Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Summer Dresses 3 - The Raglan Sleeve Dress aka The 45-minute Nightdress

Lots of freebies in this post, because I am feeling so glad to
be finally not sick. The trade-off is that it is a looooong post,
so you'll have to put up with me till the end.

Well, here is Summer Dress #3: The raglan-sleeve nightdress!

If you have a serger, you might also call it the 45-minute
dress. If not, it could be done in a little over an hour. For
folks just joining us, this is the third in the series of
summer dresses made with these aims:

  1. They must be fast to make.
  2. They must be comfortable (rather than just nice to look at).
  3. Small children must be able to put them on and take them off without my help.
  4. There should be no noticeable difference if these are worn front to back (since I'm not helping to put them on the children - tra la la!)

I made these out of knit (sorry, quilting cotton fans)
again because they were going to be nightdresses
for the girls. Both Emily and Jenna have somehow gotten
it into their heads that girls must wear nightdresses to bed,
not pyjamas. But the way they sit! Grrrr. The nice thing
about sewing your own nightdresses is being able to
make them as looooooong (and as modest) as you like.

I remember being afraid of sleeves when I first started
sewing clothes. Thought they were difficult. So kept making
one evasively sleeveless garment after another until mum
noticed, nipped that silly trend in the bud and sat me down
and made me draft and sew a sleeve. Actually, sleeved
garments are easier to sew than sleeveless ones (let's
leave the spaghetti-strap tube dresses out of the
discussion for now). For one, you don't have to do
facings for armholes and shoulder straps. Raglan
sleeves are quite different from regular sleeves but
they are especially nice for a first sleeved dress
because you don't have to baste armholes
and fiddle with darts!

Here are the patterns for a 3-year old and a 5-year old.
I drafted the original for Emily last summer and then
put it away in such a safe place that I couldn't find it
again this year. So had to draft it all over again. Of
course I found the originals immediately after
finishing these dresses. Typical.

Pattern for 5-year old:

Pattern for 3-year-old:

And the instruction sheet:

If you click on the pictures, you should be taken 
directly to their respective download pages.

I'm winging it here, people. I don't own any commercial
patterns. My very fabulous sister- in-law gave me two
lovely Ottobre magazines for my birthday (they have
patterns in them) but I haven't even let myself remove
the patterns from the staples in the spine until I clear
my long list of summer projects. All this to say I have
no idea what the typical format or nomenclature of
patterns is. You all get the hand-drawn variety - I
still draft and label them the same way I did in homec
when I was 13 (but improved upon by mum, mercifully).

The instruction sheet essentially tells you how to:

1. Join the sleeves to the dress.
2. Sew up the side seams.

Next you'll need to

3. Fold down the neckline and sew to make an elastic casing. Leave an opening.

4. Thread in the elastic, join elastic ends, and sew up the opening.


5. Finish the sleeve hem.
6. Elasticize the sleeve to fit wearer's arm. One way is by shirring 2 rows

as close or as far from the hem as you like.

Shirring the sleeves eliminates the bulk of an elastic
casing, and also gives a gentler hug around the arms -
all good for sleeping! If you don't mind rethreading
your serger, different thread colors are a quick
and subtle way to pretty up a hem.

7. Then finish the bottom hem. I made a simple rolled hem on the serger.

So that's the most basic raglan-sleeve A-line dress in
the world. Even with changing needles and thread colors
on the serger, it took about 45 minutes.

Now I will show you why I think this is about the most
versatile simple dress in the world. Ready to get fancy?

Variation 1
The When-You-Run-Out-Of-Print-Fabric Dress

After sewing Jenna's (she's the 3-year old) dress, I worked
on Emily's. And my floral knit ran out. Of course.
But since I always have several yards of plain white knit in
my stash (good for things like undershorts for skorts etc),
Emily's dress became a tiered version of Jenna's, with a row
of ruffles at the bottom. What fun to play with
the alternating of prints and solids!

I got Emily to model it right after waking up one morning,
to show you to fancy front and the normal-looking back.

Remember how to make a tiered skirt? Same principle.

Here's the same dress in another fabric. Am saving this dress
for something special - will tell more in a couple of days.

Variation 2
The Seersucker Outside Dress

This was made for Emily last summer and she's
already outgrown it so Jenna's wearing it now.

