Upcycled Birthday Princess Dress, Part IX: Done!

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Done! Finally done! And it turned out so gorgeous! I’m so excited about this dress– despite the changes of plan and occasional difficulties, I really love it. I just hope my daughter will wear it…

When we left off, I had just finished the paned sleeves, which are just one of the many fabulous features I can’t stop squee-ing over. To finish up I stitched the rose clusters to the skirt bustling points, then made a few more rosebuds of various sizes to finish off the neckline along with some silver leaves. It took several tries to get an arrangement I liked for the neckline, but eventually I settled on one and stitched it down.

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And voila! Finished!

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For the previous work-in-progress posts, see below:

Part I: Sketches

Part II: Fabric

Part III: Revising the Design

Part IV: White Underskirt

Part V: Bustled Overskirt

Part VI: Basic Bodice

Part VII: Chiffon Roses

Part VIII: Paned Sleeves

 

Final Thoughts:

  1. For the love of god, don’t buy a dress to upcycle unless it is larger than you need it to be. I thought the size 5 kid’s dress would be big enough for my daughter, and the fact that it wasn’t caused all kinds of extra trouble that could’ve been avoided. If I’d known ahead of time how much work upcycling would be, I would have made the dress from scratch. Remember, making things smaller is a heck of a lot easier than making them bigger.
  2. EBay formalwear is still a great place to find yards and yards of fancy fabric, and I’d recommend it to anyone, especially if you’re looking for satin. Bonus points for embroidery details and petticoat layers underneath!
  3. Unless you’re really good at pattern drafting it’s best to have a printed pattern to work from for the basic things like sleeves and necklines. You don’t have to take it as gospel, but you can use it to compare to your own pieces and make sure they’re somewhat in the right range.
  4. Making a duct tape dress form made this process infinitely easier. Highly recommended.
  5. However, you still need to try the dress on your child to make sure there aren’t any surprises. Case in point– when I tried the skirt on my daughter for the first time, it was clear that the weight would drag it down from her natural waistline over time. The solution was to buy suspenders to keep the skirt at the right height– they fit just fine under the separate top and the skirt stayed firmly in place the whole time.

Birthday Castle Cake

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So far you’ve seen the progress photos for my daughter’s Birthday Princess dress, but what’s a princess party without a castle cake? I knew I had to make one, so I started collecting fondant cutters and images of pretty cakes several months before they’d actually be needed.

After much vacillating I decided to make it a two-tier round cake with two towers at the base and three on the top tier. Since there was plenty of leftover cake last year, I kept the same sized pans as before– 7″ on the bottom (three layers) and 5″ on the top (two layers). Color scheme would be white, pink, and purple, and I’d decorate it with climbing roses and lacy crenellations.

Fair warning, this is not a tutorial post– the process was so involved that I just couldn’t take the time to get pictures of every step and post recipes and instructions for all of the components. I may do individual posts on some of the techniques, though. So for now just sit back and enjoy the pictures and general instruction summary!

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Upcycled Birthday Princess Dress, Part VIII: Paned Sleeves

To add to the “princess” look of this dress I wanted to do paned sleeves– you may know them as “Snow White sleeves”– where a contrasting-colored lining peeks through slashes in the outer sleeve. However, since I didn’t want to make two separate layers I decided to simply insert strips of white satin into the main purple sleeve, pleating the purple fabric so it looked like the white was a separate inner sleeve. For the technique I relied heavily on this tutorial, which is awesome.

For my basic sleeve pattern I wasn’t confident enough to draft my own– I really didn’t feel like measuring and guessing about the best curved shape, so I raided the $1 pattern bin at my local store and picked out a girls’ pattern that had puffed sleeves to use. I cut the sleeves out, then cut each one into four pieces and inserted 2.5″ wide strips of white satin between them, ironing the 1/4″ seam allowances towards the purple fabric .

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Upcycled Birthday Princess Dress, Part VI: Basic Bodice

When making the bodice it took me a while to decide how best to display the embroidery on the fabric. After much vacillating and even more pinning, I decided to use the existing bottom hem of the bodice, which would forfeit the pretty design along the top edge but which would let me have a more structured bottom edge. I took a deep breath and started disassembling the bodice.

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Once I’d figured out what I was going to do, I had to prepare the bodice for cutting– that meant slitting open the side seams and removing the boning from the front, and then re-shaping the bodice entirely to change it from being curved over the bust to being flat (as 4-year-olds are not known for their curved bustlines).

