Photo of model in Folkwear 213 Child's Prairie Dress and Pinafore

by Cynthia Anderson

Today I am going to show you how I created a romantically adorable outfit for a special little girl in my life, complete with how to alter the pattern (213 Child's Prairie Dress) and how to add embroidery to the pinafore.  By the way, this digital embroidery pattern can be purchased here

Over the years, many of you have told us that the 213 Child's Prairie Dress was your first introduction to Folkwear Patterns. As a child, someone in your life took the time and care to make this classic pattern for you. This is something that warms each and every heart that has ever nurtured Folkwear’s journey.

Clothing plays a special role in our lives and knowing that our patterns can mean so much to so many, truly drives what we do. The 213 Child’s Prairie Dress & Pinafore has the magic of harking back to the simple pleasures of childhood.  We hope you enjoying creating for a special child in your life.



A yearning for romantic clothing and lifestyles has been reawakened in the past few years. Just type in the tagline “cottage core” on social media platforms such as Instagram or Pinterest, and romantic-inspired clothing for women and children alike is hard to miss.  It would seem that wearing and sharing romantic clothing is never far from our hearts and desires. Folkwear's 213 Child’s Prairie Dress & Pinafore and, the adult version, 201 Prairie Dress are the perfect patterns to add a touch of "cottage core" to any wardrobe. If you like the idea of matching dresses with a child in your life, we have the patterns to get you started.

With Spring just around the corner, its the perfect excuse to get a fresh start on your sewing. And what better project than the easy-to-construct Child's Prairie Dress & Pinafore. This is a versatile pattern that can be changed any number of ways.

Pattern Info

The dress and pinafore are offered in two lengths, but can be made any length you like. You can even shorten the dress to make a smock-length top. To extend the life of the dress and/or pinafore add tucks to the lower skirt portion of either piece to allow for letting the length out as your child grows taller. Depending on the season, you could make the sleeves any length. Make the sleeve cuff as suggested in the pattern or insert an elastic band to the sleeves, or simply hem. You can change up, or omit, the collar.  You can add trims and details or keep it simple. The pattern size range is designed to serve an entire childhood of effortless making and wearing.

Front View Illustration of Folkwear 213 Child's Prairie Dress & Pinafore

 

Back View Illustration of Folkwear 213 Child's Prairie Dress & Pinafore

 

The dress and pinafore both offer so much potential wearing and enjoyment, especially if made early in the season. This would be an adorable Easter dress.  Both the dress & pinafore could be worn layered on the first chilly days of spring or even on an Easter egg hunt when paired with a cardigan and tights. The pinafore would be adorable interchanged with skirts, shorts, bloomers, t-shirts, tops, other cute dresses, or worn alone as a sundress all summer long. The dress is perfect all on it's own, especially in bare feet or sandals for summer. Plus, the dress has pockets - perfect for collecting treasures.

Embroidery and Design

I started with the idea of spring gardens and flowering meadows for my inspiration in making this project. I made the Child's Prairie Dress out of the sunny Merchant & Mills Marmalade Check Cotton and the pinafore out of a soft cream linen (sorry sold out). In this blog, I will focus on how I got creative with the pinafore, in hopes to inspire you to reconsider this practical and charming addition to a child’s wardrobe. Pinafores are not only cute, but they have always served as a protective layer, extending the life of the clothing underneath. Besides, for most romantically-spirited little girls two twirly layers are always better than one.

The wildflower design I created for this project is available for you to use in any way you like. Purchase it here.  Simplify it, use it in a different way, add it to the hem of another dress or shirt, come up with your version, or let it inspire you to think up your own totally unique design. Of course, you can add the entire design or just a sampling of it, to the dress and/or pinafore. Don't feel like you have to do as much as I have to make this a fun and special piece. I chose to decorate this pinafore in hopes it becomes a favorite piece that gets worn with everything, making it a special piece in the childhood of a certain little girl. I covered the whole pinafore in flowers because I was having too much fun to stop.

Preliminary Construction

I wanted to make something that would go rather quickly and easily, but would have a charm all it’s own. I love the idea of embroidery, but my mindset was not to make something overly precious and time consuming. The idea of machine stitching was really appealing.

