Finished Objects: Ice Cream Social Dresses

This time of year, I often do “sweatshop sewing” for my family.  The clothes they like are boring -eh- simple, so it’s easy to cut several at a time and get some bulk sewing done.   The Oliver + S Ice Cream Social dress is a favorite with my daughter- it’s a very easy to wear dress.  I keep an eye out for fabrics she would love, in “Lila” colors, stockpile them for a while and then sew three or four garments at a time.  The cutting always seems to take the longest, it’s perhaps 1/3 of the total time investment.

Once I cut everything, I went into the sewing room to set up my workflow.  Lila proudly brought me a sliver of apple fabric (“Mommy!  I cut the fabric, too!) and I knew she must have cut it from one of her dresses.  I didn’t have any more apple fabric.

I couldn’t be upset with her, she was so pleased with herself.  Though we did discuss the difference between scraps and clothes.  I figured out how to repair the damage.  It’s just a little girl’s dress, after all.  I put the cut edges together, and sealed them along the wrong side of the fabric with some fusible bias tape.  Any interfacing would work.

Then I used a triple-stitch zig-zag stitch to secure the edges on the right side of the fabric.  This is a secure way to mend two edges, even if it isn’t pretty.

I rummaged around my sewing box and discovered a snippet of bias tape in similar colors, and used a straight stitch to secure each folded edge.  Now it’s more a “feature” than a flaw.

She sat on my lap and helped put in the gathering, and with some of the simpler serging.  She considers sewing a very serious business indeed, I’m amazed at how well she can focus for such a small person.  Sweatshop sewing always seems a slog, until all of a sudden I have a pile of finished garments.


My brain tells me this is… well… obnoxious.  The pandas were never going to be subtle; then she and I spent some time in the fabric shop picking coordinating prints.  She wanted rainbows and flowers, and for such a little bit of fabric I’m happy to indulge her fancies.

When she insisted on wearing it to preschool the next day and proudly marched along in her new dress, I quit fantasizing about ripping the border.  She really likes it.

The pattern also has a top, I never made it before but I will in the future.  It takes next to no fabric and whips together in no time.

She accessorized with red toenails, a Hello Kitty lipbalm necklace, and Daddy’s ukelele case.  I made the jeans two years ago from another O&S pattern, she still wears them.

Close-up detail of the fabric, and the enormous white button I used.

Now to focus on my husband’s sweatshop sewing, though we’re all aware it will be more like “New Year, New Clothes” rather than “Merry Christmas, have some ethical stencilled t-shirts and tencel shorts.”

What are you working on?  Have you given up on any deadlines like me?  :)


  1. Oh this takes me back! When Amelia was about 2-3 years old she insisted, INSISTED (and Amelia knows how to insist!) that she operate the pedal of my machine. So, there she was, in nothing but a nappy, under the table, while I call out “Stop”, “Start” and keep pondering on the issue of child slave labour and whether it counts when the slave labour is actually the stepmom not the child UNDER the table ;-) We still sew together 9-10 years later but she doesn’t sit under the table, she now operates her own machine :)

  2. omg, the ukele case did me in! Super, super cute clothes and adorable little girl. The scale of the ukele is so perfect for her, as if she’s got her own little guitar.
    She is a beauty.

    • Thanks. :) I’m pretty fond of her… Sometimes she plays with the ukelele, it started out as a joke when she was a baby, but she kind of/sort of strums now… And very seriously pretends to tune it…

  3. She’s sooo cute! I can’t believe she cut some of the fabric–she will definitely be a sewist too :) I love how she accessorized her dress too!

    • Aw thanks! The Hello Kitty is very important to her… She’s always watched me put on makeup, and lately asked me for her own lipstick… At least Hello Kitty will wash off cleanly. :)

  4. No sweat shop sewing for me. All three of my men are particular. My hubby’s mother made him clothes and I think there may have been some teasing there. My oldest boy needs clothes with the brand names emblazened across them. My youngest is less particular but he doesn’t want anything stand outish…unless it truely is a costume. Though lately he has been saying he wants contact lenses that will make his eyeballs white. Now that’s creepy! I just sew for me myself and I.

