Finished Object: Book Report Dress

Last week, I showed you Lila’s very sensible and useful trio of tiny shorts, and we talked about some ideas of sewing cost/sewing value, and ways to express that value.  I’m not 100% with my Value The Sewing worksheet, but I’ll keep working with it until I have some kind of Epiphany (or you do!).

Book Report Dress

This week, I wanted to make a dress.  I blame the new release of the Oliver + S patterns for fall!  They’re so cute!  I especially liked this Book Report Dress, and when I saw it available as a digital download. (I bought the pattern myself, I doubt Oliver + S knows about me, a fangirl.)

Besides, I’d pay much more than the digital price to purchase the pattern here, not to mention waiting for shipping or for it to show up in a shop.  I highly recommend these digital patterns, they’re very easy to work with.

Lila wears dresses all the time, and I allowed myself to plan for one or two dresses in her Lila Wardrobe.  I chose the rainbow dandelion print about a year ago and set it aside “for Lila.”  Then the pink cotton babywale cord came my way and I thought they’d work well together for this dress.

Before I cut, I decided to make a new sleeve pattern for this dress.  The original design features long cuffed sleeves but I only had .5m (1/2 yard) of the rainbow dandelion print and we live in the land of perpetual summer, so I opted for the bell sleeves from the Oliver + S School Photo Dress.  The bell sleeves are breezy and cool, but will help protect her skin from the sun.

I laid one sleeve pattern on top of the other and used the sleeve cap from the Book Report Dress and the sleeve shape from the School Photo Dress.  I could have simply shortened the original sleeves, but they wouldn’t have a bell shape.

My other major alteration was to omit the button loops- they’d be quite bulky in the corduroy fabric.  Instead, I stitched the yokes together.  No buttons.  Naturally, when I tried the dress on Lila the first time, it wouldn’t go over her head!  No biggie, I unpicked one side and added a snap closure.  Next time I make this, I’ll draft a larger neckline for a simple pull-over dress.  I used several types of buttons Lila picked on various trips to fabric stores, something about them reminds me of baby toys or candy.  She likes them, anyway.

I took this with my phone mid-construction.  The dress needed “something,” and I couldn’t decide about the buttons.  It’s funny- I’ve become so accustomed to photographing my sewing, sometimes I can’t make decisions like that without photographing it to help me decide.  Does that happen to anyone else?  Just me?

I scrounged around my sewing room and turned up some cotton sateen bias binding left over from another project.  Eureka!  I ran the red binding by Twitter peeps- y’all are such enablers- and decided to use the binding as a trim.  I hand-basted the binding because pinning often results in a wavy final result.  Then I used a top-stitch (3.0 length) close to the edges of the tape.  It took a little time, but it’s very clean and neat.

Lila wore her new dress to preschool today, terribly pleased with herself.  I’m pleased, too.  I usually let her choose her own fabrics, but this time I did myself and managed to make something she liked.  Win!

Cost and value?

Now, this dress cost more than her clothes usually cost.  I quantified it here:

Cost: $ 26.95 (oops, small error on the sheet…)- mostly due to the fact I used a new pattern and purpose-bought fabric for this dress.

Value: $ 91.34

I didn’t go shopping online for a similar dress.  I’ll do that for some garments, common ones, but for one-offs for a little girl I won’t bother.

In the comments section from the last discussion of quantifying sewing value, Craftastrophies brought up the idea of subtracting the cost of from the value.  Someone else mentioned adding the hours spent working to the “cost” section.  I’m thinking about that- what do you think?  It seems to me if I spend more than a few hours on a garment, it has something of an inflated value… Any math minds out there want to chime in?

Oh!  And Molly at Toforet’s Empty Bobbin made a denim Burda dress, and played with the sewing worksheet!  Check it out.

At any rate, the dress was a pleasure to sew and she likes it.  Little girls can wear dresses for years if they’re fairly basic, washable, and made of good fabric.  I call that good value.

Oh!  And the pockets!  She loves pockets, and is especially delighted by these “secret invisible pockets with PINK inside!!”  She keeps trying to stuff apples and stuffed animals and sand into her pockets, good thing I reinforced the stitching!

