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

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Z's black velvet frock

While I was making this dress, I couldn't get A Little Princess out of my mind.  It was one of my favorite books as a kid.  Not long into the story, little Sara Crewe is informed that her father is dead so she must wear black.  Sara's only "black frock" is sizes too small, but she is forced to wear it anyway.  Thankfully, that story has a happy ending. And, happily, this particular black frock is just the right size for Z.

Girls' DIY black velvet bell sleeve dress from a free pattern.

I sewed this dress last spring, and had always meant to blog it, but have found it very hard to photograph.  I finally got some halfway decent photos when she wore it to church last week (with these boots - the styling is her own) so it was time to post it.

I sewed the dress because Z needed a black dress to wear on Good Friday, as is traditional in our church, and I really liked the look of this free Bell Sleeve T-Shirt Dress pattern from Scattered Thoughts of.a Crafty Mom. I've used her free patterns several times in the past for my girls, and I've always been happy with the results.

I sewed up a straight size 8 (which is Z's RTW size). The only change I made to the pattern was to cut the skirt panel a few inches narrower than the pattern called for, because that is how wide my fabric was.

Girls' DIY black velvet bell sleeve dress from a free pattern.

For the bodice, I used the scraps from my stretch velvet bolero. I didn't have enough velvet for the skirt, so I used the remnant of a drapey black jersey (not sure what it is; maybe a cotton/viscose/lycra) left over from this cardigan.  In all, I used just over a yard of fabric, total, for the dress.

I pulled some long-stashed trim out of my ribbon box to dress up the bodice, but I did this after I had already attached the bodice to the skirt and finished that seam.  Rather than rip out the bodice seam so that I could sandwich the trim between the bodice and skirt, I folded over the trim at the bottom and stitched.

Girls' DIY black velvet bell sleeve dress from a free pattern.

I sewed all my seams using a zig zag stitch, and then finished with my serger.  I wanted the seams to be sturdy, and sometimes I find my serged seams are weaker than sewn seams.  I used my coverstitch machine to topstitch the neckband and to hem the skirt. I left the sleeve hems raw because the velvet doesn't curl, and I was afraid that hemming it would distort the bell shape.

I'm really happy with this dress (and so is Z) and would like to make a couple more of these for my girls.

As always, thanks for reading, and I'll see you next time!

Girls' DIY black velvet bell sleeve dress from a free pattern.


  1. I probably read A Little Princess a dozen times or more. About to read it to my youngest when we finish A Secret Garden.

    Very pretty dress. Love her styling!

  2. Beautiful dresses, A Little Princess, A Secret Garden - what fun I'll have with my granddaughter!


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