I made a quick sketch of my wildflower design idea on paper, using the pattern pieces as guides for how large the design would need to be.  I kept it loose and open to interpretation that would lend itself to the nature of stitching on the sewing machine. I did not want overthink it's execution, and I wanted to go with what the machine and my ability would allow. The flower sketch served as a guide for stitching without it needing to be perfect. My hope was to avoid the seam ripper as much as possible.

Photo of Wildflower Pinafore Panel Sketch
Photo up close of Wildflower Pinafore panel Sketch


You can approach this project how ever works best for you, but I will share with you the two approaches I considered and why. First, I made a muslin of the pinafore to use as my trial and error testing ground. This was my very first attempt at machine stitching embroidery designs to this extent.  I thought it would be wise to experiment to see not only how the stitching would go, but how much of it I (and hopefully you) would actually end up enjoying doing. I traced a portion of the design using pencil on one panel of the already constructed muslin pinafore. Use a water-erasable pen for tracing the design on a final product.

At first, I thought maybe I would approach this project using a completely constructed pinafore in order to make the embroidery across the seams continuous. But that was not really important and could wait to be added later if necessary. I did realize it would be best to work with the seams pressed open and with unfinished seams. The embroidery going over the seams would be adequate enough to keep the seam allowance held in place and prevent the raw edges from fraying too badly. 

I found stitching on the fully constructed muslin pinafore to work just fine.  But, it did prove cumbersome trying to maneuver a completely constructed pinafore, because of so much fabric. To be honest, I decided it was too much bother to continuously rearrange the pinafore and constantly check to be sure I was not about to accidentally catch the fabric in the stitching. 

My second plan was to make the stitching on each individual panel of the pinafore separately, prior to construction. I thought it might go easier if I worked on one panel at a time; and it was. The only real reason to work with the pinafore panels separately, is because less material is easier to maneuver.

I was feeling confident on my decision on how to proceed. But because, I would be handling each panel individually meant that this could lead to fabric instability.  The linen I had chosen to use might become misshaped.  More tightly woven fabrics are less prone to instability. I suspected the linen I was using would benefit from a bit of extra care so I took a couple of preventative measures in preparing each individual panel.  It is probably best to stabilize your fabric before doing embroidery stitching. There are several options, depending on your fabric.

First, instead of cutting out each panel on the cutting line as I normally would, I positioned each pattern piece with extra fabric surrounding it. This extra surrounding fabric provides more stability and helps to prevent the fabric from distorting from use. Once the pattern was pinned to the fabric, I used the non-permanent pen to trace out each pattern piece on the cut line. Then I baste-stitched the traced cut line with a black thread on the right side of the fabric and used a cream color thread on the wrong side (in the bobbin). This provided extra stability, outlined the panel on the cut line, and made it clear which was the right side of the fabric. Adding serge edges to all the raw edges of the fabric helps with stability too. This is just another level of precaution I did add to some panels and forgot to do on others.

 

Photo of 213 Pinafore Pattern Panel drawn tranfer to fabric
Below you can see the serge edge added.
Photo of 213 Pinafore Pattern Panel drawn tranfer to fabric detail

Note: Be sure to transfer the notches as marked on the pattern. I simply made heavier pen dots just inside the seam allowance so I could see them when needed.

Photo of notch on fabric of 231 Pinafore Panel

My only deviation in working with separate panels was with the side panels. Because the side panels were relatively narrow, this made them less stable and prone to more warping. I did stitch them together as the pattern instructions dictated, treating the two pieces as one. I pressed the seam open before beginning the design stitching. 

Photo of side panel construction od 213 Pinafore
Photo below also shows the hem line stitched as a guide.
Photo of rightside of 213 side Panel construction

 

Transferring the Design to the Fabric

I created a separate design for each panel, with the panels coming together for an overall meadow/wildflower design.  Now that I know how I am going to place the design, I am ready to begin transferring the design to my final fabric. Because the linen was light in color and thickness, I could trace the design through the fabric.  A light box made it even easier. You can use a window/sliding glass door if you do not have a light box or light table. Of course, this will only work if you can see through your fabric. 

If your fabric is opaque and you cannot see through it to trace well, then use a  piece of transfer paper or non-permanent pen in a color that is visible and made especially for transferring a design to fabric. This blog.... is a great resource that is most helpful.

Photo of water soluble pen used to transfer design to 213 Pinafore panels

I weighted my fabric to the design drawing for tracing. If you use a window to back light your project, use masking tape to hold everything in place to make tracing easier.