Next Post: Bra #2.  I’ll try to be brave and take some fitting shots, for science!

Creative Commons Image

Then- finally, finally, finally, I can tell you I’ll be launching the Tiramisu Circus And Pre-Sale on the 25th of this month! I couldn’t in good conscience start the pre-sale until I nailed down some production issues, but they’re sorted so now we can have some fun!

Why a circus?  Because they’re loud, fun, exciting and *extremely* educational!

The pre-sale will help offset the cost of printing the patterns- a big hurdle in the production process.  American Duchess runs pre-sales for new shoe designs, and she helped me think through my own pre-sale for Cake.  Thanks, Lauren!  Tiramisu will retail for $17, and I’m offering it for AUD$11 during The Circus!

I’ll be posting more frequently, with shorter posts including guides to purchasing knit fabrics, handling knits on regular sewing machines, and a look at how I handled sizing for Tiramisu!  If you think of something you’d like to see during The Circus, please let me know, and help spread the word!


  1. This is a delightful dress for Lila. You’re right to add the red binding…it’s just adds that extra pop! Beautiful.

    A similar type of dress from Bonpoint would cost you 176 Euros (about 218 AUD) so even with the cost of the pattern factored in this is a bargain!

    Yay for upcoming cake. You must be so very excited to see this coming to life. I’m so thrilled for you.

    • Thanks! Heheh. She has such a particular style…

      I never heard of Bonpoint, but now I want to go look. Thanks. :)

      Yay ! You know how you get to the end of a pregnancy and you just want the baby to come already? It’s a bit like that…

  2. Love the dress and that fabric is particularly delightful for our perpetual summers! I must get onto H’s summer options – why do they grow each year lol…..

    Diary date marked for Cake! I scored at spotty today – 4m of cotton jersey similar to your dots but in navy and white stripe for $6/m on the clearance rack! Sorry I emptied the bolt but I now have my ‘muslin’ for Tira washed and ready to go! If you want the selvedge details or scanned code I will find it for you in the morning.

    • They do grow… :) Thanks!

      Oooooh, I have that stripe! Is it with slightly wider navy stripes and slightly narrower white ones? :) Thank you though!

  3. Oh the bookreport dress is adorable!!!

    I wouldn’t calculate the hours spent sewing into the cost of sewing a garment because I really sew to relax and to be creative. I don’t care about the outcome – but it is a nice bonus to have lovely clothes that are well-made and fit. Besides, my hubby golfs and that costs thousands each year!!!! So sewing is a bargain!

    I am thrilled to hear that your pattern pre-sale will be next week. I’ve put it in my calendar and I’ll definitely order asap! I love the Tiramisu you designed and I can’t wait to get my hands on it! I actually bought this amazing fabric at a fabric store recently – I guessed three metres would do it but I bought 4 just in case!!! (I always over estimate amounts!) Congratulations on your new business. I wish you all the success in the world!

    • Thanks!

      Yes- next week! I just wanted to be sure of the quality of the production work before I did a pre-sale, so I can show you all what it looks like, etc, and I can know I’m putting out a good pattern. :) Thank you!

  4. My daughter has been begging me for a skirt that is similar to my Vogue 1247 skirt because she adores the pockets. Talk about a perfect solution :-)

  5. This post had me giggling all morning! Tell Lila I love her dress, especially the dandies and the PiNk pockets!

    Also, everyone I know regardless of whether they know you will hear of upcoming circus!

  6. What a cute dress! As a mom of boys, I always get jealous of the fun, pretty dresses that moms of girls get to make.
    I have a question about the whole “value of sewing” thing. How do you compare your sewn item to something that can not be purchased? I recently made a copy of a dress I found on Etsy because the Etsy seller refuses to make any of her designs in plus sizes. This is the same with many of the things I sew. I copy designs from lines like Stop Starring, Bettie Page Clothing, Vivienne of Holloway, ect because they don’t sell larger sizes.

    • Awww! I really like the patterns Oliver + S has for little boys and thought their most recent cargo pants release was very thoughtful (double knees!). But I see what you mean…

      Well. There’s the rub. That’s why I didn’t go looking for a similar dress to compare this one to. I wouldn’t find it.