  5. Those are adorable! Although the model doesn’t hurt, either ;)

    Good for you for going with her ideas and style direction. I know plenty of people who would’ve enjoyed their mom-made clothes a LOT more with just a bit of input (even if it can be bizarre and frustrating ;) )

    I have given up on a lot of my deadline sewing. We’ll see….

  6. I only make clothes for me now, used to knit a lot for my little ones but the grandchildrens’ mummies’ are not really “into” home-made clothes which I think is a real shame, it’s great to get little ones involved in being creative, it gives them the self-confidence to express themselves, and this little cutie has excellent taste! We made pompoms and explored a little bit of knitting last time one of my grandsons was stopping over, he loved it and now “knits” any bits of yarn he can get hold of, I think a scarf for teddy is our next project. Similar dress for mummy = cute not weird. X

    • Y’all are such enablers…. I have a really cool piece of voile from a friend, and the perfect scrap of black tencel for the yoke… a fuller skirt, belt it with a black kid-leather obi and we may be in business… :)

      Shame about the mummies… I guess they’re just a little unhip… ;)

      • My daughter has just been talking about making herself a skirt, as she got a sewing machine for her birthday, maybe it’s me going on about fabric and patterns!!!!!! I think I’m still in shock!! X

  7. You’ve been so productive lately and I’m so short on commenting time, but I have to now… You know how much I love your little girl clothes and these are no exception. Too adorable! I also love how little girls insist on putting together their outfits and accessorizing… serious business! DD has to have Hello kitty on her, too.

  8. Your sprog is adorable. Mine has thankfully not figured out yet that she can do anything other than ‘pretend cutting’ with a plastic pizza wheel, I suspect I’d panic more than you seem to have. And those dresses are so cute!!! Even the pandas… Kids sure have their own tastes, don’t they.

    • They sure do. Plastic pizza wheel! Why didn’t I think of that??

      She does use my wooden clapper as a pretend iron when I’m working… I wonder how long she’ll be satisfied with that… ?

  9. My goodness she looks like you! Lovely dresses. I hope you can keep some of these garments and pack them away to bring out at her 21st birthdayparty. They really are wonderful.

    • Aww… Probably. These dresses see a lot of wear…. I do have a little drawer of Lila clothes… The ones I couldn’t let go of because I’m a sentimental packrat. I’ll need to turn them into something useful (a quilt) soon.

  10. Where was Oliver and S when 7yo was that size? Where?? Those are *adorable* and she looks lovely.

    I was up until 30 minutes past bedtime last night sewing on a jacket for my Mom… that was *supposed* to go out the door on the 9th. Wednesday was Christmas sweatshop sewing day… but it was pillows, so easy peasy.

    And the garments I hoped to have ready for Christmas? Ha. Maybe for New Year’s. I’m not even *looking* at them until I feel ready. (The kids don’t actually care if they get their jammies on Christmas, it’s a mom thing).

    I’m looking forward to a few days away from my machine at this point, blasphemous as it is to say.

    • The patterns come in 7 year old size.. I think it goes up to 12…..

      I’m spending a few days away from my machine, too. I was sewing yesterday and I heard a CLUNK and then nothing. It’s probably from my ill-advised attempt to get in there and deep clean… Terrible. I should know better.

  11. Oh my, is she the most beautiful girl! I love the “pandas were never going to be subtle”… I decided in November to not have any deadlines or else I’d be stress-sewing into January but these kind of clothes look fun and easy. Merry Christmas, Steph!

  12. who needs subtle when its that small!!
    i’m still deadline sewing, albeit at a very slow pace – not helped by some spontaneous festivities last night that impacted on my brain power today – good thing there’s still tomorrow :-)

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  14. Omg too cute! I love the obnoxiously loud (and absolutely adorable) panda/rainbow/field o’ flowers dress! She looks so proud, tromping off to school. :)

    • She wears that dress like every other day. It’s growing on me. ;) If she grows up with really interesting taste, I can say it all started with the panda dress…

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