt piece.
Find the middle of the bodice piece and pin. Make sure it’s the edge you will be attaching the skirt to.
Find the middle of the skirt (easy with an even number of panels!) and pin to the middle of the bodice, with right sides facing in. Gather evenly along each side towards the middle, and pin in place.
Sew bodice and skirt together, then finish the edge with a serger or a zig zag stitch. Top stitch along the edge if desired. Repeat for both the front and back of the dress. Turn that baby right side out and admire the cuteness.
Let’s attach some sleeves now!
With right sides facing, line up the arm hole of the bodice to the arm hole of the sleeve.
Sew together. Repeat for the other side of the sleeve with the other dress piece. Repeat with the other sleeve. Here’s what it will look like.
If you haven’t already, go ahead and hem up the bottom of the sleeves. This might be easier to do before you start attaching them to the dress, but I forgot and did it at this step.
Put the right sides of the dress together, lining up the sleeves and sides of the dress.
Sew from the hem of the sleeve, all the way down the side of the dress. Finish the edges.
You’re getting close!
Serge or zig zag the top raw edge of the bodice. Then fold it over about half an inch and sew all the way around, leaving a two inch opening. This is the casing for the neck elastic.
Cut a piece of elastic, put a safety pin on one end, and feed it through the casing. Sew the ends together, and then close up the opening in the casing.
The bodice is still a little boxy at this point, so I decided to shir it in. If you’ve never worked with elastic thread before, don’t be scared! Hand wind it around an empty bobbin – not too tightly – and trade out your regular thread bobbin. Set your maching to the longest stitch length (like a gathering stitch) and sew as many rows as you like to bring the bodice in a bit. I did four. If the elastic thread isn’t shrinking in very well, hold a steamy iron over it and watch it magically shrink!
And that’s it! You did it! And now you have this beauty to show for it!
Which you have to admit, looks even cuter on a cute little girl!
She was soooo excited to put this dress on.
She even had to do some of her own poses.
The fact that I had to fight her to take it off pretty much says it all!