      If the designer wants to be that narrow-minded/lazy/exclusive, then she’s missing out isn’t she/he? Copy freely. That’s fashion. Good for you to build the skills to be able to do that. Maybe some might not agree with me, but there it is.

  7. How cute is Lila? :) That fabric is perfect on her. I’m totally jealous that she can wear Oliver + S patterns and that I didn’t find out about that maker until long after my daughter was too big for their offerings. So sweet! :)

    • aw thanks. :) Too bad for your daughter! Oh no! They make this dress up to size 12…? I don’t want to be rude, but I didn’t think you were old enough to have a baby that big….! ;)

    • Hehehe. Thanks! It makes me laugh, too. An all-lady victorian trapeze troupe… Such fun. I bet they have damn good pockets. ;)

  8. Lila’s dress is really pretty – I have a bit of an O+S crush at the moment too, though I’m limited to getting excited about the boys patterns ;-) Great to see the worksheet popping in again.

    Yay for the Circus coming to town!Though you might want to perfect that next bra and put your flash knickers on if we are trapezing in the Tira!

    • Yes! I love the boy’s stuff, too… And I really like their “after school” pants, with the little ruffles! Its the kind of thing I could draft, but I’d much rather just buy the pattern and be bossed around by Liesl and end up with a great little pair of pants…

      The worksheet will be in much use, don’t worry… I have a thing for record-keeping…

      Yes! The Circus will be here very very soon!

  9. Very cute! It must be cool to make little girl clothes all of the time–it’s a bit different than making clothes for yourself.

    Also: a great many congratulations to you! It’s so awsome that the pattern company is almost at its official beginning! Keep at it!!!!!

    • Hahah… Only recently, really… It’s easier than sewing adult clothes- smaller, quicker to sew. And the scope for imaginative fabrics and finishes is pretty much endless.. :)

      Thanks! :)

  10. So cute! Part of me would just love to be able to dress like a 4 year old! Oliver +XXXL hehehe.
    I wouldn’t add sewing time to the cost,not because our time has no value, but because for many of us sewing time is of priceless value – we love what we do and when we do it for those that we love, it is part of the fun in life, not a chore. It is a bonus even. I only think such darkling thoughts when sewing something that gives me no pleasure. Or when I am tired and don’t feel like it even if I like the project. All a bit subjective! :)

    • Thanks!

      I have no idea. I rather hoped someone else might tell me. I like the texture and the color.

      Edit: The husband says it is a “custard apple.” Mmm kay.

      • Oh,the fruit looks like a cherimoya to me. Cherimoya is from the Andes and is sweet or maybe it’s noni. Noni’s are medicinal and come from Asia while. If it smells like ripe cheese it’s noni. They look similar to the photo but are maybe more oval.

  11. I love your artichokes!

    (that sounds weirder now that I’ve typed it! ;) I thought that was what was in the header?)

    Love Lila’s dress, and she looks very pretty and happy in it! Motivation to further explore O&S patterns some more.

    I’m going to the circus!! Still prowling through my stash for the right fabric… (or an excuse to shop?)

    • Stephen says it’s a “custard apple.” Yeah. I don’t know either…. They have some interesting fruits and vegetables here.

      Awwwwwwww thanks!

      Yay! Circus time should be fun, I’m looking forward to it too! :)

  12. This is so cute: I want one for me! Since you’ve started on your bra making exercise I’ve started stashing all of those larger offcuts of good cotton jersey I have hanging around in the hope of using them on my own bras! I think I just need to buy a pattern and dive on in. I’m like you; I learn best by doing. I’m also going to give your worksheet a go for my next garment.

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  14. I think it’s worthwhile to consider the time spent, but it does raise an interesting issue about how much time is “reasonable” to spend and what’s a reasonable cost for the time. We’re in the habit of comparing our work to what you can buy in the store, but those items are generally made in places where wages are much much lower than where we live. (That’s precisely why they’re made there.)