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Upcycled Birthday Princess Dress, Part IV: White Underskirt

Once I had all of my fabrics and sketches I decided to start with what I hoped would be the easiest part of the dress– the white underskirt. I started off by simply cutting off the upper portion of the dress’s bodice, leaving a good 3″ of fabric attached to the skirt to make a waistband.

 

Next I turned my attention to the inside of the skirt– there was already a nice lining and net petticoat layer, but it wasn’t quite poofy enough. Luckily the lavender bridesmaid dress came with a netting layer that was exactly the same length as the white skirt, so I ruthlessly ripped out, gathered, and stitched it just below the petticoat lining. Presto! Poofy white satin underskirt!

Before I went any further I had to make sure the skirt would be the right length on my daughter, but since she hates to stand still (like any almost-four-year-old) I needed a substitute for fittings.

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Upcycled Birthday Princess Dress, Part III: Revising the Design

So, now that I’ve bought the bridesmaid dress to use for my purple fabric I’ve had to adjust my previous design sketches a bit. Partly because the fabric is so pretty that I can’t bear the thought of this being a one-use dress, so I’ll have to make the size adjustable– that’ll require some structural changes. The other reason is that the embroidery on the bodice just cries out to be displayed properly, which I wouldn’t have been able to do with my original design even if it had been adjustable to begin with. So I’m scrapping the bodice part of it, at least, and starting over.

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Upcycled Birthday Princess Dress, Part II: Fabric

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Once I had my basic design idea I started looking for fabric. I originally figured that I’d get some lavender-colored jacquard or satin, possibly a lace or embroidered sheer for a skirt front panel, and call it a day. If I’d had easy access to a decent fabric store this wouldn’t have been a problem; however, my local store is hit-or-miss, so I turned to the internet. In searching online for the best price for jacquard (shipping is so expensive!) I had another idea– cannibalizing an old prom or bridesmaid’s dress.

Pre-worn formal dresses, particularly pastel satin ones that are clearly bridesmaid’s dresses, have a limited shelf life and an even more limited price range, whether at Goodwill or on eBay. With a full enough skirt the price-per-yard can end up being significantly lower than buying it off the bolt– and the dresses often come with beading or embroidery that’s just not practical to do by hand. I started sifting through auctions online, and found the perfect gown.

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Upcycled Birthday Princess Dress, Part I: Basic Dress and Sketches

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For this year’s birthday bash, my daughter decided to go full-on girly and have a princess party. (okay, I admit it, I may have encouraged her for the sheer cuteness of it) And what’s a princess party without a princess dress, right?

Since I irrationally hate installing zippers and sewing buttonholes (also cutting pattern pieces from the horrible flimsy paper), I couldn’t resist picking up this ivory satin flower girl dress for $10 at Goodwill when I saw it on the “Halloween” rack back in October. It was the perfect size (or so I thought), it was nice and plain, and it would be a great canvas for the fancy princess gown of my her dreams. Sure, I could’ve sewn it from scratch, but $10 would barely have paid for the satin fabric, not to mention the pearl buttons down the back, the netting underskirt with lining, and the other notions that were already there in the existing dress.

Unfortunately, once I got it home and finally convinced (translation: bribed with the promise of candy) my daughter to try it on, I realized that while it was the perfect length, it was too small to button up the back by at least 2 inches. Apparently my not-quite-four-year-old is too big around for a size 5 dress. But never mind, I can improvise…

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Peanut Butter Fudge Ice Cream Cake

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My husband is a huge fan of peanut butter and chocolate, and every year for his birthday I have to come up with a new variation on the combo for his birthday cake. This year is probably one of my favorites. There’s a thin layer of chocolate cake on the bottom, topped with a no-churn peanut butter ice cream studded with peanut butter cups and swirled with fudge. Then it’s topped with another thin layer of cake, which is covered in a layer of fudge-y peanut butter and chocolate ganache. Drooling yet? Keep looking at the pictures…

My favorite part about this recipe is that each component is so easy to make. The cake is a one-bowl recipe, no softening butter or separating eggs required. The ice cream is no-churn and has so few ingredients that you can whip it up (literally) in minutes. The ganache is made in the microwave, without any worries about chocolate seizing or burning or doing whatever else chocolate does when you try to melt it over the stovetop. Yet despite the simplicity of each component, the finished cake is a showstopper! The cake freezes just hard enough to stand up to the ice cream, the ice cream itself maintains much of its softness in the freezer (no rock-hard slices here!), and the ganache is just firm enough to give you a nice bite of fudginess when you put a forkful in your mouth.

Try this. You’ll thank me.

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