Katie Koala Dress

Article Posted 22 October 2017

Marilyn Parker - Lindylou Kidsworld

Hi, this is Marilyn Parker from Lindylou Kidsworld.

Today, I am going to show you how to make a dress with an appliqued and patchwork bodice.

This is my “Katie Koala” dress, using a design from Bunnycup Embroidery Aussie Animals.

I made an Aussie animals quilt a few months ago for a customer order, and showed my grand daughter. She is 7 and had just finished a school project on “Saving the Koala”. She really enjoyed it. So I made her a cushion with an appliqued koala on it, and her name. (see pic AA)

AA Katie Koala Cushion

She was so chuffed that I thought I just had to make her a dress using the fabrics I had already bought.

I started with one of my favourite patterns (tried & true), and cut out bodice pieces in the fabrics being used for the lining. Putting the back sections aside, and just working on the front panel, I pinned the appliqued panel in the centre of the bodice panel.

I have the fabrics I am going to use in front of me, (see pic A) and sort out some narrow and wider pieces that will go well together. I am doing my version of crazy patchwork. So I draw directly onto the fabric that the applique is on, and make 4 straight lines around the shape of the applique, sort of like the shape of a diamond. (see pic B) I then take two pieces of narrow fabric (1 inch wide is plenty) and sew them along two of the diagonal lines (putting right side of fabric together), then turn the narrow strips back and pin them in place, lightly thumb pressing.

A - Choose Fabrics
B Pinning applique to fabric

You may need to google “crazy patchwork” if you haven’t done it before, for a more detailed instruction sheet. It is fun and something a bit different once you get the hang of it.

Then you build up rows around the applique, keeping the diagonals sort of matching. I add wider pieces as I go out further. The strips are rectangles when I sew them down, then as I add the next row, I angle it a bit (refer pics C, D, & E)

C - Second row down
D1 - Angled strip
D2 - Second row
E - Sewing strips onto front panel

Once you are happy with the fabrics around the applique shape, you need to cut the overhanging bits back to the shape of the panel you cut out (see pic F).

F - Cut back to shape

(I also always add a bit of lace into the mix. You could add other “special” things, like little buttons, bows, or beads, but not till the dress is all put together. You don’t want the beads and sparkly hand sewn trims getting stuck in your sewing machine!) I also add a folded strip at the end of the bodice – just on the front. It gives a self belted effect.(see pic G)

G - Self Belt

Soooo, next to the rest of the dress! Following the pattern you are using, cut out the back pieces – 2 in the fabric for the outer layer – these should match the pieces you cut earlier for the lining. Also cut two in light weight iron on interfacing. I iron this onto the whole back section of the bodice. It holds the light fabric and gives it a bit of body and keeps the straps flat.

I suggest your follow the instructions on your pattern for garment construction. If you are making a sundress similar to mine, then follow the pictures. I sew the side seams together on the lining and top layer. (see pic H). I overlock (serge) the side seams on the bodice, just to keep all the different pieces from the crazy patchwork all secured. Thumb press down. Then with the two bodice pieces - pin them together right side to right side. Leave the end of the straps free from stitches. Also leave the bottom and back straight seams free from stitches. If the seams are 5/8 inches (as most store bought patterns have), trim the allowance back to about half of the width. Then snip really carefully into all the curved shapes, being mindful not to cut through any stitching. (see pics I & J)

H - Pinning the bodice parts together
I - Sewing the bodice
J - Snipping seams

Then turn this piece all to the right side, press it all with an iron. Then sew the ends of the straps into the straight edge along the top – as close to the outer edges as you can go. Now, admire it, then put it aside. (see pics K, L &M)

K - Right sides out
L - Straps in
M - Straps in

The skirt – again follow the pattern you have bought OR follow my “recipe”. I like to have the skirt 52-56 inches around the whole circumference. The length (as per the pattern) less the hem allowance, less 3 inch to accommodate the bi coloured band around the hem. Cut out skirt pattern from the fabric you have chosen. So for this size 8 I cut a piece 28 inches wide x 21 inches long for the front, and two pieces (so there is a back seam) 14.5 inches wide x 21 inches long.

Then cut the two fabrics you have chosen for the band around the hem. I used the fuschia pink 2 pieces 28 inches long x 1 ½ inches wide, and two pieces in the grey fabric 28 inches long x 6 inches wide. (see pic). These pieces will be sewn together into the band for the hem. Once sewn together, it is then folded in half length ways and stitched and pressed. I like this effect, it adds a bit a body to the hemline and makes the dress sit nicer on the body. (see pics N, O, P, Q for construction) If you want more info on this step, please just ask and I can answer your queries.

N - Band pieces cut
O - Band pieces sewn together
P - Band pieces sewn to skirt
Q - Under side of skirt showing overlocked edge

So, sew the skirt fabrics together. With right sides together sew the two back sections together, leaving about 6 inches from the top, sewing through the 21 inch length. Hen sew the back and front sections down the 21 inch lengths, with right sides facing. Zig zag or overlock (serge) the seams and press open with an iron. Sew the premade band around the hemline, matching side seams, overlock (serge) around this seam and press upward.

Now the fun part! Around the top of the skirt, sew a wide straight stitch 1/8 inch from the raw edge, leaving both ends unsecured (I usually reset the stitch length to over 3 on my machine). Then run another row 1/8 inch below the first one. (see pic R) I then pin the skirt to the bodice matching up seams and centres, pinning on the vertical. Then gather the skirt using the free ends of both rows of stitching at the same time, evenly spacing the gathering between the pins. This double row of gathering gives a nice flat surface and the sewing machine can then stitch over the bodice & skirt layers without too much intervention with pushing and pulling fabric.

R - Skirt pinned to bodice

So, there you have it! You just have to overlock around the waist line, and put in a zip down the back seam! Voila! ( see pics)

And my granddaughter loves hers!

U - Dress complete!


Sets used in this article