A sewing blog about building a functional, cohesive handmade wardrobe, one garment at a time.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Psychedelic Tulip Dress

So I think I've mentioned how insane this fall is for me.  Among other things, I've a lot of deadline sewing to do, and my little brother's wedding is drawing nearer by the day, as these things tend to do.  So it's been particularly agonizing when testing opportunities arise for beautiful patterns.  I've resisted a few.  But when I was asked to sew up and review the Tulip Dress and Top Pattern, which has just been translated into English, I folded.  I mean ... look at this bodice.

There was just no withstanding this temptation.  I rationalized it by deciding to sew the pattern for my niece's second birthday this winter.  Then at least I'd be knocking something off my sewing list.

I received this pattern for free, but I love it and will be sewing it again this spring.  I really love the top version on an older girl and I'd like to make two of them for my own daughters.

It is not a difficult pattern to sew, and the instructions are quite good, but I had a really hard time sewing it up.  Part of the problem was that I had to recut almost every single bodice piece for one reason or another.  Some of it was unfortunate pattern placement, but mostly I kept finding deep rotary cutter knicks in my pattern pieces.  The other part of the problem was with my willy-nilly reading of the pattern instructions.  Although I know I should, I almost never read a pattern all the way through before starting it.  And lately I've been skimming instructions more than actually reading them.  The Tulip dress is not difficult to sew, but the bodice has a lot of pieces and this is not a pattern whose instructions you can skim.

I am not sure how long it took me to make the dress, as I was sewing in little 30-minute spurts here and there over a period of about a week.  It felt like a long time, but I think that is always the case when you are having to redo things.


This was my first time installing an invisible zip in a lined garment, and although my zip isn't entirely invisible, the print is crazy enough that you can't really tell.  I was working with my regular zipper foot as I don't have an invisible zipper foot.  I didn't get my waist seam lined up on the first go, though, and had to rip out half the zip to fix that.

The fabric is a Kaffe Fassett quilting cotton I had found at the thrift store - 4.5 yards for $4.  I'll be sharing another garment made with the rest of this fabric next week.  Though I don't generally sew clothes with quilting cottons anymore, I couldn't resist these colors.  They manage to be simultaneously muted and outrageous.  If I stare at it too long, the blooms seem to float out of the background - it's kind of trippy.  The weather has been unrelentingly rainy since I finished this project, and my photos are a bit lackluster, so you'll have to take my word for it.  The hand of this fabric is also very shirting-like, so I think it worked out ok.


This project also marked only the third time I had ever used piping, and the very first time I made piping myself.  I thought making it myself would be fiddly and frustrating, but I had my heart set on an emerald green that I could not find in the store.  I had the perfect shade in my stash so I decided to try it.  Walmart, which is the nearest purveyor of sewing notions to my home, did not have cording.  Rather than drive out to Joann's, I Googled "make your own cording for piping," and found a suggestion to zigzag a few pieces of yarn together.  I had some worsted-weight cotton yarn lying around, so I zigzagged two pieces together.  It took very little time and worked perfectly.  I'm quite proud of the end result.

The finish of the dress is lovely.  Everything is enclosed - even the zipper has a little square of fabric folded over the bottom.  The instructions call for stitching in the ditch to secure the back bodice lining to the back bodice, but that just never works out well for me.  I was planning to blind-stitch the hem by hand anyway, so I did the same for the back bodice.  It didn't take long and I find a bit of evening hand stitching to be very relaxing.

My only pattern quibble is with the way that the front bodice facing sits.  Because of the way the front bodice is constructed, the facing actually hangs down several inches lower than the seam where the gathered front skirt meets the inner bodice (under the tulip petals).  This means you can't really topstitch or blind-stitch the facing down - doing so would stitch over the gathers.  The facing is finished and then folded over, so there are no raw edges, and it is attached to the dress at the side seams, but I don't love how it hangs free in the middle.  I am generally a topstitch-all-the-facings kind of girl because I am a lazy ironer and I find a stitched-down facing means less ironing.  The neckline is understitched, though, and the facing is stitched to the bottom tulip petal at the neckline, so it should stay in place better than many other facings I have sewn.

There are a lot of layers of fabric in the bodice (two layers per petal plus a bodice facing and inner bodice for a total of six layers at the front neckline and four at each armhole.  The pattern instructions caution you to choose a very lightweight fabric for that portion of the dress so that it does not end up too small.  I did use self-fabric for the under-layers of my tulip petals, but I used cotton voile for the facing and the inner bodice.  I sewed scant seam allowances at the neckline and side seams to allow for extra room just in case.

I'm really pleased with the way the dress turned out and I hope my sister-in-law likes it!  My niece's birthday is in December but she lives in the desert where it doesn't get too cold.  I am planning to make a shrug to go with the dress, so after this wedding madness I will be looking for some emerald green jersey.

The pattern designers have organized a blog tour; you can visit the other participants at the link below.  You can also get 10 percent off the English-language Tulip now through October 8 with the code HAPPYTULIP in the KaatjeNaaisels shop.



  1. Masha, I love this dress. The zipper looks pretty good. I did not have an invisible zipper foot for ages, but when I got one I could not believe how easy sewing invisible zippers really was! Congrats on making 100% home-made piping! It is such a beautiful colour and compliments the bright colours of the dress so well <3 Now I might go and stare at the flowers to see if they will start floating hehe

  2. I love this dress! So beautiful, Masha! The fabric is gorgeous! 💙

  3. Your dress is really worth all the effort you put into it. Hope your niece will love it - it is very cute!

  4. Lots of excellent sewing for lots of firsts.
    I still don't have an invisible zip foot, I find pressing the zip and basting works well for me.
    Gorgeous job.

  5. Your dress is really beautiful and it is obvious how much love and care you put into it. Your zipper and piping look great, too. What a wonderful present for a lucky girl!

  6. The dress is beautiful! I appreciate the thorough pattern review and will check out the pattern. The bodice piece is so unique. Thank you!


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