Photo of fabric weighted for tracing design to 213 Pinafore Panel
Photo of design seen through fabric on 231 Pinafore Panel
Ghoto tracing design to 213 Pinafore panel fabric
Photo of 213 Pinafore panel design and traced design on fabric

Note: Be sure to test your pen to make sure it will remove from the fabric and won't be set with an iron.

Thread and How to Use It

This project is a great way to use up bits of extra thread on spools and bobbins just lying about. We have a pretty large thread collection at Folkwear, and I purchased a few more colors and thread thicknesses to round out my palette. Depending on what you like and how you work, I recommend thinking about a basic thread color palette and be sure you have enough of the main colors you intend to use or just use what you have on hand. You can use regular all-purpose thread, silky embroidery thread, or a thicker buttonhole thread, or a combination.  

Below is my collection of thread colors. 

Photo of box of thread colors used for 213 Pinafore design


Due to the amount of stitching my design would require, and to add visual interest and texture I decided to try using more than one thread at a time and to use top-stitching or buttonhole twist. Doubling up the thread helped to beef-up the thickness of the stitches and allowed the stitching to stand out more than if I used only a single thread stitch. If you are not familiar with stitching with two threads at the same time, it is really easy. Put a spool of thread on each of the spool holders (most machines have two) or use two loaded bobbins added to one spool holder. Be sure each spool or bobbin is positioned so the tread will unwind and feed properly. Then pull tails out in equal lengths, joining the two threads as one and thread your machine as normal.

Another thread option is button-hole twist, also known as top-stitching thread. Even though buttonhole twist or top-stitching thread is thicker than regular thread it is still threaded on the machine just like a regular weight thread.  Thicker threads are often too heavy when it comes to bobbin function, so use a regular weight thread in the bobbin instead. You may need to play around with adjusting the top thread tension depending on your stitch length and fabric when using thicker thread. I did not find adjusting the bobbin tension necessary. I did use a longer stitch length when using this heavier thread, and the stitch laid down flatter as a result. 

Note: In the photo below the regular weight thread is on the left and the heavier weight is on the right. Note the different color of the plastic spool for each thread thickness. Keep in mind that button hole twist or top stitching thread comes in a limited selection of colors.

 

Photo of thread in regular and button-twist weights


If you have trouble threading your machine with the heavier weight thread, you could try using a larger needle with a larger eye or using a needle threader.  A needle threader also makes threading two strains of thread much much easier too.  

Since I would be changing the color of my top thread often I opted to use a off-white thread in the bobbin at all times. The off-white blended into the fabric of the pinafore fabric on the wrong side and eliminated having to worry constantly about the bobbin thread color. This helped the wrong side of the pinafore stitching from looking overly messy too.

I backstitched at the beginning and end of each stitching section.  You could not do this and pull all tails to the back and tie off, but backstitching looked fine and it was a heck of a lot quicker and easier. Keeping the wrong side of my work trimmed and tidy was still necessary. Every so often or when I changed the top thread color, I took the time to trim the underneath loose threads.

I experimented making the stems of the flowers and leaf/grass shapes without hesitating to experiment with stitch length to see what would happen. I made some stitches long and others shorter. For smaller details like the flower petals I shortened the stitch length to give me better control around tight curves. It was nice to try different stitching methods with the attitude that it did not matter if things did not go just so. Due to the nature of machine stitching, my drawing was also becoming more of a compositional guide, than a strict template. If I did not stitch directly on the drawn line I did not worry about it.

Hint: I was not strict about how close I stitched near or into the seam allowances.  I knew that I could fill-in later as needed or as a final touch. As it turned out, only one seam ended up with a flower being cut off, which was easy to remedy.

I was really not sure about how far to stitch beyond the hem line. Because this would be the starting and sometimes the end point for stitching the foliage and stems, with a back stitch, I knew this would cause the stitching to build up and become rather thick. I guess I just instinctively went slightly over the hem line approximately 1/4-inch (6mm) or so and hoped that was OK.