    I won’t repeat the points you’ve made elsewhere. But I checked a sample cost sheet that I have in a pattern making textbook for comparison. Their materials cost was $9.62 and labour was $4.00 (in 1993). Markup of 45% is noted. Not sure how that comes up with a wholesale price of $62.50, but there you are. You could expect that to retail for $100 or more.

    So I guess we also need to consider the markup that we’d have to pay if buying this in a store.

    • Well… I guess the time question will have different answers depending on the person…

      Labor was $4? Sheesh. How interesting.

      But you see… I’m not trying to do a costings sheet like for retail. I’m making up something different, a way to try to quantify “value” because putting a price on it using costings sheets along doesn’t count the things I want to count… I must be explaining badly… :)

      • I may not have gotten your mechanism on the first pass :-) I see that “cost” is the actual out of pocket cost to you. I see that “value” is calculated by adding the notional value of your premium items (e.g. ethics) to your notional cost of labour. I’m not clear why the cost *isn’t* included in the calculation of “value”. I see some notes showing that you’ve taken value and subtracted the cost, and I don’t follow that.

        When I think of the “value”, I think of the price that I think the item would be worth if I made it as an artisan and sold it. I would include actual materials cost (here $27), labour cost ($80 for a total cost of $107) and markup (minimum is usually 100% > $107), for a retail value of $214. I think the markup could absorb the ethics premiums you mention, since the environmental side may be accounted for in the materials you purchase and the labour conditions are in the labour cost. I see the other premiums as a way of monetizing part of the value of an item that isn’t intended to be sold, for the sake of comparison with regular retail items. I think I’d add in a bit to the value because the item would be exactly what I wanted rather than what someone else wanted to make (creator vs. curator). So total value of say $250.

        Or am I comparing apples and oranges?

        • Well- that’s just it. I haven’t yet “nailed” it… And I can see how it would work to subtract the cost from the value (if you’re like me and on a tight budget this could make sense…), to add hours into the cost (except many of us sew because we like it, so our time isn’t really a “cost”), or etc… I do hesitate to think of my sewing for Lila and Stephen as “this is the artisan price for something like what I just made” because I’ve worked in retail long enough to know that an asking price is just an asking price… It doesn’t always reflect the value… Value is in the “eye” of the beholder… The price is what the buyer is willing to pay.
          Hmmm. Not sure I’m expressing it well at all! I do very much get what you’re saying, and that might be a better way to “value the sewing..” Simpler. I’m trying to make it too hard… Except to me, $250 seems a ridiculous price for a little girls’ dress… I know some places charge it and some people pay it, but I think it’s insane and would kind of roll my eyes at myself if I attached that kind of price to my work… Hmmm!

          Oh and subtracting the cost from the value on my worksheet was sort of playing around with numbers in a way that was mentioned in one of the previous comments sections… ;) I wasn’t even sure anyone would look at that, and playing with the numbers that way didn’t give me a “eureka” moment, so I didn’t mention it. But yes.

          • Your time is a real cost. Because it is your life energy that you are trading. It will never come back.You could exchange that time at a job for money and purchase things or you could “spend” that time cooking, surfing the net, exercising or a myriad of other ways but you are choosing to “spend” it sewing, in return you get something of real (real as in a concrete item) value (the object) plus you receive other things that don’t have monetary value, such as satisfaction, achievement and a creative outlet.

            As for $250 usd being an inflated price, ordinary dresses made out of inferior materials and sweatshop labor sell for $50 or $60 usd. Look at the price of couture, a dress for $15,000 usd seems exorbitant to me, we live on that amount of money these days (of course, in a foreign country) but to someone in the ahem 1%, that is a fair amount. I cannot afford to spend $250 on a dress for anyone but that doesn’t make the dress not worth that amount of money.

            If I wanted cheap clothes I would go to Centro and buy a poorly constructed ill fitting garment for under ten dollars made in China. I can take that same ten dollars and buy very nice yardage and make it myself the details and quality only limited by how much of my time and energy I care to invest. I can chose to hand sew the entire thing or even use a glue gun, the results are under my control and the resulting value is too.