Make it out of regular cotton and dip into your
box of trims. These are all old, old trims from mum.
I added a row of cotton lace at the neckline before
threading the elastic through the casing. I did not shir
these sleeves - instead I cut the sleeves themselves a
little longer to fold up the hems into elastic casings like
the neckline. I sewed on a row of ric-rac before threading
in the elastic. With the elastic in, the neckline and
sleeves gathered the trims into interesting wavy patterns.

Variation 3
The Three-Quarter-Sleeve Linen Dress

With this print, very little embellishment was needed
to finish it. I found some matching elastic lace in my
stash and sewed that onto the edge of the neckline
and the hems of the sleeves.

This was also made for Emily last fall and also outgrown.
Again, Jenna has claimed it but it is still a little big for her.

I hope you have fun with this dress and experimenting
with the pattern! I wish I had the inclination to set up a
flickr pool of sorts so you can share photos. Maybe
someday. Meanwhile, if you do make something from it,
come back here and tell us! Or email me! Perhaps that
will be my motivation to do that flickr group after all.

OK, if you're not in a coma by now, reading all that,
here's something fun.

Last night I felt like making one more dress.

As always, the idea/design/pattern/whatever appears
in my head and haunts me till I get it onto fabric. Nastier
still is how this usually happens just before bed, when I
can't possibly start on it till at least 7-8 hours later.

Here's the dress, made with surprisingly opaque
white knit and whatever else I had on hand:

Some first-time experiments just to see how this
particular white knit took to various embellishments:
  • fray-able applique,
  • some random scalloped decorative stitch I just realized (after 3 years, duh) my sewing machine had, and
  • the odious rolled-hem-on-folded knit, which, depending on the kind of knit, is either gorgeous or looks like something the cat coughed up.

I like it. It's out of my head. Yay.

Want it? I'm giving it away. Yes, I am.

I'd say the dress fits a 3 year old, but it's stretchy,
so possibly a 4-year old, too. Jenna is a tall 3-year
old and she's wearing the dress over her actual
clothes (to keep it clean for you).

Now, a couple spots on this dress might look a little,
well, home-made, as a result of those experiments,
but if you still want it:
  • leave a comment on this post. If you have anything you'd like to learn how to sew, add that in (but you don't have to). If I can do it, I'll post on it in the future.If I can't, it will be fun to learn something new.
  • include your email address in the comment, or have your email address in your blogger profile, or ensure that your comment links to your public-access blog where I can find your email address. Or email me your email address.

Leave your comment by late Thursday (6 Aug) night
and I'll do a random draw on Friday the 7th. International
readers are welcome, too! Good luck, everyone!


  1. Lier, it doesn't matter how long your posts are. Reading them is fun, no matter how long it takes. It's even better, more fun to read for us! ;-)

    That dress is lovely. I really admire your ability to draw your own patterns, that's something I'm still learning!

  2. Beautiful dress! I have a friend who is going through some rough times right now and this would be a perfect pick me up!!! Her daughter would LOVE it!

  3. You make the cutest things, I wish I could sew half as much as you do. I have made a few clothing items for my daughter, but not as many as I would like. She is two, tall and very skinny, she can still were size 9m capris, so i have to make all of here pants this winter, i am thinking fleece yoga type pants would be comfy. She loves to wear dresses, the one you made is adorable and we would love to have it. I am also thinking I could use fleece or some heavy knit and your great patterns(adding long sleeves) to make her some dresses for winter too. Thanks for sharing all of your super ideas.

  4. How lovely! My 3 year old has just 'discovered' dresses and wants to wear them all of the time. My current sewing question is why my machine keeps jamming up, but I doubt you can help with that! ;)

  5. Your dresses turned out really nice! I hate to buy patterns too! Do you think it would be hard to do it in a homemade patchwork? It would be cute for fall with cowboy boots!

    1. I always use good quality cotton and change the sewing machine needle at regular intervals. This tip, given to me by my Machine Repair Guy, has helped with my sewing enormously.

  6. You can NO IDEA how happy you have made me! I spent all day yesterday looking at expensive patterns and sketching to make a peasant dress. I finally started sewing last night. It came out OK. Wearable. But my son says it looks like a choir gown. So- I'm thinking something was a bit off, lol. It just makes me giddy to think that you were doing something similar on the same day- although doing a MUCH better job! And you are so right about sleeves- I tackled this style to avoid sleeves and *gasp* zippers or button holes of any sort.