Photo upclose of using the traced design to stitch the 213 pinafore design
Photo second upclose of using the traced design to stitch the 213 pinafore design

 
I knew the tighter and smaller flower petal details would go slower than the foliage portions. This was also a reason I made the foliage stitching first. It went quicker and worked well with a less controlled approach. I did not hesitate to make another pass over the stitching if I felt a stem or leaf needed beefing up or definition. I used different colors of green haphazardly too, even when making a second pass. I rather liked the unstudied look it produced. I was glad I completed the foliage portion of the design first, leaving the actual flowers for last.

Photo third upclose of using the traced design to stitch the 213 pinafore design


Because the flower petals were smaller and more defined, I had to slow down and ended up turning the hand wheel and lifting the presser foot to maneuver the tighter curves. This is where designing with color came into play. I just picked a flower color and used it in maybe three places on each panel and then filled in other colors as it suited me. This is something that really cannot go wrong. I kept reminding myself that flowers in wildflower fields do not arrange themselves just so.

Photo upclose of using the traced design to stitch the 213 pinafore Flower design
Photo second upclose of stitching the 213 pinafore flower design

Below the final bit of stitching the flower design over the seam.

Photo upclose of stitching across the seam on the 213 pinafore design

Photo upclose of stitched flower across the seam on the 213 pinafore design

Photo of 213 Pinafore Flowers stitching detail


What Presser Foot to Use?
I originally, thought the regular straight stitch presser foot would prevent me from seeing my stitching, but I quickly got used it.  I kept stitching till I liked the look of the flowers. Over-stitching the flowers had the serendipitous effect of looking like delicate pedals, which I thought looked charming.
 
Once the panels were all complete, I rinsed each in cool water to remove the blue water soluble ink, then air dried overnight. The next morning I pressed each panel on the wrong side to ready for the pinafore construction.

If you are like me, this is when your excitement fuels the anticipation of seeing your project come together. Before assembling the pinafore, I cut each panel out using the black stitch line that indicated the cut line I had made early on in the process, being sure not to cut off the hem.

I cut out each panel as I was about to work with it. Much to my relief the panels held their shape and the panel pieces went together as expected. I constructed the pinafore according to the pattern instructions and as each panel was added the more pleased I became. Once the pinafore was all together, all that remained was the hem. I went ahead and serge the bottom raw edge of the pinafore. The black stitch line I had made for the hemming purpose served me well. While the hem line did not match up exactly along some portions, the fact that I had stitched beyond the hem line allowed for a bit of fudging. Once the hem was all tidy, aligned and secured with pins, I made a stay-stitch close to the folded edge of the hem to securely hold the thickness caused by the abundance of stitching. I use a single thread in cream, which was barely viable. Then, I carefully removed the black hem line stitching to create a clean finish. In looking back I might have zig-zag stitched the raw edges of each panel before assembly... just to keep the raw edges from fraying.

 

Photo of Folkwear 213 Child's Prairie Dress Pinafore spread out
The wrong side of the pinafore is less messy looking due to the cream colored thread in the bobbin.
Photo of 213 Pinafore showing wrong side of stitching

Not only was this project fun and stress-free to make, the results are charming and I am quiet pleased. I am so glad I made myself purchase the orange thread used on the pinafore flowers. It was just the right touch to make the 213 Prairie Child's Dress & Pinafore come together. 

Photo of front view of Folkwear Child's Prairie Dress Pinafore

 

Photo of Folkwear 213 Child's Prairie Dress Pinafore back
Photo of Folkwear 213 Child's Prairie Dress Pinafore with tights and shoes


I hope this project will inspire you to see what fun possibilities you can have with the often overlooked pinafore. The Folkwear 213 Child's Prairie Dress & Pinafore is such a lovely pairing that will delight the maker as well as it's fortunate recipient. Don't forget there is a version for grown girls too. The210 Prairie Dress (and PDF version) is now sized XS-3XL. Get a head start on a comfortable and enchantingly romantic warm weather project now!

 

Photo of Folkwear 213 Child's Prairie Dress Pinafore styled with light blue sweater
Photo of Folkwear 213 Child's Prairie Dress Pinafore styled with a tee and jeans
Photo of Folkwear 213 Child's Prairie Dress Pinafore styled with sweater and skirt
Photo of Folkwear 213 Child's Prairie Dress Pinafore styled with a tee and shoes

 

Photo of Folkwear 213 Child's Prairie Dress Pinafore styled with lillac linen dress and boots
Photo of Folkwear 213 Child's Prairie Dress Pinafore styled with lillac linen dress and blue sweater