            • Use a glue gun. Hahahah. Then it’s not worth $250… ;)

              Oooooh just had a little thought to further complicate Value The Sewing… Adding up the various finishes and techniques for valuation… Like.. Plain finished seams, french seams, flat-fell, etc.. Ooooh. Oooh. I do love making things complex…

              I like the way you think. :)

  15. That’s a great dress!

    On the subject of valuing sewing, I think another element for me is that when you do a lot of something the value goes up and the cost goes down. The projects that seem like they took a long time or didn’t pencil out are actually learning moments and when I look at the whole stack of stuff I’ve done I realize that the value seems great compared to the overall time I put in. Also, there tends to be some savings in materials because you pick up things less expensively and often use them on more that one project.

    I think for me a lot of the value also comes from the feeling of self-sufficiency I get from being able to make my own, so I do tend to track the amount it cost me compared to what I think it would cost me in in time and money to purchase a similar item. I would not consider it to be a deal breaker to do something myself just because it would cost me more because my enjoyment of the project factors in, too, but I do like to try to do the math. I think that your value worksheet might actually add to the fun of the projects since it captures some of the values of creating it yourself that might otherwise be forgotten.

    • Food for thought! Sewing is definitely not cheap or cost effective for beginners or really while learning a new skill.

      Yes. Self-sufficiency! I’m like you, if I really wanted to do it even though it was more expensive to, I would… But usually that also brings in questions of fabric quality etc and I’m just not interested in cheap fabrics anymore… Bargains, yes. Cheap and nasty? no…

      Let me know if you get to playing, and if you tweak it. :D I kind of feel like I have part of an idea that I’ve been thinking about for a long time without getting much further, so I figured if others played around with the concept then we’d really be cooking with gas.. ;)


  16. I love the custard apples in your header. do you like them? when I was pregnant with my daughter I couldn’t get enough of them, even though they are much too sweet normally. Having said that I did pick up some just last week at the market and they weren’t as sickly sweet as they usually are, maybe it is too early in the season.

    Anyway, I love the dandelion print and it looks adorable in the finished product :-)

    • I don’t know if I like them… I just liked the way they looked. I’ll have to pick some up and eat them and let y’all know…

      Thanks! :)

  17. Very cute dress. I have been more or less offline because my laptop has succumbed to the h&h (heat and humidity). So I am coming late to the discussion.

    Anyway, I am an awful photographer (anyone who reads my blog knows that) but I have a theory why looking at a photo works for getting a new perspective. I look at stuff in the mirror for the same reason when I am stumped. It changes how you are looking at something and frees you up from preconceptions. You are so used to seeing it, that you are no longer really seeing it.

    Recently, I took a photo of a blanket that I am crocheting and posted it. Looking at the photo made me realize that the rose pink stripe looked okay with the other colors but was too dominant for the effect that I wanted.

    Often when I’ve been working on something and it’s not right, I put it aside. In fact, I usually put it in a drawer so I can’t see it. Then when I come across it again, I see it with new eyes. Often, I really like it and don’t do any changes but either way I find that I no longer have the same feelings toward it and can solve my problem.

    I also think that if you take a long time making a dress because you are putting in special details that should be counted in the value, unless you sew very slowly due to inexperience. There is a big difference between production line sewing and special sewing. When my 2 girls were little, I often stacked several fabrics together and cut four pairs of simple elastic waist shorts out at once out of dollar a yard fabric. There was often some slippage and the fit wasn’t perfect but I worked full time and the goal was cheap clothes quickly. I am not saying that the shorts were shoddy, just nothing special. There is no comparison to the clothes that I make for my granddaughters these days, where my goal is to make special clothes that they will treasure.


    • Great points, Theresa!

      I think you’re right about the photography/objectivity thing… You’re so used to seeing it, you aren’t actually seeing it… Hmm!

  18. Oh isn’t that cute!! I love the dandelions, they’re so rainbowy!! My daughter has a similar reaction to pockets, but assumes they are in everything. Watching her try to find the pockets in something without them is hilarious :)
    hmm.. I was sure I commented on this before, but my phone must have chucked a fit.

  19. ADORABLE. She is just precious, and this dress is perfect for her :) Love the pockets – and the red trim is a fabulous addition. It definitely adds a little pop to all the colors :)

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