  7. Thank you so much for all the posts!! I am a "new" sewer and have enjoyed your blog! You give me much inspiration!!THANK YOU!

  8. I love this style of dress! I've made tons for my daughter...her favorite is a blue one she calls her "Wendy dress." I've been planning some knit ones for hot-night pajamas...just haven't gotten to it yet.

    All yours are gorgeous!

    My email is dreamingcouple at yahoo dot com.

  9. OMG! I was overjoyed to find your blog last week, and find so many ideas for making clothes for my girls!!! You are so awesome!!!! And now a chance to win one??? Thanks so much!!!!!!!!!

  10. I love all of your ideas. Thanks for making it easy for new sewers like myself to make cute clothes for my daughter. Someday I'll whip something out in 45 minutes, but I don't see that happening anytime soon!

  11. So you've inspired me to break out my serger again. Any idea how much yardage to buy for a 4 yrs old raglan-sleeve nightdress? Thank you! Love the blog!

  12. Love the dresses! And I love that you make your own patterns too!
    I need help sewing curtins... I can sew them I just don't want to see the stitches from where I add the liner or backing and at the hems.I'm making just square panels. Any tips on what stitch I should be using on my sewing machine?


  13. Hi LiEr,

    I stumbled upon your blog last night while Googling felt food to make for my soon-to-be one-year-old's birthday. I spent all last night reading everything on Ikat bag and Bubpilla :).

    In many many ways we are similar - you are from Singapore, I'm from PJ/KL further up north. You are living in MN now, I am living in Kanata/Ottawa further up north :). You have three adorable girls who delight in your dresses. I have two adorable girls who will gladly wear anything I make :P.

    Wonder if my hubby will let me buy a serger??

    Perhaps I'll start blogging too for the far away family...

  14. i just stumbled on your blog & i'm in loooooooove. Bear will be 3 next month & is in the "princesses even were gowns to bed Momma, no pjs!" Bunny will be 1 next month too, so if I win this will get lotsa wear :D

    Sabrina, twigglesandtrunks@yahoo.com

  15. Such cute dresses. I really like the tutorials. These are going to inspire me to clear a space on my desk and take out the old sewing machine.

  16. CUTE CUTE CUTE!!! :)

    Is there some FAST and EASY way to make a nice folded hem? It always seems to take me as long to do the hem as it does to make the rest of the skirt!

    OH! And I would love to know how to REALLY troubleshoot problems with a sewing machine. I have two... the old one is easy to figure out and make the stitches just how I wold like. The newer one? We fought on a regular basis until I wrapped it into a black trash bag and stuffed it in the back of my craft closet. I'd like to see it again, someday... when we can get along, civilly.


    afamilytreehouse (at) mac (dot) com

  17. Wow, thanks for this awesome dress pattern. I'm going to use it to try to get over my fear of knits! I have a serger but I'm sure I don't use it to its full potential.

    My little girl would love that dress, please enter me in the giveaway!

    Subscribing to your blog :)

  18. Thanks for the great tutorial and pattern. I can't wait to make some for my girls. I've been looking for a girls wide-leg pant with a ruffled bottom pattern or tutorial. I can't bring myself to buy one yet!
    Thanks again! Mama Lusco. My email is alusco@centurytel.net

  19. Hi, found your blog through Craft gossip and will visit again! Lovin your stuff and that tutorial was great - thanks!

  20. I love all the dresses. Did your machine do the dark brown stitching around the neckline? Wow! Thank you for the giveaway. I'm in! Kmomisme@yahoo.com

  21. I LOVE your blog you are so talented! I am just learning to sew and there are just oh so many things I want to learn how to sew I can't name just 1!

  22. Wow, what an awesome dress and the tutorial looks so great. I'd love to win this for my almost 2.5 year old girl. Thanks so much for such an awesome giveaway.

  23. how cute I like to sew but need all the help I can get love your tutorial con5459(at)gmail(dot)com

  24. I love it, homemade-looking spots or not! What a nice giveaway! I really need to learn how to do sleeves (I'm scared of them as you once were), so I'm always game for more tips on those! Also, I'd like to sew me some Bermuda/walking shorts, but shorts sound hard, what with the fly and all. Any tips for that?

  25. Found you through One Pretty Thing! And, that dress is one pretty thing - I think it would look adorable on my daughter!

    So, if I don't win it, I'll try and make one of my own! But, I've got way too many things going on right now to stop and sew (boo-hoo!) so I hope I win!!!

  26. I love the dress. The flowers add a nice touch. It is very simple, yet lovely.

  27. Oh wow- I just came over from One Pretty Thing. I LOVE this pattern! I love to make clothes for my kids, but don't have time to cut out store-bought patterns with all their tiny pieces (my kids always manage to find my projects and take the pins out before I can get the markings "marked."!) These are the perfect kind of clothes for kids- easy to make, easy to understand instructions, and easy to wear!

  28. Oh, finally I found out how to make this kind of dress. thank you very much for sharing the pattern and nicely drawn instruction!

  29. Lovely dresses/nightshirts! I really like how you show the evolution and variations. I'd love to be entered to win the flowered one.

    And the thing I want to learn to do is a rolled hem on my serger. (Assuming it can do one!) It would make life a bit easier when sewing certain garments.

    Thank you for sharing your pattern and tutorial!

  30. Fantabulous ideas!!!- thank you sooo much :-) I have a huge pile of knits begging to be used...

  31. I've been wanting to make a dress like this for some time now! Thank you SO much for providing the tutorial :) and thank you so much for also adding your fear of sleeves and how you kicked the fear. I too fear sleeves and have not tried them yet. But I hope to try them now. These dresses are so cute!! Thanks again!

  32. Oh, it is so darling!

    I love how it can either
    be a nighty or a dress!!

    To your version #3 did you
    just add a little more length,
    to the sleeve?

    I'd love to try and be the winner
    of this adorble dress!!

    Thanks for the tutorial!!

    God Bless You and Yours!!!

  33. I just bought a serger and haven't tried it out yet. I guess I'm nervous. I only have a son, but I have been making all sorts of girl things to sell or give to my neice, Olivia. Would love to win your dress. I think I will adapt your pattern for me!

  34. Reading your blog is fun! I'm just getting back in to sewing and have an almost two year old daughter to sew for! I would love to enter the giveaway. Such cute ideas.

  35. Such a cute dress!

    ohtxcama at gmail dot com

  36. My 2 and 4 year old princesses will so thank you for showing me this tutorial, my husband on the other hand may not be so happy with all the knits I'm going to want to add to the stash!

  37. My three year old is crazy for mama made (even if its not her mama doing the making!). We love it.

  38. oops, forgot to leave my e-mail address!

    charlsmith at comcast dot net

  39. Love it! I have a 1 yr old now, but we'll be doing night dresses next year. I dress her in dresses all the time in the summer too!

    Thanks so much for sharing. I'll have to whip up a few with my serger!

    tamara (at) schrojo (dot) ca

  40. Flassie's Fil'a: couldn't find your email address so am replying here. Sorry I only got round to it now. To make the 3/4 length sleeve- no, it isn't by making the puff sleeve longer. I am planning to draw a sketch in the near future to explain it: the shape is different.

  41. Hi,

    I made this tonight to send with my niece to an orphanage in the Sudan, August 2011. I'll make more for the kids. I wondered if you'd mind if I put your girls first names on the inside?

  42. Hi,

    I made this tonight to send with my niece to an orphanage in the Sudan, August 2011. I'll make more for the kids. I wondered if you'd mind if I put your girls first names on the inside?

  43. Hi,

    I made this tonight to send with my niece to an orphanage in the Sudan, August 2011. I'll make more for the kids. I wondered if you'd mind if I put your girls first names on the inside?

  44. Thank You! Thank You! Thank You! I have been trying to find this pattern for weeks so I could use it for christmas P.J.'s. I am so happy you had it.

  45. Thank you so much for the pattern and instructions. I just finished making the dress in cotton one-way stretch blue/grey and white gingham. It's adorable, and I hope the little girl that is going to get it for Christmas loves the dress half as much as I do.

  46. Thank you for the pattern. I made one and it is awesome. I'm going to make more. Thanks a lot.
    You can find my dress here http://szydelkadwa.blogspot.com/2011/05/rilaks-tejk-it-izi.html

    It's in Polish but if you would like to read there is a translator.

    Greets from Poland

  47. I just started sewing and this makes so much more sense than the convoluted patterns I've purchased! I already have a million ideas running through my head on how to make it perfect for my little girl. Thanks for the great site.

  48. thanks for the night gown patterns i find it easier to do them then the patterns you buy at the store, and thank you very much for all the steps and hints you give along the way.

  49. I'm looking to make a Minnie Mouse dress and these sleeves look perfect, thank you so much!

  50. love love love the raglon dress im making one for myself and my two granddaughters who are one and five, summer gets so hot in australia and these will be comfy...so thanks <3

  51. Hi,

    I would like to sew this great dress for my DD. but I can not download the file - It says "downloading" but nothing is downloaded

    I have no idea what is wrong

    Can I find the PDF file somewhere else

    Many thanks,

    1. Hi Malka,

      Two possibilities:
      1 The file downloaded and got saved on what is known as a Download Folder. You'll have to search your computer for it - try Documents, for example. It didn't appear on your desktop, but it could have been saved somewhere else.

      2The file didn't download for any number of reasons, including a web browser that doesn't support it. Are you using Internet Explorer, by any chance? That often crashes with downloads.

      No, I'm sorry, the file cannot be found elsewhere.
      Perhaps if you tried again later, or used a different web browser, or looked for it in your download folder?


  52. I just made this as a nightie for my 5-year-old. She loves it! She's wearing it the rest of the day, in fact. Thank you! I haven't sewn in years, and not with confidence in years upon years. It was a huge boost to do a project in an afternoon and see my daughter so tickled.

  53. Hi! I love all of your stuff and have been reading for years! :D

    How much elastic do you use for the neckline?

    1. Ersula, that's a great question but unfortunately, I can't remember! I draped a loop of elastic around the girls' necks and did an estimate. Then I threaded it through the casing and tested it again.

  54. I would like to download the pattern but my computer is saying that there is a virus attached to the pattern site, and it is malicious. Just thought that you would want to know.

    1. Lisa, I just downloaded the pattern to my own computer and it worked fine. Not sure what's up with your computer, but I hope that gets cleared up soon.

  55. Thank you for sharing!
    Of course your mum is right! Sleeveless is more difficult! I realized that WHEN reading this post, wish I'd read it when you wrote it...
    So please give her a warm hug (from me) and thank her for showing you.
    And a big warm thank you for sharing knowledge, pattern, instructions and thoughts (it's fun reading your blog).
    Keep on writing! :)

  56. This is amazing! What luck! I needed a size 3 and a size 5 exactly :). Thanks so much for sharing the pattern. The only thing I changed was to make long sleeves (it's cold here in Canada in the winter!). I have blogged my results here: http://threadridinghood.com/wordpress/?p=924

  57. You are an answer to my prayers. Thank you for your tutorials and free patterns. My Girls get excited to see what I am going to make them. You have also taken the guess work out of making clothes. Thank you!

  58. Awesome!! thank you so much! directly to the sewing machine I go... (stopping only to feed Baby and put her down for her nap!)

    thanks you!

  59. Thank you so much for sharing this pattern! I'm going to use it to make a "Wendy" nightgown for my granddaughter. Bless you for your generosity.

  60. I want to thank you for generously sharing your pattern - so awesomel! I raised 4 daughters and am now going to make nighties for my oldest granddaughter (9 yrs old) for Christmas so thanks again and God bless!

  61. Thank you so must for posting this! My daughter doesn't wear either of the sizes that you posted, but your instructions were so clear that I was able to "wing it" and make a summer nightgown for my (almost) 8-year old! Thanks again!

  62. Thank you! Making my daughter's costume right now using this. Last minute much? This will be perfect for "princess Leia".

  63. Thank you so much for this pattern and tutorial. My Little Wonder Woman is absolutely going to love her new flannel Wonder Woman nightgown for Christmas!

  64. What is the length of the elastic on the neck of the size 5 night dress?

  65. I have the same question - wondering how to figure out how much eleastic to use on the neckline of the night dress??

    1. Unfortunately, it's been so many years since I've sewn this dress that I don't remember the length of elastic. Back when I made the dress, I draped the elastic around the neckline of the actual wearer and estimated the length to use.

  66. How do you make that trim on the sleeves. It’s so cute and adds so much detail.


Thank you for talking to me! If you have a question, I might reply to it here in the comments or in an email.